All my posts for ‘365 Albums A Year’

(For context, read this story on That’s Good, I Like That.)

Presented by That’s Good, I Like That, a song-a-day music blog.

Year 3, Day 285: Youth Lagoon — The Year of Hibernation (2011)

Posted on 30 July 2012.

From the first swirling notes from Youth Lagoon’s (real name Trevor Powers) keyboard, you’re taken to a place somewhere between now and 1983, although not to a time identifiable to any period between then. The combination of effects-laden instrumentation and Powers’ nervously-sung vocals (which have also been drenched in reverb) is instantly alluring because they create an identity all their own. That’s what hundreds of indie kids strive for and it’s not impossible to achieve, but it’s hard to be unique and fresh while also sounding good.

Powers manages to do exactly that with his painfully personal songwriting. Each song was crafted as a reflection of what he was feeling at the moment he wrote it. Music was a way for this awkward teenager to escape the nerves the life as a quiet outsider is full of.

Powers’ near-falsetto is also paired with summery guitar and what has to be an old school drum machine. Surely no other act out there is using this combination of instruments or pairing whatever equipment they do have with the songwriting prowess of Powers. He seems to have realized songwriting is much more than what chord progressions you use or how verses transition into the rest of the song: creating a sonic atmosphere is becoming a larger and larger part of music as high quality headphones become more en vogue, and there’s no way the feeling of space Powers created on his bedroom recordings was by accident. The record may as well have been recorded on the mystical-looking mountain ridge depicted in the album art.

When Powers sings “when I was 17 / my mother said to me / don’t stop imagining / the day that you do is the day that you die” in the song “17,” it’s obvious that line is more than something he came up with because it sounded like something that would look good on a motivational poster: He means every word. Maybe his mother actually did give him that encouragement, and maybe it actually got him through some rough times.

The Year of Hibernation is an easy album to enjoy the first listen because it’s accessible and easy to sing along with or bob your head to. It’s even easier to revisit again and again because it is applicable to so many situations. Some parts of the record are great for blasting over your car speakers, while some of the same songs and others can be impactful in a different way when listened to in an empty, which, coincidentally or perhaps not, is the same environment the album was created in.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 292: The Men — Open Your Heart (2012)

Posted on 06 August 2012.

In an age where more and more musicians are retreating to their laptops to pour their heart into sound, The Men are taking to the garage and banging out high intensity punk like it’s the late ‘70s.

You could argue both laptop rock and garage punk are musical copouts for the non-virtuosic: It’s easy to finish a song in a few hours on your computer with software that automatically keeps you in time and on key. String together a few power chords, lay it atop a basic drum beat, find somebody willing to scream into a microphone and you have punk. Those are two extremely generalized views of the songwriting process, but it takes more than just button mashing on your computer keyboard or aimlessly strumming a guitar to make something that comes off as more than unintelligible noise.

Musicality is needed for both, and for punk, all that crunch and angst needs to be attached to some greater purpose. Although unmistakably a punk group, The Men dip their toes into various tempos, emotions and ideas. In songs like “Turn It Around” and the title track, they dive headfirst into straightforward punk. The riffs are intense, catchy and the vocals are competent enough for a genre not known for producing premiere singers. Had The Men been around when the Ramones and Sex Pistols were playing underground clubs, they could have been their contemporaries, or at least been a quality opening act that made waiting for the headliner more than bearable.

Surprisingly for a punk band, where The Men shines brightest is when they bring the tempo down and slowly but confidently build toward a climax. That’s not easy to say because they’re strikingly entertaining and in control when they’re running at a thousand miles an hour, but the slower tracks show off their creativity and ability to incorporate guitar effects into their songwriting instead of caking them on like makeup later.

In the primarily instrumental 13 minutes of “Country Song” and “Oscillation”, which were likely split up on the album for navigation purposes, every moment both successfully rambles like a Grateful Dead jam and builds a bubble of anticipation that feels like it might just pop at any second. Calling this suite a punk version of krautrock pioneers Neu! is no stretch because it both lives in the moment and makes you look forward to the next one.

Although comparisons to early punk icons are inevitable with new material in a genre that arguably peaked when those legends were still club-hopping — hell, I’ve made a few already — The Men achieve a freshness that the old-timers don’t always manage. The Men’s ability to steal elements from different genres while staying under the veil of punk serves as a tribute to where punk came from and how the genre can still be built upon without bastardizing it.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 299: Novos Baianos — Acabou Chorare (1970)

Posted on 13 August 2012.

