My first exposure to MF DOOM was a similar experience to many of his fans, I’m sure.
Madvillainy was brought to my attention as a classic hip-hop album of the 2000’s; featuring outrageously precise rhyme schemes, sample-heavy production by a genius in their own right, Madlib, and a mysterious gravelly voice with a silver tongue. While all of those were of course, true, what makes MF DOOM special is much more than the objectively awesome aspects of his music.
It’s the artistry of his elusive character, the tone DOOM pervades when he hops on the mic, the comic-book style big brass production that brings to mind a force of evil. You have to be truly bought into your schtick as a bad guy to send out a fake version of yourself at your own concert, just to keep people on their toes. MF DOOM embraced his role as well as anyone in hip-hop ever has, and it would only be fitting if I let him introduce himself to you in his own words, as any of the great evil-doers would do. From the track “Bistro”:
“And I’m your host, ‘The Supervillain’”
London born, New York raised Daniel Dumile, under the stage-name Zev Love X, began his music career in 1988 as a part of the East Coast hip-hop trio KMD (Kausing Much Damage) with his brother DJ Subroc. KMD was able to garner enough success in the underground New York rap scene to sign with a record label and release an album, Mr. Hood, but the group was abruptly dissolved in 1993, prior to the release of their second album, due to the death of DJ Subroc. Following a stint away from music, Dumile, now under the stage-name MF DOOM, returned to the public eye with the release of his 1999 debut solo album, Operation: Doomsday.
Operation: Doomsday is where the mythos of MF DOOM begins; a charming collection of jazz-rap and alternative hip-hop goodness that evades comparison due to its simultaneous display of lyrical skill mastery and ahead of its time production. The track “Doomsday” centers around a seductive sample of “Kiss of Life” by Sade and classic boom-bap drums. MF DOOM functions as the witty observational rapper whose braggadocious lyrics are endearing for their pompousness as much as their advanced rhyme intricacy.
“Definition “super-villain”: a killer who love children / one who is well-skilled in destruction, as well as buildin’ / While Sydney Sheldon teaches the trife to be trifer / I’m trading science fiction with my man the live lifer.”
He depicts himself as the supervillain of rap, meant to destroy the game itself, while also being sympathetic to children (he means the community of young rappers, but imagine a masked DOOM swooping in to rescue your baby from the evils of poorly made huggies), and his willingness to build great songs. “Rhymes Like Dimes,” my favorite DOOM song, is set over a little synth riff from the delightfully schmaltzy R&B song “One Hundred Ways” by Quincy Jones, and sung by James Ingram. DOOM’s flow is spotless, he has the uncanny ability to juggle never-ending rhyme schemes with catchy hook’s that get you singing along inside the bathroom at your local Chipotle (that actually happened, no Potle slander around these parts). The chef’s kiss element of this album are the multiple skits placed throughout the tracklist, adding an amusing backbone to the overarching villainous theme. Doomsday should be remembered as one of the greatest debut records of all time, setting the bar wayyy high for DOOM’s subsequent releases. Spoiler: he doesn’t miss.
DOOM’s second record under the “MF DOOM” moniker (he put out multiple albums under the aliases King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn between this time) came in 2004 with the release of Mm..Food, another classic record brimming with zany loop-heavy production and musings of a man begging to get his hands on a Coney Island hot dog. “Beef Rap,” the opening track of the album, begins with one of DOOM’s many samples declaring my exact thoughts after not eating for two hours: “Now I haven’t eaten all day. How am I gonna do this man?” After a few more comic-book character voices warn the listener of the return of mad-genius-supervillain MF DOOM, a cartoonish horn enters the beat and drops directly into DOOM’s firing-on-all-cylinders verse. It all makes for a track that is equally lighthearted and goofy as it is hard, a balance that many of DOOM’S contemporary hip-hop counterparts struggle to find (I’m looking at you Eminem).
I can’t write a blurb about Mm..Food without at least briefly touching on the spectacle that is “Rapp Snitch Knishes” feat Mr. Fantastik. This track is similar to “Rhymes Like Dimes” in that it features a kick-ass chorus that’s singable amidst a flurry of lines spoken way too quickly for me to ever be able to rap along with. Bonus points to “Rapp Snitch” for incorporating maybe the most iconic guitar riff in hip hop music history, instantly captivating any future Playboy Carti fan to wonder what the hell a guitar is and how to make baby sounds over it. Picture the line “everybody wanna rule the world with tears for fears” with a bunch of loud “SLAT!” ad-libs in the background. Isn’t it beautiful? At this point of time, DOOM as a solo artist was at the peak of his power, flexing his talent as a top-tier producer/rapper combo in the elite status of “mainstream but also kinda underground” artists. But even the most mighty supervillains know they can only do so much on their own, which led DOOM to seek out a partner in crime worthy of his expertise.
Madvillainy, the aforementioned 2004 collaboration album between heralded producer Madlib and MF DOOM, known jointly as Madvillain, cemented both members of the duo as legends among their peers. Madvillainy is a symbolic middle finger to any would-be poet-rapper trying to emulate DOOM’s utter mastery of language, it is playfully complex purely because it has the ability to be that way. The early 2000’s are commonly remembered for the popularity of gangster rap, which is based in harsh, realistic depictions of the world through the eyes of the artist. It isn’t necessarily simplistic, but it does usually involve describing events that are bound in some rationality. DOOM bucks this trend completely, instead choosing to blend substantive and supernatural like it’s your two favorite flavors of slurpee at a 7-Eleven (does anyone actually like the Coca-Cola flavor slurpee?)
“Meat Grinder” is one of those tracks I can only describe as being absolutely fucking filthy in the most positive way possible. Madlib cooks up a scintillating beat for DOOM to rap over, sampling both Frank Zappa’s “Sleeping in a Jar” and the daydream-esque steel guitar from “Hula Rock” by The Lew Howard All-Stars. After the dramatic introduction to the song, love the creepy Zappa “THE JAR IS UNDER THE BED” part, DOOM neatly slips into the beat and proceeds to go berserk with wordplay.
“Tripping off the beatkinda, dripping off the meatgrinder / Heatniner, pimping, stripping, soft sweetminor / China was a neatsignor, trouble with the script.”
Like… what? The level of control of rap flow it takes to properly place all of these words within the context of the beat (ending a line at the proper time, etc.), while also squeezing as many little rhymes as possible, is astounding. Mastering language in such a commanding way is on par with some of the greatest writers of our time, and I have serious doubts that William Shakespeare could perform Hamlet in an oversized metal mask.
“Fancy Clown” is special because of its narrative song structure as opposed to the “I’m gonna rhyme things with the word banana a bunch and you’re gonna like it” method of other tracks. “Fancy Clown” is rapped from the perspective of DOOM alias Viktor Vaughn on a phone call with a girl who has been cheating on him (funnily enough, the girl in the song cheated on Viktor Vaughn with DOOM). The song artfully samples “That Ain’t The Way You Make Love” by Z.Z. Hill as its chorus, also giving name to “Fancy Clown” itself with the line “You’ve been tripping around uptown / with some fancy clown.” DOOM proceeds to show off his usual expert lyricism in the arrangement of a story, and I think it’s really awesome to witness the versatility with which he can lay down bars that make sense linearly.
MF DOOM is larger than life. He reminds me of David Bowie and the Ziggy Stardust character he had cultivated around his early 70’s music. These characters may just seem like imaginary vessels with which an artist can create an identity, persona and background for, but that completely disregards how real the emotions and impact these “characters” can have on our very real lives. They are eternally a part of our universe, whether the artist who brought them to existence is here with us or not. The masked crusader that is MF DOOM will never be caught or defeated. He is THE supervillain, wreaking havoc on the world one cleverly syncopated bar at a time. We won’t ever forget him,
“Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name”
The Lakeshow faced their first back-to-back of the ‘rona shortened season this week, trampling the Timberwolves 127-91 and losing a tight matchup to the achilles heel of the Lakers the past few seasons, the Blazers 107-115. Since we are covering two games in this breakdown instead of one, I’m going to be speaking rather generally about the events of both games for the sake of readers listening to me ramble on and on about how the first Kuz of the season made me feel. And let’s start there. Kuzie came out flaming hot against the Timberwolves, hitting an assortment of three pointers after running around screens to find even the smallest sliver of space to shoot. He even had one of the better all-around sequences of his career, starting with a clutch block to save a bucket and ending with a transition walk-in three pointer to set the Lakers up early. There are few things more exciting than Karl Kuzma playing well, maybe this Caruso sky-hook, so it was a welcome sight this early in the season. The Lakers would continue to trounce the T-Wolves throughout the game, receiving large contributions from Lebron, Trez and MARC (more on that later). Sidebar- holy shit was DLo uninspiring in his to Staples center with the Timberwolves, he effortlessly blurs the lines between swag and looking like he doesn’t give a fuck while playing.
The second game of the back-to-back was much less fun. Gary Trent Jr (fuck Gary Trent Jr) had an incredible shooting display, making 7(!) three-pointers from all around the court and absolutely torturing our young hero Kyle Kuzma all night. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum pitched in 31 and 20 points respectively to seal a Blazers win that felt like it was always in reach, but never capitalized upon. Anthony Davis had a disappointing game, returning from his absence in the T-Wolves game to put up a certified bonkers statline of 13/10/5. Look, I get that I’m a spoiled Lakers fan that has the pleasure of watching AD dominate on literally 90% of nights, but when he puts up a dud (by his standards) it’s gonna be talked about! It felt like AD was playing super timid, relying on his jump shot and finesse game instead of taking lil tiny ass Derrick Jones Jr to the paint for easy post-buckets. Get AD in the gym with Caruso pronto so he can teach him a thing or two about post moves. Anyway, Lebron counterracted AD’s missteps with an excellent game of his own, dropping 29/9/6 without ever leaving second gear. If this game were later in the season or had more at stake, I’m confident Bron Bron would have imposed his will on the game more and ensured a victory.
-Marc Gasol, you beautiful man. Big Marc had a stellar showing against the T-Wolves that needs to be highlighted for how potentially impactful it could be against better teams down the stretch of the season. What Lakers fans had come to know with Dwight Howard and Javale McGee at the center position (Lots of Shaqtin a fool highlights) is totally out the window with the addition of Marc, due to his versatile skill set that allows him to leave his marc (ha-ha) all over the floor without having to score or rebound. First things first, Marc on the three-point line is a revelation for the Lakers interior spacing compared to Dumb and Dumber from last season. There are swathes of space on the floor for ball handlers to attack the basket, AD to find space for a mid-range or simply have room to breathe a little, just by having Marc on the outside. It goes to show how important spacing is, even if spacing isn’t a quantifiable stat. Gasol is also able to actually cash-in on that three-point line standing from time to time, showcased here in this gorgeous ball movement sequence that ends with a Marc triple from the top of the key. The most interesting part of this clip for me is Marc’s ability to shoot the ball without bringing it down below his head. It slightly reminds of the way Klay Thompson is able to catch the ball already in his shooting motion in order to quick-release his shot to avoid defenders. Juxtaposed to me trying my hardest to hoist up a shot from my chest because basketballs are kinda heavy, it is super impressive to see that level of upper body strength.
The thing I’m most excited about with Gasol is his passing and basketball IQ, which were both on full display against the T-Wolves. Out of the high-post, Gasol is able to make quick drop off passes to darting cutters for the easiest of baskets. I think this most positively impacts Kuzma, who is a stellar cutter when he’s focused and can do well to build chemistry with big Marc throughout the season. Even if Kuzma doesn’t receive the ball on these rim-running cuts, his movement towards the basket pulls defenders out of place and sets up his teammates for opportunities of their own. Marc also excels at smart give-and-go passes that are useful for quickly slicing up the defense. Here, Marc and KCP are able to link up for an easy bucket purely through knowing where the other player is going to be. The moment KCP gives up the ball, he knows that if he cuts hard to the basket, Marc will be looking for him to make the pass. Just having the potential for a teammate to make a great pass encourages the entire team to cut and be active. While he lacks the defensive athleticism and lob threat ability that Dwight and Javale both provided, I think Marc’s addition to the squad will prove to be successful primarily for his offensive arsenal.
-On the topic of defense, I’m beginning to worry about some Trez lineups late in games when getting stops needs to be a priority. To start, Trez can not guard anyone on the perimeter. It’s really unfortunate because if he was able to, I think he would pair perfectly with AD in our end of game death lineups, but it doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In this clip, Trez is forced to close out on 50x MVP and greatest player of all time, Gary Trent Jr. Right out of the gate you can see Trez uncomfortably closing out and trying to bounce around in front of Trent, which quickly backfires as Trent is able to hesitate and blow-by Trez for the easy layup. This next clip has Trent getting matchup up with Montrezl off a pick-and-roll to begin the possession, and very quickly ends with a pull-up mid-range directly in Trez’s face (didn’t even contest the shot mind you). Finally, Trez is literally nowhere to be found after going under(?!?) a screen on CJ McCollum for an easy three-pointer to extend the lead for the Blazers. This last one is probably the most unforgivable for me, it is inexcusable to be that willing to give up a three-pointer to a knockdown shooter late in the game. If Trez is gonna be an impact player this season, he needs to show up on both ends of the floor as best as possible.
A turbulent two game stretch to start the season is nothing to be terrified of, these things will happen, especially in a season as unique as this one. The Lakers need to continue beating teams they are vastly superior to, like the T-Wolves, in convincing fashion so the top players on the roster can get rest and limit their minutes per game. On the other hand, I would like to see more in games against better competition. Though at this point of the season, I see the benefit to taking it somewhat lax and keeping our players healthy.
San Antonio Spurs (2-1)- The ghost of Tim Duncan still haunts San Antonio they say, you can hear the rattle of banked jumpshots and proper fundamentals if you listen closely enough. No poltergeist tonight though, I see the Lakers winning big against a Spurs team with no high caliber players. I’ll concede that there are high caliber players only when Max trades me Lamarcus Aldridge in fantasy basketball.
Like the moody mall Santa from A Christmas Story pushing Ralphie down the slide, the Lakers gave a powerful stomp of the ol’ boot to the Mavericks, rejecting any notion of Luka and Co. getting an NBA Christmas present victory (or Red Ryder BB Gun), 138-115. Anthony Davis was predictably dominant, dropping 28/8/5 on 10/16 shooting in 30 minutes played. He was in his bag all night, causing problems as a roll-man, hitting mid-range jump shots and even splashing 3 three-pointers! LeCoasting pitched in a casual near triple double on top of that (22/7/10), piling on to the point where he was semi fucking around trying to create highlights.
Luka had moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of rust, it seemed like he was just a little bit off tonight (finished with 27/4/7) while still maintaining his excellent statistics. I feel bad for him, the Mavs are a deep team with plenty of talented players (Josh Richardson impressed me after kinda stinking it up with the Sixrers), but they won’t be able to truly shine until Kristaps Porzingis is back on the court. While nowhere near as handsome as Boban Marjanovic, Porzingis’ ability to stretch the court and provide a true threat opposite of Luka is vital. Finally, the dynamic duo of Trez and Schroeder were both brilliant, bringing the firepower to the Lakers roster that will help preserve Lebron and Anthony Davis down the stretch of the season.
