Jan 10, 02:12 AM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part IV)
Q and Not U, No Kill No Beep Beep (2000, Dischord)
I had a hard time picking between this and Different Damage for a Q and Not U record to feature. This is the record that got me into the band, so I figured it was a good bet. I was only a fan for about a year and a half before the band called it quits in 2005, but I was at least able to see them three times at the Black Cat. Other than Fugazi, Q and Not U is what first introduced me to DC music. With their breakup, the disbanding of Black Eyes and Fugazi’s indefinite hiatus, the Dischord empire has for the most part crumbled.
“A Line in the Sand” from this record is one of my favorite songs, and is a fairly good example of the Q and Not U sound. “And the Washington Monument (blinks goodnight)” is another stand-out, with clashing guitars and a driving beat. “Kiss Distinctly American” also demonstrates a slower side, even maybe “prettier” side. It’s a bit difficult to describe this band’s sound. I can pick some rather meaningless genre names, such as “post-hardcore” or “dance-punk” but that’s not helping you understand. There’s a lot of rhythm, dance beats and other unique uses of percussion. I haven’t heard a lot of things like Q and Not U, and I pretty much refer to it as having a “DC sound.” It’s catchy, and makes for great dance music and works well for encouraging speeding while driving.
Q and Not U only produced three records, and I’m just going to suggest picking up their entire catalog. The first three songs of Different Damage are some of my favorite Q and Not U cuts. I wouldn’t want you missing tracks such as “Soft Pyramids” or “So Many Animal Calls.” I really miss the sound of Q and Not U. The closest thing I’ve heard to a band building on this style was an ill-fated DC band, the Guins, that have since disbanded as well. Hopefully someone will revive this sound eventually.
Jan 9, 01:59 AM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part III)
Tarkio, I Guess I Was Hoping for Something More (1998, Barcelona)
I’m not going to pretend that I knew of this album before the Decemberists existed. For those not in-the-know, Tarkio was Colin Meloy’s band while he was in college at the University of Montana. I spotted the exit for Tarkio while driving across Montana in November, however I was not able to get my camera out in time to take a photo.
Some have dismissed Tarkio as a simple college-rock band, and that’s partially correct. Tarkio was a fairly simple college rock-band. What this album has going for it, though, is the fact that it’s Colin Meloy’s songwriting before he decided to take things in a different direction. You won’t find 13 minute ballads about mariners, or any other historically-based epics. You have Colin Meloy in the raw, singing about things that are fairly easy to relate to. You still have elements that are undeniably Decemberists-esque, such as the song “Eva Luna.” It doesn’t get much better than hearing Colin growl a bit while singing “darkly lacquered.”
For me, songs such as “Caroline Avenue,” with lyrics such as “and you’re trying so hard / it takes more than flipping off the traffic cops to impress me” carry more meaning than the latest Decemberists fare (“When the War Came,” for example). It’s hearing Colin Meloy tackle what it was like to grow up in Montana, which as best I can tell isn’t that much different than growing up anywhere else in the United States. For a college band out of Missoula, Montana, this is quite a masterpiece.
Jan 2, 05:52 PM: Favorite Albums of All-Time (Part II)
Dntel, Life is Full of Possibilities (2001, Plug Research)
Take your pick, which song changed your life: ”(This is) the Dream of Evan and Chan” or “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?” Answering that question probably says a lot about your taste in music. Or maybe I’m full of it. I first heard this Dntel record before I had any idea who Ben Gibbard was, or that he was in some band called Death Cab for Cutie. I was blown away by ”(This is) the Dream of Evan and Chan,” but for some reason neglected to do any further research into who Jimmy Tamborello was, or how this album came to be. It was only a year or so later that I heard Give Up by the Postal Service. At that point I put the pieces together, bought Something About Airplanes by Death Cab for Cutie, and the rest was history. If only someone had sent me the memo earlier.
Now don’t make the mistake of thinking because you like the Postal Service, you’ll enjoy this record. Sure, Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) is part of the Postal Service, but this record is electronic music—not radio friendly pop songs. If you like Massive Attack, Autechre, Telefon Tel Aviv or other electronic artists, you’ve probably already heard this record. If not, well then go to it. One reason I enjoy electronic/ambient music is that I tend to listen to the record as a collective piece of work, rather than waiting to hear individual songs. It makes it harder to pick stand-out tracks, but the overall effect is generally more powerful than a pop record.
Jan 1, 10:24 PM: Favorite Albums of All-Time
Now that I’m done with my Top 40 of 2006 list, I figured I might as well keep going and do some write-ups on my favorite albums of all time.
The albums I’m going to describe in this on-going series are the ones that have shaped my current tastes. Many of these aren’t particularly “indie” or anything of that sort, they come from many sources.
And now, the first in the series. These are not in any order.
Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes (1992, Atlantic)
I was introduced to Tori Amos about 4 years ago, when I first started college. I’ve seen her live once, performing in Chicago with Ben Folds. It was called the “Lotta Pianos Tour.” Aside from classical pianists, I’ve never seen anyone play the piano like Tori Amos. At one point, she was playing two pianos at the same time. It was incredible. Say what you will about a hetrosexual male enjoying Tori Amos, I can take it.
Little Earthquakes is my favorite Tori Amos album, and “Crucify” is one of my favorite tracks. Everything on this record is wonderful, but for me it is also attached to many memories of my first year of college. This is going to be a common theme in this list of albums. For me, an album is especially powerful if I end up associating memories with them years after the fact. I can’t listen to “Winter” without thinking about sitting around in my freshman dorm getting used to college and wondering what the rest of my life would be like. It’s often said that the music you hear growing up is the music you will love for the rest of my life—and I think this is the reason why. It’s not so much that your taste gets locked in at a certain age, but that you associate so much with the songs.
Of course any song can become attached to certain events or memories, and that doesn’t actually mean it’s a good song. But if you have an amazing song, or album, and it is also associated with powerful memories, it will always be a favorite.
This entry is part of the Favorite Albums of All-Time series.