Once again, we close out our season with the “Listener’s Choice” epipod. And once again, Finest Workfan Kyle Hipp comes out on top with this year’s submission of Dave Matthews Band’s “Busted Stuff.” This album rose from the ashes of the now legendary “Lillywhite Sessions,” of which the band was not happy. So Dave and his band regrouped and re-recorded the tunes (and added a couple others), resulting in “Busted Stuff,” the stripped-down 2002 album that spawned the hit “Where Are You Going?” and a number of other fan faves like “Bartender,” “Grey Street” and “Grace Is Gone.” Despite being something of a “throwaway” offering, “Busted Stuff” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, speaking to the power of the DMB. But what do Matt & Matt think about this album? Listen to our “Listener’s Choice” epipod to find out.

You can listen to Busted Stuff by the Dave Matthews Band on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

It’s our fourth annual Christmas epipod! And we’re getting mellow this year with two beautiful albums. The syrupy soft rock of The Caepenters’ “Christmas Portrait” has become holiday radio staples thanks to Karen Carpenter’s voice and brother Richard’s orchestral arrangements. Equally poignant is Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2021 “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which is almost like a non-traditional prayer for the lost and seeking. The album is a mix of standards, traditional songs and even holiday-esque covers … including CCR. All in all, these are two albums that could tug at the holiday heartstrings.

You can listen to Hiss Golden Messenger as well as The Carpenters on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

With his band Frightened Rabbit, Scottish songwriter Scott Hutchison created anthems for the lonely and the cynical — yet they were songs of hope. Hutchison took his own life in May 2018, yet his legacy — and impact — lives on. The band’s 2013 album, “Pedestrian Verse,” captures the essence of what made the group so spectacular. (It was also the first offering by the band to include songwriting efforts by all of its members.) Songs like “Backyard Skulls” and “Late March, Death March” continue to tackle darker themes — but with Hutchison’s knack for cheekiness and cleverness, while “Nitrous Oxide” and “State Hospital” (among others) speak to the pervasive darkness and escapism that seemed to envelope him. “How can I talk of life and warmth?” Hutchinson sings on the final track, “The Oil Slick.” He adds: “I’ve got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm.” That’s a tad harsh, but that’s how self-deprecating he was. Hutchison’s voice gave hope — and community — to many.

You can listen to Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

It’s exceedingly rare to enjoy the 1-2-punch of creating an album that is instantaneously both a critical and commercial success, but in 1997 Radiohead accomplished such a feat with OK Computer. To create something so different, so …. “odd” yet so beautiful — especially in the midst of such chart-topping offerings as the Spice Girls, LeAnn Rimes and Mariah Carey — speaks to what a pivot OK Computer truly was. The album has remained a critical favorite — and even one that seemed to predict a future of humans beholden to technology while drifting away from one another. The songs are weird; the videos were weirder, but it all worked — and still does today. Wrote one reviewer after having a couple decades of reflection: “Each decade has its own ‘Sgt. Pepper’; a record that comes along and breaks with tradition to change the trajectory of music entirely and OK Computer was it for the 90s.”

You can listen to OK Computer by Radiohead on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

For decades people have debated over the best crossover of all time. While Allen Iverson’s NBA crossover may have been lethal, it was nothing compared to Tina Turner’s iconic crossover into the pop mainstream. After years in partnership with an abusive and overbearing Ike Turner, Tina set out on her own to find her voice. And boy, did she ever. Ike could only sit back and watch Tina step right over him as she created some of the most monstrous hits of the 1980’s. And like Tyronn Lue, Ike never saw it coming.

You can listen to Private Dancer by Tina Turner on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

For as famous as Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is — and it IS — just as famous was the drama and infighting that was going on between band members when it was recorded. The inter-band dynamics were insane at the time: band members divorcing and breaking up from one another, “diss” track after diss track recorded — and directed at one another, and drugs. SO many drugs. For better or worse, the result is one of the most widely revered albums of all time. The 1975 album boasts Mac classics like “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop,” “The Chain” and even “Second Hand News.”

