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The Great Albums

Bill Lambusta and Brian Erickson discuss their favorite music through the lens of the medium they care for most, the ALBUM.
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Sep 29, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Bill and Brian take a very circuitous route to keep talking about Elliott Smith by discussing Jimmy Eat World's cover of the Heatmiser tune "Half Right." The song was written by Smith and added as a hidden track to the band's last album, 1996 album Mic City Sons, as Smith left to pursue his solo career full time. Brian and Bill talk about how the song is a faithful recreation, the story of the EP that contains it, and how Brian himself covered the song in his first live performance of a complete set. We also read some listener emails about the Grateful Dead, Levon Helm, and the word "timbre."

Sep 26, 2016

Centennials and Rose Boulevard drummer Pete Stern joins Bill and Brian to discuss singer songwriter Elliott Smith's major label debut XO (1998, Dreamworks). Coming up in the Portland indie scene of the 90s, Smith eschewed the alt stylings of his band Heatmiser and gained attention with his folksy, DIY home recording. He got his big break when director Gus Van Zant included the song "Miss Misery" on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, and this album followed shortly after. Pete discusses hearing Elliott Smith first on MTVu but not really delving into his catalog until a few years later when his biography was released. Bran, Bill, and Pete then talk about the Oscars performance and Celine Dion, what Elliot's problem with Heatmiser was, Smith's 2003 suicide, the quality production of the album, the criminally underrated Jon Brion, a whole bunch of diving into Smith's dense lyrics, Joey and Lenny Waronker,  driving to Nashville on shrooms while listening to Weezer's "Hash Pipe," Brian Wilson's love of "Shortening Bread," how we would shorten the album a bit, and much much more are we make our way through the album track by track!

Sep 22, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill continue talking about the Grateful Dead via the War on Drugs recent cover of "Touch of Grey" from the Day of the Dead tribute compilation. Brian talks about why he loves this song, the whole collection, and how it's helped him open up to being a fan of the Grateful Dead. Then we read some listener emails including a correction about us confusing Norway for Sweden and an interpretation of an Against Me! tune.

Sep 19, 2016

Bill and Brian welcome guitarist Tom O'Leary (whose band, Small Planet Radio, just put out an excellent album* that can be heard at smallplanetradio.com) to talk about the Grateful Dead's American Beauty (1970, Warner Bros.). Known for their live jam sessions that have helped created a devoted following, the Dead sometimes struggled to translate that to their studio work. But with the release of this album (and Working Man's Dead) earlier in that same year, the band gave the world a lasting work of art. Tom talks about discovering the band through his older siblings playing the records, and then really discovering them when he befriended some nice hippies at college. Brian, Bill, and Tom discuss the influence of CSNY, how the band got tricked into having to write pop songs, a deep dive into Robert Hunter's lyrics, how honest moments between parents and children as depicted in media makes Bill cry, hippie culture, Brian sliding into people's DMs, weird chords, what timbre is and how "tambre" is not a thing, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!

*note: Host Bill Lambusta is also in Small Planet Radio and wrote this description, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

Sep 15, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill welcomes Brian back to talk about Laura Jane Grace, Miley Cyrus, and Joan Jett's cover of the Replacements "Androgynous." Brian, having missed out conversation about Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues earlier in the week, share some of his thoughts on trans issues before we get into to talking about how we love this song and all its nonsense lyrics. We also compare and contrast Miley with Justin Bieber and discuss the role of innovation and experimentation in pop music. Then we read some listener emails about misogyny in AC/DC and Guns'n'Roses' lyrics and bands with changing lead singers!

Sep 12, 2016

With Brian out on tour, Bill welcomes podcaster Justin Tyler (SongSpotters.com) to talk about the seminal (already) trans punk rock anthem Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014, Total Treble) by Against Me! Formed by then-name Tom Gable as a teenager in 1997, the band went on to become an icon known for their political fueled punk rock anthems. Surprising many, front woman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012 and began transitioning to living her life as a woman. Using her own experiences and that of a fictional transgender prostitute, Grace penned and released this album a couple years later. Justin talks about how this album was his introduction to the band, and how it has factored into a cause that he feels close to. We then jump into discussing gender expression and toys, transgender dysphoria in the DSM V, how these songs are fantastic sing along songs, Atom Willard's awesome drumming, suicide rates in the trans community, how sexual identity and gender expression are troubles for many (including cisgender individuals), how Laura Jane Grace is a hero for taking on the responsibility of being a trans communicator, how even those with good intentions sometimes have trouble with pronouns, sci-fi author Ann Leckie's series that exists in a gender neutral world, and more as we make our way through there album track by track!

