Saturday, September 10, 2011

Music I play in Class

Q. Hey Mark,
I doubt you'll remember me, as I was in one of your pre-college still life classes last summer, but I still remember how good your taste in music was. I just got an iTunes gift card and I was wondering if you could give me some recommendations. Your favorite bands/musicians, something that everyone should be exposed to.

A. Dear Minerva,
I do remember you. I'm happy to hear that you liked what you heard in our class. Here is a likely assortment of music I would have played.

1. Placebo- Nearly everything they've put out is worth owning. I'd buy "Meds" first. Then "Sleeping With Ghosts." Then "Without You I'm Nothing". I'd skip "Black Market Music" and "Placebo (self titled first album)"- unless you end up really liking them and want more. "Nancy Boy" is the one song worth owning from the first album.  Their latest album, "Battle for the Sun" is just so so. But the song "Julien" is a must.

2. Blink 182- "Blink 182", I listen to this album 3- 25 times a week.  The first single, "Feeling this" is like what they have always done. The rest of the album steps into new territory for them. I think it's the best thing they have put out so far. Later this month, they release a new album.

3. The Cure- "Disintegration." They don't get better than this. Most everything before this is also very good. What comes after is mostly forgettable. Sorry, Robert Smith. And thank you Robert Smith.

4. Mono- An instrumental four piece from Japan. They play seven to ten minute songs that move from soft to heavy and continue to play on that contrast. Wonderful music for driving, walking, painting, napping, making-out, shopping at Ikea. "You Are There" is the stand out album. (If you like them you may also like, Explosions in the sky, Mogwai, and God Speed You Black Emperor. All of these bands are worth the listen.)

5. Band of Horses- "Everything All The Time." A solid album start to finish. "The Funeral" and "I Go To The Barn..." are the standouts here.

6. Beck- "Sea Change" and "Modern Guilt". Two very different albums. Both rewarding and well made.

7. Brittney Spears- "Greatest Hits". She's kind of an unknown these days but if you like ABBA, you'll love Brittney Spears. She's what you would get if Ke$ha and Celine Dion had a baby. 

8. Cat Power- Everything from "Moon Pix" forward. She was still finding herself before Moon Pix. I'm glad she did.

9. Circa Survive- "On Letting Go". This took me a while to get into. Once I did it's been on consistent rotation. This is the one in a year I might regret having added. But as of the past few months, I'm glad I found them.- Thanks Brock.

10. Cold War Kids- "Robbers and Cowards". The song, We used to vacation, is my favorite. It has some lines that actually make me chuckle. Not many songs do that.

11. The Dandy Warhol's- "Rule OK" and "Come Down". These guys are just cool and easy, almost without trying. Really. They blew all the money they were given to record one of their albums on parties. And still came up with a great album. I think it was Come Down.

12. The Distillers- "Coral Fang". I love Brody Dalle. She shows up on this list one more time. Just the coolest punk rock chick out there at the time. Coral Fang is their most accessible album. And their last.

13. Fugazi- "13 Songs". This is a classic. A monumental album. A must. Truth be told I only really like half the album. But I like that half VERY much. Ian McKay is one of the few role models in music. I would actually want my kids to grow up to be more like him. I would like to grow up to be more like him.

14. Goldfrapp- "Felt Mountain". There is no album like this. From second one, I didn't want it to end.

15. Interpol- All of it. Or at least, "Our love to admire".

16. Pulp- "This is Hardcore". Moody, sarcastic Brit-Pop at it's very best. This is their gold star record.

17. Julian Plenti- "Julian Plenti is..." This is the solo project of Interpol's front man. I like it as much, if not a touch more than Interpol.

18. Liz Durrett- "Outside our Gates". For when you want something mellow and melancholy.

19. Neko Case- "Blacklisted". I can't think of a better female vocalist. She's as close to country as I like to get. Ever since she went solo, it's all been good. Listen to "Deep Red Bells". If that doesn't leave you wanting to hear more... You may not have a soul. Or should at least just look into the next recommendation.

20. Pinback- "Blue Screen Life". This album has always carried a bit of guilt with it. When my wife and I were still dating, we both bought an album at the record store. She wanted to play me her selection. I convinced her mine was the must hear album at the moment. Months later, I "introduced" her to Pinback very enthusiastically. She reminded me this was the album she wanted to play for me but I had no interest in hearing. I'm still enthusiastic about them. If you like them check out Systems Officer as well. It's the bass players solo project. 

21. Portishead- Everything. All of it. If you haven't already heard them and bought all their music, I would be shocked if you didn't fall in love with it. At least surprised if you didn't like it.

22. Portugal the Man- "Church mouth". This was the only album I listened to in the car for three months straight. It always satisfied. This is the one album of theirs I like from beginning to end.

23. Radiohead- "OK computer". Just in case you haven't heard this album yet. Just in case. You were maybe only ten when it came out. Maybe six. This is one of those albums people are referring to when they say "It changed the musical landscape."

24. Ratatat- "Classics". Another album I foolishly dismissed the first time a friend mentioned it to me. Once I had a real listen to it... I think it replaced the Portugal the Man CD in my car. I still give this a good spin in my classes.

25. Smoking Popes- "Destination Failure". Great song writing. Have you ever had your heart broken and made a funny sad joke about it? These guys just do it better. They have a dash of Social distortion and a sprinkle of Morrissey.

26. Spinnerette- "Spinnerette". I think this will be the only album for them. This is also Brody Dalle's latest, hopefully not last music project. Fast, fun and spunky. You can almost dance to it... Ah, go a head. Dance.

27. Surfer Blood- "Astro Coast". You know how every once in a while, a friend will post a music video on Facebook. You'll watch it, and be glad they did. That was Swim from Surfer Blood for me. I was hooked. I also play this in class a few times a semester. Start to finish. The whole thing is good.

28. The Walkmen- "You and Me". Keep your ears open at school. I just overheard some students talking about these guys. I trust their musical tastes, so I looked them up when I got home. Usually eaves dropping doesn't pay off this well for me.

29. Yeah Yeah Yeah's- "It's Blitz". Work back from there. Again, just in case you haven't heard of them already.

30. The Pixies. I'll admit I didn't fall in love with the Pixies the first few times I heard them. It took me a few tries, over ten years. And then it hit. And it was great. If you've had trouble, start with the songs: Where is my mind, Wave of Mutilation, Havalina, Velouria, Into the White, and Carribu. If you want to start with an album, "Surfer Rosa".

It was good to hear from you. I do hope you can find something you like as you search through this list.
Hope this helps,

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