I could do Frank Black/Francis, I've pretty much kept up with all of his releases over the past 20 (Holy Shit! 20?...quick Allmusic check....yep, 20) years. Dude puts out a lot of music.
I could also give an updated Animal Collective post, since MPP and Centipede HZ (plus EP's) hadn't been released yet when you did it.
First off: Pixies.
And second, they were one of my first obsessions indie-wise and I listened to them so all-consumingly from 2000 to about 2005 that, like many people for the Beatles, I've got most notes memorized. I still love them, but find little reason to put them on anymore. I'd love to read a fresh opinion from someone here as to why I should that might inspire me to really dive headfirst into their catalog again.
Pixies just being one of many examples.
I get that. We all have those bands that have suffered from inadvertent overkill due to being so good.
5/13 - Ratatat - Yugong Yishan - BJ
5/20 - Throne of Blood - Science Museum - HK
5/21 - Magda Mayas + Tony Buck - Empty Gallery - HK
5/22 - Charlie Lim & the Mothership - The Hangout - HK
lol. There are plenty of bands that are just one word that people put a "the" in front of. I'm not sure why Pixies are the one band that I've seen so many people be uptight about that rule with.
From Shanngia, planet outside our solar system.
5/13 - Ratatat - Yugong Yishan - BJ
5/20 - Throne of Blood - Science Museum - HK
5/21 - Magda Mayas + Tony Buck - Empty Gallery - HK
5/22 - Charlie Lim & the Mothership - The Hangout - HK
One out of twenty ain't bad I guess.
Edit: And, that was the slogan they used to advertise their first gigs around Boston. Jeez Chris, the thin air up there must be getting to ya.
Fuck I am so upset with myself for not seeing that fonda show .
Gonna get started on Animal Collective tonight, it'll be done by Friday.
I posted this Joni Mitchell write-up on a music site a couple years ago, figured I would offer it up here while I attempt to do a Nick Drake one, and a re-write of Husker Du or Led Zeppelin afterward. Don't know how I missed this thread, you guys are awesome for doing this and resurrecting it.
Joni Mitchell is my favorite female musician, and she has influenced countless artists from Sonic Youth to Sarah McLachlan. Her alternate tunings, experimentation with jazz and world music, and unusual harmonies truly set her apart from any other songwriter I've heard.
Joni Mitchell [aka Song to a Seagull] (1968)
Her understated yet idiosyncratic debut. Acoustic and folksy, her chords are nevertheless very inventive and unique and her voice is alternately high and girlish and low and booming. The songs are among her best and purest, and this is more of a romantic, fantasy-inspired album than the "lonely lover" records that followed.
This is the weakest of her early acoustic albums, but it's not bad by any means. Her voice is brilliant and radiant throughout, and it's clearer and less mysterious than her rather opaque debut. It boasts some of her most beautiful melodies, and she tackles issues including mental illness and the occult. However, Mitchell pointed out that it's not her most original album and she termed it her "artistic nadir."
Ladies of the Canyon (1970)
Joni really starts to hit her stride here. This is one of her most famous albums and best-selling, but as time has passed other Mitchell albums have overtaken it in terms of popularity and intrigue. Nevertheless, it's great for nostalgics and is the definitive stop for those seeking the sound behind that long blonde-haired Woodstock-era folk queen (although she was already experimenting with chords and textures.) This features some classic songs. such as "Woodstock" which would later be popularized even more by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Consistently lauded as her best album, it's not the most adventurous or groundbreaking, but is a textbook example of singer-songwriting excellence. That said, the melodies are highly memorable, always of high quality, and Mitchell's high-pitched voice is a wonder to behold. Most of the songs on this record are absolutely heartbreaking and it really feels like she's exposing the most raw part of her psyche for everyone to hear.
For the Roses (1972)
Vastly underrated, the beautiful and beguiling For the Roses suffers because it is stuck between two of Mitchell's lauded classics, and therefore is seen often as merely a "bridge." Far more than that, her melodies are riveting, her voice soars, and the arrangements are unique and invigorating. One of her best.
Court and Spark (1974)
My favorite Joni Mitchell record. This album shows off Mitchell's brilliant skills as a pop composer. It is sophisticated and melodic, but she is slowly bringing in the jazz elements that made up the rest of her '70s output. It was rightfully hugely commercially successful, but was the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she would go on to achieve musically. "Help Me" is perpetually stuck in my head until the day I die.
The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)
Mitchell here turned her back on the mainstream with a smooth collection of jazz-flavoured gems, all with her alluring observational detail, wry social commentary, and incredible songwriting abilities. The arrangements are her most imaginative, and it has a sultry, sensual quality throughout. An unquestionable masterpiece. Here, she also starts to experiment with world-music and African rhythms, long before Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins or Sting made it a popular thing.
