Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Best albums of all time - A start to my list... Part 1

So, people have been posting on social media to list an album they can listen to from front to back... a "perfect" album... one they don't have to skip a track.

It's kind of a funny question for people who tend to ONLY listen to albums, collect music, records, and really appreciate albums as an organism.

When I post a reply to those posts, I album dump a list of albums, usually with no explanation, save "I could go on!"

Over the last several days, I started a long list that's up to something like ten pages... I don't know the total number on there, but I want to write a little something on each album.

As a result, here's the first chunk of them. The genres are all over the place! We have classic rock to metal to punk and hip hop and emo.

How I made my selections for the most part is I TRIED to only include one album by a band/performer if I hit a point where I thought, "damn, they have more than one 'perfect' album!" One example I'm having trouble with at the moment is Bob Dylan (not included), because I have a group of albums I love, and I usually listen to them in chronological order, front-to-back... seriously. In a few cases, I lumped some albums together. You'll see what I mean.

In other words, welcome to my musical mind. I'm a music lover, music fan, with just a tiny bit of music knowledge, so I'll intermix feelings with a touch of music knowledge and history. It's random and silly... But, I hope there are some in here you're familiar with and some you're not and might be inclined to go and search for after reading about them.

Pearl Jam – Ten – My album for my teen years, I suppose? Good thing I didn’t realize the deeper meaning to the songs when I was younger? I was just one of those down grunge kids in the early 90’s, trying to figure out how to fit in and this “Alive” song comes on and I keyed into it. July 1991, it debuted on the radio… Not too long after that, I was visiting friends out of state, riding in a car, and we were all singing it at the top of our lungs. 29 years later, that song… hell, the whole album… I still want to sing at the top of my lungs. For me, Ten, Vs, and Vitology are more of a trilogy, and I like to listen to them all together when I have the time, or Ten and Vs together. They were all recorded at such a great time in music. While Pearl Jam has SO MANY great albums, those encompass a particular time in their career that is special to them… and to me. I listen to the band a lot… their albums, live albums, the Green Habit Collection(?), etc… you get the idea. I’m a completist. I love ‘em.

Bad Religion – Generator – Stranger than Fiction might be the answer for some people, I’ve always loved Generator… It captures the band prior to hitting the major labels, before they had to prove anything to the world, while they were still a widely-known, but secret to mainstream audiences. Perhaps it’s just preference for me, but I like this album better than Against the Grain and Recipe for Hate. Just the overall quality of the songs, I suppose – I’ve listened to all of them countless times, but I always go back to Generator. For playability, I probably listen to 1) Generator, 2) Stranger than Fiction, and 3) All Ages, which is a collection.

Radiohead - In Rainbows – I love Radiohead. No apologies there. They have a lot of records which could be technically perfect, but I consider In Rainbows to be their most perfectly listenable record, front to back. My wife and I had this CD in our car for a couple of years and, whenever we didn’t have an MP3 player hooked up, we listened to that album, front-to-back, again… and again… and again… Never tire of it. I listen to all of their albums, bootlegs, compilations, deluxe editions, etc… But, I listen to In Rainbows more than any of their other albums. Believe me, I listen to a LOT of music, but I think I listen to In Rainbows more than any other album I own.

Beck - Sea Change – Beck wrote this album, I believe, in the span of seven days, following a breakup…. and it tears your heart out. It is haunting, beautiful, soulful, and wonderful. I love it so much. You wonder at times, how did he get through this period in his life? He’s a funny character, too… You hear him sing on his albums (some of them) and he understates his voice. My wife and I saw him live in support of this album and we were SHOCKED at how amazing he sounded. Was this the same guy? Indeed… Powerful and…. So soulful. Anyway… One thing to keep in mind, too. While Sea Change is about loss, you should follow it up by listening to Morning Phase… Where Sea Change is about loss, Morning Phase is about finding love again. While not stated as such, I consider it as sister album, released twelve years apart.

Bastille - Bad Blood – What would you call them? Synth-based British Indie Pop? I have no idea. Wonderful band, great dark lyrics masked with uplifting (at times) beats. Song after song, hit after hit… Catchy, haunting at times, and go between ballads and driving “dance” songs (the British equivalent of dance/club songs).

