and the beat goes on.
10 albums you should be listening to right now.
by matt morin
It’s another hot summer in Sacramento and I’m 16 years old. My best friend, Eric, and I climb out of my dad’s Subaru and wander into a store no bigger than your living room. Inside this store is heaven.
And we’re going to buy a 12-inch piece of it.
The store is called The Beat and it’s a tiny, hole-in-the-wall record store filled with mismatched garage sale bookcases, peeling linoleum and concert posters on the walls. It’s this insignificant-looking suburban business that will change my life.
It’s where I learned to love music.
That summer Eric and I spent countless hours (and allowance money) in The Beat. We’d sit there for hours listening to 12 inch singles on vinyl, discovering new band after band.
We found stuff that wasn’t played on the radio. Some of it became classic. Some of it became forgettable. Some of it became revolutionary.
Used singles were $2 and sometimes we’d grab 10 of them without listening to more than a song or two. It wasn’t until we got home later that we’d discover if our gold was 24 carat or fools.
Love & Rockets
Eric B & Rakim
The Beat helped me learn to love music no one else listened to. It opened me up to appreciate all different styles. In high school you had the New Wave kids, the Heavy Metal guys, the Rap crowd, the Dance Music fans. I was all of the above. And that continues to this day. Just a few months ago I walked out of a record store with Judas Priest, Ella Fitzgerald, Massive Attack and DJ Ferry Corsten.
The clerk asked which ones were gifts and which were for me. I just smiled.
I think the one thing I love most about music is discovering something new. There’s no greater musical satisfaction than uncovering an album or artist that none of your friends know about. It’s fun to be able to say “Oh, I’ve been listening to them for years.” I take some satisfaction in being a music snob. However, the thing I love second most about music is telling someone “I have something you might like”…and then they end up loving it.
So that, my dear readers, is what I’m about to do. Here are my 10 favorite unknown albums. I hope you end up loving them.
Sunday 8 PM by Faithless
I think most people consider electronica to be soulless, repetitive bleeps and blips with very little musical talent behind it. Faithless proves those people wrong. This is a beautifully orchestrated album that mixes elements of R&B, house, soul and techno music. But don’t expect this to be completely a dance album. Many songs are as laid back as the CD’s title would suggest. Dido lends her perfect voice to a few tracks and even Boy George makes a guest appearance. This album make take a little time to grow on you, but it’s well worth the effort.
Leisure Noise by Gay Dad
I’ll tell you right now, I’m a sucker for power pop. There’s just something so…peppy about some kids with a few guitars and a good hook. And in a nutshell that’s the British band Gay Dad. All ten songs on this CD feature cool guitar riffs, catchy lyrics and a nice array of layered synth filling things out. They’re Coldplay on ecstasy or Oasis if they weren’t such assholes. Even their slow, depressing stuff like the song “Oh Jim” brings a smile to my face.
Back To Mine by Groove Armada
Compilations usually suck. Why? Because it’s all the trendiest crap some producer can get his hands on and make a quick buck with. That said, Back To Mine rocks. The basic idea behind BTM is one group gathers up 13 tracks that influenced them and their music. I own several of the BTM series but the best one is by funk giants Groove Armada. Somehow they manage to mix A Tribe Called Quest with Barry White with Al Green with Tears for Fears and make it work. Of course they also sprinkle in people you’ve never heard of, like Sir Raymond Mang, Roots Manuva and Schmoov. What it all adds up to is one amazingly eclectic, laid back groove that’s one of my very favorite CDs.
Do You Like My Tight Sweater by Moloko
I’m at a loss how to describe Moloko. They have lyrics like “Who would you be? / A Scooby Dooby / Bow wow wow wow.” They talk about going down on Mr. Spock and title songs “Dirty Monkey,” “Killa Bunnies” and “Who Shot the Go Go Dancer.” The lead singer is a combination between Macy Gray and Janice from the Muppet Show. They play funky, electronic grooves and bizarre keyboard screeches that sound like they’ve come back in time from the year 2095. They’re the weirdest music you’ll probably ever own. And you’ll love every last second of them.
The Niagara Niagara soundtrack
Not only have you never heard this CD, you’ve probably never seen this movie. It’s ok. Don’t. The movie - about two confused teens (one with Tourette’s Syndrome) who fall in love and run away - is utterly forgettable. The soundtrack, however, isn’t. Before this CD I hated folk music. Now I can’t say that. You can expect to find heart-breakingly beautiful, poignant, sad, touching tracks by artists like Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams and the Cowboy Junkies. If there’s a perfect post-breakup pity party album, this one’s it.
Way To Blue by Nick Drake
More than 20 years ago a sad young man by the name of Nick Drake accidentally overdosed on anti-depressants, ending a music career that had barely begun. But if you haven’t heard his name before, you’ve probably heard his music. He’s best known for his wonderfully melancholy “Pink Moon” that was used in a Volkswagen commercial a few years ago. Or maybe you know one of my all-time favorite songs, “Northern Sky” which was in the movie “Serendipity.” Either way, Way To Blue is a great introduction to this wonderfully deep, emotional artist.
