My Favorite Records
Well it just makes you sad
But you like it
'Cause you feel special that way."
I've been swamped, and so neglecting longer posts. Apologies. But nothing serves as filler like lists, and tonight while at a bar with two friends, the three of us promised to swap our top-20-album opinions by the end of the week. Going through my collection, I had to give myself a break, so I settled on 25. Even that was painful. I can divide those I left off into five categories:
1. Some of my favorites (and all-time greats) who have a body of work I love more than any single effort: The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, Everything But the Girl, Low, Prince, Morrissey/The Smiths.
2. Great one-off albums by those who are otherwise uneven or forgettable, like Something to Write Home About by The Get Up Kids, 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild, Music for the Morning After by Pete Yorn, or New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms.
3. Relative newcomers who I've listened to a ton over the last year or two, but who need a bit more time to be considered, like Mindy Smith, The Postal Service and Ray Lamontagne (the most likely to eventually make the list). Conversely, oldies-but-goodies from my high school and college years who have been considered for a bit too long to be judged accurately, like the self-titled debut by School of Fish, Are You Driving Me Crazy? by Seam, or Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub.
4. Classics that deserve mention, like Blood on the Tracks by Dylan, OK Computer by Radiohead, or anything else by REM before 1993 (it took a lot of willpower to limit myself to four by them).
5. Then there are the records that could easily have made the list if I made it on a different day (or after one less -- or more -- drink) -- meaning, the most arbitrary of those left off, like When the Pawn by Fiona Apple, The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats, The Moon My Saddle by Chamberlain, Since by Richard Buckner, Redo the Stacks by Centro-matic, Rumours by Fleetwod Mac, or The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion by The Black Crowes, a great record by a band that otherwise occupies a lukewarm place in my heart (at best).
On to the list, after two more caveats: First, yes, there are only four works on display here that were released before 1991. Unlike many of my friends, who had older siblings (sometimes significantly older) who were schooling them in the classics of rock, I had (and have) a very lovely older sister whose taste ran more towards classical music from the day she was born. (In short, she's smarter than I am.) Her idea of cutting-edge modern music, even in college, was the Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, and Billy Joel. Listen, I still own (and unashamedly enjoy) music by all three of those named, but I think you see my point. I was deep into my junior year of high school before I started to form what would become my own distinct taste. ("Distinct" here defined as "shared by millions of other teenagers who watched 120 Minutes every Sunday night.") And while I've come to love The Beatles and the Stones, and respect a lot of other fogeys, they just didn't reach me when they needed to. Bands are like girls (or boys, if you prefer) -- the ones that get to you first change you the most. Or, to quote a great line from Life of Pi by Yann Martel, "first wonder goes deepest; wonder after that fits in the impression made by the first."
Secondly, I stress the obvious fact that subjectivity has been embraced. There was a discussion about #3 at the bar tonight, for instance, during which I admitted it's a flawed choice under a microscope. But it's also the initial domino that fell 15 years ago and led, pretty directly, to the 5,000 or so songs I'm choosing between as a soundtrack while I write this. So, as ever in these pursuits, objectivity be damned!
OK, sorry, but thirdly, a bonus (of what, I'm not sure) to whoever comes closest to accurately predicting "Dezmond's" eventual total word count in his replies to this post. My guess is 5,820.
25. It’s a Shame About Ray -- The Lemonheads
24. Fables of the Reconstruction -- REM
23. Into the Music -- Van Morrison
22. Siamese Dream -- Smashing Pumpkins
21. Original Pirate Material -- The Streets
20. Strangers Almanac -- Whiskeytown
19. Cake -- Trash Can Sinatras
18. Ben Folds Five -- Ben Folds Five
17. The Joshua Tree -- U2
16. Big Red Letter Day -- Buffalo Tom
15. Girlfriend -- Matthew Sweet
14. Where It Goes -- Lori Carson
13. Still Feel Gone -- Uncle Tupelo
12. August & Everything After -- Counting Crows
11. Murmur -- REM
10. A Century Ends -- David Gray
9. Bloomed -- Richard Buckner
8. Glow -- The Innocence Mission
7. Achtung Baby -- U2
6. Perfect From Now On -- Built to Spill
5. Our Time in Eden -- 10,000 Maniacs
4. Trace -- Son Volt
3. Out of Time -- REM
2. The Bends -- Radiohead
1. Automatic for the People -- REM