Understanding Pink Floyd’s Masterpiece in a Classical Sense

image      1973 was a big year. The Sears Tower was officially completed that summer, the Winter saw the infamous Roe v. Wade verdict handed down in the supreme court, and Billie Jean King won the battle of the sexes tennis match. And in March of 1973, Pink Floyd released their titular Prog-rock masterpiece to rave reviews and unprecedented commercial success, and the world of music would never be the same.

It’s fitting that Pink Floyd chose the prism as the cover for Dark Side of the Moon, as the visual fits almost all meanings one could derive from the piece. Many see the image as a representation of the beauty in diversity, others as a metaphor for the change the record could produce in the listeners life, and a few fans even see the prism as a metaphor for acid and how the drug would change one’s perception of the world. An undoubtedly accidental manifestation of the image can be found in the effect which the album had on the bands career, propelling them from underground visionaries to absolute superstardom. Myself, I see the cover as a representation of the many ways which listeners may view the album. As a piece of performance, Dark Side showcases four of the greatest musicians to ever live in their primes, along with a multitude of guest artists who fill out a well versed instrumentation pallet with wonderful performances of their own, most notably “Great Gig in the Sky.” From a lyrical standpoint, Waters and Gilmour are at their best, writing on massive topics with perfect precision. During a recent lecture on what makes a piece of music “Classical,” however, my Professor presented me with a brand new prism through which to examine this record when he stated that a piece of “classical” music conveys emotion through its form, not through lyrics. So lets take yet another look at the record that changed the world, removing lyricism, and instead focussing in on the underlying musical composition that makes this album so memorable.

While Dark Side delves into a multitude of topics, some of the overarching themes it covers are life, death, stress, and change. Of course, none of these topics are new to Pink Floyd’s discography, but the album frames them in a very different way than previous efforts, most notably pitting life and death against each other and drawing up opposing sides on which every other topic falls. There’s a reason that the album begins and ends with a singular heart beat, but just like in life, it’s what happens in the middle that matters.

As the first heartbeat enters, its quickly drowned out by chaos. Screaming, loud instrumentation, dissonance. It’s often said that this chaos could represent birth and the first breaths of life, which could very well be true, and if it is, even more power is found in the song “Breath” for its soft, enjoyable music. This is our first much needed break from chaos and its very enjoyable. As with many tracks on the album, I’d be perfectly happy to listen to this melody for the entirety of the album, but it’s brought to a close by the hectic follow up, “On the Run.”

image    Here, much like the opening track, what we hear isn’t necessarily pleasant. Instead, it’s a fast-tempo, repetitive synth piece that, by most interpretations is meant to represent the stresses of touring and a busy lifestyle. It’s fitting that the song is devoid of lyrics, because the band doesn’t want you to hear about their stress, they want you to feel it, and you do. The track is effective, but its groove is eventually disrupted too, this time by a painfully loud chorus of alarm clocks. This pattern continues throughout the album. Long tracks which establish a groove which listeners would love to stay in as long as possible, always disrupted by unpleasant, and often dissonant explosions of sound which cause stress and even sometimes can be painful to listen to. When people say that this album is visceral, this is what they mean. You feel the record as much as you hear it. So why? What does this pattern of comfort and discomfort mean? Well, its life.

There’s an overall purpose to this masterpiece. There’s a reason that the record resonates so well with listeners, even 44 years later. There’s an explanation for the unprecedented commercial appeal of the record. That is that Dark Side of the Moon is meant to, in its lyricism comment on life, and in its instrumentals, mimic life. The album begins with chaos, as does life, but quickly fades into comfort and predictability. We, as listeners, want to stay in these comfortably moments, but we aren’t aloud to for very long. Constantly, we’re disrupted by jarring dissonance and painful chaos. Just when it seems like we don’t want to listen any longer, the record finds something in all the madness to latch onto and creates a brand new groove that brings us in to our next stage of life.

