Finest Worksongs
AC/DC – Back in Black

AC/DC – Back in Black

May 4, 2022

Ask someone to name some of the best-selling albums of all time, and there’s a very good chance they will overlook AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” In some ways, it’s easy to dismiss the band as overly simplistic .. or even stuck in time. But that would be a mistake to discount the impact that the band has had on the trajectory of rock and roll. “Back in Black” came out in summer of 1980, and it’s such a great summer party album. (Or course, you could probably say that about every AC/DC album.) “Back in Black” came out just months after the death of lead singer Bon Scott, to whom the album is dedicated. The record is 10 songs of pure fist-pumping fun – with just the right amount of deviousness to boot. “Hells Bells,” “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” are radio and arena staples more than four decades later, and they sound as fresh and relevant as they did then. Do yourself a favor and give a listen to “Back in Black,” particularly if you never have before. After all, it has sold more than 50 million copies ... for a reason.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

April 22, 2022

She may be petite and blonde, but don't let that fool you. Phoebe Bridgers is a GIANT. A songwriting giant. And her mid-2020 album "Punisher" was not only the perfect accompaniment to Covid quarantine, but it solidified the Californian as a bona fide commercial and critical star. Her ability to weave in angst, anger, humor and indifference into compelling, catchy, layered songs resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, while "Kyoto" was also nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. Other highlights of the album (of which there are many) are "Garden Song" and "I Know The End." The latter version, which she performed on "SNL," garnered headlines when she screamed and smashed her guitar – not unlike how she has already smashed stereotypes.

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining

March 29, 2022

Midnight Oil burst onto the TV screens all over America in 1987 with the videos to "Beds Are Burning" and "The Dead Heart." It was like they were from another world. Well, they kinda were. They were from the other side of the world, at least: Australia. But their follow-up album, 1990's "Blue Sky Mining," proved the Oils were more than just a one- (or two-)hit wonder, or just a vehicle to showcase the frenetic dancing of the tall, lanky, and bald lead singer Peter Garrett. "Blue Sky Mining" brought a rich album across the oceans, an album full of Oils topics du jour: the environment, overdevelopment, the plight of indigenous people, and so on.  "There are people who do it really well," R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe once said about artists who sing about politics. Garrett was one of them, with Stipe calling him "brilliant." "Blue Sky Mining" is brilliant in its own right with Midnight Oil creating anthemic, rocking sing-alongs that just so happen to be about asbestos mining, war, or killing the earth.

Arrested Development – 3years, 5 months, and 2 days in the life of…

Arrested Development – 3years, 5 months, and 2 days in the life of…

March 9, 2022

Sometimes the albums we discuss are deemed classic by the masses; sometimes they are deemed classic by a Matt (singular). Sometimes those albums are classic ...question mark? In the case of Arrested Development's debut album, "3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of ..." (so-called because that was how long it took the group to land a recording contract), the question is not really whether it's a classic album or not. It's not. But it is an important album. When it was released in 1992, it was unleashed on a world that was coming to grips with gangsta rap. White America, in particular, wasn't sure what to make of it all. Arrested Development came along and offered up pro-African and pro-family beats and rhymes that came across as a more positive (if, in the long run, a milquetoast) version of hip-hop that still hit on uncomfortable topics like America's racist past, homelessness, the hypocrisies of faith, and so much more. They just did it with far fewer curse words. "Tennessee," "Mr. Wendal" and (the now cringe-worthy) "People Everyday" were some of the biggest hits of their era, landing the group millions in record sales and even a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Rap Group ("Tennessee"). Oddly enough, they are seemingly forgotten these days ... unless you are a middle-aged white person.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

February 14, 2022

Released on the exact same day as both Nirvana’s “Nevermind" and A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” took radio and MTV by storm thanks to massive hits like “Give It Away” and especially “Under the Bridge.” The Rick Rubin produced album was a crossover hit for a band largely known for funk, punk, and wild on-stage antics. The antics continued, but now to much larger, mainstream audiences. And while the album is full of things that long-time Peppers fans had grown to love, it also gave a glimpse of a more melodic and stronger songwriting ability to come. But there’s still a ton of songs about sex.

