The idea for this post started out when I remarked to myself, “Why didn’t I know about this album before?!” as I listened to Wild Light’s LP Adult Nights. My original intent was to write about creeper albums, i.e. albums you don’t find out about until later than you should have, or albums which a friend shares with you, but you don’t get around listening to for a while. Such was the case with Adult Nights. A friend gave me a copy, and like a drungus I didn’t listen to it until much later. And now I can’t stop listening to it. It’s a brilliant pop album. Like I say, I was going to do a post on what I call creeper albums. The only problem is my memory isn’t too good, and so I don’t recall my all the other times this has happened. So for now that idea is on hold until I have a few more eureka moments.
What did come to mind was that moment you have when come across an album that’s way cooler than you expected. I remember a lot more albums like this, from bargain bin finds to albums people gave me to check out. Discovering a cool album is great, and I think the experience is even cooler when it comes as a surprise. That’s why I’ve chosen to call this post Surprise, Surprise. Why tell you about the following albums? To share them in case you haven’t heard of them. Or maybe you’ve heard of them, but you really haven’t given them a fair listen. One thing is certain: there’s a lot of out there, so if you haven’t heard these, no biggie, but now’s your chance to listen to some music that might rock your world.
Note: My surprise albums appear based on the order I discovered them. The first:
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
At the time I discovered this album, I had been listening to a fair amount of heavy metal, mostly Metallica and Megadeth, although I was also listening to plenty of Grunge. As you might expect, I was an angry white teenager with too much energy and free time on my hands. Heavy metal, hard rock, grunge, they all worked for me if they were loud. All that excess energy had to go somewhere. And one fine day, if I’m not mistaken, a classmate at school was wearing a Far Beyond Driven shirt, which has a big skull on it. Of course I thought it was rad. \m/ So that tipped me off. I knew I needed to check that album out. I don’t recall where I got it, but when I got it in my CD player and cranked the volume, I was in heaven. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look much different than Beavis rocking out to rock videos in front of the TV. What struck me about this album was how raw it sounded. It contrasted starkly with the other metal bands I was listening to at that time. Even compared to And Justice for All by Metallica, which is a pretty raw sounding album from an engineering perspective, Far Beyond Driven, managed to surpass it. As soon as I heard Becoming, I was hooked. It’s so heavy, but it’s so fucking catchy too. After I devoured this album I went and got Pantera’s two prior albums, Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, and for a good number of few years this band was my number one.
Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto
Somewhere in my twenties a girl at college burned me a copy of this. She was kind of odd, but she was cool. She had dreadlocks. She liked to be called bicicleta (bicycle) in Spanish class. But on the other hand we had a fun Valentine’s Day outing at a Chinese restaurant. We went on a couple dates after. And that was it. All that aside, she endures among my lasting memories because of this album. This album really changed how I look at music. In years previous I had really been on a louder, faster, better binge, but this was just the opposite, and it really put things in perspective. The soft voices, the jazz tones, the complete lack of bombast suddenly hit harder than anything I was listening too. Not to mention, I was blown away with the sound of Brazilian Portuguese as sung on this album. Given I was studying Spanish at the time, now I wanted to learn Portuguese. And I eventually learned Portuguese when I lived in Rio de Janeiro. Without getting longwinded, I’ll just say this: Getz/Gilberto = game changer.
Slingshot Dakota – Keener Sighs
I found this fantastic album at Vertigo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just a nice afternoon browsing for albums as I often like to do. I love going to the record store. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two. And Vertigo is a great place. When I go buy records, I usually like to pick at least one album I’ve never heard of simply because the album art looks good. You only live once, and why not judge a ‘book’ by it’s cover for the hell of it! I don’t think this was the case with Slingshot, though. I usually hit the bargain bin, too, because you never know what you’ll find. I’m more certain I found Keener Sighs in the used bargain CDs. Without a doubt this album is one of my best finds of all time, and it definitely reinforced this aspect of my album shopping habits. Searching for ‘gold’ in the bargain bin is always an adventure. Regarding the album, I just have to point out that this album has awesome energy! The pop sensibility is really well measured, too. The songs are catchy, but they don’t over do it. The interplay between the male and female voices is something I really enjoy, and I also like the sound production. Everyone should own this album!
Check out: It Wouldn’t Be — But don’t forget: A Glance Backward, Knights of Nine
M. – Qui de Nous Doux
The year: 2004. The place: Lyon, France. I had just moved to France, and I was just making new friends. I think I had been there for, maybe, 2 weeks. I went to Johnny Walsh’s, played some pub trivia and by chance struck up a conversation with some people from a team next to mine. That led to new friendships, and my new friend Tom, a drummer, burned my a couple cds to introduce me to some French music he was really digging. I had no idea what was in store for me. Qui de Nous Deux blew me away. Matthieu Chedid, aka M., skillfully works different genres into his music. You can hear reggae and disco, for example, but he’s not afraid of throwing in heavy riffs or choirs either. The way he blends different elements and instruments is really amazing.
M83- Before the Dawn Heals Us
Spacey. Stellar. Dreamy. Otherworldly. That’s the only way I can describe this album. It takes you places. Places you’ve never been before sonically. There are just too many cool sounds on here. I can’t imagine what music was like for me before I started listening to M83. But even if I could remember, I wouldn’t care to. I can listen to this album anytime, anywhere. It has no limits. None. Zero. Zilch. I can listen to it when I’m driving, when I’m working, studying, exercising. I can listen to it in the rain. I can listen to it on a train. I can listen to it on a boat. I can even listen to it with a goat, and I guarantee you that the goat will like this album! Ask the goat its opinion, and you’re sure to get, it’s”baaaaad aaaaass!” For this one, a big thanks goes to my then neighbor, Kim, at the Morris Manor. I think she was well impressed with the Mew album I introduced her too. Win win.
Fanfarlo – Reservoir
Pop tunes with strings and brass never sounded so good to my ears before this album. Forced to choose a word to sum up this album, I think I’d say “sublime.” The songs are poignant. The mixes are robust but not belabored. The musicianship is solid. You want to sing along. You tear up ’cause there’s moments that wrench your heart. I’ll admit it. I’m in my thirties now. Maybe I’m getting soft. Maybe this is an album for people 30 and over. Psych! I’m totally lying. This album is good at any age. I won’t get to into the nuts and bolts of the music, but I will say this: the opening percussion on the first track, I’m a Pilot, is thunderous. It demands your attention, and pulls you in. The vocal melodies and lush arrangements keep you listening throughout.
Wild Lights – Adult Nights
This is my most recent surprise album. It came out in 2009. So I’m 5-6 years late. Who cares. Adult Nights came out of no where. From my perspective, it was just suddenly in my iTunes. I didn’t even recall where it came from. I left the U.S. in May 2014 and loaded a bunch of music on to my computer from an external hard drive. This must have been in there. For the record, I got this from my Steve. He’s a very close friend of mine. He’s not just any Steve either. He’s my Steve. That’s how you know I’m talking about him and not your friends who might have the same first name. At any rate, we catch up every now and then and get nerdy about music. This album made it into one of the encounters. I’m totally glad it did because when I listen to this it’s hard to stop. It’s pure pop genius from beginning to end.