This is why everyone who hears it can connect to this album. For the young man who’s just beginning college and living on his own, the chaos can represent his worry and fears. For the middle aged woman, the chaos can represent divorce, or death of a parent. Listeners feel this album because it mimics life at its most basic level, as a series of long, blissful grooves, interrupted by loud and dissonant moments of chaos, from in which one can become lost, but the important part is that the album, like life, doesn’t grind to a halt in these moments or dwell on them for too long, but instead, it keeps moving, and it invites its listeners to do the same, because regardless of the power in the moments of tension, there’s always something great just around the corner.

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XXXTentacion’s “17” Manages To Wow And Fall Short, All In 21 Minutes!

     Florida rapper/singer/songwriter XXXTentacion made a name for himself in the underground rap scene with hard hitting tracks which focus on sex, violence, and mental illness. Most notably, his 2017 single “Look at Me,” garnered mild critical recognition, along with massive commercial success, putting X on the map as one of the leading artists in the increasingly overpopulated world of underground hip hop.

X went on to be named as a featured artist in 2017’s XXL Freshman class, bringing with him possibly the most devoted fan base of all the artists named in this year’s issue. His live work as well as tracks with frequent collaborator Skii Mask, The Slump God, brought X to the forefront of his scene, all without a full LP release seemingly anywhere on the horizon. That is, until the end of August saw the release of “17.”

Going into this record, I had no clue what to expect. XXXTentacion had shown almost no common threads through what work he had released. From the angry, Denzel Curry-esque hype track “Look At Me,” which I liked quite a bit, to his ultra-angsty performance in the XXL cypher, which I disliked quite a bit, it seemed the only thing I could expect from an XXXTentacion project was unpredictability, and I was not disappointed.

“17” opens with an explanation from X that this record is “a collection of nightmares, thoughts, and real life situations.” The track comes off as a bit pretentious, but overall, I appreciate the honesty of an artist saying that this is something different and that he hopes his listeners will be open minded and enjoy it.

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The track, “Jocelyn Flores” follows, and is by far the highlight of the record. It tells the story of X’s girlfriend committing suicide, and goes on to hint that members of his family have chosen the same path. It’s honest, groovy, and features a wonderfully organic sample as a main hook. My only complaint would be that the song is far too short, and doesn’t explore these themes well at all. This is an all too common complaint throughout the entire project.

The acoustic guitar grove, “Depression & Obsession” follows and again we see X’s commitment presenting his ideas in unique ways. It’s interesting and the contrast between the upbeat acoustic grove and the dark lyrics frames X’s disconnect well, but again the track is too short and doesn’t finish what it starts.

“Everyone Dies in Their Nightmares” and “Revenge” follow, continuing the style of a low key rap track followed by light acoustic guitar riff backing dark lyrics. Lyrically, the tracks don’t touch on much different than what’s already been established, but the ladder track is a bit more catchy than its earlier acoustic counterpart.

“Save me,” is, by far, the low point of the record. The instrumentation is distorted to the point I couldn’t tell you if I’m hearing a piano or guitar. The vocals are equally poorly mixed, coming through as too clear and not fitting with the music. The track never really finds its feel, and its awkward throughout its short two minute runtime.

Luckily, the project is saved by the similar, but much better, “Dead Inside (Interlude.)” Again the instrumentation and vocals are overly distorted, almost as if the entire song was recorded on an iphone, but the piano plays most of its melody on the higher end, which cuts through well, and though the vocals are almost incoherent, its the emotion behind it that matters. The song is barely a minute long, and sounds almost like an after though from its predecessor, but it effectively saves the record. “Dead Inside” is one of the few times where it seems like X is being completely honest and vulnerable with us.