-Kyle Kuzma, the human embodiment of Gumby, had the kind of game I’d love to see out of him the rest of the season. I think Kuzma thrives as a high quality role player, reducing his shot volume to about 10 per game while hitting at a high clip. He definitely still loves a good heat-check three pointer (come on, who doesn’t?), but when he is able to consistently hit shots coming off even the most basic of actions, we are in business. When Kuz is locked in as a stat-stuffing energy guy, he had 13/6/2 tonight, he is flint to the Lakers kindling.
Defensively, I was left a bit underwhelmed tonight. Based on his size, Kuzma is often tasked with guarding some of the larger wings in the league, such as Luka, who would seem to be a solid matchup for him. While Kuz’s height definitely gives him something to fall back on, his happy feet are still a problem when guarding someone quick on-ball. Notice his lil tippy taps in this clip as he tries his heart out to stay in front of an accelerating Luka. Hopefully Kuz can find a spot on an upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars in order to develop proper foot sliding technique. All in all, a nice Kuzma game that I believe contributes to winning basketball.
-Montrezl shut my ass up about his broken jumper. He had multiple instances throughout the game, mainly when it was becoming a bit of a blowout, where he confidently faced a defender, jabbed and splashed a shot right in the defenders eye. I discounted his ability in the “skill” aspects of the game and assumed he was more of a power player, which isn’t necessarily incorrect, but his overall game is better than I imagined. In addition to being a threat with the ball in his hands, Trez was fierce on the offensive glass – pulling in 5 offensive rebounds in total. The more Montrezl is able to synthesize his own offense without the ball in his hands (rolling to the basket, snatching rebounds) the better off the team will be.
-The Laker’s passing and ball movement was sensational tonight, briefly showcasing what this team could look like down the road. Marc Gasol started it off with his first notable highlight of the season, quickly starting the break via a long outlet pass to KCP for the eventual Anthony Davis slam. When Gasol is able to push the ball up the court like that in a hurry it allows for fast-paced offense with minimal defensive resistance, leading to open buckets. If he could give me some of those over the head K-Love passes more often, I would die a happy death. In the half-court, the Lakers’ ball handlers were having their way with a porous Mavericks defense, expertly placing pocket-passes to rolling big men for aesthetically pleasing buckets. Schröeder was first to get in on the action, dropping a nifty pocket pass off to AD for the contested layup. Schröeder’s dynamism as a playmaker is really fun to watch, he is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to hone-in on while they’re playing. Bron and Trez also got in on the pocket pass action, shooting the gap past James Johnson for a well-worked bucket. Sharing is caring, and the Lakers cared plenty tonight.
The Lakers were simply the more talented team and there was no other way around it. The overall level of roster depth at hand is simply unmatched in the NBA outside of the Nets, to the point where guys like Wes Matthews who I assumed would fill a large role for us are being limited due to strength of other role players. While there’s still plenty of time for minutes to be won and lost, if you’re trying to get some PT on this roster you’re gonna have to show out. Doncic is an absolute pleasure to watch whenever he is on the court, so regardless of score this was gonna be worth the price of admission (free). Scope the perfect footwork on this pivot move past KCP for an easy bank off the glass, this shit looks like the old guy at pick-up basketball that maybe can’t get up like he used to, but is able to create space out of nowhere. While it wasn’t a Christmas miracle, the Lakers were able to convincingly come out on top versus a team they were definitely supposed to beat.
Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0) – DLo, the lost child of Los Angeles, gets a matchup with his former team to determine if we made the right decision in trading him. Anthony Edwards also gets the opportunity to showcase if he should be an NBA player, MLB player, or Broadway actor. Hopefully we found out.
Kevin- I tried my hand at writing a Lakers game recap from this Tuesday’s NBA kickoff! I intend to write one after each Lakeshow contest throughout the season, so stay tuned for memey NBA takes from a memey NBA fan.
Clippers at Lakers12/23/20 G1
The Fast Break:
The joy of the Lakers’ ring night was slightly dampened after a season opening defeat to the Clippers, 116-109. Former 2019 third-place-MVP sore winner Paul George led the way for all scorers, dropping 33 points on a slew of difficult jump shots from all over the court. His shot looked like butter as he found space to shoot over smaller Laker wing defenders throughout the night. Lebron (22 pts) and Anthony Davis (18pts) had neutered evenings by their standards, Bron exited the game late with a turned ankle, but they found ways to contribute across the box score ( 5 Reb/5 Ast for LBJ and 7 Reb for AD). Lebron was definitely easing his way back into game shape, which is totally acceptable after a shortened off-season full of Sprite Cranberries, and AD started to get his signature mid-range game going late, although it wasn’t enough.
Newcomers Dennis Schröder (14/12/8) and Montrezl Harrell (17/10/3) both had big time debuts for the purple and gold, offering a glimpse of what their skills could provide this season. While the Lakers showed resilience coming back from a 20 point deficit entering the 2nd quarter, the late game consistency of Kawhi Leonard (26 pts) and Playoff P kept the completion of a comeback at bay.
-Holy shit Dennis Schröder is fast. He can get by literally anyone at anytime, dropping his shoulders low to the ground to gain an angle around the corner and finishing strong at the bucket. To say this man makes Rondo (why haven’t I ever seen Rondo and Franklin the Turtle in the same room?) look a little slow is an understatement, he adds the ability to explosively attack the basket that wasn’t found on the 2019-2020 Lakers outside of LBJ and AD. I’m excited to see Schröder increase his share of pick and roll opportunities with both Harrell and AD. He had a couple nifty pocket passes to rolling big men that inspires plenty of hope for even an ounce of additional playmaking when Bron is off the floor.
-Take a bow Montrezl Harrell! The former Clippers big man had an exciting showing against his ex-buddy o’pals, adding a lightning rod of energy that I was worried would be lost with the absence of Dwight Howard. I was wrong, Harrell is tenacious on the boards when he isn’t being boxed out, leaping over Zubac (😦) for the rebound and finishing strong over the top. Trez provides this kind of spark plug constantly, making plays all over the floor that simply exude the world “hustle.” I’m curious to see how his game will grow when catching the ball at the elbow and facing the basket. He seems to have a little bit of a jumper, but nothing conclusive enough to restrict my (admittedly rude) scoff everytime he shoots outside the key.
It wasn’t all roses though, it looked like Harrell was a bit outmatched by big Zu’s height whenever they were facing off 1 on 1 in the post. I’m assuming this will be a recurring trend throughout the season as Harrell will be forced to face many giants of the game. Harrell is undersized (listed at 6’8”), but can make up for it on both ends of the floor with superior effort and them long ass arms (listed at 7’4”!!).
-Did AD figure out how to pass out of a double team? One of my only gripes with AD’s game last season (there weren’t many, don’t be mad at me AD) was his lack of passing skill out of double teams, seemingly letting the pressure of multiple defenders force him into ill-advised decisions. Dude is a god at basketball, but will turn the ball over so casually in this singular situation…until now? AD had multiple examples of receiving the ball in the post, reading the defense to understand where an extra defender was coming from and making the correct pass to an open teammate. It was glorious!
This first clip showcases AD’s improved vision perfectly, notice how after receiving the ball, he faces up to survey the floor for any cutters or actions. The moment he sees Zubac leave Harrell to double team, AD whips a pass to Trez for the easy layup. This bang-bang read and react play is indicative of a player who is gaining confidence in these situations, which is incredibly exciting to see for AD (and my selfish desires for victory).
The next clip again highlights AD’s ability to quickly scan the floor for an incoming double team and swiftly make the correct pass to an open team-mate, this time to a cutting Bron for the thunderous jam. I get to watch one of the greats further round out his game, pinch me.
Last Second Time Out:
Look for the Lakers to continue to gel on and off the court. Kuzma had a nice scoring game (15 pts), but needs to contribute elsewhere for his true impact to be felt. If there’s one thing this current squad can do, it’s score, so Kuzma needs to continue his growth on the defensive end and attack the glass hard. Marc Gasol looked a bit rough, but I’m confident we will see him improve as he gets more minutes under his belt. On the defensive end, there were some drop coverages off screens that left me a bit woozy. Watching Harrell sink into the paint, leaving PG wide open after already draining a few, was a bit infuriating. Hopefully these adjustments to the scheme are made as the season goes on. Overall, an exciting intro to the 2020 season.
Dallas Mavericks (0-1) – Luka is a baaaad man, but I don’t think the Mavs will have the toughness inside to stop AD from feasting. Expect a big game from Alex Caruso, for no other reason than the meme power of JJ Barea being absent from the Mavs, allowing the bald eagle to soar.
2020 was…a year. It’ll be remembered for some historic ups and downs (mostly downs), but amongst it all there was music for us to cling to. Music that made our hearts sing. Music that gave us hope. Music that grounded us despite the state of our world, and music that addressed it. Music that – we’ll save you the shitty eulogizing. Here’s Culture Blender’s 15 Best Albums of 2020:
15. After Hours – The Weeknd
KG: The Weeknd’s blast from the past After Hours repurposes the buzzing synths and punchy drum machines of the 80’s into a contemporary new wave titan, filled with lively trap drums and head-boppin’ hi hats that perfectly reflect the state of pop music. There are moments on After Hours as soulful as any in The Weeknd’s discography, a perfect consolidation of the electronic elements of Starboy and the scornful croon of Trilogy. I dig the hell out of an artist willing to tie themself to older sounds without it coming off as corny, most recognizable in wildly popular synth-anthems (“Blinding Lights”) and cyberpunk sonnets (“After Hours”). The only thing lacking on this record is an overwhelming wow-factor that truly knocks your socks off, kinda like the end of Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan unexpectedly arrives at Forrest’s wedding after he fucking backstrokes into the middle of the ocean. Oh Gary Sinise, how are you so resilient? It would be a great success if the axis of pop music followed in The Weeknd’s footsteps and further embraced the 80’s. If I didn’t give this album a glowing review, the Zoomers would eat me alive.
Blender Nuggets: “Hardest To Love,” “Heartless,” “After Hours”
14. The Slow Rush – Tame Impala
KG: 2020, the year Tame Impala became the biggest band on earth… that’s how I’ll try to remember it at least. The Slow Rush pushed forth a new Kevin Parker to the spotlight of modern music, more confident than ever and ready to showcase his wealth of production talent on any type of track imaginable. Parker effortlessly weaves between traditional psychedelic-pop songs (“Borderline”), outright electronic dance slaps (“Is It True”) and profound ballads (“Posthumous Forgiveness”) like it’s just another day at the office. Although he loses points for exposing himself to some of the more melodramatic songwriting trends of the day (“Instant Destiny,” “Lost In Yesterday”), The Slow Rush is just too tightly produced to harp on its flaws for long. Hopefully as high of a percentage of people that had Tame Impala in their top 5 artists on Spotify Wrapped end up getting the COVID vaccine.
Blender Nuggets: “Breathe Deeper,” “Tomorrow’s Dust,” “One More Hour”
13. Microphones in 2020 – The Microphones
-Guest Writer Colby Jordan
CJ: Seventeen years after their album Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum revives The Microphones moniker with an album about reflection and change, Microphones in 2020. This one track, forty-four minute, forty-four second album serves as an autobiography on Phil’s life, a gripping story whether or not you have prior knowledge with his work under The Microphones or Mount Eerie (the band, not the album. That can get confusing). The album revolves around one repeated guitar riff which, as other elements fade in and out, helps represent the constant twists and turns in Phil’s life. It isn’t flashy or complex, but Phil’s lyricism and storytelling remains unrivaled, with every line seething with the same emotion and passion he has always perfectly expressed. In the end, Phil showcases how life constantly marches forward, filled with uncertainty, but all we can do is move forward while we’re still here. This may be my personal AOTY, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who wants to either contemplate life or contemplate why Max and Kevin are wrong for placing this at number 13.
12. Shore – Fleet Foxes
KG: Robin Pecknold stakes his claim as one of the best young singer-songwriters in music. Shore is Pecknold’s baby, it is the only Fleet Foxes album written and produced entirely by him, and fully displays his ability to execute an artistic vision. Where Fleet Foxes older releases found themselves drawing from the luscious harmonies and guitar work of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Shore feels like it’s molded in the image of a lyrical technician like Paul Simon. Pecknold’s ability to package the broad existential subjects of time and memory into warmhearted narratives of personal growth (“Can I Believe You”) and sincere homage to the legacy of past artists (“Sunblind”) is a testament to his skill mastery. Gorgeously layered folk-rock instrumentals that elicit feelings of a tranquil autumn afternoon cover this album, so gentle and sweet you start missing shit you didn’t experience from rural America for some reason. God I miss whittling on my front porch, hugging my grandpappy and packing the fattest lip my body can handle. Wait, what? Robin Pecknold is only 34 years old, so we will have many years to eagerly watch his career play out. I’m stoked.
Blender Nuggets: “Featherweight,” “A Long Way Past The Past,” “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman”
11. Sundowner – Kevin Morby
MC: I’ll be the first to admit that we here at the Blender have a slight bias towards psychedelic Americana, so naturally Kevin and I happily ate up this latest platter of folk rock offerings from Kansas City-raised sing-songwriter Kevin Morby. His weathered and earnest voice brings to mind Bob Dylan’s New Morning era croon, and his delivery and knack for observational lyricism evokes the late-great Leonard Cohen. Between Morby’s shimmering guitar tones, love for the mellotron, and the rest of his sepia-tinged production, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that this was some recently-uncovered late-60’s gem. This is music suited for long-rides through vast landscapes, filled with subtle arrangements that unfold unhurriedly allowing listeners to cling onto every last lyric. Morby’s words and music create a slyly psychedelic travelogue of a Midwest that finds serenity in the quieter moments. It’s a treat tagging along for the ride.
MC: With the band’s 2010’s seeming most notable for recording a 24 hour song and releasing a collaborative album with Miley Cyrus, it seemed that the anything-goes adventurous spirit of Oklahoma City’s psych rock veterans was dissolving into a resortment to gimmicks in place of quality albums. Yet here we are, 34 years (?!?!) after the groups debut, celebrating another vital Flaming Lips album full of cosmic contemplations about life, death, family and making sense of the past. Their signature absurdity still remains intact (“Dinosaurs on the Mountain”), along with their overt drug references (“Mother I’ve Taken LSD”), but even at nearly 60 Coyne’s imperfect voice carries as much sincerity, humanity, and naive wonder as it ever has. The album marks a return to a more straightforward pop sound than their more recent releases, and the album swells with phased out guitars, vocals, synths, and Stephen Drozd’s classic blown-out drum sound that Kevin Parker has cited as a massive influence. As one of the most remarkably cohesive albums of the year, the songs transition brilliantly into one-another (“Mother Please Don’t Be Sad” into “When We Die When We’re High” blew my mind upon first listen). It’s the kind of start-to-finish trip that the Lips do best, making for a true album-lover’s album…and Spacey Kacey Musgraves even pops up a couple times on this thing, so what’s not to love?
Blender Nuggets: “Will You Return / When You Come Down,” “Mother I’ve Taken LSD,” “When We Die When We’re High”
9. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers
MC: “Taylor Swift is just Phoebe Bridgers for people whose parents still love each other.” In a year where TSwizzle donned her most somber flannel and released two admittedly solid indie folk albums, LA singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers seemingly perfected the formula that Swift was in search of. A mix of intensely confessional songwriting, darkly observant storytelling, and emo-folk melodies that lodge themselves instantly in your head, Punisher made for 2020’s perfect soundtrack for late-night cry sessions into your pillow (or so I would assume because I definitely don’t do that…). If some sort of Sadness EDC existed for indie artists, Bridgers would be the slotted right after the headliner, (Bon Iver maybe?) when the drugs start to wear off and you’re in the throes of the existential comedown of your life. Punisher’s combination of sheer vulnerability, songcraft, and a quietly psychedelic sheen results in the type of album that would have made Elliott Smith proud. Collections of songs about falling apart rarely sound so well put-together.
