My Top 10 Favorite Albums
I'm not the type of guy that likes to listen to individual songs or singles from an artist and simply stop there. I like to listen to their studio albums as a whole and I believe that illustrates how well they write their music. An album should be listened to as a cohesive entity; you shouldn't just decide whether or not an artist's music is great simply because of one or two of their songs. And most artists make albums with that in mind. A strong studio album shows how consistent and able the artist is in creating great music.
Every now and then, I'd look back and compile a list of my top 10 favorite albums. These lists would change very often over the years and obviously this list will change in the future. But most of these albums have withstood the test of time quite well so I'm going to keep updating this somewhat frequently to see how long they'd last.
I've limited the ten albums to one per artist to have equal representation among them; I won't have two albums by the same artist in this list, so I had to actually pick and choose which ones would be "better" than the other to put on this list (this was very difficult).
So, in no particular order...
Funeral (2004)- Arcade Fire
Funeral is one of the best examples of great indie music. It is the indie album. One of the best examples of chamber pop and indie rock ever, it is simply beautifully written and arranged, with ample strings and guitars and other instruments such as accordions, synthesizers, etc. Thanks to this, the synergy of the band and the heartbreaking yells and somewhat raucous singing of frontman Win Butler as well as his wife Régine Chassagne's passionate vocals filled with her French-Canadian accent, it's extremely emotional and accessible, and very easy to listen to from start to finish. Every single song on Funeral is exceptional and memorable one way or another.
The backdrop of the debut album, being that several of the members of Arcade Fire had lost a loved one in their lives during the album's development, led to the rather depressing title Funeral and gave way to the emotional weight and themes expressed in their music. This would contribute a sort of genuine feel and uniqueness to the album, and unfortunately the group would never truly match their debut ever since.
The Beatles [White Album] (1968) - The Beatles
Except for maybe one or two of their studio albums, I love basically all of the Beatles' albums, so picking between a good three or four of their best was very hard to do. But, while it might not be their absolute best, The White Album, as most people call it, is my favorite Beatles album. The White Album is riddled with experimentation, from the minimalistic album cover to the strange quirkiness of songs such as "The Ballad of Bungalow Bill", "Why Don't We Do It In the Road?", and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey", to the avant-garde and purely experimental sound collage "Revolution 9."
And what better way to experiment but make a double album? The album's twice as long as usual records, and most people blame this for the album's alleged inconsistent quality. But I think that's the charm of The White Album, in that it's just kind of all over the place and fun. I also think that, contrary to popular belief, the album is very consistent and enjoyable all the way through. There's something I particularly enjoy about every single song, regardless of how short or ridiculous they are, and everyone has to at least admit that some of the Beatles' greatest works are in the White Album.
The album's experimentation is important to music in general, but the atmosphere surrounding the White Album's recording is what truly grips me and fascinates me. Despite the Beatles being at the peak of their disputes and approaching the day they would disband (i.e, Tensions already rising made even clearer after Yoko Ono setting foot on Abbey Road Studios upset some of the other Beatles. Ringo Starr temporarily left the band during recording out of frustration; Paul McCartney had to play drums for two tracks), they were still able to create great music and at the same time experiment with musical and thematic concepts, and that is why the White Album is so interesting and significant to me.
OK Computer (1997) - Radiohead
OK Computer is widely hailed as British band Radiohead's best album, and with good reason. With their third album, the band managed to completely evolve and expand the way they wrote their music, building on what had somewhat bloomed on their previous introspective and emotional album, The Bends. With OK Computer, Radiohead managed to mature in almost every aspect of their music, progressing with darker and pressing themes, more thoughtful lyrics, and a more electronic and unconventional sound compared to their past works. Every single track in this album resonates in me in some way (Yes, even "Fitter Happier") not necessarily in the same way that The Bends did, which was more about personal things, filled with songs of longing and love.
