Category Archives: Music

70: Whisper (Latona’s Thirst)

Album: Whisper
Artist: Latona’s Thirst
Year: 2002

1. Whisper
2. Sometimes, Especially
3. You Wonder
4. Place of Error
5. Apartment Song
6. Claustrophobic
7. Reach
8. Kinda Tired
9. The One I Know
10. Wake to Sleep
11. Once More

Twin sisters Jennifer and Sarah Schroerlucke went to Hamline University and so did my friend Nick, so I got introduced to their band a couple times. They have a pretty quiet sound, harmonizing on most tracks with a barely perceptible band in the background. The songs are for the most part either about angsty relationships or highly allegorical musings about how our bodies and our lives are imperfect vessels until we get to Heaven. While I don’t particularly identify with much they’re singing about, it’s all pretty pleasant.

While none of these songs are strong enough to merit a hot rating, there’s nothing that stands out for the wrong reasons either. My favorites are tracks 1, 2, 3, and 7 for those scoring at home. I may not listen Whisper as often as say, Crash, but it’s nice to be able to pop in an album and not have to skip anything. They parted ways with their band before releasing another album and haven’t done much else besides releasing a 4-song EP in 2004. They’re also apparently no longer thirsty, as they’re now just called Latona.

Album Creator: Johnny Cash

While making this countdown I lamented some artists who didn’t have any of their albums make the cut. So I figured every once in a while we’ll stop the countdown to talk about them and I’ll post a fantasy album of theirs that would have made the cut if it existed.

Johnny Cash started his career when buying singles was way more popular than buying entire albums. Albums would sometimes leave off high-charting singles, or conversely, a high-charting single would make it on four or five different albums, making some albums seem retroactively like greatest hits collections. However, his career did span over 40 years and he did release 55 studio albums. I haven’t listened to all of them, but I have listened to a great deal of his work and have always found a lot of the album filler to be lacking. He had a late resurgence in the 90s with the American albums, but I don’t really care much for those either.

A lot of Cash’s songs center around the underprivileged and he tells a lot of stories, which I appreciate. His guitar playing was always a bit rudimentary and he didn’t always uh…get rhythm, but he put out enough great songs that I could make an awesome album out of them.

I figure fifteen songs should be the max for this experiment, as any good album should never be too long. So, as such, these are my fifteen favorite songs by Johnny Cash.

Hey Porter
Folsom Prison Blues
I Walk the Line
Rock Island Line
Big River
Oh, What a Dream
Home of the Blues
Give My Love to Rose
The Ways of a Woman in Love
Frankie’s Man Johnny
Tennessee Flat Top Box
Understand Your Man
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Cocaine Blues
Hurt

Any songs you would have to add to your fantasy album?  Would any of Cash’s albums make your theoretical countdown?

71: Crash (Dave Matthews Band)

Album: Crash
Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Year: 1996

1. So Much To Say
2. Two Step
3. Crash Into Me
4. Too Much
5. #41
6. Say Goodbye
7. Drive In, Drive Out
8. Let You Down
9. Lie in Our Graves
10. Cry Freedom
11. Tripping Billies
12. Proudest Monkey

Is it just me or is naming a band after the lead singer pretentious? It sounds like a one-man band and is a bit dismissive of all the talent around you. Especially since if it weren’t for his band, Dave Matthews would be nothing. Dave’s singing is passable at best, his only real talent is being able to hit those high notes. But his band is awesome. The best songs tend to have extended jams with the violin, saxophone, flute, and horns.

Crash (like most of their albums) was not laden with hits, mostly because there are few pop hooks and riffs to be heard. However, Crash Into Me is still their second biggest song to date and received a ton of radio play despite being blatantly about voyeurism. The rest of the album, with the exception of So Much To Say, is all about the jamming, even on the ballads. Drive In, Drive Out, despite some pretty banal lyrics and Dave’s attempt at guttural singing, has some seriously kick-ass rhythms and endangers me while driving as I keep wanting to pound on the steering wheel with the beat.

The album gets weaker as it moves along, especially lyrically, but the songs are generally saved by the band. But nothing can save Proudest Monkey. Dave’s singing is truly horrendous, and the last several minutes of this nine minute track consist of him singing “yeah yeah yeah” while the band plays some repetitive, uninspired music. So, like the entirety of Everyday.

