Top 5 Neil Young (and all-time) albums aka... well, I guess that's the whole title. There's not much more to say, really...

Last week we covered Spinal Tap and my favorite live shows from the shitty city of Portland, OR. This week, I would like to discuss my favorite Neil Young albums. Neil Young is an artist that I hated, and I mean HATED, when I was first really getting into music, whenever that was. 12 or 13 maybe? Prior to that, the only things I cared about were playing baseball, watching the Milwaukee Brewers (or listening to Mr. Baseball call the games on the radio) and the Green Bay Packers. Anyways, I couldn’t stand the guy. I thought he was a mediocre guitar player and an awful singer. An OK songwriter maybe (I had a friend who was obsessed with “Heart of Gold” so it was eventually beat into me as a pretty song), but not worth spending my hard-earned lawn mowing and chore money on.

As I got more into Rock N’ Roll music, I started to come around. I saw Pearl Jam and Neil play the fuck out of “Rockin’ in the Free World” on MTV; you know, back when “Music Television” had music on it or something. What a concept! But, hell, if Neil was good enough for Eddie Vedder and the gang, he was good enough for me. I got a bootleg (via Napster or Limewire, can’t remember, back when you would set up like five downloads and go to bed just hoping they would be done before you woke up or the internet crashed/was interrupted) of “Weld” and my life was changed. As soon as “Hey Hey, My My” kicked in, I was fucking hooked. As we rolled through “Fuckin’ Up,” “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Tonight’s the Night” I fell in love. OK, so Neil could rock the fuck out and play some pretty mean guitar. Hell, he could even sing a little better than I gave him credit for. OK, Fine. He’s fucking awesome and maybe I was too quick to judge.

But, I was so sick of hearing “Needle and the Damage Done” on classic rock radio that it soured me on the whole “Harvest” album, which my buddy played incessantly. Which was a shame since “A Man Needs a Maid,” “Are You Ready for the Country” and “Alabama” are fucking killer tunes. Unfortunately, I would come to know a few people whose lives were either taken or ruined by heroin. Suddenly, the song didn’t seem so stupid. Suddenly, I didn’t hate it. Suddenly, but sadly, it made sense…

But, take a look at my top Neil Young albums and you still won’t see “Harvest” on it. It may have been the one that catapulted him into a new level of stardom and became the thing the record label would ride him to recreate leading to him making some shit-ass fucking albums to fulfill his contract, but I would probably rank it maybe 6th best for Mr. Young. Anyways, take a look at the list below and get mad, agree or whatever it is that you do when you read a list of things.

5) Weld

I know, Live albums aren’t technically albums in a sense, but it was an official release and it was the first thing that made me love Neil and his music, so there has to be bonus points for that. “Fuckin’ Up” and “Rockin’ in the Free World” make this worth the price of admission alone and became staples in my High School band’s repertoire.

4) After the Gold Rush

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” has to be in my top 25 favorite songs. Well, maybe, there’s a lot of Springsteen songs up there on that list. Top 40 I’d bet. But still, that would be good enough to place this album pretty high but then you throw in the title track, “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” “Tell Me Why” and “I Believe In You” then just, come the fuck on. How could I leave this one off the list?

3) Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere

Obviously, “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” make this record a classic but I love the in between songs so much. Maybe not cover them during my live shows good (I only do maybe 3 or 4 Neil Young songs total these days) but this record has such a fun fucking vibe. It also sports my 2nd favorite Neil Young album cover. It just looks like a fucking fun record to put on. It’s one of my most played vinyl albums since I love the feeling this record gives me when it’s on and how much I love to stare at the fucking cover. But, it’s still only my third most listened to vinyl album behind…

2) On the Beach

I’ve heard (and I’ll listen) to arguments that this could be #1. Every song is a fucking killer on this album. The amount of sadness packed into a record rarely gets this extreme. I love every fucking moment. The way he converts sadness to beauty in the form of song on this album is absolutely incredible. There’s not a moment I would take off or wish was on here. It’s as close to a perfect statement as can be made. There’s upbeat, but still depressing rockers (my songwriting wheelhouse, if I may say so and I may since this is my fucking blog), beautifully sad downbeat tunes and not one, not two, but three tunes with the word “blues” in the title and there could be a fourth as the title track could easily be “On the Beach Blues” given the tune. This could easily be anyone else’s greatest achievement except Neil somehow outdid himself on…

