All albums included in the following playlist (excluding those unavailable on Spotify, see individual reviews for each album’s playlist):
Aceyalone, 2001 – Accepted Eclectic
I got hooked on Aceyalone’s “Rappers, Rappers, Rappers” years ago but never pursued the album. I just got the CD in the past couple months and this is my first go ‘round. It doesn’t disappoint. Despite eight different producers across the album, it manages to maintain cohesiveness throughout. Aceyalone’s rhymes and delivery are solid across the whole album, if a bit repetitive from time to time. Nonetheless, definitely due for future rotations.
Paula Abdul, 1990 – Shut Up And Dance (The Dance Mixes)
Remix cash grab by the late-80s superstar. This was a financially successful venture but the project really only sticks about half of its landings here. It’s her biggest hits – “Coldhearted” and “Straight Up” – that benefit from the most competent remixes and stand up best to the ravages of time (particularly difficult for dance mixes). But a remix “medley” of all her hits mashed together fails terribly and the lukewarm remix of the classic “Opposites Attract” is a stark reminder of a time when labels were still trying to sanitize rap. MC Skat Kat, we hardly knew ye.
Alexisonfire, 2002 – Alexisonfire
I’m a fan of Dallas Green’s City & Colour project, so when I found a CD by his other band, Alexisonfire, I figured I’d give it a shot. No me gusto. Es no bueno. Pity, too, because the music is riveting and the occasional 30-60 second instrumental segments leave me wanting more of that. But the disc ought to come with a disclaimer: “This album sponsored by Ricola.” I know some metal fans enjoy the screaming incoherent vocals, but I’ve never had any use for that type of delivery – it only detracts. So for me, this album is almost 100% miss. Someone else will like it.
Arcade Fire, 2010 – The Suburbs
First spin of the day is my first exposure to Arcade Fire. I know this band was huge for a while but somehow I missed them altogether. Overall, I’d say I generally like the indie-pop of this album, particularly on cuts like “Sprawl II,” “Month Of May,” “Wasted Hours,” and the title cut. Some of it falls a little flat and the album, as a whole, doesn’t really live up to the hype. But it’s solid and one I can see myself revisiting.
The Avett Brothers, 2009 – I And Love And You
An acquaintance said something I’d written reminded her of a line in “Kick Drum Heart.” I checked it out on YouTube and it’s a hard-rockin’, piano-driven number – right in my wheelhouse – so I sprang for the album. And while there are a handful or rockers on the disc, it tends to be more introspective and reflective singer-songwriter type material with an occasional rock edge. That said, the lyrics and music are tight throughout and while the genre might not normally be my bag, this record has enough emotional hook to its songs that I was an instant fan. Great stuff.
A$AP Rocky, 2013 – LONG.LIVE.A$AP
This was a good listen. I’d heard “1 Train” awhile back (I cant remember where) and loved it. After hearing it on my iPod for the eleventeenth time I decided to get the whole album. Excellent work here. Not perfect – I’m no shrinking violet but there is a limit to the amount of times you can drop N-bombs or F-bombs in a single song and have it remain interesting. That said, the bulk of the tracks earned the fifth star in my iTunes collection. Worth checking out if you missed it six years ago.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, 1992 – I Had A Dream, Joe
I love CD singles. I always have. And moreso now when they’re so rare out in the wild. And then to find one from 1992 from Nick Cave, well, this was my most exciting thrift store find in a while. The title track is “backed” by three live cuts recorded in Amsterdam in June of ‘92, including a manic version of “The Mercy Seat.” The best two bucks I’ve spent in some time.
Bond, 1998 – Bang Out Of Order
Underrated and overlooked debut by a band called Bond. I really can’t find out much about this band online and I don’t think they ever had a follow up, which is a bit of a shame. There’s not really anything earth-shattering here, but it is a very solid album through-and-through. If broody major-key synth-pop offset by chunky guitar riffs and hummy vocal hooks sound like your cup of tea, this dollar-bin delight is worth seeking out. Standout cuts include “Nothing Fits (Fictitious Circle),” “Anne Grenade,” and the semi-psychedelic “Headspace Invader.”
Chaka Khan, 1989 – Life Is A Dance: The Remix Project
Overwhelmingly mediocre dance mix project from the R&B mainstay. I’ll admit to not knowing a lot of Chaka’s output, having first heard of her when she covered “I Feel For You.” (One of the first two 45s I ever bought – the other was Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All The Luck.”) In fact, the eight-and-a-half minute remix of that song, along with the much more radio-friendly version of “Ain’t Nobody” included here are the only things to recommend this collection. This is why we buy these things used, people.
Deana Carter, 1995 – Did I Shave My Legs For This?
In recent years, there has been some effort to return country music to its more “authentic” roots instead of making it just a twangier version of pop music. As one who despises the general homogeny in music over the past couple decades, this is a welcome development. That said, you’d think I’d scorn an album like Did I Shave My Legs For This? But I don’t. Good pop music is good pop music, even if it gets released as a “country” album. This came out around the same time that Shania was proving that this sort of crossover was super-profitable, and while it isn’t quite as blatant, it certainly is closer to Kylie than Dolly. But the songwriting is so good on most of the tracks that the distinction doesn’t matter. I didn’t know anything by Deana Carter prior to playing this album today, but she’s got a fair voice and a good production team which, here, makes for a very enjoyable record.
Duck Duck, 1992 – Sticky’s Children
I had a friend who worked at Keene State Radio in college and he turned me on to some different stuff. One of those acts was Chucklehead, an eight-headed funk monster from Boston. One night we drove out to Northampton, Mass, to see Chucklehead and Duck Duck opened for them. The set was chaotic but with an overwhelming sense of fun. I bought their CD off the merch table and am revisiting it today for the first time in probably two decades. It’s an inspired piece of lunacy, just some college kids making crazy rock and roll and being as silly as they want to be. All these years later, it almost feels like a novelty record and I think if I heard it for the first time in 2019, I’d hate it. Funny how nostalgia tints the glasses. I still enjoy every minute of this.