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Old 2012.02.26, 03:20 PM   #61
Tokyo Jihad
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#1 The Beatles


After some consideration, we’re going to just skip talking about #2. Besides after the ecstasy of writing two thousand words on my favorite band, and album that was my favorite for so long last time, I just couldn’t wait. How important is second place anyway? How could I wait to talk about my favoritest band, and most conclusively favorite album? (Spoilers: both of which are The Beatles.) After talking about Oasis, where else can you go but The Beatles? And not just The Beatles, but The Beatles! The Beatles by The Beatles, the huge 1968 double album! (Okay, I’ll stop having fun, The White Album.) Nevermind was the bedrock of my musical world, but The White Album was the earth and the soil. The single album that shaped my musical taste and no matter how “far out” I thought my musical journey had become, the album I could always return to and find the roots of what I was listening to. A truly transcendent album, my favorite.


One Friday night when I was in the third grade, I became very sick. High fever, very tired; nothing serious but it was one of the worst I had felt. I was in bed, falling asleep, and my mom was in the room watching over me and watching ABC’s broadcast of The Beatles Anthology. I didn’t know who The Beatles were. I knew they were an old band my parent’s liked. I didn’t know any of their music (or knew I knew.) I felt no obligation to watching and was too weak to persuade my mom to change the channel so I went to a hearty golden slumber. Fast forward a week, I vividly remember being in class working on a project. All the while with the song “Twist & Shout” incessantly played in my head. I went home and told my mom of this revelation. “Of course you do,” she replied, “everyone likes that song!” From there skyrocketed my fascination and fandom with The Beatles.


The White album was the very last Beatles album I would buy (along with Let it Be.) I waited for so long because for a long time I didn’t really understand what it was. For some reason I was under the idea that it was a CD of Beatle interviews “Back in the USSR”, “Dear Prudence” didn’t sound like song titles to me. Plus, it just looked different from any other CD in the store. Once I was certain there was music to be had, it was my number one priority. The White album was a smack in the ear drum on my first listen. Though Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper, and Revolver were all under my belt by this point, it was The White Album that shocked me. (Plus maybe I listened to Abbey Road and Peppers too early.) The White album rocked hard. I was most surprised at how contemporary it sounded to me at the time. You could have told me it was a new release. For a kid who was teased by Metallica and Green Day loving know-nothings that my favorite bands were for old people or idiots that killed themselves (referencing Kurt Cobain) a song like “Helter Sketler” or “Everybody’s got something to Hide…” was a big deal. I would play these songs for my friends and then smugly supplement “…would you believe that’s The Beatles?” (Though, when I got to high school and everyone else discovered The Beatles, I smugged harder.)


There is so much more to The White Album than hard rock, as I’m sure you’d know. Not a song was lost on me either. Folk songs, parlor songs, personal ballads, western narratives, experimental music; it was all over the place. It never dawned on me to question why a cute baroque pop song about a dog (“Martha my Dear”) would follow a structurally experimental rock song (“Happiness is a Warm Gun”.) It never dawned on me that a song like “Wild Honey Pie” or the more egregious “Revolution 9” might not be appreciated by everyone. Sure, I’m not going to lie and say that at 9 years old I would get excited to listen to Revolution 9 and I never ever skipped it, but I would occasionally listen through it and never thought it shouldn’t have been there. It was weird, long song; big deal! Even at 9, I knew it was a kick-ass lead into “Good Night.” And isn’t the piano chime after “Take this brother, may it serve you well” a drop better than many a dub-step song? (However, I am glad we were spared the full “What’s the New Mary Jane?”) No, it wouldn’t be better if it was shorter; best album they made.


What I like about The White Album is that it is unapologetic for what it is. It isn’t like Abbey Road that had lots of ideas, ironed into a smooth shiny sleeve; nor is it completely formless. I like to think of it like a good pancake batter, it is all one thing and cohesive, but it still has plenty of lumps. As I mentioned above, The White Album is the nexus of all music I listen to. If I am listening to Beth Orton, I can point to “Blackbird” or “Julia;” The Flaming Lips, “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road” or “Savoy Truffle;” Dirty Projectors have bits of “Wild Honey Pie” and traces of “Everybody’s got something to Hide…” and “Yer Blues.” I consider The White Album the first alternative album, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this. What was The White Album an alternative too you ask? It was an alternative to Sgt. Peppers and the myriad of albums that followed its lead (your Satanic Majestys and your Village Greens, not to imply they were all bad.)



