Mr. Brick’s Top Picks’ Top Picks
Because I can. Because I wanted to.
01. Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra – Super Mario World
02. Howard Shore – Concerning Hobbits*
03. Procol Harum – Something Following Me
04. Blackmore’s Night – Play Minstrel Play
05. Johnny Socko – Long Live the Dead Guy
06. Michiru Yamane – Wandering Ghosts
07. Patrick Doyle & City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – Non Nobis Domine*
08. Beck – Mixed Bizness
09. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Amish Paradise
10. Malcolm Arnold – Siciliano
11. Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!
12. Petitmoni – Koi ni Knock Out
13. The Who – Pinball Wizard
14. Nobuo Uematsu – Main Theme of Final Fantasy V
*Two picks from Two Lost Volumes. I have the right.
The Arbitrary Brick Awards
SIT DOWN. SIT DOWN. STOP.
STOP WITH YOUR FACES. NOBODY GOES HOME YET.
The Dark Horse is awarded to an artist with a single entry in the surviving Brick catalog that had the most significance on my musical livelihood following the days of Mr. Brick.
This should be a no-brainer for anyone who spent 12th grade with me. I specifically remember ending the summer before senior year with a big fat Amazon order on which were no less than three albums and one DVD featuring The Who. I can pick out almost any memory from senior year and stick a Who song to it.
Their influence reached back as far as Volume 9’s “Pinball Wizard”, but the true day of reckoning came when I first heard “The Real Me” from Quadrophenia. “Real Me” was the bomb that blew the door open, and in marched the entire history and legacy of the Who. They were my punk rock. They were all the bad hoodoo and screwball humor and blazing anger and mystical wonder of my high school. The first true release of tension. The Who picked up almost precisely where Mr. Brick left off.
Honorable mention goes to Gorillaz, who wouldn’t return until freshman year of college, right around the time Demon Days dropped. I bought it on a whim still not having heard their first album in full and I was blown away. Really opened some doors for me. While Plastic Beach wasn’t exactly a new direction for them, I still enjoyed it and look forward to the next one coming. I only wish they could’ve done that movie with Terry Gilliam.
The Left Fielder is awarded to the artist whose mere presence in the surviving Brick catalog confounds me. There are some pretty obvious and reliable trends throughout the life of the Top Picks, so I think it’s only fair to reward the most unexpected turn. And that turn is absolutely “Murder” by Peccatum. When I texted my brother to ask about this song, he only vaguely remembered it and suggested maybe I picked it up from one of his metal buddies. I don’t remember such a thing, so the only remaining explanation is that Swedish Satanists hacked my computer and left this song to corrupt me into betraying my species to the winged demigod they were preparing to summon. Sorry guys, it didn’t take.
Honorable mention to Petitmoni for helping me confront my inner tsundere with confidence.
The Oldie is awarded to the artist with the oldest recording. I make this an award because I am a young scumbag with no respect for the classics. There are numerous exceptions, of course, but on the whole, my awareness of virtually all media seems to drop off sharply in the 1950’s and earlier. The popular Orff arrangement of “O Fortuna” was written in 1935, buuuut the even more popular recording of said arrangement I chose was released in 1981, leaving the trophy undisputably in the hands of Bing Crosby for “White Christmas”, recorded in 1945. Get ‘em, Bing.
Honorable mention to yet another Christmas classic: Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”, recorded in 1948.
The Top Three
Assistant Reserve Grand Champion: John Williams (7 songs across 4 volumes)
JOHN BOY. You had to fight off Procol Harum with a bassoon to claim this spot. They also clocked in 7 songs but only appeared in 3 volumes, tipping the tie in your favor. As if you needed any more of that.
I made some guff about movie songs early on, but come on. It’s John fucking Williams. John’s presence here represents a life of young nerdery: a life that shaped my behavior, outlook on life, and personal values for years to come…in fact, John, if you could just leave right now…
Reserve Grand Champion: Yasunori Mitsuda (8 songs across 2 volumes)
Honestly, this is kind of a chump’s victory. A number of video game composers got their 2-volume sprint through the Brick chronology, but Mitsuda, somehow you managed to stuff EIGHT SONGS in your short window. You also had the advantage of close proximity volumes, seizing my attention and playing on fleeting fanboy fever. But what the hell, you gave yourself stomach ulcers to give us one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. And I’m lying if I say that I don’t still get the fever now and again.
GRAND CHAMPION: NOBUO UEMATSU (11 songs across 7 volumes)
Who else could it be?
For all my crowing and crying about video games, no one can take the music away from me, and so many times, for so many years, up to and beyond this day, Nobuo represents an astounding body of work which remains worthy of its praise, even that of penitent gamers elapsed in age. Thanks, Nobuo. You continue to inspire me.
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to thank Evil Greg for producing an idea worth stealing. I’d like to thank George Starostin and Anthony Fantano for providing the benchmark of music-writing for which I aimed and Mark Prindle for providing the benchmark I attained. I’d like to thank Jason for putting me to task. And I’d like to thank you, dear reader, because you surely had something else going on all this time that you put aside for me. You’re too kind.
I’d most of all like to thank my Brother, because instead of being the brother who punched me in the head or called me a fag, he was the brother who tried to set me right, who never abused my trust.
I set out on this trip expecting to have to make a lot of excuses for the past and confronting some embarrassing memories, but beyond the Interlude these turned out to be pretty small problems. The Real Problem which occurred to me was exhibiting the lack of diversity in tunes. No real surprise, given my original admission that I was slow in acquisition, but one of life’s more benevolent rules is that your problems are almost never as bad as you think they will be. I was slow, but I was sure. A lot of this music survived to today’s library, and while I can (and do) assess that as a lack of growth, I can (and do) also assess that as bypassing waste.
I’m not the only one! Evil Greg himself remarked on my generally good early taste. I’d counter that my lists are overpopulated with game music, prog, and random top 40 selections, but then Greg’s is overpopulated with nu-metal. I know which I’d prefer. But then he also picked up on hip hop way earlier than I did, not to mention other unique odds and ends I’ve still never touched.
The comparison is moot, of course. Everybody finds music on their own terms, the only way any lasting faith can be adopted. Though we all aspire to open our hearts to as much illumination as our guts can handle, our experiences and mindset always inform what we receive and how we receive it. Context is the only commandment. Judgment is fun, sure, but it is snobbery, for which I have no use.
So I leave the angst and the regret in the past where they belong. I accept and embrace these 14 discs as little more than I expected they were: an honest sketch of a lost soul wandering the woods. I’m glad I made them, and I’m glad I kept them. In a way I’ve never really stopped using music to measure and examine the past (don’t we all?), but not since Mr. Brick’s Top Picks have I really engaged in the practice for its own sake. Just as musicians sort their own expressions into chapters of LPs, EPs, and singles, so we sort our impressions into our own lists, governed by the commandment of context. Many of my fellow faithful have maintained the art of the playlist. I keep a lot of it in my head, but I’d do well to pay closer attention, to put my faith to practice.