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Telesterion – Ok, this is a bit of a cheat, but I’m including it anyway. This is a “best of” from his first TWENTY solo albums. Crazy, right? Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is the guitar genius behind At the Drive-In, Mars Volta, Bosnian Rainbows, and other bands (too many to list). His solo efforts are ongoing – 40+ now? This boxed set was an effort to curate a selection from the first twenty releases into a package for Record Store Day several years ago. So freaking good, seriously. He blends together rock, progressive rock, blues, jazz, and whatever flows into his head seamlessly / uniquely. I’m a fan… obviously. My wife and I managed to catch him with Mars Volta a number of years ago at a secret show in Hollywood. It was crazy! We had missed seeing At the Drive-In, because they broke-up the show BEFORE we were due to see them. Damn!

Brand New – Deja Entendu – Brand New has released a decent amount of content from 2000 through 2015, but, in my mind, nothing can touch Deja Entendu. It is just the right balance between melodic and hardcore… They were one of those bands back in the early 00’s that I felt like I was keeping secret from people when I would play this CD. This, Burning Airline’s Mission: Control!, Jets to Brazil’s Orange Rhyming Dictionary, and Texas is the Reason’s Do You Know Who You Are? were on regular repeat back in the day, and I just smiled… and rarely shared the secret except with a few “deserving” people. Now, I realize that was a shitty thing to do!

Burning Airlines – Mission: Control! – This is one of the best albums no one has ever heard of. Full of hooks and so f’ing good, I am shocked it’s not on every damned list of best rock albums of all time. Maybe not THE best, but on lists. Seriously. Two of the guys from Jawbox, who I caught ONE time in San Diego (stumbled on opening for another band, I think?)… didn’t realize the correlation until later… Still, though, they were good. Mission: Control! is lightning in a bottle.

Texas is the Reason – Do You Know Who You Are? – Oh, I pined over this band! One amazing album and done. The band members went on to other things, but nothing quite matched the perfection that was this album. If Burning Airlines’ Mission: Control! Is up high on best album lists, this one should be right after it. I would trade some of the rock flavor of Mission: Control! for melody in this one. Just an apples v oranges comparison.

Jets to Brazil – Orange Rhyming Dictionary – Formed by the lead singer of Jawbreaker, this is their best album, in my opinion. I do think Four Cornered Night is solid, but ORD is just the best. I bought it on CD and Vinyl right around the same time and it was on constant rotation. Couldn’t help myself. Just great damned music.

Sleigh Bells – Treats – There’s a punk energy in the electronic sound. This could be because the songwriter/producer, Derek Miller, came from the hardcore scene. Listen to this at volume, and I’ll see what I mean. I think “at volume” is the intent here. Just lose yourself in the noise and… you’re welcome for the ear-melting candy.

M.I.A. – Kala – I was trying to figure out which one of M.I.A’s albums was my favorite… This one just has some bizarre beats, intermixed with some GREAT samples straight out of music I love (or would if I took the time to look up the samples). She’s definitely an original! #2 for me is MAYA.

The Bronx – Self-Titled – An amazing example of the four-take rule. The band plays live in-studio for each take, each song, and they used the best of each version. Captures the raw intensity of their live performances. But, this album is SOOOOO good from everyone. Punk's raw intensity, fast, and tight.

Dashboard Confessional – The Swiss Army Romance - I can remember in the early 2000’s, Chris Carrabba had just been signed to Vagrant. Before this album was re-released, he was touring as an opening act early on a Vagrant tour. I think it was 2001? Alkaline Trio was headlining. My wife and I were sitting on the floor in this youth center venue, the Epicenter and stood up when he started. He was something special. I b-lined to buy a copy during his set. Every. Damned. Song…. Brilliant.

Further Seems Forever – Penny Black – Chris Carrabba’s band, pre-Dashboard Confessional. This is actually a return to the band after a 12-year hiatus. In 2012 Penny Black was released and is GOOD. I think it was released at a time no one was paying attention.

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - The Flaming Lips isn’t for everyone, I know, but I think this album is a lot more accessible. It’s a fun album, a great storyline (robots!), really sweet, and dreamy.

Ima Robot – Self-Titled – It’s kind of funny.. The lead singer of this band, Alex Ebert, had this great band, Ima Robot… I loved it… But he didn’t get noticed until he formed ANOTHER band years later. You may have heard of them – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. This one is more indie, electronic, and quirky, less folk.

