Friday, July 17, 2015

Our All-Time Favorite Albums and Why We Like Them

For this blog, each member of the band was asked to list their top 3 favorite albums and to explain why each is great! In some cases, this is simply a discussion of how a particular album spoke to us in a personal way; in others, we detail what we feel makes the album just generally wonderful! Feel free to tell us about your top 3 favorites by posting a comment! 

Luke Gabordi

Listen Here: Nothing Is Wrong (full) 
Nothing is Wrong, Dawes (2011) - It is my favorite album. This album is far more than a collection of songs. Dawes carefully wrote, selected, and then organized tracks from beginning to end to create a completed work detailing the overdone theme of personal wreckage following a broken heart. But this album is so much more than that! The lyrics, the tones, the themes of each song...this is an intimate look into the depths of a soul during the sad and beautiful, depressing and elating, chaotic yet pacifying journey from who we were to who we have become. As human beings, we may find ourselves creating in our minds our personal identity. When that identity is fractured and we are shaken to our core, we are forced to reckon with our very existence and forced to find our place again in this world. Dawes has captured this journey in a powerful and deadly accurate way. While others may have had different experiences with this journey, I listen to this album and feel that it was written specifically for me. Whether your self discovery followed a breakup, hitting rock bottom, or simply a decision to make a change in life, this album has words that are meaningful and sounds which capture the essence of each emotion.

Listen Here: Abbey Road (full album) 
Abbey Road, The Beatles (1969) - First of all, the Beatles were a favorite of mine from middle school on. How original of me! This is musically my favorite album of theirs, although Rubber Soul is a close second and Sargent Pepper expanded my understanding of what an album could be. "I Want You" and "Because" are two of my favorite songs the Beatles wrote, not only simply for the listening pleasure, but for the appreciation I have as a musician for the writing and recording of each song. The medley is what pushes Abbey Road to the next level for me. John, Paul, George and Ringo took a hodgepodge of incomplete songs and turned them into an iconic "piece" of its own. Adding to my intrigue here is that the Beatles were nearing their end. Paul told Rolling Stone that during it's recording, the elements pulling the band apart were hard at work, yet each Beatle had a strong respect for who and what each other was as a musician and they made it work. Overall, I love the music simply for the music, and I love the album because of what it signified for the Fab Four in some of their final days together.

Listen Here: Morning View (full album)
Morning View, Incubus (2001) - Look, there are lots and lots of songs and albums that I love to listen to. I love music for the sounds, for the creativity, and for the pleasure of simply playing it. But for me, the greatest gift that music has to offer is that it can take a group of people, large or small, and touch every single person in such a way that they are united by it. For me, Morning View offers great sounding music ranging from the nearly the hardest rock they've produced (“Blood on the Ground”) to soft, intimate acoustic (“Mexico”), to grooves that you can listen to while kicking back in a chair by the water in July (“Are you in?”), as well as spiritually provocative music from some mystical voyage real or imagined (“Aqueous Transmission”). But my favorite thing about the album, and what makes me feel such a connection to it, is that Incubus recorded it living near the beach so that they could come and go recording as part of their day, not as something they needed to drive to the studio to do. They wanted it to flow more naturally. The water has such a presence in the album, and evidence can be found in certain lyrics, instrument tones, the album cover itself, and in some non instrument track sounds, such as the "peepers" ending the song "Aqueous Transmission", and thusly, the album itself. I love to be at the beach with Morning View in my ears with the seagulls and surf in the background. It just fits for me!

Other Albums: Port of Morrow, The Shins; Young the Giant, Young the Giant; In a Perfect World, Kodaline; For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver

Jordan Hill

Listen Here: The Bends (full album
The Bends, Radiohead (1995) - When friends ask me, “What is your favorite band?” I typically say “early-Radiohead.” For me, Radiohead’s first three albums are, as a unit, unsurpassed in their depth, emotional resonance, and melodic beauty. The Bends is Radiohead’s second studio album. Boasting such popular hits as “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” the album makes a subtle but noticeable aesthetic and thematic turn away from its angsty, reckless, and politically charged predecessor, Pablo Honey (1993). Instrumentally, the twelve tracks that comprise The Bends are more layered and balanced than those in Pablo Honey, featuring a greater use of keyboards and more aggressive, expressionistic guitar riffs. In songs like “The Bends,” “Just,” and “My Iron Lung,” for example, guitars drive the tracks in a way that is focused, but also messy, splashy, and abrasive, like a Jackson Pollock painting. The result is intense, especially when combined with Yorke’s soaring, operatic vocal melodies. Lyrically, the songs are dramatic and deeply introspective--more cryptic and poetic than Pablo Honey, but also more melancholy and romantic. Though the band’s third album, OK Computer (1997), is one of the more inventive and exhilarating musical statements in modern memory, it has a paranoid political schizophrenia that, while emblematic of the of the late 90’s zeitgeist, ultimately renders the album more reactive and less profound than The Bends. All of Radiohead’s albums are about alienation, desperation, and the vulnerability of love, but The Bends stands out to me for its timeless, existential tenor and its concern with the individual.

