Newsroom Album Picks
John Arterbury, Editor in chief
York Blvd., Acetone
Acetone drifted under the radar during their musical career, touring the West Coast in the 1990s with indie space rockers such as Spiritualized and Guided by Voices. And although they shared certain elements with these artists, Acetone found their niche in a unique synthesis of surf rock, funk and pastoral country melodies that formed a vibe unlike any other. York Blvd., the band’s final album, is the epitome of everything Acetone had the potential to be. Singer Richie Lee’s melodic coos and haunting, spartan lyrics mesh perfectly with the velvety-rich sound only Acetone could perfect. Following Lee’s 2001 suicide, Blvd. is the last offering from a band that had so much potential, and through its gliding harmonies and blues, the album is both euphoria and eulogy.
Christian Ochoa, Managing editor
PrÛxima EstaciÛn: Esperanza, Manu Chao
It’s time for Americans to listen to what the rest of the world is listening to, and Manu Chao is the best way to take that round trip. Reggae rhythms and Jamaican brass abound in his sophomore album, PrÛxima EstaciÛn: Esperanza. Songs such as "Merry Blues" and "Promiscuity" have that lively spirit, but unorthodox sounds are thrown into the mix – doorbells, cell phone rings and anchormen speaking. One of his most popular songs, "Me Gustas T√∫," might be one of the simplest, as it just lists the narrator’s pleasures: cinnamon, traveling, certain herbs and his lovely neighbor. But don’t let that fool you: Manu Chao is known for tackling political issues and he doesn’t shy away from his left-wing heritage.
Ruth Rodriguez, Features editor
Astral Weeks, Van Morrison
Van Morrison delves into an array of musical arrangements that test elements of traditional song structures with his awe-inspiring 1968 release Astral Weeks. The ever-changing dynamic, rhythm and instrumentation of each of the eight tracks make for a listen that won’t easily lose its charm. One of the most intriguing aspects of the album is its seamingly effortless ability to span each piece across a vast musical spectrum. The music will slowly climb its way to intense, high-pitched string orchestra crescendos and plummet to an equally passionate yet tender bass line interspersed with the deepest, richest notes imaginable and then back again – all within a matter of minutes. Morrison’s true style and grace surfaces as he delivers one relentless vocal performance after another.
Caitlin Cuppernull, Life ‘ Arts editor
The Band, The Band
On The Band’s self-titled album one finds a sound perfected. Lyrically, the songs evoke the hardship and history of the Old South, while musically the group takes inspiration from country, gospel, blues and rock ‘n’ roll. The vocal deliveries of Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Richard Manuel range from Manuel’s soulful tenor to Danko’s desperate croons, and the three vocalists fluctuate between solo verses and distinctive harmonies. These harmonies, coupled with the group’s unusual and remarkable breakdowns, become not only some of the album’s finest moments, but music’s finest moments. Add in Robbie Robertson’s bluesy guitar riffs and the intense organ playing of Garth Hudson and you get a rock album that rightfully changed the course of music.
Austin Havican, Staff Writer
Sharpen Your Teeth, Ugly Casanova
With the recent success of the two latest Modest Mouse albums, fans may be digging into the band’s back catalogue to hear more of Isaac Brock’s amazing songwriting and music. One of his most interesting projects, and the only record he’s ever made outside of Modest Mouse, is with the band Ugly Casanova. Tom Waits-inspired delivery works its way through Brock’s vocals and the band’s instrumentation, and comes out as a beautifully melancholic record about sadness, age and anger. Sharpen Your Teeth is one of Brock’s best albums, and a must for any dedicated Modest Mouse fan.
Casey Wooten, Opinion editor
The Mix-Up, Beastie Boys
If you are anything like me, you listen to people talk all day.
Usually, about 90 percent of what people say you probably could have never heard and gotten by just fine. The other 10 percent probably could have been better expressed in a song, or text message.
That’s why The Mix Up is so great. It’s all instrumentals. No one is talking. After work, put in this album, and forget all the ridiculous declarations you were unfortunate enough to be within earshot of that day.
Christian Palmer, Production
Loch Ness Monster, Flying Fish Sailors
Summer is supposed to be a time for fun, right? So why not laze the days away with something light and fishy? Released in 1999, Flying Fish Sailors’ Loch Ness Monster is probably something no respectable music lover would ever admit to owning, but it is certainly worth the embarrassment. Secure some rum and eye patches, grab your trusty mandolin and lose all those inhibitions. If you do, you’ll hear about the "friendly neighborhood" Crawdad Man, the "hideous, loathsome lima bean" and the mystical creature for which the album is named.
Mayra Cruz, Assistant news editor
So Tonight That I Might See, Mazzy Star
A trip back to the alternative phase of the 1990s, Mazzy Star scored recognition with the hit "Fade Into You," a rather sorrowful toned song with vocals by Hope Sandoval and music by David Roback in their 1993 release So Tonight That I Might See.
The rest of So Tonight That I Might See contains a similar theme along the way – it’s minimalist, dreamy and lingers long after listening to it.