Does anybody remember laughter?
March 6, 2005 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Some albums are quintessential. Off the top of my head, I can think of Moby's Play, Beck's Midnite Vulture, kd lang's Ingenue, St. Germain's Tourist. These albums cut across genres, have mass appeal and can be found in almost everybody's collection, be they electro-freaks, punkers, or style-mongerers. In my opinion, and I may be completely wrong and out of touch, there hasn't been an album in recent times like those above that has touched us as deeply. Where are these new and fantastic cd's or have I simply missed the latest and greatest?
posted by ashbury to Society & Culture (77 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would respectfully suggest Modest Mouse's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News." I'm pretty sure the meaning of life is in there.
posted by Polonius at 6:39 PM on March 6, 2005


Moby "Play" released 1999.
Beck "Midnite Vulture" released 1999.
...and I lost interest in looking up the other two, but I suspect that they are not very old, either.

I'm puzzled by your question, ashbury...I don't think that these albums particularly "cut across" genres, nor do they have mass appeal, nor are they found in almost "everybody's" collection.

Yes, they appealed to certain groups, but I'm fairly certain that they were all outsold by pop-tarts and boy-bands. When you say "in recent times," it appears that you're reaching back only a few years. In other words -- instead of worrying about the most current flavors, perhaps it might be interesting to look backwards -- beyond 1990, for instance -- and see if any of the "quintessential" albums from the 1940s-1980s spark your interest.
posted by davidmsc at 6:46 PM on March 6, 2005


I'll agree with Polonius and raise you a Shins "Chutes Too Narrow," Kings of Convenience "Riot on an Empty Street," and the newest Postal Service which I have forgotten the name of. And maybe, although it might not be accessible enough for your criteria, the Flaming Lips "Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots."
posted by luriete at 6:47 PM on March 6, 2005


Postal Service - Give Up
Modest Mouse- Moon and Antartica
Shins- Chutes Too Narrow (I have it and I don't even like The Shins)
Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
posted by amandaudoff at 6:53 PM on March 6, 2005


(And for The Quintessential I-Dare-Anyone-To-Not-Like-It Album, I propose Marvin Gaye- What's Going On)
posted by amandaudoff at 6:55 PM on March 6, 2005


Chatfilter?

Someone start the countdown until this post degenerates into people promoting their favorite niche bands in complete disregard for the que—oh, too late. I see Polonius and luriete have already lead the charge.

Can this question be answered, and is it indeed a valid question? I do not own any of the above albums. I am not sure I know anyone who owns the latter two. As far as CDs in most everyone's collection, I'm sure a quick google would reveal the best-selling albums of all-time (like Dark Side of the Moon, which I do own, but only because my dad bought it for me).

With Love,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Pretentious Music Jerk
posted by Eideteker at 6:59 PM on March 6, 2005


Outkast's The Love Below/Speakerboxxx was pretty widely hailed as the second coming. (justly).
posted by Capn at 7:03 PM on March 6, 2005


Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily was like that... Everybody on earth had (has) that album. That Seal album... They're kinda like the 9/11 Commission Report... every coffee table has it, even where you wouldn't expect.
posted by socratic at 7:05 PM on March 6, 2005


Elde: The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse are "favorite niche bands"? Hardly! If they were recommending weird online-only bands that one had never heard of, I might be agreeing with you, but.. those are artists who are likely to be on a lot of trendys' shelves.

That aside, I second amandaudoff's list, and might add either of Phoenix's albums to the fray. They've got some good soundtrack coverage in recent years too. And, yes, that Outkast album. Totally.
posted by wackybrit at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2005


Hmmmm, none of those albums are found in my collection or in those of my friends. But hey, that doesn't mean it's not a great question. So, from the perspective of a working musician and honkytonk hipster in the great Northwest, I'd suggest:

Kind of Blue--Miles Davis.
Aeroplane Over the Sea--Neutral Milk Hotel
The White Album--The Beatles
Lonesome, Crowded West--Modest Mouse
Graceland--Paul Simon
Some Flavor of Greatest Hits (not a literal title)--The Ramones
Rain Dogs--Tom Waits
License to Ill or Paul's Boutique--The Beastie Boys
If I Should Fall From Grace With God--The Pogues
Sweethearts of the Rodeo--The Byrds
The Blue Album--Weezer

I don't personally own or like all of these albums, but they seem to be in "almost everybody's collection," albeit in my biased sample. Looking over the list, it seems I'm neglecting the classic rock canon and rap music (exclusive of the Beasties). Maybe Nirvana's Nevermind should be in there as well?

On preview: Outkast, without a question.
posted by stet at 7:08 PM on March 6, 2005


I'm backing up Eideteker--this is a go-nowhere question. First, those records (St. Germain?! Midnite Vultures?!) aren't records that everybody owns--I don't own them, at any rate, and neither do any of my friends, even though I'm pretty with-it musically. And they don't cut across genres in any way that I can see; certainly Play and Tourist are just regular old electronic records.

What you really want to ask is something like: once upon a time, everyone owned Revolver; then everyone owned Thriller; then everyone owned Nevermind; what do people own today? And I have no answer to that question, though I'm definitely sure that it's not St. Germain, Play, Midnite Vultures, or Ingenue. The answer is also not the Shins, the Flaming Lips, or even Wilco. It is probably something like Kid A or OK Computer. Or maybe even one of the Coldplay records.

I think it would be worth discussing this question, but not worth compiling yet another list of the same-old-same-old indie bands that always fill up these threads on AskMe. The Shins and Kings of Convenience are not making records that "have mass appeal and can be found in almost everybody's collection, be they electro-freaks, punkers, or style-mongerers."
posted by josh at 7:12 PM on March 6, 2005


I know lots of people who have literally hundreds and thousands of CDs, and I can't think of a single one who owns ANY of those, ashbury.

