Monday, March 16, 2009

13 albums

Changed my life in some way or another, or changed the way I hear music. Or both. In no order. (xposted from my Facebook.)

1. Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988): An atom bomb, which blew up most of my preconceived notions about pop music (the diaspora, not specifically popular music).

2. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (1988). It caused a teenage riot in my head.

3. Prince and the Revolution, 1999 (1982): Purple Rain was more seismic, Parade was better, and Sign "O" the Times the masterwork. But this album, borrowed from the North Manchester Public Library and played when my folks weren't around, was my introduction to the genius of Prince. My pop ear may have gotten off on the radio-played "Little Red Corvette," but my nascent crit mind worshipped "All the Critics..." (natch) and "Something in the Water" - clearly, this one was on some other shit.

4. Daryl Hall & John Oates, H2O (1982): The first album I ever truly loved and recognized as a cohesive work, 11 songs which hung together. Sparkling pop-rock-soul. Disbelievers in H&O's ability to rock are pointed towards "Family Man."

5. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing... (1996): Opened my eyes to a whole new world of turntablism.

6. Scritti Politti, Cupid and Psyche 85 (1985): This one I've gone into great depth about, right here.

7. Moby, Everything Is Wrong (1994): Rave-cum-dance music as pop songs - this is where a lot of my interest in real dance music can be traced to...

8. Various Artists, Rave 'Til Dawn (1991):...and this is where much of the rest of it can be. Rave as strictly 'ardcore, even with its pop tendencies peeking through.

9. LTJ Bukem, Logical Progression (1996): Drum'n'bass at its most lovely. I love hard jungle, but you can't listen to it all the time (at least I can't). This jazzier side of it, you can. 21st-century soul.

10. Me'shell NdegeOcello, Peace Beyond Passion (1996): Speaking of 21st-century soul, at her peak - and this was it - no one in R&B came close. Political without being preachy, and endlessly, easily funky, there's a reason everyone from Madonna to Mellencamp loved her.

11. Jodeci, Forever My Lady: When this came out, in '91, it was on some totally next-gen shit. Utterly contemporary, but totally timeless. Easily the first post-New Jack Swing R&B superstars, and along with Mary J. Blige, the harbingers of a new movement; the next decade of R&B can mostly be traced to the 2 acts. Fun fact: mostly co-produced and -written by Al B. Sure!

12. Rolling Stones, Dirty Work: This album didn't really change the way I hear music, or my life for that matter - but Christgau's review of it kinda-sorta did; he showed me how to defend a record thought to be indefensible, and helped me see that it's more than okay to go against the critical grain. (And for the record, it's my favorite Stones record to this day.)

Here's his review in full:
Dreaming of solo glory, Mick doesn't have much time for his band these days--just plugged into his Stones mode and spewed whatever he had to spew, adding lyrics and a few key musical ideas to tracks Ron and Keith completed before the star sullied his consciousness with them. And I say let him express himself elsewhere. For once his lyrics are impulsive and confused, two-faced by habit rather than design, the straightest reports he can offer from the top he's so lonely at, about oppressing and being oppressed rather than geopolitical contradiction. In the three that lead side two, always playing dirty is getting to him, as is his misuse of the jerks and greaseballs and fuckers and dumb-asses who clean up after him, yet for all his privilege he's another nuclear subject who's got no say over whether he rots or pops even though he'd much prefer the former. Especially together with the hard advice of "Hold Back," these are songs of conscience well-known sons of bitches can get away with. Coproducer Steve Lillywhite combines high-detail arena-rock with back-to-basics commitment and limits the melismatic affectations that have turned so much of Mick's late work in on itself. Let him have his own life and career, I don't care. What I want is the Stones as an idea that belongs to history, that's mine as much as theirs. This is it. A

13. Guy, Guy: THE album to prove that production meant as much as singing and songwriting in R&B, as well as THE definitive New Jack Swing full-length. Also THE place that proved Teddy Riley's genius, without question.

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