Wednesday, December 19, 2012

John Durant Guest Post: Treasure Soul Part 1

My close friend John Durant has graciously given me Part 1 of his list favorite albums...  I have known John for a long time and he has impeccable taste in music.  I have to say, I am surprised by a couple of his choices (which makes it all the more fun to read).  Here you go....


Thanks to David for letting me guest post. I add my own list of album essentials. To make this list they must be records I listen to all the way through, and they sometimes records I didn’t fall in love with first time through. But, with each listening they unfold in some mysterious way that makes them special. They are all much better on vinyl--- so get them that way if you can.

Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West

Most of the records I love are hard to quickly put in a category. Is this punk music? Maybe. Alt-rock? Maybe. In the end it doesn’t matter. It’s a jangly art house rock meditation on relationships, religion, consumerism— the entire human condition, but with such incredibly memorable melodies on songs like “Cowboy Dan” or “Bankrupt on Selling”. The lyrics are equally memorable such as, “In this place that I call home, my brain’s the cliff and my heart’s the bitter buffalo.” It is glorious colors of gray and blue. I never tire of hearing it through.

David Bowie – Low

David responded once to the question about which of his music did he love the most, and he said it was his favorite record—that if you were to cut his veins he would bleed “Low”. Thankfully he spared a vial of that blood and gave us this record. It starts out with what one would expect from Bowie—things that one would likely find on Space Oddity or other Ziggy-style records. But, then he does what we really expect—the unexpected. Side B of the vinyl record has collaborations with Brian Eno. Listen to “Warszawa.”  This and the rest of the tracks become precursor ambient music/orchestral masterpieces. It is nearly unheard of yet entirely unforgettable if you have the patience to give it a chance.

Metallica – And Justice For All

This band figured out faster than its peers that just doing thrash metal faster and faster had diminishing returns. And, the result is this often overlooked record with songs about soldiers returning from war (“One”) and a yearning for color in a world gone black (“Blackened”). James Hetfield is a very deep dude, and even as a young kid he fearlessly made metal more than just long hair and shredding the guitar. For example, “Darkening in vain, decadence remains. All is said and done; never is the sun.” His themes are not clichés, and most metal groups since them have trafficked in pathetic imitations of what Hetfield expressed with forceful genuineness. Production quality on their earlier records was very very weak, and they finally moved away from such thin sounds to a richer, deeper texture—although they didn’t get the studio sound truly right until the “black” album. Nevertheless, these songs are stronger than anything they did until Death Magnetic.

Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania

Billy reformed the band in 2007, and after some lineup changes the band settled into to a groove. This record exhibits all he magic that made the Pumpkins one of the alternative trinity (Nirvana, Pumpkins, Pearl Jam) that launched a movement in the 90’s. The songs on Oceania have the youthful energy but not the rage of earlier Pumpkins. Billy’s song writing is sublime and reflects his contemplations on the cosmos. Listen first to “Violet Rays” and then “The Celestials” to get a feel for where he is taking things. The opening lines of “The Celestials” are a message to new indie bands from one who has been there—a cautionary message that much of the business hasn’t changed, “On the day that you were born, they built an empire off a scream. I can’t explain. Endlessly they’ll set you free, give you reason to believe this empty place.” The pleading lines from “Violet Rays” are convincing and reach me at a visceral level, “Babe, don’t leave me. Please believe me—I’m so easy to know.” 

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