Frankly, there isn't a lot of good music being put out these days, especially stuff that reaches across all the little sub-genre cliques that pass for scenes.

Within the past five years, the only one I can think of Wilco's YHF. Of course, I'm probably the wrong person to ask, since most of the stuff I've been listening to lately was recorded before 1960.
posted by keswick at 7:14 PM on March 6, 2005


btw, the ones I named were definitely mid-to-late-90s examples.. today, Outkast, definitely. That Arcade Fire album has gotten huge buzz... Maybe The Strokes?
posted by socratic at 7:15 PM on March 6, 2005


Frankly, there isn't a lot of good music being put out these days...since most of the stuff I've been listening to lately was recorded before 1960.

I must respectfully disagree. :-)
posted by josh at 7:16 PM on March 6, 2005


how old are you? Because I think you're just naming the albums that are 'quintessential' to your generation. The albums that are found in everyone's collection from when I was in college (early 90s) are a different set.

also, recently I've been using iTunes on wireless, where you get to share your music collection with whoever's in the library/coffee shop/building (just to browse & listen, not to download), and so I've gotten a good look at the "average" music collection. Beck is in a lot of collections, but haven't particularly noticed moby or kdlang. Everyone has the beatles. Everyone has coldplay. Everyone has eminem. less people have the pixies or yo la tengo than I expected. More people have pink floyd than I'd have thought.
posted by mdn at 7:17 PM on March 6, 2005


If we want to talk about generational records, good lord, I heard Dave Matthews Band every single day for four years of college, 1993-1997. (I loved "Say Goodbye" but it gives me the shakes when I hear it now.)
posted by socratic at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2005


Perhaps of interest: audioscrobbler top tracks.
posted by muckster at 8:03 PM on March 6, 2005


Yeah, I would back up Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head, or the first one, Parachutes, as pretty widely-owned records. But, at the same time, I wouldn't say that they're "quintessential" by any stretch. Really the question has two parts:

a) find a widely-owned record released recently
b) ... that is also awesome.

This is hard. And one thing that has been written about is that there were once quintessential records that everyone owned (Electric Ladyland or something) but aren't anymore. It's the combination of popularity + greatness that is hard to nail down.
posted by josh at 8:05 PM on March 6, 2005


If anything I think that Sea Change is more of a universal favorite. Don't forget OK Computer. I think the Beuna Vista Social Club record was also in pretty much everybody's collection for a good long while. And didn't more or less everybody jump at "Is This It" by The Strokes?

In the grand scheme, these *are* the albums of "recent times." How young do you have to be to consider Beck history? 12?
posted by scarabic at 8:12 PM on March 6, 2005


Right. There are some good points raised above, and I didn't clarify my question well enough.

What I'm looking for is not necessarily generational. If it was, I could add a whole ton of stuff such as Who's Next, the already mentioned Dark Side of the Moon, Hotel California, etc. Josh comes the closest to what I'm looking for: What you really want to ask is something like: once upon a time, everyone owned Revolver; then everyone owned Thriller; then everyone owned Nevermind; what do people own today? And I have no answer to that question, though I'm definitely sure that it's not St. Germain, Play, Midnite Vultures, or Ingenue. The answer is also not the Shins, the Flaming Lips, or even Wilco. It is probably something like Kid A or OK Computer. Or maybe even one of the Coldplay records.

The most recent example I can think of that many people own is the White Stripes' Elephant. It got a lot of buzz, it could be heard almost anywhere you went, and most importantly, it was good. My question, vague as it may be, is this: what recent (say, the last three years) album would you consider to be a "classic", something that people 20 years from now will say, "oh yeah, that was a great album that I listened to over and over again until I was sick of it!" ie something from Emimem, Zeppelin, Beatles, Wilco, U2, etc.

And josh, your last comment pretty much nails what I'm asking. Good job on a vague question!
posted by ashbury at 8:16 PM on March 6, 2005


I think what everybody owns will vary a lot depending on your social circle. Some things that I am never surprised to see in anyones collection(these might be over the 3 year limit)-
White stripes - elephant
Tool - Aenema
portishead - dummy
yeah something be eminem
something by coldplay
Even though its older than what your asking, everybody owns nevermind.
I think its impossible to tell what will become a classics.
posted by phyle at 8:27 PM on March 6, 2005


I also want to point out that cutting accross genres isn't necessarilly what makes a timeless album. I would agree with the Radiohead suggestion, and it's partly b/c those albums are complex, moving, fully realised. But I would not say that everyone would like Kid A, nor would I say that about Kind of Blue, Bowie, Cash, Talking Heads. Now those are transcendent.

Beyond that, and with your clarification in mind, I would say that taste rules; I don't like the Beatles so thus have none of those particular "albums that everyone should have." Even though I love that Postal Service album Give Up, it gets old after 10 plays, becoming little more than a twee boy singing about love, so I wouldn't call it classic. But it is also something that I think everyone might own. As for Arcade Fire I think that album is amazing, we'll see if it's classic after 10-20 years (Even though I usually think they're pretentious, the Pitchfork review is very apt. Funeral is definitely the best album from last year. Very moving).
posted by scazza at 8:37 PM on March 6, 2005


I think The Verve's Urban Hymns was one of those albums you're looking for: not only ubiquitous at the time, but actually good, and could fit into just about anyone's music collection. I think that most Radiohead is brilliant, but I don't think it's something that would fit everyone. Full agreement with Kind of Blue, a more perfect Sunday morning album has never been made.

(And I can't believe people actually like Modest Mouse, they make me want to stick forks in my ears, they make me actually angry about how lame they are /your favourite band sucks)
posted by biscotti at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2005


Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. Everyone has that, right?
posted by ontic at 9:01 PM on March 6, 2005


My wife and I had a similar conversation at dinner last night.

What has hapened to the "really big band?" By that, U2, Van Halen, even Guns and Roses could sell out arenas, and seemed to be bigger than the rest of their genre. Today, music seems so much more splintered, except for pop, that there isn't a big group.

