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Monday, February 22, 2010

Back to the musical discoveries I was talking about in the previous post. In addition to good old classic rock which I totally adore and revere, I have gradually become a regular listener of hip-hop, rap, trance, trip-hop, electronica, punk, as well as lots of Brit indie.

Yes. Most of the stuff I’ve recently started listening to isn't on LAN (Hardly a surprise. There wasn't even a proper Bruce Springsteen/The Rolling Stones/Sting/The Police/Bob Dylan catalogue on LAN the last time I checked. Probably because they aren't called GIGAMETH or LAMP IN A POD. I don't know). Mediafire zindabaad. Megaupload too. Though the considerate folks at Megaupload do not allow parallel downloads. And the insti net is about as fast as a blind monkey on meth. Or like… something. I’m sure you can do better than that. It requires patience to download stuff, but it is rewarding. At least it was to me.

So, this is a random pick of ten albums that I have been rotating non-stop on Winamp over the past month or so. If you strongly believe that ‘RAP IS NOT MUSIC’, or that ‘ELECTRONIC MUSIC SOUNDS THE SAME EVERYWHERE’, or that ‘DJs JUST ADD A RANDOM SAMPLE BEAT TO CREATE A TRACK’…

Fuck off. Go pontificate about your impressive understanding of music somewhere else.

1. Blue Lines : Massive Attack

Yes, you have heard of them because ‘Teardrop’ is the theme song for the Fox TV Show, House MD. But Blue Lines, and not Mezzanine is them at their finest. Don’t just take my word for it. Q readers voted it number 9 in a poll for the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. The tracks ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ and ‘Blue Lines’ stand out in this superb album.

2. Up the Bracket : The Libertines

Prior to listening to The Libertines, I knew Pete Doherty only as the guy Kate Moss dumped after making some disparaging comments about how well-endowed he was. Or wasn’t. My bad. He was part of one of the most awesome bands ever, and sadly they broke up after releasing only a couple of albums, one in 2002(this one), the second in 2004. As Doherty croons in their self-titled second album, ‘What Became of the Likely Lads?’

The Libertines play a fast and dirty brand of music, with Carl Barat and Doherty providing all the vocal fireworks. Chosen tracks – ‘Vertigo’, ‘Death on the Stairs’, ‘Up the Bracket’, ‘Boys In The Band’… you know what? Screw this. I love the entire album to bits.

3. The Low End Theory : A Tribe Called Quest

I had recently listened to Q-Tip’s The Renaissance and had liked it. And then I started listening to A Tribe Called Quest (he had been a part of the group until they disbanded in 1998), the iconic hip-hop group which I was till then, sadly unaware of. And this album just shows us why they are among the greatest ever. One can safely say this album was the holy grail of alternative hip-hop. Jazz and hip-hop had never been this fantastically and seamlessly blended. Q-Tip and Phife are in fine form here – they effortlessly bounce off each other's verses. My picks – ‘Verses from the Abstract’, ‘Vibes and Stuff’, ‘Check the Rhime’, ‘Jazz (We’ve got)’.

4. In My Memory : Tiesto

The biggest and most accomplished DJ ever, without a doubt. So it was not at all surprising when he played live at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics. In My Memory is my favourite record of his (still puzzled as to why Allmusic gives it a couple of stars only) – and guest vocals by Kirsty Hawkshaw, Jan Johnston and Nicola Hitchcock lift the mood even more. ‘Battleship Grey’ is an absolute favourite.

5. Music for the Jilted Generation : The Prodigy

‘Blown away’ is the only way to describe the effect this album has on its listener. The Allmusic review puts it aptly – ‘Sonic Terrorism’ with the never dying energy each track brings to the room. Forget the Black Eyed Peas, this is where ‘The Energy Never Dies’. And I haven’t even listened to their other albums properly yet. Selected tracks – ‘Full Throttle’, ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Poison’, ‘The Narcotic Suite : Skylined’.

