Thanks to services like Rdio, Spotify, Pandora and LastFm, I’ve found myself either accidentally or on purpose, re-discovering old jams I used to love. It’s fun, makes the day go by faster. My own personal studies have shown that it drastically improves a morning by as much as 70 percent.
These re-discovery missions tug at your heart strings because of the nostalgia listening to an album you haven’t listened to years incites. Remember when you used to find an old CD or tape buried in the back of your car and the excitement that came with finding it and then listening to it? That’s what it’s like with these online joints now. No physical digging required!
Here are some albums I’ve re-discovered over the past couple months:
Lily Allen All right, Still
I first heard Lily Allen on a song with Wale, a version of her tune, “Smile.” I love her voice, how it’s childishly innocent yet simmering with undertones of attitude. It’s dangerously cute. And I like cute and I like danger. So win/win. The music behind her is also hard to define. Little bit of hip hop, little bit of brit pop, little bit of reggae and Jamaican ska, little bit of Mark Ronson- all fantastic things. The whole album is just so freakin’ appealing.
All Right, Still is Allen’s debut album and was released back in 2006. Besides “Smile,” which is a great song, especially for summer, the album also includes “Knock ’em Out,” “LDN,” and “Friday Night.”
Ben Folds Five Whatever and Ever Amen
I listened to this album yesterday for the first time in a while because Spotify suggested I check it out. I owe a sincere thank you to Spotify for doing so because not only did it bring me back to making music in high school down in my parents’ basement with Dave Devine and Rob Voyer (our influences frequently bounced around between BFF, Primus, Nirvana and one or two other bands that one of us were in to at any given moment.) I also thought back to the H.O.R.D.E. festival in
1998 1997 and trekking down to the Arena Formerly Known as Great Woods south of Boston. Ben Folds Five owned the second stage, which was tucked away in the trees and down in a gully and also featured a great set by Ween. On a day when I saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Primus, Soul Coughing and Beck, Ben Folds Five was easily one of the highlights of the festival.
Whatever and Ever Amen was the band’s breakthrough album, thanks largely to the single “Brick,” which became one of those God, it’s everywhere! songs in 1998. But the album was so much more than “Brick.” Ben Folds Five were initially a novelty because of the instrumentation- grand piano, upright bass and drums, but their thunderous pop songs deconstructed the dreaded novelty act label. “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces,” “Kate,” “Selfless, Cold and Composed” are just three of the great tunes on the album.
Morphine has always been one of those bands I just always kind of liked, even though I never owned any of their albums. If they came on the radio (which thankfully they do frequently on Philly’s XPN) I would be elated and then subsequently wondering why I had never bought one of their albums. It’s the groove of Morphine that gets me. And I love the simplicity of it all- simplicity that takes a brazen pair of brass balls.
Bass, sax and drums. Mark Sandman’s droll, monotone vocals narrated your way through each song’s minimalistic journey. They coined the term “low rock” to help define their sound and it’s an appropriate phrase. They took a stab at minimalism and then ran with it, creating one interesting song after another with their unique arrangement.
Yes was released in 1995 and the high point on the album is it’s opener, “Honey White.” F word, I love this song so much I tried (and failed) to incorporate it into our wedding. But “Scratch” is my favorite song on the album. I’m a sucker for horns, but I’m also a sucker for a great groove.
So bottom line, I’m a sucker for Morphine.
Long Beach Dub All Stars Right Back
Got back into this album after diving headfirst into a Sublime worm hole a week or so ago. The All Stars were a bunch of dudes in a band built around Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, the two surviving members of Sublime. Does it sound like Sublime? Yup. But you know what, a shitload of bands sounded like Sublime after they burst on the scene, so I don’t think you can knock the All Stars for being another one.
The bounce and vibe of Sublime is prevalent throughout the album, which makes it both more inviting and appealing. The heavy parts are a little heavier and overall, the album is tighter musically than Sublime albums. “Rosarito” was my favorite song on the album when it first came out and it’s my favorite song today.
But part of the joy of re-discovering old albums is unearthing songs on the album that you might have forgotten or never given much play too. On “Right Back,” it’s the album’s closer, an acoustic cover of a Sublime tune, “Saw Red” with reggae legend Barrington Levy on vocals. The original version has always been one of my favorite Sublime tunes and I love the love this cover gets. They’re not trying to re-do it, just pay homage to it. I appreciate that.
Social Distortion Social Distortion
For me, Social Distortion is a lot like Morphine, in that whenever I hear them on the radio I wonder, why the hell don’t I own any of their albums. It’s usually a tune like “Ball and Chain” or “Story of My Life” that I hear and that’s enough to get me looking up Social Distortion and finding an album to listen too.
I love a good sing-a-long and I always appreciate good driving music- two things that seem to epitomize Social Distortion. I guess it’s punk, but to me, it’s just good honest rock ‘n roll that’s fun to listen, fun to sing-a-long to, fun to bob along to. I mean, I’m not punk. I just said that I bob along to Social Distortion.
Either way, it’s music I can appreciate and their self-titled album, released back in 1990, is always a good fall back album. And as a bonus, the album features the band’s great cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” which they totally make their own.