Safe Bets
by Rusty W. Spell

The following is not a list of my absolute favorite albums (though some are), but instead is a list of a dozen albums that I feel almost any music fan will like. You might be some dork that only downloads albums from Kazaa... Or that dork's mom... Or some old fart that likes to say that no one makes good music anymore... Or me, a guy with a very narrow taste in music... Doesn't matter who you are, I say you're bound to like these. Can't go wrong.

1. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds -- Maybe you'll enjoy the complex arrangements, maybe you'll find some spiritual meaning, or maybe you'll just dig the candy. Maybe all three.

2. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- Almost any Beatles album might fit in this list, since they mastered the magic of making art that was also popular. I guess I picked this one because it was the obvious choice.

3. Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress -- The newest album on this list, these songs seem to me pretty undeniable. Some of their older material might be too lo-fi or dreamy or precious or any number of things people could be turned off by (though I've liked everything), but I can foresee no complaints here.

4. The B-52's: Cosmic Thing -- Still goofy and kitchy like all the B-52's stuff, but in a way that you don't really have to "get." Every song is better than "Love Shack," a good song to begin with.

5. Fine Young Cannibals: The Raw and the Cooked -- Pretty big in its day, and for good reason. People who have only heard "She Drives Me Crazy" blared at them for the past fifteen years (still a good song, even if overplayed) will be surprised to see that the rest of the album is equally as good or better. Irresistible blue-eyed soul.

6. James Iha: Let It Come Down -- The Smashing Pumpkins might not be for everyone (they're not for me), but this guy probably is. Completely sincere, well-produced, well-sung, well-written love songs that will melt the most ironic and cynical among us.

7. Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy -- Led Zeppelin took away most (not all, of course) of the true-blues, Lord of the Ring references, long solos, and overall creepiness to produce this fun little record. That's not to say it's void or cheesy. It's still everything that makes Led Zeppelin great, but in a way that allows for songs like "D'yer Mak'er."

8. The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs -- Sure it's 69 songs over three discs, and sure it's by a guy who primarily appeals to indie rock listeners, but that's not Stephin Merritt's fault. Almost anyone who listens to this will discover--let's say--at least 45 song they love (I love all 69). I don't recommend all Magnetic Fields albums, but here Merritt is working in the genre of twentieth century American music, so if you don't like this, I guess you don't like twentieth century American music.

9. Prince and the Revolution: Purple Rain -- I doubt even Tipper Gore is offended by the lyrics anymore, so there's nothing to prevent everyone and their grandmothers from enjoying this masterpiece.

10. R.E.M.: Automatic for the People -- People who don't like R.E.M. like this album. People who do like R.E.M. like this album too. You are one or the other.

11. Run-DMC: Raising Hell -- It's risky to put any rap album on this list, but at this point in musical history, rap fans will of course dig Run-DMC while non-rap fans will like it compared to modern rap ("Oh, well I like this kind of rap"). Try to make it through "Peter Piper" without feeling jiggy and get back to me.

12. Weezer: Weezer -- You don't have to be a second generation tween to like this album (some of us first generationers are still around). The secret is to simply adjust the volume until the music sounds good. If it's too loud, turn it down.

There. If these aren't in your collections, go get them. Many are in used CD stores, so you have no excuse.

Copyright 4 Nov 2003 We Like Media.
You may email Rusty W. Spell.