Now I reference The Beatles were revolting a bit against their own creation, which leads to the elephant in the room when talking about The Beatles and their White Album. In every single book or documentary about The Beatles there will be a line to the effect of: “An album by four solo artists”, “the beginning of the end of The Beatles” or “the album that drove them apart.” After years of research, years, I can soundly say: that’s bull crap. Well, okay, it’s also not entirely wrong: Ringo quit, George Martin quit, Yoko was around, and Paul was often recording songs on his own. Hearing outtakes of the session though, there is still plenty of wild lines and joking around and plenty of tracks where the full band played together. What I don’t buy is the illusion that the four Beatles recorded in isolation and begrudgingly pretending to be a band. Even if Paul recorded Mother Nature’s Son on his own, and George tapped Eric Clapton to play on Gently Weeps, and no other Beatle really touched Revolution 9 besides John, the equalizer is that every song was presented to the rest of the band. Each Beatle still had to please the audience of the other three (plus George Martin) which is why this album isn’t as hum-drum as an actual solo Beatle record. Even if each Beatle had more control over his own song, there’s no underestimating the influence of the Beatles as an institution.


The White Album is the ultimate in my head. The songs are all great in different ways, it has the band experimenting in many different ways with different song forms, and…and…it’s just cool! Even the band looks their most badass here. All my life I have wanted, what I call, “Long white album hair.” The White Album features the band at their most untouchable, yet also their most precarious. It is arguably their most personal record (along with Rubber Soul) and their most artistic. For all of it lumpiness and choices some may question, it is hard to imagine a work to be ay prouder of.
When deciding my list’s top 10, top 5, I secluded a top 3, with Morning Glory and The White Album among them. As previously stated, Morning Glory had long been my advertised favorite, but now it seemed far too narrow. My collection was growing by the week and I was consciously pushing myself farther and farther out of my old comfort zones of Alt-rock. With these new discoveries, it made me appreciate just how expansive The White Album was – and how relevant and contemporary it still remained; even far removed from my elementary days. This is my “island” album. Even though I can’t honestly say I still find new things in the album (short of the mono version) there is still so much to chew on and appreciate. The poster from the LP hangs in my bedroom, unmoved since I was little; such are my feelings to the music itself.



You may think picking The Beatles as my number one is a push. I can’t help but feel that this album best sums up my identity most (at least as far as musical taste goes.) And really, with a list that contains Number Girl, The Cardigans, Oasis, and Wilco – doesn’t the White Album make sense? As I close my list here at number one, I look back and wonder how suitable an end this really is. I adore the White Album, but that was very early on in my life. And I didn’t even finish talking about the 90’s! No no, we still have work to do. Though The White Album is my most favored, next time we’re going to talk about a truly perfect record.
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Old 2012.02.28, 07:22 AM   #62
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#2 In the Aeroplane over the Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel, we really have reached the end of this now haven’t we? The cult album whose popularity and reverence have swollen to meme-ic proportions. Where do I begin, apart from recounting how I built a tower tumbling through the trees? When making my list, where In the Aeroplane over the Sea was going to land was at the top of my mind. How was this album going to measure up alongside albums I grew up with? Alongside a top 10 that has seen little disruption since whenever I last decided to do this. It quickly seemed to belong in the top 10. I decided I’d rather listen to it over Nevermind, over high production albums like Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I did the eliminations until I was faced between it, The Beatles, and Oasis. I was a bit surprised it was up there with two bands I am absolutely devoted to, where my adoration for Jeff Mangum is merely respectful. I chose The Beatles among the three, but I still had to decide on #2. The simplification of my thought process on deciding between Aeroplane and Morning Glory can best be shown by comparing my two favorite tracks of each: the title track “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” and “Wonderwall.” Both are ballads sung in declaration of love to a girl; a love that screams life or death for both subjects. However, as sweeping as Wonderwall may be, Aeroplane enchantingly fills your head with such vivid, aged, tragic, beautiful visuals. The trumpet, the singing saw, and even Mangum’s nasal voice play like scratched and lost film. Anyone who listens is sure to pick out one lyric in this song (or at least, album) that sticks profoundly with them (mine being: “Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all.”)