“Fuck Love” follows, featuring a vocal hook from underground vocalist Trippie Redd, providing a valuable break from X’s emotional vocal style. Redd’s hook is far more straight forward and less tortured, which gives a very effective respite from the emo stylings that threaten to bog the project down at times.XXL-Freshman-00-480x320

With “Orlando” and “Ayala (Outro)” we hear what amounts to an ending for this story. Tentacion rap/sings about his feelings of isolation and sadness, all over low-key instrumentals that force an audience to listen, as they provide little highlights to hold us in.

Upon finishing this record, my feelings are as mixed as the were going in. On the one hand, I’ll give XXXTentacion credit, as this record is anything but pandering. It would’ve been all too easy for him to make an angry record which would be a mild commercial success and probably silence most of his critics who pan him as inaccessible. Instead, he went with a deeply personal album that, aside from the opening explanation, doesn’t seem to care what a listener thinks, or even if anyone listens at all. He never goes for sick instrumentals that will draw listeners in even if they don’t care about his lyrics. He doesn’t even allow himself to sit in one single genre long enough to gain popularity by connection. It’s incredibly clear that X made this record for X, and that comes with its own benefits and downfalls.

Above all, I wish the record had been longer. The entire project totals at 21 minutes and I’m surprised it lasted that long. Many of these ideas felt like they could’ve made better songs, but instead they come across as unfinished demo’s. I can’t help but feel that “17” would’ve made a much better EP. Combine a few acoustic tracks, combine a few low-key raps, and combine the interlude and outro and we’re left with five excellent songs. But XXXTentacion moved 70k in the first week, so the LP is a clear commercial success.

“17” isn’t a record for the beginner, or even the casual fan. For X’s devoted fanbase, though, it provides an excellent and much desired peak into the psyche of the troubled young teen, who, above all, values honesty in his music. The production is week at times, and the lyricism ranges anywhere from bold and impressive to pretentious and whiny. I did enjoy this record in places, though, and where it shines, its bright! There’s a lot of promise here. I only hope that the follow up finds X in a bit better mental state, and ready to deliver a more consistent LP that will thrill from start to finish.

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Top 5 Albums That Millennials Can Be Proud Of

5. MelophobiaCage the Elephant

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Cage the Elephant is, in every way, a product of millennial culture, particularly, our short attention span. The group is eclectic to a fault, boasting indie-folk gems like “Cigarette Daydream,” along with new-age brit-rock jams like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” as well as a multitude of hits all along that dichotic spectrum. My biggest criticism of Cage was and still is that their projects are about as coherent as a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation, skipping randomly from one style to the next seemingly without a plan. With Melophobia, however, the group reigns their musical ADD in just enough to strike gold. The record is unpredictable and exciting, but retains a sort of tone in its lyricism and production that doesn’t leave listeners feeling bewildered. Most importantly, perhaps, each sound and style is executed flawlessly. When the crunchy “Come a Little Closer,” wraps up, listeners feel some closure. You’re ready to move and try the next door, as it were, on this track listing, unlike other Cage efforts, which leave listeners feeling as if each particular sonic path they take isn’t necessarily fleshed out enough to move on. Melophobia will live on for years as an example of the eclectic tastes that define our generation.

4. X Ed Sheeran

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X is one of the few albums that is actually quite a bit better in its deluxe form than its original. The 16 song, 65 minute project packs quite a bit into its runtime, delivering a dense and personal record. Interestingly, most of the added tracks, as well as a few from the original tracklisting seem, at first glance, only to pad the runtime of the piece, but the closer you listen, you begin to feel seriously connected to Ed, as not only a fan, but a friend. When he sings about stumbling home drunk and being alone on “I’m a Mess”, you feel for him, when he tells the story of love lost on “Nina,” your heart breaks with his, and when he professes his love on the undeniable highlight of the album, “Tenerife Sea,” listeners fall in love with the nameless woman he sings to along with him. Of Sheeran’s three studio efforts, “X” is by far the most real and visceral, touching on issues like losing family and searching for purpose in the world, issues that plague our generation to this day.

