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These are a few of my favorite things

Brooks Smith | Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Although I’ve listened to a fair amount of so-called “classic” pop music, I don’t quite consider myself a music snob. When I’m driving in a car with other people, and whatever Jason DeRulo has smeared upon the airwaves lately comes on, I snicker audibly. I’ve been known to criticize the lyrics of many an innocent and unassuming song. I am merciless about ripping on certain types of music — my blind spots include metal, country, anything that fuses rap or hip-hop with rock, Christian (although I love Prince’s “The Cross” notwithstanding) and, of course, Glee covers.
In compensation for this poor attitude on my part, I’m providing a list of albums that I really dig, so that other people can make cruel and mean-spirited jokes at the expense of my musical taste.

Elliott Smith – “XO.” This album is super depressing when you first hear it, but it never stops getting better. Every tune is an earworm, every lyric indelible. A perfect complement to general melancholy.

Weezer – “Pinkerton.” When I first heard this album, I was embarrassed on behalf of Rivers Cuomo. I hated it, absolutely. But over time his candid, awkward admissions and painfully stilted slang — from diary reading to an Asian fetish to the “shakin’ booty” deployed non-ironically — cease to be off-putting and start to genuinely tug at one’s heartstrings, like the look on a puppy’s face when it has an accident on the rug. And he successfully hooks a chorus around the phrase “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian.” Genius?
XTC – “Skylarking.” Hipster cred! No, this album is great almost front to back — dig ‘Grass’ and ‘Season Cycle.’ ‘1000 Umbrellas’ is the second-best chamber-pop song ever written, after “Eleanor Rigby.” Without these guys Grizzly Bear wouldn’t exist, but don’t hold it against them. The “Pet Sounds” of the 80s.

The Beatles – “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Rockcrits love “Revolver,” average Joes gravitate towards “Abbey Road,” and I’m partial to the goofy “White Album” myself, which contains “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” their best song (that drum entrance!). But none of those albums have “Fixing A Hole,” “Getting Better,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Lovely Rita” … I’m rambling, aren’t I?

Love – “Forever Changes.” Listen to it twice front-to-back. Thank me later.
Prince – “Purple Rain.” Duh? Hardly. This album sounds terrible and makes no sense. That is, until you realize it’s rewiring your entire conception of pop music. Even the weird melody that hooks “Computer Blue” improves with acquaintance. It took me a year to fully appreciate this album. Note to readers: Please don’t remind me that the Foo Fighters covered “Darling Nikki,” which deserved a far better fate.
Michael Jackson – “Bad.” “Off The Wall” had no filler, “Thriller” was “Thriller,” but this is where he reached new heights of beautiful schlock. Four words: “Man In The Mirror.”
The Wrens – “The Meadowlands.” Depression and failure go arena-rock. A great autumn album.

Fleetwood Mac – “Rumours.” You love this album and you don’t even know it yet.
Bill Withers – “Still Bill.” Contains his greatest hits, “Use Me” and “Lean On Me.” The rest is pretty good too, with “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?” standing above the crowd.
Massive Attack – “Blue Lines.” A great late-night album, almost great enough to make me reconsider reggae. Honorable mention: “Mezzanine.”
Violent Femmes – “Violent Femmes.” The great comedy album about teen angst Adam Sandler will never make, though at times it sounds like he’s the frontman. Starts with a 1-2-3-4 punch.

The Rapture – “Echoes.” Like “Purple Rain,” it sounds so wrong… but feels so right. The terrible tuneless singing becomes immensely endearing on repeated listens, and the grooves are to die for. Possibly the best “Metal Box/Second Edition” rip in existence. Probably the only “Metal Box/Second Edition” rip in existence. And at lucky number 13 albums, I’ll end my list.

I can already hear your disappointed screams. “But those are all incredibly good albums with broad appeal and universal acclaim!” you whine. “Where’s the juicy stuff? What about your guilty pleasures? Surely there are a few skeletons rattling about in the old closet!” Of course there are, dear readers; but that’s between me and my iPod, which will never reveal that I have a little dance to Shaggy’s “Boombastic,” perfectly imitate the chorus of “Ridin’ Solo,” or know all the lyrics to “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Wannabe” (by the Spice Girls, folks).

For that, you’ll need to see me at the Backer.


Brooks Smith is a senior. He can be contacted at bsmith26 @nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.