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41 minutes | Sep 29, 2021
Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
Almost out of nowhere, Alabama Shakes' 2015 album "Sound & Color" took the music world by storm. Fueled by Brittany Howard's Janice-meets-Aretha soulful treatise on love, loss and longing, "Sound & Color" brings together blues, rock, soul, R&B, Southern rock -- and so much more. And the world was here for it all. Fueled by the gritty and thumping "Don't Wanna Fight," the album was loved by music fans and music critics at the same time -- a novelty, for sure. It would go on to be nominated for six Grammys, including Album of the Year. "Don't Wanna Fight" would take home the Grammy for both Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. But like the rest of the album, it's SO much more than "rock."
46 minutes | Sep 23, 2021
Air drummers of the world, UNITE! This seminal album by the classic Canadian prog rock band Rush has been a long time coming for one Matt and a bitter pill to swallow for the other Matt. Clocking in at a concise (for them) 40 minutes, "Moving Pictures" was the album that took the trio from the world of mystical, dystopian rock operas to certified radio stars -- while retaining street cred to the nerds. "Tom Sawyer" is an undeniable classic rock titan. "Limelight" tells the story of a superstar who doesn't want to be a superstar -- all the while ironically leading to said star becoming a superstar. And while "Moving Pictures" is a "pop" hit by Rush standards, it still retains elements of their earlier days with technically-sound instrumentals ("YYZ"), multi-movement sagas ("The Camera Eye") and even paranoia/Big Brother elements ("Witch Hunt"). It also has a kick-ass car song ("Red Barchetta").
45 minutes | Sep 7, 2021
Underrated Albums: Roman Candle, Queen Sarah Saturday
On our first "Underrated Albums" epipod, we're sharing two albums that are scandalously under-appreciated. This is the opposite of the pretentious indie rocker touting an album no one would understand even if they could find it. These are albums we're dying for the world to hear. For whatever reason, these gems didn't make it into everyone's CD catalog or playlist, but it's never too late.
44 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
"We all wanna be Bob Dylan." In the midst of grunge and new punk, Adam Duritz and Co. were a throwback, not just to folk/pop music, but to the singer-songwriter era. Duritz's poetic narratives offered a deep look into his soul and psyche, to his desire for belonging and fame. He would get at least the latter thanks to beautiful, pop hits like "Round Here," "Rain King" and, of course, "Mr. Jones, which remains a radio staple. But the album, "August and Everything After" is a complete piece, often overlooked as a whole due to the momentous success of radio hits. "We all wanna be big stars, yeah, but we got different reasons for that."
44 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
Prince - Purple Rain
Prince was already an enigmatic superstar before the movie (and soundtrack) for "Purple Rain" was released in 1984. But this outing catapulted him into superstardom -- where he orbited the likes of Michael and Madonna (and often surpassed them). "Purple Rain" is Prince at his creative, clever and naughty best. Standard classics like "Let's Go Crazy" and "When Doves Cry" are teased with gems like "Darling Nikki" and "I Would Die 4 U." And the anthemic title track is the type of masterpiece by which other songs are measured. The album "Purple Rain" is a bonafide classic. And Prince was just getting started.
44 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
Listener's Choice - Cage The Elephant
How on earth does a group of high school buddies from Bowling Green, Kentucky win multiple Grammy awards for internationally popular rock music? For this listener's choice epipod, Matt and Matt dig in to find out what makes this band so beloved. While Cage The Elephant wear their influences on their sleeves, you'll see that these talented boys from the Bluegrass State are much more than the sum of the bands that came before them.
44 minutes | Jun 8, 2021
Anderson .Paak - Ventura
Easily one of the most versatile and collaborative performers in music these days, Anderson .Paak's 2019 album "Ventura" is perhaps the one that feels the most true to who he is. "Ventura" includes all the elements that the artist himself embraces: old-school soul, hip-hop, R&B and even rap from some of the world's greatest. Paak's gravitas as a drummer, producer and collaborator shines through with contributions from the likes of Andre 3000 ("Come Home"), Smokey Robinson ("Make It Better"), Lalah Hathaway ("Reachin' 2 Much"), Brandy ("Jet Black") and the late Nate Dogg ("What Can We Do?"). In every case, the collaborations work ... and in every case, .Paak is the star.
