Help expand my music collection!
August 17, 2004 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Following up this question, I want to expand my music collection beyond classical & jazz. I don't know much about music from the 1950s to the present, but I know what I like. Melody is really importand to me. I prefer happy, sad and thoughtful to angry (I don't like "screaming" rock at all). I don't like drum-beat heavy dance music. I prefer the 60's/70's sound (or stuff influenced by it) to really contemporary stuff. Here are some examples of what I like: most Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle, ELO's "Mister Blue Sky", a lot of They Might Be Giants, some Billy Joel ("Piano Man", "Moving Out", "Uptown Girl"), some of The Mommas and the Pappa's, some Aimee Mann, some Carol King, The Beach Boys, and The Roches.

What else would I like?
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try listening to Apples in Stereo and also Neutral Milk Hotel.
posted by Hall at 5:41 AM on August 17, 2004

Nick Drake
Badly Drawn Boy
Kings of Convenience
Jeff Buckley
posted by FreezBoy at 5:57 AM on August 17, 2004

oh, and Also...
Postal Service
Death Cab for Cutie
Sarah McLachlan
The Velvet Teen
posted by FreezBoy at 5:58 AM on August 17, 2004

The Cardigans
Mint Royale (might be a stretch, but give them a shot.)
I second Jeff Buckley, Coldplay, and Nick Drake.

I'm drawing a blank now... more to come if I think of them.
posted by absquatulate at 6:01 AM on August 17, 2004

Off the top of my head, you might check out:

Iron and Wine - mellow & folky
Hayden - also mellow & folky
Koop - lots of pretty, floaty melody - also see Stereolab
The Shins - rather 60s sounding, sometimes sound Kinks influenced

I'll browse my collection and see if I can come up with any more.
posted by boomchicka at 6:04 AM on August 17, 2004

Well, if you're more of a "Paul" Beatles fan than a "John," you might give Neil Finn a try. I'd say he's the closest person in the last couple of decades to capture Macca's talent for engaging pop tunes. He wrote most of Crowded House's stuff, so picking up their greatest hits collection would be an ok choice too, though some of that has a distinctly '80s sound to it. Try Whistling This is one of my very favorite pop albums of all time.

If you can tolerate a fairly mopey record, Duncan Sheik's Phantom Moon is one of the most "sad and thoughtful" records recorded in the last decade. (But it's not pointlessly sad, it's intelligent and at times very optimistic.) I know the guy got a bad reputation after his first single ("Barely Breathing") but I have to say Phantom Moon is really excellent.
posted by mragreeable at 6:09 AM on August 17, 2004

OK, alphabetically based on a quick scroll through the iPod:

Badly Drawn Boy - mellow but nice
Ben Folds Five - pretty pop piano melodies
Brian Setzer Orchestra - rockabilly-ish but tons of fun
Dressy Bessy - fun girl pop - might be a little rockish but worth a try
Francoise Hardy - actually from the 60s, lovely French pop
The Mavericks - country but not lame new country, trust me - also solo stuff by Raul Malo, the Mavericks' front man
Rufus Wainwright - singer-songwriterish stuff - slow, moody, pretty
Squeeze - 80s British fun, gentle pop

Have you listened to any Elvis Costello? Not all of his stuff will appeal to you, but some of his cds are very pretty. Get Happy! and Imperial Bedroom are two that come to mind and are two of my favorites.

OK I really have to work now. I hope you find some of these you like!
posted by boomchicka at 6:17 AM on August 17, 2004

First of all, try Elvis Costello--from what you've said, especially "Trust" and "Mighty Like a Rose", but he's really been all over the place, so I'd sample the tracks on a given album before I tried buying it. (On preview, I've got to agree with boomchicka that "Imperial Bedroom" is an awesome album, and I love "King of America", but those definitely have their "screaming" moments. Nevertheless, excellent albums.)

Second, XTC came up in the last thread, and they're awesome--they went through a big change after their first few albums, which were much more punk/angry, and they still have their angry moments, but look for "English Settlement", "Skylarking" and "Nonesuch".
posted by LairBob at 6:24 AM on August 17, 2004

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds – if you don't have this already, it should be near the top of your list.

