When I was younger, I feel like my default unit of music was the album. My brother's, too. When we heard a song we liked, we didn't buy the single. (Well, maybe once or twice we bought some cassingles. Remember those??) We went out and bought the whole album. If we liked the album, we went back and bought all the other albums that band had made. Or, as many as we could find at the record store. Remember when you had to just keep going back to every record store you knew of to find albums you wanted? And if those stores didn't have those albums, you were just out of luck? Crazy.
Anyway, not long after I embraced MP3s and moved my entire music collection onto my iPod, my default unit of music changed to the song. I stopped listening to whole albums and I started listening to playlists on shuffle. It was kind of a seismic shift. It felt freeing. I love the weird juxtapositions a random shuffle can create. And there's no commitment or continuity in a random shuffle; you can break off and start again whenever or wherever.
But for whatever reason, I'm starting to embrace the album again. I'm buying albums of music, and I'm listening to whole albums with my son, instead of playlists on shuffle. And I'm seeing again what you can do with an album, how it can be a deeply meaningful grouping, how putting a bunch of songs together like that can give them more power and meaning than when they're just ripped out and played alone, out of context.
All of which is to say, I'm playing albums when I give my son a bath at night, and here are some of the classics I'm revisiting and new stuff I'm discovering:
Abacab - Genesis
Abbey Road - The Beatles
Achtung Baby - U2
Act II: The Father of Death - The Protomen
The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
Band on the Run - The Wings
Beaster - Sugar
Genesis - Genesis
Sheer Heart Attack - Queen
So - Peter Gabriel
Specter at the Feast - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
I'm a little embarrassed to include this on my list, because to be honest this album is just a bunch of cheesy hipster music. But it is really catchy, well done, emotionally effective, cheesy hipster music, so what can I do?
9. Neck of the Woods by Silversun Pickups
Although I like their previous stuff a bit more, the new record from Silversun Pickups is solid indie rock.
8. Blunderbuss - Jack White
Jack White finally strikes out on his own and... it sounds a lot like Jack White when he plays with other folks! Which means when it rocks, it really, really rocks (see embedded video). And when it doesn't rock... it's kinda dull. But mostly it rocks!
7. King Animal - Soundgarden
Dude, Soundgarden is back!!! No real surprises here - this is just another Soundgarden record - but I'll take another Soundgarden record any day. Steady, reliable rock.
6. Port of Morrow - The Shins
The Shins are probably one of my favorite contemporary bands. Unexpected, heart-piercing lyrics, beautiful music that just embeds itself in your soul. The song I've included here is probably my favorite on this record, but they're pretty much all fantastic.
5. Silver Age - Bob Mould
Gotta love Bob. Dude just keeps churning out the noisy rock year after year. He's doing it again here, louder than ever. Long may he reign.
4. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
I didn't expect to like this record as much as I did, mostly because it's classified as R&B, a genre I generally don't take to. But it's really more an expert melding of pop, R&B, and hip-hop, and it's clever and wry and personal and heartfelt.
3. Sun - Cat Power
I wasn't nearly as big a fan of The Greatest as everybody else seemed to be, but this record really impressed me - especially the track I've embedded, "Ruin." Catchy and powerful.
2. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do - Fiona Apple
Another raw, beautiful, poetic, bruised record from Fiona Apple. "Hot Knife" is probably my favorite track, but there are many stand-outs, including "Every Single Night" and "Daredevil."
1. Theatre Is Evil - Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
Warning: the video above, like pretty much all of Amanda's videos, is NSFW! I'm perhaps biased towards this record a bit because I contributed to its production, by funding Palmer's slightly controversial, but wildly successful, Kickstarter. But setting all that aside, I think if you give it an impartial listen you'll agree it's a pretty powerful piece of work, just as raw and brutal and personal as Apple's release, but with a New Wave spin. This record will tear your heart out of your chest and dance on it. (UPDATE: I feel it necessary to note that one of the B-sides for this record, "Ukulele Anthem," is easily one of my favorite songs of all time - a silly, angry, defiant, insightful, passionate, screaming, loving manifesto on art and life.)
Sounds from Nowheresville - The Ting Tings
A Blessed Unrest - The Parlour Trick (listen to the whole thing here, and then purchase if you like)
Speaking of Lord of the Rings, GeekDad got some fun details on the upcoming LEGO game. I'm a little disappointed that it will stick closer to the movies than the books, but not too surprised. Anyway, it still sounds pretty awesome.
10. Superman: The Movie
9. X2: X-Men United
7. Spider-Man 2
6. Scott Pilgrim
4. Iron Man
2. The Avengers
1. The Dark Knight
Now, first off, I haven't seen two of the movies on this list (Persepolis and The Avengers), so obviously they get a pass. But I've never been all that impressed with the first Superman; Superman II I've always enjoyed a lot more, even if it is a ridiculous film. I have similar feelings about the next three movies on the list. The X-Men movies are pretty good, but X2 is probably my least favorite of them. And Hellboy 2 is definitely way better than the original Hellboy. Of the Spider-Man movies, 2 is maybe the best one, but that's like picking your favorite cancer. Those movies suck, dude. They are made of cheese.
The rest of the movies I can't really argue with. Scott Pilgrim, Iron Man, Akira, The Dark Knight - all great, great movies. But if you're going to include Akira, I feel like you have to take into account movies like Ghost in the Shell, the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It sounds like they left off Batman Begins for the sake of variety, but... dude. Batman Begins! And then what about Captain America: The First Avenger?! Thor? Constantine? The Incredible Hulk? Justice League: The New Frontier? Men in Black! Road to Perdition!
I think my list looks like this:
10. Men in Black
9. Captain America: The First Avenger
6. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
4. Batman Begins
3. Iron Man
2. Road to Perdition
1. The Dark Knight
I wish I could have fit Shogun Assassin and New Frontier in there, but there wasn't quite enough room.
What does your list look like? Are you enraged by mine like I was enraged by io9's?
My blues name is apparently Boney Bones Jones. That's pretty bad!
Check out a featurette for Mirror Mirror, one of the various Snow White movies coming out soon. This is directed by Tarsem Singh, believe it or not. You wouldn't know from this video, except for all the crazy hats.
I usually avoid reposting Blastr's top ten lists, because that's all they ever post and it's kind of sad (although I don't have much room to talk...), but this one is rather fun: fake TV shows inside of real TV shows. Itchy & Scratchy is a classic, of course, and All My Circuits is always hilarious.