People tend to be very set in their ways and fixed into their routines. One prejudice we can’t seem to rid ourselves of is this: all of the world’s good music is in English. It’s not unfair for us to think that: aside from the occasional tune that sneaks its way into the American and UK charts from some nether region, most everything we listen to is in our native language. But if you made a pie chart that included people who don’t speak English and people who make music, the overlap would both be large and include a bunch of talented folks.

While the history of music in America is well-chronicled and well-known, we forget that other nations are not immune to the same social and political revolutions caused by the power of song. Rock music took the US and UK over in the ’60s while in Brazil, a phenomenon known as Música Popular Brasileira — MPB for short — was bringing together the South American traditions of samba and bossa nova with folk and rock music to form something entire new and entirely great.

One of the leaders of this movement and most popular names in all of Brazilian music is Novos Baianos. Their second album, Acabou Chorare, in addition to being named the country’s best album of all time by Rolling Stone Brazil, is a beautiful collection of breezy, happy tunes that provide a perfect score to the heat wave that’s been hitting the US recently. The album definitely peaks early, but that’s only because the first two tracks are legendary songs in Brazil.

“Brazil Pandiero” starts off gently but swiftly, with midtempo acoustic guitar and thousand-mile-an-hour vocals that, while good, may be unsettling for those fearing a foreign “blah blah blah” fest. The singing quickly calms down, becoming more melodic and complimentary to the backing track. After repeated listens, this speed singing actually becomes one of the group’s appeal as you come to terms with the fact that Brazilian music doesn’t always share the same sensibilities as what we’re used to. Another trend they set early are big but tranquil choruses, typically featuring group vocals and soft, traditional Brazilian percussion.

When Novos Baianos play big venues across South America, the crowds always go nuts over the group’s signature song, “Preta, Pretinha.” The acoustic guitar is again the song’s bedrock, but the earwormiest element is the singing. The lyrics actually stick in your head, although they’re not in English, because the vocal melody is so catchy. The whole song builds to a gratifying climax at the end, but always takes time to stop along the way to smell the flowers, take in the scenery, introduce new instrumental elements and dig into some surprisingly great guitar solos.

The aforementioned “early peak” this album takes is less of a mountain and more of a molehill. This slice of Brazilian history has tons of other great moments in highlights like “Swing de Campo Grande,” which possesses much of the magic of the opening two tracks, and “Um Bilhete para Didi,” which has fingers-on-fire guitar solos the whole way through. While becoming legends to those of their homeland and music appreciators everywhere, Novos Baianos and their magnum opus album prove that the old saying that “music is a universal language” is more than some B.S. your elementary school band teacher used to say.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 306: Theodore Treehouse — Mercury: Closest to the Sun (2010)

Posted on 20 August 2012.

Aside from blueberries, lobster and Stephen King, Maine isn’t lauded for much on a national level, especially when it comes to music. Howie Day is from Bangor, the lead guitarist for Trivium was born in Dover-Foxcroft and the less important member of Karmin graduated from Old Town High School. That’s about it. Despite that, once you find your way past all the trees, the northeast corner of the country actually has a decent pool of talent.

One of the seriously good groups of Maine is Theodore Treehouse, based out of Portland. They primarily play shows and festivals in the New England area, but they’re a talented crew playing indie rock that’s sometimes psychedelic, occasionally anthemic and almost always full of energy. After gathering enough money via a Kickstarter page, the group took to the studio to record their debut album (and put it on their Bandcamp page) and the result was not a waste of their backers’ dollars.

The record starts off with “Maple Syrup Moon,” the album’s highlight and a huge shot of adrenaline. After a couple opening howls, the track rollercoasters between climaxes, carried primarily by upbeat, happy-sounding keyboards and vocals that shift between controlled and frantic. Throughout the album, there’s an energy that’s a perfect fit for a summer day (any time you feel like listening to good music). It’s hard to call this the sound of Maine, but if more of Vacationland’s bands thought the same way as Theodore Treehouse, maybe the state would be a bigger player in the music industry.

