It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns / SpinART, 1994
Though it's only six songs long, this Lilys album stands apart from the band's others. Erik Bader says: "History, to me, is early-'90s Philadelphia in all its imperfect glory. One guy in the band went on to do the Photon Band; another went on to own the Khyber. Plus, it had a song in a Calvin Klein commercial, before all those silly indie rock songs that wound up in every SUV commercial. It's an important record. It sounds like that wrecked pre-Rendell city we all try to forget. It's brittle, fragile, proud and hopeful. It's perfect."
Watch It Happen / Victoria, 2000
After years behind the drums in noise-peddlers Asuza Plane, Quentin Stolzfus put down the sticks and cobbled together the most unexpected album to break out of Philly's fertile late-'90s indie rock movement. NME picked "Wheats," perhaps the greatest breakup song ever written, as its single of the week, before the album was even released here at home. The remainder of the album features tracks soaked in melancholy and set adrift on tuneful melodies that ebb and flow through crashing waves of buzzing drone. Feeling bad never sounded so good.
85. Matt Pond PA
Measure / File 13, 2001
This beautiful and elegant debut album features frontman Matt Pond's wobbly and somehow always melancholy hum, made even more melancholy with the strong inclusion of cello, violin and, yes, French horn. The title track is the most haunting, though "The Hollows" is a close second. The whole album shimmers, and the songs--though not as uptempo as most tunes that you can't get out of your head--are sneakily infectious. Listening to this album, you have a feeling that what's being said is sad but true in a way you haven't tapped into for a long time.
86. Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia / Atlantic, 1970
Alabama-born Wilson Pickett's raw soul swagger is among the best in the business. With a career spanning four decades, Pickett's released dozens of catchy, soul-ified hits, including "In the Midnight Hour," "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1,000 Dances." In 1970, after 10 or so years in the business, Pickett moseyed up to Philadelphia and recorded In Philadelphia with Gamble and Huff. Philadelphia garnered critical acclaim and commercial success (with hit tracks "Engine Number 9" and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You"), and proved that Pickett had staying power like no other.
87. Mario Lanza
Be My Love / Prism, 2000
Cursed by a life of drama (with all the booze, drugs and overeating he could muster), South Philly-born Mario Lanza was considered one of the top opera stars of the last century, and used his warm tenor pipes to record several best-selling albums. This greatest hits package features Lanza's work in the studio and onstage. In his short but illustrious career, he made several dozen films (Lanza's favorite was playing his idol in The Great Caruso). Sometimes too portly to actually star on-screen, he often provided a smooth-toned voiceover for more handsome leading men. Dramatic in death as in life, it was rumored that Lanza--though he officially died of a heart attack--was the possible target of a hit by Lucky Luciano, allegedly because he refused to perform a private concert for the mob boss.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25