Posts Tagged ‘ sam phillips ’

filed under: Music |

Thirty Albums You Don’t Love (But Really Ought To)

1PM ON 15/12/2009
BY Matthew Lawrence

Now that the 00’s are wrapping up, people are writing Best Albums Of The Decade lists like crazy, and I almost added my top albums list to that lengthy pile.  But then I thought there was no point explaining the greatness of MIA or Radiohead or Antony and the Johnsons or The Knife, when anyone who might evern remotely care probably either loves or hates them all already.

I decided instead to base my list around a bunch of albums that probably very few of you love.  You may have never heard of them, you may have heard terrible things about them, or maybe they were just overshadowed by other things that the artists did either before or after.  The list is a top 30, because I listed all the albums I thought would qualify and came up with 31.  I rounded down.  (Sorry, Handsome Furs!)

I’ll be presenting this list in three installments, because it’s kind of long. As always, I’d like to make my disclaimer that this list reflects what I myself listen to; I’m sure that someone else could–and should–make lists of neglected metal, gospel, or country records.  But this list is pretty pop-oriented.  That’s just how it is.

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filed under: Music |

#6. Don’t Do Anything (Besides Run Out And Buy This Album)

3PM ON 10/12/2008
BY Matthew Lawrence

(Between now and Friday I’m counting down the list of my 20 favorite albums of 2008. Obviously I didn’t hear every album that came out–although I did hear quite a lot of them–and obviously personal taste factors into this quite a bit, so I can tell you now that if you’re looking for gospel or metal recommendations this isn’t the list for you. But let’s not squabble, let’s just appreciate all the nice music that folks are making. I’ll be posting about two albums a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, from now until Friday. Although yes, now I’m behind. Damn it anyway.)

Sam Phillips
Don’t Do Anything
Nonesuch Records

At forty-six, Sam Phillips can look back on a pretty weird career.  She broke out in the early eighties as, essentially, the Christian Cyndi Lauper.  Then she changed her name to Sam and gave up on the Christian thing, releasing the (very excellent) Indescribable Wow album in 1989 with the help of Van Dyke Parks and her husband, T-Bone Burnett.

Over the following fifteen years, she had a minor commercial breakthrough (when the whole female singer-songwriter thing was happening) and then lapsed back into relative obscurity, though she did appear in Die Hard With A Vengeance, of all things.  And had something to do with Gilmore Girls, too, although I’m not sure what because that show confuses me.

In 2004 Phillips divorced Burnett. She produced Don’t Do Anything herself, a first, and it would be easy to call this a “divorce record.” Admittedly, the album does start with the line “I thought if he understood he wouldn’t treat me this way,” and describes all kinds of uncomfortable relationships over its twelve songs. But Phillips’ songs have always been about heartbreak and awkwardness, so lyrically I’m not sure that Don’t Do Anything is any different than her nineties almost-hits I Need Love and Baby I Can’t Please You.

The guitars are rumbly and dissonant now and Phillips sounds resigned to sadness; but like Elvis Costello or Aimee Mann, Phillips wraps her sadness in great pop melodies and gives you the feeling that she’s not quite as helpless as she sounds. But unlike Costello or Mann, she doesn’t wrap her feelings up in puns and weird musical concepts and kooky rhymes. This is a straightforward rock record with straightforward songwriting. And while that’s probably not the road to commercial success*, it does make for a great album.

Watch!  Sam Phillips, Don’t Do Anything

[*It spent two weeks on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and Amazon currently ranks it #10,150 in album sales.]



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