After the smooth beauty of its predecessor, Mitchell abandoned opulent arrangements for a dark and moody record with Hejira. She reached a new pinnacle of excellence with her lyrics, and this shows off her guitar skills and deepening voice brilliantly. It's jazz-inspired, but in the chords rather than arrangements. Elegant, mature, and refined.
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977)
Experimental and adventurous, this double LP turned many Joni Mitchell fans off after its release in 1977. It gets better and more appreciated with age, perhaps because it was too ahead-of-its-time. She uses world music rhythms and textures to create an interesting and quirky record that is still melodic but more of an acquired taste than before.
The intentions were good, and there's no doubting it's a challenging and intriguing album. But the music just doesn't come up to scratch. Mitchell had been flirting with jazz for almost ten years when this was released and it's a fairly typical '70s jazz fusion record. There are some hidden gems ("The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines") amid the other tediously slow numbers, but it drags and drags. When you consider that another jazzy performer, Rickie Lee Jones, swaggered onto the scene in this very year and sounded authentic, genuine, and cool, this sounds tired, silly, and embarrassing.
Wild Things Run Fast (1982)
Her original desire was to work with The Police in 1981, but they had other commitments. Instead, Mitchell imitated their calypso-style grooves and reggae rhythms for one of her most light-hearted and easygoing albums. She was in a fine mood, and it shows, although some weaker songs prevent it from true classic status.
Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988)
This is one of Mitchell's most difficult albums to digest because there's a stark contrast. Usually, a Mitchell album features 90% undoubted brilliant songs, while the others you can appreciate their worth yet you may not like them. This album, however, features songs that are either truly great ("My Secret Place") or terrible ("The Reoccuring Dream"). The bad songs are bad, and it's not a question of preference. Mitchell comes off heavy-handed, preachy, and whiny on the bad songs. But it's worth investigation for the hidden gems.
Night Ride Home (1991)
After a decade of full-sounding, multi-layered works, Mitchell turned low-key for this sophisticated affair. It's acoustic, but not particularly folksy - Mitchell's smoky voice and intelligent lyrics see to that. It's a high-quality album, though loses some edge with errors in judgement and a couple of irritating arrangements.
Taming the Tiger (1998)
This is unquestionably one of Mitchell's weakest albums but is saved from the bottom of the list by "Harlem in Havana" and "Man from Mars," two great songs that match some of her best. "The Crazy Cries of Love" and "Lead Balloon" are also good songs, but the rest just blend into one dreary, miserable, menopausal whine, with the synthesized guitar sound making matters worse. At least she didn't leave this as her last album, but it was her last of brand new songs for almost a decade.
Both Sides Now (2000)
A standards collection, Mitchell wisely left it until the age of 55 to record the album. After a lifetime of smoking, her voice is suitably smoky and husky to take on this vintage, sophisticated '30s and '40s material, which borrows from the realms of jazz and blues. It can be hardgoing at times, but she perfected the sound on Travelogue.
Billed as her last new studio work, Travelogue is the perfect epitaph to a great career. These are sophisticated and revitalized symphonic versions of older songs. Mitchell's voice is now smoky and husky, and the perfect complement to the jazzy orchestra.
She vowed that she would never record a new album again upon the release of 2002's Travelogue - but Mitchell was moved to create a new work of new, original songs as the issues of global warming, the Iraq War, and corporate greed became ingrained in the public consciousness. Not new themes, then, and no different from Mitchell's pessimistic laments of the past two decades, but this is an elegant, refined, mature affair that features the welcome return of the piano to her sound palette.
For anyone interested, start with Blue, Court and Spark, and the Hissing of Summer of Lawns as a primer.
The Replacements - OutKast - The Knife - HAIM - Bonobo - Afghan Whigs - The Glitch Mob - The Cult - Shlohmo - Waxahatchee - Wye Oak
Queens of the Stone Age - Pharrell Williams - Pet Shop Boys - Empire of the Sun - Fatboy Slim - Nas - Kid Cudi - Warpaint - Mogwai - Foxygen - The Dismemberment Plan - Blood Orange
Arcade Fire - Beck - Neutral Milk Hotel - Disclosure - Motorhead - Duck Sauce - Little Dragon - Toy Dolls - Fishbone - Superchunk - Daughter - Surfer Blood
I'm taking the bait and re-doing Wilco. I've been listening them voraciously for the past year and are one of the few discographies I know, so I hope y'all enjoy. Excuse any poor grammar and stuff.
