20. Fountains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers
This album is a really personal one to me. I got it one Christmas (having a strong attraction to the song ”Stacy’s Mom”, and thinking about giving the CD a chance because I had no CD’s I was actually needing), and it turned out to be one of the best gifts that year. Each song booms with pop alternative brilliance and certain songs stick out as some of my favorite of all time (Cough cough ”Valley Winter Song”). The album collectively gathers every element needed to make it complete and great. It traffics through various genres like it’s the sole purpose, but it’s not. The essence of this album is mundane situations joined hand in hand with soft pop bliss that generally just makes you smile while listening, and honestly, what more can you ask for? I hear the songs and think back of the winter during my freshman year of highschool, and it could have been the happiest time of all my life, for all I know. A truly wonderful album, especially close to me, from a band that I will always love, who’s sound I will always love and welcome, their best album, perfect.
19. Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Who cannot put this on their list? Many would have this at the top of their list, but sadly it does not fall there for me. This album does not have to be hit or miss, it is a great album, a great great great album, I just place a few before it personally. But enough of that, Foxtrot bellows the quintessential Wilco sound, and projects that sound through their best work to date. Classic songs like ”Heavy Metal Drummer” and ”Jesus ect.” don’t even give a proper description of how endless the album is in the sense of glory. I laugh when I think about how the unbelievable tracks continue to add up, I seem to almost forget how spectacular this whole thing was. ”Pot Kettle Black” is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it’s not even considered one of the better songs on the album. Wilco is one of the most original bands to present during these past 2 decades, and they’re still running strong. At the peak of this illustrious career (that hasn’t stopped), came this record. Just such a mindblowing feat was tackled with this that only one word can attempt to put it into words. Pimp.
18. Stars- Set Yourself On Fire
A couple weeks ago this album was not on this list. Although when I recently posted about a certain remix album that pulled me right back into the world of Stars. The trade off of vocals makes the songs very tolerable, and the fact that they’re great demolishes the tolerance and makes them utterly desirable. The album flows wonderfully, it’s literally hard to pick out a single song that you like more than any other song on the CD, once you think you’ve picked one, BAM, ”One More Night” or ”Reunion” makes its rounds on the cycle through, and once again you will be left in a confusion that will make your head spin for trying to find a distinguishable track amongst all the others, but you won’t. The album is so all around good that it is literally impossible, that is a fact.
17. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
A thing that will happen to me a lot, is that I’ll truly miss-out on the experience of a classic first album from a revolutionary band (Yeah, we’re talking about Funeral here), and the problem lies in me just starting listening when the hype is finally settling down- and then that will lead to my relationship with the group’s net album, which will be more personal and emotional. Well I can’t fight it. Neon Bible just exploded with spirituality and intensity for me, every track held its own little realm of desire and fiction, everything on this record just sorta blew me away. In ways it felt like a revelation, and in my hour of just sitting, doing nothing but listening to the Neon Bible, I thought dark and frightening things, but I also thought of hope and freedoms. I was mind numb to anything but the sounds from the speakers, and it was nice.
mp3: Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
mp3: Arcade Fire- (Antichrist Television Blues)
mp3: Arcade Fire- My Body Is A Cage (p.s.– This song is pitch perfect for the ending song, it builds up to such an appropriate climactic moment, and just explempifies all the emotion that is Neon Bible)
16. Radiohead- Hail to the Thief
There are 3 types of songs on this album. The song you’ll be into immediately, the song you will soon realize is captivating in its own way, and better than any of the songs you were immediately into, or the song that you has not yet garnered the appreciation it deserves, but in due time, you will discover it’s better than any song that falls into the other two categories. But in a nutshell, that is basically what you get when you walk away from listening to a Radiohead album. The reason why this one specifically does it for me is because of the fraction of electronic elements used, and the confidence by Radiohead to do what they do best. And bands with talent who have enough confidence to move around that world of brand new blissful noises will usually succeed greatly.