The biggest change of pace is “Intergalactic Space Travel (In Your Mind),” a trippy, rambling track that builds upon the opening bells and other ambient noise, introducing a rhythm section a few minutes in that gives the song a driving force. After accepting chanted vocals and other noise into the mix, it works up to a mini climax that maybe isn’t as big as it could have been, but in a track that’s as feel-oriented as this, going out with a bang might have seemed out of place.

It’s not always the good bands that get the big break, but in the Internet age, it’s easier for the little guys to get the word out to potential fans across the globe. That’s great for small Maine bands, who likely wouldn’t have that exposure otherwise. Now that Theodore Treehouse is getting some of the attention they deserve, they’re out to prove that there may be hotter things from Maine than Patrick Dempsey.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 313: Lymbyc Systym — Shutter Release (2009)

Posted on 27 August 2012.

Take a light, pretty guitar melody, gradually introduce the rhythm section, then slowly build into an anthemic climax, then take the tempo back down, do it a couple more times and boom: you have a post-rock song. That setup rings true more often than not every since Explosions in the Sky brought the genre to the forefront of instrumental rock around the time their music was used in Friday Night Lights.

Since then, tons of bands have ventured forward without a singer and tried their hand at getting a message across without saying a word. Most have been formulaic in their efforts, sounding like nothing more than an Explosions tribute band. There are some key exceptions, like Sigur Rós, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, This Will Destroy You (who Lymbyc System released a split EP, Field Studies, with in 2009) and a few others, all of whom have carved out their own post-rock niche and attracted imitators of their own.

Lymbyc System also deserves to be mentioned among this group. They defy post-rock conventions so much that it’s hard to even place them in that category. The way the songs are structured is definitely flowing and they take you on a journey, but the diverse instrumentation they take advantage of says something completely different than what other post-rock does.

Horns and electronic keyboards and noises play a big role in the album’s expression of emotion and shifts between sections. It’s hard to place an emotion on each track, though, because they’re displaying multiple ones at once and almost creating new ones with these combinations. The first two tracks, “Trichromatic” and “Ghost Clock,” are happy and upbeat at first listen, but you can’t help but feel a small sense of melancholy, even if you can barely notice it.

On this, their second album, Lymbyc Systym have taken a big stride forward, both in terms the development of themselves and the post-rock genre. They’ve definitely broken the mold, hopefully enough so its parts can’t be salvaged and used by other groups who are infatuated with Explosions in the Sky, because when bands strive for individuality like these guys have, great things can happen (and have happened on this album).

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 320: Darondo — Let My People Go (2006)

Posted on 03 September 2012.

How’s this for a back story: sometime in the 1970s, Darondo, real name William Pulliam and an alleged pimp, recorded three singles, played four concerts and after opening for James Brown one night, he hopped in his Rolls Royce and didn’t perform or record again. From then on, he spent his time traveling the world, worked in local television and was a physical therapist.

In “Most Interesting Man in the World” style, he didn’t just do these things: he did them hard. He collected rare artifacts during his globetrotting, he has been called the “king of Bay Area cable” and as a physical therapist, he inspired the immobile to walk again. As far as his music, he did that pretty darn well, too.

Those singles he recorded around 1972 and 1974, and a few other previously unreleased cuts, found their way onto a 9-track compilation in 2006, which essentially serves as Darondo’s only LP. The disc is both varied and very good.

The most funk-laden effort is the title track, a read head-bobber about the injustices done to the less wealthy. It’s hard to say how genuine this sentiment is, since Darondo has said he used to gamble thousands of dollars at a time and at one point, held “fifty or sixty thousand in hundred-dollar bills.” It’s easy to let that slide because his vocals, which have been described as a combination of Ronald Isley and Al Green, sound gorgeous atop his backing band’s funk rhythm.

Competing with this song for best on the album is “Didn’t I,” which was featured on a first season episode of Breaking Bad, which is likely how most people have heard of Darondo, since his music career never really took off. With songs like this, it’s a real shame he didn’t pursue it. “Didn’t I” seems to be Darondo asking himself what he did wrong after being left by a woman. At times, Darondo uses his voice to create an alternate rhythm to complement the backing track that ends up sounding very cool.

This collection of tunes is a great piece of “what if” history, but the tracks have the legs to stand on their own and get your body moving today. It’s a shame Darondo only saw music as a hobby, because who knows how far his career could have taken him. Still, his hobby has produced far better results than any train set or model airplane ever will.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 327: U2 — Boy (1980)

Posted on 10 September 2012.