MC: There’s a 79-year-old man who’s seen it all, residing in a dimly-lit bar somewhere off of Highway 61, necking down rounds of whisky and muttering profundities to himself, the bartender, or anyone that’s within earshot. That’s where we find America’s most important songwriter of the modern era on his first album of original material since 2012. Dylan’s coarse, gravelly croak sounds every bit his age, and only adds a mysterious authenticity to his cryptic poetry, stories, and myths. Dylan seemingly recontextualizes the entire literary canon, every historical figure, and countless significant pop culture references into stories and ruminations about life and death, good and evil, and his own legacy. While he and his tempo might be slowing down, his pen hasn’t missed a beat and hearing Dylan ramble his way through line after line and verse after verse remains one of the greatest joys in music. Few literary or musical figures have possessed the command of language that Dylan has displayed for damn near 60 years now. This is the sound of a national treasure discontent with just resting on his laurels, and with this latest album he’s adding another late-career classic onto an already unfuckwithable resume.
Blender Nuggets: “Key West (Philosopher Pirate),” “Murder Most Foul,” “My Own Version of You”
7. Suddenly – Caribou
KG: What isn’t there to like about the latest record from Canadian singer, composer, mathematician and DJ, Caribou. Hint – nothing. It’s hard to make electronica that differentiates itself as well as Suddenly does, teetering the line between vibrant “let’s make a dance circle in the middle of this club” tracks, (“Never Come Back,” “Ravi”) and silky smooth IDM (“Lime”) that makes me feel like my brain is downloading a software update from the great computer gods in the sky. Caribou layers his soothing vocals atop an overwhelming abundance of sounds, every sample (and there are a looooot) is expertly selected and sequenced to capture the exact tone Caribou is looking for, with literally no bias in any one artistic direction. One track will be straight out of the J Dilla playbook (“Home”) featuring powerful hip hop drums and motown samples, while the next is an ethereal electronic hallucination (“Cloud Song”) that could find its way into the Brian Eno school of music for robots. I find it’s always easy to root for Canadians, and Caribou is no exception. How aboot that!
Blender Nuggets: “Home,” “New Jade,” “You and I”
6. Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs
MC: Cementing himself as undeniably one of the best rappers in the game over the last six years with one fantastic project after the next, Freddie Gibbs doesn’t ever seem to ever miss. After the collaborative success he’s had with Madlib, pairing him with another crate-digging production wizard like The Alchemist seemed like a no-brainer for rap excellence. Alfredo somehow surpasses these lofty expectations, with The Alchemist creating lush, soulful, and opulent sounding canvases interspersed with pieces of mafia dialogue that give the album the cinematic feel of a mob classic. Freddie skates across these beats, casually switching flows up and juggling hooks (“God Is Perfect”), and finding new ways to craft whip-smart and braggadocious bars about his two favorite subjects: drug-dealing (“Frank Lucas”) and women (“Baby $hit”). One line Freddie offers gritty, yet timely, imagery about the state of being a black man in America, and the next he’s making Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Bucks puns (“Scottie Beam”) – this is what peak rap versatility looks like.
Blender Nuggets: “Something to Rap About,” “God Is Perfect,” “Scottie Beam”
5. Man Alive! – King Krule
KG: England’s gloomiest superhero returns from The Ooz with a slice of sunshine cutting through the clouds, Man Alive! serves as even the subtlest breathes of fresh air for an artist who has made melancholy their motto. Similar to past releases from King Krule, Man Alive! is dark and eclectic. “Stoned Again” is a 1 of 1 art-punk experimental-rock song examining Krule’s early relationship with weed, his deep roar reminisces about the innocence of being a kid before smoking entered your life, and expresses the frustration of finding yourself stoned…again. “The Dream” is a hazy experimental interlude that sounds like you’re floating in an imaginary universe like Binky from Arthur. These are both very by-the-book King Krule tracks, and they’re as engaging as ever. Krule has somehow positioned himself as the king of the gargoyles, sitting high on his throne of sorrow. But here’s what makes Man Alive! different. Songs like “Perfecto Miserable” and “Underclass” offer a glimmer of hope not often found in the dreary lexicon of our favorite ginger shadow-lurker. The latter gives off this schmaltzy sheen of lust as Krule bellows his heart out for his lover, a snazzy saxophone complements his vivacious voice perfectly, “Under the underclass / deep in society’s hole / that’s where I saw you, love.” Even if it’s just a tiny drop of bliss in the sea of forlorn, King Krule’s excellent change of pace is exactly what we needed to see out of him. Man Alive! stands as the most consistent song to song entry into the Krule discography, and solidifies itself as a top 5 album of 2020.
KG: RTJ4 is 39 minutes of protest music that is absolutely necessary to listen to for contemporary civil activism’s sake. A word of warning: This album isn’t beautiful at all. El-P’s explosive, hard-hitting beats are an abrasive parallel to Killer Mike’s vulgar social commentary, rightfully so, as he paints the picture of a fucked up United States of America. RTJ4 is Run The Jewels at their absolute pinnacle: corruption, guns, drugs, cops…everything under the sun is available for the boys to spit about, and they do so with the raw honesty, confidence and knowledge required to make an album this pointed. You couldn’t ask for a better tandem’s eloquent attempt at inciting social revolution, further confirmed by the appearance of all-time badass Zack De La Rocha giving his two cents on the track “JU$T.” In a way, there is beauty to this album; protest music this good needs to continue being made. For the sake of you, me and every Pete Buttigeg supporter out there.
Blender Nuggets: “yankee and the brave (ep.4),” “pulling the pin,” “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)”
3. What’s Your Pleasure – Jessie Ware
MC: Disco is far from dead, baby! English singer-songwriter Jessie Ware serves up dance banger after banger on her newest effort, an album that seems like our generation’s closest sonic recreation of the days when Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder tracks were burning up sweaty underground dance floors in NYC. Ware grew up a club kid, and with the help of collaborators like Midland and Morgan Geist she successfully modernizes that sensation of flailing around under a disco ball and losing sight of the trivialities of day-to-day life. Ware sounds incredibly loose, confident, and emotive delivering hooks and bridges that are the stuff of pop classics. The beats are downright sleek and it would be only the most primal of human reactions to strut to the nearest dance floor the moment basslines like the ones on “Ooh La La,” and “Self Control” start hitting. It’s a post-disco tour de force and plays out seamlessly with the highs and lows of any great club set. In a year where many pop artists looked backwards to move forward (The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, and Roisin Murphy to name a few), nobody owned that sound as flawlessly as Ware.
Blender Nuggets: “Spotlight,” “Ooh La La,” “Save a Kiss”
2. We Will Always Love You – The Avalanches
MC: Partially inspired by The Golden Record that was carried upon The Voyager to communicate the sounds of Earth to celestial beings, and released in the dying days of 2020, sample-happy Australian electronic-duo The Avalanches blessed us with the kind of escapism that we were so desperately craving all year long. The album balances the ethereal with the jubilant, Perry Farrell features with Denzel Curry ones, samples with live instrumentation, and it seems to exist entirely in a universe of its own. Yet, it remains buoyed by the humanity and strange beauty of the human voice…and there’s a lot of voices on here. The closest parallel for a great album I can think of where rampant guest features meld together to form such an entirely unique atmosphere would be Plastic Beach by Gorillaz, but in this case it sounds like it’s all being beamed in from a satellite on the fringes of the solar system where Matthew McConaughey is realizing he was Murph’s ghost the whole time. It’s a triumph in the way they manage to stitch together hundreds of samples and a boat-load of features, into a sound that feels reverent of its source material, but completely unlike anything else. With 25 tracks spanning 71 minutes, it’s one of the year’s most ambitious projects, with interludes as sonically rich as the full songs, and they absolutely hit the bullseye, packaging the melancholy, the danceable and the blissfully psychedelic into one incredible start-to-finish listen.
Blender Nuggets: There’s too many to list, just listen to the whole thing
1. Heaven To A Tortured Mind – Yves Tumor
MC: Hopefully somewhere amongst all the miscellaneous bummers that 2020 brought our way, we can at least look back at this as the year where Yves Tumor breathed some much-needed new life back into the “rock” album. In an incredible feat of songwriting, Tumor combines jagged post-punk riffs, funk, electronic instrumentation, and a general penchant for experimentation into a cohesive set of songs that sound downright arena-worthy. It’s simultaneously incredibly bizarre and instantly accessible, with tracks like “Folie Imposée” and “Asteroid Blues,” allowing Tumor to contort sounds in all sorts of abstract and fascinating directions, and songs like “Gospel for a New Century,” “Kerosene!” and “Super Stars,” which sound like the rock hits of the future. Tumor’s charismatic and innuendo-laced vocal performance oozes with swagger, and the album stacks searing guitars, propulsive basslines, and extended periods of psychedelia into something entirely unique. It feels like the type of album that could only exist in our present moment, with remarkable genre-fluidity and a nonbinary star taking center stage. It’s challenging, it’s catchy, and it’s remarkably adventurous. If this is the sound of rock music to come, sign me up for more.
KG: Over the past few days leading up to the writing of this blurb, I’ve had conversations with friends attempting to find the correct words to make sense of what this album truly is. The result was a mixed bag of genres and impressions that are simply incomparable to any other album out there. Yves Tumor so thoroughly blurs the lines of genres and sounds that composing Heaven To A Tortured Mind into a tightly-wrapped cohesive experience is a stroke of genius. It feels like the perfectly balanced seesaw of experimentation, somehow discovering stability between untamed artistic flair and grounded, stellar songwriting. “Dream Palette” opens in chaotic fashion: drums pounding, guitar repeating a wild phrase, the sound of whistling fireworks flying all around, when suddenly everything centers around a biting bass line and charismatic Tumor singing with a whirlwind of energy. On the other hand, “A Greater Love” is a psychedelic-rock nugget flush with washy drums and piercing guitar that perfectly lays host to Yves Tumor and Clara La San echoing each other’s impassioned wail. Heaven To A Tortured Mind goes right where many albums go wrong, and is a saving grace for the current state of rock music that needed some shaking up. Welcome to, whatever this is. Blender Nuggets: “Kerosene!” “A Greater Love,” “Strawberry Privilege”
Tortured insights about the plight of the Weezer fan. Written by Colby Jordan.
Weezer is one of those unique bands everyone knows of for some reason or another. Whether it be for their cover of “Africa” by Toto or their insanely popular songs such as “Beverly Hills” or “Island in the Sun”, they’ve been a household name for quite some time. Frontman Rivers Cuomo and company have been in the public spotlight for over 25 years, with loyal and dedicated fans since the beginning. However, if you go online and read about Weezer on various forums, such as r/Weezer, you’ll see devoted fans actively shit on the band. From lofty expectations set by their first album, the blue album, to mediocre sales in the 2000s, Weezer’s suffering has led to one of the most vocal fan bases as well as some of the spiciest memes.
Before we start, you may be asking yourself, “who the hell are you and what right do you have to lecture me on a band I don’t care about?”. Well, as you can see by my certification, I am a bonafide and professional virgin who is highly qualified to discuss this subject. With that out of the way, the best way to focus on Weezer’s career and hatred, in my opinion, is to start with the beginning. Since Weezer has to be the absolute worst, they have 6 self-titled albums just to cause some confusion while talking about them. Their debut album, which is referenced by the album’s color Blue, was the perfect album for lonely virgins who play dungeons and dragons and break into a sweat when in the same room as a woman. As someone who falls into too many of those demographics, I can confidently say Blue is one of the most influential and best Power Pop albums, receiving stellar reviews from both critics and fans alike. However, the success of Blue put Weezer in the same spot many bands have been in; everyone loves their first album so much, everything they make afterwards pales in comparison.
Many artists have debut albums which are considered their best, such as The Strokes, The Doors, and Crazy Frog, but Weezer’s Blue is held in such high regard in part due to the lukewarm reception of their sophomore album, Pinkerton. Let me be clear, Pinkerton is my favorite Weezer album, and that opinion is shared by many fans. It’s a deeply personal, raw masterpiece of an album which everyone should listen to. However, in 1996, people didn’t want to hear Rivers Cuomo talk about his Japanese pen pal across the sea or how he’s over meaningless sex, they wanted more songs about skateboarding to work and being named Jonas. The post Pinkerton fallout led to the dark times where most of the memes get their vitriol; the era where Weezer decided to D.E.N.N.I.S system their listeners by making trash music after demonstrating their value as a band.
Have you ever had something you love turn to utter shit with no end in sight? Maybe you were a Cubs fan for their historical 108 year drought or you’ve been living in America since Donald Trump got elected. If so, you’ve experienced what many Cuomosexuals have slogged through while listening to half of Weezer’s albums. Weezer’s story of infamy began following the release of their album Green, which sold like hot cakes with bangers such as “Island in the Sun” and “Hash Pipe.” Green and their 2008 album Red weren’t absolutely terrible albums, mind you, but they lacked some of the spirit that made Weezer stand out compared to the rest. However, somewhat self deprecating yet charming lyrics found on their earlier albums are replaced with duds such as “if you need love then I’ll be here to sex you” which made me physically cringe when I heard it for the first time.
From 2001 to 2010, Weezer went up to bat with seven albums and struck out about five times, which is a less than stellar batting average. A lot comes down to personal preference, however Raditude, Make Believe, and Death to False Metal are three laughable albums which do nothing but fuel fan’s hate boners, yearning for the good ol’ days of “Say it Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly”. Some of their other albums were fine, I personally enjoy Hurley and absolutely adore Maladroit, but this period still put a bad taste in fan’s mouths moving forward. However, like a socially awkward angel, Rivers Cuomo decided to inspire hope in fans everywhere with the band’s redemption arc.
White and Everything Will be Alright in the End represented oases in the vast desert that is Weezer’s discography, and fans were more hopeful than ever. They were fun, didn’t take themselves too seriously, and all in all were great albums, creating the renaissance of Weezer. At this point, fans felt an inkling of hope, an emotion which had left their souls after hearing Weezer and Weezy team up on “Can’t Stop Partying”, a song no fourty year old man has any right releasing upon the world. This leads to one of the most important parts in Weezer fans hating Weezer, having the ability to laugh at something you love. Knowing Weezer still has it in them to create albums worth their weight in salt while recognizing their rocky discography allows fans to joke and meme about past mistakes in a lighthearted manner, instead of only feeling pain.
This lighthearted ribbing continues to this day, despite Weezer making Pacific Daydream, a generic pop filler album which should be wiped from the Earth, as well as prime edgelord album, Black, where Rivers learns how to say the fuck word. However, always experimenting, Weezer also released Teal, a cover album which sold particularly well despite not being the most creative of cover albums. Teal serves as a shining example of Weezer’s desire to mix up their formula and push new boundaries, even if they sometimes miss the mark. Fans stay hopeful for the band’s next album Van Weezer to bring back those same feelings as their previous, non-dogshit works.