XTC: Skylarking – Another essential album if you're after smart, melodic pop in the Lennon / McCartney / Brian Wilson vein.

XTC: Apple Venus vol. 1 – a more recent album you may also enjoy, given your taste.
posted by D.C. at 6:32 AM on August 17, 2004

Off the top of my head...if I was to burn you a mix CD, I'd probably include some of the following bands:
- The Shins - folk/rock but really fun without being loud
- Postal Service - surprise 2003 hit CD in the indie crowd - but I burned a copy for my dad and he's been cruising around listening to it for a while now. Super catchy and melodic.
- Camera Obscura - great Scottish band
- Belle and Sebastian - also a great Scottish group - their latest CD is the poppiest of them all, but they are all happy, melodic, and sometimes thoughtful
- Ben Harper - you've surely heard him before, but his CDs are definitely worth a listen
- Joss Stone - young soul/jazz/pop singer
- Jem - Finally Woken album - compulsively addictive for me and many I've introduced it to
posted by fionab at 6:32 AM on August 17, 2004

Chris Isaak.
posted by rushmc at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2004

Orzic Tentacles

Spyro Gyro

Rush (mid-catalog...Farewell to Kings, Power Windows...that era. )

Tangerine Dream (Early catalog more 70's stoner "celestial music" than later catalog...but they stay true to the German electronica throughout.)

Ray Lynch, especially Deep Breakfast.

Dead Can Dance - anything they do is brilliant, but each album is different.

I've got a couple others where I can think of the album cover, but can't remember the band name...I'll hunt them down and add them later. :)
posted by dejah420 at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recommendations so far. It's amazing to me how much things have changed since I was younger. In the past, I would have listened to you guys, taken a couple of recommendations, and just forgot about the rest. I mean, life is too short to track down all that stuff.

But now, thanks to apps like iTunes and Amazon's tracks, I can hear a little bit of each song and see if I like it.

It's going to be a fun weekend!
posted by grumblebee at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2004

Jane Siberry - She does just about every style, nice voice, smart lyrics.
(same social circle as the roches, so you probably already know of her, but if not...)

Kings of Convenience - sometimes remind me of Simon and Garfunkel.
posted by milovoo at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2004

You MUST check out Richard Thompson. For me, it's true love; slightly less expensive than a crack addiction, but a million times more intoxicating.
posted by lilboo at 7:18 AM on August 17, 2004 might like Matt Pond PA, or The Magnetic Fields.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2004

You might also look into Sloan or The New Pornographers.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2004

Attack of the emo missionaries...

Yeah, I would second The New Pornographers. R.E.M. is a must.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:19 AM on August 17, 2004

Another plug here for Jane Siberry. Since you mention liking jazz, have a look at her album "Maria" which is basically jazz - the songs were mostly written out of jam sessions with a jazz quartet. Though "When I Was A Boy" is probably more indicative of the Siberry that most people who know her like, and is indeed a masterpiece of an album.

There's also Joni Mitchell, of course. Probably start with "Blue" and "Court and Spark." My personal favorite Joni is "Hejira" which is when she really began to incorporate some jazz influence (such as featuring Jaco Pastorius on bass). Of her recent stuff, "Turbulent Indigo" is a great album.

Continuing in the vein of Canadian women - I love k. d. lang's post-country stuff, starting with "Ingenue." (Well, I like some of the country stuff too, in retrospect.) Her newest album, "Hymns of the 49th Parallel" is a collection of covers of various Canadian songwriters (Neil Young, Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen..) and is really beautiful.

Which reminds me - Bruce Cockburn. He's had quite a long career and I'm not familiar with most of it, but he put out a singles/hits collection a year or two ago that I really like. Also the album "Charity of Night" is high quality stuff. His song "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" is one of my favorite lyrics ever written.

