TOP 25 ALBUMS
I spent a bit of time on this. There are some albums that probably should be here in place of others, but I’m going to settle on these for now. If anyone is interested in hearing any tracks off of these albums, a sampler to go with all this, I’d be happy to put together a playlist on my box.net account. Just send me a note.
1. Tortoise - TNT
This was the turning point in my musical education. Before this, while I was a fanatic about music, I hadn’t really considered the possibilities to be endless. There are moods and memories here that were inconceivable to me until after my first fateful listen. A life-changing experience. I look forward to playing this nightly in my future child’s slumber space. I honestly believe that it can expand the mind. My stream-of-consciousness review: http://everything2.com/node/1243936
2. The Beatles - Abbey Road
All Beatles albums are indispensable, but this is “the one.” This album and Queen’s Night at the Opera form the core of my young musical tastes, and instilled the maxim that all albums (and songs for that matter) are best when they have some kind of narrative arc, whether they be lyrical, musical, abstract, or otherwise (or all).
3. Queen - A Night at the Opera
Born from a fireplace, Brian May’s guitar is an equalizer cutting through crystalline beauty and madness. Infinite layers, superb songwriting. To a 10 year old child, this was the beginning of my musical education. It screwed my brain until it hurt, but still I wanted more.
4. Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage
mystify and unify we know
half empty is positive we know
there are no explanations to the things you see (in the mystery)
so don’t look to me to validate your dreams. - Hilltop Procession
My review: http://everything2.com/node/1281181 — This is the accumulation of all lyrical psychedelic rock. It has it all and then some.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Pure emotions. Before I heard this album, the thought of a guy and his guitar and voice and little else to convey so-called “true feelings” seemed impossible. Something would always have some kind of sense of being staged, produced, Pavlovian. No such pretense here. This album cuts like a knife, feeds you your own blood, drenched with memories you never had.
6. Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
Amazing. No other concert album could ever make it to one of my top lists. While Remain in Light is a near-perfect album, and its circular strong structures are the epitome of a major musical construct that moves me, this album/movie is so well constructed, performed, and realized. The call & response, the synthesizers, the big suit, the progression. It’s absolutely killer.
7. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
This is the epitome of love and circular song structures. There’s real gypsy magic here, and everything fits together, tells a story… calming, sublime, tortured, and lovely. This is my marriage album. This is what love means to me.
8. Aphex Twin - The Richard D. James Album
I was hesitant to put this here. The real revolution for me here is the first song, “4.” It opened up a new world of possibilities in sound and texture to me, besides having an impenetrable structure of knowledge transfer and chaos. There are some other high points here, but it says a lot that I would put it here on the virtue of “4” alone.
9. Soft Machine - Third
Four songs. Jazz Fusion. Jazz Rock. Canterbury Rock. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a huge dose of awesome. Supreme drumming by Robert Wyatt. Hugh Hoppers plotting, precise and nimble bass playing. That fuzzy organ. Elton Dean’s Saxello. It’s amazing and opened an entire world of music to me that I would have otherwise dismissed outright as cheesy European fluff. There’s a lot of that out there, but this is the real deal.
10. Oingo Boingo - Boingo Alive
I spent much of my teenage years exceptionally obsessed with Oingo Boingo and Danny Elfman. While their “dark album” (and more alternative-genre) Boingo was as far as I went toward grunge at the time (though I’ve become an enthusiastic fan of Pearl Jam), Boingo Alive is the corner stone of my love for the band. This album is a “live album” though it was not recorded in front of an audience. The horn section is as tight as possibly could be, and the syncopated rhythms are complex and perfectly executed. There’s a few duds (I’ve never been a fan of Dear or Alive), but for the most part these are the new canonical versions of the very best songs. My obsession culminated in seeing them on their Farewell Tour in 1995, which also produced a great live album and concert video which I had the pleasure of sitting in on the editing thanks to my brother Dusty and his good friend Chris Hafner (the editor).
11. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
“A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?” Non-stop excellence. I don’t need to say much about this album here. I was named after the man, and I’ve heard this album since before I was born. Lyrically, musically, the execution is loose when it’s all right to be and tight when it must be.
12. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
Secret worlds evoked in art are among my most favorite constructions and are always in my own aspirations. There is such freedom here, with the layering vocals, acoustic instrumentation, and audio manipulation. One of the ultimate psychedelic albums of the decade, Sung Tongs is an inviting campfire secret universe.
13. Curtis Mayfield - There’s No Place Like America Today
This album, along with Sweet Exorcist, hold so much anger equalized with such good natured peace that it is staggering. Curtis’ guitar playing is the epitome of the soul/funk sound, and every instrument and note placement lays the groundwork for an effective, emotional experience. When Curtis sings about “Jesus,” even the agnostics among us can believe for just a moment.