1) Tonight’s the Night

It’s a perfect record. It’s magnificently gorgeous while it wallows in its angry depression. This is the album of immense sadness and anger. Whereas “On the Beach” is sad and reflective, “Tonight’s the Night” is sad and fucking pissed off at the world. There’s an energy that’s nearly impossible to capture on tape, especially in a studio, that Neil and co. just fucking live in on this album. It sounds halfway between a mental breakdown and a band rehearsal. The looseness and not give-a-fuck-ness (which inspired pieces of on my latest album “In My Youth, I’m Getting Old…”) are off the charts. Indeed, I’ve heard these songs were basically “jammed” in the studio live and put out (remember Neil’s one record per year contract…) and they couldn’t have existed in another form. Months in the studio couldn’t have replicated the vibe, the sadness, the energy, the raw beauty of these tunes. Some things are best to not overthink, and this record wasn’t even thought to begin with. It just is, in all it’s raging glory. I, no joke, probably listen to this album once a week. I used to wonder what my #5 all-time album was. It vacillated between Damien Rice’s “O,” Johnny Cash’s “Live at San Quentin" and Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love.” Well, the top five are officially:

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

Neil Young - Tonight’s the Night

I know, a little boring but there’s been some movement over the years. “Blood on the Tracks” went from #2 to #3 and, well, I guess that’s it besides the aforementioned shifting of #5. With those officially locked in, I doubt I will ever make any changes for the rest of my life, unless somehow, “Tonight’s the Night” rises to #4 or, God forbid, #3. It’s unlikely but there are times I think it’s possible given how much I love that album these days. Tastes change over time but who knows. But, I’m guessing my Asperger’s brain has finally locked this into place and we’ll be done thinking about this for the rest of time. Though, I did used to hate bleu cheese which I now love, so…

(dictated but not read)

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Insomnia and what cures it, for me, at least... aka music. Top 5 albums I fall asleep to...

Figured I'd give you the music right off the fucking bat in case you're one of those people that can listen to music AND do anything else, like read, at the same time. For me, music is a solitary focus only but I hear I'm a little weird with shit like that...

Well, it's Monday night (or whenever the hell it is when you are reading this), so it's time for your weekly dose of ol' Bradley Wik. I found out recently that, apparently, I was the last person on the planet still using two spaces after a sentence while typing, so I'm trying to get used to using only one. Forgive me if I add extra ones here and there. Fucking old habits die hard. I've had to delete three in this short-ass first paragraph already...

But, last week was a fucking weird one for me. I had an enormous fucking blister on my thumb which made it damn near impossible to pick a guitar/record (bourbon helps with the pain), I tried to start going through and mixing some of the recordings I made last week only to find they were, for all intents and purposes, unusable, which pissed me off to no fucking end, so I just wanted to relax and watch some TV but football is gone, baseball hasn't yet started, so I binged seasons 5 and 6 of "VEEP" and fell in love with Jonah and Richard Splett all over again. Which was nice, for a while. Then, I had an Asperger's attack/breakdown over getting a new tattoo because I really wanted to get it this weekend but I am going to Disney World in less than a week and was paranoid about it getting infected on the water rides. But, I had already made up my mind to go get it which means I spoiled almost two entire days pouting/freaking out that I didn't get to do what I had already planned on doing even though it was entirely my fault as I had completely forgotten I was going to Disney World so soon after. It likely would've been fine anyways, but I already don't heal particularly quickly (bourbon doesn't help in this case) and generally have shit luck with vacations in the first place. It literally only delayed the new tattoo by a couple weeks but Asperger's is a bitch sometimes and loves to fuck up my days with nonsense...

But, what I really wanted to talk about today was insomnia and my top five albums to fall asleep to. So, no reason to keep blathering on about nonsensical things when I could be blathering on about semi-nonsensical things...