OK Computer is more abstract, more atmospheric, and more inspired, and this would also mean that it's less accessible, yet it still climbed the charts from the success of Radiohead's previous work. Radiohead has made so many great albums, it's very hard to pick between them, and each of them has a distinct feel to them. And yet OK Computer kind of epitomizes Radiohead despite the fact that their next album, Kid A, would completely deviate from the "formula" that they've followed, embracing electronic elements almost fully along with third-stream jazz, ambient, and other influences.
Weezer [Blue Album] (1994) - Weezer
Weezer is probably one of the only bands from my middle school years that I still listen to quite often. They're not that great anymore, but their first two albums, The Blue Album and Pinkerton are very significant to me in various ways. Pinkerton ushered in the age of emo music, and with that I still listen to that album whenever the mood comes along, but Weezer is truly my idea of the perfect pop-punk album and one of my favorite albums of the 90's: full of fun, catchy, and witty songs complete with power chords and guitar solos. The musicianship is consistently great and the sound that they create deviates from the typical grunge that emerged from the 90's.
Weezer is also much brighter than most albums of the time, singing of simpler things like young love and Dungeons and Dragons and playing guitar rather than some of the darker albums that came out of the decade, and that's refreshing. The Blue Album is probably one of the catchiest albums that I've listened to in my life, and I can listen to it almost anytime regardless of what I'm feeling, because it basically covers any mood that comes up. At the very least, the upbeat songs and excellent cheesiness of The Blue Album are guaranteed to cheer me up.
The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) - Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon is an experience that must be listened to in its entirety. As a concept album, in order to fully enjoy it, you need to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, or else it would feel very disconnected, as almost all the tracks are linked together by seamless transition. The album covers various themes such as greed, time and its ephemeral nature, and mental illness. The latter is specifically greatly influenced by the mental state of Pink Floyd's former vocalist Syd Barrett, who would later become incredibly deformed and barely recognizable by the band thanks to his deterioration.
The atmosphere of The Dark Side of the Moon is incredibly unique and moody in a very cosmic sense, the production is great, and everything fits together perfectly. David Gilmour's guitarwork is stellar, and Clare Torry's vocals featured in the famous "The Great Gig in the Sky" is simply indescribable and breathtaking. In the music world, there are very few albums that exceed the importance and significance of The Dark Side of the Moon; it is simply one of the best albums ever.
Sound of Silver (2007) - LCD Soundsystem
I love dance-punk. I love it. I mean, I've only really listened to LCD Soundsystem, but I love it.
Sound of Silver is a blast to listen to; it is simply one of the funnest albums to play whether out loud or in your headphones. Everything about this album is catchy, it's consistently great, the arrangements are groovy and extremely easy to dance to. You never really get tired of it either. You just listen to it every single day. All the time.
There's nothing conceptually deep about this album, but that's not what it was designed for. It's supposed to be... well, something to dance to. And it fits that role perfectly. You'll want to tap your feet every time you listen to it... in fact, I'm doing that right now...
Frontman James Murphy is also musically competent, and the lyrics are witty and wacky and I love them to pieces. There's plenty of percussion and electronic elements, and the vocals are very contagious; you'll be screaming the lyrics almost instantly (or at least, mouthing the words... which is what I'm doing right now too). Basically, Sound of Silver is the ultimate album to dance to and just have a good time.
And no, it doesn't need more cowbell.
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) - Charles Mingus
Currently my favorite jazz album, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady has a very distinct sound that you never really find anywhere else. It's got this amazing feel to it, it's groovy, it's evocative, it fits that sentimental mood you might get when you're alone. The musicianship, like most great jazz albums, is brilliant, and the compositions are sonically and musically complex. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady has a strong driving force behind it at all times, as it's very intense and constantly grabbing your attention. Yet it's rather soothing to listen to at times and it's just so appropriate for so many occasions, at least in my life. It's great when I'm writing or doing some sort of work creatively.