Weezer is a complex band, with a lot of eras and a variety of accomplishments. When it comes down to it, fans rip the band because of their devotion and love for the band. With such amazing music, it’s hard for fans to not foam at the mouth at the chance to make memes about the band or talk about how trash they are, desperately yearning for another classic album. At the end of the day, the lows experienced through Weezer’s career just make the high’s that much better. Without a Raditude or a Make Believe you can’t fully appreciate a Blue or a Pinkerton, and I’m confident Weezer still has it in them to prove all the haters wrong. If not, at least we’ll still have more content for memes.
Recently Rolling Stone magazine revamped their famous 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list, with the addition of 154 albums not previously featured in past versions of the list. With a continually expanding musical cannon, it’s always exciting to see a more diverse crop of newer and deserving entries placed in the discussion of the greatest albums of all-time, but when you started running down the list, it quickly became apparent that these rankings were just downright cringey. If you’re going to publish a numbered list of the greatest albums of all-time, there will always undeniably be a large margin for debate, but when comparing the musical merits of some of these albums far too many of these picks became laughable. So instead of wasting your time reading through the list, we at the Blender decided to highlight some of the most egregious picks we came across. Enjoy.
MC: Fine Line – Harry Styles (491)
Yikes! No disrespect to Harry Styles and his “pop greatness,” it’s honestly a fine album…but to claim it better than Suicide’s wildly influential electronic-punk debut, the sprawling double-LP funk of Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, or the true Spectorian pop perfection of The Ronette’s singular album makes this ranking the list’s first major red flag. Extra points deducted for their use of the phrase “shroomadelic guitar trip” to describe the track “She” in the writeup.
KG: Today! – Beach Boys (466)
The greatness of the Beach Boys seminal album Pet Sounds is understood throughout the music world, hell it finished second on this list, but it’s surprising how much the prototype to that album is slept on. The Beach Boys Today! was released in 1965 and is considered their first big musical shift from goofy pop songs about surfing and hanging out with your groovy friends at the beach, to more complex pop songwriting layered in crisp harmonies and dreamy instrumentals. Don’t get me wrong, the ballad “I’m So Young” off this album is as much of a teenage heartthrob track as any in their entire discography (easily one of my favorite songs to belt on the coast highway mind you), but if you connect the dots while listening to their more intricate productions, like “In The Back Of My Mind,” you can see the foundations of what later became Pet Sounds. This shit is underrated bruh!
KG: Man on the Moon: The End of the Day – Kid Cudi (459)
Oh boy. I have had to sit across from Max and valiantly defend my man Kid Cudi far too many times in my life for me to be writing this. BUT, to say Mr. Mescudi’s 2009 album Man on the Moon: The End of the Day is the 459th best album of all time is simply a travesty. If we are comparing it strictly to hip hop records, The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde finishing at 482 is immediately a record that comes to mind as better than the dud from Cud. Realistically, I don’t hate Man on the Moon at all. So much so that I would advocate for “Day ‘N’ Nite” to be considered as the new United States pledge of allegiance for every elementary school kiddo to bop to at 8am in the morning. Does that mean it should be ranked higher than The Stooges? Not so much.
MC: Chief – Eric Church (419)
Rolling Stone probably maxed-out their late-career Bruce Springsteen quota so naturally they gravitated to an album by a fresher face with a Boss-referential track called “Springsteen” on it. I guess this is their tip of the hat to more modern country music, but to see it in the top 500 at all feels like a massive reach. Then factor in that it’s ranked five spots ahead of Beck’s classic Odelay, eleven spots ahead of Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True (which feels grossly under-ranked), and nearly forty spots ahead of The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls. If there had to be a forced tip-of-the-hat to modern country then at least let it go to someone innovating within the genre like Sturgill Simpson. This is just boozed-up country-pop which can surely have a time and a place for some, but that time and place should be far removed from a discussion of the greatest albums of all-time.
MC: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish (397)
Billie Eillish blew up last year with one of the fresher and more inventive takes on goth-tinged pop in recent memory from anyone not named Lorde. That shouldn’t be discredited, but what should be is the recency bias on the gross over-ranking of this album. We shouldn’t need 50 years to determine if it holds up better than the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead or Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, but apparently some Rolling Stone voters are still riding more than a little too high off her dominant 2019 run. Never underestimate the power of a Dave Grohl endorsement.
MC: In Rainbows – Radiohead (387)
This just feels way too underrated for one of the most otherworldly and gorgeous albums of the last 20 years. Songs like “Weird Fishes,” “Nude,” and “House of Cards,” are immersive and deeply psychedelic and tracks like “Bodysnatchers,” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” would be alternative rock radio staples in a perfect universe. If there was ever a reason to update the RS 500 it should be to slingshot masterpiece albums like this one into the top 200. Instead we’ve got it kicking around next to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, and Mariah Carey. That’s the musical equivalent of ranking point guards and having Steve Nash amongst the likes of Mo Williams, Andre Miller, and Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. Sure they’ve all got their moments but none come close to the actual brilliance in discussion.
KG: The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance (361)
I just want to say that I don’t think this album is objectively bad at all. It’s a rock-opera concept album about a dying cancer patient that’s sharply produced and sounds exactly as MCR frontman Gerard Way probably envisioned it (whiny and emancipation inducing). However, I think this thing has absolutely no business being included on this list let alone ranked as the 361st album of all time. You’re telling me that The Black Parade is better than George Harrison’s legendary triple album All Things Must Pass? Even if we compare The Black Parade to a contemporary album that is similar to it genre-wise like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea I feel like this is still a no-brainer. Rolling Stone Magazine, we all love screaming “WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY…” when we hear “Black Parade” come on, but let’s temper the rankings juuuust a bit for this one.
KG: AM – Arctic Monkeys (346)
If you ever got the idea that Rock and Roll is dead, look no further than Arctic Monkeys AM finishing as the 346th album of all time. Are you kidding me? I’d have trouble saying this is one of the best albums of the 2010’s, let alone the 346th album ever. This is the album where Arctic Monkeys stripped away their cool as could be bouncy songwriting and tried to make an album of stadium rock songs that would get crazy play time on FM radio waves while commuting to work in the morning. In that endeavor they may have been successful, but if we’re talking about a piece of music that greatly influences the sound of artists to come, this isn’t it. Compared to Tame Impala’s Currents finishing 30 spots above and it’s an absolute head-scratcher.
KG: Random Access Memories – Daft Punk (295)
One of those records you put on shuffle and every time another classic song comes on you ask yourself “damn, this is on this album too??” Bringing a computerized edition of disco and funk to the new millenia, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories succeeds in everything it set out to accomplish. Working with a plethora of different features on this record, Daft Punk brings out the best in all of them. Pharrell William’s primary contributions, “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance,” are two of the most infectious dance tracks of the decade. Regardless of Max’s slander, “Instant Crush” is a killer combo with Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas that allows him to shriek to his heart’s desire while drenched in a bath of vocoder fuzz. Electronic music’s favorite Frenchmen were even able to get the GOAT himself Giorgio Moroder on a disco track. Simply put, this album feels a little bit underrated to me.
MC: Weezer (Blue Album) – Weezer (294)
I can’t go to bat for really much of anything that Weezer has done since the turn of the millennium, but this album alone is untouchable as one of the most perfect start-to-finish alternative albums of all time. There’s not a single dud on this thing, and Rivers Cuomo somehow combines his love for surf-rock, heavy metal, and being an incel into absolute bubblegum power-pop that hasn’t lost any of its thrill. It’s really a perfect album and it’s truly head-scratching that Rolling Stone insists on ranking it below much spottier albums by fellow alternative radio sweethearts RHCP’s Californiacation and over 100 spots below Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Also, I love Pavement as much as anyone but for Wowee Zowee to be given a 20 spot jump on this album just doesn’t feel right. This album has 10 incredible songs filled to the brim with hooks, solos, and quotables and there’s no chance you’re finding 293 better albums out there.
MC: ANTI – Rihanna (230)
Rihanna’s finest full-length is definitely worthy of the heaps of praise that it received upon its release and subsequently. Songs like “Love on the Brain” and “Higher,” are absolute burners that sound like they could be from nearly any era. However, as great as this album is, context is everything when it comes to a list like this and to see it listed as a superior album to landmark albums like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express, Daft Punk’s Discovery, and Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak just hurts. Each of those albums marked a shift in the sound and structure of popular music and ANTI just wasn’t as groundbreaking. Sure it affirmed that Rihanna is the badass we always knew she was, but it feels premature to rank it ahead of some of the most influential works in music history.
KG: Eagles – Eagles (207)
Praised for being a template of LA’s “country rock sound,” this record comes off as background music for a cheesy Ford F-150 commercial on its best days and the corniest version of the Grateful Dead imaginable on its worst. Seriously, I’ve never wanted to “Take It Easy” while watching a truck that gets 6 miles per gallon veer around a mountainside with “professional driver on a closed course” scribbled at the bottom. Are they aware that I try to avoid listening to music that I assume Brett Favre warms up for his Wrangler jean commercials with? American Beauty, Grateful Dead’s 1970 equivalent of a greatest hits record that is ranked 8 spots above, pretty much does everything that Eagles does without trying so hard to be a Crosby, Stills, and Nash knockoff. Sorry, no amount of guitars playing simultaneously on stage will change my opinion on this one… even if it’s 50.
KG: Meet The Beatles! – The Beatles(197)
Look, I’m as big of a Beatles fan as could be and completely acknowledge that their sophomore effort Meet The Beatles! is an excellent record that paved the way for their larger than life career. That being said, Meet the Beatles! was recorded before the days of concept albums, meaning the songs were recorded as singles and compiled together for a convenient release. While it’s hard to hold that against the boys from Liverpool, this list is a ranking of the 500 greatest albums of all time, which makes it difficult for me to rank it above so many excellent collections of music that are recorded with the intention of being released as an album. David Bowie’s Low at 207 is one such example of misranking.
MC: Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers (186)
The most overplayed group on Southern California alternative radio is by no means a bad group. Flea is an incredibly talented bassist, John Frusciante is a phenomenal guitarist, and their more understated hits like “Breaking the Girl,” and “Under the Bridge” are honestly great songs. Their more melodic songs are the one aspect of their music that they might have the upper-hand on when pitted against fellow funk-rockers Rage Against the Machine (who are inconspicuously nowhere to be found in the top 200), yet those types of tracks account for less than 20% of this album. The issue that plagues this group and that makes this album criminally over-ranked, is that throughout the onslaught of bombastic rap-funk-rock tracks on this album we’re supposed to somehow ignore that Anthony Kiedis raps with the skill and dexterity of your average dorm freshman from Danville or Thousand Oaks…hell, maybe even worse. Hold onto your hat he’s rhyming “he” with” “be” and “me.” Pull up the lyric sheet on nearly any track on this album and tell me you couldn’t come up with more creative rhymes.
KG: Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel (172)
Criminally underrated, Bridge Over Troubled Water is the fantastic finale to Simon and Garfunkel’s decorated stretch as the best folk rock duo of the 60’s. In my mind it’s completely ridiculous for this album to be outside of the top 100, let alone 72 spots above 100. Seamless songwriting is found all over this record, notably on “The Only Living Boy in New York,” “El Condor Pasa (If I Could),” and the timeless classic of a title-track “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Holy shit can Art Garfunkel hit a high note. Adele’s 21 being 50 spots ahead of this album is one of the biggest what the fuck moments of the entire list.
MC: Hotel California – Eagles (118)
Had to make sure Kevin wasn’t getting all the fun of ripping on the Eagles to himself. To quote The Dude himself, “I hate the fucking Eagles, man.” The fact that this album managed to go 26x Platinum is indicative in itself as to why Boomers shouldn’t be trusted with positions of power and the title track might as well be the national anthem for Orange County – and I mean that in the worst way possible. The album is way overproduced and the moments that strive for “emotion” are as clunky as that Ford F-150 Kev was describing. When I close my eyes and listen to “Life in the Fast Lane,” I’m being chased down the 405 by a bunch of middle-aged, alcoholic white men shouting about why we need more honest politicians like Rand Paul in power…the stuff of nightmares.
MC: Red – Taylor Swift (99)
Some albums in the 120-100 range that this has been deemed better than: Late Registration, Disintegration, Sticky Fingers, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, good kid, m.A.A.d city, Is This It, The Queen is Dead, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Transformer, Three Feet High and Rising, Marquee Moon………………..Really?!?!
KG: Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses (62)
A perfect example of Rolling Stone overrating an album based on sales rather than musical substance or future influence. 80’s metal is the completely fetishized version of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” that forces you to do a double take whenever you hear the opening to “Welcome To The Jungle” and think…does this suck ass? Surely, it hasn’t aged well. I fully respect Slash and his guitar chops, he is one of the best to ever do it and can rip a head thrashing solo that leaves your hair in a wild mess. On the other hand, Axl Rose is one of the most unlikable people in the music industry (followed closely by Mike Love, Steven Tyler, and R Kelly) and deserves to be derided.
KG: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (24)
My main concern with Sgt. Pepper placing 24th is that it dropped 20+ spots from Rolling Stone’s previous 500 best album rankings to no fault of its own. In fact, none of the albums ahead of Sgt. Pepper were released after their previous list was published. What gives? How does this album drastically fall below so many others for no reason whatsoever? I don’t need to spell out how excellent and influential this record is, every bit of praise heaped on Sgt. Pepper has already been said and is well deserved. However, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to put this album behind both Abbey Road and Revolver. Ultimately, we are discussing some of the greatest recordings in music history, but I’d like to see some consistency at least!
MC: Purple Rain – Prince (8)
The historic importance of this LP is the way it fused so many seemingly disparate styles into one cohesive album that resulted in a massive commercial success. The title track is a lighter-waving arena rock ballad for the ages, and hits like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” and “I Would Die 4 U,” seamlessly fused synth-funk with rock n’ roll. Prince is an undeniably talented and monumental figure in the history of pop music, but here’s the kicker: I think this album musically hasn’t held up as well as its reputation suggests and his more funk-oriented 1987 album Sign O’ the Times is his crowning achievement. The production quality sounds brutally dated on the album and, while I believe it has a deserving place in the top 100, ranking it above the pop perfection of Thriller, anything in the Bob Dylan catalogue, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, London Calling, Exile on Main Street, The Velvet Underground & Nico, or OK Computer makes for a tough look for the list’s top 10.
Welcome back to the much belated installment of our sporadically released Cannabis Cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. A few weeks back, we had the opportunity to go on a six hour road trip to the Sierra National Forest with a few friends and we each made our own respective hour-and-a-half playlists to help pass some time and share some new finds and old favorites on the drive (we at CC don’t condone driving under the influence, but we certainly don’t discourage getting a little toasty as a passenger to enjoy the scenery). We both picked 10 highlights from each of our respective playlists to share and enhance your next road trip. This is a glimpse into our car packed to the brim with luggage, this is Culture Blender’s road trip special:
“Melbourne,” Phonography, R. Stevie Moore (1976)
KG: Lo-fi home recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore is no stranger to the weird side of music. His 1976 debut album Phonography is a grab bag of different genres and music styles that reminds me of a super tangled up slinky still able to droop down a staircase, somehow it just… works? For Moore, no sound is off limits. One song will feature a gentle Beach Boys-esque vocal harmony with soft guitar instrumentals and easy listening vibes, while the next will be a punk sounding tune with lyrics that loudly plead “I wish I could sing” to the listener. All the while being recorded on dinky equipment away from the expensive luxuries of a proper recording studio. “Melbourne,” the intro to Phonography and my roadtrip playlist, is a wonky instrumental that sets the mood for the entire album with its distorted guitar and bouncy keyboard. Moore’s music would go on to be largely influential with many lo-fi bedroom pop artists (who are part of a strange incel collective, more on that later) such as Ariel Pink and Gary Wilson.