You can listen to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

Boasting arguably the most famous midriff of the 1990s, Shania Twain rose out of Canada (and poverty) and reinvented country music and even the notion of what constitutes a female superstar. And she did it on her (and her producer-husband’s) terms. Her 1997 album, “Come On Over,” was a country and crossover tour de force, boasting eight singles including “Still the One,” “From This Moment On,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” In doing so, Twain dominated a male-dominated industry, empowered a new generation of female country stars, and became the biggest-selling female solo artist of all time. Not bad for a girl from rural Ontario.

You can listen to Come On Over by Shania Twain on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

Dave Grohl is like the Forrest Gump of the rock’n’roll world. From Scream to Nirvana to Foo Fighters, he’s traversed not only the country but the globe, making friends and funny videos along the way. The winner of our sixth Listener’s Choice contest, Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace had us rocking the suburbs this summer (literally, it took us all summer to finally record this one, not to mention the slow edit!). This album was full of surprises – the story of trapped Australian miners for Matt, and the mere existence of the song “The Pretender” for Also Matt. It was a fun way to close out the season, and congratulations to Joy for winning the contest! Thanks for giving us a great album to dive into!

You can listen to Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace by Foo Fighters on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

There’s more than a 50/50 chance you actually own this album — or did at some point in your life. (Especially if you’re a kid of the 80s/90s and the CD/cassette clubs like BMG or Columbia House.) There’s a very good reason why Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Legend” was in so many disc changers back in the day — and continues to be in regular rotation for many. As far as greatest hits compilations go, this one may be the greatest of them all. It contains 10 of Marley’s UK top 40 hits including and features classics like “No Woman, No Cry,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Redemption Song” and more. But this isn’t just a feelgood summer album (although it is that, too). Never before or since has a Caribbean artist conquered the known world like Marley did. He wrote protest songs that would make Pete Seeger smile, he gave hope to his fellow Jamaicans, and he opened up the minds of people all over the world to the types of lives that were available to those in the poorer sections of paradise. He just happened to do it all to a danceable, reggae sound.

You can listen to Legend by Bob Marley on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

David Bowie, according to U2’s Bono, was “like a creature falling from the sky.” America may have put a man on the moon, but “we had our own British guy from space.” Bono is referring to when, in 1972, Bowie performed “Starman” on “Top of the Pops,” a seminal moment for young, inspired musicians everywhere. “Starman” was a single on Bowie’s sci-fi/apocalyptic/androgynous concept album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and the album propelled Bowie into the stratosphere as one of the clear giants of music. (Even if the album didn’t set the record sales world by storm.) “Ziggy Stardust” was groundbreaking, gender-bending, genre-shaking, and simply unworldly for its time. The guitar riff from the title track is as well-known a riff as you will ever hear, “Suffragette City” is a rocker worthy of Bowie best-of collections, and the other tracks help inch along a captivating narrative of kaleidoscopic proportions. But it was “Starman” that changed everything. As Bowie sings, “There’s a starman waiting in the sky / He’d like to come and meet us / But he thinks he’d blow our minds.” Bowie was the Starman, and he did, indeed, blow our minds.

You can listen to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars by David Bowie on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

The title of TLC’s 1994 album “CrazySexyCool” was appropriate as it defined the three members of the group individually and collectively. The group – made up of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas – lays claim as arguably (still) the most successful girl group of all time. And this album is one major reason why. It’s a fierce collection of strong, confident and even risky songs that, quite frankly, female artists weren’t doing at the time. “Creep” and “Waterfalls” are still radio standards to this day; the latter of which addressed dark themes such as drug/gang warfare and the AIDS crisis. With more than 12 million albums sold, “CrazySexyCool” in many ways set the standard for female group success.

You can listen to CrazySexyCool by TLC on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to Back in Black by AC/DC on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to Blue Sky Mining by Midnight Oil on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to Arrested Development on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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

You can listen to James Taylor’s Greatest Hits on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

You can listen to A Rush of Blood to the Head on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

“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.

You can listen to Cooleyhighharmony on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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!

You can listen to Barenaked Ladies as well as A Very Special Christmas, volume 3 on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon.