Monday, November 25, 2019

Weekly Listenings - 11/18 - 11/24/2019

So plowed through a bunch of 2019 and 1969 titles this week, with a few other random things.

Here's what we've got...

1st Listens:

Elbow - Giants Of All Sizes (2019): Front half of album has been getting most of the buzz I really found myself getting pulled in on the back third starting with ballad My Troubles. Feels like there will be a lot to unpack in future listens, liked it on first pass, but doesn't sound like it will quite reach Seldom Seen Kid/Build A Rocket Boys territory.

Scott Walker - Scott 3 (1969): Already pushed through six listens on Scott 4 this year as well, some nice moments here but on first impression, not nearly as good as 4 or 1967's 1.

Soft Machine - Volume 2 (1969): Not the jazz-rock, Canterbury Scene masterpiece that would  follow (Third), but the template for Third is their in much abbreviated, punchier form. Looking forward to future listens on this one.

Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (1969): Like Spirit's 12 Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, a heavy psychedlia/early prog guilty pleasure classic.  Revisiting this one three times for '69 collection after having heard it many times in 20s.  Side one closer Evil Woman remains one of the best forgotten songs of the 1960s.

Girl Band - The Talkies (2019): Had same reaction to this one as I did on first pass through their last effort - utterly unlistenable.  But I grew to really enjoy that last effort on multiple listens after growing accustomed to the brutal lo-fi mix.  Hoping same happens here.

The Byrds - The Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969): First of two 1969 Byrd's efforts I'll be checking out for 1969 retrospective - decent country rock fare in the vein of the day, nothing spectacular, though a nice early cover of Jesus Is Just Alright that set the sonic/vocal template for the Doobie Brothers hit version a few years later.

Floating Points - Crush (2019): First impression, solid, but no where near the standout awesomeness of Elaenia.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illumination (1969): One of my favorite first listens of week, really trippy late 60's folk from the indigenous Canadian that feels way ahead of its time in it's incorporation of electronic elements. Can't wait to loop back around to this one.

Leo Kottke - 6 & 12 String Guitar (1969): Kottke's all instrumental debut.  Nice stuff, easy to listen to, supposedly in many's mind, his best.  No one track that knocked me out on first listen though.

Kevin Ayers - Joy Of Toy (1969): Solo debut of ex-Soft Machine Ayers.  Odd and relaxed, didn't care for first third at all on first pass, but back two-thirds of album started catching my ear.

The Jackson 5 - Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969): Their Motown debut, typical mix-bag full-length Motown release, R&B/Pop masterpieces like I Want You Back nestled up against crassly commercial covers.

Janis Joplin - I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues (1969): One of the lowest rated of Joplin's original releases during her lifetime, but on first listen to this one, I really liked it, especially opener Try and late album cut Little Girl Blue.

Caetano Veloso (1969): Veloso self-titled third album, much of which was written/recorded will a political prisoner of Brazil's dictatorial regime of the time. Uneven, but some Tropicalia classics on this one like opener Irene.

2nd Listens:

Skip Spence - Oar (1969): Still not grasping the cult appeal of this wacked-out psychedelic country-rock effort from Jefferson Airplane / Moby Grape ex Spence recorded after his mental state had seriously started to decline.  Kind reminds of Big Stars Sister Lovers, another album vastly overrated because of the legend of the artists fragile mental state at the time of its creation.  Still feels Mild Recommend at best to me.

Joe Cocker (1969): Joe's self-titled sophomore outing.  Like this one even better than With A Little Help From My Friends, his '69 debut. All covers, but the versions of Delta Lady and Hitchcock Railway are to die for, and a vastly more listenable version of Cohen's Bird On A Wire than Cohen himself record that year.

Tool - Fear Innoculum (2019): Tool is one of those ultimate Euraka bands where things can take a long time to sink in.  On a surface level, I'm enjoying it and the mellower overall vibe, but so far I'm not hearing any song that simply "pops" like the best efforts on their greatest albums - sense is this will ultimately emerge as a very solid but never spectacular effort.

The National - I Am Easy To Find (2019): Surprised how little is hitting me on this outing from one of my favorite acts of last fifteen years.  Still early, another Eureka band, but verdict to this point is their weakest effort since before 2005's Alligator.

3rd Listens:

Leonard Cohen - Songs From A Room (1969): Decent, but instrumentally spare at times to the point to tedium, a fan favorite, but so far not one of mine.

Big Thief - U.F.O.F.: Glad I've still got a few listens to go on this one. Not sure I like this one that's sure to land high in the year end polls as much as previous effort Capacity, but it's a definite grower.

