This is a question that I have long been searching for the answer to. The first, most obvious answer is that it is of a higher quality then almost every other album. While that fact is almost a given, it's most certainly not the actual answer. In fact, I think that while being an integral part of greatness, it amounts to only a small part of the reasoning in the long run. The other answers that seem to be obvious are legacy and influence. Both of these things seem to make a lot of sense in consideration. In fact, they are probably the key to unlock greatness. But the one thing that has a huge baring on both of those things? Time. Merriweather Post Pavilion may or may not be one of the highest quality albums of all time, that's a far more subjective and opinionated topic, but nobody in the right mind could say that it is one of the greatest albums of all time, it's just not right.
Therein lies the difference between "best" and "greatest". The way I look at it, best is completely subjective, but greatness isn't. I think greatness can be measured in influence and importance. How did affect the music scene? Did it start a genre? Did it drastically change a style of music? This is what makes an album great.
Like my "Musical genius" blogs, I'll expand more on this later with specific bands and albums.
Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead The Beatles
Why I believe OK Computer is one of the best, but not one of the greatest albums of all time
So, my Musical Genius blogs, which were initially meant to be just a space to explore ideas that would be useless in my reviews, but still interested me and were worth my time. But from this, I started to think about it with a different factor. How does god given talent play into it?
For example. one of the first examples I presented was Morrissey. I do believe that he is in fact a musical genius, but his talent is not something to be ignored. His voice is simply fabulous, and it's hard to believe that something that good can be taught. A next is Thom Yorke. Again, the man is a genius and I see no doubt in my mind about that. However, his haunting, beautiful, unique voice has really been the only consistent sound that Radiohead have had. His voice is distinct, and is part of what makes a Radiohead song so moving.
The other side, is also true. There are certainly people who are born more talented in certain fields and will be more successful in them than the general population because of it. The first thing, musically, that came to thought, were soul singers. More modern examples like John Legend and Raphael Saadiq have voices that are disctinct and simply breathtaking. However, I wouldn't consider either of these men a genius. They have an amazing talent and utilize that in the best way possible, but when it comes down to it, the only thing that is really, really, special about them is their talent.
So, does talent have an affect on the way musicians create quality music? Of course it does, but that's not all that's necessary. Morrissey is truly special because of his ability to change, and Thom Yorke falls into the same category. They make their talent work for them in ways that most men couldn't fathom.
Early today I posted a blog abut what I thought musical genius entailed, and some people who fell into that category. There was one glaring omission (purposefully), so kindly pointed out by Edgar (liar23), Thom Yorke. The man is, the essence of a musical genius and more. To put into words what I believe he does is almost unfathomable, but here it goes:
Thom Yorke has somehow found a way to exist in two opposite worlds. The obscure and the mainstream. Two things that generally only meet if hipsters invade radio stations, is something that Thom Yorke (and co) seem to be able to do so easily, despite a seemingly conscious effort not to. His genius, is, and likely always will be, on another level. The ability to make something so interesting and creative, yet accessible enough to hit it huge with the masses is inconceivable.
Quickly, I'd like to mention his solo album. A quieter, more expected follow up to their electronic styling was captivating in its almost bare sound. He created the album so that no little nuance go unnoticed, they are all important, each aspect, most of which are executed miraculously well, and there are few albums that work like this.
His lyrics have always been a bit of a mystery to me, and I love that. Few to none of them make immediate sense, especially when placed in between his other abstract musings. Each line opens up a possibility of exploration and examination.
For now that's it on Thom Yorke, even though this isn't anywhere near close to sufficient.
I started pondering this concept for my Manchester Orchestra review, and I am going to try to use this blog to get my useless musings about other artists out as well as smooth out some of the kinks in the concept. Constructive criticism is appreciated.
What makes a musical genius? Is it the ability to be consistently good at a certain style of music? or is it the ability to change styles seamlessly? The ability to do both of these things at the same time is at least the basis of one. But something has to be added right? How about the ability to work as creatively with others a by themselves? Again, the ability to do both is essential. What about the ability to flow the vocals with the instrumentation? Of course, again essential. Andy Hull has all of these things.
Anyway, other artists that fit with this, are not plentiful, but certainly there.
Morrissey - During his time with The Smiths, he released some of the best records of all time. His lyrical style was dark but not always serious and there was never an awkward moment on those albums. When he went solo, things were a lot different. The style that he chose was not really what would have been expected from the head of one of the most important bands of all time. However, he made truley stellar alternative rock, and that was better than expected.
Colin Meloy - Head honcho in The Decemberists is irresitably quirky and interesting. His solo work, while less interesting is far, far, from bad, and his work with The Decemberists, is well, The Decemberists. Diverse and wholly captivating, each one of their albums is truly an adventure. His lyrics while at times cheesy, always tell haunting stories.
Feist/Jason Tait/Brendan Canning/Kevin Drew/Charles Spearin - So, yeah, I just highlighted 5 members of my favorite band, who have also released stellar solo material. Feist's underated solo work is actually very impressive. Jason Tait's work with The Weakerthans, while infrequent in releasing albums, are consistent in very high quality. Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew both released very good solo albums through the Broken Social Scene Presents... series, and Charles Spearin recently released The Happiness Project, which is an original album that's very intriguing. Of course, their work together is insanely good, and Spearin's work with Do Make Say Think is also very good.
I'll proably expand this later, but this is what I have on my mind so far.