As for this topic, Stet and Josh seem to have it right.

Although, I dare you to find more than one person you know that does not own "Legend" by Bob Marley. I think everyone I ever met in my generation got it for free from BMG at some point or another.

Even though I love Elephant by the White Stripes, I am not sure it has a wide enough appeal. As for Beck, his popularity peaked with Odelay. His newer stuff, while it might be quite good, is nowhere close in mass appeal.

American Idiot by Green Day has the potential. But, because of its subject matter, could quickly be relegated to a good album for 2004, but not beyond that....
posted by szg8 at 9:08 PM on March 6, 2005


I am not sure you can go ahead and limit this to albums with "mass appeal" that "cuts across genres." The way we listen to music has changed, with more access than in any time in history. Albums that meet your criteria (and your examples in the post heading are not good examples, sorry to say) are very, very rare in a market that doesn't support mass appeal artists like it once did. The only album I can even think of is A Rush of Blood to the Head, and that is even a stretch. (I really like a few songs, but I can't stand it as an album).

Unfortunately, as josh puts it "another list of the same-old-same-old indie bands that always fill up these threads on AskMe" is as close as we are going to get here. In the niche of young, technologically literate Mefites, those albums are it for us. The albums that get 9's on pitchfork, for us here, are "our" albums. And there is a shit load of good ones in the last three years. Just look at the weekly chart for Metafilter audioscrobblers.

Frankly, aside from a few choice singles that I dig that are being played in the "mainstream," commercial musicians just aren't making interesting albums anymore. There are plenty of indie bands that are. In fact, the only "mainstream" albums that I think are worth the money are coming out of hip hop. The Black album by Jay-Z, The College Dropout by Kanye West, The Eminem Show, certainly fit the bill, but maybe not in our demographics here.

So, yeah, long story short, both albums by the Shins, The White Stripes, Radiohead, The Postal Service/Death Cab, Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, Wilco, Modest Mouse. These are our albums. These are our "classics." This is the shit most of us will pull out in 20 years so we can reminisce about how good music used to be. Stop apologizing for that. Stop worrying that mall kids and soccer moms aren't buying this shit in mass quantities. Stop worrying that you aren't being obscure enough, and stop searching for something better. This is as good as it gets, and we are damn lucky.
posted by Quartermass at 9:21 PM on March 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


Stop worrying that you aren't being obscure enough, and stop searching for something better. This is as good as it gets, and we are damn lucky.

While I agree with most of your post, I have to point out that I find this to be insanely untrue. The deeper I go, the better it gets.
posted by amandaudoff at 9:33 PM on March 6, 2005


I have to point out that I find this to be insanely untrue. The deeper I go, the better it gets.

I totally agree with you. The deeper I go, the better it gets. I just got carried away. I listen to new bands everyday, but come back to a few key albums, whic I used to fuss about (oh look at me - being so predictable!) which perhaps was more of what I was trying to convey.
posted by Quartermass at 9:39 PM on March 6, 2005


Stop worrying that you aren't being obscure enough, and stop searching for something better. This is as good as it gets, and we are damn lucky.

quartermass, I couldn't care less about what the mainstream music is. I've got my radio tuned to the local university station just as often as it it to the new rock station, the classics station and the 80's station. What I'm looking for is good music, be that Carbon Leaf, Sam Roberts, Air, Velvet Revolver, the Garden State soundtrack or whatever, and I don't care where it comes from or who's listening to it. Maybe this is as good as it gets - I'm in my mid 30's and I really miss putting on a cd and being wowed by it. When I was younger it happened all the time, but as I get older it happens less and less frequently.

quartermass, what are your key albums?
posted by ashbury at 9:48 PM on March 6, 2005


For a while, everyone I knew had the 'black album' by metallica. As their music went downhill, their popularity soared.

I think your questions is flawed. Don't get me wrong, some music does cut through generations (ex. the beatles) But I know no one that owns the first cds you mentioned, and most of the examples given by others are simply popular cds. For most people, the question is too personal to get an unbiased answer.

I doubt emimem, who I like, will be played anywhere 20 years from now, yet I listen to blues records from 80 years ago almost every week. Hell, you can hear robert johnson at your local starbucks, which is a better example of an artist cutting across generations than anything else in this thread.
posted by justgary at 9:51 PM on March 6, 2005


What amandaudoff said.

I think that this is a really generational thing. I don't know if we have essential albums anymore.

Because of the whole internet pirating thing, most young people's exposure to music isn't limited to music TV and corporate Top 40 radio. So everyone hasn't necessarily heard of everything everyone else listens to. There is a big hipster contingent that listens to the bands Quartermass mentioned and considers them obvious choices. (To be fair, "Float On" was a pretty big hit and Elephant was a bigger one.) But even, when I think about people my own age, there's a lot of splintering. I honestly, the more I think about it, can't think of anything that is in the collection of everyone I know, even the stuff that's supposed to be "our classics." I mean, I assume everyone knows who the Weakerthans are, but yeah, they don't.

My brother and I grew up in the same house, introducing each other to bands and albums since we started caring about music, which we both totally do, and I guarantee you our lists of essential albums would be totally different.
posted by SoftRain at 10:17 PM on March 6, 2005


quartermass, what are your key albums?

Such a difficult list to make! I am always moving forward, it's hard to keep track of the old. You know? It is a rare album indeed that stands the test of time for me. And when they do, it is usually for intensely personal reasons as to have no bearing here. Certainly the above bands I listed as the "obvious" choices - I remember hearing Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and having it blow me away. There have only been a handful albums that have come close in the last few years; Broken Social Scene's "You Forgot it in People," The Weakerthans "Left and Leaving", The Promise Ring's "Wood/Water" (which almost everyone hates, but I can't get enough of it), and the Arcade Fire album (I played the first song probably 20 times before giving the rest of the album a chance).