14. The Blues Brothers - Soundtrack / Briefcase Full of Blues
My twin brother and I listened to the Blues Brothers non-stop from about age 9 to 13. They were a gateway to appreciation for the soul and R&B classics like Sam & Dave, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and much more. It’s amazing and ironic that what began as a comedy routine can hold such purity and earnestness, never disparaging the original material, and often surpassing the original songs covered here. A lot of the credit must be given to the top-notch band, culled from session musicians, many of whom played on much of the original tracks: Donald “Duck” Dunn’s agile bass, Tom “Bones” Malone, Tom “Triple Scale” Scott..
15. Fela Kuti - Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense
Fela is Afrobeat. I could have chosen any of his albums (Roforo Fight with my favorite Fela Song, Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am), but I choose this one because of the sheer enveloping power of two nearly twenty minute long tracks. If you don’t know the Fela story, you should read this wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fela_Kuti — the rhythms here are so complex, the call and response with his back up singers/wives is incredibly precise and inventive. Fela’s influence many of the other bands on this list is incalculable, and everyone should rush out to hear this.
16. The Flaming Lips - the Soft Bulletin
Excellence in song writing, production, psychedelic construction, thought, execution, scope. Everything here is crystallized and amazing. I can’t pinpoint how this album has contributed to my being, but it’s significant if not subtle.
17. HiM - New Features
One of the most under-appreciated jazz albums of all time. It has post rock, it has dub. It has Doug Scharin, tick-tocking his head left and right and he lays down the thickest drum grooves imaginable. An amazing cast of musicians creating the most psychedelic jazz you can imagine. Delay and then some. This album is just sick beyond belief.
18. John Fahey - God, Time, & Causality
Narrative. The ability to communicate distinct narratives through a single guitar alone… John Fahey is incomparable to any other. Others can play guitar and make a story, but none do it with the precise clumsiness and vigor as displayed on this album. If you haven’t heard it, you’re missing out.
19. Kraftwerk - Computer World
This is the album that cinched the deal between me and analogue synthesizers. Every tone here is perfect. Absolutely perfect. The songs are well structured, the concept is executed authentically. Even the humor is at times so subtle as to not be there at all. It’s an amazing sound experience, and it’s been on my constant rotation for at least 15 years of my life. If I’d been born sooner, it’d be even longer.
20. The Sea and Cake - The Fawn
More John McEntire produced and drummed deliciousness. An epiphany of what soft music can do for you, and that lyrics and vocals can be all part of the instrumental flavor. There are some pieces of music on here that sound unlike anything else in the universe (the Argument) and everything is executed with digital perfection. Seek it out if you haven’t heard it.
21. Grateful Dead - American Beauty
Close tie with “Live/Dead” for getting on this list. This is my gateway Dead album. Before this I never gave them much thought, but then one day I put this on and Box of Rain hooked me in to a private universe that I’ve never wanted to leave. From psychedelia, to bluegrass, to country, to .. something else .. this album is an incredible realization of excellent musicians doing their thing. Robert Hunter’s lyrics are in top form here. The Dead never sounded this good in the studio again.
22. Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom
Incredibly unique postmodernism. Sounds and textures here that can’t be found anywhere else. The story telling, the sound sculptures, the psychedelia, this is an amazing album that shouldn’t be forgotten.
23. SubArachnoid Space - These Things Take Time
Not many will have heard this “stoner rock” psychedelic jam album. It’s all live, in one take, instrumental SPACE ROCK. It’s exceptional.
24. Gong - You
Without getting deeply into Pink Floyd I would never have found Soft Machine. Without getting deeply into Soft Machine, I would have never found Gong. And in Gong, I found some of my self. And that’s the point. This album was recorded in a cabin in the woods while the entire band was supposedly on acid. If that’s true, then their musicianship was unbroken. This is an album with many layers, and yes at times it is silly, but so is life. Tim Blake’s synthesizers sound unlike anything else in the universe. Incredible album!
25. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Exquisite Americana. Exceptionally produced. Unparalleled songwriting. Moving. I resisted at first but had to surrender.
XTC - Apple Venus Vol. 1
Tim Blake - Crystal Machine
David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Øresund Space Collective - Øresund Space Collective
Kruder & Dorfmeister - The K&D Sessions
The Smiths - Louder than Bombs
Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food
Beck - Odelay
Black Heart Procession - 1
Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children
Joni Mitchell - Blue
Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman
Tortoise - Standards
Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic
Yume Bitsu - Yume Bitsu
Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Love - Forever Changes
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
Radiohead - Kid A
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
A Silver Mt. Zion - Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
Sigur Ros - ()