And since you mention classical - not sure how you feel about modern "classical" music, so allow me to plug composer John Adams. If you're like me and loathe the noisy cacophonous 12-tone crap that gets called "contemporary music" you may find Adams a remarkable antidote. First piece of his I heard was "Harmonium," a work for large orchestra and chorus, and it really blew me away. (I don't think just hearing a sound bite of it will help best to hear the whole thing, just lay back and flow with it...)
posted by dnash at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2004

Crosby Stills and Nash? Jim Croce? James Taylor?
posted by grateful at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2004

Dusty Springfield, Karla Bonoff, Sandy Denny, Blackmore's Night, Sarah Brightman, Pentangle.
posted by mischief at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the mention of John Adams, dnash. This is off-topic in my own thread, but if any of you are interested in "modern" classical music, I highly recommend Marjan Mozetich's work. He started his career as one of those "12-tone" experimental composers and then got disenchanted with his own music. He felt it was all too cerebral. So he did a 180 and started composing the most beautiful, romantic, lyrical stuff. I recommend Affairs of the Heart.
posted by grumblebee at 8:47 AM on August 17, 2004

Your list just screams out Jellyfish "Spilt Milk". You will like it because it's a cross between Beach Boys, Beatles and ELO. Oh, and Queen.

By the way, now might be a good time to take out a trial on Rhapsody - it will allow you to listen to all of these albums in full before deciding whether or not you want to buy.
posted by skylar at 8:52 AM on August 17, 2004

The Polyphonic Spree.
posted by O9scar at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2004

Thanks for the tip, grumblebee. I'll check Mozetich out.

That reminds me of another composer I like - John Tavener. I was in a record store once and they put on a recording of his stings piece "The Protecting Veil" and - well, it was just amazing. I mean, I'm not religious, but for a few moments listening to that piece I am.

Same thing with Gorecki's Third Symphony. Walked into a bookstore that was playing it one day and it was like the world just fell away and I was somewhere else entirely. Beautiful.
posted by dnash at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2004

The Cardigans new album (Long Gone Before Daylight) is a stunner. I have listened to it every day since I got it about three months ago. I'll also second Michael Penn, Badly Drawn Boy (especially the About A Boy soundtrack), Postal Service, The Shins, and Rufus Wainwright (get Poses first).

Also look into:

Andy Stochansky (Five Star Motel)
Counting Crows (start with August and Everything After, but the first three albums are great)
Everything But the Girl (Amplified Heart)
Nil Lara (Nil Lara)
Wes Cunningham (12 Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking and Pollyanna)

and I cannot recommend Tim Easton enough (Break Your Mother's Heart is the latest) -- especially if you can see him live.
posted by papercake at 9:23 AM on August 17, 2004

You sem to have a taste for intricately fashioned, intelligent pop/rock. So I wholeheartedly reccommend snapping up anything by Big Star. For something more aggressive but in the same vein: The Fastbacks. The seventies stuff by The Raspberries is also great rock confection. Plus there's plenty of great stuff by Jeff Lynne & Roy Wood's pre-ELO outfit The Move

If you like The Mamas & The Papas, there's a slew of folk-pop singles from that era worth checking out like The Rose Garden's "Next Plane To London," "My Dear & Kind Sir" by the Harbinger Complex, and tons of stuff by the Byrds, The Bluethings and The Left Banke. The Aislers Set and Dressy Bessy iare good contemporary outfits in this style.

If you enjoy Billy Joel's stuff, you might like some of Randy Newman's work from the 70's, he has Joel's gift for melody, but his lyrics, while thought provoking are not for the faint of heart. Other strong songwiters from that era include Tom Waits, and John Prine. I also have a feeling you'd enjoy The Band. Star with the "Brown Album"(includes audio).

Hope you like 'em.
posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2004

Oh, I forgot The Posies.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2004

If you like Carole King, you'd like Carly Simon and James Taylor. Both of them have sung some of Carole King's songs. I'd also recommend Jim Croce and Cat Stevens. All of them have greatest hits album, which are always a good starting point.
Elton John is a very good singer and songwriter. He has three greatest hits albums; I especially recommend the first one.
If you like folksy music, definitely try Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young), in particular Deja Vu and their self-titled first album. Also, check out Neil Yong's solo albums, and the Kingston Trio.
If you like Simon and Garfunnkel, you might want to look into Paul Simon's solo music.

Sarah McLachlan is a more recent singer who tends to be thoughtful, happy, and sad, but rarely angry. I'd recommend Mirrorball, a live album showcasing some of her greatest hits.

The only band I know of that even resembles They Might Be Giants is Moxy Fruvous, with their lyrical oddness and eclectic style. My favorite of their albums is Bargainville.