Insomnia and me

I think it started shortly after I turned 18. I had spent the past 9 years sharing a room with my little brother who was (and still is!) 8 1/2 years younger than me. You'd think it would be a bummer for a high schooler to share a room with an 8 year old but it was actually the opposite. My brother and I got along swimmingly (and still do). Of course, it's much easier for me to get along with someone who has excellent (and very similar) taste in music, movies, television and video games. We hung out a lot of the time and I had control of the stereo and TV, so he didn't really have many other options, but, he definitely could've hated listening to Outkast's "Stankonia" on repeat while playing NFL 2K1 (Dreamcast for life muthafuckers!) for hours on end. But, he didn't. He even choreographed one of his first karate test routines to the fucking White Stripes. I think he was 7 at the time. What can I say, kid's a badass and he knows good shit when he hears it.

Leaving home was semi-traumatic as I crave structure and routine. Leaving was the opposite (though, ironically, leaving/moving would become my new routine so staying in one place became the difficult thing) as it forced me to sleep in some place new, eat new food (food I had to cook), go to new stores, a new job, and move into a shitty, college rental house. It turned out to be amazing and I could've lived there forever with Jake and Quinn, but life had other plans for us all.  But, just uprooting everything was jarring for a kid with Asperger's. It didn't sit right and sleeping became difficult. I moved from Horicon, WI, population 3000 to a busy street in Madison, WI, population a billion as far as I was concerned. The street noise, which would eventually become my friend, was such a shock that I couldn't tune it out enough to sleep. For the first month or so in Madison, I think I slept maybe 3 or 4 hours a night. 9 years was a long normal that suddenly disappeared for me. After the initial Asperger's shock wore off, I needed to normalize it. Jake and Quinn listened to music (quite loudly, I might add) as they dozed off. It dawned on me that I could use music, my one true love, to help me adjust to new surroundings. My routine could be the wonderful music that made me feel human, comforted me and gave my life meaning. You see, with Asperger's and its lack of empathy, "human-ness" was hard to come by. I always felt an outsider, a stranger to even myself and someone who didn't understand how other humans interacted and felt so comfortable amongst each other. I didn't  get it. They clearly understood or had something I did not. But music bridged that gap. Suddenly, I could surround myself with people who had the same obsession I did. It made me feel connected to the rest of the world in a way I didn't before. It helped me understand how humans made contact amongst one another in a friendly way. I needed it to survive. Now, it could help me achieve one of the most basic human needs for survival: sleep. For years, I couldn't sleep without music playing. I may not use it every night anymore (as most nights I pass out on the couch watching TV after a handful of bourbons), but when I do, it puts me out like a baby. I can hit the sack and within 20 minutes be sleeping like a baby with the right record. Which brings me to...

My top 5 albums to fall asleep to


Honorable mentions: Jeff Buckley - Grace, Portishead - Eponymous, The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

Jeff Buckley's music has helped me in innumerable ways throughout my life, including saving it on more than one occasion, so it can occasionally be difficult to listen to passively enough to fall asleep. I've used it to soothe my soul on so many nights, but it's also kept me awake with its beauty on more than one occasion (whether by its pure musical magic or the memories it stirs in me) so I have to relegate it to honorable mention in this case.

Portishead is wonderful late night music. Unfortunately, it's also wonderful late night music for certain, R-rated things as well. So, it can't be counted on 100% to send me to slumberland as it sometimes sends me to excited land, which is not conducive to falling asleep.

The Gaslight Anthem's '59 Sound is like comfort food. It's not the most original, complex, inventive or brilliant album but it knows what it is and it does it fucking well. It's punk, Springsteen, storytelling and about as on the nose as a fucking handjob, but sometimes that's all you need.

Now, to the good stuff:

5. Palace Brothers - Days in the Wake

A record recommended to me by the kind (and musically-genius) folks at B-Sides records in Madison, WI. I came in for the Bonnie Prince Billy "I See a Darkness" record and they brought up his past projects and said I'd probably love this. They were right as fuck. I spent 6 months writing songs that could fit on the sequel to this album because it inspired me so much. The rawness, the honesty, the sometimes ridiculousness of it all were so beautiful. When I drink, I always play "I am a Cinematographer" and "I Send My Love to You" without fail. Just gorgeously raw music.