4th Listens:

The Kinks - Arthur (1969): With one follow-up listen to go after hearing this one plenty in my teens, always been one of my least favorite Kinks albums of the 60s and that opinion remains unchanged, although not a bad album by any stretch - any album that boasts the likes of Victoria, Australia, and Shangri-La is already entering Solid Rec territory no matter what else surrounds it. And it is a clear stylistic direction changer for the early 70s albums that would follow.

Little Simz - Grey Area (2019): This JAY-Z supported grime artist's sophomore outing is easily one of the best hip-hop albums I've heard this year. With it's swaggering one-two punch of Offence and Boss leading into the killer smooth Selfish, Grey Area delivers one of the best opening 10 minutes stretches of any 2019 album in any genre.

Final Listens:

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand! (1969): An unassailable classic, arguably the most influential soul/R&B album of the entire decade, defined the direction of much funk and soul for the next half decade to come. In so many years, this would be the easy choice for best album of the year; unfortunately, coming out as it did in 1969, it's questionable whether it belongs in the top ten.

Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers (1969): Love this one as well.  Surrealistic Pillow has the hits, but front to back, I've always felt this is the Airplane's most consistent and interesting album.

Aldous Harding - Designer (2019): Another winner to close this week's wrap-up out.  One of five fantastic 2019 female singer-songwriter albums - along with the aforementioned U.F.O.F, Julia Jacklin's Crushing, Sharon Van Eten's Remind Me Tomorrow, and Weyes Blood's Titanic that will dominate the year end polls (at least outside the states). This one, along with Crushing, is my personal fav of the bunch, really quirky, but a great first half, and a couple songs that enter into exalted Nick Drake territory.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

McQ's Best Of 1998 Mix Collection

And here it is, the complete McQ's Best Of 1998 mix collection.  Click on the mix names for the full write-ups and various links, or just listen to everything here on this page.

And remember, you can always follow McQ & Nancy on Spotify and access all their mixes directly at David Francis McQuillen.

And now, McQ's mix of his favorite cuts from his favorite albums of 1998.

Two of 1998's era-defining sounds, Trip-Hop and Big Beat Electronica, get their due here. Includes killer tracks from the likes of Fatboy Slim, Massive Attack, Propeller Heads, Madonna, Air, Amon Tobin, Rae & Christian, UNKLE, Morcheeba, and several more.

Stoner Rock, Grunge, Emo, Alt-Metal, Hardcore Punk, and most of 1998's best in-your-face guitar rock are teed up on this hard rockin' mix highlighting the years best efforts from Monster Magnet, Local H, Sunny Day Real Estate, Queens Of The Stoneage, Hole, Turbonegro, Pearl Jam, System Of A Down, Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, Marilyn Manson and several others.

Here we focus on the fantastic college-oriented alt-rock and emerging indie that would form the inspirational foundation of much of the best music of the 2000s. Includes tracks from Eels, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, Pulp, Super Furry Animals, Los Planetas, Sparklehorse and several more.

1998 was a monster year for singles.  Here we zero in on the R&B and Disco side of that mainstream single equation, with listens to numbers from Cher, Britany Spears, Aretha Franklin, -M-,Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Monica, Spearmint, Maxwell, Miss Kittin, and many, many more.

And now, the rock and punk-pop side of that mainstream (mostly) singles explosion, with artists like Sloan, Liz Phair, Barenaked Ladies, The Offspring, Less Than Jake, Harvey Danger, Cake, Ash, Fuel, Everlast, Stereophonics, and Catatonia all making contributions.

From the merciless lyrical edge of Black Box Recorder to the life affirming exuberance of Nick Lowe, and twenty or so other flavors in between, we take a listen to many of 1998's finest singer-songwriter efforts on Volume 7.

1998 was an incredibly year for hip hop and it's emerging rap rock hybrid, and much of 1998's best from both genre's is profiled here, including tracks from Outkast, Juvenile, Big Pun, Kid Rock, The Beastie Boys, JAY-Z, Gang Starr, Black Star, DMX, Devin The Dude, and several more!

1998's best Post-rock, IDM, international music and any other concoction where lyrics were only a small part of the musical equation are highlighted here.  Includes efforts from The Dirty Three, Tortoise, Gastr Del Sol, Boards Of Canada, Manu Chao, Calexico, Herbert, Plastikman, Rachid Taha, Alain Bashung, The Beta Band, and several more. 

Nancy knocked it out of the park with her 1998 selections.  She's still tweaking the order, but the songs were to much fun to not post a preliminary version. Enjoy! 