I'll make one recommendation that's a bit out of left field -- Chicago, especially their earlier stuff. Their first Greatest Hits album (Chicago IX) is one of my favorites. They have plenty of harmony, with both voices and brass.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:47 AM on August 17, 2004

Oh, just so I don't sound stupid, that last sentence in the second paragraph about the Aislers Set and Dressy Bessy belongs in the top paragraph, cos they're in the pop vein, not the folky stuff.

Damn cut-n-paste.
posted by jonmc at 9:51 AM on August 17, 2004

Also snap up Buffalo Springfeild's Retrospective. Contains most of Stephen Stills' best work.
posted by jonmc at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2004

Seconding what others have said, and adding a couple of my own:

Elvis Costello. Definitely. Aside from the other albums mentioned above, check out "All This Useless Beauty" and any of the greatest-hits compilations.


Dressy Bessy.

Bettie Serveert.

Tom Waits...I'd start with his older stuff first, then maybe migrate over to "Rain Dogs."

Matthew Sweet.

Jump, Little Children.

The Connells.

The dB's.

Big Star.

Let's Active.
posted by Vidiot at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2004

Response by poster: dnash (and other like-minds), you might also enjoy the "classical" compositions of Miklas Rozsa. Rozsa is mostly known as a film composer (and many of his film scores are lovely). His film music includes "Double Indemnity," "The Lost Weekend," "Ben Hur," and the amazing "Thief of Bagdad."
posted by grumblebee at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2004

Also, This Mortal Coil does good versions of songs by some of the groups already mentioned.

The 6th is another Stephen Merritt (of the magnetic fields) side project with other vocalists that would be worth checking out, some are jazzy, some are ballads, kind of a random pop cabaret.

and Lamb has some interesting, complex, jazzy stuff, although It's possible that the drum-and-bass feel may be a turn-off (try "cotton wool" from that page and see what you think).
posted by milovoo at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2004

Jeff Buckley (The "Grace" album is best in my book, but I don't really like him that much when he played live.)
Stretch Princess (Hauntingly sad, lyrical mid 90's brit grunge)
Fleetwood Mac
The Eagles
Incubus (Sometimes tends towards angry, but these guys are incredible musicians.)
Second the Sarah McL
Dave Matthews Band (although not their recent CD, "Everyday". I didn't like that one. Get the "Listener Supported" live CD set.)
Lisa Loeb
Fiona Apple
Allison Krauss (Bluegrass)
Jem (New artist... playing often in Portland these days.)

I find myself listening to folk/rock music from the 70's a lot, but I don't really like the rock end of things (Beatles, etc.) that much. I can't get past the acoustic guitar talent that's so rarely found these days. I tend to look for great vocals, and I tend to prefer female singers in modern music.
posted by SpecialK at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2004

By the way, since everyone else seems to be doing it... If you can find a copy of it, Shirley Manson of Garbage once did a jazz/acoustic rendition of "You Look So Fine". It's pretty amazing. That woman has a voice; I have no clue why she chooses not to use it.
posted by SpecialK at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2004

I wanna reiterate the recommendations for the Magnetic Fields. You'll be hard-pressed to find a pop songwriter more interested in melody (and more talented at creating melodies) than Merritt. Plus he's an incredibly witty lyricist--think of a more mature, less absurd They Might Be Giants. Look for songs from the 69 Love Songs triple album: the instrumentation and arrangement is a little more satisfyingly complex than on other Magnetic Fields albums, I think.

You might also want to take a look at Momus--more melody-driven songwriting, though he can get a little precious.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:03 AM on August 17, 2004

Chris Rea
Leo Kottke
Jimmy Buffett
Gordon Lightfoot
posted by joaquim at 11:26 AM on August 17, 2004

Some great suggestions here! Grumblebee, let me second/third/fourth the suggestions that you'd like Big Star (#1 Record and Radio City are almost indescribably good records, not to mention highly influential) and XTC (esp. Skylarking and Apple Venus, Vol. 1). Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant work.