Wilco was born from the remnants of Uncle Tupelo, who were the center of the roots rock/alt-country explosion in the 1990s. Uncle Tupelo was led by Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, who shared songwriting duties and were longtime friends. They released 4 amazing albums and then imploded in 1994, with Jay Farrar creating Sun Volt and Jeff Tweedy creating Wilco. The music industry had always seen Jay Farrar as the stronger of the duo, and expected much bigger things from Son Volt then Wilco. They weren't really right.
Released roughly around Son Volt's Trace, A.M reinforced the general purview of Uncle Tupelo post-breakup: Jay Farrar was the tortured genius, Jeff Tweedy was the serviceable songsmith. The record closely follows its alt-country base, sounding in large part like an Uncle Tupelo album. This doesn't mean it's a poor album, it just really doesn't do anything new or groundbreaking. This is an album for the completionist Wilco fans and isn't that essential.
Best Songs: Casino Queen, Box Full of Letters
Being There (1996)
This is Wilco's "Big Leap Forward." Unlike A.M, which used country-rock as a location to play within, Being There used it as a jumping off point, incorporating psychedelica, blues and straight up rock to create a brand new sound that both defines Wilco to this day but defies any real label. The songwriting also vastly improves on Being There, containing some of Tweedy's best lyrics, including perhaps my favorite opening line: "You're back in your old neighborhood / The cigarettes taste so good / But you're so misunderstood." This album asserted Wilco's place in the alt-country scene (perhaps even at its peak) and generally ended any Son Volt/Wilco debates. Unfortunately, the second disc bloats the album a bit, but the first disc really doesn't have a weak song. This is the album to start if you're already into alt-country/country and want to get started on Wilco.
Best Songs: Misunderstood, I Got You (At The End Of The Century), Monday
Wilco and Jeff Tweedy took a bit longer with Summerteeth, but the time away show a new maturity in Wilco's sound. With Summerteeth, Tweedy and co. strip away the fat of their previous albums and ditch many of their alt-country cobwebs, expanding into a pop sound characterized by beautiful arrangements and more encompassing influences, from R&B to psychedelica. By this point, its pretty pointless to call Wilco an alt-country band, and they essentially move outside of genres, becoming, at least in my opinion, to be simply an American band. The songwriting on this album also steps up, delivering some of Tweedy's darkest lyrics, even among the relative sunshine and pop of the album itself. It's a really hard thing to describe this album, but I honestly think it's one of the most American things there is. Start here if you just want a jumping off point. It's brilliantly conceived pop/rock.
Best Songs: Can't Stand It, A Shot in the Arm, Via Chicago
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
There's a reason this is generally considered one of the greatest albums of the 2000s. Taking the experimental undertones of their previous two albums and the ever-improving songwriting of Jeff Tweedy, YHF is a masterpiece of soundscapes, Americana and beautiful melodies. The album starts much like Being There, with a wall of noise, but this explosion of sound makes Being There sound childish. Incorporating field recordings, noise, and production as a tool for expanding the emotional weight of Tweedy's lyrics, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart is easily one of Wilco's best songs and sets a clean table for YHF to expand upon. From IATTBYH, Jeff Tweedy wraps the rest of the album in both experimental undertones and warm acoustics, juxtaposing and revealing each in their own relative corners, sometimes simultaneously and other times starkly alone, creating a real sense of both warm insularity and cold reality. A lot has been said about this album's relevance post-9/11, and while the direct ties are a bit of a stretch, I feel like this album really does characterize the modern psyche of the American people in its relative assertion of alienation, fear, nostalgia and hope as simultaneous feelings within our day to day life. OK Computer and Kid A are generally noted as the greatest representations of the modern psyche, but I really do think YHF stands right next to them. It's honestly a masterpiece. I wouldn't make it your first listen, but you really can't go wrong with YHF. If anything, it just might take a while to click.
Best Songs: Side A, Side B - There is not a weak track on this album.
A Ghost is Born (2004)
The best summary I've found for A Ghost is Born is that it's a re-tread of YHF with the warmness of Summerteeth. It contains much of the experimental side of YHF but without its distance and somber tone, instead favoring the openness and organic honesty that informs Summerteeth. This album has some of Wilco's poppiest songs, but also their most experimental, creating an interestingly catchy mix of YHF and Summerteeth that puts it as one of their most fun records once you get past some of the too-dense stuff. However this density sometimes overpowers the album, dragging down the simple joy of songs like Hummingbird and The Late Greats, but in all honesty, this album is an earworm of art-pop and rock. This was the last Wilco album I heard, but its also one of my favorites. As such, give it a listen if you like Wilco's experimental stuff.
