Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top 50 Albums (Ever)

01. Dave Brubeck, Time Out (1959, Columbia)
Dad introduced me to this one in middle school. Not the best, or even the most important jazz record of it's era, but the one that lead me to the rest. Were it not for "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," I wouldn't love Monk, Davis, or Coltrane as I do today.

02. The Beatles, Abbey Road (1969, Apple)
I had picked "The White Album" originally, but somehow it felt like I was denying my true and deep love for this album. Side-B was light years ahead of itself and features Ringo Starr's only ever recorded drum solo. You can't fuck with that.

03. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II (1969, Atlantic)
These days I probably listen to their debut album more, but this is the one where they got truly heavy. This album was undeniable when it came out, it blew my mind when I first heard it (I wasn't yet ten - Zep is my mom's favorite band ever, to this day) and it will still be ground-breaking when my kids first listen to it. Better than Zoso, totally.

04. Black Sabbath, Paranoid (1970, Warner Brothers)
Still kind of blows my mind how heavy this record was in 1970. I mean, Zeppelin and a few other bands had touched on some heavy shit while they were stealing the blues from America, but this is some next-level shit. The self-titled debut almost stole the spot, but let's face it - I reach for Paranoid more often. Also, the production started to go downhill after this one. By Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath I can hardly stand the vocals. My friend Rian summed it up one night, smoking a bowl in my old apartment (this was the same night I first heard Pig Destroyer,) "Dude - right then, I just got high. But it wasn't the weed that got me high, it was that riff, right there... dude, PLAY THAT AGAIN!"

05. The Stooges, Fun House (1970, Elektra)
Now, while it's not as heavy, or as evil as Sabbath, I still have a rough time wrapping my mind around the concept that while Zeppelin and Sabbath were forging Heavy Metal across the Atlantic, Iggy and The Stooges were in Detroit, paving the way for what would become American punk rock. Their debut turned heads, but this album certified the band as maniacs. Almost forty-years later, I still think this album embodies "rock and roll" more than just about any other record I can think of.

06. David Bowie, Hunky Dory (1971, RCA)
Appropriately following The Stooges is the man who saved Iggy Pop's career from drug-induced oblivion. Who'd have guessed?! Pick your ten favorite Bowie songs. At least three are on this album. "I'm gonna make it plain, you gotta make way for the Homo-Superior."

07. T. Rex, Electric Warrior (1971, Fly)
So. Damn. Chill.
Instant dance party.
Bolan = Cool.

08. The Clash, London Calling (1978, CBS)
So this album could have really fucked up my opinion of The Clash. My parents had Combat Rock on cassette, and I liked it alright, but when I was older and consciously sought out "punk rock" I reached for this album and it was considerably less aggressive than I had hoped. I mean, when you don't have a job, $14 is a huge investment, so I stuck with it, and listened again, and again, and again. And after a while, I didn't mind that "Lost in the Supermarket" wasn't the least bit tough. Shit, I liked that. So, the fast songs weren't on here, but these dudes knew how to write, and this album helped me see why The Clash were the only band that mattered.

09. The Cars, The Cars (1978, Elektra)
Perfect pop music. This album and The B-52's debut LP are why I'll always love new wave. One of my favorite American rock and roll bands, for sure.

10. Black Flag, Damaged (1981, SST)
If you need an explanation, go watch the episode of Freaks and Geeks where Daniel Desario buys this album and listens to it at home on his headphones while his mom's screaming at him. If you've never listened to Black Flag and felt like that kid, in 1981, hearing something you've never heard before, there's nothing I can do for you.

11. Bad Brains, Bad Brains (1982, ROIR)
Nobody was faster, nobody was better. The Bad Brains were unfuckwithable.
If you don't like this band, you're listening wrong.

12. Minor Threat, Out of Step (1983, Dischord)
Features some of the best, and some of the most underrated Minor Threat songs. I think "Look Back and Laugh," is the first hint in the direction the band (especially Ian) would end up choosing. I chose this over the discography because I'm trying to keep it to real "albums" if at all possible, or else this would take forever with all the 7"s and anthologies I'd have on here.

13. Rites of Spring, Rights of Spring (1985, Dischord)
So raw and frantic. 100% punk rock, but with nothing in common with the fucking Sex Pistols. (Bassist) Mike Fellows' [current] band The Silver Jews played at the record store I used to work at and I have to admit I got a little awe-struck making him his coffee and grabbing CD's for him. He looked kind of embarrassed when I told him "End on End" was one of my favorite songs ever.

14. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (1988, Enigma)
For years I didn't know which Sonic Youth album to buy. Nirvana hyped them, their name was awesome, they had sick album covers, but there was just so much. Where to start? So I finally grabbed the one the dude at the record store recommended one day (it had the lamest cover, haha) and it's still my favorite. For years, every time I played a show I would listen to this album on the way to the venue.

