Finest Worksongs
Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020

December 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.

Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

November 24, 2020

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.

The Black Crowes - Shake Your Money Maker

The Black Crowes - Shake Your Money Maker

November 17, 2020

With a rock and soul sound reminiscent of the Stones, the Black Crowes are timeless. But when they broke — and BIG — in 1991, they occupied a space and time all of their own. “Shake Your Moneymaker” is Southern rock mixed with 60s soul at its best. Chris Robinson’s anguished vocals and brother Rich Robinson’s songmaking abilities resulted in a slew of hits like “Hard to Handle, “Jealous Again” and “She Talks to Angels.” It’s a sound that works in 1961, 1991 and even (almost) 2021.

Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque

Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque

November 10, 2020

When one thinks of the top rock albums of 1991, undoubtedly certain classics come to mind. Nirvana's "Nevermind." Pearl Jam's "Ten." "Achtung Baby" by U2. Metallica's so-called "Black Album." Guns'n'Roses even released "Use Your Illusion I & II" that year. But when Spin magazine unveiled its best album of the year, that honor went to Scotland's Teenage Fanclub for their "Bandwagonesque." And for good reason. Combining early-90s crunch and distortion with odes to the pop goodness of the likes of Big Star, "Bandwagonesque" is as complete and inspiring as anything else that came out that year. We dare you to listen to it and not be drawn in by the melodic hooks, syrupy harmonies, or the relatable lyrics. Teenage Fanclub may be the most underrated-yet-influential band of the last 30 years. And this album shows why.

R.E.M. - Green, Part Two

R.E.M. - Green, Part Two

October 27, 2020

For cynics and critics, "Green" was supposed to be the beginning of the end for R.E.M. After all, the Athens, Ga., band had culled a following throughout the country by essentially touring nonstop and bringing their DIY ethos to college radio -- a medium they practically helped create. "Green" was their first album with Warner Bros. Records -- and their deal with WB was (at the time) the most lucrative recording contract in US history. But most important to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe was the freedom and artistic control it provided. "Green" reflects a band at its artistic and creative zenith. It was commercially successful thanks to songs (and videos for) "Stand" and "Pop Song '89," but it was still weird enough and full of "R.E.M.-iness" to placate even their most devoted fans. It was also a bridge album between the jangle pop of the early days and the lushness of what was to come.

R.E.M. - Green, Part One

R.E.M. - Green, Part One

October 20, 2020

For cynics and critics, "Green" was supposed to be the beginning of the end for R.E.M. After all, the Athens, Ga., band had culled a following throughout the country by essentially touring nonstop and bringing their DIY ethos to college radio -- a medium they practically helped create. "Green" was their first album with Warner Bros. Records -- and their deal with WB was (at the time) the most lucrative recording contract in US history. But most important to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe was the freedom and artistic control it provided. "Green" reflects a band at its artistic and creative zenith. It was commercially successful thanks to songs (and videos for) "Stand" and "Pop Song '89," but it was still weird enough and full of "R.E.M.-iness" to placate even their most devoted fans. It was also a bridge album between the jangle pop of the early days and the lushness of what was to come.

Drivin’ N Cryin’ - Mystery Road

Drivin’ N Cryin’ - Mystery Road

October 13, 2020

There’s a very good chance that if you’ve set foot in a random bar in the South over the last 25 years, you've heard the song “Straight to Hell.” This song has all the makings of a prototypical country song: twang; heartache; self-loathing; a catchy, singable chorus to raise a beer to. But it’s a song about a latchkey kid with a somewhat loose, disinterested mother. The song, off Drivin’ N Cryin’s 1989 “Mystery Road” album, gives you a great glimpse of the mystery that is the Georgia band: you probably know the song, but you probably didn’t know it was by them. “Mystery Road” itself is full of contradictions. There are bluesy songs. There are southern rock anthems (“Honeysuckle Blue”). There are hair metal songs. There are protest songs (“With the People”). There are bluegrass songs (“Ain’t It Strange”). At the heart of all of them are Kevn Kinney’s heartfelt and voice-cracking lyrics that make you wanna hug the nearest person. Drivin’ N Cryin’ would reach a larger audience with their follow up “Fly Me Courageous” album, but this is the one that shows the breadth of their heart and talent.

Tom Petty - Wildflowers

Tom Petty - Wildflowers

September 22, 2020

In many ways, Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” – which turns 25 years old this month – was the un-“Full Moon Fever.” When it was released, “Wildflowers” seemed sparse and stripped down, especially compared to his previous offering. But it not only featured Petty’s hit-making skills – the album produced bona fide Petty radio and MTV hits like “You Wreck Me” and “ You Don’t Know How it Feels” – but it gave the world a chance to for Petty to pour out his soul in a way that still haunts today. With Rick Rubin’s get-out-of-the-way production, “Wildflowers” is (sadly) Petty’s autobiographical epitaph --- one that he just happened to write two decades before his death.

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

September 15, 2020

As forerunners of alternative hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest helped set the standard. They led a movement of thoughtful rap, fused by music inspired by their parents and lyrics inspired by their lives in Queens. Led by Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, Tribe’s second album, “The Low End Theory” pays homage to jazz and bebop while dropping insightful rhymes about the shadiness of the music business, poseur rappers and injustices all around them. It also introduced the world to Busta Rhymes. To this day, songs like “Scenario,” Excursions,” “Buggin’ Out” are considered masterpieces – and the album can still get a house party jumping.

The Connells - Fun & Games

The Connells - Fun & Games

September 8, 2020

Before they reached international stardom thanks to the song "'74-'75," The Connells were something of a regional favorite to music fans along the Eastern seaboard. Man, could they pack a house. The band composed some of the most pop-centered, unforgettable, singalong songs of the late-'80s and '90s -- ANYWHERE. It also didn't hurt that they came across -- even on stage -- as just normal dudes. They even looked the part. Nowhere was this devotion to catchy melodies more emphasized than on their third album, "Fun & Games."  Mention The Connells today to someone of a certain age in Virginia or the Carolinas, and there's a very good chance this is the album that comes to mind. You can still see the album cover on t-shirts to this day. If that's not lasting power, we don't know what is.

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