4. Neil Young - After the Gold Rush


This album isn't my favorite Neil Young album, it's not even in my top 3 (well, can be #3 depending on my mood and the day), but it has an effect on me that I cannot fully describe. It's calming and numbing (in a good way) and gets me out of my head in a way that is wonderful. I'll also never forget the night I drank, well, more than my fair share of wine and watched Arrested Development reruns until 3:30 am. I finally went to bed but needed to wind down from all the laughter. I popped this record on but being drunk, wasn't aware of the apparent volume. Turns out, my downstairs neighbor didn't appreciate the late night/early morning Neil Young; except maybe she did as she wrote me a letter saying to keep it down late at night unless I give her a call and invite her up for my late night "parties." If I wasn't with someone at the time, I probably would have. Other than that, I never had any interaction with my neighbors at that Portland apartment, though it was one of the last apartments that allowed smoking since it "had let people do it for so long, they couldn't ask them to stop now. Besides, they had extensive renovations to do (read: the apartments were shitty) so they'll deal with it then."

3. Joanna Newsom - Y's

This is such a strange album for me. My Asperger's brain struggles to figure this out. I don't have any clue how to make music like this and I keep trying to figure out how this came into existence. To me, it's like a crazy math riddle that I don't know the formula to. But, I love it. I love it so much. This vinyl is one of my most well-worn/loved. The CD didn't leave my Sony boombox for months and months on end when it first entered. I listened to this album incessantly on my iPod on the train to work when I live in NYC. Joanna has played some of my favorite live shows that I've ever seen. She truly is an artist in every sense of the word, and if you don't own the vinyl version of this, by God, sell your fucking children (or $20 or $30 worth of something else) to get it. You won't regret it. But, make sure you also get the CD so you can listen as you doze off to "Monkey and Bear." I rarely make it past "Monkey and Bear" when I play this late at night.

2. Bjork - Vespertine

"Homogenic" is far too upbeat and wonderous to fall asleep to. No, this is the album you need to whisk you away into a magical night of slumber and dreams. The majestic tone of this album set against those jagged but hypnotic soundscapes are just too much to fathom. Unlike "Y's" where my brain is trying to figure out the math, this just breaks my brain and it shuts off, in the best possible way when you're trying to turn off the day. If I make it to "Undo," I can't help but let a tear slip despite my eyes being tightly closed. If I could ever make a song like that (or anything on this album) I would immediately retire knowing I'd never achieve such heights again. Luckily for us, Bjork wasn't done reaching heights.

1. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire

This album puts me to sleep in the sadness, most nostalgic way possible. Back in Madison, WI when I was just figuring out the nocturnal magic of music, this was one of the first albums that lulled me to sleep. The reminiscing of high school times, which I was fresh out of, was too much, set against the pop-electronic rock concept while handing off singing duties/doing duets with an equally talented female was something I always wanted to dabble in. This album has all the teenage emotions a young person can handle: fleeting love, anger, lust, sadness, the feeling that somehow this is the best it will ever get, ambition, hope, youthful regret, the false permanence, underage drunkenness, etc. This album is likely not as good as I think it is (one of the 10-15 greatest albums ever made) but it means that much to me. I don't know why. It's just one of those time and place albums that is now so embedded and such a sense memory for all the emotions and experiences that time represents that it is indelibly a part of me. There's a sadness and a joy and a comfort in that. I like that this album keeps all that for me. I don't have to forget. I don't have to carry it with me. This album takes care of all that for me. I just have to place it, close the lid and let the lasers do the rest. That little piece of plastic keeps all that shit at a distance but within reach. God bless it. Thank you Stars for the countless nights that I've enjoyed sleep when I otherwise couldn't. It's a blessing and I cannot repay you enough for what you've given me. I once collapsed at work from lack of sleep, but then I found this album and it literally changed my life. Only a small number of records have done that and these sad, reminiscing kids from Canada did it. Congratulations. I'll probably die with this record on. Or "Born to Run" or "Bold as Love" or "Blood on the Tracks" or "Tonight's the Night" or "Grace" but it's crazy "Set Yourself on Fire" is even in that conversation...

(dictated but not read)

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Tommy Wiseau, you sick genius... aka how did I get sucked into this? Also, haircuts are the worst. Am I right?