3. HozierHozier

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I quite literally can not exaggerate how much I love this record. The amount of confidence that radiates from Hozier is jarring, considering this is his first and only studio album to date. He knows you’ll be back to listen again and again, and because of that, he’s built this album as bottomless pit of quality music. A listeners first few visits reveal a fundamentally sound record that lashes out at targets like religion, institutional discrimination, and rape culture among others. These lashes, though, don’t come from eye-liner-ed punks like they have in the past, but instead a solid footed, long haired, wise man. Every instrument on this piece is played perfectly, the vocals are incredible, and the atmosphere is consistent and intriguing. The Records opening protest track sees the lyrics “No masters or kings when the ritual begins. There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin,” preceding a wonderfully sung chorus of “Amen’s.” With each visit, listeners uncover new lyrical masterpieces, subtle backing harmonies, symbolisms in tones and themes, and, from a production standpoint, nothing but good choice after good choice. This is an album made by a man who knows exactly what he’s doing and it will stand the test of time, comparable to the best projects of any generation.

2. VesselTwenty One Pilots

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As the story goes, if you say “I don’t like Twenty One Pilots” three times into your bathroom mirror, two tween girls in “Normal People Scare Me” shirts will climb out at you and pierce your septum. The point of the joke, of course, being that the TOP fanbase, or Clique, as they call themselves, is massive and objectively annoying. This is a real shame though, because the music is actually quite impressive, Vessel especially. Think back to the first time you saw the video for the records main single, “Car Radio,” and tell me you didn’t feel just a little bit of pride in your generation. When this record, the bands first release with the tween-angst powerhouse label, Fueled by Ramen, hit the shelves, its fame spread rapidly by word of mouth and social media. The duo became an overnight sensation in a way that only the social media age can produce and for good reason. This album is awesome. Period. The wide array of sounds make it a sonic rollercoaster, and while its extremely accessible, the record still makes the listener work in a few parts. Tracks like “Run and Go,” and “Guns For Hands” don’t present their melodies or lyrical premises as openly as most of the record does. On the whole, The project discusses the issue of mental health in a well written and intelligent way. And if all this wasn’t enough, “Ode to Sleep” is probably the second best opening track to any album in the last decade.

********************************Honorable Mentions********************************

The Future Is Cancelled – Captain, We’re Sinking!

How To Be A Human Being Glass Animals

Coloring BookChance the Rapper

Outgrown Things EPMovements

Strange DesireBleachers

Pure ComedyFather John Misty

********************************Honorable Mentions********************************

  1. To Pimp A Butterfly Kendrick Lamar

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Anyone who didn’t already know this has clearly not listened to this record enough. Where do I even begin? “Wesley’s Theory” is THE best opening track in the past decade and may the best of all time. Musically, TPAB brings together the absolute best jazz artists alive today, namely, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, George Clinton and plenty more. From a production standpoint, Derek Ali, a relative unknown, along with Dr. Dre, who need no introduction, put on a masterclass in sound engineering and stereo imaging that we haven’t seen in fifty years, the ambition of “Dark Side of the Moon”, with the execution of “OK Computer.” The themes on the record cover institutional racism, gender inequality, deterioration of modern black culture, police brutality, sexual and domestic abuse, substance abuse, and family betrayal, and thats just the first half. The runtime comes in just under 80 minutes, and as far as I’m concerned, K-Dot could’ve stretched the record out another three hours. The overall concept of the record focuses on a poem that Lamar composed. He reveals two lines at a time throughout the album before using his next few tracks to explain those lines in detail, and culminating in a full reading of the poem midway through the epic closing track “Mortal Man.” This album is modern masterpiece of writing, weaving massive sociopolitical ideas into a very grounded, yet complex narrative and featuring one excellent character after another, many of whom are brought to life by Kendrick himself. I have no shame in saying that this is my generations answer to “The Wall” and that it will stand the test of time for a hundred years. This kind of masterpiece belongs in a museum. This kind of commentary belongs in a college textbook. But instead, it can be found on iTunes for ten dollars, and if that’s not something my generation can take pride in, I don’t know what is.