Other albums have come close - Grab that Gun by The Organ ; Madvillainy; both of the Shins albums. I don't know.
posted by Quartermass at 10:25 PM on March 6, 2005


thanks quartermass.

justgary, the question is flawed, my apologies. But don't think that I'm looking for unbiased answers. If music is anything, it is completely biased, and as quartermass mentions, some albums are loved for deeply personal reasons - I've got 'em, you've got 'em, we've all got personal albums that are perfect for rainy days, sad days, dancing days, angry days, quiet days and so on.

Despite the chatfilter aspect of the question and its obvious flaws, I'm pleased with many of the answers. Thanks folks!
posted by ashbury at 10:32 PM on March 6, 2005


The albums ashbury cites probably aren't quintessential, but I think that Ingenue, Tourist, and Play have each in the last several years been publicly ubiquitous. They are the soundtracks of soothing hipness. And to this Air and more recently The Postal Service (as amandaudoff notes) and right there you've got enough in your CD turntable to properly soundscape any boutique hotel, hip bar or restaurant or other shopping environment.

This is not a criticism just a note that "in everybody's collection" is different from "unavoidable in public spaces." (I own most of these albums.) Moby is perhaps the clearest example since he licensed the hell out of that album and the result is that it seemed like for years you couldn't watch TV or so out without hearing a track or more.
posted by donovan at 11:05 PM on March 6, 2005


I feel bad; I don't own any of the albums in this thread. In fact, I don't have any music CDs at all. Let's have a shout-out for all the tone deaf musical illiterates out there. Represent!
posted by Justinian at 11:45 PM on March 6, 2005


Some albums are quintessential... I can think of Moby's Play...

People like you don't deserve to hear good music.
posted by i_cola at 2:47 AM on March 7, 2005


OMG Ashbury, you know Carbon Leaf? I used to know them personally years ago, but I am not remotely in touch with anything anymore. Are they popular now? Anyone else heard of them?

As for the question, for me the albums would of course be completely different than any of the ones suggested so far. Cocteau Twins "Heaven or Las Vegas". Pearl Jam's "Ten". It's hard to remember that far back. I would submit that for most people, there is a certain segment of your life in which you are capable of being blown away by an album, and that I for one have grown/aged out of it, as an alternative to the theory that there are no good albums coming out any more. I know for example that there are plenty of albums better than "Ten" coming out all the time, but I am not open to being blown away by them anymore. Shit's only a revelation when it's new.
posted by donkeymon at 4:07 AM on March 7, 2005


I, like others, find the question odd because of the albums you picked. Those were not must-have albums by most people, only Moby's Play was even widely popular. I think you are more likely to find particularly classic "electronic" albums in many of our collections, even if most of us have moved to indie music since then.

Some Albums that Come to Mind:
Radiohead - Ok Computer
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
NIN - Downward Spiral

This is pretty much the same time frame, if not earlier, as Moby / St Germaine. Today it might be Modest Mouse, White Stripes, and Wilco. But although classic albums are rarely seen as such until well after their release, I don't think these albums are headed there.

I would second Audioscrobbler if you are looking for music references, AMG for reference purposes, and Pitchfork for new music reviews. In fact, Pitchfork picked out their favorite albums 2000-2004 here is the top 5:

1. Radiohead: Kid A
2. Jay-Z: The Blueprint
3. Interpol: Turn on the Bright Lights
4. Outkast: Stankonia
5. The Avalanches: Since I Left You

While these are all great albums, I wouldn't call anyone of them classic.
posted by sophist at 4:37 AM on March 7, 2005


I think the generational slant to the question may be misleading. I think it should be more of a class slant. It seems to me the shift has not gone from 'Nevermind' to whatever is 'Nevermind' in 2005, but rather from rock to hip-hop. I think Quartermass' answer above comes close to this - what's on 'everyone's' shelf now is Jay-Z or Kanye West or Eminem or Nelly. I think most people will look back and remember Nelly or Eminem from this time period. While I think Eminem is slightly overrated (he does have talent, but is saved by Dre's production and dragged down by his own ugliness on a lot of tracks), I do think he will be remembered twenty and thirty years from now, by those who are 15-19 now. Those are the people driving music sales.

Also I totally second the 1993-97 mention of Dave Matthews Band - I got really sick of that band in college. I know a fair number of people who still listen.
posted by Slothrop at 4:42 AM on March 7, 2005


ashbury: the question is flawed, my apologies

Rubbish. The question is perfectly clear, it's just that this thread got hijacked by CoolFilter and the listing of last year's best indie records. Yes, I own and love Modest Mouse, The Shins, Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel and Postal Service, but jeez folks ... RTFQ. To whit:

These albums cut across genres, have mass appeal and can be found in almost everybody's collection, be they electro-freaks, punkers, or style-mongerers.


I think Portishead's Dummy is a really good example of genre-crossing -- played on continuous rotation in every hairdressing salon in the Western World for about four years straight, yet still had that critical seal of approval. Ditto: The Stone Roses.

Wonder whether Oasis's (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, made the jump as well. Did we dismiss them as the wannabe Beatles straight up, or did that come after we'd bought the record?

Also wonder what effect the Trainspotting soundtrack had on introducing a lot of people to Underworld and Iggy Pop. Reckon that one was bought by people from all sorts of musical backgrounds.

Jeff Buckley's Grace (which I think is owned and loved by every human being on Planet Earth) also comes to mind, as does Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins.

I'm not sure how easy it is to find present-day examples of albums with near-universal, cross-genre popularity -- this might be something that takes time and distance to appear. I think Elephant is definitely a candidate, and I'd second Outkast.

I'd add Franz Ferdinand's LP as an album that's had both mainstream and indie success (at least here in Australia).

