In early fall of 2010, a meme started kicking around Facebook. It asked you to pick 15 albums that you will always have with you. Not necessarily what you consider the greatest albums ever, just ones that you love and can easily see yourself listening to in several years time. This is a take off of that. I expanded the list to twenty and have included comments about each of the albums as well, but the overall idea remains the same. Give it a read, and let me know what albums you would include on yours.
1. “I Am The Movie” – Motion City Soundtrack
The first album I’ve ever listened to where I loved every single song the first time I heard it. Its infectious blend of power-pop, jangly rock and roll, and an ever-present keyboard was exactly what high school me needed, and even though I actually consider Commit This To Memory a better album overall, nothing could possibly cause me to cease loving I Am The Movie.
2. “Funeral” – Arcade Fire
With soaring vocals, beautiful harmonies, poetically dense lyrics, and probably a few instruments you can’t even hear, Arcade Fire’s debut album manages to sound like absolutely nothing and everything else. With a trajectory that rises and falls, Funeral is an album you feel and listen to, in that order.
3. “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” – Wilco
Right from the mess of percussion and electronic noises that opens “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot establishes itself as an album that is not out to sound like anything else. Which is probably why it’s so revered, if it sounded like anything other than itself, we would have no way of recognizing just how special it is.
4. “Flood” – They Might Be Giants
An album that plays in its own world, if ever there was one. The Johns’ quirky tales of Particle Man, Hot Cha, and Mr. Horrible; their lessons about Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and women and men; and the apparent bliss that is having a rock to wind a string around are all presented with way more musicality than they actually require. Honestly, if you don’t love Flood, I don’t want to know why, because your reasons are wrong.
5. “Pinkerton” – Weezer
Few people wanted a dark, personal album from the group that gave the world “Buddy Holly” and “My Name Is Jonas,” but fortunately they’ve come around to recognize the sheer greatness that is Pinkerton. It’s the dark follow-up to the sugar high of the first one; it’s The Empire Strikes Back to The Blue Album‘s A New Hope (yes, chronologically this means Maladroit is The Phantom Menace which is wildly unfair; I never said it was a perfect metaphor).
6. “Violent Femmes” – Violent Femmes
If you think about it, The Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut is a scientific anomaly. It’s angsty and pissed, full of venom, and totally badass, yet it’s mostly acoustic. The Femmes didn’t get the note that louder is better, and thank God they didn’t. This album wouldn’t pack nearly as much punch (or be half as influential) if Gordon Gano were telling us to kiss off over the buzz of electric instruments, and he probably knew that as well.
7. “Loveless” – My Bloody Valentine
An album that vastly improves every time I listen to it. I knew of the album’s pedigree when I bought it, but on first listen, I wasn’t able to hear the beauty of it through the swirl of noise. But with every subsequent play, the music reveals itself more and more to the point that it’s gone from being a confounding mess to an album you can take from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
8. “Let It Be” – The Replacements
If you’ve ever listened to an alternative rock album and thought, “Hey, I like this,” you need to thank The Replacements. Regardless of the fact that Let It Be is a freaking masterpiece, it perfectly captures the trials and tribulations of youth. The inadequacies that come from trying to find your place in the world at a time when you are still only half-formed are displayed with the angst and aggression those sentiments deserve.
9. “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel
The most recent addition to this list, in that it’s the album I heard for the first time, most recently. Despite my brief tenure of familiarity with the album, though, I do absolutely love it. Just please don’t ask me why. There’s an ineffability to the music (and the lyrics especially) that make it almost impossible for me to describe. And though I don’t necessarily know what the hell Jeff Mangum is singing about, I know damn well that he knows and feels it strongly, and that is definitely present on this strange, wondruous album.
10. “I Get Wet” – Andrew W.K.
Do you like fun? Do you own I Get Wet? If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, then congratulations, you’re a failure. It’s loud and abrasive, sure, but Andrew W.K. has such an excitable personality (and he knows his way around a catchy tune) that if you aren’t smiling ear-to-ear halfway through the first song, check your pulse, because you’re probably dead.