What we sometimes forget about legendary groups is that they had humble beginnings. Well, except for Simon Cowell’s money machine projects, but that’s beside the point. Back in 1976, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. put a flyer on his school’s bulletin board, asking for musicians interested in joining a band. The three other members of what is now U2 showed up (along with guitarist The Edge’s older brother, but he soon left the group) and that was that.

The musical virtuosos quickly bonded as a group and started writing songs that were unbelievably catchy. Well, that’s not how it happened: The band has actually claimed they started to write their own songs because they weren’t good enough to play ones by the groups they liked. They all barely knew how to play their instruments and lead singer and now-global icon Bono was almost kicked out of the group because his bandmates thought his voice was bad.

Their early songs were simple and punk inspired, and in demo recordings, it’s more evident why they almost found a lead singer. But four years after the group’s creation, they released their debut album, Boy, which showed a tremendous improvement over their earliest days.

The U2 that plays on Boy is full of energy and pumping out punk with a melodic element not always made prevalent in the genre. Lead single “I Will Follow” shows that before The Edge because the master of reverb and atmosphere, he was a skilled riff-man who really knew how to give songs a real driving force.

Perhaps the most impressive song here is “An Cat Dubh” and “Into The Heart,” which is one composition spread across two tracks. It’s hard to call it the best on this album, because in U2’s storied career, this, their first effort, might be their most consistent record. Regardless, it’s the most adventurous track on this album and amongst the top in U2′s discography. After a rowdy first section, a bass-driven bridge between the two sections serves as probably the earliest preview of The Edge’s expressive guitar playing and his ability to build a song into a grand climax.

Since they’ve released Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree, it’s extremely hard to call this their best album, but I might call it my favorite. You might say Boy serves as a preview of what was to come, but I like to think if they had stopped after this album, U2 would be considered one of the great “what-if” groups of all time.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 334: Jack Rose — Red Horse, White Mule (2002)

Posted on 17 September 2012.

Back in the 60s, while Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel were busy banging out beautiful folk tunes on their acoustic guitars, there was an alternative movement happening that unlocked the potential of the instrument and took it in a completely different direction.

Although known as American Primitivism, the name is a real misnomer because there is nothing primitive about it. In fact, American Primitive Guitar — as it’s also known — is instrumental acoustic guitar music compositionally influenced by classical music. The heroes of the genre, like John Fahey and Leo Kottke, turned whatever parts of the world were listening on their heads as the expanded the acoustic guitar into something greater than it already was.

Fast forward to today and a lot of acoustic guitar players know the chords to love songs and clumsily play simple tunes to coax women into their bedrooms. That’s a bold generalization that fails to include a bunch of modern guitarists, like Jack Rose.

Rose, who tragically died of a heart attack in late 2009, drew from the work of Fahey and Kottke to create his unique brand. Music without words is hard to describe with words, so I won’t try. What I suggest you do is listen to “Red Horse,” the 15-minute track that takes up half of the album.

The track is like a more traditional Jim O’Rourke — it still shifts between diverse sections all the while progressing towards a greater purpose, but he does it solely with acoustic guitar. Listening to the song, it’s shocking to think that what you’re hearing is being played on a single acoustic guitar.

The rest of the album is similarly good, but to be frank, the primary reason for checking out Red Horse, White Mule is for the aforementioned highlight. It’s one of those pieces that can change the way you look at music, like a gateway song that opens you up to fascinating the world of avante-garde instrumental music.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 341: Buckethead — Shadows Between the Sky (2010)

Posted on 24 September 2012.

When musicians are too eccentric, the talent they may have gets overshadowed or overlooked. This is the case for those not familiar with Buckethead, the oddball guitar virtuoso wears — as his name suggests — a bucket on his head when in public and claims to have been raised by chickens. His back story is more interesting than most of his peers’ music.

Due to his technical skill, Buckethead is mainly lauded for his technical, mathy speed guitar playing, but his skill doesn’t lie solely in his lightning fingers. He also has a great sense of melody and atmosphere, which he showed in a few albums, including Shadows Between the Sky.

I was in Bullmoose, a regional New England record store, heard the album playing over the speakers and was intrigued, figuring it was something by a light post-rock band à la Explosions in the Sky. My preconceived notions of Buckethead were shattered when an employee told me it was by him.

