—All Mod Cons by the Jam
- London Calling is rightly lauded for being a panoramic album. Although I think the results are mixed in places, it’s that experimentation with genre, without altering the character of the band, which makes London Calling essential listening. All Mod Cons, regarded as something of a vox populi for discontented Englishmen at the pale dawning of the Thatcher era, is similarly panoramic in the sense that its many character sketches show us the layer cake of a fractured English society. Imagine “Lost in the Supermarket” spread out over an album, and you’ll get part of the picture.
- All Mod Cons gives punk rock’s concerns a human face and a mod jacket. Whether or not it’s a better record than London Calling is immaterial. Like the Clash’s magnum opus, like all the great records, it’s as though All Mod Cons was frozen in amber—inextricably linked to a time and place, but permanent all the same. Don’t miss out.
—Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
- One morning on our trip two weeks ago, my mom and I listened to Helplessness Blues in the middle of a south Georgia sunrise. Through the first five songs or so, I think we had what could qualify as a “moment.” During our quiet communion, we both connected to the record’s themes—aging and subsequent regrets, feeling entirely too small in a vast world—in the presence of a landscape that might as well have existed only to confirm them. Then we hit some railroad tracks, the radio went out, and the rest of the album, once we could listen to it, proved comparatively underwhelming. Repeat listens haven’t really changed my mind; I dislike the band’s tendency to start songs strong and then veer toward meandering, unsatisfying conclusions. Unfortunately, I suspect that also describes the album as a whole.