“Never Want to See You Low,” Pains of Love, Twilight (1986)
KG: Staying in the realm of lo-fidelity, Twilight is the musical identity of talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Lawrence Ross. Relying heavily on synthesizers and a saxophone, Twilight records stand out for their innovative combination of dance-y tones and funk vocals in an 80’s camouflage. Pains of Love gained notoriety among vinyl collectors for its rarity due to budget limitations that allowed only a handful of records to be pressed. In 2010, after two decades of total obscurity, Pains of Love was finally reissued for vinyl enthusiasts to collect and added to Spotify for music lovers to devour. I’m gonna have to credit the one and only Nardwuar for exposing me to this record via a previously referenced interview with Tyler, The Creator that I really enjoy. Is Nard the most interesting man in music? How does one become the Human Serviette? Doot Doola Doot Doo…
MC: Don’t know what else to say about this other other than it’s a Grade-A bop! I can definitely see where this would be a crate diggers dream. Spotify clearly has to work out a way to better support artists, but holy shit is the streaming age the golden age for music consumers when this kind of content is a click away.
“The Golden Rod,” Everybody Loves The Sunshine, Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1976)
KG: You’ve reached that part of the road trip where everyone in the car has acquainted themselves with each other. Conversations about what’s going on in the news or why Young Thug is the greatest artist of this generation have died down, replaced by the budding excitement of travel. Staring out the window of a car while on a scenic portion of a drive is one of the highlights of any roadtrip, and nothing could improve that experience more than listening to a song that sounds straight out of a 70’s James Bond movie (I’ll admit, having a box of extra cheesy Cheez-its can also vastly improve your drive). “The Golden Rod” is a jazz song dipped into a giant vat of R&B sauce with a hint of that breezy cool psychedelic sound of the 70’s to spice it up. Roy Ayers scintillating vibraphone skills are about as interesting as any lead instrument I have ever heard. He commands the attention of the listener by juxtaposing that spirited vibraphone playing with warm synth tones and groovy congo drums to create a sweet daydream-like sound palette. If you’ve ever heard your parents reminisce about the cooler-than-thou nature of the 70’s, this and Roy Ayers in general are what they’re referring to.
MC: First and foremost I’d like to state that Cheez-Its are simply the greatest snack food of all time. I enter an out of body trance and my stomach turns into a bottomless pit when I have those delectable cheesy orange squares in front of me. Also this song is pretty damn good, the run that Ayers goes on in his vibraphone solo locked me straight into a trance the first time I heard it. Is Roy Ayer’s to the vibes, what Cheez-Its is to snack foods?
“One Hundred Ways,” The Dude, Quincy Jones (1981)
KG: To be completely honest, the opening scene of Austin Powers in Goldmember is the first place I ever heard the name Quincy Jones. And with that movie being a staple of my childhood (Other classics my dad insisted be etched into my mind forever: Groundhog Day, Spaceballs, When Harry Met Sally, and Meet the Parents), I had a vague idea that Quincy Jones was a lofty figure in music. I came to learn that Jones is legendary for his work as a producer, most notably teaming up with Michael Jackson to create some of the greatest pop recordings of all time in Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. What I didn’t know until very recently was the vast collection of gems from Jones’ solo work, highlighted by his 1981 album The Dude. Utilizing a bevy of studio musicians and guest vocalists to bring his artful arrangements to life, Jones expertly blurs the lines between disco, jazz, R&B, and soul. “One Hundred Ways” is the critically acclaimed debut for First Team All-Schmaltzy singer James Ingram, whose voice pairs well with instrumentals that bring to mind a high quality day-spa (credit Max on that label). The “moment” of this song takes place between 2:54 and 3:14, a hypnotic synth riff that will be stuck in your head all day. Speaking of which…
“Rhymes Like Dimes,” Operation: Doomsday, MF DOOM (1999)
KG: “Rhymes Like Dimes,” a self-produced song by legendary New York/British rapper and famed supervillain MF DOOM, isolates that spicy synth riff from “One Hundred Ways” and turns it into the basis of one of the finest tracks in his discography. DOOM is not here to make up false statements about his clout, the amount of intricate rhyme schemes on this song mean he is pushing dimebags of weed in a hurry. “Gentleman who lent a pen to a friend who write with him / Never seen that shit again but he’s still my dunny / The only thing that come between us is krill and money” is no joke in terms of lyrical talent. I love when rappers like DOOM and Earl Sweatshirt flex their immense vocabularies in a verse, effortlessly stacking complex rhymes over a series of bars that seem almost impossible to fully map out. It reminds me of revisiting clips of the Dodgers – Astros World Series from a few years ago and intently listening for even the slightest trash can banging sound that would assist Jose Altuve and Co. in stealing a championship from my beloved Boys in Blue. Just like identifying DOOM’s perfectly crafted syntax over a superb beat, those trash can bangs were clear as day once you concentrated. Let’s just get this out of the way, Fuck The Astros.
MC: This has to be one of the funnest beats of any rap song, and I’ve got to imaging sampling Quincy Jones (an OG God-level producer) is a surefire way to have some success as a producer yourself. Lyrically, this is vintage DOOM with the type of bars that should land him in any hip-hop head’s favorite MCs. As far as baseball goes, I can’t say I have the strongest knowledge of the sport, but with the current baseball headlines involving the sport’s archaic “unwritten rules,” it seems like there’s some modernization that needs to take place. Maybe ditch the 3-0 count thing and just stick to this one: don’t cheat. Fuck the Astros.
“Dinorah, Dinorah,” Give Me the Night, George Benson (1980)
KG: Man oh man can George Benson play the guitar. His 1980 album Give Me the Night, produced by Quincy Jones, controversially received mixed reviews from Jazz-focused outlets that felt it had taken a step towards pop music in contrast to his prior releases. And in all honesty, they were right. Does that make this any less of a song though? No. Benson cultivates a garden of sounds that are all sprouting at the same exact time. Rhythmic easy-listening drums, faint scat singing and a high pitch disco-esque synthesizer blend together as the perfect backdrop for Benson’s innovative lead guitar.
“Love Your Life,” Soul Searching, Average White Band (1976)
KG: Average White Music Blog writer Kevin Gordon wants to let you in on a little secret. One of the best ways to find great music, specifically older soul/funk/jazz, is by using a resource like whosampled to see what the originating song used in a sample is. It’s especially useful in the context of hip hop, due to many of the samples for beats coming from older, lesser known music that is more recognizable via the sample than the original song. “Love Your Life” is a prime example of this as the next song in this playlist will demonstrate. Cheekily named Average White Band hails from Dundee, Scotland and made a name for themselves as an opening act for Eric Clapton in the early 70’s. Don’t let their humorous title fool you though, this six piece blue-eyed soul/funk group can hold their own with the best of the era. This track is covered in head bobbing, wonky bass lines that keep the listener engaged throughout. A catchy horn section near the end is the most memorable bit, making you feel like you’re slowly cruising the crowded streets of Manhattan in a low-rider Cadillac.
“Check the Rhime,” TheLow End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest (1991)
KG: Right on cue, “Check the Rhime” is A Tribe Called Quest’s masterful repurposing of that blaring horn section from “Love Your Life” into a hip hop beat that screams East Coast style. Coming out of the opening horns section, the beat drops straight into a punchy bass that allows Q-Tip and Phife Dawg to spit bars on bars in a call-and-response approach that wasn’t yet popular at the time. Speaking of Phife Dawg (RIP legend), this song has to go down as one of the best of his career. The entirety of his solo second verse needs to be cast into giant letters the size of the Hollywood sign and hung at Mount Rushmore instead of the faces of past imperialists, I mean Presidents. That’s a conversation for another day though. “You on point Tip? (All the time, Phife!)”
MC: The bass on this track is headbob-inducing, and the flows by Phife and Tip are vintage. It takes me straight back to the summer that I worked surf lessons and had this album on loop nonstop going to and from work. So what if I was being ripped off working egregious hours as an independent contractor by my QAnon obsessed boss? After a long day of pushing Arizona tourists into waves and fielding complaints from Encinitas helicopter mom’s in trucker hats, it all went to the wayside when Tribe started bumping on the stereo. Electric relaxation.
“Running Away,” Lifeline, Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1977)
KG: The second inclusion from Roy Ayers Ubiquity on this playlist sounds a bit different from the first, noticeably lacking the stellar vibraphone found on their other tracks. But this song makes up for it by being a dancefloor packing club-banger that is itching to be made into a house remix. Bumping conga drums cover the entire track, begging the listener to even attempt to sit still while it’s playing (spoiler: they won’t be able to). A psychedelic distorted bass is flanged throughout the song along with a consortium of vocalists layering their voices atop a bath of other sounds. This song is the seven-layer cake of music and it tastes great.
“Groovy Girls Make Love At The Beach,” You Think You Really Know Me, Gary Wilson (1977)
KG: We’ve made it! The final song in my portion of the road trip playlist is brought to you by eclectic as fuck experimental artist and incel collective “leader,” Gary Wilson. Wilson followed up on R. Stevie Moore’s DIY recording sound with his own self-produced bedroom album, You Think You Really Know Me, and honestly created a collection of music that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before… for the better and worse. Let’s start it off with the worse, or better yet, downright creepy. Wilson’s song “Cindy” is a synth-y early new wave cut that details Gary’s juvenile lust to walk a girl named Cindy home late at night (from who knows where) and make out with her. Seriously. Interspersed throughout the song are moments where Gary shouts “woo!” in a high pitched voice that quickly became one of my favorite things to sing whenever listening to a Gary track. Another song, the aptly named “Chromium Bitch,” is an awesome electric keyboard and synthesizer tune that is well ahead of its time due to its experimental sound. But again, Gary’s lyrics raise a few eyebrows for any listener with a sense of normalcy as he loudly croons “I wanna make you my Chromium Bitch, my bitch!” Whatever that means. That brings us to our piece de resistance, “Groovy Girls Make Love At The Beach.” Lively drums and a bouncy keyboard bring life to this track, making room for a buzzing synth that steals the show. Gary is at his most charming here, describing the end of a long week with unmatched questionability and vague meaning. “Every single Friday night / I said she’s out of reach, out of reach (woo!) / When I want to take her in my arms, she’s never there.” I’m gonna leave this one with a woo and call it a night. Woo!!!!
MC: My love for this song might be the single greatest point of contention between my girlfriend and I. The moment she hears the opening bars of this song’s intro, I’m generally promptly greeted with a stern “TURN GARY OFF!” So naturally, throwing this song on when I commandeer the aux is quickly turning into one of my favorite bits. Wilson’s voice has the giddy excitement of a grown man living in his parent’s basement who thinks he struck gold by writing a top 10 hit and it’s absolutely infectious. Lyrically it might sound like Gary’s never been around either a girl or a beach and that’s just part of the charm. Wooooo!!!!
“Theme from the Godfather,” Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up, Professionals (2006)
MC: Full disclosure, I have absolutely no idea what year this song came out or really anything about the group Professionals. This track is featured on a compilation of obscure Belize music, but it came to my attention when I heard it for the first time courtesy of “Flat Tummy Tea,” off Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s excellent 2019 project Bandana. All I know is it’s one radical reinterpretation of the theme song to arguably the greatest movie of all-time. The Belize group takes the classical Italian stylings of the original, and gives it a heavy dose of psychedelic guitar tones, surging keyboard work, triumphant horns, and a funky bassline to boot. Whoever they may be, the Professionals serve up a track that you can’t refuse.
KG: This is the reimagining of a classic theme song that I didn’t know I needed until I heard it. The original has that ominous gangster vibe to it that commands respect from the room, and most importantly Don Coreleone, while this version is oozing in psych-y guitar and sounds that bring to mind a much more tripped out version of our favorite mobsters. Max and I did some fishing not too long ago as part of our camping trip up to the Sierra National Forest, wherein I asserted not to worry about dinner that night because I would be catching a fish for our group to eat. Let me be frank in saying we didn’t even get a nibble the entire time. We were not sleeping with the fishes that night, that’s for sure.
“Be Thankful for What You Got,” Reel to Reel, Love (1974)
MC: Some folks prefer their road trips to be speed-driven rides through the gates of hell “Born to Be Wild,” style. On the flip-side, I find taking it easy and enjoying the scenery is much more my cup of tea for long-distance trips and few songs accommodate that kicked-back and cruise-worthy feeling quite like Love’s cover of this William DeVaughn soul classic. The highlight track from the last album released by Arthur Lee’s seminal Los Angeles psychedelic group Love, which featured a more funk and soul oriented sound than its predecessors. While the sound of the track is a far cry from the psychedelic folk style of their 1967 magnum opus, Forever Changes, it rides a funky groove from start to finish and features a hook that’s as smooth as they come. It’s the type of timeless track that damn near everyone can appreciate; and if your road trip company can’t enjoy, it might be in your best interest to just pull over, drop them off on the side of the highway, and keep the vibe alive.
KG: I was forced to sit in the back middle seat for the majority of our road trip last month. While many people would sulk at the idea of having to sit bitch seat for such a long ride, I for one struggle due to my wide-set hips and tendency to play jello at any opportunity when making a turn, I tried to make the best of it by being as obnoxious as possible. People don’t realize the power the middle seat-sitter wields in a packed car. You can land jokes with the people sitting next to you fairly easily (If you’re doing it right, they won’t have the option to tune out) and, with only a slight rise of the voice, can command attention from those lucky ass front seat passengers as well. If you’re annoyi…ahem…entertaining enough to the rest of the car, they may let you trade seats! Otherwise they’ll probably just pull over, drop you off on the side of the highway, and keep the vibe alive.
“When The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” Garcia (Compliments), Jerry Garcia (1974)
MC: Originally penned by Smokey Robinson, this track showcases a warm, pop-driven side of Garcia that is largely absent from his landmark work with the Grateful Dead. Garcia forgoes his usual improvisational Americana inclinations and just digs into the song’s simple but brilliant melody with that sweetly vulnerable voice of his. The guitar work that is featured throughout this track is subtly jazzy and the percussion is sparse yet funky. It’s an unexpectedly concise pop nugget from a man who’s musical reputation does not generally evoke the word “concise,” and demonstrates just how versatile a musician and interpreter Garcia was.
“Silver Trembling Hands,” Embryonic, The Flaming Lips (2009)
MC: The wonderfully weird sound of the late-career Flaming Lips at their most unhinged, this track takes the Pixies “quiet-loud-quiet” dynamics and switches it to “frantic-blissful-frantic.” Between shrieking monkey noises and a fuzzed-out, pulsating bassline on the verses of this track, the Lips craft a claustrophobic soundscape that strikingly evokes a gorilla chasing you through a labyrinth while you’re on a head full of acid (can’t say it’s happened to me, but if it did I’d imagine it would sound like this). As bizarre and freaked-out as I might have made those verses just sound, they have an enhancing effect in making the chorus sound like pure psychedelic bliss. Listen to the chorus once and you’ll immediately understand why it’s being highlighted in a playlist called Cannabis Cuts. It’s an easy showcase for what made The Flaming Lips one of the most inventive psychedelic groups of the 2000s.
