Jugi wrote a piece on his blog about the genius transitions (or, perhaps we should call it, exponential growth) exhibited by certain musicians from one album to the next and he requested I weigh in on this topic with a list of my own. Of course I cannot resist an opportunity to make a list, especially a list of music.

Before I write out my list, I want to clarify that I don't entirely agree with Eric's parameters. For one thing, if a band makes an excellent album and then makes another excellent album which is musically entirely different from the previous one, isn't taht transition every bit as fascinating as one from excellent to "genius"? If an album is a musical culmination of what the musician had been doing for years, can we really call that a transition from mere excellence to genius? And, let's remember, this is all so very very very subjective.

So, here is my somewhat anotated list of records wherein the band or artist seemed to make a significant evolution in their sound which could, perhaps, be called genius:
  • Aztec Camera: Love to Stray
  • Roddy Frame: The North Star to Surf
  • U2: The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby
  • Robyn Hitchcock: Globe of Frogs to Queen Elvis
  • John Wesley Harding: Why We Fight to John Wesley Harding's New Deal
  • David Bowie: Space Oddity to The Man Who Sold The World; Young Americans to Station to Station; Scary Monsters to Let's Dance
  • The Church: Heyday to Starfish
  • The Cocteau Twins: The Moon and The Melodies (though that was technically a collaboration with Harold Budd, it was their last album...and they released a lot of EPs in 1985 and 1986 which would make calling Victorialand their last album only technically correct, but I think inaccurate for the purposes of this list) to Blue Bell Knoll
  • Pulp: This is Hardcore to We Love Life
  • Bob Dylan: Planet Waves (also a collaboration, but really, it doesn't matter, Blood on the Tracks was so transcendent it really doesn't matter what came before it or how good it whatever came before it happened to be (in addition to Planet Waves, there was Flood (live and a collaboration) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (soundtrack)) to Blood on the Tracks


Anonymous said…
Perhaps this is shallow of me, especially considering I work in music, but I have a really hard time adjusting to dramatic transistions for artists I like. Most recently, I have had problems with Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods", Metric's "Live It Out" and Dresden Dolls' "Yes Virginia". Had I heard these albums first, or separately, I probably would have loved them, but when you look forward to a new album from one of your favorites, and then they realease some experiment in dissonance, or try to be "techno" or whatever, its just annoying to have to try harder to appreciate it. Actually this IS shallow, but at least I'm being honest, right? ha.
Anonymous said…
Jenny: we're actually just talking about albums that represent a significant step for the band in question -- going, as it were, from excellence to transcendence. Get with the program, will you? I mean, just because you're not a complete freak/obsessive when it comes to music like Alimum and I doesn't mean you can go making up your own rules, okay? :)

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