Thursday, July 27, 2006

My (Most Likely) Top Ten Favorite Albums of All Time

Before we begin, do note that these 10 albums are not placed in any sort of #1-#10 format. They are simply my favorite albums of all time. Thus, even though I don't have children, I'll pull out the same, old, tired metaphor here -- I don't want to order them because it would be like a parent picking their favorite child. And we all know what happens then -- just ask Esau, Jacob, Joseph, and all of Joseph's older brothers....

Therefore, without any further ado or anymore unnecessary explanation as to the point & purpose of this list, please read....

"Leave Here a Stranger" : Starflyer 59
This album, from the very first time I listened to it, has always been able to center me, focus me, and inspire me. Jason Martin has been recording great music for years, but he tops himself here as, along with Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, & Lost Dogs), he records probably the finest album in the history of Tooth & Nail Records. "Give Up the War" and "I Like Your Photographs" are epic songs worthy of comparison to the best pop songs of all time. If only more people were aware of this great shoegaze band....

"Achtung Baby" : U2
Now, I know it's typically difficult for people to compare or even choose between this album and "The Joshua Tree", but, for me, there is no comparison. From the opening track of "Zoo Station" to "Love is Blindness", Bono's raw emotional & spiritual honesty is so intricately interwoven through the darkly-produced sonic palette of The Edge, Larry, and Adam. In some ways, this is an easy and obvious album to choose, so I don't want to ever cheapen this album's impact on how I hear music and interpret lyrics.

"Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" : Wilco
This is the album that allowed me to realize that music has a future. I don't want to indulge in musical superlatives here, but this album represents one of the rarest & most beautiful integrations of country, folk, rock, and creative integrity in music history. More bands need to look at Wilco as a beacon of what it truly means to make the music that you want, record companies be damned! "Jesus, Etc." and "Ashes of American Flags" are the standout tracks, in my opinion.

"The Queen is Dead" : The Smiths
Oh wow.... I was born in 1979 and had to learn about 80's music in reverse. I might have great memories about TV shows, toys, and similar child-appropriate trends, but it wasn't until college that I started realizing how much great music was created in the 80's. And what makes THIS album special is how Marr's musical depth and Morrissey's wry, ironic lyricism have transcended the 80's as has no other band or album. I don't even like selecting favorite songs, but "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" and "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" get me every time.

"You Are the Quarry" : Morrissey
And yes -- I have chosen two albums on this list where Morrissey is involved. And no -- I don't quite care what any of you readers think about it. Each track on this album is special to me, as, at any given time, the words speak to me or relate my innermost thoughts. "Irish Blood, English Heart" is such a theme song for me, though I'd have to rename it "Irish Blood, American Heart" and replace "Cromwell" with "Washington" and "Tories" with "Republicans" to make it truly work. I just wish my hair was as great as SPM's....

"Kid A" : Radiohead
I have a great friend who, while he loves this album, will always prefer "OK Computer" and I can understand such a choice. However, when I really start to understand the great strides that these 5 British men are taking in advancing music into unknown territories, I simply have to love this album and all that it represents. "Everything In Its Right Place", "Kid A", and "National Anthem" represent one of the best album-opening trios of songs ever.

"Automatic for the People" : R.E.M.
Ok ok ok.... I know that this can seem to be an obvious choice, but I do believe that many people underestimate this album and simply cite it often because it IS great. And while I absolutely love "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" ("New Test Leper" and "Leave" give me shivers perpetually), few albums traverse the musical and artistic gamut present within this pop masterpiece. Whether it's the plodding drive of "Drive", the bounce of "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", the quirkiness of "Man on the Moon", the overt emotion of "Everybody Hurts", or the sweet sentimentality of "Nightswimming", there are few alleys and thoroughfares that are not travelled by these 4 Georgians.

"American Recordings, Vol. 1" : Johnny Cash
This is the album that reintroduced me to what GOOD, REAL, and TRUE music (and not just country specifically) has always been, even as it represents Johnny Cash reinterpreting himself 30+ years after many of these songs were first recorded. Growing up listening to The Judds, George Strait, Juice Newton, and other 80's-formatted country acts, I had learned to despise the crass commercialism of radio country and cheesy-ness of country in general. However, the opening strains of "Delia's Gone" astound me to this day. Cash is one of my heroes because his life is so reflective of both the brokenness inside all of us pared with our tendencies to rise out of the ashes of our failures.

"Funeral" : Arcade Fire
I really do like Canadians; well, at least those who are like Winn & Regina. These two lovebirds have crafted one of purest, heart-felt albums in decades, smashing to bits the ridiculousness that is radio-controlled "emo" & "punk" music. There's not a song on that album that hasn't moved me to tears at some point, whether tears of joy, pain, or struggle. "Haiti", "Tunnels", and "Crown of Love" do it for me everytime....

"Control" : Pedro the Lion
Without a doubt, David Bazan has always been able to explode my definition of honesty. No matter how sad and depressed you might think a character in one of his story-songs might be, it's hard not to find a glimpse of your true self inside one of them. The darkness and base humanity inherent in so many of these songs never cease to amaze me and compel me to realize that, at some point, I've been like so many of the people in the songs. "Rapture" and "Second Best" are simply phenomenal -- don't tell me that you don't get chills listening to them.


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