15. Okkervil River- Overboard and Down E.P.
The first thing that drew me to this E.P. was the single, ”The President’s Dead”. The song packs emotion and truth, lined by the brilliant lyrics of Will Sheff, and that is what this E.P. is like, only on Volume 11. This is the best E.P. I have ever heard, let alone the best tour E.P., every track is remarkable and its own, and could carry an album on their sound alone. The only thing that keeps this album from the number 1 or number 2 slot, is the fact that there are only 5 songs, but those songs are all amazing and breathtaking, even the surprisingly clear live version of ”Westfall”, the sharp and realistic guitar differentiates it from its origin on the ”Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See”. Everything is done in a perfect manner and at peak form by Okkervil River, I can only hope that their next album builds onto the tip of the mountain that is Overboard & Down.
mp3: Okkervil River- The President’s Dead (p.s.– This is one of the most truthful and lyrically brilliant songs I’ve heard of this past decade)
mp3: Okkervil River- The Room I’m Hiding In
mp3: Okkervil River- O Dana
14. Brand New- Your Favorite Weapon
Brand New was a band that went unappreciated during my middleschool-pop-punk days, I was more into the higher voices and bubblegum chords that fit like a perfect puzzle, but the whole time, they’d earn maybe one song per mix-disc I’d make for the walk back from school. Well as my tastes matured, Brand New only became more fitting to my likings, they changed a bit, and I do love their newer albums as well, but this is the one that sparks past nostalgia and is good music at the same time. The two singers clash emotions, one screaming and obviously distraught, and one emotional and somewhat rational, but still also distraught. The album is perfect alternative (semi) punk rock for the heartbroken teenager who wants revenge on the villan full time. The songs sound great and the choruses are catchy, and the most important factor is the more you listen to it, the more it draws you in, almost to the point where it’s hard to turn away.
13. Elliott Smith- Elliott Smith
This album is b.e.a.utiful. I discover new things about each song that make me rave every sense of Elliott Smith as an artist. Elliott Smith is so simple, his first CD, but so demanding of the listener. It requires that he/she digs deep inside him/herself to find the connection to the songs, and it always makes this demand, and there is always a response. For me this album makes me think of a calm and happy place of mine, the cabin my family owns in the woods with a pond in upstate Michigan. It makes me think of the eerie feeling that arises whenever dusk sets in, when the air becomes a bit cooler and the lights are rare, fluorescent and old. The feelings this album evokes are incredible, it makes it impossible for this album to not be personal with the listener. Elliott’s trembling voice establishes itself and takes its roll on this album, and it was one of the finest he wrote, gathering heart, depression, wonder, hope, and imagination all together and softly humming the result into the wind.
12. Pavement- Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Like many others, I think this is a good album. Pavement practically exploded (in a good way) with making this spectacle of indie rock and laid the final brick for this genre to spread and bloom and eventually become the vast field it is today. The album revolves with an enormous amount of creativity and entertainment. Malkmus takes the risks of mixing things up and it pays off tremendously, giving an experience so flawless that you can’t help but giggle at what you’re hearing, amazed and mesmerized at the same time at the riffs and melodies that will be there to take hold of your brain. Indie rock flies high with this disc, and the band creates something real special, something that will never be duplicated or improved on. This album highlighted Pavement as the new definers of underground alternative music, and it’s an album that you won’t be able to put down.
11. The Cure- The Head On the Door
The Cure captures that ideal 80’s pop alternative sound wonderfully, while also being dark and intelligent. This in my opinion is their greatest album because it has that sound, but they wander out on their own more. They take more risks so the album isn’t the same song, like many contemporaries were doing at the time. The range on this album is fantastic and reliable, you cannot get bored jamming to unfamiliar ”Six Different Ways” or the typical Cure sounding song”In Between Days”. You have so many options on this album, and I mean let’s just admit that Robert Smith is the fucking man, a musical genius if you will, who you don’t want to stop listening to, even if you’re into that whole goth style or if you’re not. The Cure are just a band that makes great music that simply defines a generation, in my opinion the greatest band of the 80s, and this the greatest album.
