I wrote all of this before Adam Yauch died. It feels a little douchy that I left them off the list on purpose. But I will say this right here up top. Yauch has died and so has the band. The Beastie Boys will remain one of my favorite things for the rest of my life. They’re up there with Christmas, Disney World, fried chicken, and Sunday mornings. There probably hasn’t been a week that has gone by without me listening to something by them. That’s a little crazy, I know, especially with their limited discography. They were the soundtrack to so many daydreams as I took endless walks; they were the pick-me-up I needed when I was down. I will miss him. I will miss them. They were the most fun band ever.
Now, with the original post.
This is a tough one. Everyone has a favorite music list. A new one is written every four seconds. That’s a true stat.
I didn’t want to exclude music from my favorites lists, but constructing one always runs into a few snags. First, there is the sheer volume of music I’ve heard in my life. I can’t possibly remember everything I’ve ever heard and put it in order, so I need to choose criteria. The specific criteria are as daunting to choose as the actual albums. Best song? Artists? Most listened? Desert island music? Love songs? Driving songs? Songs to plant organic tomatoes by?
But then, all of a sudden, it hit me like that hackneyed record scratch sound effect. It’s my damn list. And in what way do I connect to music? Emotionally. I’m not a musician; I play the drums and I’ve written a bunch of stuff. I know nine chords. To me, music either makes the emotional impact or it doesn’t. That’s probably how most humans relate to music without even realizing. I am also a very uncool person.
I call it my David Bowie explanation. Bowie is a legend with decades of great music. He’s respected by industry, critics and fans. I respect him, but I have almost nothing in all my stacks of music from David Bowie. I don’t change the channel when his stuff comes on the radio; but I’ve never bothered to dig deeper because it really doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t feel anything.
I also have failed to retroactively pretend that I liked the better music of the past. I think certain music has to get its hooks in you early or you’ll never truly embrace it. I can’t really get into the Pixies or Sonic Youth...I missed the boat. Also, I think there are more people claiming to have liked Elvis Costello today than ever bought his records and showed up to his shows. I like him fine, but I feel almost nothing. I keep promising myself I’ll try Zappa and listen to a full Wu-Tang album and see what the big deal was with Van Morrison. But I probably won’t. And I’ll never get Lou Reed. In fact…Lou Reed sucks.
I will exclude music from the following bands: The Beatles, Beastie Boys and The White Stripes. Their stuff is so intertwined with childhood memories and the memories of my own children, that half the list would be from their catalogues.
So here goes:
My Top Twenty Emotionally Satisfying Albums Of All Time.
20 - Who’s Next - The Who
I know it’s not the hip Who album. It’s not Sell Out or Quadrophenia. But this is the album that comes to mind when I think of classic rock. Power guitar and lyrics belted out like a banshee --- and ‘My Wife’. I just think of myself as a long-haired teenager daydreaming with my headphones on whenever I hear ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
19 - Brighten the Corners - Pavement
I have this habit of falling in love with the more unpopular records of a band’s catalogue. I’ll have a few examples on my list. I have never tried to be cool in my life and purposely venture off the beaten path; it just happens that way for me. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the seminal Pavement album, but I like BTC which came out after Pavement was hip. It’s more melodic and sweet. Malkmus’ lyrics are just as imaginative; but there is a cohesiveness here that I just love.
It came out in 1997, during the long gap between about 1996 and 2002 where the type of music I liked was nowhere to be found. I have a few representatives on the list that got me through the drought.
18 - Blind Melon – Blind Melon
Blind Melon came and went and are regarded as a one-hit wonder. My wife and I listened to this album non-stop when our son was a baby, so I have powerful memories tied to it. They have a another album that some say is better, but this one doesn’t have ‘Dear Ol’ Dad’ and ‘Change’, which transport me to a much more carefree state of mind.
17 - Apocalypse ’91 - Public Enemy
Public Enemy opened up for U2 on the Achtung Baby tour. It was one of the coolest experiences at a concert I’ve ever seen. A stadium full of sweaty, bouncing Bono fans. I went home and got the album and it made me feel like a tough white boy. Fans will say Fear of a Black Planet is the album to own, but it didn’t grab me like the follow-up. A common theme. Plus, ‘Shut ‘Em Down’ is still pretty bad-ass.
16 – Wildflowers - Tom Petty
There a bunch of worthy Petty albums to put in here. I believe this was the first one I really listened to over and over, beginning to end. I remember the production was what drew me in…and I always like to hear Petty’s laid back lyrics. Listen to ‘Don’t Fade On Me’.
15 - Alien Lanes - Guided By Voices
This is another album I got into in ‘The Gap’. It’s almost a sister album to Bee Thousand which is the album you’ve heard if you know who these guys are. I listened to a lot of this one when I was trying to write and play music myself. It’s beyond classification, other than calling it lo-fi. And anything goes lyrically when it comes to GbV. “I want to start a new life…with my valuable hunting knife…”
14 - Weezer – Weezer (Blue)
I had absolutely no interest in power pop before Weezer. I can’t remember if I liked this one right off the bat or not. I was working in a record store when it came out and if I ignored it at first, the smarmy lyrics and fun, crunchy guitar won me over. My daughter loves this album. She’s been singing ‘Say It Ain’t So’ since she was in first grade.
