I Bought: Gwen Stefani’s “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.”

When I started working here at Murfie, I set up an account and pledged to use it as a way to explore records that wouldn’t normally find their way into my collection. In an effort to broaden my music knowledge, I sought out both mainstream and underground records, good and bad; my musical palette was soon to be an assortment of classics, instant classics and records that would, well, never be classics.

One morning, as I was scrolling aimlessly through pages of albums, I came across Gwen Stefani‘s solo debut,  Love. Angel. Music Baby. My heart was instantly set on making the purchase. My head’s only thought was, “This s**t is bananas.”

Rock SteadyIf my memory serves me right, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (aka L.A.M.B.) was released when I was in seventh grade. I knew Stefani as the frontwoman of epitomical ’90s band No Doubt, who’s album Rock Steady had hit the radio-waves pretty heavily three years prior. No Doubt was currently on hiatus, but like most bands who call it quits, they wound up making music together again.

I didn’t grow up with No Doubt, so I was completely oblivious to Stefani’s debut until the video for L.A.M.B.‘s first single, “What You Waiting For?” came on one day after school. Being a middle school boy, my gut reaction was to move as far away from the TV set as I could. And until Stefani released “Hollaback Girl” in early in 2005, I avoided L.A.M.B. with the utmost success.

Looking back on my teenage self, my reaction seems valid. But now, as a self-proclaimed, sort-of adult, I was curious to explore L.A.M.B. with open ears.

At first, my ears were ecstatic: the first half of L.A.M.B. straight up slays. “What You Waiting For?,” with its anthemic chorus and big synth riffs, is an ideal pop album opener; its frantic, active and quite satisfying. “Rich Girl” follows, and while it takes a laid-back, hip-hop-influenced approach, its just as fantastic.

Love Angel Music BabyAnd then there’s “Hollaback Girl,” that one song with the marching band, that one song where Gwen teaches you how to spell bananas, that one song that took a year of our lives we’ll never get back. Some days I love this song, other days I hate it; no matter your stance, however, you can’t deny its existence.

“Cool,” a perfectly placed ballad, follows “Hollaback Girl.” For me, “Cool” marks the end of the first half of L.A.M.B. because the remaining eight tracks are a hodgepodge of mediocrity and flat-out weird mid-2000s album tracks. OutKast‘s Andre 3000 shows up on “Bubble Pop Electric,” a track that sounds exactly like you’d expect; “Danger Zone” is surprisingly calm, and late-single “Crash” doesn’t live up to the standard set by the earlier ones.

Part of me thinks the second half of L.A.M.B. is a bust, but most of me thinks that the first four songs are just too good. At the very least, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is a well-produced pop record that proves just how important track arrangement can be.


Andrew Brandt
@andrewtbrandt

Andrew is a communications intern at Murfie. When he’s not blogging here, you can probably find him blogging at a handful of other music sites. And when he’s not blogging at all, you can probably find him curled up with a good beer and a great book.


Sounds Like New Jersey: The Best of the Garden State

Last time, we brought you the best albums Colorado has to offer. This time, let’s head east to check out the best of the Garden State. Here are reviews of three albums by Jersey natives!

Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run

After two low-budget albums, The Boss released his third, Born to Run, with a superstar budget and big aspirations. Before this album, Springsteen was mostly propelled by local love and word of mouth; Born to Run was a make-or-break shot at the big leagues.

It couldn’t be more successful at this mission—Born to Run is a superb album that cemented Springsteen’s status as someone who would make his mark on rock & roll. Each track is full of both drama and familiar themes of American life. The songs are familiar stories, told in a new way that’s an unprecedented level of exciting and meaningful.

Most important, though, is that The Boss just makes music that’s what rock should be. Each track is filled with incredible instrumentals: harmonicas, pianos, organs, great guitar lines and fantastic chords—and it’s all tied together by an unshakable spirit and energy. Born to Run is an exhilarating listening experience.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Born to Run”, “Thunder Road”, “Backstreets”

Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Turns out 1998 was one amazing year for hip hop: between Outkast’s Aquemini, Talib Kweli and Mos Def’s Black Star, and Lauryn Hill, it was truly a year to remember. Even in a year of standouts, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill raised the bar. Hill’s hip-hop foundation with gospel, soul, reggae and funk layered on top made it the stellar album that won a record five Grammy Awards.

Hill’s music truly sounds like poetry, which, given its subject matter, is definitely appropriate. The album takes on the issue of love in many manifestations, ranging from deep happiness on tracks like “Nothing Even Matters” to sadness on “I Used to Love Him”. Rapper Nas described the album’s style as “the soul of Roberta Flack, the passion of Bob Marley, the essence of Aretha Franklin all wrapped up in one thing”.

What’s best about this album is that Hill created her own sound. Rather than trying to emulate existing hip-hop, she forged her own path—a brand new style. This album feels like a new artist—and genre—is born.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Doo Wop”, “Superstar”

Bon Jovi
Slippery When Wet

It’s impossible to talk about New Jersey without mentioning Jon Bon Jovi and crew. Listening to this album reminds you of every party you’ve been at when “Livin’ on a Prayer” comes on, and suddenly you’re singing along. This band has a way of sticking in your mind.

Bon Jovi may love his lyrical clichés, but there’s no denying how much fun this music is. In its best moments, like “Livin on a Prayer” or “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Slippery When Wet creates a melodic frenzy. The album introduces an appealing fusion of pop, rock and metal that brought hair metal onto the mainstream radio. Despite its metal influences, however, this album is most true to pop.

“It’s alright if you have a good time”, Bon Jovi sang on “Let it Rock”, and that’s the theme of this album: it’s an accessible, middle-of-the-road approach to rock that deviated from other hard-edged ‘80s music and created an appealing, carefree alternative that ultimately became an ‘80s soundtrack.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”

These albums currently range from $1 to $4 on Murfie. Grab ’em now!