*After OK Computer, the band--believing it must, with every album, become increasingly more abstruse, inaccessible, and avant-garde--spirals downward into a rabbit-hole of pandering pretension from which it never quite emerges.

Listen Here: Yellow House (full album)
Yellow House, Grizzly Bear (2006) -Yellow House is my all-time favorite album. There is something magnificent and almost primitive about the ten songs that make up Yellow House. No single track on the album stands out as being particularly memorable or hit-worthy. Instead, like an experimental concept-album from the late 60’s, the songs string together harmoniously to become one long, beautiful, and multifaceted song. Grizzly Bear’s sound, while nothing if not original, might be best described as an anarchic cross between The Beach Boys and Fleet Foxes--rich vocal harmonies, unpredictable melodies, traditional instruments (utilized in unique ways), and pensive, wandering lyrics. Yellow House embodies the best of these qualities, but has a sound that is singular and unlike any other Grizzly Bear album. The guitar tones range from folksy acoustic to earthy electric; the drums, wild and tom-heavy, give off a woodsy, paganistic feel; while the harmonies are howling and psychedelic, but tightly controlled. The fact that Yellow House conjures a foresty, mythical, fantasia-esque feeling of wonder and awe is no accident. (Close your eyes while listening and you can just picture yourself running through some ancient wilderness, in a drama complete with nymphs, fauns, and satyrs!) The album--which uses xylophones, chirping birds, and other nature sounds throughout--has been described as possessing an “Apollonian ethereality.” Indeed, the combination of orderly harmonies and chaotic, darkly percussive instrumentation feels symbolic of the Apollonian/Dionysian struggle found in Greek mythology and literature. If any part of my description sounds decadent or overwrought, I beg you: listen to the album and see for yourself! Yellow House is an otherworldly masterpiece.

Listen Here: For Emma (full album)
For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver (2008) - It is 2015, and I have been listening to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago non-stop for close to 6 years. Over time, I have realized that this album---the music, the lyrics, and my emotional interaction with it---cannot be separated from the story of its artistic creation, which has become the stuff of legend. The album was recorded over a three-month period of solitude, in a cabin in rural Wisconsin, with nothing but a laptop, basic recording equipment, and some old instruments. In the popular imagination, Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, has become something of a veritable modern-day Thoreau. Yet For Emma, Forever Ago is no Walden. It isn’t about self-reliance, vital energy, or sucking the marrow out of life; it is more about loneliness, lost love, and taking stock of life. Vernon’s lyrics are vague, illusive, and self-consciously poetic, using words and word-play to create images and evoke feelings, rather than to establish direct meaning. Take these lyrics from the album’s opening song, “Flume”: “Only love is all maroon/ Gluey feathers on a flume/ Sky is womb and she's the moon.” Or later in the song: “Lapping lakes like leery loons/ Leaving rope burns, reddish ruse.” Here the rhyme scheme and alliteration works to provide a coherent structure for images and ideas that are surreal and barely lucid. The vocals, which Vernon performs in a husky falsetto voice and uses almost instrumentally, are delivered in rich waves and surges of undulating intensity. However, there is also a nostalgic and somehow tragic feeling of hermetic isolation running throughout the album. Despite the abundance of dynamic, echoing harmonies, the nine songs that compose For Emma, Forever Ago are punctuated by deep, meaningful moments of reflective quiet---these moments draw the listener in and bring a real intimacy to the listening experience.

Other Favorites: Either/Or, Elliott Smith (1997); Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird (2007); Port of Morrow, The Shins; Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys; Undiscovered, James Morrison (2006)

Eric Zaccaro

Listen Here: El Cielo (full album)
El Cielo, Dredg (2002) - Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, and with an eclectic group of influences including jazz, rock, soul and pop, Dredg creates a unique sound with an epic vibe. Inspired by a Salvador Dali work called “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening,” El Cielo extracts various symbols from the painting and converts them into music throughout the album. Recurring lyrical themes focus on holding on to hope, pushing through tough times, maintaining youth, and embracing life. These are combined with emotional and catchy melodies, which still to this day, get stuck in my head often. The album also features different instruments such as the saxophone, and yangqin to provide different sounds. With its unique sounds, inspirational lyrics, and artistic themes, El Cielo in its entirety is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Listen Here: This Is War (full album)
This Is War, 30 Seconds To Mars (2009) - With Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto as the frontman, 30 Seconds to Mars is known for their popular rock melodies and amazing production value. Their album This Is War includes collaborations with artists such as Kanye West, and uses a children’s choir to add an ironic tone to the theme of the horrors of war. With meaningful lyrics and a passionate atmosphere, just about every song reaches a musical peak that almost always gives me goosebumps. Also, the smooth transitions between songs create a coherent flow throughout the whole album, making it so easy to listen to in one sitting. For all of these reasons, this is one of my favorite albums.

