Tuesday, November 27, 2007

South Dakota Dark's Top Ten Favorite Albums (Redux)

I've attempted this before, but I never finished. Plus, I wasn’t all too happy with the list. As we all know—as fun as they are—lists are just incredibly arbitrary. I wanted to try it again though. I would say the best album that I’ve ever heard; the album that I feel has been crafted and delivered the best out of all the different pieces that I’ve heard is Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. However, there is a specific connotation that the album has with me (that I won’t bore you with) and I don’t find myself listening to it all that much; only at certain points in my life. So, are the best albums and your favorite albums different? I say that they are…at least for the purposes of this list. The albums that appear within may not be the most ingeniously realized works of art ever created, but they strike every single right note with me and I would defend their validity until the END OF TIME.

So while this may not be my version of the definitive album list of all time; it is the definitive album list of my life. And that’s IMPORTANT to me, because I really feel that these albums helped in CREATING me (musically). It’s lame, I know. The list is mostly 90’s oriented because…that’s where I lived the most. It doesn’t mean that I don’t find significant joy in albums from other time periods, or that I don’t know that albums like Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, or Pet Sounds or even Closer were some of the most influential and enjoyable albums ever released. I’m just trying to be honest about the music that has shaped me into the music fan that I am today. Fair enough? Okay.

For your reading (dis)pleasure:

Daniel’s Top Ten Favorite Albums of All Time (Part 1):

Liz Phair has always been such a polarizing figure. I don’t really mean that she made music that you either loved or hated--though she did…and still does. What I mostly mean is that her persona--which has never really been a persona--either makes you uncomfortable, turns you on (haha), or simply entertains you. And even that entertainment can come for myriad reasons. Exile in Guyville captured this. Phair is vulgar, sardonic, cheesy, misanthropic, and dramatic. The album unfolds like a stage play of faked emotions or a joke that only she seems privy to. Exile… is a virtual clusterfuck of lo-fi guitars, country tinged love affairs, and straight-forward post-rock all with a wonderfully dirty pop aesthetic. It is invigorating in a way that feels that it shouldn’t. What I mean is that her tongue-in-cheek style should put you off (and it does), but Exile… is crafted in such a way that you appreciate its most audacious cockiness, and actually find it all sort of precious.

Jay-Z isn’t overrated. Not really. I get the fact that he sometimes receives backlash for reasons involving either Nas (until recently) or over saturation. And I get that those reasons can be valid at any given moment. I get that Jay-Z’s royalty can be directly linked to his record sales and affable persona just as much as it can be to his artistic prowess. The Blueprint, though, is something different. The Blueprint is an album that can’t really be held up against Jay-Z’s previous or recent works because it was delivered with a different distinction than anything that came before or anything that came after. Reasonable Doubt laid the groundwork, but the heights of boastfulness and sensory overload displayed on The Blueprint in such a refined way is rivaled by no other album in Jay-Z’s collective body of work. He has never been so focused. He adheres to one sonic vision, it seems, which creates a truly unique experience on the album. The static nature of some of the production somehow adds fluidity, and Jay puts his story at the center. The accompanying bells and whistles contain a soulfulness and regularity that is as ingenious as it is simple, but “Jigga” is able to bleed himself into every track on the album, which is what makes it so damn compelling.

I've spoken recently on Craig Finn, and he is (obviously) one of my most loved musical figures. The Hold Steady as a band, however, have achieved a status of rabid fanboyism in me of which I am actually sort of ashamed. Their second LP, Separation Sunday was the first album that I ever heard from them. It is a concept album with a loosely conveyed narrative that serves both as an indoctrination of the Catholic Church and a joyous affirmation of faith through trial, fire, and trial by fire. The meandering and ambiguous nature of the story keeps things at a level of powerful resonance and recognition. Stranger still is the spit and sputter vocal work by Finn (that makes or breaks any potential fan) put on full display in all its off-colored glory. The most religious of religious experiences, what Separation Sunday lacks in divinity it makes up for in humanity.

Pavement is one of those groups that were so overrated upon their inception that, over time, they became underrated by default. Among most music enthusiasts or hipster elites, Pavement is an everyday occurrence. However, there is a surprisingly large amount of people that I've met that really have no idea who they are or the level of influence they had on the methods used in creating rock music. On Slanted and Enchanted Pavement introduced the lo-fi aesthetic that they would later perfect on Crooked Rain... Slanted and Enchanted, however is special in its ability to blend these melodies and crumbled walls of white noise into an eerie and beautiful mess. There was so little structure or grace involved. Slanted and Enchanted gave way to the more refined trashiness of their later work, but Pavement wouldn't have gotten their without this wondrous work of cause and effect.

After his death, Elliott Smith entered a list of many great artists and musicians who died before their time. However, such a distinction to give Smith seems odd to me. Spending any significant time with his music, one never got the feeling that Elliott thought himself "long" for this world. There was an ever watching eye gazing to the heavens; the beyond; the oblivion. It wasn't to be cool (though most will tell you this). His was a genuine unease in regards to dealing with humanity and, more importantly, being human. He was never hateful or snotty about it. It was simply the truth. Either/Or revels in this personality and is, perhaps, the closest of Smith's work to mirror the perfect sadness and quiet rage he had bundled up inside of him. A smooth album that flows like water rolling down a canvas; Either/Or sees Elliott reaching a peak in regards to his acoustic driven balladry, and serves as a defining moment in an artist's life whose true pain may have been pleasure.

*Stay tuned for Part 2!


Carrie said...

You're most important albums are so, so different from mine. I suppose that plays a big part in why our musical tastes are different now. Honestly, in the 90's I had no idea who Liz Phair or Pavement even were. Still, I love reading about why someone loves an album and what music has shaped their life.

Can't wait for part 2!

(P.S. Something funky is going on with your pictures. Well, if there are supposed to be pictures, that is.)

kittle said...

I have to wait? Come on!

page said...

I LOVED that Liz Phair so much! I still do.

Daniel said...

I really don't know why the pictures are fucking up in this way. I was able to see them at first.

I spent TIME making those! :(

kittle said...

I saw them fine yesterday.

Daniel said...

Hmmmm...well then they stopped working for me. None the less, I changed the format anyway. So I think it works okay for all now. NOT THAT ANY OF THIS MATTERS. But..the little things bother me. Okay...this comment section shall now die.