“Shadows Between the Sky” differs from post-rock not in sound, but structure. Instead of working towards some sort of climax, “Shadows” tends to meander around and explore the environment it created. Because of the fairly free atmosphere, there’s a certain level of ambience that you don’t get with post-rock.

You’d think that after 27 albums, Buckethead would run out of steam, but it seems that he doesn’t lose motivation over time, but uses every album to explore new sonic and stylistic ground. “Shadows Between the Sky” had a low-key release through a small website that was enough to get it to the fans, but not enough to get the mass attention it deserves.

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 348: Buggles — The Age of Plastic (1980)

Posted on 01 October 2012.

Having one huge song can be both a nightmare and a curse. The Buggles saw popularity for a time with “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but after other failed singles and after its two members abandoned the monicker and worked on other projects, The Buggles cemented their place as a one-hit wonder.

And that’s the curse: not being taken seriously beyond their one big song because somebody decided to call them a one-hit wonder. That word is both a badge of honor and a scarlet letter, which is a real shame because The Buggles’ debut album, The Age of Plastic, is actually kind of awesome.

Before you start taking this album too seriously, don’t: It’s a huge product of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Synthesizers were hitting the scene and The Buggles were one of the first groups to embrace the technology in a big way. With the historical context in mind, musically, The Age of Plastic is engaging, adventurous and fun.

Let’s get this out of the way: the big single from this album is “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The video for the song was the first one to play on MTV. Now let’s push that aside and look at the song: it’s good. It’s emotional, catchy, quirky and great in the context of the album. Yes, the album is more than this song.

Actually, “Living in the Plastic Age” might be the highlight. It falls somewhere between Queen, ELO and a pair of leg warmers atop neon leggings. It’s driving, suspenseful, melancholic, happy, serene and a bunch of other contradiction, and you have to love (or hate) the lyrics: “they’ll send the heart police to put you under cardiac arrest.”

If you’re still reading, there’s no way you’re taking me seriously because of what this album’s defining song is: an artifact of one of music’s kookiest decades that’s a bit of a joke. It sounds crazy, I know, but this album is really, really good. As Jeri Montesano wrote in a review of the album for Allmusic, “pop rarely reaches these heights.”

— Derrick R.

Year 3, Day 355: Bobby Vinton — Bobby Vinton’s Greatest Hits (1964)

Posted on 08 October 2012.

Although the influence of ’60s artists like The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel is still heard loudly and proudly today, much of the pop music of the early part of that decade, which is now referred to as “classic” or “vocal” pop, seems to have fallen into antiquity. When you hear something like Dion and the Belmonts, it’s hard not to think about Danny Zuko bouncing around high school bleachers, his greased-up pals getting the scoop on this really swell gal he spent the summer with. That’s not our fault, though — unlike the Beatles, whose sound has lived on, classic pop was left behind with the ’60s, so it’s too closely associated with the decade that produced it to think of it in any other context.

If you manage to get those preconceived notions out of your head, though, it becomes clear that classic pop is musically viable today. Tennis’ 2012 album Young & Old recognized the brilliance of classic pop and built off it for an excellent album. That album is what led me to look into ’60s pop and Bobby Vinton, whose hit, “Mr. Lonely,” is one of the enduring classics of the era.

Bobby Vinton’s Greatest Hits is a solid representation of Vinton’s output from 1962 to 1964. When exploring an artist for a first time, the seemingly obvious move is to seek out a “best of” album, but more often than not, compilations represent the commercial side of an artist and leaves out less popular cuts that are significant to their identity. In the early ’60s, albums were just starting to become more important than singles, though, so compilations were more representative, and Bobby Vinton’s Greatest Hits serves as a fine introduction and catalog of Vinton at his best.

There’s a reason “Mr. Lonely” is his most popular song: it’s awesome. It’s emotional, evocative and vocally fantastic. Vinton sings with a clear timbre that varies in tone and feeling. His falsetto when he sings about being a lonely soldier is one of the best recorded vocal moments of the past 50 years.

I won’t say what the other best songs are because, aside from “Mr. Lonely,” it’s more fun to go into this album without expectations. Ignoring expectations are what led me to this record in the first place, so it’s only natural to continue that behavior in experiencing it.

— Derrick R.

Favorite Closing Tracks

Posted on 20 October 2012.