James Taylor - Greatest Hits, Volume One

James Taylor - Greatest Hits, Volume One

February 8, 2022

It’s an amazing story, really. A well-born son of New England (and thus AMERICAN) heraldry battles drugs and romances only to find solace in songwriting. On a whim, the young man heads oversees and finds himself auditioning for Beatles. Not only do they love his music, they end up signing him to their label, playing on his debut album, and – in the case of George Harrison – being “inspired” by one of the young man’s songs enough to write arguably HIS greatest ever song. This is the story of James Taylor. Massachusetts born. Carolina bred. Some would argue one of America’s most important (and lasting) singer-songwriters. And his “Greatest Hits” is the stuff of legends. Even if in this case the legend speaks softy and plucks an acoustic guitar

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head

January 27, 2022

If ever there was a band that has come close to "out-U2ing" U2, it is Coldplay. Think about it: four good friends from their school days form a band – led by a charismatic lead singer – and create atmospheric, emotional, sing-along stadium anthems. And with "A Rush of Blood to the Head," Chris Martin & Co. culled together the quintessential Coldplay "sound": chiming piano, uncluttered (and occasionally ringing) guitar, driving bass and drum parts that fill the space and complement the mood. The album starts with "Politik," a 9/11-inspired song that hints that this isn't the same band that JUST used to fill English pubs. "In My Place," "The Scientist" and "Clocks" all catapulted the band into the stratosphere, whether you wanted them to or not.

Boyz II Men – Cooleyhighharmony

Boyz II Men – Cooleyhighharmony

January 12, 2022

"Not too hard and not too soft." That phrase personifies, in many ways, the music AND appeal of R&B hitmakers Boyz II Men. They could sing the harmonious, emotional acapella high points with songs like "End of the Road" and "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" but they could also bring the heat. (See "Uhh Ahh.") However, there was nothing soft about their success. When their debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, hit in 1991, it hit HARD. Fueled by the Michael Bivins-produced "origin story" "Motownphilly," Boyz II Men were on a path of mega superstardom that would show them ruling the airwaves for much of the 1990s – sometimes even beating themselves at the top of the charts.

Christmas 2021

Christmas 2021

December 20, 2021

It’s been … one year since the last Finest Worksongs Christmas epipod. But Matt & Matt are back to offer up a couple of Yuletide faves ….and both are quirky and fun - in their own special ways. Barenaked Ladies’ “Barenaked for the Holidays” is quintessential BNL: moments of musical brilliance combined with moments of inane levity. “A Very Special Christmas 3” once again brought music’s top heavy hitters together to put their own, uh, unique spins on holiday classics — and a couple (then) new ones. Giggle your way into the season with our season-ending epipod. And Merry Christmas from Marshmallow and the Duke!

Listener‘s Choice: Taylor Swift‘s folklore

Listener‘s Choice: Taylor Swift‘s folklore

December 9, 2021

This Listener's Choice epipod stays "in the family" as the boys discuss Taylor Swift's 2020 album folklore, which was chosen by Matt Stevens' daughter MC. The adoration and sheer respect for Swift shines through in the discussion – from hosts and guest alike. After all, this was not just a career-defining album for T. Swift, but also a life-changing musical experience for many. The stripped-down and introspective songs were the perfect sounds to arrive during quarantine. And with assistance from the likes of Jack Antonoff, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), and The National's Aaron Dessner, Swift created a masterpiece that showed her continued growth and self-confidence, particularly through tracks like "Cardigan," "Exile" and "My Tears Richochet." But don't fret, Swifties: there's still plenty of love triangles, incriminating themes, and self-reflective tracks to keep fans cheering her on and analyzing her love life – and lyrics.

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