I had unintentionally loaded the front part of the back 50 with some serious albums. These were some seriously exciting ones for me, for various reasons. We would finally give a spin to a full album from one of my favorite rappers. There would be new albums from bands I’ve long loved, and old albums from classic voices. And, well, there was a lot of disappointment here. Let’s begin, shall we?
Firstly, that rap album, from Busta Rhymes, was just over-long. Many of the album’s tracks missed Busta’s explosive delivery, and ended up feeling aimless, and in the cyber-paranoia, false-flag era, an album themed after an apocalypse scenario feels a bit more stale than it may have nearly 20 years ago. It’s the sort of album that suggests I am far more of a track-by-track rap fan. This was followed by the latest Monster Magnet album, a band I’ve often loved for its cocky sci-fi bombast. That sort of deep-ego, unabashed rock and roll is something of a dying breed. With Last Patrol, though, the sludge-and-stoner rock that underpins many Monster Magnet songs seemed to be the feature. The band sounded tired, the album felt longer than Busta’s, and there was no particular standout Moving over to two indie rock gems, both new (The Antlers) and old (The Replacements), I tried and failed to be inspired. Whether it was my mood or the music, these ten albums were one “meh” after another.
The real disappointment here, for me, was Annie Lennox and her album Diva. Finally spinning this 90s solo debut from the influential Eurhythmics frontwoman, one of the highlights of the list for me, I was greeted by two of her hits, the seductive and enigmatic “Why” and the bouncy yet pleading masterpiece “Walking on Broken Glass.” From there, the album committed the worst sin possible: it wasn’t bad, though it certainly was dated… it was, instead, simply forgettable. For all the brilliance of the hits (including “Little Bird,” at turns sassy and soul searching), the album tracks felt like filler. This would come up in many other albums… classic, amazing songs seeming like anomalies in otherwise unremarkable albums… but this was the first real big disappointment. Again, I don’t think there was anything I’d be offended by (except maybe “Keep Young and Beautiful,” the sort of early snark about the culture of feminine beauty which feels a bit too serious to be a viable commentary or satire), but it was a letdown.
Thankfully, the final albums rounded out strong. I was given Ella Fitzgerald’s Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie as a suggestion which both intrigued me and worried me. I’m not a huge fan of that era of vocal jazz, but having someone list off a specific album instead of a compilation made me interested. It ended up refreshing me when I needed it most… the album was masterful and engaging and often fun, and it’s one of the few albums that truly caught me from the start. Past this, there was the doomy debut from local kids Bloodpheasant, somewhere between metal and post-rock, dark melody and dischord. It is probably the exact opposite of Ella, but appreciated for similar reasons… while the rest of these ten felt flat and dated, both of these albums came as a breath of fresh air.
The First Ten of the Second Half went like this:
51: Busta Rhymes – E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front
52: Monster Magnet – Last Parade
53: Antlers – Familliars
54: Replacements – Let It Be
55: Keren Ann – La Biographie de Luka Philipsen
56: Annie Lennox – Diva
57: Phish – Farmhouse
58: Dead Voices on Air – New Words Machine
59: Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!
60: Bloodpheasant – Traum