Sep 8, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Bill and Brian get political as we take a listen to and discuss Third Eye Blind's latest release "Cop vs. Phone Girl" off their upcoming EP We Are Drugs. We talk about the contemporary production style and how we're glad that a 90s band can remain relevant before jumping into the lyrical content, discussing #BlackLivesMatter, Fox News, accountability, and more! NOTE: seriously, although we tried to maintain a balanced POV and not point fingers or really talk about Democrats or Republicans, there may be some who disagree with us on what we say. If you are one of them, that's cool, but keep in mind that we were recording our reaction to a song with a strong narrative bent. If you have a different reaction, feel free to record it and release it on your own podcast instead of writing to us in all caps please.

Sep 5, 2016

Brian and Bill welcome music biz insider Mike Prince (he works in licensing music for Disney) to discuss Third Eye Blind's self titled debut (1997, Elektra). Masterminded by singer/lyricist Stephan Jenkins, 3EB took off with massive success filed by their infections pop hooks and catchy melodies. Benefiting from a great chemistry with guitarist and co-songwriter Kevin Cadogan, Jenkins famously ousted Cadogan from the band, leading them into a creative and commercial lull. Strangely, the band has lived on, outliving their 90s rock brethren and remaining a vital influence through till today. Mike talks about purchasing CD singles of the band's early hits before finally discovering the album as an art form while listening to a friend's copy on vacation in Las Vegas. Bill, Brian, and Mike discuss how a younger generation is spreading the word about this album, Kevin Cadogan's role in the band and the business dealings that leads to his dismissal, Arion Salazar's cool bass grooves, Brad Hargreaves' pay day, the non-pop oriented tracks on the album, what the heck harmonics are, the influence of Oasis and MTV's the Real World, where the album dips into a "winter" vibe, how the last 3 songs solidify the band's legacy, and more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Sep 1, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill continue talking about the wonders from down under (didn't want to use "Thunder" twice in the same sentence) AC/DC and their tune "Thunderstruck." We discuss how this song and its parent album, the Razor's Edge, were a bit of a comeback for the band and helped solidify their place in the annals of rock. Also, we keep our promise and fill in some of the AC/DC story, getting us up to present day, Then we jump into some listener emails, tackling the controversy surrounding both Napster and Lars Ulrich's count in to the Metallica song "Leper Messiah."

Aug 29, 2016

Bill and Brian make the best of an odd situation in which a guest was supposed to come on to be our gritty Australian rock and roll connoisseur but ended up not joining us. So we tackle AC/DC's legendary Back in Black (1980, Atlantic). After years of working their way to the top of the Australian charts, the band, founded by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, broke through to an international audience with 1979's Highway to Hell. Tragically, after a night of heavy drinking, charismatic frontman Bon Scott passed away during the winter of 1980. Choosing to carry on, the band brought in singer Brian Johnson who helped them reach even greater heights of success and critical acclaim. Brian and Bill talk about AC/DC's presence in their younger days, Bill while listening to the radio and Brian while broadcasting on the radio. They also discuss the influence of producer Mutt Lange, Brian Johnson's back story, the band's unique ways of honoring Bon Scott, how the band made it's distinctive sound, Angus' killer leads, the chart topping-ness of the album and its singles, what Max Weinberg might think of Phil Rudd, a bit about if there is any misogyny on the album, and as always a track by track review! 

Aug 22, 2016

On another very special episode, Bill and Brian take some time to fill in the big gap from back before we started the Bonus Song Thursday tradition. We play our way through songs from the Replacements, Miracle Legion, the Rentals, Billy Bragg and Wilco, Our Lady Peace, the Wrens, the Hold Steady, Oasis, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, the National, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Guster.

Aug 15, 2016

On a very special episode of the Great Albums, Bill and Brian take a break from our usual geeking out over the minutia of an album to geek out over the minutia of a film. We talk about the best fictional biopic of a 60s pop band That Thing You Do! Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film follows four small town musicians as they rise to fame on the strength of their danceable rock'n'roll tune (also called "That Thing You Do"). Brian and Bill talk about how they started watching the movie and how they've watched it too much. Also, we follow the plot, talking about what we loved and giving some insight into what made it cool. Also, Bill pulls out some lessons from his Literary Criticism classes from over a decade ago to deconstruct some of characters and plot devices!

