In the words of the immortal Friedrich Nietzsche, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Speaking to us individually, yet bringing together those who share similar interests, music is truly the language of the Universe. It resides all around us in a state of perpetual dormancy, waiting for the right musician to pick up the right instrument and play the right note so that it can be tapped into. Like a wine-pairing at a nice restaurant, music is heavily reliant on being enjoyed at the proper time and in the ideal environment. You don’t drink a stout beer with sushi, just like you don’t listen to Metallica at a funeral (unless of course it’s James Hetfield’s funeral). I have chosen four of my all-time favorite albums, and provided a brief description on how/when these albums should be listened to. Keep an eye out for the next installment of four, which will be coming soon:
I don’t think there is an album whose title so perfectly encapsulates the essence of the musical content found within. Isaac Brock is a truly prolific songwriter and lyricist, and this middle-of-their-career album demonstrates why Modest Mouse is so grossly underappreciated. “Your heart felt good, it was dripping pitch and made of wood.” This level of stunning imagery, and their commitment to make lyrics that are truly meaningful, are part of what makes this band so uniquely special. With The Moon and Antarctica, they were able to strike an impeccable balance of hopeless romanticism coupled with the familiar sardonic nature that is so relentlessly present on Modest Mouse’s albums. As the title indicates, this album is best enjoyed during the colder months of the year. Maybe one of those winter nights when it hasn’t gotten too cold yet, and it’s still reasonable to sit on the porch or go for a walk in the glow of a winter moon. If you still don’t like Modest Mouse after listening to this album, well then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be (and that’s perfectly okay).
The first time I heard this album was in the summer of 2010 during a 2 month couch-surfing stint in San Francisco. After reading some rave reviews, I loaded it onto my phone and set out to find a good spot to see what the hype was all about. I happened upon a comfortable looking bench that was nestled in the shadow of the legendary windmill that resides on the far west end of Golden Gate Park. Before 10 seconds had elapsed, I already knew that I was about to embark on a life changing musical experience. “Only love is all maroon.” I’m pretty sure that this phrase had never been uttered by a single human before Justin Vernon penned it, yet I’m still not sure if I’ve heard anything quite as true as that lyric. The rest of the album follows suit as Justin ever so eloquently shares with us his story of heartache and love lost. As far as how/when to listen to this album, and assuming that searching out a particular bench in the city by the bay isn’t a possibility, For Emma lends itself incredibly well to a crisp, autumnal Saturday morning. Pour yourself some coffee, throw on a nice pair of headphones (or really good speakers of course), and get yourself situated in a comfortable spot that will allow you to enjoy this majestically somber masterpiece of an album.
This is undoubtedly one of my favorite and most listened to albums of the past couple years. Being entirely unfamiliar with any of their previous work, Lost in the Dream was my introduction to this astoundingly awesome band from Philadelphia. This album sounds like the product of some sort of freakish love experiment involving Rod Stewart and Tom Petty. They somehow manage to seamlessly blend 80s pop rock with modern day indie rock, resulting in an album that makes you want to cut the sleeves off your denim jacket, hop in your ’77 Camaro, and cruise the dusty streets of your lonesome, suburban town. If you’re unable to find a flux capacitor at a reasonable price, this album will still make a great driving companion while you wear your Patagonia vest and drive your 2012 Honda Accord. In all seriousness, this album is a great way to start off any road trip, and will surely provide you and your driving comrades with some head-bobbable material.
Is that Tom Waits?? Nope. That’s John McCauley of Providence, Rhode Island’s own, Deer Tick. This raspy-voiced troubadour is the front man for one of the finest, grittiest, folkiest, Americana(iest) bands out there. War Elephant, their first full-length album, is one of those albums that I listened to obsessively after first hearing it. Song after song is brilliantly crafted in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat, eagerly anticipating what’s coming next. Despite the self-loathing nature of many of these songs, there are bits and pieces of optimism sprinkled throughout. This album can be enjoyed during any season, but there is one requirement; scotch. Pour a glass of your finest single-malt (rocks optional), and let John McCauley serenade you in the most unromantic way possible. If you had any doubts about modern day folk music, let War Elephant quell any and all of your concerns.