10. Underoath - Lost In The Sound Of Seperation
9. Thieves & Villains - Movement
8. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
7. The Killers - Day & Age
6. Jason Mraz - We Dance, We Sing, We Steal Things
5. The Academy Is... - Fast Times At Barrington High
4. Common - Universal Mind Control
3. The All-American Rejects - When The World Comes Down
2. Weezer - Weezer (Red Album) 1. Anberlin - New Surrender
Top 30 Albums of 2008
30. Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
29. Driver F - Chase The White Whale
28. Times New Viking Rip It Off
27. The Sea and Cake Car Alarm
26. Dear and The Headlights Drunk Like Bible Times
25. In:Aviate - 1985
24, Good Old War Only Way To Be Alone
23. The Score Songs For A Halfway Home
22, Pompeii Nothing Happens For A Reason
21. Butch Walker Sycamore Meadows
20. Kings Of Leon Only By The Night
19. Cold War Kids Loyalty To Loyalty
18. TV On The Radio Dear Science,
17. Fall Out Boy Folie A Deux
16. No Age - Nouns
15. Russian Circles - Station
14. Los Campesinos! Hold On Now, Youngster
13. Why? - Alopecia
12. Right Away, Great Captain The Eventually Home
11. Kanye West 808s and Heartbreaks
10. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
9. City and Colour Bring Me Your Love
8. Forgive Durden Razias Shadow
7. Portugal. The Man Censored Colors
6. Copeland You Are My Sunshine
5. The Gaslight Anthem The 59 Sound
4. Lydia - Illuminate
3. Tokyo Police Club Elephant Shell
2. Deerhunter Microcastle
1. Arrows Modern Art & Politics
AOTY List is much changed and updated. I had those records at the top and prematurely decided that that's where they would obviously stay, but taking a look back, they lacked the lasting value I expected, so here's the updated version, some records I hadn't heard enough when I was making my list, and some I forgot about.
So, recently, I've noticed that my tastes have been moving in the direction of Pitchfork-esque stuff. For example my last.fm this week, which I'll post in the thread later, contained Deerhunter, Broken Social Scene, Los Campesinos!, Grizzly Bear, Explosions In The Sky, Pavement, Arrows, Fleet Foxes, Beck, Times New Viking, The Gaslight Anthem, and Animal Collective. The only two outliers are Fall Out Boy and City and Colour (who would fit into Pitchforks playlist just fine, but they are more centered in this scene). It's not necessarily a concious thing, but it's just what I like. I even added some of my favorite old pop-punk records (ATL, Mayday Parade's debut EP) because I'm in Hawai'i, but I haven't wanted to listen to them. It'll be interesting to see what direction this takes as we move into 2009.
I'm working on an updated list for my top of 08. I hadn't heard the Los Campesinos! or Deerhunter records, both of which will probably fall top 10.
Aside from the fact that I started off this week borderline depressed, it's been a pretty okay week. My pre-orders didn't arrive, but I can live with that. I have an interview with Thomas Dutton on Saturday, and I'll be sending off my questions to both Danger Radio and NEEDTOBREATHE tomorrow or Saturday. I was able to finish both of my articles and my Sociology paper on time. And tonight, for the first time in weeks or maybe months, I'm going to sleep before 11:30. Sure, it sounds lame, but I've been up until 1:30 or later every night this week, and I am excited to just sleep.
So if you read my previous blog, I was planning on asking out this beautiful girl that I've had a major crush on for a few weeks. I set the date for yesterday, and came to school amped up and prepared. I was going to do it before school, because that's the only time I've ever seen her sitting alone. When I walked past her locker, where she normally was, the only people were two of her friends. So I shrug and walk off a little discouraged. I postpone it until today and get on with my life. Today, the entire locker space was empty, so I again have had to postpone this again, she is almost always talking to one of her friends any other time I see her. Hopefully I'll be able to get it in tonight, but who the hell knows, with my luck, probably not.
Musical note: I just got the new Jeremy Larson album, and it's fantastic stuff. Definitely a good thing to pick up if you're a fan of Copeland or Lydia. I also just downlaoded the new This Town Needs Guns album, which is amazing. In the next week I expect to be getting This Providence/Forgive Durden from FBR for review.
So recently I've been reaping the benefits of my staff position at highbeamreview.com. Messaging a bunch of bands and getting pre-release copies. One that I am hands down most excited for is Valencia. The holiday demo is beyond insanely good. I don't give a fuck if it's slightly generic or whatever the cynics are going to say, its pop-punk and it's finest, and that's the most I'm asking for. Among that I'm getting copies of Inept (which has been out) and a copy of Brightwood, which will drop soon. Overall, it's fucking great.
It's 11 30 right now and I should be sleeping as i have to get up at 6 30. The only thing keeping me up is Pinkerton blasting in my headphones. Thats a great album, but I digress. Anyway, I'm just contemplating whether I should stay up until 2 30 (for the mail listing) or if I should just set my alarm. Either way the odds of me getting something that I really want are slim to none because the staff members get this list also. I've been listening to Ok Computer a lot lately, that's probably one of my favorite albums. I hadn't listened to it in a long time, which was a big mistake. People might hate me for saying this because it's not indie enough or whatever, but Karma Poilce is an absolutely beautiful song. It just works so well, I can't even describe it, but I guess you could say that for any Radiohead song. fucking love that band. Well, thats it for now.