Whatever happened to the Erik Gonzalez 100? #96-91

So, I got a little sidetracked from the Erik Gonzalez 100 – my list of my 100 favorite albums of all time. Now, I’m going try to catchup by posting much shorter comments on each album until we get near the top.

Here goes:

#96 The Faint: Danse Macabre (Saddle Creek Records – 2001) One of the best post-punk electroclash albums ever, sick and slick as everything. The band seems to have lost focus since then, but it is still get listen. Best Songs: “Glass Danse”, “Agenda Suicide”, “Your Retro Career Melted”, “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat”. EG100 Score: 78.00

#95 Unicorns: Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (Alien8 – 2004) – Mischievous and infectious at the same time. It might be close to the perfect nerdcore album (we’ll see the perfect one later on). Best Songs: “I was Born (a Unicorn)”, “Tuff Ghost”, “Sea Ghost”. EG100 Score: 78.014

#94 Curve: Doppelganger (Virgin – 1992) – They lost their fame to Butch Vig’s Garbage, who was more or less a clone of Curve. Toni Halladay was also possibly the hottest modern rock vixen this side of Tanya Donelly in the early ’90s. Best Songs: “Already Yours”, “Fait Accompli”, “Horror Head”. EK 100 Score: 78.123

#93 Billy Bragg: Talking to the Taxman about Poetry (Elektra – 1986) – Billy begins to get a more robust sound after his “electric guitar and mic” days. An excellent mix of love & politics (as the title might imply). Best Songs: “Greetings from the New Brunette”, “There is Power in a Union”, “Help Save the Youth of America”, “The Marriage”. EK100 Score: 78.291

#92 Nirvana: Nevermind (DGC – 1991) – Ok, yes, this seems really low for the seminal album of the ’90s, but I actually rank the Nirvana discography differently than most people (as you will see later). Don’t get me wrong, it is a fabulous, music-changing album, but … Best Songs: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom”, “Something in the Way”, “Breed”. EK100 Score: 78.326

#91 M.I.A.: Arular (Interscope – 2005) – You probably either love the album or hate it, but M.I.A. is definitely ear-catching. The album is sort of patchy and is plagued with dreaded  “skits”, but the good songs are grrrreat. Best Songs: “10$”, “Galang”, “Sunshowers”, “Fire Fire”. EK100 Score: 78.375.

#97: “Tells His Story” by Brian Dewan

It might not be the conventional opinion, but there is nothing cooler than a man in a white shirt and dark tie playing with an electric zither whilst standing behind a podium. This is how I was introduced to Brian Dewan, the musician-artist-engineer-auteur, when he opened for They Might Be Giants in the late ’90s. He is an man who really defies any rational explanation for his existence and instead you just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Although he does have a penchant for recording old political rally songs, his first album, Brian Dewan Tells His Story, actually features such important topics as dead cowboys, cop killing (and cop zombies), drinking birds, alien invasions, haircuts and household fires. Now, if you don’t think that sparsely arranged songs that are dominated by Brian Dewan’s intense vocals and zithering, then maybe this isn’t for you, but if it is, you will be rewarded justly.  “Cowboy Outlaw” might be one of the downright creepiest songs put to tape, as Dewan spins a yarn about a dead cowboy whose body gets handed down through the years, while “The Letter” describes the myriad of fates of people who did and didn’t keep the chain letter moving. This is nerd rock at its finest, a real gem for those of you looking for the opposite of rock and roll.

Excellent tracks: “99 Cops”, “The Cowboy Outlaw”, “The Letter”, “The Creatures”, “Feel the Brain”

EG100 Score: 77.77

#98: ‘The Good Son’ by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

I suppose that to an extent, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are an acquired taste. Not to say they aren’t good. Heck, they’re beyond good, they are great. However, I know very few people who liked Nick Cave from the very first listen. This is not to say that I hated the band, but I really didn’t have the sort of appreciation of the band and their sound that I do now. Which brings me to my point: is a band great if you feel you need to use the phrase “appreciate” rather than “love” when describing the experience of listening to their music. I remember reading somewhere once that some people are born to love classical music, the rest of us can just learn to appreciate it (I fall in the latter category). This just might be the case for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and whether it means that you have to be a true music aficionado to wade into their oeuvre without getting overwhelmed, or maybe they’re just overrated by a bunch of music nerds. The Good Son doesn’t tend to be the album most Nick Cave gravitate towards when they think of the band’s career, but to me, it is my second favorite. The trio of “song” songs – “The Hammer Song”, “The Ship Song” and “The Weeping Song” are some of the deepest and most richly textured songs that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have put on a single record, where Nick’s voice is as smooth as it had been to that point, mixing lushly with the arrangements, yet it is was still as dark and macabre as you would want from the Aussie band. You might not automatically get drawn towards it, but if you give Nick Cave a solid chance, you’ll find them as fascinating as I do.