KG: As someone who is intrigued by the idea of playing tag with a gorilla while on acid, I definitely understand where the connection you’re making comes from. Portions of this song where it’s just the drums and wonky bass make it feel like you’re sprinting through an echoing cavern, every step vibrating through the entire corridor. No other band so closely presents moments of psychedelic bliss and unhinged chaos like the Lips do. It’s a testament to their ability to get very weird, very quickly.
“Black Butter, Past,” Wake Up…It’s Tomorrow, Strawberry Alarm Clock (1968)
MC: I had always thought of Strawberry Alarm Clock as a bit of a late 60s novelty act based off of their outlandish name and the fact that I thought they were purely a one-hit wonder with “Incense and Peppermints” (a great but also outlandish song in its own right). However, after enough recommendations from some highly trusted fellow music nerds I dug into their discography and found that the Glendale group created a wealth of fantastic psychedelic pop music during their existence. This song stood out as a highlight based on the strength of its incredible keyboard that ensues right when the song slows down after the guitar solo. It’s a track that swings with a profoundly jazzy influence, but couldn’t be mistaken for anything but psychedelic rock music.
“Only a Shadow,” Midnight Cleaners, The Cleaners From Venus (1982)
MC: This track has been easily one of my most-played discoveries of 2020, largely due to that infectious earworm of a guitar riff that hooks you right out the gate. The song is three-and-a-half minutes of lo-fi power pop perfection crafted by English DIY legend Martin Newell under the guise of his The Cleaners From Venus project. Like many of Kevin’s “incel collective” favorites, Newell circumvented traditional label releases and self-released dozens of full-length projects via cassette throughout his career – all of which have been made substantially more accessible in the streaming age. In addition to his prolific career as a lo-fi pop artist, Newell has also authored books, poetry, and written weekly columns…talk about a Renaissance man.
KG: The funny thing about these DIY home-recording artists is that their productions often sound fantastic for the low grade equipment they are using. It begs the question of whether their music would be great if they had the opportunity to record in a high quality studio or does the novelty of an unpolished sound make the songs they create appealing? Regardless, it seems like this guy has a lot more going for him than our incel collective friends. I’m not sure if a written weekly column with GARY (Wilson) sounds intriguing or terrifying.
“Three Imaginary Boys,” Three Imaginary Boys, The Cure (1979)
MC: The title track of The Cure’s debut is a shadowy post-punk song that manages to also feel sneakily psychedelic despite its sparse arrangement. Even at just 20 years old, Robert Smith’s knack for pop songcraft grounds the song in accessibility despite its mysterious, echo-laden atmosphere complete with a droning guitar solo. Smith and The Cure would go on to make considerably more ambitious songs and albums, but this track along with the rest of their debut exemplified how completely original of a sound they had from the get-go. The bass is springy, the drums and guitar are tight, Smith’s croon is utterly unique and exhilarating, and the group delivers another fantastic pop song draped in their own eerie brand of post-punk.
KG: Interesting to note that this is the only album in The Cure’s discography that they are not listed as one of the primary producers and have gone on the record saying they had little to no creative control with how the album would sound. Maybe a poor choice from music label Fiction, seeing as The Cure would go on to create a unique sound all to themselves on future records. What we can appreciate is the shimmering songwriting talent of Robert Smith already exposing itself to the world.
“I Found a Reason,” Loaded, The Velvet Underground (1970)
MC: It’s pretty mind boggling that a band that made some of the most intentionally noisey and abrasive music of its era like The Velvet Underground was just as capable of making stunningly gorgeous tracks like this one. Loaded is a start-to-finish perfect rock album, but the harmonies that buoy this track sung by Lou Reed and bassist Doug Yule make for easily the album’s most tender moment. Lyrically it’s a remarkably simple love song, but the track’s instrumental and vocal arrangement result in a deeply-moving yet understated powerhouse of a pop ballad. It seems outrageous that commercial success evaded a group as consistently talented and brilliant as The Velvet Underground for their whole career, but like all great art their music remains just as potent today as it did 50 years ago – there’s just a lot more people listening in now.
“Cortez the Killer,” Zuma, Neil Young (1975)
MC: If you’re cultured, a long road trip is always the perfect opportunity to break out and appreciate some lengthier epics, and this classic Neil Young and Crazy Horse slow-burner never fails on the open road. Neil gives an absolutely inspired, distorted guitar performance that lives up to his “Godfather of Grunge” nickname. His historical lyrics depicting the idyllic life of the Aztecs with human sacrifices and no war definitely take some liberties, but his main depiction of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés as a man who began the death of a native empire is dead on. Regardless of the history, this song is always a reminder of the range of emotion that the guitar is capable of playing despite Neil’s typically uncomplicated approach. It’s a seven-and-a-half minute reminder of why Young was arguably the most brilliant songwriter of the 70s.
“It Hurts to Be Alone,” The Wailing Wailers, The Wailers (1965) MC: While the music that Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and Bob Marley would go on to create together as The Wailers undeniably would surpass this, there’s something truly special and raw about their earliest recordings like this one. This one has more in common with soul than ska, and the vocal performances from the young trio are rich with emotion. The jazzy guitar soloing that shows up all over this track is equally as soulful and dynamic. It’s drenched in an intangible sort of nostalgic quality that makes it the perfect closing credits song for good times shared with good people.
Welcome to the sixth installment of our (usually) bi-weekly Cannabis Cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. This week we’re taking a look at some of our favorite new wave, post-punk, and synth-pop recordings from the late 1970s and 1980s, an era that’s influence permeates so much of the music we hear today. It’s your parents’ indie and alternative:
“Not Great Men,” Entertainment!, Gang Of Four (1979)
KG: I think post-punk is most identifiable through shrill, piercing electric guitars, simple yet punchy bass lines and, at some point, a near indiscernible vocalist muttering over a sound pallet that evokes debauchery in the United Kingdom. “Not Great Men” was released on the heels of the United Kingdom’s “Winter of Discontent,” a slumping economic and social period in the modern UK. Fortunately for us music fans, this gloomy stretch of time was juxtaposed with an artistic explosion of tunes that captured the dismal uncertainty of what the future would hold. Entertainment!, Gang Of Four’s debut record, is not a pocketful of sunshine– it’s brash in the best way possible. And that’s okay. Music that expresses an overall societal mood is imperative to understanding the context of any record you’re listening to. Although my personal Winter of Discontent was the one I gained 15 pounds during.
“Marquee Moon,” Marquee Moon, Television (1977)
MC: If the title track for your debut album is a guitar epic for the ages, things bode well for you. Tom Verlaine and Co. took on post-punk and new wave (genre names that had yet to be coined at the time) and reintrerpeted it like it was improvisational jazz. The resulting product is a sound that feels completely unique to the group itself and hasn’t quite been replicated by anyone since. The nervous energy in the verses brings to mind the new wave stylings of early CBGB cohorts Talking Heads, but the extended guitar solo which features heavy inteplay between both Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd is so wickedly innovative that it can go toe-to-toe with the best art rock and psychedelic guitar passages. As weird of a contradiction as the classification of art-punk may sound, this is a monumental recording for the space that those two terms exist in.
“Making Plans For Nigel,” Drums and Wires, XTC (1979)
KG: As a child of the early 2000’s, the name Nigel has become synonymous with that of the Wild Thornberrys, a Nickelodeon show that I can literally tell you nothing about because I don’t remember any of the plot, or episodes, just the existence of a cheeky British chap named Nigel and his seemingly rabid son, Donnie (who is voiced by Flea!!!). After typing that out, I feel that it’s essential for me to give you a ranking of my favorite Nickelodeon shows from my childhood.
Spongbob – I will not entertain discourse on this, the first 4 seasons of Spongebob are as strong of a stretch of animated television as possible.
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide – Did anyone else show up to their middle school thinking this show would be their guiding light to success?
Legends of the Hidden Temple – THE BLUE BARRACUDAS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN, WHAT A WIN! I was absolutely terrified of the temple guards lurking the halls during the final temple run.
Ben 10 – That watch had to be expensive.
And by the way, this song is awesome too!
MC: Spongebob Squarepants was the foundation of my childhood as well. While we’re here in Cannabis Cuts, if you get high and are searching for something to watch, watching the strange happenings that go down in Bikini Bottom still hold up remarkably well. If you believe your humor has outgrown Spongebob then you just aren’t funny anymore. On the other hand, I have no clue what Legends of the Hidden Temple is.
KG: Not knowing what Legends of the Hidden Temple is… I knew our tastes clashed, but I didn’t know you were simply uncultured. What a Purple Parrots thing to say.
“Outdoor Miner,” Chairs Missing, Wire (1978)
MC: A delightfully weird little pop song by one of the most important groups involved in the creation of post-punk, “Outdoor Miner” is one of those incredibly brief tracks that manages to feel fully formed in spite of its run time clocking in at under two minutes. After creating a template for future hardcore punk acts on their wildly influential debut Pink Flag (1977), the London group expanded their style to feature more complex arrangements, implemented more synths and keyboards, and drew influence from art rock and psychedelia on their also fantastic sophomore effort Chairs Missing. While the group is best known for their angular and punkier sound, this more subdued track allows their knack for writing unorthodox pop melodies to take center stage.
KG: For a tiny nugget of a song, this thing can’t decide whether it wants to be a more straightforward pop banger, a psych-pop song or a post-punk jam. I say that in the best way possible, there really is no pigeonholing this track into one specific area.
“The Great Curve,” Remain in Light, Talking Heads (1980)
KG: “The world moves on a woman’s hips,” David Byrne yelps out as the third verse begins; surrounded by a tornado of African-inspired percussion, iconically Talking Heads jangle-guitar, a slick brass section and impeccably timed background vocalists to parrot Byrne’s unique cadence. The magic is in the incredible combination of elements that go into a Talking Heads track, every sound you hear feels like it was perfectly improvised to complement the overall soundscape. But Remain in Light, Talking Heads fourth studio album, was hardly a coincidental success – it was the continuation of an already stellar three album run that saw Talking Heads blend post-punk and art-pop in a way that hadn’t really been felt on the mainstream level. And they did it masterfully. A Culture Blender favorite Brian Eno gets the production nod on this record, and his influence can be perceived throughout, notably on the tripped out guitar solo that enters about two minutes into “The Great Curve”.
MC: The African polyrhythms that are heard all over Remain in Light were directly inspired by Brian Eno’s introduction of the group to the music of legendary Nigerean Afrobeat bandleader Fela Kuti. He’s one of the most fascinating figures in modern music, was a Nigerean human rights activist, and it’s a shame he doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough given his incredible discography and influence. If you like what you hear on this track I’d definitely recommend giving him a listen.
“M.E.” The Pleasure Principle, Gary Numan (1979)
KG: A dystopian track sung from the perspective of the last living machine on the remaining barren wasteland of Earth, by happenstance, Gary Numan had successfully written the plot to Wall-E years before it was even a passing thought on the mind of Pixar’s screenplay writers. There is no EVE in this version of the movie though, just bone-chilling synthesizers that make you feel like you’re rolling around in a giant metallic box. The conversation about new wave and synth-pop music needs to start with Gary Numan. He is a visionary ahead of his time, applying musical textures that matched a world bursting with innovative, scary technology and no concept of the power these devices had. Microwaves? Invented in 1946, but I’m just gonna imagine he didn’t know what they were until 1979. They kept him up at night.
“Uncertain Smile,” Soul Mining, The The (1983)
MC: Kevin discussed Soul Mining’s other crown jewel in our third installment of Cannabis Cuts, but this track is equally mesmerizing. It strikes a perfect balance between melancholy, infectious hooks, and a downright ecstatic piano solo by a man who would go on to host a BBC institution, and known Def Leppard disrespecter: Jools Holland. When was the last time you listened to a pop track with a banger piano solo…those moments feel far and few between. Anyways, this album and this track seem to have gained cult-status as hidden classics from the era, and in the age of streaming there’s no reason for their brilliance to stay hidden any longer.
KG: I already had an idea that I would really like this Jools Holland guy, but the Def Leppard shade definitely solidified it. Along with the piano solo is an incredible arrangement of synths unique to Matt Johnson, his sound is very particular and recognizable. And if you weren’t sold on Johnson’s group The The yet, Johnny Marr joins them for 2 of their late 80’s albums. Please indulge.
“Strangelove,” Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode (1987)
KG: Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode’s aptly named 1987 album, rocked the boat in terms of bringing their often cynical synth themes to the mainstream club-rocking level. On prior albums, specifically Black Celebration, Depeche Mode had a more artistic element to their music rather than making straight bops. Not to say that Music for the Masses doesn’t have some songs that are a bit lower key, “Pimpf” is a downward spiral into unknown oblivion, but I feel as though they really met their mark when trying to make an album for mainstream consumption. And Music for the Masses is but a subtle precursor to their incredible follow-up record Violator, which took over radio waves for years to come. In the meantime, dance the night away to the intoxicating beat on “Strangelove”.
“Goodbye Seventies,” Upstairs at Eric’s, Yaz (1982)
KG: Have you ever wondered where La Roux was inspired to make her synth-pop revival hit of the 2000’s, “Bulletproof”? Well wonder no longer, because I think I found it! Yaz, known as Yazoo in the UK, was a synth-savouring duo comprised of former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke and blues/soul inspired vocalist Alison Moyet. This oddball tandem actually worked out incredibly well, Clarke’s driving synthesizers paired extraordinarily with Moyet’s booming voice, creating a mesh that doesn’t really sound like anyone else in their genre. I guess people probably think the oddball tandem of Max and Kevin work surprisingly well, if only they knew that Max and I have a career losing record at most partner drinking games. Please play better defense in beer-dye, will you Max?
KG: Let the record show that I defeated Max in a thrilling 13-11 (win by 2) cornhole game this past weekend, please come back with something more offensive once you can get the sand-bag through a hole.
“I Want A Dog,” Introspective, Pet Shop Boys (1989)
KG: Pet Shop Boys are a mainstay of the 80’s for their ability to craft catchy synthesizer heavy pop music with powerful lyrical themes that were yet to be fully explored. Take, for instance, their 1986 debut album Please, which depicted stories of homosexual life and love in an openness that was uncommon at the time, but with such ambiguity that it could be extrapolated to heterosexual life as well. The writing is witty and often comes off as tongue-in-cheek, but every word Pet Shop Boys utter carries meaning. “I Want A Dog,” off of their 1989 album Introspective, revolves more heavily around the music than lyrics. A phat synth bass line covers the entire track in an endlessly dance-y loop, making for a perfect club track. The standout here is a fun keyboard solo about halfway through the song, effortlessly jumping up and down as the beat pushes forward.
MC: The Pet Shop Boys: Olympic Institution. Kev and I are gonna need to figure out how to replicate this for Halloween 2020.
“Dream Attack,” Technique, New Order (1989)
MC: It’s pretty remarkable to think that out of the ashes of the wildly influential Joy Division, the remaining members went on to create some more of the most wildly influential music of the 1980s as New Order. After evolving out of the the sound of their former band the group became as equally adept at creating post-punk masterpieces as they were synth-driven club anthems – “Blue Monday” is the highest selling 12” of all-time, not bad for what started as an alternative rock group. “Dream Attack,” is the perfect combination of the group’s guitar impulses, blended with the Ibiza acid house sound from the electronic scene they had no small part in creating. Feels worth noting that if I was creating a 1980s alternative All-Star team Peter Hook would be starting at bassist hands down. Anyways, the song maintains a euphoric and danceable quality while also sounding nearly entirely organic. Without New Order’s genre-fusing influence in the 1980’s, there’s not a chance that LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy, Hot Chip, and countless other indie-dance acts would be quite who they are today.
