In 1994, heavy metal and hard rock were on the way out and grunge ruled supreme. But that mattered not to a young, quick-witted songwriter named Rivers Cuomo. Raised on KISS, Iron Maiden and the rest, Cuomo and his band Weezer brought forth an amalgamation of rock that embraced the angst of grunge with the chops of metal — all framed by the disposition and perspective of a loner. Weezer’s self-titled debut (aka “The Blue Album”) set the music world on fire with radio and MTV hits “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” But beyond the veneer of those hits was an album that spoke to the rockers and the geeks alike. And it proved — like Weezer — that they two can live in harmony.

You can listen to Weezer’s Blue Album on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


How does a young songwriter come back from releasing a mega hit that EVERYBODY knows? For Van Morrison, he followed the success of “Brown Eyed Girl” with two different approaches. First came “Astral Weeks,” an album built on and around Morrison’s jazz upbringing. Next came “Moondance,” which bridged the gap (eventually) between his love of various genres of music with a nod to a more pop-friendly format. It worked. Like “Brown Eyed Girl,” the title track has since become a standard, but the album is so much more than that. “And It Stoned Me” tells the nostalgiac story of a trip when he was younger — in a way that only Van could tell it. “Crazy Love” is a blueprint for how a love song should be written. “Caravan” fused Morrison’s love of blues and soul to create a timeless tune. And “Into the Mystic” is among Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs of all time. And that’s just side 1 of the album. With  “Moondance,” Morrison further established himself as one of his generations’ great troubadours.


You can listen to Moondance by Van Morrison on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


“With the help of God and true friends, I come to realize / I still had two strong legs and even wings to fly.”
Those are among some of the first lines of the first song (“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”) from “Eat a Peach,” the double album by the Allman Brothers Band, which was released in early 1972. The lines and the song  — heck, SEVERAL of the songs — underscore a lot of what the Allman Brothers were all about throughout their career — but perhaps never more so than at this point. They were a brotherhood — but one that was shattered by the 1971 death of leader Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Ga. But the band soldiered on, finishing an album of Allman classics like “Blue Sky” and “Melissa” (which Gregg Allman performed at his big brother’s funeral). “Eat a Peach” also showcases the Allman Brothers’ true magic: on stage. Live versions of “One Way Out,” “Trouble No More” and the epic (33+ minutes long!) “Mountain Jam” give us still today a taste of why they were considered one of the best live bands of all time. Tragedy and loss would continue to follow the Allman Brothers, yet they found a way through it. “Bearing sorrow, having fun” as Gregg sings on “Melissa.” Sounds about right.


You can listen to Eat A Peach by The Allmann Brothers on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


Few musical genres have the level of deep-seated appreciation for its forefathers (and mothers) like rap and hip hop. And Missy Elliott’s 2002 album, “Under Construction” is a wonderful homage to “the good old days” when it was about “British Knights and gold chains,” as Elliott raps on “Back in the Day.” But for all the looking back, this was also an album where Elliott continued to put her stamp on music. While the single “Work It” continues to be one of the Virginia-born Elliott’s biggest and best-known hits, the album itself remains an important one from the early 2000s. “Under Construction” was up for a Grammy for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album of the Year, and has sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S. alone. It also further established Elliott as one of the most important female artists of her generation.


You can listen to Under Construction by Missy Elliott on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


Sure, prior to 1992 there had been combinations of rap and rock. But they were mostly of the novelty variety – a way to offer a safe crossover of different genres and audiences. When Rage Against the Machine unloaded their debut album in 1992, they kicked the crap out of the novelty and drew a line in the sand that told the world that playtime was over. This wasn’t “Walk this Way” or “I’m the Man.” Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford laid down some of the heaviest, grooviest music around — which was perfect for Zack de la Rocha’s growls, screams and diatribes against oppression, racism, authority — and anything else on his mind. “Bombtrack,” “Killing in the Name,” “Take the Power Back”  and the rest take the spirit of 1960s protest songs with the added element of a world where everyone can see that the revolution was televised. Rage provided the uncensored and unfettered soundtrack.


You can listen to the self-titled album by Rage Against The Machine on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


Perhaps no band benefited from the beauty of the mix tape better than the Violent Femmes. However, you could argue that no other band led to the proliferation of the art form of creating a mix tape more than the Femmes. The simpleness of song structure (and production) and the adolescent lyrical content (one reviewer calling it “uber-elementary sing-alongs”) were absolutely {chef’s kiss} to represent frustrated, angsty teenagers of the 1980s and ’90s. It makes sense — chief songwriter Gordon Gano began writing much of these tunes when he was 15, after all. Their debut 1983 album includes classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Kiss Off,” “Add It Up” and more — all songs that hit the nerve of what it means to be a young person. It’s no surprise that the Violent Femmes can still be heard on “mix tapes” (aka playlists) even today. 


You can listen to the self-titled album by Violent Femmes on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


Few artists have enjoyed a resurgence in appreciation over the past decade like Dolly Parton. But in the 1970s, she fought against the perception that she was just a sidekick to Porter Wagoner … or just a pretty face. It also goes without saying that a lot of people think of other things first when thinking about Dolly, instead of thinking about her talents as a songwriter, singer and musician. But Dolly has remained true to her roots and to herself, and in recent years, she has begun to enjoy an elevated level of respect as an icon, a musician and an unbelievable person. But she’s been crushing it for a LONG time. No better example than 1974’s album “Jolene,” which includes the title track and “I Will Always Love You.” Perhaps you’ve heard of them? While the rest of the songs may not reach the level of those two, other tunes are elevated by Dolly’s lilting, east Tennessee voice, her ability to bring emotion to a story, and her songwriting prowess.