Listen Here: TheWeeknd (full album)
Trilogy, The Weeknd (2012) - Originally from Canada and known as a PBR&B artist, Abel Tesfaye (“The Weeknd”) combines genres of music including jazz, R&B, hip hop, funk, and pop. In Trilogy, smooth melodies and a crisp voice add a unique sense of soul to his music. Catchy beats and interesting lyrics set the tone and should keep any first-time listener intrigued throughout the album. Also, various collaborations with many other artists add different tones and new sounds to every song. When I’m in many different moods, whether I’m looking for sexy music, easy listening, or catchy melodies, this album provides all of those and is therefore one of my favorites.

Other albums: Young Love, Mat Kearney; The Resistance, Muse

Mike Zaccaro

If I was asked to name the best albums of all time, this would be a very different list. But because this is a personal "Top 3" list---a "desert island albums" list, if you will---these selections will likely seem a little random and non-extraordinary to most. In writing this, I realize that I have truly learned something about my own musical taste. Through this exercise, I’ve learned that I like music to be technically interesting, emotional, and to contain wrenching and unforgettable melodies. When looking over most of this list, each album seems to have something I personally strive for and consider to be mostly prominent in our own band’s music. I am learning, however, that I also seem to be drawn to albums that are story/theme driven, and which have variety in style and influence. The purpose of this list is to narrow down my favorite albums to the top three (in no particular order).

Listen Here: Night At The Opera (full)
A Night at The Opera, Queen (1975) - In 1975, Queen released its fourth studio album. While sometimes over the top with its operatic flair and corny ragtime lyrics/piano, this album captures a wide range of variety and technical areas that had not really been explored in mainstream rock and roll to that point. I love that the role of lead vocalist and songwriter is humbly passed around in a democratic manner. From Brian May's folksy "'39," to Roger Taylor's straight hard rock "I'm in Love with My Car," back to Freddie's "Seaside Rendezvous," it's hard to imagine all of these ideas and virtuosity are contained within one group of British rockers. Every song in Night at The Opera is great, and differently interesting from the next. Songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "The Prophet's Song" experiment with some cool production effects and vocal abilities that are still being replicated today. I got goose-bumps when Jordan and Nikki had their wedding first kiss and "You're My Best Friend" started blasting as they made their way back up the aisle.

Listen Here: Metropolis Pt. 2 (full album)
Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory, Dream Theater (1999) - I truly love most types of music, and believe there is a style of music for any mood or emotion, including anger. I love when an artist embodies or packages an idea exactly how it should be, to keep the idea true to itself. In other words, don't force a genre or style upon an idea, in order to superficially keep to your 'genre,' if that genre doesn't best serve the idea. There is some metal I love and others I do not. It is unfair to categorize Dream Theater as "Progressive Metal," as their songwriting and performing dabbles with all types of music. My gripe with a lot of metal is the monotony and production choices. I find most metal to be forgettable---much of it sounding the same within itself. I also find it to be overproduced and stripped of a lot of personality in the sound; it's usually scooped out in the mid section and left to be all low-end and tinny-treble. This is kind of ironic when you are talking about complex music and superb musicianship. I was drawn to Dream Theater because they take the best traits and really mix it up without limiting themselves to any sound or style.

Dream Theater's 1999 concept album is full bodied and "raw" sounding when it comes to production, which compliments the intricate songwriting and musicianship very nicely. This album tells a story of man named Nicholas, who after having crazy dreams, speaks to a hypnotherapist and learns that in a past life he was a woman named Victoria whose murder was framed as a suicide after a love triangle boils over. The story is perpetuated by thoughtful lyrics, driving melodies, and descriptive musical interludes. From the acted introduction, euphoric and tear jerking realization ballad of "Through Her Eyes," climactic gospel choir backed "The Spirit Carries On," and every shred (pun intended) of riff and funky time-signatured metal in between, this album is both jaw dropping and enthralling from beginning to end.

Listen Here: Morning View (full album)
Morning View, Incubus (2001) - In 2001, Incubus released Morning View. There are two main reasons why I love this album so much. This album came out right around the time I was starting to really dig into learning the bass guitar, and also around the time when I was really starting to discover new rock music (for me, this was somewhere between 8th and 9th grade). This album has a vibe that influences the entire sound and writing of the album. One of my musical dreams is to write and record an entire album in a remote, inspiring location. Incubus rented a studio in the Malibu hills with direct beach access to write and record their album and it really shines through. To me, Incubus has not been the same since Dirk Lance left as bass player. His funky navigation through the deep-pocket, which fit so seamlessly into the 90s alternative rock songs, really played a large part in what separated their style and song-writing from other bands coexisting within the genre. This album holds such a specific and special place in my life and musical journey that I had to add it to my list. Given how strongly this album has influenced me, and due to my interest in production, I plan to buy an island in the Maldives or Bahamas and build a solar powered recording studio bungalow. But first we need to get famous and successful selling our garage art!

Honorable Mentions that barely missed the list: Anthology, The Moody Blues; Abbey Road; The Beatles; The Resistance, Muse; Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine, In a Perfect World; Kodaline

1 comment:

  1. To getting nutrition for healthy life the little buddy needs the best food. Dry dog food, which includes kibble typically cooked with plenty of real meat for protein and added fruits and vegetables. For best dry dog food pet parents should come to VitaLife. Vitalife is one of the trusted pet food brands for using only all natural premium quality ingredients. Best dry dog food brands