Volume 11 - The Next 100

The next 100 great 1998 songs I was considering for this collection but that just missed the cut are presented here in no particular order.

McQ's Best Of 1998 Vol 10 - Nancy's Favorites!

Okay friends, so this may not be the final version of this mix - Nancy is still noodling with the order - but her selections are so much fun, I didn't want to wait on her any longer, so we're gonna post this version of Nancy's mix now, and if she ever gets around to polishing the sequencing down the line, so be it.

Until then, enjoy!

Here's the Spotify Link!

About The Artists/Albums/Songs Represented On Nancy's Mix:

1. California Stars - Wilco: Nancy kicks off her 1998 mix with this wonderful Wilco contribution to the first edition of the Woody Guthrie lyric restoration project Mermaid Avenue.

2. Ciencia Fiction - Los Planetas: We've already featured songs from Spain's Los Planetas' Una Semana En El Motor De Un Autobus on our Early Indie / Aging Alts and Words Be Damned mixes, but Nancy definitely grabbed the album's finest track for her mix here with the so R.E.M.-ish Ciencia Fiction.

3. Perfect - Smashing Pumpkins: The spirit of the Smashing Pumpkin's '96 smash 1979 is almost "perfectly" resuscitated in the best song from 1998's Adore.

4. Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls: Originally conceived for/released as part of the soundtrack for City Of Angels, the 1998 Nicolas Cage/Meg Ryan remake of Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire, Iris became the biggest smash of the Buffalo, New York hitmakers career, not to mention one of the biggest hits of the 90s overall, topping the Billboard radio airplay charts for a record breaking eighteen straight weeks. Later also included on the band's mainstream-oriented sixth full-length, 1998's Dizzy Up The Girl, Iris - along with fellow hits Slide, Broadway, and Black Balloonhelped power the album to triple platinum sales. 

5. Last Stop: This Town - Eels: The second song in our 1998 mix collection to be inspired by first hand paranormal experiences (the other being Neutral Milk Hotel's Ghost), and also the song that inspired Electro-Shock Blues' cover,  Eel's frontman Mark Oliver Everett wrote the number immediately after returning home to his Echo Lake apartment complex after his sister's funeral in Hawaii. Almost as soon as he had exited his taxi from the airport, Everett was approached by his landlord who confided in him that she regularly saw apparitions, and with no knowledge of where Everett had been told him that while he was away, the spirit of a young woman had entered his apartment.  To allay his fears and help himself get to sleep that night, Everett turned to thoughts of his sister stopping by for a final friendly goodbye, and imaged the two of them taking flight over the city for one last "joyride" before she started her journey into the afterlife.

6. Lullaby - Shawn Mullins: Put that proverbial gun to Nancy's head, and I think she'd be force to admit this Shawn Mullins' guilty pleasure is her favorite song on this mix. The sad tale of an aging, forgotten, drug-addicted Hollywood socialite from his fourth studio album Soul's Core, Lullaby was the biggest hit of Georgia-native Mullins' career.

7. Closing Time - Semisonic: The biggest hit ever for Minnesota rock trio Semisonic, Closing Time is typically interpreted as a straight forward, last call pick-up number, but drummer Jacob Slichter has indicated songwriter Dan Wilson actually wrote the song as a metaphor for his pending fatherhood when he penned the fan favorite for their second studio release Feeling Strangely Fine.

8. Crush - Jennifer Paige: Another of Nancy's favorite guilty pleasures of 1998 from another Georgia-born singer, Crush, which first appeared on Paige's eponymous debut, was the biggest hit of the her still active career, and has been covered many times since its 1998 release, including a short, humorous usage in a Season 2 episode of Glee.

9. Polyester Bride - Liz Hair: One of three updated cuts on Whitechocolatespaceegg that originally appeared in 1991 on Phair's self-produced Girly-Sound cassettes, Polyester Bride stands today as Whitechoolatespaceegg's most frequently played song. 

10. My Favorite Mistake - Sheryl Crow: A perfect selection for Nancy, as My Favorite Mistake, the lead single from Sheryl Crow's third full-length The Globe Sessions isn't just a nifty Stones-styled rocker, but widely interpretted to be a gentle putdown of another artist Nancy loves, Crow romantic ex Eric Clapton.

11. Joy - Lucinda Williams: First up amongst the three songs Nancy has chosen from Lucinda Williams Pazz And Jop topping Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, the album's feistiest, funniest, and maybe best song, the inimitable Joy. 