Every Pink Floyd Album Ranked!!

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14. The Endless River

Featuring none of the original members, and David Gilmour as the only even long time member of Pink Floyd, “The Endless River” is a bit of an exercise in futility. Pink Floyd had already said goodbye twenty years prior with “The Division Bell,” but “River,” was, it seems, Gilmour’s goodbye to the band that made his career. While the album isn’t technically the groups worst, it warrants this lowest spot because it barely deserves the title of Pink Floyd album.

13. Obscured By Clouds

Obscured By Clouds is by far the least interesting and inventive Floyd record of them all. With Barrett beginning his rocky exit from the group, they seem almost afraid to take any risks at all, which manifests itself in a record that can only be described as uncharacteristically boring.

12. Piper at the Gates of Dawn

While this album is somewhat uneventful instrumentally, as the band was mostly limited by the wishes of their record label, it is the album that started it all. On top of that, it does feature quite a few interesting, progressive tracks and is an interesting listen to hear the groundwork upon which the greatest band of all time was built.

11. The Final Cut

TFC borders on being a Roger Waters solo effort. The lyricism of Waters is sharp one final time before his departure from the band, and though Gilmour’s guitar leads are criminally few and far between, they are characteristically epic when they do appear. The subject matter is difficult, the instrumentation pallet limitted, and Water’s vocals are at their best. The Final Cut isn’t exactly littered with shining moments, but when it shines, it’s blinding.

10. Atom Heart Mother

Atom Heart Mother stands out among Floyd’s discography as having an incredibly diverse and unpredictable instrumentation pallet. While the melodies lack the signature tension and release style that the casual Floyd fan is enticed by, more hardcore fans will enjoy hearing the groups signature tightness and their ability to go to places untravelled in such an extravagant way. This record also hints at some of the horn sections and jazz stylings that would go on to shape “Dark Side.”

9. Ummagumma

The deepest of cuts, Ummagumma is a bit of a journey which is definitely not for the faint of heart. A double LP, the first half consisting of live recordings which still featured Syd Barrett, and the second half consisting of the groups first recordings without their founding frontman. Each of the four remaining members (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, and Mason) are given space to create their own solo pieces, with fascinating results. It’s an excellent late night listen for your truest Floyd lover.

8. Wish You Were Here

Possibly one of the least popular opinions I hold with regards to Pink Floyd is that “Wish You Were Here,” is entirely overrated. The records highlights are noteworthy, it’s title track being one of the groups most well known cuts and the bookending two part piece “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” resolving into a few enjoyable melodies, but the rest of the effort is mostly fluff and provides little by way of lyrical insight The skits/spoken pieces are devoid of excitement. The record isn’t without its highlights, but overall, it lacks the stelar track listing that other Floyd efforts boast.

7. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason

This record can flat out rock. The bands first return to the studio since the departure of Waters, Pink Floyd loses much of their progressive sound in the pursuit of sharp, strong rock, which often works, but sometimes does not. Much of these tracks come off as Gilmour solo efforts and the album lacks the conceptual prowess of its predecessors, But tracks like “Sorrow,” will take listeners back to Prime Floyd, but if the goal was to show the world that the group could go on without their departed founding member, they left a bit still to be desired.

6. A Saucerful Of Secrets

This piece is probably the best of the group’s Barrett-fronted efforts. It’s experimental, often dissonant, and refuses to throw its listeners even a hint of a bone by way of an accessible melody or catchy hook. Much like Barrett himself, the record is complex, fascinating, and doesn’t seem to care a bit if you listen. Richard Wrights Keyboard work is also well showcased in this piece, very much showing touches of his love of John Cage and others composers who experimented with notable dissonance, as he commands his clashing notes and keys with power and confidence.