72: New Favorite (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

Album: New Favorite
Artist: Alison Krauss & Union Station
Year: 2001

1. Let Me Touch You For A While
2. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn (US)
3. The Lucky One
4. Choctaw Hayride (US)
5. Crazy Faith
6. Momma Cried (US)
7. I’m Gone
8. Daylight
9. Bright Sunny South (US)
10. Stars
11. It All Comes Down To You (US)
12. Take Me For Longing
13. New Favorite

Alison Krauss has been a Grammy darling, but her album with Robert Plant notwithstanding, has gotten virtually no love on the charts. Perhaps it’s because bluegrass really doesn’t have a home on the radio, as it straddles both country and adult contemporary. What I do know is that her stuff is better than most of the crap currently on country radio.

New Favorite starts out with an incredible song in Let Me Touch You For A While, probably my favorite by her. We then start the yo-yo between Alison and Dan Tyminski, the lead singer for Union Station. He’s a decent singer, best known for Man of Constant Sorrow, but it’s awkward constantly switching leads on this album. Part of it is that their voices are different, but the general tone of each song swings as well. Alison’s songs, with the exception of Take Me for Longing, feel like pure solos and sound more like contemporary country than bluegrass. Union Station’s songs are pure bluegrass, backed by mandolins, banjos, dobros, and lap steels. It’s jarring, for sure. Especially since the album’s second song is…well, I just don’t care about this boy who wouldn’t hoe corn.

It rebounds quickly with The Lucky One, and the rest of the album remains solid, if unspectacular. Choctaw Hayride is pure instrumental, Union Station at their best. Crazy Faith and New Favorite are also highlights, helping this album round out into one of my favorites.

73: Bringing Down the Horse (The Wallflowers)

Album: Bringing Down the Horse
Artist: The Wallflowers
Year: 1996

1. One Headlight
2. 6th Avenue Heartache
3. Bleeders
4. Three Marlenas
5. The Difference
6. Invisible City
7. Laughing Out Loud
8. Josephine
9. God Don’t Make Lonely Girls
10. Angel on My Bike
11. I Wish I Felt Nothing

I originally had Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi in this spot, but then I listened to it a couple of days ago and was bored out of my mind. For an album that is very polished and has no really bad songs, it does surprisingly little for me these days. So I looked at the albums that just missed the cut and decided that Bringing Down the Horse, while flawed, doesn’t bore me and still enjoys an occasional playthrough.

The album is quite top-heavy, starting with its best song, One Headlight and continuing with probably its second best song, 6th Avenue Heartache. The passion in Jake Dylan’s voice really comes through in these two songs. Though, while he’s got a better voice than his father, he does very little with it for the rest of the album. The melodies are generally catchy, but the songs don’t really distinguish themselves from each other with Jake sounding the same on every one. Their second biggest hit, The Difference, has good verses but an awful chorus where Jake holds down the notes way longer than he’s capable of. The slowly worsening album is saved just a bit right at the end with I Wish I Felt Nothing, an understated angsty ballad.

I don’t think I’ve listened to one second of anything else by this band, and from looking at the charts, it doesn’t look like anyone else has either. If you have, please throw down your critique in the comments.

 

 

 

74: Waitin’ on Sundown (Brooks & Dunn)

Album: Waitin’ on Sundown
Artist: Brooks & Dunn
Year: 1994

1. Little Miss Honky Tonk (D)
2. She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind (D)
3. Silver and Gold (B)
4. I’ll Never Forgive My Heart (D)
5. You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone (B)
6. My Kind of Crazy (B)
7. Whiskey Under the Bridge (D)
8. If That’s the Way You Want It (D)
9. She’s the Kind of Trouble (B)
10. A Few Good Rides Away (B)

Brooks & Dunn’s career spanned from 1990 to 2010.  During that time, they released ten albums and fifty singles.  Twenty of those singles reached #1 on the country charts. They were definitely stronger during the first half of their career together. What’s unique about this duo is that they almost never sing together on a song, with the possible exception of the chorus. They almost never wrote songs together either.  Dunn would write a song, sing it, and Brooks would rock out the guitar. Or Brooks would write a song, sing it, and Dunn would do the same. I put their initials after each song so you can see the breakdown.

Waitin’ on Sundown is their third album. It isn’t their strongest, but what it does do avoid some of the faults prevalent on their later albums, mainly boring power ballads by Dunn and awful singing by Brooks as his voice went to hell during the last decade.

For the third album in a row, they start out with a loud, rockin’ number in Little Miss Honky Tonk that’s great to sing and dance to (not that I dance). Another hit follows right after that showcases Dunn’s spectacular voice. Silver and Gold is the underrated gem of the album, similar in theme to She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind, but more original. You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone is one of Brooks’s best and most popular songs. In fact, only six of his songs were ever released as singles (despite him contributing about 50% to each album), and this was the only number one. There’s nothing special about it lyrically, but it’s wrought with sadness that comes through in his voice.