KG: I played this song at a busy tennis court during one of Max and my legendary tennis matches and it garnered many curious glances at our court. Playing sports to upbeat 80’s music makes every motion feel like you’re in a montage, it’s fucking awesome. There is a required listening section to this song, simply one of my favorite little dance breakdowns I have ever heard. 1:30-1:50. Get funky!
“Laughing,” Murmur, R.E.M. (1983)
KG: The last time we found R.E.M. on a Cannabis Cuts playlist we were examining “Near Wild Heaven” off of their chart topping 1991 record Out of Time. Backtrack eight years to the release of their debut album Murmur and we find a much different Michael Stipe and co. making songs under the R.E.M. banner. This iteration of R.E.M. is a post-punk powerhouse, ignoring the prominent use of synthesizers and guitar solos for a more subtle, lo-fi sound that fits in perfectly with the time. “Laughing” features cryptic Michael Stipe lyrics delivered in a darker manner than future records, leaving plenty of room for the jangly-arpeggio guitar to weave its way in between lyrics. I hear shades of early Smiths records on this song, impressively so when you consider how much R.E.M. developed their sound over time.
“Christine,” Kaleidoscope, Siouxsie and the Banshees (1980)
MC: Siouxsie and the Banshees strike a wildly successful balance between psychedelic rock and post-punk on this highlight from their third album Kaleidoscope. Frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux cooly delivers impressionistic lyrics over a standout bassline, and phenomenal guitar work from John McGeoch. Everyone from The Smiths to Radiohead to the Weeknd have all expressed reverence for this group and it’s not hard to see why when they tackled so many styles with great levels of success. Sioux remains one of the most influential frontwomen from the era as well, frequently cited by female alternative artists, like Kim Deal of the Pixies and Madley Croft of The XX, as a trailblazer for women within the genre in terms of unique and expressive stage presence and vocal delivery.
“Girl Afraid,” Louder Than Bombs, The Smiths (1987)
MC: Unfortunately for all, the Morrissey of 2020 is an insufferable prick with outspoken far-right and anti-immigration views. However, to discount the work of The Smith’s as a group when discussing the finest acts of the 1980s is simply impossible, largely due to the incredible songwriting partnership of Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. In the span of five years the group recorded four fantastic LP’s and dozens of remarkably high quality singles. Morrissey delivered anti-establishment, clever and frequently tragic lyrics that inspired a level of fan-devotion that few acts before or since have ever encountered. Johnny Marr’s impeccable guitar work, which is featured in all its jangly glory on this track, is the motor that made The Smiths truly exceptional. Featured on the remarkably good Hatful of Hollow and Louder Than Bombs compilations, this track was initially released as the B-Side to “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” The strength of songs that The Smith’s were putting out on B-sides during their short career is a testament to their remarkable consistency as songwriters. So if you’ve never made the dive into the discography of The Smiths and want to know what all the fuss is about, my best advice is to block out what you know about Morrissey today, ignore the preconceived notions about the Tumblr aesthetic that made liking The Smiths a personality trait, and enjoy the songs. When I’m able to do the same and appreciate the music, I find that I’m listening to my favorite group from the 1980s.
KG: This Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey Deschanel scene from 500 Days of Summermakes me laugh and showcases that weird romanticized view of the band. I guess the natural sad-boi tendencies of Morrissey were ideal for message boards like Tumblr, hopefully there are some funny GIF’s of him being an ass so we can embarrass him now. But even with that, “i said i love the smiths.”
“Atmosphere,” Atmosphere – Single, Joy Division (1980)
MC: In the last edition of Cannabis Cuts I wrote about how Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” has this quality where it just “sounds fucking massive.” Well file this Joy Division cut right up there next to it, because it’s about as spacious and vast sounding of a track as you’ll ever encounter. The title of this track is absolutely on-the-nose in the sense that the band, primarily driven by Stephen Morris’ ominous percussion and Bernard Sumner’s icy synths, conjures up an atmosphere so gorgeous that even frontman Ian Curtis’ anguished lyrics and deep baritone vocals manage to sound sublime. Within two months of this track’s release, Curtis took his own life, but the musical legacy and influence he left behind is staggering. It’s hard to imagine The Cure’s magnum opus Disintegration existing without Joy Division compositions like this one, and more recent indie rock groups like Interpol, Radiohead and The National all are indebted in no small part to the Manchester group. Joy Division’s recorded output spanned barely two years from their first EP to their final album, but the amount of influence they subsequently provided to countless artists is incalculable.
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Single, Bauhaus (1979)
MC: The song responsible for the birth of goth rock absolutely exemplifies the genre’s namesake with nearly ten minutes of dark, mysterious and dub-influenced atmospherics. Coupled with Peter Murphy’s downright eerie vocal delivery of lyrics about the former Dracula actor Bela Lugosi, it’s absolutely apparent why he’s become subsequently known as the Godfather of Goth. And even if you don’t fancy yourself as the type who wears excessive eyeliner and owns a black cat, this track still is still well worth your time for that outrageously tight rhythm section and remarkable production. Also the fact that Peter Murphy was able to perform the entirety of this song hanging upside-down to open their 2005 Coachella reunion show is probably one of the more impressive moments in the festival’s history, easily right up there with Whethan bringing out the WalMart yodeling kid in 2018.
KG: I need to start doing more stuff hanging upside-down if I ever want to be one of the best. Writing Cannabis Cuts upside-down wouldn’t be that much of a challenge, maybe if I had more blood in my brain I would be funnier.
“A Forest,” Seventeen Seconds, The Cure (1980)
KG: In the same vein as “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” this song is instrumental in the development of the goth-rock sound that The Cure trademarked during their career. A heavily distorted soundscape opens the song, creating an eerie backdrop that would match well with a stroll in a haunted forest like Mirkwood. A gentle guitar slowly plays, building up steam before a slight pause… only to be interrupted by the compressed drums kicking in and turbo charging this song to space. Robert Smith is much more laid back on this song than later works, his heavily delayed vocals fit the mood of the track perfectly. The spacey distorted guitar that persists throughout the song, looming in the background like a giant willow tree swaying in the wind, is a stylistic choice that turned out to be one of the more influential ideas The Cure ever had. Props to them, my favorite band of 2020 so far.
MC: Easily one of my favorite tracks by one of my favorite groups of all-time, “A Forest” is early Cure at their most foreboding and propulsive. Groups like DIIV seemingly owe their entire existence to the sounds and textures that Robert Smith created on Cure tracks like this one. Few bands ever made existential dread sound as inviting and captivating as The Cure.
“Charlie Don’t Surf,” Sandinista!, The Clash (1980)
MC: The Clash might have been one of the definitive punk acts at the start of their career, yet their constant experimentation with other genres while maintaining punk’s ethos resulted in their seminal double album London Calling. One year later, clearly with more ideas than they knew what to do with, they released the triple album Sandanista! It was a wild blend of punk, disco, dub, rockabilly, reggae, funk, and even hip-hop, on which the band’s restless experimentation alienated some punk fans, but helped to inspire the world music trend that developed to greater prominence throughout the 1980s. The band took cuts on their royalties to sell the album at a lower price, and featured some of Joe Strummers most pointed political lyrics. Amongst all the genres is this weird post-punk/surf-rock hybrid that cribs it’s title from an Apocalypse Now quote. Whoever thought that four punks from London would be an influence Orange County’s surf rock prodigal sons, The Growlers?
“She’s Leaving,” Architecture & Morality, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1981)
KG: This 1981 track off of OMD’s seminal record Architecture & Morality is an absolute belter of a song, asking to be wailed along with Andy McCluskey’s somber voice. “She’s Leaving” is a blueprint of the synth-pop genre, depicting the vast soundscapes that can be created with the use of electronic instruments. I envision soaring in the air when I hear this song, looking down from a birds eye view at the tiny specks of civilization below. There is a grand sense of purpose that I can’t quite put my finger on. Regardless, it is well worth a stoned listening in order to take it all in.
“Just Like Honey,” Psychocandy, The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)
MC: Last week Kevin and I were having a lovely chat about his long overdue foray into the world of shoegaze, and he seemed perplexed at how in the early 90’s acts like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive were coming seemingly out of nowhere with this weird wall-of-guitar approach to writing pop songs. Well when it comes to shoegaze, just about all roads lead back to the debut album by Scottish group The Jesus and Mary Chain. From the opening drum riff, borrowed from The Ronette’s “Be My Baby,” this track exemplifies the shoegaze template that they had a heavy hand in creating. It’s a sugar-sweet pop song coated in hearty helping of shimmering guitar distortion – a modern take on the Wall of Sound production that Phil Spector became known for with groups like the Ronettes. They might not have as rabid of a modern following as The Smiths or The Cure, but The Jesus and Mary Chain are undoubtedly amongst the most influential groups from the era.
KG: Last week Max and I were having a lovely chat about his long overdue foray into the world of HotWheels, and he seemed perplexed at how in the early 00’s cars like Matchbox and Roblox were coming seemingly out of nowhere with this weird tiny-toy-car approach to making pop toys. Well when it comes to HotWheels, just about all roads lead back to toxic masculinity and bad bowl cuts.
Welcome to the fifth installment of our (usually) bi-weekly Cannabis Cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. We’re back with an eclectic platter of chestnuts and epics bound to enrich your ears and your life:
“Maggot Brain,” Maggot Brain, Funkadelic (1971)
MC: We’re coming out swinging on this installment by kicking things off with the track that features my single favorite guitar solo of all-time. This track consists merely of a spoken-word intro and said guitar solo – which takes up just about the entirety of Funkadelic’s ten-minute magnum opus. Legend has it that Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel recorded his guitar part for this breathtaking epic in just one take after Parliament-Funkadelic leader George Clinton told Hazel to play as if he had just gotten the news that his mother had died. And the way Hazel wrings every cry, moan, and contemplation out of his guitar it’s easy to believe. It’s a downright Hendrixian display of what the guitar can achieve, and after countless listens I still find myself completely in awe of its beauty and emotional scope.
KG: Actions are louder than words, and the impassioned guitar on this song conveys about as much emotion as any lyric ever could. It’s a winding journey of sound that kicks up and down as feelings swell and subside. Like the swirling tension of a contested tennis match that is only lost because I can’t serve. That’s just how I feel, ya know.
“Race for the Prize,” The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips (1999)
KG: By the time The Flaming Lips had released their breakthrough album, 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, they had already spent over a decade together as a band, dabbling in experimental art-rock productions that were a far cry from the symphonic neo-psychedelic pop they became popular for. “Race for the Prize” is a testament to their change in sound, a grandiose song made with commercial-friendly listening in mind. Highlighted by the swirling orchestral synthesizers that push the song along like a strong gust of wind, “Race for the Prize” is a blueprint for the mainstream psychedelic rock revival found in artists such as Tame Impala and Pond. Just like ogres, this song is layers upon layers deep (of sound).
MC: Each time I’ve seen the Flaming Lips, this is the song near the beginning of the set that announces that you’re in for a complete spectacle and celebratory experience. The opening drum kicks that precede that explosion of strings also announce explosions of confetti cannons, huge-ass balloons, and singer Wayne Coyne rolling all over the place in a hamster ball. It’s gleeful, psychedelic, and could make even the biggest cynic crack an unknowing smile. The first time I ever saw the Lips it was at the Del Mar Racetrack with my family and my youngest brother who must’ve been in around first grade at the time. In the joy of the moment, he wound up and kicked one of said huge-ass straight into the back of the woman in front of us’s head, fortunately balloons don’t hurt and we all shared a chuckle but that’s easily one of my most vivid memories from the first time I saw The Flaming Lips.
“Megumi The Milkyway Above,” Forever Dolphin Love, Connan Mockasin (2014)
KG: One of the saddest moments of my concert attendance career was the night Connan Mockasin got completely rained out by a storm during Desert Daze 2018. Max and I had left our belongings in my apparently rainwater-philic tent before walking into the festival that day. It was late in the evening, Tame Impala was on stage and had just completed their dramatic performance of “Let It Happen,” with Connan Mockasin scheduled to appear soon after. In the blink of an eye, rain and lightning began bombarding the area behind the stage. Tame Impala was quickly ushered offstage and a lone stagehand made their way to the microphone. “THE SHOW IS NOT CANCELLED” they yelled out, before advising us to evacuate the immediate area. Spoiler: the show was cancelled. We lumbered through the festival grounds, absolutely soaking wet at this point, until we reached what we thought would be the warm haven of our campsite. Everything was drenched. Max and I ended up sleeping in my car that night. The question marks still loom over my head, what would it have been like to see the enigmatic Connan Mockasin at a tripped out music festival? My day to see Connan will come, but for now, I leave you with his stoney sophomore effort that sounds like the Beatles took salvia. Good luck!
MC: This night was simultaneously the most tragic and hilarious night I’ve ever experienced at a festival. Just about everything that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong and we were just along for the ride. There could be far worse Connan Mockasin replacements than the back and forth aux cord session that occurred in Kevin’s Subaru that night. Unrelated to this tale, but my girlfriend told me not too long ago how surprised she was to learn that Connan Mockasin is alive (she must have mistook him for someone else) which makes me smile because now everytime I listen to him I get to celebrate the fact that there still is a chance that Kevin and I can get a redemption concert in with him at some point.
“Sweet Thing,” Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)
MC: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is such an anomaly of an album. In 1968 the Irishman who penned “Brown Eyed Girl,” took a hard left turn and created a meandering jazz-folk, stream of consciousness, pastoral record that features not a single thought about radio play. This track tumbles forward with classical guitar, strings, double bass, and Morrisson’s impressionistic lyrics about love and nature. Compositionally it’s really unorthodox, but the results are positively uplifting and beautiful. Go for a walk outdoors, toss this in your earbuds, and tranquility seems to always ensue.
“Only a Fool Would Say That,” Can’t Buy a Thrill, Steely Dan (1972)
MC: Growing up as a kid who revered The Clash and all things rock n roll, I despised Steely Dan since they were always what my dad would put on when my jazz-loving grandparents came over for dinner. I always considered it schmaltzy, edgeless, and the kind of soft-rock lounge music that only old folks would ever have any inclination to listen to. I’m not sure what flipped, but my freshman year of college I had what I refer to as the Great Yacht Rock Awakening of 2016 – unfortunately one year too late to appreciate their Coachella set that I was passively watching with my friends while eating my dinner. It was a moment where bands I considered remarkably uncool like The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, and yes, Steely Dan suddenly became constants in my rotation, purely off the notion that they had a damn good handle on writing a perfect pop song. While I can’t say I ever actively will throw on a full-length album from those first two artists I mentioned today, my reverence for The Dan has only grown over the years. Each of Steely Dan’s first seven albums are well worth your time, and I’ve come to view Walter Becker and Donald Fagen as the brilliant jazz-obsessed, genre smashing, pop auteurs that they deserved to be seen as. If you hear anyone ever claim that Steely Dan sucks, just remember that only a fool would say that.
KG: To label Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers as uncool is simply moronic, I’m glad that you have finally made some concessions to dad-hood and are ready to transition into a life of only wearing Kirkland brand apparel with the occasional floral Hawaiian shirt tossed in just to mix it up a little (my wife is out of town, now is a better time than ever). You know damn well that “Reelin’ In The Years” was placed at the center stage of my high school senior memoir (thanks for the props Mr. Trussel!), a generational anthem that will never ever be bad.