I’ve only been writing for this site since late July of this year, so I was bummed in a major way when Charles, the man behind the madness of 365 Albums a Year, told me it was coming to an end.

I got to write about music regularly and have it read by a decent audience. I got to tell people about great albums they may not have heard before by Darondo, Youth Lagoon and others. Most excitingly for me, I got to have a fantastic, half hour phone conversation with Jared Bell, one half of Lymbyc Systym, a favorite band of mine.

365 Albums a Year offers something that few other sites I’ve seen do: not professional album reviews written by hipster snobs who look down on popularity or old-timers who give five star write-ups to anything by rock’s founding fathers, but recommendations by a few relatable, amateur writers suggesting that you check out some cool records, regardless of their genre or preconceived notions. Still, like Vanilla Ice’s career, the Roman Empire and Oreo O’s cereal, all good things must come to an end, albums included. Since this site is closing its doors, I decided to write my farewell by picking out some of my favorite songs that closed the doors of their respective albums.

The Doors — “Five to One,” “Riders on the Storm,” “The End,” “When the Music’s Over” (1966–1970)

I’m sorry for cheating on the first item, but looking through my music library, it was clear to me that The Doors are the Mariano Rivera of closing things out. It’s arguable that each of these songs are the best ones on their albums, but their music was so varied, exciting and consistent that they could afford to save the best for last because the ride they took and still take listeners on has them salivating for whatever’s next.

The last three songs take the cool down approach, like a light jog after a hard sprint. They’re all significantly longer than any other track on their album — save for “Riders” — so while they’re musically similar, but they last as long as you wish the rest of them would. “Five to One,” on the other hand, does the exact opposite by ramping up the intensity for the home stretch. It’s the song closest to the band’s harder roots on an increasingly psychedelic and poppy album, serving as a bridge between The Doors from their self-titled debut and The Doors from L.A. Woman.

Weezer — “Only In Dreams” (1994)

While their self-titled debut, known as The Blue Album, established Weezer as a viable alternative rock/punk group, “Only In Dreams” showed they could take their energy and put it into something more musically ambitious and awesome. The bass-propelled track carries on in standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus format, the verses defined by minimal instrumentation and quiet vocals and the chorus an adrenaline shot of crunchy and a wailing Rivers Cuomo. But where the song is the most exciting is in the quietest section of all, when it dissolves with about 3 minutes left. From there, starting with the simple bass line and drum rhythm, guitar noodlings create a level of anticipation probably felt only by Columbus on his voyage to America until it lets loose and shows how a quirky alternative group can write a piece of music as thrilling as anything in the iTunes store.

My Morning Jacket — “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2″ (2008)

An album as diverse as Evil Urges is hard to summarize it in a single song. It’s even harder to finish it with a single song because you both want the final minutes to be representative of the album, be distinguishable from the rest of the album and just be a sweet tune. “Touch Me” is a midtempo, 8-minute jam that has a driving drum beat, an omnichord and prominent falsetto. The unpredictable nature of the album enhances this song, providing a sense that it can go just about anywhere, and it goes everywhere. It’s a danceable tune, it’s a secluded head-bobber, it’s a meditative thinker. “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2″ hits that rare sweet spot where it fits any environment, situation or mood, which is exactly what an eclectic album like this needs to conclude with.

U2 — “The Wanderer” (1993)

To conclude my final article about final songs, I chose a song from my first favorite band. I fell in love with U2 in middle school after watching their on-stage energy in a live DVD. I later explored the rest of their material and originally overlooked their Zooropa album because it was alternative and really different from their arena rock staples I had started with. As my musical palette became more sophisticated, I came back to the album and loved its variety and the fact that it still sounded like U2.

At the end of the genre-surfing roller coaster that is Zooropa lies one last surprise: Johnny Cash. In his distinctive baritone, Cash describes trying to find God a post-apocalyptic wasteland over what is honestly one of the more subpar instrumentals of the album. With Cash, though, the emotion and real value has always been in bassy vocal comfort and storytelling. If the music was overstated, it could have tried competing with Cash’s vocals, which is an uphill battle, so it’s probably better most of the burden is left with Cash. The minimalist nature of the song and the environment Cash describes provides a desolate ambience that is a relief from the sensory overload experienced during the rest of Zooropa.

— Derrick R.

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Uproxx, Nerdist, and others. http://derrickrossignol.com

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