The last half of the album is a bit weaker. My Kind of Crazy is inoffensive enough that I usually don’t skip it, but there’s no reason to listen to it. The next two songs sound fine, but are really, really boring thematically (but not as boring as Dunn gets on later albums, trust me). Brooks ends with two songs, both of them above average. She’s the Kind of Trouble is goofy fun, and A Few Good Rides Away is a sappy but pleasant story about a Texas waitress going through rough times.

All in all, nothing really stands out, either good or bad, making it just good enough to make the countdown.

75: Americana (The Offspring)

Album: Americana
Artist: The Offspring
Year: 1998

1. Welcome
2. Have You Ever
3. Staring at the Sun
4. Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
5. The Kids Aren’t Alright
6. Feelings
7. She’s Got Issues
8. Walla Walla
9. The End of the Line
10. No Brakes
11. Why Don’t You Get a Job?
12. Americana
13. Pay the Man

I don’t get angry or bitter all that often, but when I do, this has always been a good album to crank up loud and scream to for an hour. The pace is frenetic right from the start, and up through the end of Staring at the Sun, the mood is perfect. Then we get to the band’s highest ranked song on the pop charts, Pretty Fly. It’s…fine, silly, but grinds the album to a halt. Thankfully, it picks right back up with the The Kids Aren’t Alright, a pretty poignant song (about the broken dreams of children) considering how hurried it is.

The middle of the album consists of a string of really bitter songs, the best place on the album for them. Walla Walla has a nice sound, but it’s hard to ignore the silly theme (Ha ha, you’re going to prison cuz yer dumb). The End of the Line and No Brakes somehow speed up the pace of the album, and by the end you’re wondering where the album has yet to go. And then Why Don’t You Get a Job? happens. Like Walla Walla, it’s a preachy song while also killing the pace of the album. Not to mention the rhythm (and the rhyme scheme) is horrendous.

The album redeems itself, with a predictable but fun criticism of consumerism. The final song, Pay the Man, really slows things down (while still being loud) to a snail’s pace, the perfect descrescendo to the previous frenzied pace.

I haven’t tested out much else the band has had to offer. I’m obviously familiar with the song Come Out and Play, but would love other suggestions.

Top 75 Studio Albums

As opposed to the previous countdowns on this site, I don’t consider myself particularly passionate or all that knowledgeable about music. I neither listen to nor seek out music like I did when I was an angsty teenager, and I find myself to be incredibly picky in my old age when it comes to new stuff. However, when compiling this list, I did find some gems so not all hope is lost.

What makes an album worthy of being on this list for me? While most have a song or two that are amazing, the common thread among the albums on this list is consistency. If I can listen to the whole album without cringing or having to skip a song or two, I am impressed. And while I have many soundtracks, greatest hits and live albums that I adore, this list is intended to honor those artists who can create a whole bunch of amazing material all at once. Many artists can string together ten hits over ten years and put them together, but there’s something special about a single great album.

Like I said, I am not a music critic. My reviews will likely sound pretty uneducated. Hopefully, you’ll find a gem or two yourself while reading the list. Several genres are represented, including rock, folk, bluegrass, country, grunge, punk, R&B, hip hop,  pop, and one band that’s kind of bluesy. Five decades are represented. To help guide you with any new music you might be interested in, I’ll specify key songs on each album.

Red: 5-star songs. These are in my top 100.
Orange: 4-star songs. Top 500 or so.
Blue:
Garbage. I most likely skip past this song if I’m listening.

To illustrate, here’s an album that is not making the countdown.

Album: Pendulum
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revivial
Year: 1971

1. Pagan Baby
2. Sailor’s Lament
3. Chameleon
4. Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
5. (Wish I Could) Hideaway
6. Born to Move
7. Hey Tonight
8. It’s Just A Thought
9. Molina
10. Rude Awakening #2

Pendulum is probably the most frustrating album I own.  Two of my top 100 songs are here, the fourth and fifth tracks. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? is stunning in it’s catchiness considering what a mournful song it is. Pagan Baby and Born to Move are pretty decent rockers. And It’s Just a Thought is a great melancholic tune about John Fogerty’s resentment towards his brother (as is Hideaway, actually).

But as you can see there are four songs on here that I just cannot listen to. Sailor’s Lament sounds off-key, Chameleon is dull, and Molina has an awkward rhythm with banal lyrics. But what really takes the cake is Rude Awakening #2, CCR’s only avant-garde offering. The first ninety seconds is actually a pretty good instrumental, and then it devolves into random noise for five minutes. It’s truly horrifying.

Monday we’ll kick this off the list. I hope you can enjoy it with me.