Aug 11, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill continue talk about Metallica, jumping 10 years ahead from 1986's Master of Puppets to "Hero of the Day" from 1996's Load. We discuss the evolution in the band's sound and image, how their alternative leaning contemporaries influenced their sound (maybe bringing in some Bowie influence?), and more about Lars' heavy kick drum. Also, we read a bunch of listener emails, first tackling some singers who reference a person/character in multiple songs, then we finally get an answer to what the heck dream pop is, and then blogger Jeff Fiedler finally clues us in to what the heck was going on with Queen and Elektra Records! Additionally, we read an open letter from one listener to all the others, that makes Jared my "Hero of the Day."

Aug 8, 2016

Bill and Brian are joined by educator and author Doug Robertson (aka the Weird Teacher, @theweirdteacher) to talk about what makes Metallica's Master of Puppets (1986, Elektra) great. Metallica, forebears of thrash metal and icons within the metal genre, spent a few years in the underground building a rabid fanbase before finally breaking through with their major label debut (which did so without the help of radio airplay or any music videos). Doug shares how listening to Metallica for the first time forced his body to experience puberty within a matter of seconds as a high school freshman. He then became a ravenous fan, taking in their back catalog and falling in love with each album in turn. Brian, Bill, and Doug discuss Nu metal, growing with fast and loud music, Metallica's musicality, Winger, Lars Ulrich's drumming skills (and maybe lack thereof), how Hetfield's lyrics are smarter than you may think, a whole bunch of really cool guitar things, Dave Mustaine, which song on the album is actually a sonata, a bunch about Cliff Burton's life (and death), and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Aug 4, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill tackle Liz Phair's 2003 attempt at a mainstream breakthrough "Why Can't I." We discuss the sound curated by production team the Matrix, the early aughts sing-songwriter sound, and how this song alienated as many fans as it gained, basically not helping Phair's career the way the label had envisioned. Additionally, we read some listener emails and tweets. We got a lot of interaction from the Television episode, so we tackle the Elektra stable of artists, who the band influenced, and some great 10 minute songs!

Aug 1, 2016

Bill and Brian welcome the host of the podcasts Director's Club and Pop Culture Club (both part of the Now Playing Network, nowplayingnetwork.net) Jim Laczkowski to discuss Liz Phair's debut exile in Guyville (1993, Matador). Through talent and a little luck, Phair turned her demo project into being signed by Matador records. She took the $3000 given to her to record a single and instead did an entire album with producer Brad Wood. Hailed for its lo-fi charm and the brazen attitude of the the songwriter it showcased, the album, went on to find critical success and a devoted fanbase. Jim shares how he came across this album as a lucky 15 year old with cool friends. Bill, Brian, and Jim discuss Phair's career choices and her major label turn, how Guyville is supposedly tracked to respond to the Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, the difference between lo-fi and "hi-fi," Phair's low vocal tone, the acerbic Steve Albini, the atrociously 90s-styled video for "Never Said," how weird it is that some in the media have labeled Liz Phair a "sex kitten," Jim's favorite Chicago bands, and more as we make our way through the album track by track.

Jul 28, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian continue discussing Television (you know, the band, not the thing you stare at in the living room) by listening to and chatting about "1880 of So" from their 1992 "comeback" self titled album. We speculate on the possibility of a Television biography and why the band reformed when they did. Then, spurred by a Twitter interaction, we attempt to once again explain what we are trying to accomplish with the podcast and the best way to interact with us by inviting everyone to join the conversation.

Jul 25, 2016

Bill and Brian welcome journalist/Jersey music expert Jim Testa (www.jerseybeat.com) to talk about Television's Marquee Moon (1977, Elektra). Emerging out of the CBGB "punk" scene, Television struggled to find mainstream success with their quirky rock and only put out two albums before calling it quits (a third followed in the 90s after they reformed). Despite this, the band has gone on to be critically well regarded and highly influential. Jim Testa, who has been writing about music since before the release of this album, tells us about the early days at CBGB and discovering this music as it was released. Bill, Brian, and Jim discuss the Ramones, what the heck post-punk is, how Television is completely unique, what Robert Christgau had to say about the album, the quality of Tom Verlaine's voice, the strange rhythms in the songs, a little on what Brian thinks sounds "angular," what cinematic sounds like, Suicide (the band), and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Jul 21, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Because Brian was a little busy, Bill brings some well researched facts about Aimee Mann's cover of the Harry Nilsson song "One!" He talks about the history of the song as it made it's way from Nilsson to Three Dog Night to Mann to the Magnolia soundtrack! Additionally, Bill reads some listener emails about cool comic books about music and how we obviously inspired Jeff Tweedy as he pondered what to name the latest Wilco album!

