Monday, November 2, 2009

The 50 Song Club: Part 2

A few additional artists worth noting for having at least 50 songs of quality:

Joe Jackson - Jackson was one of a number of artists who came up with the punk/new wave movement, but would have thrived at any time, similar to compatriots like Elvis Costello and Ric Ocasek, who are great writers regardless of genre. More than any of his peers, except maybe Costello, Jackson followed his muse to various unexpected and rather uncommercial results. He recorded an entire album live, but with the audience kept silent, he recorded instrumental albums and he released a symphony. Plus for good measure, on another live album he included three very different versions of "Is She Really Going Out With Him" from three eras. But despite all the unexpected turns, his best writing worked within the general pop idiom, if not necessarily with 3 minute pop songs.

* Best stretch - Everything up to Big World was great, and covered an amazing amount of territory from reggaeish new wave to latin inflected torch songs.
* Perfect Albums? - Look Sharp and Night and Day are easy calls. Youth energy and mature songwriting in two easy steps.
* Also Worth Considering - Hidden in the 1 1/2 album (3 sides on vinyl) Big World are about 10 really really good songs. Hidden in the unfortunate '80s production of Body and Soul are a clutch of songs as good as anything on Night and Day. And the last three albums have some decent songs that hint back at Jackson's glory years.

Autechre - The icy impenetrable techno duo were amazing craftsman at their best. Sure there's not much to hum, but there are plenty of great melodies in their work.

* Best stretch - From Amber to EP 7, the duo's work got subtly weirder, but never sacrificed melody under the rhythmically complex beats and washes of static. Then they dived off the deep end of difficult with Confield and have never quite returned.
* Perfect Albums? - Tri Repetae ++ was an album plus two EPs that epitomised the first wave of Warp Records techno albums, each song had patient lovely buildup, and were like the audio equivalent of Rothko canvases.
* Also worth considering - There are lots of good things on their other EPs - Envane, Cichlisuite and the two Peel Session are certainly worth tracking down.

M Ward - The retro-modern songwriter makes songs that could exist in any era. And I admit that he may be cutting it close to 50 at this point, but if you say that he's not there yet, his next album will push him over the hurdle.

* Best stretch - After the decent but not amazing Duet for Guitars #2, everything he's done under the M. Ward name has been excellent.
* Perfect Albums? - Transfigurations of Vincent is the best of his early period albums, with mostly hushed acoustic songs. This year's Hold Time, a more uptempo rocking album may be just a touch better. The energy on songs like "Never Had Nobody Like You" and "Stars of Leo" makes great tunes even more invigorating. I would say that neither album is perfect, but these are certainly his high points thus far.
* Also Worth Considering - I don't know how you'd classify his work on the She & Him album, he's really more of an arranger than a writer for that material. One solo work that gets rather overlooked is End of Amnesia, his last album before beginning his fruitful relationship with Merge Records.

1 comment:

Jstone said...

Man, I love your new blog Max, it educates me on the musical world in ways I never knew existed.