13 -Yes - Morphine
Everyone loves the album before this, I know. Here’s the lyrics that kill me on this brooding and funky CD: “I had my chance and I let it go. I had my chance and I let it go. If I ever have myself another chance like that, I’m gonna grab it and I won’t look back. I’m gonna grab it and I won’t look back…” Awesome. Plus, there’s a song called ‘Super Sex’.
12 - A.M. - Wilco
I’m not a Wilco fan. They lost me after Being There, which is also a great album. If they kept it close to this countrified alterna-rock I would still be a fan. I discovered my secret love of the banjo while listening to this. It’s not connected to anything else; that’s why I like it.
11- Broken Boy Soldiers - The Raconteurs
Yes, this is my way of squeezing Jack White on my list. This was the first time I got to hear him wail in a full rock band and it did not disappoint. Far and away my favorite musician of the last ten years, Jack White plays ferociously and writes tenderly with a smirk. I love that shit.
10 - The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse
I’m pretty late to this indie rock staple. My son Holden’s first venture into music at all was with Modest Mouse, and I think this is the sweet and scary gateway recording. I absolutely love ‘3rd Planet’. I’m not sure why they don’t get enough airplay of their older, meatier music. M & A is disjointed and warm, like a late-night party that’s dwindled down to the most eclectic of friends.
9 - Rockin’ the Suburbs – Ben Folds
Ben Folds should be much more popular. Maybe it’s the occasional swearing. I have no idea. This is truly happy and fun and deeply sad all at the same time. It’s one of those albums that make you sing along, and then you realize what the lyrics are describing, then you like it that much more.
8 - The Colour and the Shape - Foo Fighters
I love rock music. There, I said it. I’m not afraid. I like guitars both acoustic and electric, I love softly spoken lyrics and screaming refrains. I love loud drums and songs that build dramatically. This is a fine rock album and deserves its place among the greats. All the hits are here, but “Enough Space’ and ‘New Way Home’ are my favorites. Just pure excitement and fun.
7 - Automatic For The People – REM
Reckoning, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document and Green are probably better than this one. I love all of those, too. But this one is also melded into the backdrop of my life. My son was a baby and all we had was a stereo and a channel or two of TV to watch. There is some sweet sadness on this recording that is too sappy for some. I get it. But there is also beauty and haunting production that makes it list-worthy. Trust me.
6 - Billy Breathes – Phish
I'm off to see the man Mulcahey! I like several Phish albums but this one sits at first, second and third place. I think it’s a success from beginning to end, and for a guy who doesn’t care to sit through nine-minute jams, it is damn near perfect. I sing along to nearly every song. There are emotional peaks and valleys in there and it was yet another record that got me through The Gap.
5 – Guero – Beck
Guero came out just a few weeks before I moved the family to Oregon. I love this sequel to Odelay; it’s playful, fun, smart and ridiculous just like everything Beck gives us.
4 – Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin
After I listened to this a dozen times or so when I was seventeen, I know what type of music I loved. I’ve been told Zeppelin ripped off riffs and lyrics. I’m been told Page was sloppy. I’ve been told that other bands deliver better blues-based rock. Well, they are full of shit. This double album has everything; electric guitar, slide, acoustic, instrumentals, banjo, you name it.
‘In My Time Of Dying’ is eleven minutes of jamming and abrupt stops and starts that makes you feel something. There are songs that are meant for stomping on a back porch in a rocking chair with good friends, and songs that are meant for a highway drive alone in the middle of the night.
It’s just cool.
3 - Yield – Pearl Jam
Loved Pearl Jam. Still love Pearl Jam. The eight or so bands that the media categorized as grunge put out their best work by about 1995 or so. Yield came out in 1998 when the band was deemed silly or forgetful. This album has elements of punk and KISS, ‘70’s a.m. radio and arena rock. It’s lyrically beautiful and it feels like the one truly rounded album by the band.
2 – Odelay – Beck
I never listen to a CD over and over again. I always think I’ll spoil it. I like to spread it out, savoring every track. When Odelay came out in 1996, when everyone forget who Beck was, and it was getting 5 star reviews, I bought it as soon as I could. I listened to it three times in a day. I told everyone about it; that it was the sweetest thing I’d heard in years. I wish there was more if this in music. It is produced without sounding sterile; it’s fun and inventive and mature and silly. You can rap to it, dance to it, and sing along with it.
1 - The Bends – Radiohead
Just before OK Computer made this band one of the biggest in the world, The Bends came out when I seriously needed new music in my life. There a lot less electronic experimentation and a lot more emotional ebbs and flows on this album. ‘Bones’ is a song that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. There are songs like ‘Sulk” and ‘Just’ that have no radio play but are better than most of the stuff on the radio in the late nineties. This is one recording I could not enjoy my life without.
(After reading through, I think I love albums with a little bit of everything. I love a good buffet.)