10. Annuals- Be He Me
This was ONE of my top two favorite albums last year, and last year I thought was a ridiculously bountiful year of good alternative music. Annuals surprised the heck out of me with this sound of groovy psychedelic rock (with occasional acoustic). The voice of Adam Baker is unpredictable and moody and it fits the sound of someone mentally unstable, I love that, I love the fact that each song this band makes has no boundaries. The sound is so crisp and like nothing else I have ever heard. Guitar screeches and calm piano background to put the final pieces in the puzzle and make this album great. I can only hope that this band produces many more like this one, because that will turn them into legends, and of course, it will be intensely gratifying to hear all that because this group is just simply mystical. And as a side note, the artwork is my favorite of any album I have ever seen, it’s real unique and the colors are so lo-key but they jump out at you, the character depiction is also a very interesting take. Great music + great artwork = great album to listen to and look at.
9. Radiohead- The Bends
Thom Yorke and company hit the target on this one (pretty much on every one). This album has everything, great songwriting, great music, happy melodies, sad melodies, innovation, and the birth of one of the greatest bands of all time. Radiohead has redefined the indie world of music, making it not so indie in that spreading to a well-known basis. This group was so good, that they tackled the crowds of popular music and underground music, and put each in a chokehold of satisfaction. The Bends flows perfectly from hard rock songs like ”The Bends” to other soft and relaxing listens like ”Fake Plastic Trees”. The band defines modern rock and alternative with album, and proves to be one of England’s finest attributions to the music scene up to date, and this album bottles everything you can dream of hearing into one outstanding achievement. Listen to this album (if you haven’t already). Listen to all of it (if you haven’t already). I literally promise you, you will be in love with at the least 3/4s of it.
8. Super Furry Animals- Rings Around the World
This was my favorite band a little while back, and my favorite album, but me and the Animals just kinda drifted apart, I sometimes wonder why. This album is like the history of music packed tightly in a suitcase. Every song has it’s own genre, modern alternative, piano, acoustic guitar, Beatlesesque, Disco-era, weird acoustic mixed with heavy electric power surges (highlighted on the lyrics ”She ordered pizza and then asked about her kids, DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM”). Super Furry Animals are such a different band, and they make excellent music. The elements that make them are all over the place, but in a structured way. I believe they beat out The Flaming Lips in modern psychedelic rock because they mix it up more, and their sound is overall consistently better. That is best represented through this album when their sound is most crisp and their songwriting abilities are at peak.
mp3: Super Furry Animals- Sidewalk Serfer Girl
mp3: Super Furry Animals- Recepticle for the Respectable (p.s.– Be on the lookout for Paul McCartney’s cameo of celery chewing near the end)
mp3: Super Furry Animals- Juxtaposed To U
When I purchased this disc at a class record shop called Rebel Rebel in SoHo, it came with a nice second disc of an E.P. simply titled North American. I dug all the tracks in addition to Rings Around the World, so here are some from that little number.
Buy the whole package here.
7. The Format- Dog Problems/Interventions and Lullabies
Okay so I’m doing something a little crazy here. Just agree. The Format have solidified their way into my favorite list from the distinct voice of Nate Ruess to just the sheer pop freshness that explodes in every track with excitement and passion. Their a very unique band, no other sounds like them, and they have this ability to write songs that you love to listen to, that are fun to listen to. This ability is just smart songwriting, and the result of what happens when a band knows how to relate to their audience, when they know how to get the listeners more involved with the songs. Other than that, both of these albums are exquisite creations that should be praised the same. Both practically flawless pop alternative/punk albums that build onto a reputation that is garnering tons of attention. The singls these guys come out with are some of the catchiest jingles anyone could wish for, and they make great for a summer band. (They are) My newly declared summer band for this upcoming summer, just because their songs will make you smile, and because you will always end up appreciating the music they’re making.
Buy links apove mp3s.
