Friday's End Note: Favorite Double Albums

A band has two choices: they either put out an album of as many songs as they can or an album whose songs form a cohesive whole. This is pretty standard protocol (I would assume), but what happens when bands have more material than can fit on one album or have more songs that help to develop a bigger concept? They create what's called a "double album," an epic amount of music from a band that usually implies a major push for creative power and oftentimes a sign of a band hitting a dramatic peak.

The only real qualification I consider for an album to be "double" is that it comes with two CD's, not LP's. You could technically have two LP's and have the album simply continue onto the other record, but "double albums" usually have full albums separate from each other, either in tonality or lyrical effect. This also means that I do not include "Greatest Hits" albums or collections because that denotes a collection that was most likely not chosen by the artist themselves.

Here are my few favorite double albums:

The Beatles - The Beatles (aka "The White Album")
What does it take to be the biggest band on the face of the planet? Not much if you've already established yourself as The Beatles. The release of The Beatles in 1968 didn't have to capitalize on any of their material prior other than being a double-dose of epic but challenging songs that document the turbulence of the band as well as the culture clash of the 60's. In that regard, both discs contain levels of both loud guitar spectacles and softer balladry, and it makes for an experience rather than an extraction.

The Beatles - "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Perhaps the most seminal recording from the master folk artist, Blonde on Blonde really feels like the first tried and true double album. It provides us with some of Dylan's most unique and deep-felt recordings like "Just Like A Woman" and "Fourth Time Around" that offer glimpses of both sides of the soul that make folk so enticing. It takes our generalizations of what acoustic guitar can do and bends it further, bringing together Dylan's lyrical expertise to new ground.

Bob Dylan - "I Want You"

Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin had the early 1970's. Hands down. They took Rock 'N Roll and Blues to places people probably only imagined in their darkest desires. After five hugely successful albums, Physical Graffiti landed and only continued their streak. Every song is in the land of Zeppelin, if a bit more casual that usual, and we're along for the ride cruising down Route 66. It's a fine dose of rock that's unprecedented.

Led Zeppelin - "Trampled Under Foot"

Pink Floyd - The Wall
Pink Floyd's The Wall is a rock opera for the ages. It's also the turning point in Floyd's deep history that began a slow and sure departure of rock greats Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Regardless of the inner struggle, The Wall is so politically punchy and rigid that the songs often fall through the cracks of "the wall" and become stirring masterpieces. It's an experience of epic proportions, maybe a little too much for the time it was released, but it remains one of the most important records in my listening history.

Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb"

Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
We jump ahead to the mid-90's for this shoe-gazing wonder. The Smashing Pumpkins have delved into this kind of territory before, but as a double album, they were able to provide a fully-fleshed spread of emotions. We had a rock record that wasn't so much rock but an escape to the heavens, catapulting the band into the popular conscious forever. Tracks get better with every listen, and it's hard to deny the zest that their signature sound adds to make the whole thing sweeter.

Smashing Pumpkins - "Muzzle"



Crash Thursday: Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

Genre: Saxophone/Free Improvisation
Origin: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Where would music be without woodwind instruments? More importantly, where would we be without Colin Stetson? I know that the name might not be familiar on first sight, and I don't blame any of you for that; Colin has mostly appeared on the back end for artists like Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, performing with various reeds such as bass saxophone and clarinet (you know, instruments that actually require a specific knowledge of wind and vibrations). The interesting thing about Colin is that he has seemed to master what is called the "circular breathing technique" that allows him to perform on an instrument without interruption and managing his breaths with more air. It's kind of ridiculous when you think about it because - if you're like me - you are trying to catch a breathe just reading about the concept.

Colin takes this talent and makes it something special on New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. Yeah, Vol. 2. That must mean that he has a Vol. 1 as well, but it wasn't until this album that Colin even caught my attention. Regardless, he has taken the multi-reedist title to new heights here, utilizing his circular breathing technique and creating music in one take that's so grand and misleading that it oftentimes sounds like electronically controlled. Shall I say it's simply "breathtaking?" You can check him out in action right here.

I would review each track but there really is no purpose, as New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges doesn't really call for attention in that sense. To summarize and put it more eloquently, Colin strategically pounds the bass out of his reeds and surrounds you with often beautifully-layered flutters. What's crazy about the whole "layering" effect is that in reality, he is playing one instrument in one take around a good number of microphones. It's as if he's attempting to push the instrument to its limits and capturing every tinker and touch of it, and the pay off is usually wonderful. It's so well orchestrated with Colin as your conductor that you would never know that it was one guy playing one instrument one time unless I told you otherwise.

This is also an album that emphasizes the ability of the human voice. There are snippets here and there that are spoken word pieces, read by musicians Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden, that sort of play with a "warfare" and "judgement" concept as the title implies, if a bit trite. It doesn't stop Colin from doing his thing, of course. The track "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," the first thing you hear is his deep, deep inhale before completely swallowing you in bass, with Shara Worden topping off the sound with an elegant cover of Blind Willie Johnson's stunning lyrics.

You might be thinking that this is a case of an artist taking a a great talent and showcasing it to the point that the effect wanes; I can guarantee that it doesn't. This is an artist who can grasp his talent and consistently surprise us on each listen, and it's an interesting set of noises you might've never expected to hear. It certainly isn't music you DJ at your best friend's wedding, but Colin Stetson has created a thinking-man's music that's heavily improvised, jazz-oriented, affectionate, and downright badass.


Colin Stetson - "Judges"

Colin Stetson - "The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man"

New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is available now on Constellation Records.



Vid Break! Local Natives board "Airplanes"

It's a basic week here, meaning that it's just a time to relax and not necessarily find what's new, but just set out to read or watch whatever you're comfortable with. This week's Vid Break brings you "Airplanes" from Local Natives' debut album Gorilla Manor, and it just does enough to satisfy that exact feeling. It's a soft indie that's good enough to whistle too, and a video that's both pseudo-stop-motion and live action that somehow is tucked in like a child's imagination. The whole thing has a kind of glow, and I'm determined to dream and new dream as I relax with this one. Take a break like I intend to do.



Take 2 Tuesday: "Limo Wreck" by Soundgarden

Of the four 90's Seattle -based grunge bands that really managed to go for broke when it came to meeting the brooding-ness of the genre, you could always depend on Soundgarden. I mean, just take a look at "Black Hole Sun". Sure, the imagery in the video is a little apeshit crazy, but there's no denying the unanticipated depth that the song eerily implies, brought on by the sludgy bass and distorted guitar that defined the genre. Then again, everything on Superunknown has that effect, which makes the album satisfyingly unified and focused. "Limo Wreck," while not a single, is perhaps the album's most epic track, featuring some of Chris Cornell's highest vocal peaks that we - quite frankly - would like back sometime very soon. It also has such a fantastic rock construction that it's hard to pass off, taking the song to otherworldly levels. It still shines in all it's lyrical errie-ness and depth, but it never calls attention to itself. Not until Take 2 Tuesday, that is.


Soundgarden - "Limo Wreck"


Post Delays

Hey fellow Crashers,

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I've been a bit tied up with personal obligations during the past few days and I have not had the time to write up new posts. I will try to post as much as possible on this blog but there may be times in which I simply do not have the capacity or time to. This is just a little hiccup, and we should have posts ready for the week starting tonight at midnight. Keep on crashing.