Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

By Devan Scott

Will had a pretty good idea going with his Some of My Favorite Albums post down there. Which is why I'm stealing it.

However, I quickly realized that three albums wasn't enough. Soon, three became five. And five became ten. And ten became twenty. In short, it got out of hand.

(Short disclaimer: This is, of course, a list of my favorite albums, not the albums I think are the best. My ego's big, but not that big.)

So, without further introduction, presenting:

Devan's Awesome List of His Favorite Albums of All Time
Part One: 20-17

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20. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis

et’s be perfectly clear, boys and girls
Cunts are still running the world

Sometime in the dark ages of 2006, I was sitting in a rather empty theater, recuperating from just having been exposed to Children of Men. Over the last part of the credits, a song was playing that rather caught my attention; and, with a title like 'Cunts Are Still Running the World', how could it not? “Who is this guy?” I immediately wondered, and so it was that I was introduced to the rather peculiar musical stylings of Jarvis Cocker.

After about thirty seconds of Wikipedia detective work, I found that ‘Running the World’ was a song from Jarvis’ latest album, Jarvis. Naturally, I gave it a listen. And, also naturally, judging by my placement of the album on my article entitled My Favorite Albums, I loved it almost immediately.

The first thing that really struck me about the record was the personality of the man who wrote it; Jarvis Cocker is about as strange a pop artist as they come. He manages to come off as a cool, edgy sort of guy, yet he’s self-admitted nerd with people problems. His lyrical subject matter rarely deviates from that of society, women, and politics, yet he always brings with him a darkly comic edge; it never feels as if he’s taking any of what he’s writing about completely seriously. He’s an odd fellow, to be sure.

The relationship between the music and lyrics on Jarvis is, like quite a few other albums, obviously anachronistic; musically, it’s a rather relaxing record, contrasting rather starkly against the lyrics, which are about as downbeat as they come. Certain songs, as in 'From Auschwitz to Ipswich', would feel at home on a children’s pop record if not for the dark, cynical lyrics. This conceit goes a long way in making the record a fun, strangely humorous listen. Lyrical references to Nazi Germany are depressing; lyrical references to Nazi Germany over a backing track of whimsical pop orchestrations are funny. Jarvis has never made better use of this style than he does here.

Also, he swears a lot.

19. Rufus Wainwright - Want One

Men reading fashion magazines

Oh what a world my parents gave me

This overproduced, unbelievably lush mock-pop-opera creation is something of a masterpiece in kitsch excess. Practically every song is drenched in countless layers of overdubs and orchestrations, and the whole affair is given a sparkly veneer of spotless production. It really shouldn’t work but, thanks to the fact that Wainwright is as talented a songwriter as he is, it does.

Practically the entire record is kept afloat by Wainwright’s dynamic mix of sarcasm and emotionalism that characterizes his work here. When he’s not being darkly funny, as in ‘Oh What A World’ and ‘Vibrate’, he’s being genuinely heartbreaking, as in ‘Go or Go Ahead’ and ‘Dinner at Eight’. And then there's his brashly flamboyant personality; Rufus is the kind of guy who makes Elton John look like He-Man, and his over-the-top demeanor is on full display here.

This is a rare album that actually manages to pull off the balancing act between overly clever lyrics, elaborate production, and emotional weight, and the fact that it never buckles under the weight of its own excess is a remarkable achievement. The jury's still out on whether it's a modern classic or anything close; at any rate, I, for one, greatly enjoy it.

18. Ennio Morricone - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Doo-doo doo-doo dooo


Rarely does a simple musical motif become emblematic of an entire genre of movies, but that’s exactly what happened with Ennio Morricone’s two-note melody that he wrote for this score. It’s become so closely associated with the movie western that it’s often the first thing people think of regarding the genre. In fact, it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s almost completely overshadowed the rest of The Good The Bad and the Ugly’s score in the public conscious, which is a shame because the entire thing an absolutely fantastic piece of music composition.

Ennio Morricone’s scores have always had certain quirky edges to them that make them stand apart; the use of a music box in A Few Dollars More and the dissonant pianos that made the melodramatic orchestrations of Cinema Paradiso so heartbreaking spring to mind here. The Good the Bad and the Ugly is practically overrunning with these little idiosyncrasies. Incorporating elements as diverse as electric guitars, Celtic-inspired humming choirs, an arghilofono, and even gunshots, it’s as aggressively unique as any of Morricone’s work.

It is also, perhaps surprisingly, one of Morricone’s most emotionally affecting scores; for my money, 'Story of a Soldier' and 'Death of a Soldier' are about as touching a pair of songs as I’ve heard on any record. The soundtrack, also somewhat surprisingly, stands on its own apart from the movie. The vast majority of film scores are inseparable from the images onscreen; this couldn’t be further from the truth for this score. It’s this quality that makes this not only a great score, but a great record period.

17. Bob Dylan - Live 1966: The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert


“I don’t believe you. You’re a liar.”

On May 17th, 1966, Bob Dylan took to the stage at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to wild cheers and rapturous applause. A little over an hour and a half later, he left the stage to boos, jeers, and, most infamously, cries of “Judas!” This was, in fact, pretty typical of Dylan’s concerts at the time. Having recently “gone electric” and forsaken his folk roots, he was widely considered a traitor among his devoted fans. This tension would often reach a boiling point during his live shows, and this show was no exception.

One could almost see this concert as two separate shows; the first half, in which Dylan stands alone on stage, singing folk songs with nothing but an acoustic guitar, is greeted with universal reverence by the crowd. Things change, however, when Dylan’s electric band takes the stage after the intermission, and the show suddenly transforms into an unforgettable clash between performer and audience.

The greatness of this record lies not in the quality of the performance or the songs being played, but the sheer anger with which they’re delivered. It’s obvious that the rage is mutual; the audience hates Dylan, and Dylan reciprocates. By the time he finally gets around to performing the closing number, 'Like a Rolling Stone', he’s practically spitting out the lyrics, screaming them as a challenge to his audience. “How does it feel?”

[Not actually from the "Judas" performance; videos from that seem to have been wiped off the face of Youtube.]

Nice being back in the arts criticism saddle again.


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