You can listen to Jolene by Dolly Parton on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


With his 1971 album, “What’s Going On,” Motown staple Marvin Gaye turned the R&B world — and the pop music world for that matter — upside down, smashing conventional ideas about pop songs, album topics and even song themes. It’s an album — and one you really should listen to from start to finish — about a Vietnam vet returning from war to find an America weighted down by racism, drugs, hatred and injustice. Not surprising, Gaye had to fight hard to have his vision come to life. It was deemed to be a concept album without any radio hits. It was too dark — especially coming from the voice of such hits as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and so many more. But in the end, Gaye got his way — and our world is better for it. He even had the last laugh as the title track went to No. 2 on the Billboard Soul charts, and “Mercy Mercy Me” and “Inner-City Blues” both charted in the top 10. Oh, and in 2020, Rolling Stone listed it No. 1 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. “Right On.”


You can listen to What’s Going On on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.


“And I said baby … it’s 3 a.m., I must be lonely.” If you were anywhere within earshot of a radio or MTV in the mid-to-late 1990s, that little slice of earworm was no doubt getting stuck in your head. The culprits? Rob Thomas and his band mates in Matchbox Twenty, whose debut album, “Yourself or Someone Like You,” took pop radio by storm. Hits like the aforementioned “3AM,” “Push,” “Real World” and more pushed the sales of this album upwards of MILLIONS of copies. (It sold just over 600 copies in its first week; today, it has sold more than 15 million.) And while the songs (and the band) may get dissed nowadays for being too vanilla, you can’t deny the pop sensibilities  of  Thomas, who not only as a golden voice, but also a golden ear for hit-making music. (As we would, unfortunately, find out when he gets introduced to one Carlos Santana.) Is “Yourself” a classic album? Depends on your definition of “classic.” But you can’t deny that many of these songs are just so damn catchy. And isn’t that sometimes good enough?


You can listen to Yourself Or Someone Like You by Matchbox Twenty on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


First, let’s get something out of the way. This is an album podcast. It always will be, first and foremost. Therein lies some limitations around how to talk about some of the early pioneers of rock and roll and pop music. Many of them “released” albums that were nothing more than a collection of disparate singles. Or they loosely put together a collection of songs, threw a cover on it and called in an “album.” Elvis Presley was no different. However, with “From Elvis in Memphis,” The King had an opportunity to present a new version of himself — one buoyed by his recent comeback TV success. And instead of crooning for screaming fans, Elvis instead sang for himself, eschewing soundtracks and going back, in many ways, to his roots. This “Memphis sound” Elvis is full of soul, country, gospel and blues — all the things that made him HIM. The results are a gutsy album of perhaps Elvis at his best. And the last song on the original release was a heartfelt ode to the disenfranchised that was – and still is – perhaps his greatest song: “In the Ghetto.” 


You can listen to From Elvis in Memphis on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


“Hooray for Hollywood / That screwy ballyhooey Hollywood …”
Just in time for this year’s Academy Awards, Finest Worksongs is offering up our first-ever Oscars Edition where we feature a movie soundtrack. And what a doozy. The &#%!@ album we chose is so &#%!@ good, so innovative and clever, that we just had to &#%!@ talk about it. “Pulp Fiction” was such a game-changer of a film; however, you can’t talk about the movie without talking about how methodical the song choices were for the soundtrack. Quentin Tarantino’s choice of surf music, funk, country, love songs and more – not to mention the decision to include dialogue from the movie itself on the soundtrack album — not only extended the lasting power of the movie, but also ingrained so many of the lines, scenes and characters into our psyche some three decades later. It is, as is said in the movie, some serious gourmet &#%!@.


You can listen to Pulp Fiction: Music From the Motion Picture on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


No one knows you quite like a sibling. That can result in a familiarity and a closeness that results in beautiful things. It can also result in sibling rivalries and infighting — as in the case of the Gallagher brothers in Oasis. Noel and Liam, the creative centers of the British band, aren’t exactly the closest of brothers these days. But back in their peak, they created some music magic that still resonates to this day — even if their relationship doesn’t. On “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,” Oasis took over the pop world with an album full of sonic, bombastic, pop-laden hits like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” And in the process, they introduced a whole new generation to British power pop — and laid an uppercut to anyone who stood in their way — including each other.

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


Smack dab in the middle of the decline of hard rock and the rise of grunge (and in the rising tide of hip hop), Tracy Chapman threw a folk music haymaker on mainstream music beginning in 1988. And boy did she land the punch. Chapman burst on the scene with her huge hit single, “Fast Car,” which painted a picture of desperation, of longing for more from a world of loss, darkness and despair. (Spoiler alert: We never really find out if the protagonist gets to experience anything more in life.) With really just a guitar and a voice that spoke for millions, Chapman’s debut album, “Tracy Chapman,” enjoys the ethos of 1960s folks rock with the burdens of 1980s America factored in. But this isn’t just “Blowin’ in the Wind”; Chapman pulls no punches, which is impressive for a relative newcomer — particularly a female African-American folks singer in the mid-80s. Think about “Talkin’ About A Revolution,” the title track from the album: “Poor people gonna rise up / And get their share \ Poor people gonna rise up \ And take what’s theirs.” She then warms those in power: “You better run.”

You can listen to Tracy Chapman on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon. 


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.