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LyricWiki:Album of the Week/Archive/January - May 2009

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MayEdit

Of all the rap artists that I have encountered, never before have I heard rap at this level. This is experimentation at its greatest level. Rap duo, Madvillain, which consists of MC's MF Doom and Madlib, have partnered together to create this truly incredible work. Madvillain's instrumentals are what truly shine in this piece: Madlib uses obscure jazz pieces and the most unlikely songs as samples for his songs. There's even one piece where the duo uses progressive rock band Gentle Giant's "Funny Ways". Not only do Madvillain excel at providing dazzling instrumentals to accompany their songs, but they also dominate with their incredible lyrics. Madvillain lay down some incredible rhymes. As if reciting it in a single breath, Madvillain go through verses with incredible speed, each song only 2 minutes in length and always transitioning perfectly into the next one. It's an epic poem that's impossible to catch up with. If you think you know rap, think again.
"The Wu is too slammin' for these cold killer labels, some ain't had hits since I seen Aunt Mabel/Be doin artists in like Cain did Abel/Now they money's gettin' stuck to da gum under the table," raps GZA the Genius on Wu-Tang Clan's magnum opus, "Enter the Wu-Tang". It's examples like those that show the lyrical prowess of one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time. Raw, explicit and downright obscene, Wu-Tang Clan's debut hits people with a brutal force. You can't help but absolutely love it. RZA's production on this album is riddled with obscure jazz samples and excerpts of old kung-fu films. These innovative elements in hip-hop laid the foundation for future alternative rap albums. RZA's dusty but important production techniques are crucial in capturing the sound of Wu-Tang. Never before had a rap group combined such innovation with lyrical skill. Any hip-hop lover HAS to listen this album. A 90s classic!
Tragically the only studio album Jeff Buckley released in his lifetime, it has since become a great critical success. Q Magazine readers ranked the album #75 of all time, and in a re-vote near the end of 2005, it was ranked #13. The album is one of my dad's favourites, and I can't find anything about it to disagree. Featuring what is considered his greatest song, his take on "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen remains a fan favorite. The rest of the album is largely original material such as "Last Goodbye", "Eternal Life", and "Dream Brother", while also including two other covers, "Lilac Wine" and "Corpus Christi Carol". I think this remains a testament to how great Buckley was and could have been.
If you like melodic hardcore, excellent lyrics, and musicians at their very best, you'll love Thrice. This album shows that the band has grown in their music and lyric writing from their previous album The Illusion of Safety. You might consider this album a bit "arty", because there's a song called "The Abolition of Man", which is named after the C.S. Lewis book with the same name. Also, a part of the sales of this album went to a fund for chemotherapy and other medication.
The Artist in the Ambulance shows both soft and hardcore sides. There are even songs that are both, for example "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts". And the three singles from this album, are actually the softest ones.
This album is perfect in so many ways, the lyrics, the music, the messages, the everything. This is one of those albums you can listen to a whole day and never get tired of it. That's why The Artist in the Ambulance deserves album of the week.

AprilEdit

The idea of the band as B-project of four great artists is gorgeous. While their first record (Broken Boy Soldiers) doesn't exactly have the power and the special feeling every band member has in his main project - it sounded like 4 great artists playing together - Consolers of the Lonely shows that they've finally formed a real band and the feeling that their energy got multiplied. The album sounds very diversified and so do the lyrics. There are emotional snapshots as well as real stories, which sound almost novel-like.
The dialog between Jack White and Brendan Benson is one of the most interesting things I've heard on an album ever. They lead a musical, instrumental and vocal dialog which make many tracks even more attractive. The Toronto Star wrote about the album: "White's bent Americana and Benson's British invasion-isms yield wonderfully unpredictable results"
The combination of their sound, their arrangement and the band idea does fully qualify Consolers of the Lonely as album of the week and album of the year as well.
The second studio album of The Killers changes style from Hot Fuss. This time they used an outsider theme of a little abandoned town where everything can happen. Listening to its three singles will give you an idea. "When You Were Young" starts with the idea of a girl's broken heart but maybe there's hope with another guy that really loves her. "Bones" talks about someone that tells a girl he wants her by his side (a bit more odd). "Read My Mind" tells about a guy saying to a girl she's not supposed to guess what he's going to do next. And "For Reasons Unknown" tells love no longer exists because of the supposed departure of the one who sings it.
Sporting the band's best line-up, this is the first of two Toto albums with Joseph Williams (son of film composer John Williams) on lead vocals and it is a very jazzy album. The best known track is certainly "I'll Be Over You", a ballad of timeless beauty sung by Steve Lukather. Pure class. This goes for the whole album, actually. You won't find one weak song here. Two very special tracks are "Somewhere Tonight" and "Lea" - which most impressively show the excellent vocal skills of Joe Williams - each in its own way. Especially the tenderly sung "Lea" sounds like it's not from this world. Finally, the last track "Don't Stop Me Now" - an instrumental - has Miles Davis on trumpet - another gem. Over a few weeks - getting to know song after song - Fahrenheit has, for me, turned from a little known album to a much loved one.
What can be said of Animal Collective? How does one assess one of the most innovative bands in all of modern music? Animal Collective consist of the type of musicians that constantly push the boundaries of music. They strive to new heights with each new release, reinventing themselves yet still keeping intact their characteristic sound. Their greatest work, without a doubt, is their masterwork, Feels, a beautiful, sprawling work. Deeply layered in psychedelic textures, bizarre rhythms, strange melodies and even stranger lyrics, this is THE album. It makes one weep. Feels touches on a simple subject... love. By the band's own admission, each song is a love song. I ask you all to hand yourself over to the experience... allow the ambient neo-psychedelic pop to transport you to a truly magical place.