As I compared the two, I found Aeroplane to be a very (very) mature (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory. All the songs are rather approachable, once coming to terms with the vocals, and even poppy. Just as Oasis fans pack arenas to sing along to “Champagne Supernova” for the hundredth time, so do Neutral Milk Hotel fans in slightly smaller venues. I know not a single person that can control themselves from singing either album start to finish. There are even two instrumentals on each album, along with an epic closer! Of course, once looking past surface, we find many things the Gallagher’s wouldn’t dare touch, but I found the many comparisons between the two very interesting. Comparisons I’m sure neither fan base would admit to their selves.

I wish I could say I was “leet” enough to have had this CD since the millennia, but alas I am a relatively late arrival to its party. I have been aware of this album since then though, I just never put all the pieces together. Since ’99, I had seen the iconic cover in many year-end lists and decade-end lists. However I wasn’t inquisitive enough to read and assumed the album was much older than it was and thought the cover art belonged to a band like Stone Temple Pilots or Blind Melon (hah!) As the decade went on, in a fashion to put Pinkerton to shame, fervor over the album grew and grew on the internet until I had to investigate.

This is one of those albums I don’t think I would have “gotten” before I cracked Bitte Orca. And still not every song revealed itself as readily as the title track or rolling opener “King of Carrot Flowers part 1.” Before I knew it though, it became the only thing I listened to for a month, or was how I felt. The entire album is just a fascinating to listen through, just for the sounds. It all sounds as if it was recorded in the 1910’s behind a circus, but with a fuzzed-out electric bass in the background. Jeff Mangum just pours his heart into the microphone, sometimes singing way out of his range. But the more his voice cracks and tears, the more you believe in the farcical yarns he spins. I think every album on this list is worth a spin of your time, but there are a few that I think are really “must-listens” and this is one of them. Even if it takes a few listens to really crack, I think it’s time worth investing.
The album has elevated from its underground roots to be an album so revered that some people interpret it as a joke. For one thing, the album nearly single handedly set the stage for the next decade of (indie, underground) music. A lot like how Nevermind had set the stage at the start of the 90’s. In fact it was the on the ashes of Nevermind’s platform that Aeroplane was built.

By the late 90’s, the kids that truly embraced Nevermind, and had bought into Mellon Collie had grown up. They were rats who has outgrown their cages and traded them for cubicles for in which to rage. The new kids that inherited that delicious 90’s tapestry…really weren’t of the same mold. In truth these “kids” were my peers; kids my own age. However, this crop of kids misconstrued what it meant to rage like “a rat in a cage” and what Nirvana’s “Rape Me” was really about. Kids wanted something angy-er-er, so up shot bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot. On the other side of the coin, the more presentable counter-points were becoming bankable again. Demographics shifted younger once more and Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and yes my Spice Girls ushered in the era of bubblegum. I’d argue Justin Timberlake probably had more in common with Kurt Cobain than Jonathan Davis did, but clearly the punk ethics that leveled the airwaves in the early 90’s, banked with in the mid 90’s, had sold out. I recall by 1999, good music was becoming more and more difficult to find. No surprise this when I resorted to unearthing CDs like Central Reservation and other obscure acts (for America.) In my introduction to this list, I mentioned that I used to do a weekly top 10 countdown of my favorite songs. 97 and 98 were my butter years doing this. By 1999 though, my top 10’s were becoming less engaging due to me finding less and less music I fancied through the traditional means. I remember one late list including two Oasis songs, two Radiohead songs and something like three Smashing Pumpkins where prior I had enjoyed ten very different selections. But also I was turning more and more to enjoying full albums rather than just individual songs. By summer 2000, I stopped doing these lists entirely.

I was finding less and less through traditional means, implying there were less traditional means available by then. Christmas ’98 I reserved a gift that changed the game. A Diamond Rio PMP300, one of the first portable mp3 players and introduced me to the MP3 and the idea of “free songs on the internet.” A year later came Napster that would fully re-open the music discovery faucets. The mp3 (and Napster) of course helped listeners caught in the mainstream find more underground acts. Though it wasn’t immediately that I discovered it, but the 90’s punk-ethics infused alternative music that I devoured earlier was still alive and evolving underground. For the most part, Jeff Mangum had unwittingly planted the seeds there.