45 minutes | May 11, 2021
Van Halen - 1984
The alchemy that was the original Van Halen lineup would be almost impossible to replicate. On one end of the spectrum was the late, great Edward Van Halen, an introverted, virtuoso Guitar God who redefined the instrument and never seemed to put it down. On the other side was front man David Lee Roth, The Ultimate Entertainer who never seemed to slow down. The group was balanced out with steady bassist (and underrated backing vocalist) Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen. These four toured relentlessly in the 1970s and early '80s, opening for -- and more often than not blowing off the stage -- the rock stalwarts of the day. By the time their fifth album, "1984," was released, they were ready to take their place at the top of the rock 'n roll food chain. And this album cemented Van Halen's place among the greatest rock bands of all time thanks to hits like "Jump," "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher." Oh, and the videos didn't hurt, either. The polar opposites of EVH and DLR would result in a fracture after this album, but like most alchemy reactions, it was magical while it worked.
42 minutes | May 4, 2021
Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend
In a time where pop music was dominated by dance-fueled R&B, slick hard rock, and a burgeoning alternative scene, Matthew Sweet's 1991 major label breakthrough album "Girlfriend" was a refreshing throwback to Beatles-esque recording techniques and guitar-jangle melodies inspired by the Byrds. And, boy, did it resonate. Sweet's songs about heartache and longing, combined with an all-star backing band led by Television's Richard Lloyd, resulted in songs like "Girlfriend" and "I've Been Waiting" undoubtedly finding their way on to a ton of mix tapes. Throw in some faith-questioning tunes like "Divine Intervention" and "Evangeline," and you had an album that was gut-punch to American teenagers everywhere.
49 minutes | Apr 27, 2021
The Police - Synchronicity
Looking back now, it's easy to think that from 1983 and for the next couple of years, Michael Jackson singularly ruled the music world. But to think that would disrespect The Police and how massive their fifth album, "Synchronicity" was. And looking back now -- with almost 40 years(!) to reflect -- it's even more remarkable what a juggernaut Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers produced. Think about it: It's an album whose title is based on the writing of Arthur Koestler (sure) with songs referencing domestic troubles (ok), the atomic bomb (sure, but everyone was), the Loch Ness Monster (huh?), obsession and stalking (creepy!), divorce (who hasn't?), and, um, mother issues (yeesh). But it also includes the most famous non-love love song ever, "Every Breath You Take," which ruled the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic and accounts by itself for one-fourth of Sting's income. The fact that the band broke up after this one just adds to the mystic.
49 minutes | Apr 13, 2021
Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
If Stevie Wonder had never released "Songs in the Key of Life," we'd still be talking about him as one of the greatest -- if not THE greatest -- musician the United States ever produced. But, thankfully, he did. Look at any "best albums of all time list," and this double-album masterpiece is guaranteed to be close to the top. And for good reason. Yes, it contains hits and standards that we all know ("Isn't She Lovely?" and "Sir Duke" come to mind), but even those are layered with intricate mixes; instrumentation; percussion; new, innovative (for the time) instruments; and engaging and introspective lyrics. More than 100 people contributed to the album, but this album is all Stevie Wonder. (He even plays all the instruments on some songs.) It's his magnum opus. And it's glorious.
42 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Ben Folds Five - self-titled album
One of the most unique and also most successful fans to come out of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina in the early- to-mid-1990s was Ben Folds Five. Led by Ben Folds, this three-piece (yes, just three of them) crafted clever, cynical jabs at mainstream society — as well as at themselves. But the songs were beautiful, catchy, and well-crafted, and were pulled from pop, punk, jazz and even classical music. They would find major success on their next album (and Folds would go on to a stellar critical and commercial solo career) but their debut offers us a glimpse at their wild and free beginning.
39 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Like others in the cursed "27 Club," Amy Winehouse burned bright and hot ... only to snuff out too soon. But what an impression she left, particularly with her "Back to Black" album. The Grammy-winning album is as autobiographical as they come -- and no less haunting. From her signature "Rehab" (where she gives an emphatic "no, no no!" when the idea is suggested to her), to "You Know I'm No Good" and "Tears Dry on Their Own," the album is Winehouse completely bearing all and putting all her warts out for the world to see and hear in her beautiful mix of old-style soul and R&B -- with some English crass along the way.