MarchEdit

Rush are without a doubt one of the most influential progressive rock bands to have ever been established. Rush provided an important innovation in progressive rock that was seldom seen amongst those who practiced the genre: they provided a structure and melody as well as an accessibility that was easy to grasp. Each individual member excelled musically, and each melded perfectly into the incredible sound they forged. Moving Pictures, in my opinion, was the last album of the golden age of Rush (1978-1981). Moving Pictures contains some of Rush's well-known hits such as "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight". It also contained Rush's final epic, a dazzling composition known as "The Camera Eye". Moving Pictures gave Rush the attention that was long overdue. Moving Pictures transcends many genres and is a pivotal work in the progressive rock genre. Hundreds of bands owe themselves to the work from Moving Pictures.
Having just recently gotten the album for Christmas, I really like Journey's newest album. And it's certainly become one of their most commercially successful, hitting the Top Ten on the Billboard album chart. Opening with the first radio single "Never Walk Away", and featuring other classics-in-the-making like "Change for the Better", "After All These Years", and "What I Needed", the whole album is terrific. Also included is a bonus disc featuring classic Journey hits with the vocal tracks re-recorded by Arnel Pineda, and a live DVD from a March 8 show. If you enjoyed the Steve Perry era, I think you'll enjoy this album, as well.
Disintegration is The Cure's accumulation of a decade-long experimentation. It is their defining album. Disintegration showcases The Cure's signature atmospheric pop post-punk sound at its best. Throughout the entire decade, The Cure leaped from album to album, each one with sparks of genius but always lagging in mediocrity. By the end of the decade, quite literally out of fear of reaching 30 years old without having made his mark, lead singer Robert Smith spent an entire writing session secluded and hardly speaking with anyone. This period of silence produced one of the Cure's greatest albums. A fantastic work.
Additional Note: Disintegration earned the #326 spot on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
This album shows the true brilliance and diversity that Silverchair stands for, from a heavier rock, to melodic and even some acoustic sounds in the mix. With lyrics that at the first glance make no sense, when one looks deeper into them, one understands the depression Daniel Johns was going through whilst writing them. This album also shows the development of the band from their albums Frogstomp and Freak Show, which are more characteristic of an angry teenage band, to a grown up band with full musical prowess.
This nomination is in memory of the recently passed Kelly Groucutt (1945-2009)
In 1982, a solo album from a member of Electric Light Orchestra, who wasn't Jeff Lynne, was something of a surprise. It also created quite a stir with the band's fanbase, bringing to mind a lot of questions that, unfortunately, aren't really answered by listening to the album.
The first question, and the one that comes closest to being answered, is whether or not Kelly Groucutt has any real discernible talent. Is he a credible singer? Yes, the record puts him through his paces on both mid-tempo numbers like "Am I a Dreamer?" (the disc's best cut, hands down), and slower numbers like "Sea of Dreams". In fact, one could say that Groucutt's most obvious talent is his voice. Does he have any musical abilities? Sure, he can sling guitar and bass strings with the best of them, and there are very few awkward instrumental parts or overblown solo passages to suffer through.
The question that's hardest to answer is why was this recorded in the first place? If it was to showcase his songwriting abilities, one is immediately reminded of ELO, and mostly because these songs seem to be heavily influenced by the band, but nowhere near as good as even some of ELO's lamest efforts ("Diary of Horace Wimp", anyone?). If this was to present Groucutt as a musical entity separate from the band, then why would he surround himself completely with other ELO members? From Bev Bevan on drums, and Mik Kaminski with his famous blue violin to Richard Tandy's keyboards, it all seems way too familiar, but sadly lacking without Jeff Lynne's vision. This self-produced effort is real basic, and shows a guy who seems to still have a lot to learn about what makes a great sounding record.
Which begs the real questions. Was our man Kelly pressured to make an "ELO" album? Was that part of the deal in getting his own recording contract? Yes, the other musos on the record were his "mates", but were they all chosen by him to play on his first "solo" disc? Was this a serious attempt to establish himself as a solo artist? If so, why try soooo hard to remind us of ELO, and not in a good way?
It wasn't long after this that Groucutt sued Jeff Lynne for what essentially amounts to "back pay", and led to his obvious dismissal from the band. If this was the only thing he had to show in his solo "resume", it's little wonder he ended up not making any more new music. Please don't bring up ELO Part II, that's another argument for another day.
I know some will think I'm kicking a man who just passed away a short time ago. Not so. His legacy to fans is that of a brilliant musician who made friends everywhere he went. Groucutt was a man who treated fans with the utmost respect and even love; a man who truly enjoyed making people happy with music. He contributed musically during ELO's peak creative and commercial years; that's no accident. His ability to blend vocally with Lynne is something that Lynne has desperately tried to recreate with his own voice since Groucutt's departure, and simply cannot pull off. My lament is that the only recorded legacy we have of this fine man is a disc that so under-serves his talents.