Excellent Tracks: “The Weeping Song”, “The Ship Song”, “The Hammer Song”, “The Good Son”

EG100 Score: 77.62

#99: ‘Permutations’ by Amon Tobin

#99. Amon Tobin – Permutations [1998]

The ebb and flow of electronic music over the last decade has pretty much left the average American with a view that electronic is pretty much Moby, the Chemical Dudes, Aqua and those firestarting people with the crazy hair. And really, if you believe radio (well, again, American radio), that is what it became for mainstream listeners. This is, of course, the equivalent to saying that if you’ve heard Mozart, you’ve heard all classical (not to say any of the aforementioned electronic artists are like Mozart in any way shape or form), and that conclusion is dead wrong. If you are one of those people who do not think too highly of electronic but like music on the whole, I suggest you swallow your pride (or ego) and find yourself a copy of Permutations (or if you can’t find that, album #105, Bricolage work be a welcome substitute). Brazilian DJ/artist/musician Amon Tobin has been on the forefront of electronic for years, yet no one really knows who he is short of the Splinter Cell fanatics who got into his soundtrack to the videogame a few years back. All in all, this is a shame. Tobin mixes acid jazz, film noire, drum and bass, jungle and ridiculous musical allusions into a hypnotic blend that transcends the sadly short-sighted electronic genre and makes music that, unlike Prodigy and the like, doesn’t sound dated within 10 minutes of hearing it. Permutations still sends chills down my back when I pop it in driving down the highway at night where you half expect a fleet of UFO’s to come down and make away with my car. It is creepy, it is surreal, it is enthralling and might change your view on electronic from here on in (even if there isn’t much left of the genre).

Excellent tracks: Escape, Like Regular Chickens, Nightlife, Sordid, Reanimator, Bridge

EG100 Score: 77.29

Erik Gonzalez 100, #100 ‘The Lonesome Crowded West’ by Modest Mouse

So, here is the first in the Erik Gonzalez 100, list of my 100 favorite albums of all time. Remember, this isn’t supposed to be a “best” or “important” or “influential” albums list, just the albums that I have liked the most over my 31 odd years. If you want a refresher on how I scored the albums, see my introduction to the EG 100. Specifically, the equation for each album looks like this:

((4*GS)-((BS)+(0.25*FS)))^3+R^2+2*T+0.5*A+0.75*O

Where, GS = good song proportion, BS = bad song proportion, FS = filler song proportion, R = repeat listening ability, T = timelessness, A = album art, O = place in the artist’s oeuvre.

The score is weighted heavily towards the quality of the songs and the ability to hear said songs over and over, thus being a “favorite”. An album with a perfect score on all accounts would score a 196.5. To give you an idea of the range, the #1 album scored a 162.1 out of 196.5, while #100 scored 77.06.

And here we go!

Special Note 7/29/08: Due to the fact that I’ve discovered it will take me a long time to write ten of these summaries before posting, we’re trying a new strategy of posting them one at a time. Enjoy!

#100. Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West (1997)

I distinctly have this memory of not having any idea what to make of Modest Mouse when I first heard the band when I was in college. Sure, lots of the “people who mattered” were talking about the band in hushed voiced, trying to guard the band for themselves, but whenever I tried to sit down and listen to The Lonesome Crowded West, I was struck with the, well, cacophonous and amateur sounding nature of the whole endeavor. Not really sure what to do with this information, I decided just to ignore Modest Mouse until it went away. Needless to say, this tactic didn’t work too well, and no sooner than had I purchased the 3 CD Matador retrospective Everything is Nice did I finally heard “Heart Cooks Brain” with fresh ears – well, in that I had no idea it was Modest Mouse. And times being what they were, I was very surprising to discover this was the “Modest Mouse” I kept on thinking was a bunch of rabid monkeys banging on instruments (in a sense, they are). I finally, at that point years after its release, break down and buy The Lonesome Crowded West and each listen makes me like it more and more. Admittedly, it is not an easy album to listen to as music goes. Isaac is fairly aggressive and angular at times, both lyrically and musically, but at other points the band puts together some fabulous, dare I say, pop songs (all the hipsters gasp). It was pretty much after The Lonesome Crowded West came out that Modest Mouse began its rapid rise to the top of the pop charts and even added a Smith along the way, but if you really want to start at the right place in their career, this album is where to do it.

Excellent tracks: “Heart Cooks Brain”, “Out of Gas”, “Trailer Trash”, “Jesus Christ was an Only Child”, “Cowboy Dan”, “Truckers Atlas”

EG100 Score: 77.06

And so it begins … Erik Gonzalez 100

So, starting tomorrow I will be posting the Erik Gonzalez 100 in segments of 10, working our way up to the top over the next few weeks. I’ll have commentary on each album, so it might take a few days between entries. Feel free to comment on any of my picks or comments.

I thought as a teaser, I’d list my numbers 110-101 as sort of a “just missed.” It might give you an inkling of what is to come (and to show how hard it is to make the list and try to make it be something beyond a qualitative list … heck, a lot of these albums might have easily made the top 100).

  • 110. AC/DC: Back in Black
  • 109. Beastie Boys: Check Your Head
  • 108. Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes
  • 107. Chemical Brothers: Exit Planet Dust
  • 106. New Pornographers: Mass Romantic
  • 105. Amon Tobin: Bricolage
  • 104. The Streets: A Grand Don’t Come for Free
  • 103. Guns ‘N Roses: Appetite for Destruction
  • 102. The Roots: Things Fall Apart
  • 101. Quasi: Featuring ‘Birds’

The rest will be coming soon!

Back from Canada …

So, I’m back from my lovely conference in Canada. Vancouver is a real nice city, I have to admit it. If you ever go to Vancouver, be sure to do the Grouse Mountain Grind if you enjoy deathmarches up mountainsides.

I had a chance to see Tullycraft live in West Seattle last week and you should see them live, too! They’re a heckuva a lot of fun. I also got to go to some real record stores, so I purchased to my heart’s content. What did I purchase? Good question!

(Loosely ranked by how much I’ve liked them so far)

  • Shearwater – Rook
  • Hercules & Love Affair – S/T
  • Ratatat – LP3
  • Tilly & the Wall – O
  • Coldplay – Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
  • Sigur Ros – Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
  • Wolf Parade – On Mount Zoomer
  • Dan the Automator – 2K7

Anyway, I will be starting my Erik Gonzalez 100 this week, so stay tuned for that!