I think in being EverSoCoolFilter we've also missed the really huge-selling acts that have found critical support and popular success and sold to differing demographics, e.g. John Mayer, Norah Jones, Alicia Keyes.
posted by bright cold day at 5:07 AM on March 7, 2005


I said: Some albums are quintessential... I can think of Moby's Play...

i_cola said: People like you don't deserve to hear good music.

cola, can you elaborate? What sort of "people like you" am I? i_cola, why must you constantly belittle? You make me think that you were born an asshole. People like you don't need friends, it seems, not that your looking for any.
posted by ashbury at 6:30 AM on March 7, 2005


I think The Verve - Urban Hymns is another good suggestion, actually--though I wonder how many people own it. But the best suggestion so far is bright cold day's Norah Jones. She is not my favorite by a long shot, but she is good and her record is hugely, hugely popular. Personally, I think most people would be surprised how few folks actually own records like Siamese Dream, since ubiquity in some ways works against album purchases.

This is a fascinating chart. Unfortunately there's no way to compensate for time-at-sale, but I think it's surprising to see, for example, that the Dixie Chicks sold more copies of "Wide Open Spaces" than U2 sold of "The Joshua Tree" (and that Britney tops both of them). So part of this is correcting for our 'rockist' biases, thus Norah Jones.

As for this whole 'TooCoolFilter' thing, I think it's ridiculous. There are good answers and bad answers to questionsl ike this, and there is no quibbling about the fact that "Chutes Too Narrow" is not the "Thriller" of the '00s. That said, there was an article posted to MeFi about six months ago that did a great job explaining how records just don't sell as well as they used to, and more small bands sell more records, instead of one big band selling a zillion records.

Anyway, I'm realizing for myself that OK Computer, for example, doesn't count b/c it's actually from 1997 (I think); so for now I'd have to go with Norah Jones and Outkast for the '00s. In the long term, a lot of people might end up owning "White Blood Cells," too.
posted by josh at 6:48 AM on March 7, 2005


(But that's pretty disappointing for a 'rockist' like me--I'd like to see all of America going nuts for something like The Arcade Fire, and I think it's too bad that these big records (like Nevermind or Thriller or what have you) from back in the day were so much more badass than the soft-focus easy-listening that gets popular today.)
posted by josh at 6:50 AM on March 7, 2005


Everyone has coldplay.

Bite your tongue.

I actually enjoy Moby, Beck and kd lang, but it's a bit early to be declaring them quintessential, don't you think? Today's OutKast is tomorrow's Asia and all that. Tastes, both mainstream and alternative, are remarkably fickle. And looking at some of the stuff my peers consider "quintessential," makes me wonder if I'm actually a member of what's putatively "my" generation. But as someone else said upthread, our age group was way too fragmented and cliquish to approach anything like cohesion when it came to music.

And it's been rare (in my life at least) that the music I think of as "quintessential," to a time period was actually made during that period. 1989-94 maybe, was the last time. Zeitgiests are for followers.

I'd like to see all of America going nuts for something like The Arcade Fire

I liked the Arcade Fire better the first time I heard them, when they were called The Velvet Underground. I mean it's nice that somebody's making that kind of music since it'll get some kids to investigate the source, but they're hardly the amazing breakthrough they've been hyped as. And to their singer: there's only one guy I like to hear sing like David Byrne, and that's David Byrne.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 AM on March 7, 2005


I don't know jonmc, I completely fail to see how the Arcade Fire sounds anything like the Velvet Unerground--I mean I honestly think that's a preposterous comparison. I can't think of a single song on their record that sounds like VU (slow tempos, jam-like guitar solos, feedback, laconic vocals); if Arcade Fire sounds like VU to you, then everything must sound like them.

Same goes for David Byrne... Rufus Wainwright sounds like David Byrne, which is why they sung a duet on Byrne's last record. But in what way does Win Butler sound like David Byrne? This is like my grandfather telling me that 'all rock music sounds the same.'

A detour from the thread, but I have to disagree....
posted by josh at 7:02 AM on March 7, 2005


josh, I only heard them sing one song (on Letterman), but the dissonance, off-kilter tempos and atonal vocals definitely did remind this listener of VU and David Byrne.

YMMV.
posted by jonmc at 7:04 AM on March 7, 2005


Yeah, you should listen to the record, it's very up-tempo, and kind of manic and grandly produced, with big, echo-y U2-type guitars and weird 1950s-style dance codas. It really is its own thing (and quite great).

I did hear "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" on commercial radio here in Boston (between G'n'R and Radiohead) and it sounded great as a big radio rock song.
posted by josh at 7:07 AM on March 7, 2005


Lots of good suggestions here. I'm going to have to chime in with "Frances the Mute" by the Mars Volta, which was just released. You may have seen the video for "The Widow" on MTV.
posted by Laugh_track at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2005


I wanted to like 'em, but what I heard dosen't make me want to look any further. And echoey guitars and grand productions aren't really my bag, generally.

Actually, I gave up on modern music awhile ago, josh, for a variety of reasons, cheif among them that I'm too old to bother keeping up anymore. Plus working backwards is much more fun. And maybe it's just a perverse personality flaw, but whenever something is hyped as quintessential or "the zeitgeist," it generally makes me want to avoid it with a vengeance. Not out of any desire to raise my cool quotient, but because it never lives up to the hype.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2005


I really miss putting on a cd and being wowed by it. When I was younger it happened all the time, but as I get older it happens less and less frequently.


You can probably attribute some of that to the current music industry doldrums, but it is also a natural process of aging. When you are young you are surrounded by large groups of music lovers, music lovers who spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing over the music and sharing their likes and dislikes. You don't have to work hard in that environment to find good music. As we grow older most people have less time for music obsession and spend less time socializing with music obsessed friends. The more obscure stuff that you might like more easily passes you by.

As for my votes for transcendent albums (based upon their appeal across genres and age groups):

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
The Beatles - everything
Beck - Sea Change
Norah Jones - Come Away with Me
posted by caddis at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2005


These stats are pretty interested--just saw them on ILM, so I can't vouch for them.