6. The Postal Service- Give Up (p.s.- I used this E.P. album cover becuase I thought all of the E.P.’s cover artwork were a lot cooler than the original LP)
So how else can I begin describing this albums impact on me besides saying that this is the band that got me into indie rock/alt-rock/alt-folk/alt-anything/anything good. I first heard “Such Great Heights on the preview for so-so indie dramady Garden State. I was completely blown away, the electronic consitency, the sweet hush of Gibbard’s voice, I had never heard a song like it before. I researched that whole scene afterwards and one by one built Give Up on my iTunes until it was the entire album. And it may not have occured to me while I was doing it, but every time I added a song, that song was loved. Literally every song was an instant favorite, I was completely confused. I had never liked music so much after listening to a group, and from that spark ignited this dying passion to gain knowledge on muzak like it, I mean it all sounded real good.
5. Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of the Moon
Don’t sigh, even if this is typical, this is right, maybe understated if anything. Dark Side of the Moon is easily the most magical album ever created. I think it’s quite obvious that there is this protective film of mystery over the whole vibe from the album. The eery transitions from song to song, the ringing of clocks, the concept of time, the concept of lots of things. You can never stop discovering things about this album, each listen improves your sense of what’s going on. Besides all that jargon, there is the music. There is definitley the music. It is spectacular, a true triumph for the music world. It is innovative, creative, and mesmerizing when listening to. The piano as well as the guitar sends shivers nearly everytime, which is very rare. I’m going to go personal here. When I listen to this album I think of the sky and death, and how much time it will take to get to that place in the sky. I feel like gazing into the stars and questioning them when listening to this masterpiece unfold. There seems to be so many secrets in this world, and Dark Side of the Moon gives us a glimpse at some of the truth and some of the answers behind it.
mp3: Pink Floyd- The Dark Side of the Moon (One track of the album in entirety)
4. Phoenix- It’s Never Been Like That
I had heard “Everything Is Everything”, so I knew who they were. Then I got this thing for fun, and it turned out to be a much larger experience than just some fun. This album took #1 for 2006 for me. I had never been so floored away by an album that I didn’t even dream of being #1. Phoenix creates possibly the greatest pop rock jewel of all time. Each song with the grooviest riffs that make you shake against all will, each word spoken by Thomas Mars is a cool and confident preach that isn’t forced, each synthesized beat smashes with every other sound perfectly. Songs on this disc will amaze you (they amazed me, look at the title of this blog), and they will put you in a place you would never expect to be put by a pop album. It doesn’t get much better than listening to this album. Everything comes together in flawless form in this album, I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t even add songs in the chance that it wouldn’t be as consistently good. Since the day I downloaded this album to today I still listen to each song with a passion and feeling of freshness. Each song feels new, doesn’t get old, and astonishes me listen after listen. Fantastic work, and never to be forgotten by me in this lifetime, after every song I am either left panting from shouting along and dancing intensely, or speechless because I am pondering about everything that matters in my life, everything important, and eveything subtle.
(ALL personal favorites, and ALL highly recommended)
3. Green Day- Dookie
It’s hard for me to reminisce, but I need to. This was the first album I ever listened to…in my life. I was about 5 (when it came out and when my brother purchased it), and it was played for me while my parents were out to dinner and my high school baby sitter allowed us to hear the dirty mouth of Billy Joe Armstrong. I loved it from beginning to end, the music was music, and it was pretty much a sign that I would always love music. I grew to 8 or 9 having this be the only album I would ever listen to. I praised Green Day, and not one day has passed since then that I still near faint when hearing any song from the greatest punk album I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. The album rocks with individuality and creativity, even though all the songs are quite simple. The bass line sticks out in memory along with the mumbling of Billy Joe, and the CD has about a billion unforgettable songs (well, every song on the CD basically). I remember each video for each song, and I remember the emotion that this album brought with it for me. This is another album I will never forgot, and that I continue to listen to contently today. I’m pretty sure everyone I know loves this album, and that is not a coincidence or a mistake.