Oh, and the album title was the sole reason I listened to this one first, instead of listening to their debut album, ‘Experience’. This album was my first brush with hardcore techno. Wow. WOW.

6. The Mix-Up : Beastie Boys

Why am I not talking about ‘Paul’s Boutique’ when I have to choose only one album from Beastie Boys’ (Yes, there is no ‘The’ in their name) discography? Because it is one of the greatest records ever made and it doesn’t need my thumbs-up.

The Mix-Up, on the other hand is, as the Beasties themselves put it, a ‘post-punk instrumental’ album. But what would a Beastie album be, without Mike D, Ad Rock and MCA killing it on the mic? Pretty solid, as it turns out. Preferred tracks – ‘Suco de Tangerina’, ‘Freaky Hijiki’, ‘The Cousin of Death’.

7. Dig Your Own Hole : The Chemical Brothers

The first track, very aptly titled ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ neatly sets the tone for what went on to be regarded as one of the finest big beat electronic records ever. The Chemical Brothers distort samples and riffs at will almost as if it were being done by right. The heavy synths and pounding beats take you along for the ride and then kick you right out. And you’ll want it again. Also listen to – ‘Setting Sun’, ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, ‘Elektrobank’.

8. It’s Dark and Hell is Hot : DMX

The album has a very ominous ring to it, what with the name and all. And it completely stays true to the first impression it makes on you. The dark, sinister beats and the hardcore, ferocious, relentless, snarly and gravelly flow of DMX hit the listener in the face with a sledgehammer. The lyrics, though admittedly violent, horrific and gruesome, are loaded with symbolism and meaning, though I wouldn’t obviously go as far to say they are profound and of immense literal value. Think ‘I sold my soul to the Devil, the price was cheap/And it’s cold on this level, and it’s twice as deep’, and you’ll have an idea of what I mean. Select songs – ‘Intro’, ‘Ruff Ryders’ Anthem’, ‘Get At Me, Dog’, ‘X is Coming’, ‘Let Me Fly’, ‘Stop Being Greedy’.

What a debut. What an album. ‘TALK IS CHEAP, MUTHAFUCKA!’

9. Sirens of the Sea : Oceanlab

Another of my favourite trance records – this one’s got lilting, teasing melodies for the most part with the beats and sounds to match. Justine Suissa’s vocals are the reason this album rises from being a good one to a bloody good one. It isn’t exactly an album to which one can groove to on the dance floor, yet it is no less magnificent. Oceanlab and Above and Beyond, who were known for their epic trance tracks take a different approach here – most of the songs are 4 to 5 minutes long and still pack the same punch. Brillance.

Picks – ‘Sirens of the Sea’, ‘Miracle’, ‘On a Good Day’, ‘On the Beach’.

10. Mezcal Head : Swervedriver

I first heard of Swervedriver while leafing through a TopGear India issue a year or so ago. One of the tracks they recommended for ‘system up with the top down’ drives on the highway was the song ‘Duel’ from this album. And once I listened to that, I was hooked. The scorching, relentless sound of their guitars defines the band’s musical character. Their lyrics are often about cars and films, and this only helps. Mezcal Head’s got awesomeness written all over it – it’s a pity Swervedriver didn’t become all that famous. But don’t let that deter you. Listen to them. It’s going to be totally worth your time.

Selected tracks – ‘Duel’, ‘Blowin’ Cool’, ‘For Seeking Heat’, ‘Last Train to Satansville’, ‘Girl on a Motorbike’, darn, pretty much everything.

Actually, all this effort is useless. Nobody reads this blog and nobody listens to these kinds of music. There’s no point.

But consider the alternative I had – a term paper on Machiavelli’s Discourses and how he talks of corruption in the republican form of government. At least that’s what I think it’s about.

I’m very, very happy I could bring myself to write all this down. Had been meaning to for quite a while, but had never really felt like it. This is probably the first substantial and meaningful post I’ve ever made on this crappy blog.