11. “Born To Run” – Bruce Springsteen
I don’t think I even need to say anything about this one. The Boss’ collection of anthems for the working class was pretty much timeless when it was released, and almost 40 years later it remains a powerhouse. Plus it just grooves like a sonofabitch.
12. “The Velvet Underground” – The Velvet Underground
Popular opinion tends to point towards The Velvet Underground and Nico as the logical favorite, and I fully, enthusiastically admit that it’s a great album, but The Velvet Underground just possesses something that their others don’t. It’s softer, quieter, darker, but it also feels more at peace (“The Murder Mystery” aside). For proof, the next night you are able to drive around with the windows open, do, and listen to “Some Kind Of Love” at the same time. You’ll never feel more relaxed while sober and operating a large machine.
13. “Losing Streak” – Less Than Jake
A less artistic choice than some of the others, but this list is about albums that stick with you, and not a year has gone by when I haven’t listened to this album at least once and skanked my ass off around my living room. That’s staying power.
14. “Here’s Where The Strings Come In” – Superchunk
Alt-rock the way it should be. Loud and aggressive for the sake of being loud and aggressive. Containing lyrics that don’t always make sense, because screw it, basically, Here’s Where The Strings Come In serves up a collection of hooks and power chords that will punch you in the face and then wrap its arms around you and say, “No hard feelings.” Also, the breakdown on “Detroit Has A Skyline” is just rad.
15. “Pet Sounds” – The Beach Boys
Has there ever been an album that has worked on more levels than Pet Sounds? Maybe, but I doubt it. Casual pop music fans to the most devoted audiophile can find plenty to love in The Beach Boys’ magnum opus. Containing some of the greatest songs of all time (seriously, this album has “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows,” how can you compete?), Pet Sounds weaves a sonic tapestry (the only album you can say that about without sounding pretentious) that seems to mutate with each new listen.
16. “The Great Destroyer” – Low
At times quiet and beautiful, at other times dark and foreboding, Low’s The Great Destroyer lives in its own musical niche. Using a relatively small arsenal of sounds and some breathtaking vocal harmonies, the Duluth-based group is able to craft a surprisingly diverse collection of songs, from the menacing “Monkey” to the deceptively uplifting “Broadway (So Many People)” to the absolutely devastating “Death of a Salesman.”
17. “Get Happy!!” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Probably the most aptly titled album in the history of music, Elvis Costello wastes no time as he whips through 20 R&B-tinged tracks of rock and roll. Perhaps lacking in standout tracks, that just makes the album itself that much more valuable in and of itself. Without any one song towering over the others, what we are left with is an album that you wind up listening to all the way through, and enjoying for every second.
18. “Costello Music” – The Fratellis
For an album with relatively modest ambitions, The Fratellis sure did knock Costello Music right the hell out of the park. Effortlessly enjoyable for its entire runtime with only one half-dud of a song, this has been and will remain to be my ultimate cheer up record. You can’t not smile.
19. “Separation Sunday” – The Hold Steady
Weaving tales of booze, drugs, Twin Cities night life, hoodrats, and a girl named Halleluiah together with a sound that evokes Springsteen on steroids, The Hold Steady are a band like no other. Craig Finn half sings, half shouts his lyrics that remain far more interesting than the music underneath, but although that sounds like a dig, it’s the endless jagged riffing that gives Separation Sunday its spine (and another part of its anatomy found south of the waistline).
20. “Walk Among Us” – The Misfits
Walk Among Us probably isn’t the greatest punk record ever made, but goddamn if it isn’t up there. Tying horror movie imagery to a three chord construction, The Misfits jump in devilocks first and don’t let up for 14 songs of pure hardcore goodness. Many of the album’s contemporaries were maybe more “important,” but Walk Among Us is deathless. Ironic for an album so obsessed with the afterlife.
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on March 12, 2012