Music Top 10s

02/19/2012

A work in progress- a “top 10” of really great albums that flew under the radar:

Dandy Warhols – “Welcome to the Monkey House”
You may have heard a couple tracks from this 2003 release on the radio and TV. “We Used to be Friends” was the theme song for the show Veronica Mars and “You Were the Last High” had some radio rotation. Other than that, it seems there were no real accolades to speak of, although the album is excellent. It was produced by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran which, no doubt, made “Welcome to the Monkey House” more retro, 80s synth-happy than previous Dandy Warhols releases.

Tin Star – “The Thrill Kisser”

VAST – “Visual Audio Sensory Theater”

“Lost Highway” soundtrack
As a longtime Nine Inch Nails fan, this album was an instant must-have when released in 1997. It featured a couple new NIN songs (including “The Perfect Drug”), was arranged by that group’s principal member, Trent Reznor, and also included work by other bands I enjoyed: Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie, Rammstein, and Marilyn Manson. What I came to discover, though, was that the overall blend of styles on this soundtrack was really pretty remarkable/magical. I enjoyed the rock-oriented tunes, of course, but also enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the mysterious, brooding Angelo Badalamenti tunes and the lighter style of offerings like Lou Reed’s “This Magic Moment.” I own probably only a dozen soundtracks or so, but this one easily takes the cake as my absolute favorite.

Orgy – “Punk Statik Paranoia”
Overall, Orgy is not exactly a great band, but I really like them anyway. In fact, they are tied with Tool for the most concerts by a single band I have attended – both at six. Whereas Orgy’s first two albums felt like experiments in a band defining its very experimental sound, “Punk Statik Paranoia” is well produced, heavily guitar driven, and upbeat. It just rocks in a way that Foo Fighter’s “In Your Honor” does… it’s a great album to put on your MP3 player for when you go to the gym. Unfortunately, I heard the remix of the song “Pure” that plays during Orgy’s “Trans Global Spectacle” tour DVD before hearing the original album version. In fact, I love the remix so much that I could never really give the album version a fair chance, and it’s hard to find, too (the CHR-Modern Rock Mix).

Teddybears – “Soft Machine”
Songs from this album were used in a ton of commercials, but you’ve probably never heard of the group. “Soft Machine” is super catchy and mostly upbeat, dance/electronic/rock type music that’s great for a workout or as a lead-in to the weekend on a Friday night.

Muse – “Origin of Symmetry”
“Origin of Symmetry” was released in 2001 and immediately preceded Muse’s breakthough album “Absolution.” There is something raw and underproduced about this album, although some of the arrangements are rather incredible. In a way, that kind of indie, carefree production value is reminiscent of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” although, stylistically, the two albums are very different.

Bruce Springsteen – “The Rising”
Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that “The Boss” would, one day, be included on any such list. One of my cousins unexpectedly passed away last year, and he had to have been one of Springsteen’s biggest fans ever. He was always quoting songs and asking random music trivia about the E Street Band that I could never answer. When I graduated high school, my cousin gave me a copy of “Greetings from Asbury Park.” I listened to it once and never listened to it again. Sure, it’s appears on Rolling Stones’ list of “greatest albums of all time,” but it just wasn’t my thing.

In 2002, I heard a song from “The Rising” on the legendary, but now defunct, Cincinnati-area radio station 97X (WOXY). I told my cousin about it, and he practically ran out and bought me the CD. I was blown away by it. The whole album is thematic of 9/11, but it’s very touching, and the production is really tight. The contributions on guitar by Steven Van Zandt and Max Weinberg on drums are pretty captivating, especially on “Worlds Apart.”

Sure, the album was nominated for a Grammy, but I think it’s power and emotion have since been forgotten about, much like that feeling of pride and community felt at the end of 2001. No judgment, no blame for that latter comment… just merely an observation.

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