Metallica – Master of Puppets / Ride the Lightning / Master of Puppets / …And Justice for All – When picking a favorite album by this band, which one are you going to go with? Many choose Master of Puppets… Is it because of “Orion”? Why Ride the Lightning? Because of “Fade to Black”? “One” for …And Justice for All? Probably not the easy answers for everyone. To be honest, I’ve been listening to Metallica since early 1989, which would be considered late in the game to old dogs, but that’s 31 years… I was 13 and saw the video for “One” on MTV. I was already listening to rock and hard rock, so that just kicked me in another direction of digging into another band genres – metal, speed metal, etc. If it wasn’t for Metallica, I wouldn’t have found things like Rip Magazine or stumbled into Grunge music, most likely, since it was covered as “rock” in those days.

Finger Eleven – Tip – I can remember hearing Finger Eleven’s “Above” late one night in 1998 and thinking, “what is this?” Went out and bought their album the next day. While I think their albums after this are a bit uneven, this is a GREAT album, front to back.

Foo Fighters – Self-Titled – July 29, 1995 I was at Soma in San Diego watching the Foo Fighters live playing the songs from this album. I still think it’s their best. While The Colour and the Shape is also a GREAT album, this one was done by Dave himself, and is a pure outlet for his creativity, post-Nirvana.

Faith No More – The Real Thing – You know… I had this assignment in High School (Gen-X kid here) where I had to memorize a poem, write it out, and analyze it. I chose “Falling to Pieces” by Faith No More. Welcome to my mind… There are some pretty f’d up songs on this album, but it is PERFECT. “From Out of Nowhere” to “The Real Thing” to the jazzy “Edge of the World,” it showcases Mike Patton’s vocal range and the diverse cast of characters that makes up Faith No More and just how great they are at what they do – stretching sonic boundaries and making music worth listening to. If you haven’t heard it, the 2015 Sol Invictus is damned good… It’s like they never left, and Patton still sounds phenomenal.

A Perfect Circle – Mer de Noms – This album… If I had to make a list of my top twenty (?) albums, I know this would be on there. I hate making top lists, because I always forget adding things. I have this on CD and Vinyl. The flow of it is one of beauty. Despite the heavy moments, the ebb and flow of it, in 6/8, just washes over and takes you away – joy, sorrow…. Who cares, really, it just strips everything away through the whole album. I forget myself when I’m listening to it. “3 Libras” repeats “You don’t see me” again and again until, “you don’t see me at all,” but I don’t see myself while I’m listening.

Evanescence – Fallen – A perfect album that’s a damned shame, honestly. I’d call them a Utopic band that got lost in itself because of fame. They couldn’t keep themselves together. Who’s the most important member of the band? The band is… If they could have remembered that, maybe more albums like this could have followed. “Bring Me to Life” is good, sure, ok, but the ALBUM is great, front to back.

Elliott – False Cathedrals – While they did have other releases, nothing could really touch this album. Some great some build-ups, vocals, and swell, but it is a great album from song-to-song. I was surprised more people hadn’t heard of them. I think it just comes down to record label! I found them on a Revelation Records compilation. I fell in love with this band around the same time I fell in love with the woman who would become my wife. The song, “Drive on Me” was one of our anthems, because we were constantly driving to see each other. Go figure. It ended up on our wedding soundtrack.

Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – It’s kind of funny… I haven’t listened to the album in a while. I knew I loved it, but listening again, I remembered just WHY. It’s so damned different. A little jarring a times, off-kilter, but it works. Frenetic… in a good way. You feel like you’re listening to a band on tap – just polished enough, but without losing any of their originality.

Saves the Day – Through Being Cool – I always felt I was a little old in 1999-2002 for the emo shows I went to… I was in my 20’s. I saw Saves the Day live a couple of times and they were YOUNG, in my opinion, but their musicianship was great… the lyrics – stellar. This album in particular tapped into something for me, personally. Still love it and it has aged well. I was shocked to see it hit a 20th anniversary in 2019.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass – This is my Zen… When I’m feeling down sometimes, I turn on my record player and play one of my two copies of this album, front to back. It’s a happy place. I didn’t realize until several years ago (shame on me), but once I did, I devoured as much of his catalogue as I could. This is my favorite. I do love Living in the Material World and Dark Horse, but All Things Must Pass, despite its length, is what my soul is drawn to.

The Insomniacs – Out Of It – Way back… Waaaayyyyy back… I fashioned myself a music reviewer. I had a blog, I reviewed music, and some labels even sent me free records! Go figure. I even interviewed some people. One of the guys I interviewed was the drummer from the Insomniacs. Why? Well, because I thought the band was AWESOME! I saw them live at the Casbah in the mid-90’s (you know, around when I was old enough) and was blown away by the power trio. Modern garage rock done right… Just enough of the 60’s aesthetic to make it work without being dragged down by it. Hooky guitars, great lyrics, and thumping beats… Between this album, Wake Up, and their self-titled 10”, I had them on heavy rotation.

