Sunday, September 25, 2011

The 30 Best Rock Songs of the 1960s

It's strange that YouTube is the easiest place to find most songs on the internet.  As a result, I often provide links to songs on YouTube, lacking other good alternatives.  I have also, myself, uploaded a number of videos to YouTube with photos of records.  I may find YouTube aesthetically displeasing, but I'm a pragmatist.

In an ideal world, with more music for listening and fewer videos for watching, I think I would still appreciate YouTube's potential for countdowns.  I've always loved countdowns.  They are not simply lists, but lists with drama and suspense.  Just this morning, I enjoyed this 8 minute YouTube video counting down the top 30 rock songs of the 1960s.

I think I'll hold my commentary on it back for a little while in case any readers wish to enjoy the suspense of the countdown themselves.  I will say that almost all of the songs in the top 30 are ones I will be seriously considering for my own top 300 or top 500 once I get up the energy and gumption to tackle the 60s, as I have already done with the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paste Magazine's Best Albums of the 2000s

Paste magazine published a list of the top 50 albums of the 2000s (2000-2009).  Sadly, we have to specify the exact range of years because it's the decade that never got named.  Here's their top 10 with Sufjan Stevens at #1.  I have a lot of trouble thinking about the best albums of the 2000s because I stopped listening to albums early in the 2000s.

In fact, some of the last CDs that I listened to over and over again all the way through are from 2000 or 2001.  Even then, I mostly only listened to single CDs when I was somewhere the speakers connected to my 400-CD-changer couldn't reach.  There should be a museum of the most rapidly obsolete technology for items like that 400-CD changer.

Anyway, back in 2000 or maybe 2001, when I was digging a hole for the sump pump in the crawl space of our new house, I had a boom box that I listened to under the house.  Ryan Adams' "Gold" and the Old 97's' "Satellite Rides" were my digging music.  Nothing really says "I just spent all my money and left the city and now I'm getting muddy and my back hurts" like major label alt-country CDs.  Ryan Adams' "Heartbreaker" make the Paste list at #23, and that is a good record, but "Gold" was better digging music.

I think Paste left off Neko Case.  Maybe I just don't understand the Paste demographic, but I think Neko Case had at least two CDs, if not 3, that could have been strong contenders for best of the decade.  Sharon Jones and Calexico are also surprisingly absent.  I'm not saying this just because they would have been on my own list.  I'm saying they seem like the sort of artistis who belong on a Paste list.  I'm interested in their selection of Outkast at #8 with Stankonia.  Would that have made their top 10 if Outkast hadn't broken through commercially with "Hey Ya" later in the decade?

In any case, CDs just don't work well for me as the unit to be ranked, especially for the 2000s.  That's why when I made my list I made it a best 300 songs list.  Nonetheless, the Paste list did remind me of a number of records I've been meaning to get around to listening to someday.  Rufus Wainright is on their list at #16.  I assume from what I read about him that I'd like Rufus, but I've just never gotten around to buying any of his stuff.  Maybe if I do I'll feel he was cheated out of a spot on my own best of the decade list.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Best Prog Rock Albums

This site is ambitious, fascinating, and not always successful artistically, much like prog rock itself.  Like Vinyl Surrender, another site that I like, the rankings are based on site member votes, so the list is not static.  Unlike Vinyl Surrender, this is a deep, deep dive into one musical genre and it's many sub-genres.  In addition to seeing the top prog rock albums, you can subset by subgenre to just see the top albums from the Canterbury Scene, or from Krautrock, or from RIO.

As of today (Sept 11, 2011), the top 10 prog rock albums on the site are:

10) Godbluff - Van Der Graaf Generator
9) King Crimson - Red
8) Pink Floyd - Animals
7) Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
6) King Crimson - In The Court of the Crimson King
5) Genesis - Foxtrot
4) Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
3) Genesis - Selling England By The Pound
2) Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
1) Yes - Close To the Edge

I have to say that I'm disappointed that even when I subset on Rock In Opposition (RIO), Henry Cow's "In Praise of Learning" only comes in at #115.  Keep in mind that the list changes as the votes come in, so it may be a little higher or lower than #115 when you read this.  Their later album "Western Culture" fared better, but I've always preferred the three sock albums, and I've always felt that Henry Cow was the archetypal RIO band more so than any other.

Prog rock has a lot in common with Metal in terms of being a critically maligned and/or ignored genre.  They are also genres with relatively few female fans and overwhelmingly white audiences.  Maybe rock critics, who are also disproportionately male, are trying to hide from their music geekdom by rejecting these genres.

There was a good bit of prog rock on my best of the 70s list, but I also left out some major prog rock bands entirely.  I'm not entirely sure what makes the difference between complex and challenging RIO that's enjoyable and complex and challenging commercial prog rock that's annoying, but this site has plenty of both to explore.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day

I found this list of work songs that somebody posted for a previous Labor Day.  Some are better than others, but there are some good ones I hadn't thought of myself (e.g. Dylan's "Maggie's Farm").

Some more obscure choices I would add to the list are:

Spot 1019 - Wild Wild Workweek
Nothing Painted Blue - Swivel chairs
Vehicle Flips - Expendable You
Lou Reed and John Cale - Work
Robert Wyatt - Age of Self
Redskins - Go Get Organised
Billy Bragg - Which Side Are You On
Pete Seeger - Which Side Are You On
Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys - I'm Working On a Building
Eggs - Government Administrator

Lastly, an honorable mention goes to the Bill Laswell instrumental "Work Song" that was the WRCT radio calendar music for much of the 1980s.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Top 25 Indie Rock Albums

Here's a list of the Top 25 Indie Rock Albums.  It's not an individual's list.  It was based on solicited votes from blog readers.  I don't particularly care for the fact that 3 bands show up twice, but I don't think the compiler/poster of the list liked that that much either - it was an earnest attempt at democracy.  It's reasonable that Pavement was one of the 3 to make the list with two albums.  It's unsurprising that Modest Mouse was one of the 3, and I still just don't get the Pixies.

Nonetheless, it's a pretty good list.  Identifying the best indie rock can be a bit challenging because some of the best bands reached a point where they weren't quite so indie.  You can take a look at the list yourself if you want to see the actual albums, but the top 10 were from these artists:

10) Minutemen
9) Pavement
8) Pixies
7) Postal Service
6) Belle & Sebastian
5) Sonic Youth
4) Modest Mouse
3) Arcade Fire
2) Pavement
1) Neutral Milk Hotel

I guess you can make a case for the Minutemen on this list in the same way that you can make a case for the MC5 or the Stooges on a list of great punk bands, but D. Boon had already died before the term "indie rock" was in regular use.  Sonic Youth also doesn't work for me on this list even though they did thrive into the indie rock era.  You can call them noise rock or underground rock or maybe even college rock, but they just don't fit my definition of indie rock.

I need to dig through my old issues of Option, Sound Choice, and Forced Exposure that I've held onto all these years to see if any of them were using the term indie rock in the 80s.  The term independent was definitely in widespread use, and I can't quibble with the notion of indie bands, but I just don't remember anybody talking about "indie rock" in the 80s.  Could those of you that remember the 80s weigh in here?  I'd like some comments on this.