Pitchfork who? We exceptionally introduce an album grading system to Revolver, presenting to you 10 classic albums that should be a 10/10.
What’s your 10?
Frank Ocean – Blonde (2016)
By Nehme Hamade
Frank Ocean’s Blonde came out around the summer of 2016. I had been living alone for a year and things had become very different from when I graduated from university. I was reevaluating what different relationships meant, chiefly friendships and romantic partnerships. I was learning about the dynamics of the workplace (as soul crushing as that sounds). Most of my friends were just busy with their lives so everything felt rushed and disconnected. Things became mechanical and I was wrestling with restrained feelings of missing home. Then Blonde came out and I pressed play.
Blonde has since become either one of two things: a mind boggling experience or just background noise. But regardless of what the situation is, I always leave with something new. It mainly comes from Frank Ocean’s lyrics and the delivery. They offer an intimate look into his mind; I’ve never felt that exposed to someone’s thoughts before. It’s like a sonic diary. His stream of consciousness approach is key to why the album can be so divisive: people either love it or hate it. Some fans look back to his first album as his best, but I disagree. channel ORANGE to me always felt like the last summer. Everyone has a last summer – the last summer before college or the last summer before setting out for a new life. Life as you know it is ending but the horizon is in that sweet hue of sunset that you just can’t ignore. Things are fixed and the most lopsided the world could get is when someone just isn’t that into you or your friend leaves the party before you do. Blonde is life after that. You grew up and that last summer is just another memory for you to look back on; a simpler time where things sort of fell in the right place. After that time, our understanding of how our thoughts and actions can affect others begins to crystalize. We begin to grapple with the idea that love is something you work hard for and not just a feeling. We understand that sometimes what others mark as success isn’t what success can mean to you. We see sides of ourselves that we want to embrace but are just too afraid to. The most comforting thing about all of it is that maybe everyone can be feeling this. And Frank Ocean’s lyrics encapsulate that process of trying to figure out those answers we need.
To me, this album is best consumed as it is – an album. You don’t know where one song starts and the other begins and the strength of each song relies on the one before and after it. You fall through this playground Ocean builds steadily across the project. From every choice of chord to the type of instrument used, I always feel like my immediate environment expands tenfold. Everything is given its distance, but I could still see every detail. I could contemplate what I thought of the world by tuning into Ocean’s thoughts: his musings on mortality, love, technology and nostalgia. This album runs on the addictive, slow burning kindling of nostalgia. From old voice mails to sound bites of scratchy video recordings, Frank Ocean looks to the past for comfort and meaning for what lies ahead. He despises the hyper-connectivity of the modern world and steeps himself in the physical one. He explores his failed relationships, his loneliness and his status. He also reconciles these feelings with empowering insights on the meaning of his own life, the true power of his love and taking pride in how far he has come. In many ways, I felt like Frank Ocean– and continue to feel that way till today.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (2016)
By Rani Nasr
This album stands a bit unnoticed like a middle son in Nick Cave’s discography. It is a follow-up to Push The Sky Away, which defined a new tone in the band’s sound, infusing electronica and ambient into their heavy post-punk style. Halfway during the recording of this album, Nick’s son died falling from a cliff while on an LSD trip. The accident deeply changed the essence of the album midway through its formation. At first, you can sense the sound carried on from Push the Sky Away. Then however, the emotion descends into an improvised conversation with the devil. Every track on this record is unsettling, unstructured and uncomfortable, yet deeply poetic and composed. It is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Arcade Fire – Funeral (2003)
By Akram Moussa
An album who is a 10 should have only songs that are also 10s. While that is the case here, Funeral is much more and should be listened with a whole context.
The four “Neighborhood” songs give the pulse of the album, with ‘Tunnels’ being a standout, beautiful song -a lot of the time, a fans favorite; and ‘Laika’, showcasing their raw production; ‘Power Out’ being one of the best rock songs on record, but especially live; and ‘7 Kettles’ showing that they can also do great calmer songs. In between those, ‘Une Année sans Lumière’ is the perfect bridge between the two neighborhood songs, and ends in a crazy outro like Arcade Fire knows how to do them.
The second part of Funeral is as good, if not better: ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Rebellion (Lies) are perfect indie and festival anthems. ‘Crown of Love’ takes from all: calm and intensity. And finally, Regine is at her best and most vulnerable on ‘Haiti’ and ‘In The Backseat’, singing about her never-born cousins and deceased mother. The latter closes the album perfectly, everything exploding in a symphony.
Arcade Fire is the perfect festival band, and Funeral has the best songs to make a crowd dance. The endings of ‘Tunnels’, ‘Une Année sans Lumière’ and ‘Crown of Love’ are made to jump, with an acceleration in the tempo. ‘Tunnels’ and ‘Wake Up’ are the best for singalongs, and Pitchfork explains it perfectly in this article: Arcade Fire’s Funeral and the Legacy of the “WHOA-OH”: ”But among the current crop of post-Funeral phenoms, such exclamatory outbursts are no longer just vocal punctuation for those moments when words can no longer express the emotions coursing through a song; in many cases, they are the song, the starting point around which all other compositional elements rally.”