15. Pixies, Doolittle (1989, Elektra)
Along with from Nirvana Unplugged and London Calling this was one of the records that helped me realize that music didn't have to be aggressive to be provocative.

16. Nirvana, Bleach (1989, Sub-Pop)
17. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991, DGC)
18. Nirvana, In Utero (1993, DGC)
19. Nirvana, Unplugged in New York (1994, DGC)

My favorite band ever. Nevermind saved me from Aerosmith, Bleach kept me from thinking nu-metal was at all heavy, legitimate, or in any way cool, and In Utero showed me how many different ways a band can be punk as shit. Nobody else gets multiple spots on the list. Nobody else would be on the list had I not had to cover my ears when I got in my dad's care one day and asked "What's this noise?!" I was on straight Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, and shitty radio-pop until I heard that album. So call it cliche, but it changed my life. I still classify music in my head as Pre and Post-"Nevermind".

20. R.E.M, Automatic for the People (1992, Warner Brothers)
This one's kind of random, but I've always just loved it. It seems so earnest, and that's an incredibly important thing to me. If all pop music was this honest and beautiful the world would be a better place.

21. Neurosis, Enemy of the Sun (1992, Alternative Tentacles)
The first Neurosis album I ever heard, and still the reigning champion. Probably not as important as Times of Grace (1999), I just prefer the tones and production on Enemy more personally. It sounds organic, but at the same time meticulously arranged and crushingly heavy. My wife bought the LP for me on our second anniversary and it's the coolest record I own aside from a promotional copy of Nevermind.

22. Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream (1993, Virgin)
I'm not a big Pumpkins fan at all, but if one of their albums doesn't stir some sort of nostalgia in you, you must not have been alive in the '90's. That or you weren't paying any attention. For me, it's absolutely this album. Somehow I've never owned a copy of Melon Collie... Weird.

23. Melvins, Houdini (1993, Atlantic)
"Honey Bucket," "Joan of Arc," "Night Goat," and "Hag Me." Like Sonic Youth, there's just so much to choose from - but this is the one I can't go without. "Extra often is not my sound."

24. Fugazi, In on the Kill Taker (1993, Dischord)
This is simply my favorite Fugazi record. Great upbeat songs, great down-tempo songs. More importantly, while the album has a unified feel, the whole thing holds my interest more than anything else in their catalogue. It doesn't drag at any point, nor is it too short.

25. Entombed, Wolverine Blues (1993, Earache)
It was tough to decide between Clandestine and this one, but like so many bands, in the end it came down to the one I first connected with. Such great production, such great drumming, almost every aspect of this record is flawless. Quite possibly my favorite guitar tone ever.

26. A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Merauders (1993, Jive)
The first time Mark Guisto picked me up for swim practice I was in 8th grade. I listened to a lot of Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Doors at this point. So we got in his civic, and there's a "tour guide" telling me that she's going to be enhancing our trip with certain facts I may find interesting, then there's a dude I've never heard before asking me to "Represent, represent-sent." More than a decade late, hell fucking yeah I am, Phife.

27. Jeff Buckley, Grace (1994, Columbia)
I was totally late on the Jeff Buckley band wagon, but I think this is an album that you have to be in a certain state of mind to let it truly resonate. The spring of 2002 did that for me, and I haven't gone a month without listening to this album since. Hallelujah.

28. Beastie Boys, Ill Communication (1994, Capitol)
Who cares if you like hip hop? It was never as accessible as it was here, and it holds up fifteen years later. Shit - what was the last beat you heard as good as "Sure Shot"? And a decade into their career, these guys could still play hardcore too.

29. NOFX, Punk in Drublic (1994, Epitaph)
It was I Heard They Suck Live that first drew me to the band, but It's nearly unanimous that this was the high point for NOFX. If not, it was The Decline, but that's not really an "album," now is it? Anyhow - it's still fun, and it was huge for me when I first picked it up. Still love it a decade later.

30. Unbroken, life. love. regret. (1994, New Age)
People either love or hate Unbroken. I love them. A lot.
Mike Ireland and I agree, this album is kind of the hardcore equivalent to Disintegration, except I have no delusions as to the quality of the musicianship. When you consider how young Eric Allen was when he wrote most of these guitar tracks though, and compare them to other bands in 1993 and 1994, it's easy to see why this band was on top of the world for a hot minute.

31. At the Gates, Slaughter of the Soul (1995, Earache)
This album was the gateway drug that led me to death metal... and I am forever grateful. Phenomenal musicianship and production. It's just everything it needed to be, and more importantly, it's still better than the bands trying to replicate it's sound fifteen years later.