“Tender Object,” You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, Orange Juice (1982)
KG: You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever is a lost post-punk gem from the early 80’s. “Tender Object” is in some parts punk, some parts dance rock and all parts awesome. Edwyn Collins’ voice sounds like he is constantly congested, but his deep Scottish wail fits perfectly over the jangly guitar and punchy drums. This song reaches its peak at the culmination of a minute long instrumental breakdown from 2:30-3:30. These weird keyboard sounds that remind me of the noises my Tamagotchi used to make after not being fed enter the already grooving collection of instruments to create a synchronized jam. Then Collins re-enters the song and it creates a moment of pure dance-happy bliss.
“When You Sleep,” Loveless, My Bloody Valentine (1991)
KG: This is a big moment for me. I have been a controversially ardent shoegaze denier for the past few years, harvesting bountiful amounts of joy seeing Max fume at my anti-gaze rhetoric. Well the day has come. I decided to fully do the dive on shoegaze in order to gain a proper understanding of the genre and its seminal artists. I started by listening to Loveless, My Bloody Valentine’s highly regarded release from 1991 that is on the Mount Rushmore of shoegaze albums in terms of importance. And I was blown away. First and foremost, this is 100% music that needs to be consumed via headphones. The heavy, distorted soundscapes created by the band’s many droning guitars are near indiscernible when listening via a car speaker. The only way to truly appreciate the creative guitar interplay and surprisingly gentle vocal harmonies is by listening with some quality headphones. “When You Sleep” stands out because of its irresistible keyboard loop that appears throughout the song, adding an element of brightness to the otherwise gloomy sonic backdrop. The guitars perpetually buzz all around, the vocals are so deeply buried in the mix that you’ll need to really focus in order to catch what is being said, but… it all made sense. I found myself staring straight down at my worn out birkenstocks, blown away by the overwhelming stimulation of sound. I was gazing. Shoegazing. And it felt like my feet had been neglected from my sight for too long. While I’m here, I will plug a few more shoegaze albums that I have liked so far: Souvlaki by Slowdive, mbv by My Bloody Valentine, and the latest self-titled Slowdive record released in 2017.
MC: When you know you’re on the right side of history you can only hold fast in your beliefs and hope that those around you join you. I’ve known this day was coming for quite some time, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet – much like rattling off that debut 2K win against Kev last week. ‘Twas a good week.
KG: Oops shoegaze sucks again.
“Computer World 2,” Computer World, Kraftwerk (1981)
KG: August 4th, 1981: It’s 5:36 AM. You’ve been dancing in a back-alley Berlin club for the past 4 hours. The venue is dimly lit, with only a bright flashing strobe-light briefly illuminating the room to the beat of the song. Your body is weighed down by the lingering dehydration of a long night fist bumping in a sardine packed room, pushed to exhaustion from the collective warmth emanating off the local dance music scene abound. You struggle to make your way out of the dance floor, forced to duck and dive between zonked club-goers flailing in the pulsating air. Finally, you arrive at an isolated barstool placed precariously at the end of the bar. With a raspy groan, yearning to be quenched, you alert the bartender of your urgent need for water. Upon handing you a room temperature, mouth-wash sized, cup of water, you take a prolonged gulp to douse the arid condition of your throat. Satisfied, you signal the bartender back over to ask a question. Roaring like your dad trying to answer a Jeopardy question before Alex Trebek has completed reciting it to the contestants, you shout over the deafening music “Do you know the name of this song?” in garbled German poorly learned from Rosetta Stone. “I don’t know. It’s some weird computer shit, I kind of like it” they exclaim back. You dejectedly lean back against the bar and attempt to wipe the sweat from your brow… but something is wrong. Your forehead is metallic in texture and feel. The warm perspiration accumulating on your forehead is black. It’s motor oil. You were a robot this entire time. The sounds of unrefined musical machinery have seeped their way into your unsuspecting conscience. The computer world is now.
“The Big Ship,” Another Green World, Brian Eno (1975)
MC: The opening track to one of my all-time surf flicks, Kai Nevile’s Dear Suburbia, this song has this intangible emotive hugeness that makes anything it soundtracks, from taking a flight to a foreign land to wheeling the trash bins out to the curb, feel like it has all the weight, importance, and beauty of The Grand Canyon. It just sounds fucking massive. Over the past week or so I’ve been doing a deep dive into the Brian Eno discography and it’s stacked with interesting soundscapes, art rock classics, and the type of sonic ingenuity that has made him one of the single most influential figures in modern music. However, despite all the brilliance I’ve encountered throughout the time I’ve spent with his catalogue, nothing quite manages to floor me time after time like this track – but then again few tracks ever have.
KG: I would strongly advise any music fan to do the dive on Brian Eno’s solo record discography and all records that he has been a part of as a collaborator (Roxy Music) or producer. He is a musical auteur, an artist in its truest form. You can hear his artistic impression on almost all of the music he is a part of, it’s incredible. There is music for more casual settings, like “The Big Ship,” or maybe one of Eno’s ambient music selections for quiet studying. The options are endless!
“Pigs (Three Different Ones),” Animals, Pink Floyd (1976)
KG: The charged lyrics on Pink Floyd’s 1976 release, Animals, perfectly capture the feeling of downright discontent towards politicians and institutions of power in England and the greater Western world at the time. And boy do those lyrics still ring true today. It would be ridiculous for me to sit here and interpret Roger Waters’ brash vocals to you, it is abundantly clear the message he is sending. Let it resonate with you now as much as ever, “Haha, charade you are.”
MC: It’s one thing to make a politically charged rock and roll song, it’s another to make a politically charged space rock epic. The middle portion of the song settles into one of Pink Floyd’s trademark prolonged grooves and lets David Gilmour run wild with his guitar and a talk-box creating a much more menacing atmosphere with the effects at his disposal than Peter Frampton ever quite managed to convey. Like each of the epics on Animals, this track is right up there with Floyd’s best.
“Needledrop,” Needledrop, Session Victim (2020)
MC: German house duo Session Victim traded in their typically vibrant disco sound in favor of a more chilled-out and downtempo palette for their latest full-length LP. The result was one of my favorite electronic albums I’ve heard all year. It’s stacked full of songs like the title cut that bring to mind the vaguely psychedelic, blissful, crate-digging sounds of The Avalanches and Air. The track’s long-building intro sounds like you come off a crowded street and accidentally stumbled into the world’s coolest hotel lobby, filled with cocktails, velvet, and a concierge that hands you a complimentary joint on arrival. It’s certainly not the Hotel California.
“Sweet Life,” channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean (2012)
MC: “Why see the world when you’ve got the beach?” Frank Ocean ironically asks over one of breeziest, most soulful tracks in his discography, sounding just like 1970s Stevie Wonder beamed into the year 2012. Also ironically, this track is perfectly tailored for those summer afternoons lounging around in the sunshine, those afternoons where it seems inconceivable to ever want to leave the beach. The lyric of this track calls into question those whose wealth allows them to live in a bubble that causes them to not acknowledge the everyday problems of those who are less fortunate. It’s the perfect dichotomy between words and music that few current artists are able to create and is a true testament to Frank’s status as one of this era’s greats.
KG: Proper analysis on this one mate. Frank’s cool soulful beats behind him paint a serene picture of opulence, which is so cleverly ironic from his lyrics. I really like the Stevie Wonder comp on this one too. I’m not entirely sure who, if anyone in modern music, would even come close to being confidently compared to Wonder that isn’t Frank Ocean.
“If You Want Me to Stay,” Fresh, Sly & The Family Stone (1973)
MC: A minimal funk banger of the highest caliber, this track was the biggest hit from Sly & The Family Stone’s last true classic of an LP. It’s complete with Sly’s signature wails, a killer horn section, and the type of production that changed the way music was recorded from that point on. Brian Eno said the production on Fresh marked a transition in recording techniques to where the rhythm instruments like the bass drum and bass became the most important instruments in the mix in his famous lecture “The Studio as a Compositional Tool.” Regardless of the album’s tremendous influence which has spanned from Miles Davis to Childish Gambino, the song itself is undeniably catchy, funky, and feel-good.
“Something to Rap About,” Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist (2020)
MC: Since his 2014 classic Piñata with Madlib,Freddie Gibbs has become a model for consistency with each of his releases since ranging from good to great. Gibbs seems incapable of delivering a bum verse, but a large reason for his success can be attributed to the fact that he’s released two full lengths with Madlib and two more with The Alchemist. That’s like the rap equivalent to Steve Kerr winning a title with Phil Jackson in ‘98 only to win another with Greg Popovich in ‘99. Much like the systems of both those HOF coaches, the smooth and sample-filled beats that Madlib and The Alchemist tailor for Freddie give him the best opportunity to shine on the mic…and shine he does. The beat is silky, the Tyler verse is fantastic, and Freddie is right on target as always, it succeeds on every front. I might even dare to say that this song even manages to surpass Freddie and Tyler’s former collaborative high-water mark, “Storage War$,” which is no small creative feat. YAAAAWW!
KG: Since his 2013 album Pinata with Madlib, Freddie Gibbs has pretty much nailed the next 4-odd releases he has had. And Alfredo is no exception at all. The stringy, sample filled beats laid down by The Alchemist are a step in a totally different direction from the often trap-beat hip hop scene that is popular today. Freddie Gibbs doesn’t need to conform whatsoever. He is the Robert Horry of our generation.
“Veins,” Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt (2018)
KG: “Sittin’ on a star, thinking how I’m not a star” Earl muses in the back portion of this track. A line that subtly tells you everything Earl Sweatshirt has been feeling since his meteoric rise to fame as part of the Odd Future collective. He’s lonely, isolated from the celebrity garnered over the years. The growing expectation to release another hit is almost impossible to endure. But, while it hasn’t been a mainstream commercial success, Earl has continued to carve out his career as best he can. 2018’s Some Rap Songs was a long-awaited return to music with some of Earl’s most introspective and lyrically complex bars yet. The beats are choppy and crude, representing a complete stylistic overhaul in Earl’s life, let alone music. His talent is upper-echelon, Earl Sweatshirt is simply one of the greatest lyricists of the past 20 years. He doesn’t have to be a star to keep on shining.
“Is It Love?,” The Golden Age of Apocalypse, Thundercat (2011)
MC: My personal favorite track from Stephen Bruner’s first full-length is the perfect showcase for why so many (myself included) see him as the preeminent bassist in music today. It’s a psychedelic slab of jazz fusion, featuring a gorgeous orchestral outro. I had the chance to see Thundercat on his Drunk tour at the North Park Observatory a few years ago and there are very few musicians I’ve seen who have complete command over their instrument like Bruner has over his six-string bass. He’s a complete virtuoso in every sense of the word. On a more tragic note, in the midst of my awe over his God-like bass powers, I had my good friend’s wax pen yanked right out of my hand by a security guard who threatened to throw me out if I didn’t give it up. Between giving out of staters shit for their IDs and borderline groping people on pat-downs, North Park Observatory security has been known for excessively bad vibes over the years and I’d like to use this prominent public platform to convince all 14 of our readers to contact the venue and insist that their security team pulls the stick out of their collective ass. It’s a shame such a cool venue suffers from such archaic security practices.
“Babies,” His N Hers, Pulp (1994)
KG: “Babies” sounds like it was made in 1984 instead of 1994. The plodding guitar riff throughout the song is perfectly juxtaposed with a shining synth sound that paints a picture of the buzzy electronic 1980’s as opposed to the grunge-y 1990’s. Nevertheless, they are excellently complemented by Jarvis Cocker’s melancholic voice as he does his best David Byrne impression. It’s really fascinating when bands make music that doesn’t really fit with the contemporary music being created at the time. Is it a case of wearing past influences on your sleeve, ignoring the things that are coming out around you? Who knows, but this song bops!
“Junk,” McCartney, Paul McCartney (1970)
KG: I think this is my first inclusion of any song that is tangentially related to the Beatles and I am stoked that it gets to be from my personal favorite Beatle himself, Sir Paul McCartney. McCartney was a weird album for the Liverpool rockstar. Recorded in near secrecy due to the turbulent nature of his personal life (mostly because of the Beatles breakup and contentious relationship with his former bandmates), it features a lo-fi aesthetic that is much different from anything released under the Beatles name. “Junk” teeters the line between being an unfinished song and so sparsely recorded that it offers a larger emotional satisfaction. McCartney longingly recites objects in his life that are associated with memories, noting how they are slowly fading away and becoming “Junk.” It is a really personal song that I think everyone can relate to in some way or another. For me, that is my stuffed Los Angeles Angels rally monkey from the days of Vladimir Gurrero patrolling Right Field at the Big A and hitting dingers like it was no one’s business. Oh those memories seem so long ago Vlad, how I miss you.
MC: Big Daddy Vlade was not who I was expecting to show up in this Paul McCartney blurb, but now I too am sentimental for the days of Angels old. Somewhere in the depths of my room lies an old Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez bobblehead that reminds me of the ghosts of Angels past as well.
“Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel,” Townes Van Zandt, Townes Van Zandt (1969)
KG: Townes Van Zandt’s life and career were anything but typical. Marred by a difficult existence due to poverty, depression and drug abuse, Van Zandt poured his heart into his music and poetry as a means of catharsis. “Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel” is a folk epic off of his self-titled Townes Van Zandt album that sends chills down your spine with its deeply sentimental sound. Would urge any listener to keep a nice piece of wood on hand before beginning the song, because the moment it starts the sudden compulsion to start whittling is inevitable. Also this song calls for a large Gandalf pipe to smoke a bowl out of.
“Wild Horses,” Burrito Deluxe, The Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)
MC: What country rock crusader Gram Parsons managed to record, despite constantly living in excess, from 1968 until his death in 1974 is the definitive collection of what he called “Cosmic American Music,” an attempt to blend the simple storytelling and sound of country with the countercultural feel of rock music. From being the creative force behind The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to his seminal country rock recordings with The Flying Burrito Brothers, to his solo work that jump started the career of Emmylou Harri, Parsons’ influence in the late 60s and early 70s was ubiquitous wherever country and rock aligned. His influence on the mainstream, however, was felt strongest through his debaucherous friendship with Keith Richards, whom he reintroduced to country music. Apparently in attendance when Jagger and Richards were composing “Wild Horses,” Parsons received their blessing to record and put out his cover of the track nearly a year before the Stones released theirs. It’s hard to say if the Stones would have ever gained the inspiration for their greatest country rock composition with Parsons’ influence, but it feels unlikely. While certainly less popular than the Stones’ recording, Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ rendition has the earnestness of his best country recordings and the piano break towards the end is haunting. As someone who loudly dismissed nearly the entire genre of country for most of my life, Parsons has been a key to understanding the sometimes simple beauty of the genre’s best recordings and I’d heavily recommend giving his works a try for anyone seeking to do the same.
KG: My friend Kiana once told me that she doesn’t listen to songs that are longer than 6 minutes, with the exception of “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean. While we are all about “Pyramids,” it would be a real shame if she passed up on this absolute doozy of a Rolling Stones cover. Does the cut off start at 6 minutes and 1 second? Are songs that are 5 minutes and 59 seconds the equivalent of edging? Please help me explain to her the heinousness of this statement.