Best Selling Albums of the 90s in the UK

1. "(What's The Story) Morning Glory" - Oasis (1995) (4.2 million)
2. "The Immaculate Collection" - Madonna (1990) (3.6 million)
3. "Abba Gold Greatest Hits" - Abba (1992) (3.6 million)
4. "Stars" - Simply Red (1991) (3.6 million)
5. "Jagged Little Pill" - Alanis Morissette (2002) (3.0 million)
6. "Spice" - The Spice Girls (1996) (3.0 million)
7. "Talk On Corners" - The Corrs (1999) (2.7 million)
8. "The Very Best Of Elton John" - Elton John (1995) (2.7 million)
9. "Urban Hymns" - Verve (2.4m)
10. "Robson And Jerome" - Robson & Jerome (2.4m)
posted by josh at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2005


*interesting
posted by josh at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2005


Off the top of my head, I can think of Moby's Play, Beck's Midnite Vulture, kd lang's Ingenue, St. Germain's Tourist. These albums cut across genres, have mass appeal and can be found in almost everybody's collection, be they electro-freaks, punkers, or style-mongerers.

I'm guessing this is a generational thing; every one of those albums is under my radar and I would name older stuff like Pink Floyd, Neil Young and Rod Stewart. I think there is a phenomenon that happens with peoples' musical taste where they have heard enough to determine what their favorite albums of all time are, and once that list is full, it takes a pretty amazing album to squeek in.

In short, it's one of those "growing old" things. Welcome to the Valley of the Dinosaurs. ;- )
posted by Doohickie at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2005


Everyone has coldplay.

Bite your tongue.


Hey, I'm merely reporting the facts. I don't have coldplay, but they are in the vast majority of collections I access. Also: 50cent & wilco.

Like I said, I've been surprised that bands I consider essential don't show up everywhere, and bands I think of as either secondary or sorta niche-y are in more places than I thought. There's way more beatles than rolling stones, way more pink floyd than led zeppelin, more coldplay, wilco, weezer than pixies, pavement, yo la tengo... fair amount of bjork, and if there are country tracks they're by johnny cash (and if there's just one, it's his cover of 'hurt').

for my part, re: the ubiquitous stuff: I have one beatles track, an instrumental called "flying"; no rolling stones, no coldplay/wilco/weezer; I have the Wall, no zeppelin; most everything by pixies, pavement, ylt, etc, no bjork, and I have "hurt", too.
posted by mdn at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2005


There's way more beatles than rolling stones, way more pink floyd than led zeppelin, more coldplay, wilco, weezer than pixies, pavement, yo la tengo... fair amount of bjork, and if there are country tracks they're by johnny cash (and if there's just one, it's his cover of 'hurt').

(also note: no hip-hop/R&B, or for that matter any black music)

That tells me that we're in one of those weird periods like the Mid-70's, where genre-splitting is rampant, as is artistic overreach. This means we're overdue for a return to basic rock and roll and R&B. (not that there isn't any around now, but it tends to have this ersatz taste to it, for the most part).
posted by jonmc at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2005


Also I wonder why none of the early nineties grunge bands have been mentioned. Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden et al. definitely crossed boundaries in that they appealed to both the ham-fisted rock-out-at-all-costs crowd, hook-loving pop aficionados, and the more artistic minded. The same could be said of a lot of the hip-hop of that era (Dr. Dre, Snoop, etc).
posted by jonmc at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2005


I am wary of such conversations, usually, but I think I will chime in and say (pretty much in agreement with some other posts) that we don't really have these huge, groundbreaking, sweeping albums so much anymore. I think that this is due to the way music is marketed now more than anything; the record companies are marketing people rather than their music. A lot of really good music is being missed by the big companies, but luckily we can still pick these things up via the Internet and discussion groups and such. I don't think it has to do with "indie," or anything like that; I just think that the record companies are trying to market things as what they are not and are generally playing it very safe with what they think people will buy.

The trouble is there is a lot of music out there that becomes unexpected underground hits; hence, now we have bands that we investigate because of their "buzz" rather than them having a huge hit. There are a number of bands that NEVER get played on the radio around here, but everyone who seems to hear them likes them. In my particular age group, I've yet to come across somebody who has listened to The Shins and does not like them, and that includes a friend who is an old-school metalhead.

I don't know. It may be my general disdain with popular music culture and its presentation, but I feel that the mainstream stuff that we get on MuchMusic or MTV or most radio stations is very bland. The odd thing that is interesting and fun comes through occasionally (Franz and Modest Mouse, this year, for example) but for the most part I feel that the music companies are generally putting out more of the same old same old tried and true formulaic music, because it is a safer investment. I think that this sort of kills the huge groundbreaking album, because these aren't marketed so much anymore-- instead we get a hot single, which is hot more because it is by a certain artist.

Obviously I am making big generalizations here, and this was a bit incoherent, but I am trying to organize my thoughts.

On preview: Quartermass, it is nice to see another fan of The Organ on here. That's a great album.
posted by synecdoche at 8:51 AM on March 7, 2005


I've yet to come across somebody who has listened to The Shins and does not like them

Now you do. They aren't bad, but they aren't anything special. Other than that, synechoche, I think your analysis is pretty right on. The only problem with people learning about groups by buzz, is that some people (jonmc & I among them) will avoid buzzy bands just because they generally don't live up to the promise. (Really, after getting burned by the steaming turd that was the Strokes, I just don't trust buzz.) But since some buzzy bands are good once you get someone to listen, those are hurt by the bad buzzy ones. When they were all on the radio, you were forced by proximity to give them a chance.

Generally, though, I like it this way. The fragmentation, which I would say is caused by corporate assness and the resulting medium-sized indies filling in the cracks, means there are more human-sized companies filled with people working on stuff they really love. That means more people who have humane jobs and less "chew em up and spit em out." If that means there aren't any overarching classics and that you have to work a little harder to find good music, that's a fair trade.