Charles Mingus had a very perfectionist mindset, so this was one of the first albums to have overdubbing and some other studio production techniques used in the process, but this was all very worth it. And again, this is one of those albums that you absolutely should listen to in one sitting, as the tracks go together extremely well and have similar sounds yet define themselves in their own way. Charles Mingus is now a jazz composer whose music I'm exploring more extensively, but for now The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady must stand on top of the stack of jazz albums that I've indulged in.
The Soft Bulletin (1999) - The Flaming Lips
The Soft Bulletin is a paradox. It does this strange thing where it makes you feel simultaneously happy and sad at the same time. Its symphonic elements are processed and synthesized electronically, but at the same time it feels very organic, very real. It's very corny and full of fun, yet at the same time it expresses themes and concepts that can actually be very depressing or dark.
And The Soft Bulletin has an important place in my life for being that way. It adapts to the things that happen to me and how I feel. It brightens my day and makes me feel better about things regardless of the stuff around me. This album is the very reason I became incredibly obsessed with psychedelic rock and pop in the first place. The soundscapes and the arrangements are very beautiful and there's nothing like it. The Soft Bulletin resonates in me and it evokes so much emotion, yet you wouldn't really think something so strange and so bizarre would do so. It's a curious thing, but believe me, feeling sad and happy at the same time is a great feeling.
Boy, do I sound like a hippie.
You Forgot It in People (2002) - Broken Social Scene
I only recently found Broken Social Scene maybe a month or two ago, and this is the only album by them that I've listened to. But You Forgot It in People is so sonically diverse and unique that I just feel as if I don't need to listen to anything else that they've done. There's so much in here to listen to, and it eases you into to each of the different sounds gently and smoothly. The instrumentation is extensive and equally diverse, and the large size of Broken Social Scene might account for this.
Broken Social Scene is a collaboration between many running indie projects, with members of several joining in including Feist, Emily Haines from Metric, etc. While I don't exactly care for those individual indie performers as much, Broken Social Scene is pure genius. The scope of You Forgot It in People partially owes itself to how many people are involved, and there's so many instruments going at the same time and so many different sounds being experimented on because of all the people on board. The songs vary quite substantially and that makes the album fresh and easier to listen to all the way through.Instrumentals, high-octane drives, chill jams, love songs, you name it. It's in here. And it's freaking awesome.
Third (2008) - Portishead
It's surprising how quickly I've taken to liking Third. It's very electronically driven, and at the time of me being introduced to Portishead, I still hadn't quite grasped if I liked electronic music very much. Third's very dark, rather depressing, and inaccessible. Yet I think what really drew me in was how experimental its sound was. There really isn't a genre I can really settle on with Third, and most people just give up and call it experimental. And that's absolutely fine with me.
I love how experimental it is, and also how different each track sounds from each other even though there's a certain sound that links them together. Many of the tracks are very memorable for me and I hadn't noticed how different it was from Portishead's previous albums until I listened to their other two albums. Third distances itself from the others pretty clearly, yet this is a great thing, since sonically, it's more dynamic and thus more engaging.
There are peaceful, introspective pieces like "The Rip" and "Deep Water" and then there are heavier, more abstract and experimental tracks such as "Plastic" and "Machine Gun" that somehow coexist.The production is top-notch, the instrumentation is great, and Beth Gibbons' voice that's so haunting yet gentle makes this album very evocative and moody. Throw in lots and lots of experimentation and that's more than enough to get me invested into what is such a great piece of work.
I hope you liked my list, and now you have an idea of the types of music that I enjoy and like to indulge in. I hope this also makes you understand that I am a very open-minded listener and that I'd listen to just about anything if I haven't made up my mind about it yet, and I encourage everyone to do the same. You'd be surprised at what you'll find.
It'd be nice if you comment and tell me what your top ten favorite albums are, and whether or not you've listened to any of these albums and give an opinion. I'd love to talk about them.