32. Weezer, Pinkerton (1996, Geffen)
The Blue Album was good, but this was the less poppy, negative side of Weezer. Jaded and self-destructive, what fourteen year old doesn't feel like he can relate to Rivers? It was only when the band released 2001's abysmal follow-up that I turned my back on the Weez. Probably for the best; they were starting to give Nirvana a run for the #1 spot.

33. Deadguy, Fixation on a Co-Worker (1996, Victory)
When the guitarist and vocalist from Rorschach took their later Black Flag and Swans influences and mix them with the more metallic sounds that newer bands like Unsane and Today is the Day were forging the results were bound to be amazing. Kiss It Goodbye is almost equally good, but this album tends to hold my attention where She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not can seem a bit long for my attention span. It's also worth mentioning that the band's two EP's prior to the release of this album are stellar, but I'm trying to stick to full lengths, so there you go. Keith Huckins and Tin Singer left after this album, and the band pressed on, releasing another 10" EP on Victory and a live CD. I'd rather listen to Kiss It Goodbye than that crap any day though.

34. Lifetime, Jersey's Best Dancers (1996, Jade Tree)
Many would argue that Hello Bastards better represents the band, but this album was instantly more appealing for me. Glossy production, infectious hooks and melodies, and Ari's best vocal performance to boot. "And I'm so, and you're so, we're both so, all fucked up."

35. Radiohead, OK Computer (1997, Parlophone)
I was instantly taken by the single "Paranoid Android," and the video further fascinated me. Ravi Buck bought me the CD for my fifteenth birthday and I still own the same copy, the insert tattered and frayed from a decade of excited page-turning. "Electioneering," "Exit Music for a Film," and "No Surprises" could go on any mix CD for the rest of forever. I just like it more than anything they've done before or since, and it speaks as an album like so few [non-concept] records do.

36. Karp, Self-Titled LP (1997, K Records)
They might have been a few years late to really be considered in with the crowd they emulated so well, but this oft overlooked band melded the sounds of Nirvana, The Melvins, and The Jesus Lizard seamlessly. Jared went on to form Big Business and become a member of the current Melvins lineup. If you care to find out why, this album is the easiest way to see.

37. His Hero Is Gone, Monuments to Thieves (1997, Prank)
Ryan's introduction to real crust-punk. Fuck you, Crass.
Viscous, dirty, and just as sloppy as it needs to be. These songs sound like they're on the verge of falling apart half of the time, but such is the life of an anarchist. Sometimes I can see the appeal of Fifteen Counts of Arson over this album, but again - I just reach for this one more. It's succinct, and has more of the songs I love. "The Unwanted Child" is one of the most harsh and oppressive songs I can imagine a punk band writing, and it satisfies me as much now as the first time I heard those punishing drums at the album's close for the very first time.

38. Botch, We Are the Romans (1999, Hydra Head)
My daughter was likely conceived to this album, and I am proud of this fact.
I bought this album before I ever bought a Converge, Cave In, or Deadguy record, and I largely contribute my eternal hatred for shit like Poison the Well to that wise purchase. To think that it's been a decade since these songs were penned and laid down blows my mind. I first heard Botch through some of their earlier recordings, but it was this album and the band's final EP An Anthology of Dead Ends that promised they would forever be a part of my collection forever. Finally seeing how Dave Knudson played the loops in "Transitions from Persona to Object" from their 061502 Final Show DVD was a sigh of relief. I'd wondered for years, and it sounded just as good live as on this flawless record.

39. Combat Wounded Veteran, I Know a Girl Who Develops Crime Scene Photos (1999, No Idea)
My introduction to the Florida/Electric Youth Crew sound. I'd heard of Reversal of Man, but found this one used before I would ever find a RoM album in a local record store.
My fragile mind was not ready for it.
Some years later though, I picked it up again and understood. This was punk rock, grindcore, and hardcore pressed together in a vice. So intense, so dirty. I can understand why a lot of people aren't into them, but this album pulls me in... in a way I don't expect many people to understand.

40. Reversal of Man, This Is Medicine (2000, Ebullition)
Before I could really fall for CWV, I had to understand their brethren in Reversal of Man. I had seen this band's name in thank you lists from bands like Jesuit, Canephora, Left for Dead, and Converge. This spoke volumes to me, but where the fuck would I find their records? After about two years of having only a song or two on mixtapes I ordered their ill-titled Discography online, then picked up the Revolution Summer EP from some long-ago-forgotten distro. This is, in all probability my favorite release by the band, but it's only seven songs, one of which is a cover, and another is only forty-six seconds long. The bands sole full length though is equally intense, walking a fine line between passionate post-hardcore and righteously pissed hardcore or grind. Reversal of man always had amazing layouts, and this LP is their most stunning, with a fully illustrated sixteen page insert. Each song has not only lyrics, but careful thought out explanations that help the album maintain it's relevance when the events that inspired it may have fallen through the cracks of memory otherwise. If you don't like screamy stuff though, this one's not for you.