Off-topic: I can't think of a single song on their record that sounds like VU (slow tempos, jam-like guitar solos, feedback, laconic vocals) Josh, we are clearly listening to very different VU's. Jam-like solos?!
posted by dame at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2005


Jam-like solos?!

Well, "Sister Ray," & "Heroin," do have some rather long instrumental solos.
posted by jonmc at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2005


Okay, but does that make them a key characteristic? Like I said, we may be listening to different VU's. I only have three albums anyway--Loaded, The Velvet Underground, and the promo disc for that boxed set that came out in the mid-nineties.
posted by dame at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2005


Okay, but does that make them a key characteristic?

No, but I think to a lot of the young-un's, "long instrumental section," = "jam." Whereas to me, "jam," conjures up visions of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band (both of whom I love, but they are quite a different thing from VU).

What we have here is a failure to communicate. (across generations).
posted by jonmc at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2005


Hahaha--yeah, I'm thinking of the jam-like solos in VU tracks that turn into more outwardly jam-like solos on Luna and Galaxie 500 records. Now those records sound like the Velvet Underground.

I don't mean to suggest that the Velvet Underground have a Dead-like aesthetic (or, worse, a Phish-like aesthetic).
posted by josh at 10:06 AM on March 7, 2005


it just struck me that Digable Planet's reachin' might be appropriate for the list. It's a fusion of jazz, hiphop, rap, etc.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2005


(But that's pretty disappointing for a 'rockist' like me--I'd like to see all of America going nuts for something like The Arcade Fire, and I think it's too bad that these big records (like Nevermind or Thriller or what have you) from back in the day were so much more badass than the soft-focus easy-listening that gets popular today.) [emphasis mine]

I find this urgency towards inorganic nostalgia a fascinating phenomenon. "...[B]ack in the day..." for Nevermind was barely 14 years ago. "...[S]o much more badass than ... today..." is a sentiment that is expressed in every genre at every time period. The length of time between the release of an album and the point at which that album is referred to as "old school" seems to be shrinking. I once overheard someone say "old school Alicia Keys is way better than this new stuff". Indeed.

The creation of music is so often inextricably tied to the notion of "cool" and, by extension, exclusivity, that at some point most music fans conclude that their current personal favorite music act/genre/subset is exponentially "better" than what "everyone else" is listening to. Thus, the value of the music no longer lies in its objective excellence or the skill and creativity of the performer, it lies in its being different from what is perceived of as popular with the non-discerning masses.

A crucial moment in this listener's life comes when he or she realizes that other, non-cool people listen to the stuff they listen to. They are not a beautiful, unique flower. Their passing whims are no more valid than anyone else's.

The next step, hopefully, is to learn more about music itself, its structures and strictures and history, and thus begin to determine what it is they actually like and why.

I admit that this doesn't usually happen.

That being said:

You guys are crazy. Hank Mobley's No Room for Squares is NOT his best album. Sure, a few years ago, it seemed like everybody had that one, and Lee Morgan's Candy, and the Sonny Rollins/Sonny Stitt blowing session Sonny Side Up, but no more. These days it's all The Magnificent Thad Jones and Horace Silver's Finger Poppin' and Mobley's Workout. I defy you to find me ONE PERSON who doesn't have these albums in their collection.
posted by gramschmidt at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2005


Is the question "What recently released albums do you find that everybody you know owns?" If it is, then my answer is Radiohead's OK Computer.

If the question is, "What album do people think that I want to hear ad nauseam whenever I go to a dinner party or a coffee shop?" then the answer is Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. Most people who have exactly one jazz album in their collection seem to have Kind of Blue.
posted by Prospero at 10:40 AM on March 7, 2005


Of the CDs mentioned above, I own Jagged Little Pill, Ingenue, Hotel California and Tigerlily. Eeesh...

Transcendant in today's music? I obviously don't have a clue. However, for my generation I'd have to vote for U2's Joshua Tree and REM's Automatic for the People. For years you couldn't escape those two CDs.

*waves at gramschmidt*
I don't even know who those people are, let alone what they sound like.
posted by deborah at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2005


Yeah, but I'm not saying I'm a "beautiful, unique flower" gramschmidt. I'm trying to say that I look back on the days when everyone I knew listened to The Smashing Pumpkins (weird) and am amazed that it was ever popular, and I wish weird-o angry music were popular today. Or, weirdo angry music that wasn't awful, like Slipknot. I don't think it's "inorganic nostalgia" at all--it's just true that nowadays the big force in music is hip-hop, which I'm not really into, personally; what I said was a pretty personal observation. In other words, things really have changed. I'm not sure what in that observation has anything to do with exclusivity. I'm 25; Nirvana is, relatively speaking, "back in the day" for me.

Anyway, I'm not pointing to those records as the ones I love. At that point my favorite band was Pink Floyd. I know what I actually like now, for example--my favorite music is mostly stuff like the Go-Betweens, early R.E.M., Felt, Warren Zevon, Berlin-era Bowie, bands like The Long Goodbye and Television. I wasn't even born when some of those bands were doing their thing--so it's not about 'cool' for me. In other words, I think the exclusivity thing isn't actually raising its ugly head in this thread in quite the way it sometimes does in threads like this one. The real issue is that, in the last few years, there hasn't been a big record like Nevermind--i.e., a record that was huge and omnipresent and etc. etc., while also being a rock and roll record that was, IMO, awesome. I would say OK Computer, but, again, that pre-dates the records cited in the question (like Play).

Surely you would agree that Nevermind and Norah Jones are pretty different? I prefer Nevermind, not for any 'hip' reason, but because I like it more.
posted by josh at 10:50 AM on March 7, 2005


Sublime's Sublime seems to have some staying power which surprised me. The RHCP's Blood Sugar Sex Magik also seems to be hanging around but the jury is still out.
posted by euphorb at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2005


I find this urgency towards inorganic nostalgia a fascinating phenomenon. "...[B]ack in the day..." for Nevermind was barely 14 years ago.