48 minutes | Mar 2, 2021
Lionel Richie - Can't Slow Down
In the mid-80s. Lionel Richie didn’t just operate in the same orbit as Michael Jackson and Prince — Richie was his a superstar of his own right. And nothing solidified his place on the charts like “Can’t Slow Down.” At a tidy 8 songs, the album still manages to fuse genres: pop, R&B, rock, Calypso, dance and even country. And it was a pop music juggernaut, solidifying Richie (and his sweet ‘stache) among the biggest of the bigs ... at least for a while.
42 minutes | Feb 23, 2021
We Are The World
It was arguably the greatest gathering of musical talent in one place at one time -- and still is. And it was INSANE. "We Are The World" brought the biggest American music stars of the 1980s* -- and Dan Akroyd! -- to one room to record a song shining a light on the plight of starving people in Africa. The song and the video was beamed incessently to the living rooms and kitchens of America. In the end, the song was inescapable at the time (if somewhat forgettable now); it raised some $68 million to help those impacted by drought and food shortages. But it also gave us a treasure trove of quirky, ridiculous stories that can only happen when you pack creative geniuses into one room -- and ask them to follow orders. *But not Prince or Madonna.
43 minutes | Feb 16, 2021
Nirvana - Nevermind
Very few musical “events” transform the pop music landscape – and pop culture – overnight. But Nirvana’s “Nevermind” absolutely did just that. Coming seemingly out of the blue (but really from the Pacific Northwest), Nirvana gave power to the disillusioned children of the ‘80s, the latchkey kids and wannabe punks who were just searching for authenticity. In the blink of an eye, the hair metal, glam and slick production of the late-1980s and early-‘90s became silly and passe’. Cardigans, corduroys and dirty hair was where it was at. But it wasn’t just a look. Oh no. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remains an anthem of the disenfranchised. “Come As You Are,” “In Bloom” and “Lithium” became alt-rock and mainstream radio standards. And they still are. And that was just essentially side 1 of “Nevermind,” an album of noise and beauty, anger and sadness, and irony and truth. All of those things made up Nirvana.
41 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball
It's only natural that Matt & Matt kick off Season 4 of Finest Worksongs with a non-charting song of covers by a country artist, right? But Emmylou Harris' 1995 album "Wrecking Ball" deserves any and all recognition. It was a vast departure for the seasoned country songstress; that's gonna happen when you partner with Daniel Lanois. "Wrecking Ball" -- which includes collaborations with Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch and others, did for Emmylou what Johnny Cash's "American" recordings did for the Man In Black: it rejuvenated a career and opened a whole new audience to the splendor of one of music's all-time greats.
42 minutes | Dec 22, 2020
The Killers - Hot Fuss
Matt & Matt close out Season 3 with another "Listener's Choice" epipod. Finest Workfans voted for The Killers' debut album "Hot Fuss" to be the album du jour. Though they may have been caught up in the mix of other similar-sounding bands like the Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol, The Killers have managed to put together a long and inspired career. And this is the one that started it all. And what a strong (if front-loaded) debut it is! Brandon Flowers & Co. deliver pure pop goodness on hits like "Mr. Brightside," "Somebody Told Me," "Smile Like You Mean It" and the anthemic "All These Things That I've Done." Not a bad way to start a career.
47 minutes | Dec 1, 2020
For our second annual Christmas epipod, Matt & Matt discuss two albums that — each in their own way — set the standard for holiday collections. Phil Spector’s “A Gift for You” changed altogether how Christmas albums were created. Initially a flop, it is now essentially against how all Christmas albums are compared. Conversely, “A Very Special Christmas” introduced the idea of the philanthropic holiday album. It is a hodgepodge of hits and misses, masterpieces and head-scratchers alike. If nothing else, both albums capture their respective eras perfectly.
46 minutes | Nov 24, 2020
Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
It's the classic "full creative control" story. Artist earns the respect (and the right) to do things as he wants. He goes against the grain to bring his vision to light. But upon hearing the final product, the record executives can't believe it's actually final. Sorry, bub. Creative control means creative control. And in this case, Willie Nelson's 1975 album, "Red-Headed Stranger," not only proved to be one of the most successful country albums of all time, but also one of the most successful -- and celebrated -- ALBUMS of all time. It's a sparsely-produced, under-budget, concept album about a preacher that essentially goes on a killing spree. And it changed country music forever.
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