#1 by Fischerspooner
Here’s Fischerspooner in a nutshell: Guy goes to film school. Makes a friend. Grows up to be wildly rich. Decides he wants to be a rock star. Finds old friend. Starts a band. Becomes a rock star in the most campy, over-the-top, goofy way possible. I’ll say right now, this music isn’t for everyone. It’s a strange blend of old Kraftwerks and Roland TR-808 synthesizers with some cheesy euro-pop and a little punk thrown in. But somehow it’s damn catchy. What Fischerspooner are best known for are their amazingly elaborate stage shows. (If you’re reading this on Monday, I’ll be at their show here in SF.) The album features a bonus DVD with all their videos and a hilarious documentary about the band that’s worth the sales price in itself. If you’re looking for something a little different, these guys fit the bill.
Another Late Night by Rae & Christian
This compilation is similar to the Back To Mine series. Selected artists are asked to create a compilation that embodies “Another Late Night.” What DJs Rae & Christian present is a silky smooth, utterly funky, kick-back-and-lounge album whose beats will make you in turn want to shake your ass, kick your feet up and sip a Cosmo, and make out with some hottie in a dark corner. They somehow even mix in commentary from a golf tournament and make it cooler than the other side of the pillow.
Ultra Chilled Volume 03
Ok, this is the last compilation, I swear. As a general rule, I avoid mixes with titles like “Super Dance Party USA!” or “Naked Grooves-a-licious.” Ultra Chilled would seem to fit that description. But this 2 disc set is filled with some of the best laid-back music you’ll find anywhere – perfectly remixed versions of Charlie Hunter and Norah Jones, Coldplay, and Beth Orton plus amazing artists you’re not familiar with like Supreme Being of Leisure or Koop. Disc 1 is more acoustic in nature. Disc 2 seems to have more electronic bands like Nightmares on Wax and Sasha, but keeps the relaxing vibe perfectly suited for…chilling.
Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis.
I have to give Jason Siciliano credit for this last one. He turned me on to this amazing album which was released in 1974 and somehow did not become one of the greatest albums of the century. A combination of funk and R&B somewhat reminiscent of Al Green, Shuggie fuses his smooth creamy lyrics with sexy guitar playing that screams “Let’s have hot monkey sex on a waterbed!” Of course this CD didn’t go entirely unnoticed. If you find yourself thinking you’ve heard several of these tracks before, you probably have – R&B acts have been sampling him for years.
So some of you may know a few of these CDs. Most of you won’t. But hopefully you’ll look into some of them and find the same magic that I found on those old bookshelves in The Beat. And if you know of any more good CDs, let me know, will you? A former Sacramento teenager would really appreciate it.
Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.
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9.15.03 @ 1:37a
Shuggie made it on the list!
9.15.03 @ 8:39a
"...cooler than the other side of the pillow"
I totally like that line. Now I'm off to search for some deals on CDs, just to give a listen.
9.15.03 @ 8:39a
I swear I didn't hit refresh, must be a Monday. :)
9.15.03 @ 10:29a
Another good one I just bought is O by Damien Rice. About half his songs are incredible (especially "Cannonball". The other half of the album isn't quite as good though. I can't completely recommend it.
9.15.03 @ 10:29a
I liked that line when Stuart Scott said it 15 years ago.
9.15.03 @ 10:52a
I love Supreme Beings of Leisure.
I actually found a disc of theirs at the local library, and, just because of the cover, I took it home. Loved it.
9.15.03 @ 11:32a
Try Phoenix. They have a song or two in the new "Lost in Translation" movie. They are a French pop band. Good stuff.
And I heard a Damien Rice song on the radio last week. It made me stop to listen. Not bad...
9.15.03 @ 2:49p
Ok, this only loosely has to do with my column, but I just saw the new Seal alubm - his facial features on the cover are embossed/debossed...including the scars on his face!
It's kinda nasty.
Although probably not as nasty as his music.
9.15.03 @ 4:10p
I caught Seal on Regis and Kelly this morning (don't ask). His new single is pretty good, I think. He is starting to look a little rough around the edges though - but he performed very well.
I don't know ANY of the albums you listed ('cept for the Priest and Maiden), so you've given me plenty of new stuff to check out!
9.15.03 @ 4:32p
Jeff, I have a feeling you'd like Gay Dad and Nick Drake the most. Let me know what you think.
9.15.03 @ 5:08p
WXPN Philadelphia played songs off of Damien Rice's new album all last week. It was pretty good. Seal's new song I was less thrilled about.
9.15.03 @ 5:13p
Which Damien Rice song? I think "Volcano" is the single that's getting radio play. That's my second favorite on the album. "Cannonball" is by far and away the best song on that CD though.
9.15.03 @ 5:50p
I like Nick Drake. The Pink moon CD is good stuff.
I heard a Damien Rice duet or so with a woman. I think it may have been Cannonball.
9.15.03 @ 10:19p
damien rice rocked in boston on saturday. go see him if you have the chance.
9.16.03 @ 2:02a
Is that really John Hauck? I'd rather see Josh Ritter.
9.16.03 @ 2:05a
The music I own falls neatly into three categories: stuff everyone has heard over and over and over and over, stuff no one has ever heard, and stuff no one under 60 has ever heard. I like having an eclectic music selection, not only for my own listening pleasure, but also for the looks on other people's faces when they peruse my CD racks. ("Hmm. Dean Martin, Roger Whittaker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Reba McIntyre, Tourdion and ...what is this? N*Sync?!?)
9.16.03 @ 2:40a
Ok, I just got back from the Fischerspooner concert. Amazingly entertaining. If you have a chance - go see them. Totally campy and over the top. Totally goofy. Just great fun.