Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Top 35 Albums: 10-6

See: 35-3130-2625-2120-16, 15-11


Pink Floyd - Animals

This is the first of four Pink Floyd albums on this list, and all four are in my top ten. This album's inclusion is also somewhat of a surprise to me; I usually think of this as a lesser Pink Floyd album, forgotten between some of their more popular ones.

But this is still Pink Floyd at the height of their lyrical and musical power: Waters has begun adding his scathingly personal politics and lyrics, but they harmonize with some of the finest engineering and playing from Gilmour, Mason, and Wright. There are only 4 songs on the album (one is divided into parts). The melody writing is superb; songs are balanced just so, the instruments entering and exiting, building up and disappearing at just the right moments. The songs creep into your head. Pigs (Three Different Ones) is the only song I don't favor quite as much; it's a bit of a retread of Have a Cigar from Wish You Were Here, and I don't really like to listen to oinking in my music. Sheep has a bit of One of These Days from  Meddle in it, but finds new ground to cover (and I liked One of These Days more than Have a Cigar, anyway; Meddle nearly made this list).

Five star songs: Pigs on the Wing, Dogs, Sheep


Sarah's album right before this, Surfacing, was a pinnacle (for Sarah and for music, in general). I thought that she had nowhere to go but down. How can anyone keep making music that sublime, that holy, that wonderful, at that level?

Somehow, amazingly, she created a whole new collection of songs that are as sublime and wonderful (if not quite as holy). While she can hardly do better than Surfacing, this album is darn close. Ethereal, beautiful, poignant, sad ... well, maybe not quite as sad as Surfacing, and the songs bring her back among us mortals. Some actually have a bit of a bounce to them. On this album she's trying to capture something, find something that she can connect to, rather than just drift around, content in the perfect beauty of her loss.

5 star songs: Fallen, World on Fire, Drifting, Train Wreck, Answer, Time


Sarah McLachlan - Laws of Illusion

Afterglow has 6 essential songs and 4 very good songs; this album has 9 essential songs (1 is a reprise) and 4 very good songs. She is now far from the holiness of Surfacing (perhaps because she got it out of her system with Wintersong, which was released before this) and entirely entrenched in love and relationship ... or rather its loss: these songs are mostly about losing love.

Sarah's voice and music is as sublime and wonderful as ever, and her melodies, harmonies, and compositions are just as lovely. These songs are even bouncier than the ones on Afterglow. The lyrics are a tad trite and ordinary in some places, but they are sweet and sad, which is fine. I think - and this is no coincidence - this this would be what Pink Floyd would sound like if they were fronted by a woman.

5 star songs: Awakenings, Illusions of Bliss, Forgiveness, Rivers of Love, Love Come, Out of Tune, Heartbreak, U Want Me 2, Love Come (reprise)


Van Morrison - Moondance

Die-hard fans and critics will tell you that Van's debut album Astral Weeks was better (because it was more groundbreaking and less accessible). In my opinion this is the great one. It has all the weird jazzy folk pop intensity that he pioneered in Astral Weeks and adds a rich collection of catchy wonderful melodies (I feel the melodies were weaker on the first album).

Like other albums on this list, Van Morrisson carries you away into something liminal, distant, hazy, mystical, and soulful. Yet, on his Motown-influenced ballads, he can be very real and present, an alpha-male personal love-struck suitor.

Into the Mystic and Moondance are two of the finest songs by anyone, ever.

5 star songs: And It Stoned Me, Moondance, Crazy Love, Caravan, Into the Mystic, Brand New Day, Glad Tidings


Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason

This is the first of the last two Pink Floyd albums, which means that it doesn't include Roger Waters. Waters had a searing political agenda that drove the band in a certain direction. The awesome musical abilities of the rest of Pink Floyd carried this agenda, but I'm actually rather happy to see him gone here. This album has a freer, less negative and more playful spirit, with a looser, less-rigid theme, without sacrificing any of the amazing musicianship.

There is a nod to Waters'-style political lyrics in Dogs of War (which is a good song, but one the two that I don't rate 5 stars), but the rest of the album is about dreams, flying, adventure, and compassion (kind of a boy's fantasy). The first side contains some fantastic independent songs; the second side is an epic, wondrous fantasy of forests and winter as enchanting as anything written by any rock group; it has four songs (one is split into two parts), but it may as well be one song.

5 star songs: Signs of Life, Learning to Fly, One Slip, On The Turning Away, Yet Another Movie - Round and Round, A New Machine (parts 1 and 2), Terminal Frost

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