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Modern classics worth a listen

By Scott E Hall
On April 21, 2014

I have not written anything too positive about modern music. The last positive article I wrote was about a band who hasn’t recorded anything since 1998. You all ought to know that I love modern music and listen to new releases as often as possible. There is tons of new music out there I enjoy. I already have an “end-of-year” list developing for my favorite albums of 2014. Sun Kil Moon’s “Benji” in particular has already been growing on me, even to the point that it might join the league of modern classics.

What is a modern classic, you ask? Some albums may die on you over time. Modern classics are recent releases that are enjoyed to the point where they can never die. They’re arguably “perfect.” I have a good list of about 20 albums from this new decade that I feel to be important releases. For the sake of article length, I shall condense. In no particular order, here’s the best of the best: the modern classics.

— “This Is Happening,” LCD Soundsystem, 2010
This is what fun sounds like. James Murphy recorded “All My Friends,” my personal favorite song ever, back in 2007. I figured his band could only digress from there, but they simply plateaued at the mountain’s peak. “This Is Happening” is kinky, colorful dance record anybody can enjoy. As for music historians like myself, hearing this blend of ’70s experimental influences is ear candy. The songs are lengthy, dynamic, carefully structured and lyrically golden. Try “Dance Yrself Clean.”

— “Kaputt,” Destroyer, 2011
Dan Bejar has always written lyrics that are — um — weird. On “Kaputt,” we get his unexpected emotional side. We hear him sing “I want you to love me” like it’s a math equation and “Your Jesuit profile will suit the upcoming apocalypse” on the verge of tears. Yet the music is the best part. It’s the amplified sounds of ’80s soft rock and disco, blended with electronica and smooth jazz, brass instruments included. Try the album’s title track.

— “Modern Vampires of the City,” Vampire Weekend, 2013
Yes, Ezra Koenig has perfect hair. Unfortunately ladies, he’s not in it for the girls. “Modern Vampires” is an album about rediscovering yourself as a full-grown adult. Koenig goes over girls he dated 10 years ago, fear of death, his love for New York and his current relationship with God. The album sounds like it was recorded in an old cathedral. Vampire Weekend has always been bright, cheeky and fun. “Modern Vampires” is murky, mature and mischievous. Try “Step.”

— “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye West, 2010
I hate Kanye West. However, the guy’s music is pretty darn good. I’ve heard lots of big albums in my time. “Twisted Fantasy” is huge. Long winded, perhaps, but thematic and energetic. The album has a lot of star power and loud production, but somehow it comes off as bleak and personal. Try “POWER,” a song worthy of its all-caps title.

— “Bon Iver,” Bon Iver, 2011
Some people find Bon Iver boring. Remember the words of Russell from Disney’s “Up”: “I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember most.” This album is a step into a new — and sometimes boring — world, buried under snow. Listen for the hidden sounds of crackling ice throughout the album. Justin Vernon’s voice has become one of the most distinct of this generation: full of soul, yet with an impressively broad vocabulary. Try “Holocene.”

— “Teen Dream,” Beach House, 2010
Did I say these were listed in no order? These last two are my two favorites. Beach House is often classified as “dream pop.” Front-to-back, track-by-track, “Teen Dream” is the soundtrack of a vivid, emotionally draining dream. Victoria Legrand’s voice is full of mystery and raw passion. It tries to break through the album’s smoky production, hitting every note possible and singing basic words slowly and mystically. The shoegaze guitars and colorful percussion give life to the slowness of the songs. Try “Silver Soul.”

— “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” Kendrick Lamar, 2012
Speaking of “Silver Soul,” Kendrick Lamar would sample that song for his track “Money Trees” two years later. People, I adore this album. Its tracks abridged by answering machine messages, the album tells a story of a day in the life of Kendrick at age 17, borrowing his mom’s van to roll out with some homies in the ghetto of Compton. It goes to dark places. It goes to fun places. It’s possibly the most personal rap album ever made. Each track is a surprising experimental curveball yet still manages to sound like classic West Coast hip-hop. Try “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”

Scott Hall is a newcomer to the world of journalism. He is studying public relations and stage management at USU. His spare time is dedicated to music. For more, email scottehall3@gmail.com.

By Scott E

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