After the release of the album, David Bowie invited them to tour with him and they became friends. He even sang on ‘Reflektor’ years later. He recognized the talent of the Canadian indie-rock band and they proved him right with their next releases.
So you got it, each song is beautiful, and as an album it’s great, But even better: the placing of the songs is perfect. Energy and calm, Win and Regine, many, many instruments. The most beautiful songs in the world are melancholic. While making the album, each member of Arcade Fire went through grief. That’s why they called the album Funeral. And that’s probably why the album was so good. This situation made the album very sincere, which is accentuated by the fact that there are some lyrics in French. The band stayed themselves and gave everything. Music is emotion, and Arcade Fire are here to make you smile and cry.
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
Although I have listened to this album countless times and know each word like the back of my hand, I always find something new that hits home with every revisit. With themes of lost love, lost self, solitude, regret and revenge, Blood on the Tracks tells the story of Dylan’s own struggles as he comes to grips with his marriage dissolution.
Although very personal, he manages to detach from his own self to deliver sentiments familiar to us all. It is raw, honest, pure, and rooted in so much pain that it cuts to the heart of the human experience like only a few albums do.
Blood on the tracks is commonly referred to as the ultimate break-up album, and while this is probably true, this description somehow limits the range of the songs. Each piece on Blood on the Tracks is at once familiar and foreign, simple and complex, painful and comforting. At times, the stylistic nuances of vocal performances are so exaggerated that you feel he can’t be singing about himself. Other times the words are so natural and honest that he can’t be singing about anyone else. It is the perfect combination of writing, performance and mood, that keeps you on your toes at every turn.
Blood on the tracks might not be an easy listen. It is painful and brutal, but the title told us that.
It will forever float into space, travel through time, and grow richer with each passing year.
As Dylan puts it best: “In this album you’ve got yesterday, today, and tomorrow all in the same room.”
Ott – Mir (2011)
Mir is a psy-dub masterpiece of an album. It’s one of the first psychedelic albums I’ve ever listened to, and it got me into the psychedelic music genre. Since then, I’ve been introduced to several albums of this genre, but Mir remains tmy all-time favorite: my go-to album. I play it in literally any circumstance – it fits all moods. If I’m angry, it chills me out. If I’m happy, it makes me dance. If I’m working out, I can go on for hours without acknowledging pain. If I’m at work, under pressure, I’m happily productive. Every track of this album is magical, and to me, somehow, the progression of the music tells my life story. The combination of every element and every sound makes this album a masterpiece. If you’re into chill-out psychedelic music, give it a listen. Mir is definitely a 10 in my books.
Manu Chao – Clandestino (1998)/Esperanza (2001)
I give Manu Chao’s album Clandestino a 10/10 for one main reason: at every stage of my life I’ve come back to one song of his. [But before I tell you why, I must deconstruct the term ’10 out of 10’ and say that I will bend the rules here a bit by mentioning songs from the album that follows Clandestino, Esperanza. I believe Esperanza could have been the ‘Side B’ of Clandestino, and it’s a literal 10 out 10 album that was birthed from a 10.]
It all started with my first encounter of Manu Chao’s ‘Me Gustas Tu’ in 2001. I was about seven years old, and I loved this song, because I thought he was saying ‘My Taztooz’ (Arabic for tuchy), it was funny, and unusual.
My teenage years, and earning how to love: I was reeled back into Manu Chao with ‘La Vie A 2’, “Pourquoi, pourquoi, même quand les gens s’aiment, Il y a, il y a, toujours des problèmes?”
You reach your 20s and shit starts to get real. You lose your innocence and you’re back to singing ‘Mentira’. “Todo es mentira en este mundo, la mentira’ – It was all a lie…everything was a lie.”
You gain some experience and you realize you’ve been blessed with being a politically charged Arab. Nothing screams the doom of our region but ‘Denia’. Sung in Algerian Arabic “Miskeenah el Jazair, albi yedtab lemin shafik”.
I’ve only mentioned three songs and Manu Chao has already sung them in four different languages. He combines the best of all instruments and bombards them into every beat like you’re in the middle of a rowdy carnival. Manu Chao sings in hope to change the world. But as much as he’s been genre-fied as ‘World Music’, every time I hear his music, I feel right at home.
To end it, I’ll leave you with my final favorite: ‘Mr.Bobby’. “Mr. Bobby, sing something good to me, this world will go crazy, it’s an emergency”. If anyone sang it as good as Bob Marley, I would say, Mr. Manu Chao, you’ve managed that for me.
