A title/Is vital,” the great lyricist Ira Gershwin wrote about song refrains. “Once you’ve it/Prove it.” Though Gershwin’s maxim scans beautifully as an introduction, this article has almost nothing to do with it, because its concern is not showtune song titles in the 1920s but album titles in 2008. The album titles I want to highlight here earn my praise not as a result of vitality in any traditional musical- or thematic-unification, but because, they’re just pleasing somehow—they make me raise a bemused eyebrow, and then giggle like a schoolgirl. Is this not reason enough to crown a king?
Before the coronation, though, a niggling detail: the adjective “Best” in the title of this article is probably not the most perfectly descriptive modifier. It’s really closer to “wackiest.” Try reading the word “Best” while giving an ironic hipster nod.
Now that my throat is clear, let us move onto to the six “best” album titles of 2008.
1. When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold – Atmosphere
Like The Beatles’ Let It Be, the title of rap group Atmosphere’s latest release offers a nugget of advice for those facing adversity: PAINT THAT SHIT GOLD. Bills piling up? PAINT THAT SHIT GOLD! Just lost your job? PAINT THAT SHIT GOLD! There are no ills or problems in your life that can’t be erased with a little gold paint; a Sherwin-Williams sponsorship could be in the offing for these Midwest rappers—and, given that they’re one of the founders of something called “emo rap,” I doubt credibility is an issue.
(Bonus title: the 13th search result for this title on Allmusic is a compilation called “You Can’t Boar Like An Eabla When You Work with Turkeys.”).
2. Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock – Heavy Heavy Low Low
Wikipedia tells me that Heavy Heavy Low Low is a five-piece group from Sacramento playing mathcore music, which, thanks to bands like Converge and the Dillinger Escape Plan, has enjoyed more mainstream success than its sister medium, mathcore pornography. This album title is now part of a longer tradition of nonsensical album titles involving animals: Silly Hat vs. Eagle Hat and Weasels Ripped My Flesh come to mind. I can also confirm that the songs of this mathcore band do indeed delve into mathematics. Track 3, “How Many Dad’s [sic] Must Eat Themselves?” is a beginner’s calculus/derivative-based word problem, while Track 16, “Short Term Exposure, Long Term Damage,” uses an exponential decay function in its memorable, if clunky, chorus.
(Bonus title: Toxic Shock 2, the second in the series of Frank Zappa bootlegs from the early 80s, contains the wonderful song title “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” ).
3. Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock – Joe Satriani
The title of “professor” is earned: among Joe Satriani’s students are Guitar God Steve Vai, Gutiar Legend Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Man Who Owns A Guitar David Bryson of the Counting Crows. “Satchafunkilus” is a riff on Satriani’s nickname (“Satch”), and “Musterion” loosely translates from Greek as “Something which cannot be known until it is revealed”.
4. Now That’s What I Call Music! 28 – Various Artists
First: 28? 28?!?!?!
Second: Looking at the NOW empire’s release schedule, I now realize how they are on number 28. The first NOW came out in 1998 and in a victory for irony, placed “Barbie Girl” by Aqua and “Karma Police” by Radiohead back-to-back; since then, they’ve been releasing three albums a year (in the United States), plus releases in over 20 countries (including the United Kingdom, where they’re on NOW! 71), plus “Special Edition” NOW’s, including Now That’s What I Call Classic Rock!, Now That’s What I Call Christmas!, and Now Esto Es Musica!. Brand recognition, I guess. Now That’s What I Call Music! 29 is due out in November 4, just in time for you to see an infomercial for it while you’re drunk and drop twenty-five bucks out of a misplaced, liquor-induced nostalgia.
(Bonus title: in Venezuela, there was a 2005 Now release entitled “Now that’s what I call pescado muerte o mariscos malas, dependamente”).
5. Morgan Freeman’s Psychedelic Semen – Infinite Livez vs. Stade
The Pitchfork reviewer was incredibly earnest in his attempt to deconstruct this album title, hitting (perhaps correctly) YouTube commenters, Luis Bunuel, and autism before submitting to bewilderment. I won’t hazard a guess at the title’s “meaning”; I will only kneel down at the altar of whatever drug is responsible for allowing these rappers to body forth a micro-world in which each individual sperm in Morgan Freeman’s reproductive system was identifiable by allegiance to a certain era in popular music. Psychedelic, fusion, big band, mathcore, emo rap and acid jazz semen whipping around in harmony.
(Bonus title: “Morgan Freeman’s Psychedelic Semen” is enough of a bonus by itself).
6. Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust – Sigur Ros
Q: Hvernig var ferðalagið?
A: Alveg hljómandi gott!
Takk, takka þér fyrir!
Honorable Mentions: Good, but Not “Musterion” Good
Infinite Ellipse and Head with Open Fontanel – Make a Rising
Street Horrrsing – Fuck Buttons
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus – Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
As I head into the absurdly nostalgic recap portion of the list, I’d like to take a moment to remember the album titles that pleasured me this year. And though I have likely written about these albums for the last time, perhaps, in some alternate universe where each of our actions is repeated indefinitely unto infinity, I am still writing about them forever.