Friday, June 17, 2011

Ten Reasons Why Magical Mystery Tour is the Best Beatles Album (and How Anyone Who Says Otherwise is Wrong)

1) Listen to that first song. This isn’t just some random number or a silly little introduction to the concert you’re about to see. This is a DECLARATION! COME ONE! COME ALL! STEP RIGHT THIS WAY! ROLL UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR! This is easily their greatest album opener ever. It’s so declarative. It makes you go, “Whatever they’re selling, I want it.” It pulls you in from the beginning, which is exactly what an album opener should do. All Revolver’s got is a song about taxes. What exactly is so appealing about taxes? See? You’ve lost me already.

2) There are no bad songs on this album. Not a one. Now I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Oh, come on! The White Album and Abbey Road have better songs!” Maybe. But you know what else they have? Bad songs. Think about it. Everyone has at least one song they always skip on the White Album. Same goes for Abbey Road, only in that case it’s either “Oh! Darling” or “Octopus’s Garden.” Magical Mystery Tour has none of those. You will listen to this album straight through every single time and enjoy every minute of it.

3) When it comes to drummers, Ringo is pretty much as average as they come. He could keep a steady beat, sure, but he’s the only famous drummer I can think of that actually REGRESSED over time. But this album? I wouldn’t dare call his drumming bad on this album. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty good. He gets some nice jazz beats going and keeps it all interesting throughout. However, “Tomorrow Never Knows” remains his best drum beat, like, ever.

4) “Blue Jay Way” is George Harrison’s best song. There. I said it. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps?” “Something?” Too bluesy. Too melodramatic. But “Blue Jay Way?” That song is ahead of its time. He used experimental effects that you still barely ever see in modern music. Just listen to that echoing chorus played in reverse in the background, or how about that constant changing of the pitch of the drums toward the end? Psychedelic, man.

5) I buried Paul. Rotate the picture in the booklet 90 degrees, and you’ll see the skull. Call 537-1438 to get closer to the truth.

6) To me, this album symbolizes when the Beatles were most “together.” I dunno about you, but I typically remember each album post-Sgt. Pepper as having some kind of problem internally in the group, like the controversy over whether or not Paul rerecorded Ringo’s parts himself or George’s bitterness on the Let It Be album over his playing being almost completely controlled by the rest of the band (mainly Paul). This album was an afterthought soundtrack for their pet project of a movie. They collaborated and worked together evenly because they legitimately wanted to make something great together. Incidentally, the track “Flying” is pretty much the only track of theirs to give equal singing time to each member.

7) My grandma (my GRANDMA) absolutely loves “Your Mother Should Know.” It’s a callback to the songs of old that she’s always held dear. Do you know what song comes right after “Your Mother Should Know?” It’s “I Am Walrus.” I don’t think my grandmother knows this, but I find it hilarious that one of the most recognizably bizarre songs ever written that “totally made sense” to every hippy at Woodstock is preceded by a song that appeals to the previous, older generation of people complaining about and yelling at those very same hippies at Woodstock.

8) It’s said that Paul and John had very distinct lyrical styles, probably best exemplified by the band’s previous album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On “Getting Better,” as Paul chants the optimistic, life-affirming chorus of admitting that everything is getting better, John manages to sneak in with his much more pessimistic viewpoint of “It can’t get no worse.” It’s such a small, subtle line, but it can completely change the meaning of the song depending on how you look at it. Or how about “A Day in the Life?” The whole thing is this sad, loathing piece written by John, but right in the middle Paul manages to inject this short piano ditty that one can’t help but bounce right along to. Anyway, getting to the point, I believe this is a very large reason as to why the Beatles were/are so huge. So on this album, when we start side B (which begins with "Hello Goodbye") we're given a catchy upbeat song by Paul. That in turn switches to the more mellow "Strawberry Fields" number by John. Then back to another upbeat Paul song with "Penny Lane," and back to a bitter track about losing money on "Baby You're A Rich Man" before the final song. It’s those opposing viewpoints that always manage to come together so beautifully time and time again that makes for some of the most memorable music ever.

9) The final track, “All You Need is Love,” encapsulates the entirety of the band’s philosophy of life, the universe, and everything and compresses it into a catchy three minutes and forty-seven seconds. What more could you ask for?

