371. two-headed boy

Neutral Milk Hotel‘s 1999 album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea gets a special nod here for giving us the most recent selections on the list. Though it should be noted that the entire decade of the 1990s is rather woefully neglected mainly because Philip Random had mostly stopped buying new vinyl by then. “CDs were the thing at first, and then mp3s. But something about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – I just had to have it in full twelve-inch form. And not just for the cover, though it’s a hell of a cover. Nah, it just didn’t feel right unless I was getting some vinyl hiss and ticks, like a throwback to those times when the blemishes mattered. The blemishes always matter, which main Neutral Milkman Jeff Mangum makes clear every time he opens his mouth and thus his soul, young man with a whole new way of turning breath to voice. And the whole album’s strong. Not an unnecessary moment. Including the few seconds it takes to flip it over between sides.”

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439. it was a very good year

“We’ve all gotta start somewhere. Before I got seriously hooked by the superlative noise of rock-roll-psyche-whatever-you-want-to-call-it (sometime safely before my tenth birthday in the form of The Beatles Revolution the shorter, sharper, nastier version), I only really cared for one so-called pop album:  What Now My Love, a 1966 chart topper from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (who weren’t from Tijuana, they weren’t even Mexican). Because it was the only halfway modern slab of vinyl in my parents’ collection. And now it’s in mine, the same original record (proudly slotted between the Allman Bros and Amon Duul), because it’s actually pretty darned fine in a sangria-soaked suburban backyard barbecue sort of way. Smooth Latin rhythms and sunny day melodies and occasional gushes of rapture like the part at the end of It Was A Very Good Year when the strings come swooping in like the gods themselves. What sentimental eight year old (of any age) ever needed anything more?” (Philip Random)

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487. earth [gaia]

“You’ve probably noticed there’s not much stuff from the 1990s on this list even though the cut-off date is officially summertime 2000. That’s because I generally didn’t buy new vinyl past about 1989. Is this fair to the 1990s? No. And I’m sorry about that. This list is not fair. This list is not definitive. Yet it would be incomplete without some Orb, from 1991’s The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, because I had to have that one on vinyl, all four sides of it, something I could look at BIG and spread out, while it played BIG and spread out, not unlike the entirety of the universe, known and otherwise.” (Philip Random)

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680. strawberry letter 23

“The Brothers Johnson being one of those bands that I pretty much missed completely during my white bread suburban youth … except somewhere along the line, Right on Time slipped into my stacks of vinyl. And it’s all very nice, groovy and smooth, but then Strawberry Letter 23 comes along and takes things to a whole other level of cool and soulful invention. Music you can taste as well as feel.” (Philip Random)

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751. leaving this town

The only Beach Boys track on the countdown list is as good a time as any to reference the guidelines, the key ones in this case being A. if Philip Random didn’t have it on vinyl as of August 2000, it doesn’t matter how good it is, the song doesn’t qualify, and B. it has to be something the average person probably hadn’t heard (also as of August 2000 – a few of these tracks have since gained some much deserved notoriety), which means no chart-toppers, no inescapable big deal pop items already played lots on commercial radio and/or heard in commercials themselves, or in big deal movies or TV shows, or video games, or in any other way already exposed out there in the culture. So, in the case of the Beach Boys, we only get one selection, “… the easy, breezy, really quite cool Leaving this Town (found on 1973’s Holland), because everything else I’d care to share has either A. proven impossible to find on vinyl at non-ridiculous collectors prices, or B. popular enough already.” (Philip Random)

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954. Holland 1945

“The cut-off date for this list is officially August 2000, because that’s when I started putting it together. You’ve probably noticed there’s precious little in the way of 1990s stuff on it. This is because it’s an all vinyl apocalypse I’m exploring here and I pretty much stopped buying new vinyl in 1989, mainly because that’s when CDs pretty much took over (for worse more than better, I’d argue, but that’s a whole other tangent). One album I did have to buy on vinyl was 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. Because the cover’s a damned fine work of art, so I wanted it big, and because it just had to be heard in analogue form, with hisses and crackles, and all manner of other fat imprecisions thundering up my ear canals. And, in the case of Holland 1945, all that semen staining the mountaintops.” (Philip Random)

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