41. Pig Destroyer, Prowler in the Yard (2001, Relapse)
I read an interview once where Blink 182 described themselves as the Fischer Price of punk bands, or "My First Punk Band" or something to that effect. This album is likely the grindcore equivalent to that statement. Listen, and then think about how this fucker was recorded by an eight track in Scott Hull's basement in Northern Virginia... yeah. Plus, were it not for listening to this band obsessively, I never would have been able to get as into Assuck as I am today, so that's also a plus.

42. City of Caterpillar, City of Caterpillar (2002, Level Plane)
I feel kind of lame putting an album like this in front of something by 108 or Turning Point or something, but I just think it holds up amazingly well. I prefer it to any release by pg. 99 or any of their other related bands, and more importantly I think this album captures a myriad of emotions and sounds that a lot of records cannot. It's frantic, euphoric, atmospheric, beautiful, heavy, melancholy, and triumphant in less than forty-five minutes.

43. The Hope Conspiracy, Endnote (2002, Equal Vision)
Fuck your Background Music, this album is more mature, less cliche, and heavier than hell. Love it. This is what 108 and Unbroken worked so hard for, so thanks boys.

44. Boris, Akuma No Uta (2003, Diwphalanx)
First Boris album I ever heard. Still my favorite. I want "Naki Kyoku" played at my funeral. First time I saw them live, they broke into "Furi" and Josh Wright appears out of nowhere, throws his arm (and beer) over my shoulder, and starts freaking out. One of my All-Time favorite show memories, for sure.

45. Cursed, One (2003, Deathwish Inc.)
Perfect guitar, drums, and vocals. This is everything I hope for in heavy music. Interesting, truly angry, intelligent, and tight. Colohan and Company nailed it. A little bit of Entombed and Celtic Frost, a little bit of EyeHateGod and His Hero Is Gone. I was fortunate enough to book the guys a last minute show on their first U.S. Tour shortly after this album came out. It ended up going down in a corn field in Chesapeake, and became something of a legend for the band. Four times in all I was fortunate enough to see them, and it will never have been enough.

46. A Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir, "This Is Our Punk Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing (2003, Constellation)
A friend played this for me as I was getting into that whole second and third-wave post-rock type stuff. It just stood out as haunting, epic, and theatrical unlike anything else I had heard before. Favorite track: "Babylon Was Bulit on Fire/StarNoStars."

47. Converge, You Fail Me (2004, Epitaph)
Yes, I prefer it to Jane Doe. Stripped down, and more direct - it just speaks to me more than their previous album. I almost went with Petioning the Empty Sky, but a) It was actually released as a 7"/EP first, not a full lenght, and b) I'm less attached to it now than I was a decade ago when I first heard it. The band's newer material is different, but decidedly more mature. This album, I think, channels more of their influences (Born Against, Rorschach, Entombed, Starkweather, Black Flag, etc.) than it emulates them, and the band benefitted greatly from this.

48. Modern Life Is War, Witness (2004, Deathwish Inc.)
"Making come true our modest impossible dreams. Stuck in public school classrooms at age fifteen.Those long hot days just before the summer - Knowing that we're stuck here, and there's something happening somewhere - Knowing we know we gotta get there.
It's true what they say, "Death is more perfect than life," That's why we already died. What could have been? We don't wanna know, Tonight we'll get our kicks.
Tonight we're all letting go, because we're all Dead Ramones. Sore back, Sore feet, a ragtag army and we're sick in the heat. We're not pretty and we're not rich, We're gonna have to fucking work for it. It's our life, we do what we choose - Black jeans, black shirt, black shoes. Mom and Dad still don't approve. Twenty-eight shows, twenty-eight days. Pulling up new rogues all along the way. I'm just another face in this desperate youth parade. And all the bunk beds locked doors, hardwood, sweat, guts, skateboards, cold war bomb shelter basement screams, no sleep, good dreams. We're playing hard as we can and a whole lotta time stuck in the van. Reading the graffiti on every bathroom wall in truck stop fast food hell. Save me from ordinary - save me from myself. Another punk rock summer came and went
Now I just wanna go back home and turn up my stereo until the rhythm melts my bones, 'cause I'm a Dead Ramone..."

49. Old Man Gloom, Christmas (2004, Tortuga)
This is what a heavy album should sound like. Easily one of the best-produced records I've ever heard.

50. Fucked Up, Hidden World (2006, Jade Tree)
When I first heard this album, only two and a half years ago, it felt like the first time I'd heard The Clash. That's magical. The band followed it up right, with relentless touring, several standout EP's (especially 2007's Year of the Pig,) and one of 2009's best album's with their sophomore full length The Chemistry of Common Life. Friends I would never recommend hardcore bands to are shitting themselves over these guys - and I can totally see why. Cant wait to tell my kids about their live shows one day.

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