In popular culture terms, 14 years is an eon, my freind.
posted by jonmc at 11:05 AM on March 7, 2005


Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the 36 Chambers. Everybody knows at least one lyric from this album whether they know it or not. Tiger style.
posted by Succa at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2005


I'm in my mid 30's and I really miss putting on a cd and being wowed by it.

Oh, man so much has been said in this thread already that I was going to say. At first I came by to object to the three examples, then I was going to commend josh's first couple of answers, then I was going to second one of Quartermass's posts, and then I think that synecdoche started to really flesh out the ideas of the changes within the industry that others had mentioned, I kept nodding my head to all the exceptions people raised all-the-while thinking how hard it is to predict the future by corralling what's in the present and tagging it as Quintessential, and noted that I found myself agreeing with jonmc and dame about 'buzz" bands, etc. Whew. And, on preview, I can't even keep up!

So let me tell you a little story about my dad that I think is relevant. My father was and is a huge music fan, admittedly rockist in taste, he's of the Zepplin, Hendrix era (seen 'em live and all that). He still bought albums in the eighties, fewer and fewer of course, but he still sought out music. Ultimately, around the mid eighties and on through to the early nineties, he became fed up with the process and began to turn backward in his search (looking into the blues, etc.). I think he really had ceased to be wowed by any new music anymore. I think it really depressed him. At that time, he didn't really get into what I was listening to, but later toward the mid/late nineties and now in the 00s he's really become excited by music again. So here are the albums/bands that my father has bought / got into (mostly on his own, our tastes only overlap slightly). Are these albums quintessential? I can only answer that by saying this list is as subjective as any of the other ones.

The White Stripes. Their whole catalogue (he got into them around De Stijl / White Blood Cells and this is the reason I am even telling this story. He specifically mentioned they were the first band he had heard in a while that brought back that sense of excitement and wow he had lost).
Radiohead. Again, pretty much the whole catalogue (started with OK, Computer worked backwards then forwards).
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf.
Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News.

I don't know, maybe some of these newish albums will hold up over time, maybe they won't but they've managed to rekindle something in an old rock guy. And I would say they're certainly generationally cross-overable since he's in his fifties.
posted by safetyfork at 11:22 AM on March 7, 2005


I didn't mean to pick on you josh. I was just rambling about the issues surrounding this sort of question. There's an inherent danger in making pronouncements of this sort. I, too, revere Nevermind. I happen to prefer In Utero, but I know that Nevermind sold more copies. It appears in more music collections than In Utero. Does this make it a better album?

Who

knows.

Seriously. Just because one's personal preferences run toward stuff that was at one point briefly and hugely popular doesn't mean that the absence of such a genre amongst the top-selling albums of today indicates that popular taste has dipped in quality. The public-at-large likes what it is presented with, and usually always has. Yes, it sometimes happens that a really good performer happens to be in the right place at the right time to capture the attention of both the major corporate recording/distribution companies and a large enough segment of the populace to nudge the major media companies this way or that. But the popular stuff is usually simply manufactured by professional media manufacturers, not the result of an intensely personal expression of emotion or a long, dark night of the soul on the part of the artist.

Look at the RIAA list linked to above. With the exception of The Beatles and maybe Zeppelin (and the typo in the Number One entry notwithstanding), all of the top-ish acts are calculated to appeal. (This is the point at which we argue that all art is calculated to appeal, and I would argue right back that, no, it's not.)

The art/commerce debate is ancient. The unimaginative person conflates prevalence with excellence. "Excellence" becomes cheapened to the point that simply mixing together Jay-Z and The Beatles implies that they are somehow comparable. Weird phenomenon.

I'm not saying that you're doing this. I'm saying that participating in this sort of discussion in this way is a fast track to mental masturbation.

Obviously, though, I am as guilty of mental masturbation (not to mention physical) as the next High Fidelity-type mid-to-late twenties male. This I concede.

In my position as a misanthropic snob, I'm not prepared to allow anyone else's preferences to mandate what's good and bad, least of all the highly suspect preferences of the mass populace. I'm always skeptical of attempts to do so. In discussions like this, the same arguments are made over and over, and the same lists are linked to and the de-evolution into naming personal faves is rapid (as observed by Eideteker, right up top).
posted by gramschmidt at 12:22 PM on March 7, 2005


(also note: no hip-hop/R&B, or for that matter any black music)

no, I mentioned above that everyone has eminem & 50cent. Now that you mention it, there's a lotta dr dre, too. There's a lot more of that than there is violent femmes or the cure or my bloody valentine.

(again, I'm just reporting what I see on wireless network music sharing. Not My Personal Choices.)
posted by mdn at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2005


FWIW, I would have nominated The Cure or The Smiths, but I tend to think that they're niche bands...while everyone has heard Friday I'm In Love, they don't have one single CD that was hugely popular.
posted by amandaudoff at 3:00 PM on March 7, 2005


Modest Mouse- Moon and Antartica

Um, no. I'd have to assume anyone who'd name Modest Mouse as boundary-crossing has a pretty homogenized set of acquaintances. Voracious music consumers, a good set of teens, and those whose tastes tend toward odd indie are the acquaintances I know who know MM. Most of my older-than-25 acquaintances have no idea.

Norah Jones, on the other hand....
posted by weston at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2005


Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the 36 Chambers. Everybody knows at least one lyric from this album whether they know it or not. Tiger style.

Huh? I doubt I know any lyrics from it. Is there some significance to "Tiger style"? I can't recall ever seeing the phrase before.
posted by Doohickie at 7:47 PM on March 7, 2005


I'm still laughing about The Arcade Fire "sounding like the Velvet Underground".
posted by pikachulolita at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2005


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