Jul 18, 2016

Brian and Bill are joined by podcaster Dan Drago (25oclockpod.com) to talk about Harry Nilsson's triumphant hit album, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971, RCA Victor). Nilsson started his career as both a recording artist and songwriter who finally broke when Three Dog Night covered his tune "One" in 1969. He enjoyed continued success with a series of unique albums through the 70s before retiring from the music business in the 80s. Dan shares how he knew Nilsson without knowing it, until he checked out this album after not getting an in-joke perpetuated by his brother and their friends' band. Bill, Brian, and Dan talk about Nilsson's influence on solo Beatles output, his collaboration with Randy Newman, the idiosyncratic humor found on this album, multi-Harry harmonies, the Bo Diddley beat, Badfinger and their sad story, how Nilsson wrote a song that feels like it wasn't written by anyone, Nilsson's continuing legacy, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Jul 14, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian take a closer look at the song stylings of the iconic actor William Shatner by listening to and discussing his collaboration with Ben Folds on the latter's experimental pop record Fear of Pop Vol. 1. We talk about how this song hinted on what was yet to come. We also read a few listener emails that help us finally put the nail in the coffin on what the deal is with winter in Australia and New Zealand, explore more about how we want to discuss the technical aspects of music and production, and a shout out to our friends in the band Ayer Amarillo!

Jul 11, 2016

Bill and Brian take a deep dive into the unique and unexpectedly great work of William Shatner and his collaboration with Ben Folds, Has Been (2004, Shout! Factory). The iconic Star Trek actor was often maligned for his previous foray into pop music, 1968's The Transformed Man, but he found a willing collaborator who helped channel his spoken word poetry fantastic songs that muse on success, tragedy, and growing older. Bill and Brian talk about how they were pleasantly surprised when this came out. We came for Ben Folds but stayed for Shatner. We also discuss Pulp, Joe Jackson, anxiety in the face of success, relationships with dads, the passage of time, the Great Cosmic Joke, having fun at funerals, choosing how you feel, how Shatner took control of who and what he is with his own self-awareness, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Jul 7, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill ask (and answer) the question: What is Kim's Deal? This is, of course, a reference to Pixies member and Breeders front woman Kim Deal, as we continue our conversation from our Doolittle episode by following her career with the band's hit single "Cannonball." Bill and Brian talk about who got the last laugh in the Kim/Black Francis feud, the very 90s-ness of the fact that this song was even a hit, and we read some listener tweets about the first day of Winter in Australia!

Jul 4, 2016

Bill and Brian welcome drummer John Petrick of the Stewart Dolly (thestewartdolly.bandcamp.com) to the podcast to discuss the Pixies sophomore full length release Doolittle (1989, 4AD). The band formed around the core of primary songwriter Black Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago after the two met at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before bassist Kim Deal and drummer Dave Lovering solidified the lineup. Signed to British indie label 4AD, the band took off with college radio and have since maintained their legacy as one of THE most important alternative bands. John shares how he discovered the band through looking up Weezer on allmusic.com. Bill, Brian, and John discuss Black Francis' name, whether or not his character in the songs reveals who he is in life, Joey Santiago's noisey guitars, Brian not knowing anything about superhero names, the monolithic nature of the album, how to learn to play bass using the Kim Deal method, how Black Francis' voice cracking during a particular song is John's favorite moment on the album, Ennio Morricone, a surprising amount about how the band is like the Beatles in many ways, and more as we make our way through the album track by track!

Jun 30, 2016

It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their conversation on Sam Cooke's Night Beat by discussing one of his last releases ever, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Written after a particularly tense interaction at a motel, Cooke released this song hoping to affect change within the Civil Rights Movement. We talk about how the song's dense arrangement contrasts with what was produced for Night Beat, the difficulty of navigating racism as a pop icon in a time known for its social injustice, how anger can be used to fuel positivity, and a little on race relations and integration in general. Additionally, we read a listener email, asking us to explain some recording processes we often talk about, specifically the art of mixing!

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