Guster – Ganging Up On the Sun – This was recommended to me several years ago by my friend, Michael… Had heard of them, but hadn’t listened to them AT ALL, so it was cool to listen to them with fresh ears. Really, I was surprised I wasn’t listening to them sooner. After listening to their complete catalogue, Ganging Up On the Sun remains my favorite, because of the sum of its parts. They are just a good band, really! This album goes from ballads to rock tracks seamlessly and solidifies them as, what, an indie band? Labels are weird.

Days of the New – Days of the New II – Grunge Version 2.0! All of the Grunge, none of the excess! I loved this album when it came out and still really do. When I used to listen to it, there was always something that bothered me (like 2%) and I finally pinned down what it is – over-production. One thing that was always great about music from the 90’s grunge era is that you FELT everything… With this, maybe it’s one too many takes, a little too many layers, etc… At some point, it wears away at “the feels.” Don’t get me wrong, I still think the album is a great one, but when you stack it next to something from the era, when someone is struggling with addiction, for example, and their lyrics are from the depth of their struggles, it cuts to the bone. This isn’t scabbed over, but covered with a band-aid from too much production. I’d love to hear something put together from earlier takes.

Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones – This album… I feel like I’m in a pub listening to someone sing songs about places I’ve never been, but would love to go. Loves I’ve never had, people I’ll never meet, but, by the ends of the songs, I’ve had a glimmer to the heart of how all of them scarred one Frank Turner. He’s a beautiful songwriter and goes from soft-spoken singer to a growling howl in a beat. Don’t forget to tip the barkeep.

The Cumulative Effects of Various Forms of Voter Suppression

I've been waving the red flag for a while now about how, since the primaries, the signs have been there for massive voter suppression in the November Presidential, Senate, and House elections. Well... More evidence is coming in to support it

Now, we really need to think about the cumulative effect of the "little" challenges we'll have with voting in November and the efforts being made to discredit mail-in voting, reduce the number of polling stations, and, we're finding out now, efforts to SLOW mail down and "leave it behind."

Check the links, read them, see what you think...

1. The president (and those around him) discredits mail in / absentee voting - if he loses because of those, "it's a sham election." He has been saying that for weeks, because of pushes to EXPAND absentee voting during increases cases of the virus. More people with access to absentee voting = more HONEST voting = closer to a popular vote, which he lost in 2016.

2. Close the number of polling stations - Reduce poling stations in areas known to lean Democratic in swing states. Net result = more likely for the state to land Republican when you take out mail in / absentee votes.

3. Slow down mail / "leave behind" mail - So, in different areas, how are absentee votes counted? Is it based on post mark or Received by dated? It may depend on the region, BUT when going through the articles for my post below, some of them were talking about received by. If the new USPS Chief appointed by the President is going to enact changes, which will, in effect, slow mail down, think about this - what if we look at zip codes? Which zip codes are more likely to vote Democrat or Republican? What if Democrat zip codes are slowed down just enough, so a higher percent miss the cut off, while more Republican zip codes do not? This could be "nudged" simply because, "oh, it's their distance from the local post office" or regional dispatch. There are any number of reasons to excuse it.

4. Lawsuits - don't forget as well that there are a number of lawsuits going on to make mail-in / absentee voting even more complicated! Needing to have your mail-in vote witnessed... Some people are suing to be able to mail-in-vote at all (safety)...  Well, all you have to do is search on mail in voting lawsuits and you'll find hundreds of articles - just avoid partisan web sites and there's some good reading.

This is just FOUR things - pre-contest, restrict voting in places which would be more likely to vote you out, "slow down" the ability for people to vote you out, restrict mail-in / absentee voting. You get the idea!

The cumulative effect of all of this is to take a substantial lead Biden has over Trump on election day and hack away at it through tricks, not a fair election. Long lines, limited polling stations, slow mail... And, if it comes down to waiting for absentee votes which may be in transit - how long to wait until BIDEN is in a position where he has to either contest the election himself or bow out?

Do we want a free and fair election, where the PEOPLE choose the president, or do we want corrupt politicians to rig the "game" and choose for us? I'm sorry, but I'd be FURIOUS if a Democrat OR a Republican was pulling this same thing. Everyone has said the system is rigged for how long? Well, someone these guys are hitting the game with both palms and the machine hasn't started flashing TILT TILT TILT yet. It's time...