And I agree with agreeableman's suggestion of Crowded House/Neil Finn -- I genuinely think he's one of the best songwriters on the planet in that Beatles-esque melodic vein. (He and elder brother Tim also have their brand-new Finn Brothers record, Everyone Is Here, coming out next week. I just saw them play in L.A. last month and the new material sounds gorgeous -- right up your alley, I would think.) Recurring Dream is the name of the Crowded House "best of" compilation, by the way -- I think you'd be hooked. Very pretty, smart, finely-crafted pop.

Also, I don't think I've seen anyone else mention The Kinks -- Village Green Preservation Society (1968) is a great place to start. You also might enjoy Ogden's Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces (also 1968, I believe) -- a weird, whimsical blend of mod R&B, psychedelic pop, and faux children's story.

Similarly, you might dig Paul Weller's first band, The Jam (I would especially recommend Sound Affects -- it's arguably the "prettiest" of The Jam's albums), the first couple of records from his second band, The Style Council (Cafe Bleu and Our Favorite Shop), and some of his more "pastoral" solo work (most particularly Wild Wood, but also possibly Heliocentric and Illumination). Weller's career has been strongly influenced by the Beatles/Small Faces/Kinks/The (early) Who angle of British music, but with a deep interest in American R&B as well (and, during his Style Council days, jazz and French pop).

Finally, Fufkin is a great website to explore -- lots of the reviewers there have a similar melodic pop bias. (My ex, Mike Bennett, is one of the main writers there, and I can attest to his nearly-flawless taste in music). They've got lots of current reviews, ranging from major releases to obscure indie stuff, and now also have a recommendations section by genre.
posted by scody at 12:33 PM on August 17, 2004

The only name i can suggest that hasn't been suggested yet is Josh Rouse, especially his album 1972. It is an amazingly beautiful foray into 70's light rock/funk/rock by a man who was born in the titular year!

And, I agree with those who have recommended The Thrills, Elvis Costello, early Tom Waits and Paul Weller's Illumination. I might also suggest later Replacements, and some of Paul Westerberg's solo stuff, especially Suicane Gratification (although many PW fans might disagree, I think it one of his best).

yay! I managed to use titular in a sentence!
posted by Richat at 12:47 PM on August 17, 2004

I bet you'd really like Steely Dan, specifically thinking of the CD Aja.

Also, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan put out a solo CD titled The Nightfly that would probably also fit your description.

Kate Bush?
Dire Straits?
If you like TMBG you might like early Talking Heads. Maybe. Give it a listen.

Lots of good reccomendations here.
posted by dglynn at 1:00 PM on August 17, 2004

Sorry to plug again, but here's their '90s guitar pop recommendations (including Aimee Mann's wonderful Bachelor #2); I especially agree with their suggestions of Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque, Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, the Posies' Dear 23, Myracle Brah's Life on Planet Eartsnop (no, I don't know what it means either), and Cotton Mather's Kon-Tiki . (The latter two might be a little hard to find, but well worth the effort if you find you like other stuff in this vein).
posted by scody at 1:01 PM on August 17, 2004

I'm sure you're way past the point of following up on these anymore, but Jeffrey Gaines owns.
posted by rushmc at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not past the point. Hopefully, I have a lot of decades left to live, and I can spend them going through this thread and listening to stuff. Thanks.
posted by grumblebee at 1:56 PM on August 17, 2004

> The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

As you may know, poor old LSD-addled basket case Brian has actually pulled himself together enough to finish the legendary lost Smile and has performed it live. Studio version coming in the fall. Only 40 years too late to compete head-on with Sgt. Pepper but for those of us with soft spots in our heads for the BBoys (and Van Dyke Parks) it's very nice.
posted by jfuller at 3:07 PM on August 17, 2004

Among artists not mentioned yet, Scott Walker comes immediately to mind--if his eccentricity doesn't put you off. Or maybe Neil Hannon's The Divine Comedy. Talk Talk are one of my favorites, you might like their later jazz/ambient albums like Spirit of Eden or Laughingstock better than their earlier New Wave pop. Bjork's album of jazz vocals, Gling Glo. The Pet Shop Boys, since no one else has mentioned them: Discography is a good singles collection. More recent artists like Nina Nastasia, Juan Molina, and Iron & Wine also come to mind.

And Hank Williams. Everyone needs some Hank Williams.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:10 AM on August 18, 2004

(that's Juana Molina).
posted by octobersurprise at 7:14 AM on August 18, 2004

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