FebruaryEdit

Fightstar's sophomore effort shows a constantly evolving sense of musicality from their original effort "Grand Unification", an inspired but throughly Funeral for a Friend-esque collection. Redefining the boundaries of how heaviness and melody complement each other, One Day Son puts forth stellar tracks like the radio-friendly "We Apologise for Nothing", the heavily downtuned "Tannhäuser Gate", and beautifully imagined lyrics in "Unfamiliar Ceilings". This album sets Fightstar above the usual expectations of a post-hardcore band, setting new horizons for a genre that has become formulaic.
Five Finger Death Punch's debut album The Way of the Fist manages to take heavy metal back to the days of Pantera and Exhorder. The Way of the Fist is 40 minutes of raw adrenaline and non-conformity at it's best. The album is reminiscent of album's such as Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power and Fear Factory's Obsolete.
One of the most influential heavy metal albums, Black Sabbath's sophomore effort was an instant smash, reaching #1 in the United Kingdom. Featuring hits like "War Pigs," "Iron Man," "Electric Funeral," and the title track, it's no surprise this is hailed as a masterpiece. I think the whole album fits together like a glove.
Additional comments were made about this album here
Van Halen's track record is flecked with three lead singers, and few know where it all started. The band's debut album rocked hard in 1978, and rocks equally as hard 30 years later. From Eddie Van Halen's kick-in-your-teeth guitar solo in "Eruption" to David Lee Roth's astounding vocals on the entire album. This is an album for the ages!

JanuaryEdit

The new Britney Spears' album shows us a new Britney and a new genre of song that we'd never heard before. With influences of electropop and a little bit of R&B, Circus is absolutely the best album of 2008. Productions of Danja, The Outsyders (producers of the #1 Billboard's hit "Womanizer"), Guy Sigsworth, Fernando Garibay, the king of pop productions Max Martin and the amazing Dr. Luke. With catchy beats and lyrics that don't get out of your head, Circus shows us an (almost) independent Britney, with stronger lyrics than never and rhythms for every kind of person. After health problems, Britney gave, literally, the best comeback of the century, giving her best in songs like "Circus," "If U Seek Amy" and more. No more questions, the album of the year, ladies and gentlemen.
The last studio album of The Strokes contains songs radically style-changed from their previous albums (Is This It (2001), Room on Fire (2003)), experimenting with their instruments and vocals. Even though this material was less acclaimed than its predecessors, it still represents their garage rock genre at its full potential. Hammond's guitar can transform across the 14 songs from desperation, to solitude, to joy, to opression, and so on, accompanied by Nikolai's bass (that is the lead instrument in "Juicebox"), Nick's rhythm chords and Fab's percussion, culminated by the accentuated voice of Julian Casablancas, making a delightful mixture of music across emotions.
When Joy Division reformed as New Order after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Ian Curtis, the band had a lot to live up to. New Order had to be faced with the prospect of living in the shadow of their deceased lead singer. Indeed, their debut, Movement, proved that they had not quite moved on from their Joy Division days, with lead singer Bernard Sumner attempting and essentially failing to capture Ian Curtis' characteristically deep and somber voice. However, New Order would soon change this around entirely with Power, Corruption & Lies. On this album, the band proved to the world that they were no longer Joy Division but a new force to be reckoned with. Power, Corruption & Lies showed that New Order were electronica masters, able to combine their classic post-punk sound with an incredibly catchy blend of keyboards and fast-paced guitars. Bernard Sumner decides here to not emulate Ian Curtis' vocals but in fact to take his own vocals an octave higher, making it all the more beautiful. A defining album of the 80s and for New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies is a magnificent work and something all should take the time to listen to.
Written (music and lyrics) by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, this is probably my favorite soundtrack. If you've seen the television episode, I think you'll enjoy the album, as well. Containing fan favorites like "Going Through the Motions," "Rest in Peace," and the love song "Under Your Spell," the whole thing is a masterpiece. There are also some comic relief tracks like "Bunnies," "The Mustard Song," and "The Parking Ticket." I'd definitely recommend it to any Buffy fan.

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