I think that Built to Spill INVENTED the catchy guitar hook. They have been around a while and basically influence every indie band out there. Choosing one of their albums is hard, but this release from 1999 seemed appropriate.
Sometimes I don’t know what to write about these. They are essential, just listen to them now. Name drop them for cred if you want. It’s hard to pick Spoon’s favorite album so luckily I got my hands on the discogrpahy. If I were forced to pick, Girls Can Tell and Gimme Fiction are the best. But the rest run a very close second.
Find out more about Spoon here.
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
Gimme Fiction (2005)
I can hardly believe that it has been 25 years since Daydream Nation came out. Sonic Youth is known for its experimental, sometimes nonmusical experimentation with using amp feedback. They are skilled in the abstract music as well as commercially compatible rock. Daydream Nation fits both those categories and is beyond amazing. I luckily was able to see them live in 1995 and it initiated me into music snobbery. There is also an extensive backstory in Our Band Could Be Your Life (which is essential reading). 1991: The Year Punk Broke, their tour documentary is amazing. I would say they can also be credited with introducing Nirvana to the mainstream. Sonic Youth’s bassist, Kim Gordon is also one of the few female musicians who have gained credibilty regardless of being female, and never been labeled as a “chick rocker”. She and Thurston Moore now have teenage kids, and I hope they appreciate how cool their parents are.
I haven’t done one of these in a bit. Social Distortion has an amazing sound, I guess you could call it rockabilly? I think this is what Johnny Cash would sound like if he decided to go in a heavier direction. Mike Ness, the main singer songwriter is a genius. The songs are pretty much punkish, but still have a strong melodic bass. The rhythm section is great, there is a constant full drumbeat and chord progression throughout every sone. They have been around since the late eighties, with their peak in the early to mid-nineties. Their latest came out in 2005, and personally I thought it was one of their best. It’s one of those bands whose albums sound similar to each other, but that is welcome because if it’s great, no need to fix it. Most of the bands popular today wouldn’t even exist if Social D was not around, and the influences are obvious. Good Charlotte thinks they sound like Social Distortion (bwah!) and even Green Day has taken a cue from them. Their album Between Heaven and Hell is considered their most consistent, so that whole album is here. I’ve also included some of their better tracks from other albums, which are also worth checking out. Even if you think you haven’t heard them before, I guarantee you’ve heard “Story of My Life” and “Ball and Chain”. They are always used in movies and commercials. Their cover of “Ring of Fire” is, dare I say, better than the original.
Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (1992) (full album)
From Social Distortion (1990)
From White Light, White Heat, White Trash (1996)
From Sex, Love & Rock N Roll (2004)
[More essential albums]
Emo boy bands are everywhere now, wearing women’s skinny jeans, and whining about lost loves and have long song titles that have nothing to do with any of the lyrics of the actual song. These bands may seem like a fad, but there is always the one group that was the pioneer. The Strokes were amazing and one of a kind and practically a Velvet Underground tribute band, but then came the wave of all the post-grunge, leather-jacket-wearing New York bands, and it was hard to remember when it was original. Same with Green Day in the 90s, whose pop-punk at the time was basically an Operation Ivy/Screeching Weasel tribute. Then came the waves and waves of new “punk” whose fans were not even born to be able to listen to the influences.
So, Taking Back Sunday may strike you as another “scene” band with screaming fangirls, a permanent fixture on the Warped Tour, in hot topic sweatbands. I will make the claim that when they came out in 2001, they were pretty original. Although they have obvious influences from hardcore, emo, and classic rock, they broke it through to the mainstream. (Although many would also fault them for this as cheapening the punk name). I would say one of the most notable qualities is having both the lead singer and guitarist share the vocals, in a call-and-response where one sings semi-melodically, and the other has a more visceral yell. This has been copied since then more times than I can count. Basically every rock band on Myspace.
TBS have three albums out, with the last two released on a major-label, and the sound is getting more and more polished and radio-friendly. They are still good, but you can hear the major-label influence. Also, guitarist (and yeller) John Nolan left the band after this album (and started the encredibly shitty band Straylight Run) and without his vocals and songwriting the other stuff is not as good.
By claiming to like Taking Back Sunday, some people would probably say that strips me of my cred. I’d say that this is just a really addicting album, probably one that encapsulates the sound of popular punk/emo of the early 2000’s.
I may also have to claim that “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” is probably one of my top five favorite songs (and video) ever. So addictive. Although every song on here can get stuck in your head.
I’s also like to add that this blog gets about 25% of its traffic from mentioning the name Adam Lazarra (the lead singer) who is probably one of the most searched people on the internet. He is a total emo heathrob poster boy. He is also knows for intense histrionics while singing. Usually people find my blog while searching for things like “does Adam Lazarra have a girlfriend?” or “Adam Lazarra nude pics” (I don’t actually have those on here anywhere”.
I did get a chance to see them live in 2003, and it was quite amamzing. I have never seen fans so much in a daze of utter devotion, screaming every word to every lyric. Despite your opinion, you couldn’t help but be impressed.
more ESSENTIAL ALBUMS
The New Pornographers are one of the bands I had in mind when I first started posting essential albums, but I’ve been putting in off in fear that I could not do the band justice in my writing. They only formed in 1997 but basically created instant classics that I think are going to outlast all the other hyped bands that come out every five minutes. What do they sound like? I guess power pop is how they have been described, with influences cited as Cheap Trick, the Cars, Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson. The songs are insanely melodic with lots of layered instruments, including pianos, organs, and acoustic/electric combos, and harmonized vocals. They also have a rotating lineup of male and female singers, including Neko Case, who is known for her solo work wihich is more country-based. It is hard to pick a best album. Many would go with Electric Version, which came out in 2003.
I’m posting the whole discography here, because you should own all their albums. Period. End of story. Listening to them will make you understand good songwriting, musicianship, lyrics, singing ability, the whole deal.
Here’s the discography listed out by song. If you are overwhelmed by this, I can let you know that the best songs are (and many like to argue with me over this)
- The Slow Descent into Alcoholism
- Letter From an Occupant*
- The Body Says No
- The Laws Have Changed
- The New Face of Zero and One
- Miss Teen Wordpower
- When I Was a Baby*
- The Bleeding Heart Show
- Twin Cinema
*Tracks so good I actually cry.
And here is each album individually. Believe me, you won’t be sorry.
[MASS ROMANTIC] (2000)
[ELECTRIC VERSION] (2003)
[TWIN CINEMA] (2005)
Ok, maybe Jimmy Eat World have since turned into VH1-power ballad heroes, but 2001’s Bleed American is fantastic. This album pretty much ruled the year 2001 for me. If you forget that you’ve heard “The Middle” about a thousand times, it’s actually a good song. “A Praise Chorus” is the best song, with “Authority Song” in a close second. If most mainstream music sounded like this, it would be bearable. If I were to make a list of my favorite albums of all time (which I may do soon) this would probably make my top 50.