2. Elliott Smith- From a Basement On the Hill
I really cannot explain too well why this Elliott Smith album is my favorite. It could be the fact that it was the album that was put out when I was into this area of music, so therefore I related to it more with that personal experience. It could be the fact that this was made right before he supposedly killed himself. Or it could be the fact that when listening to ”Let’s Get Lost” and other tracks my mind travels somewhere else and in my opinion this is the best songwriting and the greatest emotional feat every produced on an album. You can hear the tremble on one of the world’s only sincere geniuses when he sings his soul to grateful strangers, the acoustic rolls to every depth imaginable, and each chord is dark and new, seemingly effortless. That is not even the scary part, that comes now. This is where I come close to losing all sense of reality, with ”King’s Crossing”, a ballad about the ideas of suicide as an option for Elliott. The jolly showtune piano that introduces the momentum building anthem, the voices speaking nonsense to accompany the trademark piano chords, and then Elliott’s voice shows up along with the distorted guitar. And the drums that kick in after ”every wave is tidal, if you hang around you’re gonna get wet. I can’t prepare for death any more than I already have,”. This is the most remarkable/life-changing song I have ever heard, the power of emotion is horrifying, it is the greatest songwriting I have seen in a song ever. You have to be scared listening to this album, to realize what was being created. “but I don’t care if I fuck up, I’m goin’ on a date with a rich white lady. Ain’t life great? Gimme one good reason not to do it. To do it.”.
1. Sufjan Stevens- Illinois
If I ever question this, remind me to listen to the first piano notes on “Concerning the UFO Sightings”, and then I’ll realize I’m crazy for even thinking it, and then I’ll listen to the other 20 tracks, and then to the other 21 B-sides, and then to the remix album, and I’ll probably do it all again after that. There is a sole reason for this being numero uno, it is the greatest music I have ever heard. It does the following to me: touches me emotionally to the point where I am dreaming while awake, shakes me until I am actually shivering, gives me the background info (through demanding random facts) on the great state of Illinois, presents possibly the greatest folk artist (the folk shouldn’t even be there) since Bob Dylan’s greatest work to date, and it makes me put down any album for being better than it. Sufjan creates the greatest album I’ve ever heard because there is so much, and it is so perfect, everything is exactly where it needs to be, while being in great abundance, originality roams free, and the lyrics will scare you, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you smile for the future. There is an optimism in Sufjan’s writing, a joy, then there is a truth, but always more optimism at the end of the tunnel, this style of songwriting is actually beneficial to listen to. I cannot even list the things this album will do to a person, it is endless, with the long list of songs that are presented, and the way they are arranged to flow as one, it is nearly impossible to ever fully experience this album. I am still experiencing this album, I think I will always experience it. This is an album I believe will always be my favorite, unfortunatley I do not think things will get better than this. And to think, it was all a concept album for the state of Illinois, who woulda thunk it. I just began listening to the album again, this is no bad thing at all, I just think soon people are going to be having to pull me away from my death grip on my headphones for things they assume to be more important. I salute this album to the fullest, I could write pages more and ramble endlessly, but I feel I would never fully get my point across, because my point hasn’t even finished developing yet.
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step-Mother
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- Casimir Pulaski Day (p.s.-Possibly the most beautiful song ever written)
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- Jacksonville
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- Come On! Feel the Illinoise!, Pt. I: The World’s Columbian Exposition / Pt. II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In a Dream
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- John Wayne Gacy Jr.
mp3: Sufjan Stevens- The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders, Pt. I: The Great Frontier / Pt. II: Come to Me Only With Playthings Now
Guess we’re done exploding. That was a trip. I would like to (delayed) thank CN, responsible for originally rocking this idea, at Neile’s Life, and all the bands that made it possible for me to have this list.
So now we can get to serious business.
-More consistent posts.
-New bands (I hope you’ve never heard of, so I can spread the joy)
-No more MySpace rips (that thing seriously plagues me but I love the song so much I cannot take it down)
-More fun without this thing hanging over me (end of the year should be a blast!)