I can guarantee that the 2020 primaries and 2020 presidential election WILL lead to law changes - it's just a matter of whether they will be able to be enacted in 2021.... or 2025.


About me - Data analyst by day, so I'm used to looking at up to millions of lines of data at a time... Looking for the "ghosts" in the data. Also a long history of working in supply chain / logistics and process improvement / management. I look at everything going on from the 30,000 foot view, dig into the details, processes, what's going on behind what people are saying, and what, perhaps, could be done in the best case / worst case situation.

It's kind of funny what "logistics" can do to screw up an election, just like lines on a map can impact how people vote - polling stations, allocation of supplies, etc... Slow this down, shorten this, give more to the "right" areas, and you can subtly pre-skew how the results will come out in various areas comprising zips, counties, and states. It's not playing the odds... it's rigging them. We don't want anyone to do this from either party for any reason. We don't want anyone to decide who is "worthy" to vote or whose vote is more important. That is not democracy - it's a farce.


Voter Suppression Issues I was talking about in June on Social Media - Just a copy and paste with links...

Do we see the writing on the wall for November? Right now, the Rep's are working to maintain their hold on the Senate. Believe what you will about the left or right, voter suppression is WRONG. If both sides are doing it (we know it happens), it should stop. Below, we're seeing how areas are targeted by closing polling locations. Limit the number of votes that can be cast, limit people who are willing to brave the pandemic, and wait out the clock.

So, southern states, how do you justify closing down polling locations in heavily African American communities, meanwhile making it difficult to do mail-in voting and/or claim that mail-in is rife with fraud?

We can't allow this to continue NOW, and certainly not heading into November.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-locations/southern-us-states-have-closed-1200-polling-places-in-recent-years-rights-group-idUSKCN1VV09J <-- 1200="" dramatically="" has="" in="" jumped="" p="" recent="" the="" weeks.="">
Georgia - 868 voting locations were closed across the state, "usually in areas with poor people and minority communities that have less resources to get to other locations..." The voting locations are in 53 of the 159 GA counties. "Of the counties that have closed voting locations, 39 have poverty rates that are higher than the state average. Thirty have significant African-American populations, making up at least 25 percent of residents." Voter suppression? The long lines in the counties impacted and other complications certainly indicate a concerted effort to keep some peoples voices "less" heard, doesn't it?


Kentucky - Kentucky cut the total number of polling places in the state from 3700 down to 200. In some of the most populous counties, there's ONE polling location per county.

Jefferson County, Kentucky, population 766k, has ONE polling location. The absentee ballot period has passed for people to request them... “We mailed out just under 55,000 ballots. We had to get everything done that had been requested through application, process return, or through the portal, they had to be mailed out before midnight last night," and that was on the 17th. FYI, two of the cities with the largest African American populations are in Jefferson County. It's kind of funny that it's Mitch McConnell's city (when he was a county judge back in the day), but he would do his best to suppress the vote of that county when it comes down to it...  You cut voting locations at the last minute and the mail-in voting cut-offs (application period) has passed. The process appears that it was complicated to begin with as well. Interesting...


Monday, June 1, 2020

"If it doesn't fit, get a bigger hammer" or “Don't force it, get a bigger hammer”

I can't figure out if the president is trying to channel his inner German, Tim the Tool Man Taylor, or Arthur Bloch... Regardless, the idea that he's telling the governors of the US to use MORE force, be more dominating in their approach to leadership, that they're weak and that they're "going to look like a bunch of jerks" if they don't "dominate" the situation, while his press secretary says, on his behalf, "what stops anarchy is action," is the complete wrong message.

In a time like this, when frustration is justly high, it's a message of empathy, sympathy, unity - SOMETHING to bring us together - that will help.

Instead, he's instructing governors to call in the national guard, use more force, arrest, and jail for up to ten years. That will end everything in his mind.

Meanwhile, we have the family of George Floyd calling out for Peace. Continue to protest the injustices, but do not riot and destroy.

We have our last president saying to protest, but not riot and destroy, and to remember that change comes in the ballot box.

True leaders unite and see what they can do to fix problems - they don't stoke the flames.

Our current president, as reporter Jim Acosta put it a few days ago, "is a president at times as we know who likes to light the match, set the fire, and then run away from the flames."

As people die from COVID-19, he's safe as everyone around him gets tested regularly. He can flaunt not wearing a mask, encouraging others not to as well.

As people protest, demanding justice, he demands force is used against men and women, as he is secure in his bunker without fear of harm.