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
By Edwin Harb
“Sound of Silver” is raw. Raw, crisp and silver. James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) made it clear on his sophomore album that he doesn’t give a shit about making hits. He has confessed that he preferred to take a more personal approach recording Sound of Silver rather than having the band making his ideas “too watered down, too democratic” and this is incredibly obvious here. The idea was to make an emotional album that sounds more “silver” than the previous woody/beige record, so he covered the entire studio in tin foil and silver fabric, and well, it worked wonders. Murphy’s longtime therapist that has been credited for getting him back into making music passed away just months before the making of the record and this drove James to feel suicidal during the recordings. He later decided to dedicate it to his dear departed therapist and friend, and wrote the very poignant track (and personal favorite) “Someone Great” as a praise to him. “Sound of Silver” is sentimental, punk, puissant, dance-y, and 10/10.
Emancipator – Baralku
Baralku is the fifth studio album by American DJ Emancipator. Named after the island that indigenous Australian people believe the dead claim as their spiritual home, Baralku continues Emancipator’s tradition of synthesizing edit-binded shards of world music with his classical training and love for hip-hop. For him, “To release a song is both a death and a birth at the same time. The sounds contained in each song have reached the end of their life process. The once shape-shifting collage of expression has been crystallized into a final form, no longer kinetic. Yet it exists in a state of permanent potential energy, waiting to be accessed in the form of music, just as the memory of a departed soul will always have the power to move us.”
Few artists manifest parallelable beauty or nail the longevity of a song like his work does. Baralku serves as a reminder that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and that life’s grand mystique is all a part of the blissful process.
Each new Emancipator release serves as a communicable feast for listeners to join him in devouring, and after a long few winters of hibernation from the prodigious talent, a new release would be nearly impossible to resist indulging in.
The Bunny Tylers – Chance Meetings
By Yara Mrad
Giving any album a 10 seems like mission impossible for me because I’m not really an album person.
I listened to The Bunny Tylers’ album Chance Meetings so many times that every melody and every word got stuck to the inner corners of my head with superglue. I could listen to it on repeat for days on end—which, I’m not gonna lie, has happened several times. Here’s my attempt explaining why this album is a 10.
To really enjoy listening to music is to feel immersed in the song you’re listening to, one beat at a time, one word at a time. A good songwriter knows how to make you form a connection with it even if it doesn’t necessarily talk about a relatable topic. You can imagine how hard that is to accomplish. What’s an even bigger challenge is keeping the listener entertained and interested throughout a whole album.
Chance Meetings is a 10-track album that merges Charbel Haber’s poetic lyricism and Fadi Tabbal’s dreamy melodies that carry a lot of depth both sonically and emotionally. Haber’s vocals are loaded with feelings, often ones of pain, agony and heartbreak, making it nearly impossible not to want to decipher every line as soon as he finishes breathing it out into the song.
The diversity between instrumental and lyrical is very satisfying and on-point, as one really does need a break from words between songs to absorb and make sense of what has been experienced, in anticipation of the sounds yet to come.
The track titles themselves give someone with a love for words, like me, a great amount of intrigue and satisfaction. It really is a bold move for the band to start their album with a track titled “While We Danced I Dreamt Of Being A Serial Killer” but its overall atmosphere really does set the mood for the heaviness that awaits.
“I’ll Make It Up To You” kicks things up a notch with a somewhat faster pace. We hear Haber’s voice as if a bit far into the distance, giving life to an interesting combination of words over layers of beats and melodies that make you want to either get up and jump/dance or just shake your head, if you’re too lazy.
Time to answer that nature call (not really) with “A Sunset Is Another Sunrise”, a title that seems to be oozing of optimism, only for Haber’s voice to take you to a dim and gloomy world where nobody makes it.
The last thing I’m going to leave you with is my absolute favorite The Bunny Tylers song: “It Seems It All Disappears”. Listening to it just makes me feel at peace, especially after watching the music video. There’s so much to it, or at least that’s what I make of it, that just makes it one of these songs that pain you while drawing a smile on your face. Needless to say, I got it inked on my skin, forever, to commemorate the deep connection I managed to form with it. If that commitment doesn’t spike your interest enough for you to listen to the album, or at least the song, then I don’t know what will.
I believe that Chance Meetings ticks all the boxes that make an album a 10. From the music composition to the arrangements and the carefully-assembled words, the album is an exciting journey from beginning to end. Chance Meetings is a remarkable album of high standards that make it worth exploring by any and all listeners across the globe.
The Ramones – Ramones (1976)
Why the love for this album? It summed up my teenage and rebellion years (No, I was never tempted to sniff glue)! It is fast, it is angry, and most of all I personally believe that the album, despite being one of the cornerstones of Punk music, was written as a joke that unfortunately not everyone understood. I could never take this album seriously when it comes to the lyrics. If you really really listen, you will notice that it’s just a bunch of dudes, acting like buffoons, singing absurdly while defining and creating punk rock in that album specifically. The recording is bad, the album is fast (it can drain you while listening to it) most of the lyrics are stupid, which explains why they never got the proper radio coverage, but you will be surprised with one love song, ”I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, it is gorgeous, and it fit perfectly my rebellion years mixed with love searching (or hormones playing up). Give it a shot, this is literally the beginning of Punk Rock as we know it today.