5. Meddle

Meddle marks the first time since Barrett’s departure that the band had been able to find it’s footing. The records A-side features five excellent and well performed tracks that are nothing short of great, and the B-side introduces an entirely new form for Floyd. A twenty-three minute masterpiece entitled “Echoes,” takes up the entirety of the second half of the record, featuring remarkable instrumentation from each of the four members as well as the type of vocals that can only come from Gilmour and Waters. While “Dark Side,” is widely considered their commercial break-out, nearly every sound and styling on that record can be traced to something that was done well on Meddle. Often overlooked, Meddle is a must listen for any serious Floyd fan.

4. Animals

There are exactly three acceptable answers to the question “What is the best Pink Floyd album?” And Animals, though I rank it 4th, is one of those select three. David Gilmours guitar roars vengefully, drowning out each and every sound that accompanies it, Roger Waters’ bass is rhythmic, excellently mixed and simply awesome, Richard Wright provides a keyboard performance which compliments the sounds of each song perfectly, and Nick Mason is simply at his best on this album, his signature tom fills complimenting the piece. The concept of a record based upon Orson Wells’ novel, “Animal Farm,” is not wonderfully executed, but that issue is quickly blasted out of the listeners mind by the pure rock energy on this album.

3. The Division Bellimage

One final time, not on Syd Barrett’s terms, not on Roger Waters’ terms, not even on David Gilmour’s terms, but on Pink Floyd’s terms, the group said goodbye to the world. “Division Bell,” sounds almost like a thank you to loyal Floyd fans, a sort of “Thanks for following us down the rabbit hole, now here’s a fun one!” This doesn’t mean that there is any shortage of beautiful complexities to be found here. In the end, “The Division Bell,” is everything that “Momentary Lapse,” should have been. Triumphant proof that Pink Floyd would live on, regardless of who left or joined, and a bitter sweet goodbye from the greatest band of all time.

2. The Wallimage

When it comes to discussions of the greatest album of all time, there are two Floyd records that unquestionably land in the top 5, and this fundamental masterpiece is one of them. The brainchild of Roger Waters, “The Wall,” explores the psyche of a burnt out rockstar losing his mind, who becomes trapped in a drug-fueled, overtly political nightmare world of his own creation. Commenting simultaneously on personal issues like losing a sense of self and dangerous drug addictions, as well as philosophical issues like war, fascism, and racism, the Wall is the type of album that will play a hundred times and sound differently each time. Luckily, Listeners will never tire of hearing it a hundred times!

1. The Dark Side of the Moonimage

There are records that change lives. There are records that change the world. “The Dark Side of the Moon,” is both. There is no way to overstate just how good this album is. Featuring gorgeous instrumental and vocal performances from each member of the band, as well as a diverse instrument pallet, this album takes listeners on a journey of dissonant tension and magnificent release that mimics the emotional rollercoaster of life. At times, the album is hard to listen to, at times it is impossible to turn off, but it will always be a must listen for every person with a pulse.

Top 5 Albums of 2017, So Far

5. From A Room – Chris Stapleton

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Alt Country Superstar, Chris Stapleton shocked the music world in 2015 with his debut album, “Traveller.” The record was truer to the country form than any record that had hit the mainstream in the past decade, and refreshed many old school country fans. Stapleton’s hotly anticipated follow up features much more original work and is arguably even better than his debut. Though the ending was a bit of a whimper, the record overall is one of the most enjoyable of the year so far.

4. Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset – Richard Edwards

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Full disclosure, I have a soft spot for subtle records, and with the first solo release of his decade and a half career, Richard Edwards of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s comes through with a beautifully somber collection. When the record wants to whisper, it makes you lean in, when it wants to scream, it blows your hair back. Overall, the record explores the topics of sadness and melancholy with the care and softness the topics demand.

3. Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

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One of the greatest songwriters of our time, Jason Isbell has been a part of enough classic country and Southern Rock projects in the past few years that this piece of excellence doesn’t even crack his top 3. Even still, with tracks like “White Man’s World,” and “The Last Of My Kind,” Isbell again blesses us with soft vocals and lyrics that will stand the test of many years.

2. Brutalism – IDLES

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2017 has so far been a year returning pop-infested genres to their roots. Country music started it’s pilgrimage with the likes of Stapleton and Simpson, rap with Lamar and Curry, and with IDLES March release, punk rock began this journey as well. The vocals of Joe Talbot would make Johnny Rotten proud, while leaving the likes of Billy Joe Armstrong shaking in their combat boots. Brutalism is one of the most vulgar, angry records of the year, but hell if it isn’t music to my ears.

****************************Honorable Mentions***********************

Wolves – Rise Against

“Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino

Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

Is This The Life We Really Want? – Roger Waters

Graveyard Whistling – The Old 97’s

****************************Honorable Mentions***********************

  1. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

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More so than any artist creating today, when Kendrick drops a new record, the world stops spinning. “DAMN.” Was no exception. Throughout the record, Kendrick comes after Donald Trump, Fox News, gang culture, and materialism all with a hard hitting lyricism that places him, unquestionably in the discussion of the greater rappers of all time. Throw in an intriguing feature from none other than U2’s Bono, and listeners are in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

Top 5 Uses of Music in TV and Movies

5. “Rescue Me; Voicemail”: Burn – Ray LaMontagne

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Dennis Leary’s powerful drama following the lives of New York Fireman after 9-11 is often forgotten in conversations about television’s current golden age, but scenes like this show why it shouldn’t be. As Tommy (Leary) sits on his couch alone, skipping his AA meeting to watch old home videos, excellent camera work reveals that, in his hands, he holds a bottle of vodka. LaMontagne’s tortured vocals add to an already beautiful scene as Tommy wrestles with his sobriety, before eventually pouring the entire bottle onto himself and attempting to light himself on fire. Once he learns that the vodka will not ignite, he gives up and shows up late to his meeting, wreaking of Vodka, as LaMontagne sings, “I’ll just stand here and burn in my skin.”

4. “Friends;The One Where Ross and Rachel Take A Break”: With or Without You – U2

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One of the most beloved sitcoms in American History, Friends is well ingrained in our culture for the foreseeable future, and with it, the on again, off again relationship between Ross and Rachel. Of the many breakups the pair endured, the most memorable scene features the perfect song choice of U2’s “With or Without You.” The scene, a combination of excellent writing and beautiful music, is able to date the show, and preserve everything great about the era it’s being dated in.

3.“Philadelphia”: La Mamma Morta – Maria Callas

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The next entry on this list is quite different than it’s predecessors. 1993’s Philadelphia followed the relationship of an AIDS-stricken Tom Hanks and the Lawyer, played by Denzel Washington, hired to represent him in his wrongful termination case. The other worldly voice of Maria Callas allows audiences to feel as alienated and out of place as Washington’s character when it comes to attempting to understand the LGBT culture of the 80’s and 90’s which is so well portrayed by this piece. As Hanks, barely able to stand and having withered to skin and bones, dances about the rooming, shouting the translation and explanation of the song, all the while lit by an unforgiving red light, He creates an incredibly intense scene, one that won him his second consecutive Oscar.

2. “Rocky III”: Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

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Few action series can boast the legendary soundtrack that Rocky does. From instantly recognizable themes in the first two installments to classic 80’s rock adorning one triumphant moment after another, none of these scenes can even compare to the perfection that is the Rocky III training montage, featuring Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” To this day, nothing can get butts off the couch and into the gym like this sequence.