I did one of my least favorite things today: I got a haircut. I know that for some people they don’t mind getting a haircut; hell, they even enjoy it! But, alas, that is not I. My Asperger’s will not let me enjoy it. Why? Because I have a very hard time allowing people to touch my head, and I rarely like the haircuts I get because often I am too anxious about people about to touch my head that I give little direction and hope for the best. I’d like to think I’m not too picky, but it turns out I just hate the whole experience so much that however my hair comes out typically angers me since I had to go through this horrible process to get it there. Plus, I’m just fucking weird when it comes to my hair. I love to have it long, except I don’t. It’s always falling in my face and I have to use so much product to keep it away from my eye holes. But it does look good, so I often keep it long and complain about it constantly. Then, if I cut it short it feels better but I just wish it was long again. All of which is to say I’m very Asperger’s neurotic about my head/hair. The only time I accept people touching it is during sex or the run-up to sex. I’m generally a little too otherwise distracted and there isn’t enough blood left in my head to care, or something, I guess. Who knows? But outside of fucking, stay away from my head. Which is why it’s such a mind-fuck to get a haircut and let a stranger touch my head. I sometimes feel bad because not only am I normally terrible at small talk but bring in my head-touching anxiety and I normally sit in the chair silent trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I try to tip well to compensate for my strange behavior during the actual deed but I’ve started just warning the hair stylist ahead of time that I will probably seem very jovial and talkative until my head is being touched at which point I will clam up and try to get it over with by focusing on anything but what’s happening. This is the not so fun part of having Asperger’s… But, I did find a place in Portland (Brick and Mortar) and a stylist (Anna or Hannah, I think? Or something along those lines) who has given me my favorite two haircuts probably ever, so that’s good. But still, fuck Asperger’s sometimes…

But enough of that drudgery when shit like “The Neighbors” exists in the world:

Seriously, what the fuck? Tommy Wiseau is the now-infamous director of the worst movie ever (“The Room”) satirized in the recent film “The Disaster Artist.” That movie is crazy funny (if you love weird, cheesy movies) but this is next level shit. You can watch the WHOLE SERIES HERE ON YOUTUBE but I would warn you to take it slow with this as I’m not sure what would happen if you watched it all in one night. This shit will fuck with you and your perceptions of what television is and can be. Tommy Wiseau is at his most Tommy Wiseau, even actively showing/peddling his very own underwear line throughout the series. If somehow you made it through more than a few minutes of that, you will indeed concur, “what a day…”

In music this week, I rediscovered a song I used to perform live from time to time if I was bored or wanting to give the audience a very special treat: “THE MARINER’S REVENGE SONG” BY THE DECEMBERISTS. What a shanty tune! I love it. That whole “Picaresque” record was awesome and they put on some of my all-time favorite live shows, including a Thanksgiving show where they chased a man dressed up in a turkey suit through the audience while playing… fuck, some song. Can’t remember. But it was good times…

In Bradley’s random vinyl selection of the week (which I just invented yesterday when I was bored and wanted to do something besides watch TV now that I’ve finished “Russian Doll” and found out “Nailed It! Mexico” does not have Nicole Byer on it…), where I close my eyes and pull out an actual vinyl album (yes, hipsters, people actually play these things, not just collect them to look cool) to revisit. This week it was: Neil Young’s “On the Beach.” Not my favorite Neil Young record, that honor goes to “Tonight’s the Night,” but “REVOLUTION BLUES” rocks pretty fucking hard and “MOTION PICTURES” is pretty fucking fantastic. It’s so resigned and sentimental and hopeful and everything you’d want out of a Neil Young song, including a harmonica solo. I wonder what kind of harmonica Neil plays on this album. I used to be a Hohner blues man but have slowly moved into enemy (read: Lee Oskar) territory with their harps. If anyone knows the answer, comment or hit me up via the contact page. The one thing I will say is the Lee Oskar harmonica rack is a bit more stiff in the springs than it needs to be. But it works well when you get it in; that’s what she said…

Anyways, if you haven’t watched “Russian Doll,” quit your job immediately and watch the whole series in one sitting while eating almost an entire a Screamin’ Sicilian Mambo Italiano, drinking almost an entire bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed and falling asleep/passing out after four episodes only to wake up and rally at 2:45 AM Elliott Smith style to finish the series. I’ve heard that’s a good way to do it. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what an inside source told me in a dream, or in real life. Or, it was me. Fuck. I hate having “Inception” style dreams within dreams… Or am I in one now?

(dictated but not read)