12. You Get What You Give - New Radicals: The debut single from Los Angeles-based alternative rockers New Radicals' only album Maybe You've Been Brainwashed presently rates very high on most best songs of 1998 lists, due in large part to the song's final verse, in which band leader/songwriter Gregg Alexander filled the first half with a litany of urgent political issues and the second half with a mean-spirited dis of several other popular musicians of the day as a sociological experiment to see which half of the verse would rivet the music press's attention. Sadly, we can all guess the answer, and unsurprisingly, Alexander and his bandmate/lifelong songwriting partner, former All In The Family child actress Danielle Brisebois, soon became so disenchanted with the press junction part of the process they chose to give up the touring/band-fronting life altogether, deciding instead to focus the rest of their successful, still ongoing careers on producing and writing for others from behind the scenes, where they could be free of the nonsense.

13. Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone - Gomez:  The loose, crunchy Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone is the first of two songs Nancy has selected from Gomez's 1998 Mercury Prize-winning debut Bring It On.

14. Special - Garbage: Every year, there's one song Nancy whisks away from me for her annual mix that hurts the most, and for this 1998 collection, it was definitely this track here from Garbage's Version 2.0. 90s power-pop just doesn't get any better (or should we say "special") than Special - especially love the call back to The Pretenders' Talk Of The Town towards the end. 

15. The Way - Fastball: Voted by VH1 as one of the 100 best songs of the 90s, this hit from the Texas-based alt-rock act's second album All The Pain Money Can Buy took a ripped-from-the-headlines approach in mythologizing what might have happened to senile elderly couple Lela and Raymond Howard in the two week gap after they mysteriously drove away from their Texas home before being found crashed dead in a Hot Springs, Arkansas ravine. 

16. Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz: One of Lenny Kravitz's most popular songs, Fly Away almost didn't make his fifth full-length release 5. According to Kravitz, the completed album had already been turned into his label when he came up with the song one day while shopping for/goofing around on potential new guitars. He recorded a quick demo, sent it to his reluctant label, and after hearing the demo, the label agreed finishing of 5 should be delayed to add the track. 

17. The Rockafeller Skank - Fatboy Slim: And now, The Rockefeller Skank from Fatboy Slim's big beat smash You've Come A Long Way, Baby!, which presently rates as the #2 song of 1998 according to aggregator

18. Hand In Your Head - Money Mark: Given that Nancy has never been a major hip hop fan, the biggest surprise on this mix has to be her selection of not just one but two tracks from Beastie's Boys producer/touring keyboardist Mark Ramos Nishita's (aka Money Mark) second solo outing Push The Button. But as far as that goes, she's definitely picked two great songs, starting with the album's funkiest track, the "super-hits-of-the-seventies-styled" Hand In Your Head here. 

19. Metal Firecracker - Lucinda Williams: For Nancy's second selection from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, one of the simplest and most poignant break-up songs of the last twenty-five years. 

20. Here Comes The Breeze - Gomez: Nancy's second selection from Gomez's debut Bring It On highlights the blues-rock act's folkier side and talent for instinctively ragged Band-like group harmonies.

21. Sail Away - David Gray: A tribute to how popular David Gray's White Ladder was in the early 2000s (and also how slowly but steadily it caught on) this fourth and final single from the record was released a full three years after White Ladder first hit the shelves. 

22. Tomorrow Will Be Like Today - Money Mark: The spirit of Get Happy-era Elvis Costello courses through every second of this wonderful pop number from Money Mark's Push The Button.

23. Right In Time - Lucinda Williams: One last number from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, here the album's provocatively ambiguous opener (What exactly is it that kindles the song's sense of ecstasy? There are many justified interpretations) Right In Time.

24. Sleep The Clock Around - Belle & Sebastian: With their fanbase growing exponentially following the indie-breakout of 1996's If Your Feeling Sinister, Belle & Sebastian band leader Stuart Murdoch did a generous thing, making room for his fellow bandmates to shine on third full-length The Boy With The Arab Strap, and both guitarist Stuart Jackson and cellist Isobel Campbell took advantage. Case in point, this fan favorite duet between Murdoch and Campbell here anchored around the conceit of slowly growing into one's own skin.

25. 3 Speed - Eels: Another song from Electro-Shock Blues about Mark Oliver Everett's sister Elizabeth, this time capturing a sense of the fleeting joy of her idyllic suburban childhood before her tragedy began to unfold, but also laced with a hint that the inner turmoil that ultimately cost her her life was present from the very start.

26. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye - David Gray: Nancy and have been together for twenty-six magnificent years now, and it's quite possible the two albums I've heard her listen to the most over that quarter-decade span are David Gray's White Ladder and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, so it's only fitting that her mix, and our 1998 collection as a whole, ends with a song that magically combines the power of both.