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.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Green by R.E.M. online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Mystery Road by Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

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.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Fun & Games by The Connells online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

“We are headed north.”
It’s all right there in the first verse of the first song of the first major label album by the Avett Brothers. This band of foot-stomping, string-breaking renegades from Concord, NC, were moving on up — creatively, artistically and, yes, commercially. But “I and Love and You” is not a sell-out album. It’s a growth album. All the emotionalism is still there; but the boys — Seth & Scott Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon — are maturing, and asking their fans to mature with them with “I&L&Y.” This beautifully-crafted and produced album — Rick Rubin is to thank for that — is a statement album. As they sing on “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”: “Decide what to be and go be it.”  With “I and Love and You,” the Avett Brothers did just that.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream I And Love And You by The Avett Brothers online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

You couldn’t get away from Radiohead’s radio hit “Creep” when it was released on the world in 1992-93. Not even the band could escape the clutches of such a megahit. So they did what any self-respecting band – a band inspired by the DIY ethos the likes of R.E.M. – would do with their next album, which was released in 1995. “The Bends,” the follow-up to “Pablo Honey,” is a tour de force album that 25 years later holds up as perhaps one of the most complete and wonderful albums of all time. The guitar virtuosity of Jonny Greenwood is complemented by the paranoid vocals of Thom Yorke. Oh, and the rest of the band is pretty freaking incredible, too. If people came listening for the next “Creep,” they were sorely mistaken. And thank God for that.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream The Bends by Radiohead online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

When The Beatles returned to Abbey Road to record their sixth album, they were exhausted from constant touring and releasing at a pace of two albums a year. They also had virtually no songs prepared. But when it was completed, their sixth album was Rubber Soul, arguably the first actual album, not just a collection of songs. This was the turning point; it’s the album that bridges the British Invasion Beatles to Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. It’s the album that turned the music world on its rear, forcing the band’s rivals and contemporaries like the Beach Boys and Rolling Stones to step up their games.  In essence, with Rubber Soul, the Beatles were just getting started.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Rubber Soul by the Beatles online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

How does a band reach the pinnacle of both commercial and critical success, dominate the airwaves for a handful of years, only to disintegrate into the ether? That’s probably the question that has haunted the members of Līve for two decades now. The band’s second major album, “Throwing Copper,” was omnipresent on both pop and alternative radio. The video for “Lightning Crashes” was an MTV staple. And then? Poof! After some 8 million albums sold (and a couple of moderately successful follow-ups), they were seemingly gone from the radar. (It could have to do with the fact that in this Google/SEO world, the name “Līve” does not render easily on search engines. Shoulda thought that through, boys!) It’s a shame, really. “Throwing Copper” is everything good about quintessential 90s rock, highlighted by singer Ed Kowalczyk’s mystical/nebulous lyrics.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Throwing Copper by Live online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

It would be the album that would break up The Smiths, but not before encapsulating all that was SO … Smiths about them. “Strangeways, Here We Come” combines the brilliance of Johnny Marr and the poetic, charming violence of Morrissey into a final testament of one of the most influential — if short-lived — bands of all time. 

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Strangeways, Here We Come by The Smiths online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

Hailed as “the grandchildren of the Beach Boys” by one reviewer, this soulful Chapel Hill band was also able to do rock, funk, and blues with impeccable harmonies. The band’s first full-length album, “Rosemary,” brought them incredible acclaim — if mostly on a regional level. But for a while there, they were the headliners while a lesser-known band from Columbia, S.C., was the opener. (Hint: it was Hootie.) “Rosemary” remains a delightful work of art that illustrates why North Carolina’s music scene has always been among the best in the land. And it clearly has lasting power, even if the band itself did not.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream Rosemary by Dillon Fence online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon. 

 

It’s frankly one of the great mysteries in music: Why isn’t the English band Elbow more popular in the United States? After all, this band of longtime friends has produced some of the most captivating sounds and albums for more than two decades. Their 2008 album, “The Seldom Seen Kid,” even won the Mercury Prize for best album in the UK – topping giants such as Radiohead, Adele, and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. Singer Guy Garvey’s poetic longing is fully embraced by the sonic backing of the rest of Elbow, resulting in anthemic and haunting masterpieces such as “Starlings” and “One Day Like This,” while also featuring grooves like “Grounds for Divorce,” “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver” and so much more.

References in this Epipod:

You can buy or stream The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow online at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon.