Record #78: Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

And here, we have the record that made Bruce Springsteen the Boss. 
And I’ll admit–I didn’t care about Springsteen at all until last year when I got into the double-headed beast of Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs, but I’m glad that I was made to care.

The Boss is nothing less than a force of nature, howling tales of America as the powerhouse that is the E-Street Band races behind him.

And their influence can be seen even today, from the aforementioned War on Drugs to Arcade Fire. And it’s easy to see why: Springsteen pretty much invented the American rock anthem with all its fury and pathos.

​From the opening strains of Thunder Road, painting pictures of screen doors and dirt roads, to the title track’s passionate refrain (the title track is worth the price of the whole record, by the way. Pure gold), the Boss takes Dylan’s mantle upon himself and adjusts it to suit his context, and he does so without hubris or insincerity.

​And while Bruce Springsteen may have spent time some time dabbling in self-parody over the years, his breakthrough record is still, even over thirty-five years later, the stuff legends are made of. 

Record #77: Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (2010)

Compared to its landmass, Canada has a rather miniscule population. It’s a wonder then that two of the hardest hitters in indie rock call the Great White North their home. Arcade Fire, which often includes the entire music scene from Montreal, is the premier Canadian indie band, but in my opinion, Broken Social Scene (or, Everyone From Toronto Who’s In A Band) is the country’s true national treasure. 
If you don’t know BSS, all you need to know is that the Associated Acts section of their Wikipedia page is rivaled only by the Members section (notable members include Feist and all of Stars and Metric), and that the group doesn’t get together all that often, but when they do, magic happens (as evidenced by every full length). 

Forgiveness Rock Record is, outside of the context of their discography, an album filled with stage-crowding ensembles, gang-sung lyrics, glistening guitars, and shimmering electronics. A steady pop-ready four four leads most of the record, balancing noise collages and horn freakouts, becoming almost kraut-ish in places. But the record’s greatest asset is the combined skill and knowhow of the ensemble, which keeps the record’s sixty-three minutes from ever getting boring, or anything less than good. A great record from a bunch of people who know how to make great records.

Record #75: Bright Eyes – Cassadaga (2007)

When I got my first job, and consequently my first steady paycheck, I began to buy music. And I bought a lot of music. It was the same summer I started buying records, but until after I bought about a dozen CDs (that I’ve since upgraded to vinyl). Unlike the cautious and surefooted way I buy music now, the norm back then was for me to buy albums based on one or two songs I heard on college radio.

And luck must have been with me, because I was buying albums like Neon BibleWe Were Dead Before the Ship Even SankWincing the Night Away, A Ghost is Born, and Cassadaga by Bright Eyes. Having fallen in love with I’m Wide Awake, it’s Morning and hearing the country-tinted single “Four Winds,” I bought the record, and for a while, it replaced it’s predecessor at the top of my CD stack…

To put it briefly, it’s more refined than anything the group had done before. At its base, it’s almost a country record (if It’s Wide Awake opened my mind up to Bob Dylan, Cassadaga opened it to Ryan Adams), with fiddles, lap steels, and Hammond organs along for most of the ride.

But there’s an eerie ambience that appears when the arrangements are more sparse, like on the horror-film-soundtrack-orchestra’d “Clairaudients (To Kill or To be Killed),” or the comforting bleakness of “Lime Tree,” or the bleak anti-war anthem “No One Would Riot For Less.” The Middle Eastern-tinged “Coat Check Dream Song” even returns to the electronic experiments of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn while remaining cohesion with the rest of the album.

Oberst’s eyes are now open to much more than his hangovers and ill-advised love affairs and protest marches down the block. He sets gaze upon his issues with major world religions, the government, war, and a number of other paradigms. And after sixty minutes of musings, he still isn’t any more certain how exactly he feels about anything, sounding just as desperate for answers at the end of “Lime Tree” as the conversations with phone-psychic suggests at the album’s opening strains.

Record #179: Fugazi – Repeater (1990)

When it comes to putting words to Fugazi’s catalogue, it’s a difficult task. What can you say besides “they were the best, man, just the best” over and over again? 
Each album only enforces that mantra, and Repeater, their third release and first full length, is no exception.

More than anything, it begins to show what these four incredible musicians were truly capable of when they wrote as a single unit rather than individuals. The instrumental passages are more common here, and they’re more violent and nuanced.

Side one plays without a break between songs. The guitars use feedback and muted scratches to create the insatiably frustrated atmospheres while Brendan Canty and Joe Lally use the drums and bass as if they were their first language.

The voices are more commanding–Guy’s spits more venom, Ian turns from sarcastic to roaring without warning.

But Fugazi also shows more restraint here. “Two Beats Off” resists the obvious punk thrashing so many lesser bands would have committed. The chorus of the title track is rife with pop bounce and hook.

Overall, this album is remarkable for giving the world a debut full length more fully matured than most bands would ever achieve.
Edit: “Shut the Door” is incredible.