If Kurt Cobain had brought the underground to the fore, with its anti-commercial message and tough to monetize sound, Jeff Mangum returned it to where it came from. In the Aeroplane over the Sea was as revitalizing for the scene as Nevermind was for popular music, breathing life into the sector that had been suffocated by me-too acts, bloated and beached ones, and imposters. “Holland, 1945” didn’t set the world on fire like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” but it did slowly burn. Neutral Milk Hotel begat acts like Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom, The Microphones, and Deerhunter: arguably a more presentable legacy.

Aeroplane is perfect in a different way than Mellon Collie is. In Mellon Collie, the songs fill each other’s cracks to complete a full experience. For instance “Tales of a Scorched Earth” might not be a song you would regularly queue up, but in between “1979” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” you really dig the sequence. For Aeroplane, each song lends itself to the next. While Mellon Collie is an epic of grand proportions and sheer magnitude, Aeroplane is an epic in miniature. While each song doesn’t specifically lead to the rest, even ones advertised as “part 2” they all fit together perfectly to paint a full picture. A picture that is even greater than the sum of its parts.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a wonderful record to talk about. It has an old timey sound, yet was extremely forward thinking. Very traditional, but with odd production choices and instrumentation. It’s heart-warming and blunt and tragic, and other arty-farty conundrums. A true 10. I truly feel that my journey through music thus far was leading to this milestone of a record. It has the simplicity of an album like Morning Glory, the challenge of Funeral or Bitte Orca, the rebellious spirit of Doolittle or Nevermind, and the soul-bearing of Central Reservation or, yes, even First Band on the Moon. It may not top the list, but it is a work it likely took the body of this list to truly appreciate. I am sure this album will help me crack into other great albums I’ll soon love as much, hopefully.

We’re at the conclusion! Gosh! Almost a year after sorting this list and reflecting on these twenty (-one) records, I am quite pleased with the results. While I have listened to much new music since then, I feel this list is still a good advertisement of my feelings. Sure there’s a few choices I still second guess (Transmission from the Satellite Heart over Clouds Taste Metallic) but I think I made choices I’m comfortable with. Thank you all very much for reading my list and these essays! I hope you enjoyed them and inspired you to revisit some of your favorites and evaluate just what it is that you like about them so much. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is as much tapestry to enjoy that isn’t heard in the notes that greatly amplifies what you do hear. I’d love to hear what albums you enjoy, and why! This list is solid enough to last me a while, but may we all meet again when I get that itch to list. Or more preferably, when you do!
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Old 2012.02.28, 07:27 AM   #63
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Yay! I'm done! I finished! Thank you everyone for putting up with these posts and more or less suffocating this thread for a year. Thank you to everyone who complimented this "project." I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope eveyone can find something to enjoy.

To extremely late answer your question So_cold: My three favorite tracks are probably Tame, Mr. Grieves, and Silver. But I might also be skirting more "obvious songs."

Someone else's turn now!
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Old 2012.02.28, 02:12 PM   #64
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Jihad, I think you need a music/etc discussion blog. haha
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Old 2012.02.28, 02:27 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by frecklegirl View Post
Jihad, I think you need a music/etc discussion blog. haha
Sentiment echoed. I've enjoyed your list.
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Old 2012.03.05, 06:32 PM   #66
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Thanks a lot for the effort and dedication, Jihad. I'm most likely to check all these albums up, sooner or later.

If you want, you can expand this list with "special mentions". I don't want it to end so abruptely on a top ten list.

(Please begin with Dark Side of the Moon.)
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Old 2012.03.05, 09:50 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by frecklegirl View Post
Jihad, I think you need a music/etc discussion blog. haha
Agreed. Intimidatingly exceptional.
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Old 2012.03.05, 10:25 PM   #68
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I would subscribe to Jihad's Justin.tv channel if he did a weekly music show. I would also consider doing a podcast with him.
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Old 2012.03.06, 08:40 AM   #69
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In the Aeroplane over the Sea is one of my favorites too!

But really, Jihad should be paid for these reviews.
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Old 2012.03.06, 10:30 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by W3iHong View Post
But really, Jihad should be paid for these reviews.
If that is how you feel, please consider donating to EMF!
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