Best Songs: Spiders (Kidsmoke), Hummingbird, I'm A Wheel
Sky Blue Sky (2007)
Wilco partly returns to Being There and their alt-country roots with Sky Blue Sky, but rather than a step backwards, it feels like a necessary reconciling and needed break in their discography. The run of Summerteeth to A Ghost is Born was astounding in its heights, but exhausting in its brilliance and leaps forward, and so Sky Blue Sky really feels like a pleasant interlude and reorganization of Tweedy's head. The darkness is still there in the songwriting, as is the experimental side, but there's a renewed focus on the roots rock and open spaces the characterized Wilco's earlier work. It also has some of Wilco's best guitar lines, delivered by the gifted Nels Cline, and some wonderful keyboards courtesy of Pat Sansone. There's also a few new avenues of sound that keep the record from being a total retread, with the pleasant soul sound of Side with the Seeds and the boogie-woogie rock of Hate it Here. It's mellow and comes across initially as a bit of a snoozer, but it definitely grows into one of Wilco's best. Grab this album whenever, you'll probably enjoy it as a hardcore fan or a total acolyte.
Best Songs: Either Way, Hate it Here, Walken
Wilco (The Album) (2009)
Now 6 albums in, and Wilco is firmly in their groove, for better or worse. This albums continues down the path of Sky Blue Sky as wholly enjoyable, taking the best of Wilco and smushing it all together, but it really doesn't do anything new or as ambitious as before. Not to say the album is boring, but while Sky Blue Sky is a pleasant interlude, Wilco (The Album) starts to sound like a band that doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Which is a bit scary, seeing as they essentially created some of the best music of the 1990s and 2000s, but with songs as fun as Wilco (The Song) and as forward as Bull Black Nova, it's hard to really fault them. This isn't an important Wilco album, but its enjoyable nevertheless, I'd get it once you start running out of the important ones to digest.
Best Songs: Wilco (The Song), Bull Black Nova, You Never Know
The Whole Love (2011)
Whatever worries Wilco engendered with Wilco (The Album) essentially dissolve with The Whole Love. This album achieves the blend of Wilco elements that characterized Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album) while staying far away from any real retreads or worries of stagnation. Starting with Art of Almost, Tweedy reasserts the experimental bravado of A Ghost is Born and YHF with a pulsating intro that explodes into one of Wilco's most pummeling songs, reminding everyone that the experimental rock is still plenty alive in Tweedy's head. Similarly, the poppier tracks on The Whole Love rank with Wilco's best, taking familiar sounds and adding a bit of spice or stretching their ideas a little bit further than before. Furthermore, The Whole Love demonstrates the "band" of Wilco much more so than their other albums, with a interplay of instruments and ideas that indicate that there is plenty left in the pot for Wilco. This was one of my favorites of 2011 and has got me excited again about where Wilco is going as a band. While it's not quite as great as ST/YHF/AGIB, I don't think there's any problem starting with this album or adding it to your rotation at any time.
Best Songs: Art of Almost, Dawned on Me, Standing O
7. Wilco (The Album)
6. Sky Blue Sky
4. Being There (tie)
4. The Whole Love (tie)
3. A Ghost is Born
1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Where Do I Start? (TL;DR):
I'd start with Summerteeth then YHF. From there, explore Being There and Whole Love. After that you should have a good enough grasp on Wilco to figure things out on your own. Enjoy the ride!
Where Do I Go Next?:
If you like Jeff Tweedy's voice and acoustic work, definitely grab some of his work with Billy Bragg on old Woody Guthrie songs. The three albums they recorded, Mermaid Avenue Vol 1-3, have some of Wilco's best material and some of their most boring. It's worth digging through though, and if you like Billy Bragg, give him a listen too.
As for similar bands, I'm not as knowledgeable, but I have heard good things about Jay Bennet, who worked with Tweedy from Being There to YHF (partly) and who's album The Magnificent Defeat garnered good reviews. So that's worth a shot.
If you're into the more alt-country stuff, listen to Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo, they're both wonderful and I think are a rather good jumping off point for alt-country in general. You can't go wrong with either of their first albums.
But that's about all I know.
We did it! That's Wilco!
I'm counting about 21 releases that I'd want to cover. Yikes. Fortunately, I've listened to most of them a ton.
Good job knytt and roboticwaltz!
I only know Blue and Court and Spark, and I've long heard I need to get more into Joni Mitchell as people frequently cite her more jazzy albums as influences on Joanna Newsom. Thanks for that, it looks very helpful.
And I love the Wilco re-take. New reviews in here, yay!
Love the Wilco and Joni rundowns. Keep up the good work!
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
I've always felt, even with a few glasses of wine, that Joni Mitchell would be one tough nut to crack in bed.
2 oz blended whiskey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp powdered sugar
1/2 slice lemon
Shake blended whiskey, juice of lemon, and powdered sugar with ice and strain into a whiskey sour glass. Decorate with the half-slice of lemon, top with the cherry, and serve.