10) I don’t actually have a tenth reason, but I think you’ll agree that 10 sounds much more appealing than the number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Instrumental Recommendations

A friend asked for instrumental recommendations. I went through my entire library and gave him a list. Since it took a while, and I don't just want to throw it away, I may as well post it here.

Andy Summers - World Gone Strange (world music)

Thomas Newman - American Beauty soundtrack (the vibraphone on this soundtrack is amazing)

Apparat - Walls (you know this)

The Avalanches - Since I Left You (comprised almost entirely of audio samples)

Avishai Cohen - Continuo (good modern jazz)

Avishai Cohen - Aurora (same)

The Bad Plus - These Are The Vistas (jazz band typically known for their covers of famous rock songs)

Balmorhea - River Arms (beautiful ambient stuff)

Balmorhea - Balmorhea (same)

Balmorhea - All Is Wild, All Is Silent (same)

Boards of Canada - all of their albums (some of the best electronic music ever made)

Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Black Earth (It's not what it sounds like, it's basically film noir jazz)

Bonobo - Days to Come (awesome ambient album)

Brad Barr - The Fall Apartment (this is the greatest guitarist alive)

Nathan Johnson - Brick Soundtrack (dem handbells)

Broken Social Scene - Feel Good Lost (their debut album is pretty different from the rest of their stuff)

Collections of Colonies of Bees - Hospital (really experimental post-rock)

Conelrad - Function Creep (experimental ambient)

Conelrad - Sure Is the Risk Safe (experimental ambient)

Do Make Say Think - Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn (classic post-rock)

Ed Alleyne Johnson - Ultraviolt (electric violinist)

El Ten Eleven - El Ten Eleven (basic post-rock)

El Ten Eleven - Every Direction Is North (basic post-rock)

Emancipator - Soon It Will Be Cold Enough (some of the greatest ambient music ever made)

Emancipator - Safe In the Steep Cliffs (some of the greatest ambient music ever made)

Foxhole - Push/Pull (amazing post-rock)

Helios - Eingya (one of the greatest ambient albums ever recorded)

Hoven Droven - Grov (irish instrumental fast folk/rock)

Jaga Jazzist - all of their albums (some of the greatest modern experimental jazz ever made)

Jazz Mandolin Project - Xenoblast (jazz...but with a mandolin)

Jazz Mandolin Project - Jungle Blast (same)

Jean Michel Jarre - Images (french guy who made highly influential experimental electronic music in the late 80s/90s)

Jean Baudin - Solace (composed entirely of a man playing an 11-string bass, I can't even describe the sounds he makes, you have to hear it to believe it)

Kashiwa Daisuke (experimental classic piano with ambient electronic elements)

KC Accidental - Anthems for Could've Been Pills/Captured Anthems for an Empty Bathtub (back when Broken Social Scene made ambient instrumental music)

Los Straightjackets - Supersonic Guitars in 3D (essentially the beach boys without vocals)

The Mercury Program - Confines of Heat (ambient)

Mouse on the Keys - An Anxious Object (really good modern jazz)

Pele - Enemies (experimental)

Plants and Animals - Plants and Animals (instrumental folk)

Saltillo - Ganglion (mixes electronic and classical with audio samples)

Saxon Shore - Four Months of Darkness (really good post-rock)

Saxon Shore - The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore (really good post-rock)

Six Parts Seven - Casually Smashed to Pieces (similar to El Ten Eleven)

The Slip - Alivelectric (my favorite instrumental album of all time)

Tin Hat Trio - The Sad Machinery of Spring (modern jazz)

Tortoise - TNT (classic post-rock)

A Troop of Echoes - Days in Automation (jazz post-rock)

Tunturia - Maps (ambient post-rock)

Two Lone Swordsmen - Stay Down (this is the definitive soundtrack for being underwater)

Unwed Sailor - Little Wars (indie rock without the vocals basically)

Volta Do Mar - 03>98 (greatest math rock album ever recorded)

Wax Tailor - Tales of the Forgotten Melodies (trip hop with audio samples)

Yndi Halda - Enjoy Eternal Bliss (probably my favorite post-rock album)

Bull of Heaven (drone, they make some of the longest music ever made, I have one track that's 24 hours but they have longer ones (one is over a week long))