Ben’s Ten: Volume V: Albums to Listen to While Stoned

Although I no longer indulge in “the grass,” I feel I can offer some musical suggestions based on conversations I’ve had with a number of “users” and past experiences. Not surprisingly, mellow, atmospheric recordings seem pleasing to those who’ve recently smoked. I also found instrumental compositions and strange, experimental music seemed popular among the marijuana enthusiast. This is by no means a definitive “top 10 of all time” list. I purposefully included only more recent music, excluding obvious classic rock albums. So please, give these albums a listen and get turned on to some heavy, righteous, far-out shit.

1. Sleep – Dopesmoker The final album by this “stoner doom metal” band is 73 minutes of thick, heavy sludge. Dopesmoker was to be the band’s first album on a major label, London Records. Not surprisingly, the label refused to release it, calling it “unmarketable.” Eventually released eight years later, both critics and fans loved the album, which is considered highly influential and important in metal’s evolution.

2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven Though Godspeed is often referred to as a “post rock” band, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven more closely resembles a symphony than a rock record. The all-instrumental double album features Godspeed at its finest. The quiet, subtle sections inevitably lead to crashing crescendos when the songs reach their epic peaks.

3. Comets On Fire – Blue Cathedral The band’s 2004 debut for legendary indie Sub Pop saw them expanding on ideas found on 2002’s Field Recordings from the Sun. There are plenty of all out auditory assaults, with chaotic noise intertwined with howling guitars and frantic drums. The album also saw Comets experimenting with more subtle mate- rial such as the acoustic, psychedelic “Wild Whiskey” and the ambient “Organs.”

4. Tortoise – Tortoise The debut album by Chicago band Tortoise left many confused. Was it indie rock? Heavily influenced by prog, dub, minimalism, Krautrock and jazz, Tortoise has consistently created music that defies easy categorization. I was introduced to the band and this album while smoking a joint in the Sunset dorm my freshman year at HSU. A perfect set of circumstances for a record that would change my perception of music.

5. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic It’s refreshing to see a band like The Flaming Lips produce an album like Embryonic. After releasing two of their more popular, accessible records, the band decided to record a more experi- mental, sprawling, and bizarre album. Full of what sounds like improvisations and “freak outs,” Embryoinc is at times difficult,
but great nonetheless.

6. Green Milk From the Planet Orange – City Calls Revolution There are moments on City Calls Revolution where it’s nearly impossible to believe that what you’re hearing is being created by a three piece band. The virtuosity and interplay between the members of the Tokyo-based group are truly phenomenal. The final track, “A Day In The Planet Orange,” clocks in at nearly 40 minutes, with not a single dull moment. City Calls Revolution is a blistering rock record with elements of psychedelia, prog and punk.

7. Kinski – Alpine Static Kinski believe in the power of the heavy guitar riff. Alpine Static somehow manages to be an immediate, gripping record despite being all instrumental, containing bursts of noise and long, atmo- spheric interludes.

8. Explosions in the Sky — Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever “Total silence to total violence,” read one review of Explosions in the Sky’s 2001 album. It’s true; each song lifts and carries you away in a dreamy soundscape that ultimately lead to sonic annihilation. The guitars build to epic peaks, while giant walls of noise overwhelm your senses.

9. Radiohead – Kid A It’s well known that Radiohead’s fourth album was a major de- parture for the band, previously known for their guitar anthems. The band experimented with many instruments during record- ing, most notably keys and synthesizers, which give the album an electronic, ambient feel. Although it was a challenging record, Kid A was critically well received and debuted at number one in the U.S.

10. Pavement – Wowee Zowee Lead vocalist/songwriter Stephen Malkmus attributed his choice of singles for “Wowee Zowee” to the fact that he was “smok- ing a lot of grass at the time.” The band’s sprawling third album found them exploring a wide range of styles including country, balladry and punk all done in their loose, sloppy style.

About Ben Allen

Our music editor Ben Allen was born one stormy evening in a quaint Northern California coastal village. Upon birth he was immediately exposed to the soothing analog sounds of artists such as Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Captain Beefheart and Santana. As the lad grew, so did his appreciation for an assortment of abrasive hard rock. A pubescent flirtation with butt metal was shattered in the early 1990’s by exposure to Nirvana and other so-called “Alternative” bands. While in college, our protagonist became a DJ on a local station, and began work as a freelance music journalist. During this period he became entranced with artists such as Tortoise, Slint, Modest Mouse, Guided By Voices and Pavement. Currently Allen resides in Arcata, CA where he continues to obsess and salivate over new recordings by his favorite artists. He works with music industry people to ensure that Savage Henry’s contributors receive music and other promotional materials. He also writes a silly monthly list titled “Ben’s 10.”

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