********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

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“American Psycho”: Hip to Be Square – Huey Lewis and the News

“Fight Club”: Where is My Mind – The Pixies

“2001: A Space Odyssey”: Thus Spake Zarathustra – Richard Strauss

“Jaws”: Jaws Theme – John Williams

“The Breakfast Club”: Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

“Star Wars I: The Fantom Menace”: Duel of Two Fates – John Williams

“The Exorcist”: Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield

********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

  1. Breaking Bad; Felina”: Baby Blue – Badfinger

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Breaking Bad is, arguably, the greatest piece of art ever put to film, so it would stand to reason that the best examples of using music in a scene would be found somewhere in it’s five seasons. Vince Gilligan gave us plenty of options for this list. The use of Tommy James’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion” as Walt finishes another batch of his famous blue meth or Jerome Kern’s “Pick Yourself Up” serenading Walt who sits idly in his home as multiple gruesome murders are carried out at his request. Both of these scenes, as well as many others may come to mind, but never before has a song been used so perfectly as in the show’s final scene. As Walt walks, dying, through his meth lab running his blood drenched hands over the equipment which has made him more than just a man, the lab that turned Walter White into Heisenberg, Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” begins to play. This scene will never fail to give me chills as lyrics like “I guess I got what I deserve” bring the series to a close that is nothing short of perfect. Walt falls to the ground bleeding, as tears fall from the faces of any viewer with a soul and the tracks chorus, “My Baby Blue” bursts through. Simply breathtaking.

Top Five Metal/Hard Rock Albums of All Time

5. XX Rage Against the Machine

Institutional Racism, American Imperialism, and Political Protest are a few of the difficult & nuanced topics covered in just the first three tracks on this record. Throw in the unbridled anger of Zack De La Rocha and a series of guitar masterpieces by one of the greatest guitarists of our time, Tom Morello.

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HIGHLIGHTS – Killin in the Name, Bombtrack

4. Appetite for Destruction Guns N Roses

While Metallica ignited the underground roots planted by Sabbath & Zepplin, Axel Rose & Slash took hard rock in a new and more mainstream direction. Appetite for destruction raged on with tracks that focused on girls & parties, cutting them with cuts that focused on herroin addiction and the desire for success, bringing the dirty underbelly of the LA Rock scene to the limelight using an accessible sound that refused to sacrifice the wailing vocals and skilled guitar work of their front men.

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HIGHLIGHTS – Paradise City, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Mr. Brownstone

3. Ride the Lightning – Metallica

One of Metals quintessential groups, Metallica was at there best on Ride the Lightning. Coming in just under 50 min, this album skips the longer Prog Rock solos that would come later in their career & goes straight to the explosive melodies & complex lyrics that make Metallica amazing.

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HIGHLIGHTS – Ride the Lightning, For Whom The Bell Tolls

2. Paranoid – Black Sabbath

While Sabbath’s self titled debut is often considered the record that started it all, it was this follow up in the same year that truly fleshed out the concepts that would go on to be metal. Excellent instrumentals decorating the entire piece, which benefits, as well, from one of the greatest vocalists in rock history, Ozzy Osbourne.

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HIGHLIGHTS – War Pigs, Paranoid, Iron Man

********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

•Back in BlackAC/DC

•Vulgar Display of PowerPantera

•PornografitiExtreme

•Songs for the DeafQueens of the Stone Age

•Hellbilly DeluxeRob Zombie

•The Autumn Effect10 Years

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********HONORABLE MENTIONS********

Ænima – Tool

Incredible instrumentals, excellent vocals, & unparalleled, conceptual lyricism from one of the best bands to ever do it. The record is long, Sprawling and covers topics of domestic abuse, human evolution, and death. The youngest record on this list, Ænima is, in a lot of ways, a culmination of the ideas that had been developing over many years of hard rock music. Each of the four pieces of the group are some of the best in the world on their respective instruments, and when they work together as seamlessly as they do on Ænima, the world is gifted with one of the best rock albums ever recorded.

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