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Scott’s Top 20 Albums Ever

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It is Saturday morning in Singapore.  I am not traveling and I am not thinking about work.  I am thinking about music

A couple friends of mine recently asked about music I played for them.  One one friend’s request, I wrote up a list of my favorite albums ever.  I really liked Duncan’s series on music so I wanted to respond with my own.  Most of these albums came to me by way of recommendation.  Maybe comments to this post will introduce me to another amazing album or two.

First off, this “top 20” list is only of great albums. Albums that have moved me emotionally, made me dance, made me sing, and burned indelible melodies into my mind. I have loved all of these albums completely and differently. Like children, I cannot rank them for their relative awesomeness.

If you’re still interested, read on! I hope you will share your comments with me about these albums and some of your own all-time favorites.

  • “The College Dropout” by Kayne West.  A rap album so great as to start the end of the gangsta rap movement started almost 20 years before.  Kanye showed us that rap can involve melodies, soulful samples, and lyrics about things other than b****es and violence.
  • “Cure for Pain” by Morphine.  Slow, powerful jazz by a musician that died too young.
  • “Doggystyle” by Snoop Dogg.  The culmination of the gangsta rap movement started in south central LA by NWA.  Snoop’s lyrics are unforgettable and Dre’s beats are irresistible.  Made suburban white kids think they were tough.
  • “Guero” by Beck.  Beck’s best album, in my humble opinion.
  • “Give Up” by The Postal Service.  Fun electropop but with moving lyrics like Death Cab’s work.  Postal Service is actually the lead singer from Death Cab.  He collaborated with a friend that lived across the US by sending DATs to each other via the USPS.
  • “London Calling” by The Clash.  Possibly the greatest rock album ever recorded.
  • “Mezzanine by Massive Attack.  Legendary post-club CD.  Moving and catchy rich harmonies.  Great to fall asleep to, but too good to actually sleep through.
  • “Music” by 311.  These guys came out of a Omaha, Nebraska basement to create a rock/punk/reggae/rap anthem with a scent of bud.  I love this entire album.  I have probably listened to it more than any other album ever. 311 had more commercial success after this album and they made many good songs. But never could they put together a complete masterpiece like this one.
  • “Plans” by Death Cab for Cutie.  Slow, moving, chilling easy rock melodies.  Every lyric is emotional. Every chord resonates.
  • “Pretty Hate Machine” by Nine Inch Nails.  It is difficult for me to overstate how influential this debut album from the one-man sorrow machine that is Nine Inch Nails.  All of my high school friends and I knew these lyrics by heart.  I had a NIN bumper sticker, t-shirt, poster, everything.  We all hung on Trent Reznor’s every word.  This album was the self-loathing depressed focus of everyone who failed to land or keep the target of their affections.  Obviously one of my “best albums ever”, although now I find it dated.
  • “Rage Against the Machine” by Rage Against the Machine.  Hard, loud, edgy and angry rock.  Not like anything you’ve ever heard before.  Socially responsible and catchy.  These guys had trouble putting together an album that was great in its entirety after releasing this debut album.
  • “Soft Machine” by Teddybears.  Upbeat happy electropop.  Every track is catchy, cute, and energizing.
  • “Suburbs” by Arcade Fire.  Powerful mellow, symphonic rock.  One of the best albums of 2010.
  • “Surrender” by The Chemical Brothers.  Electronic, mostly dance music.  Also makes my “most listened to” list but since I reduced (eliminated?) clubbing from my life I listen to fewer electronic CDs. This album now is less relevant to me.
  • “Symphony #9” by Beethoven.  OK, weird recommendation for this list.  I can honestly say that I do not like classical music.  It bores me.  I don’t get it.  But there is something moving about Beethoven’s 9th.  It’s the only classical recording I can listen to again and again and again.
  • “Times of Romance” by the Lovemakers.  Cheery, yet wistful fun rock about dance floor romances and exes.
  • “Vampire Weekend” by Vampire Weekend.  The whole album is great.  I really dig Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra. But there was something amazing about that first Afro-pop release. Contra is awesome, for sure, but I’m giving props to their debut album for its uniqueness among the rest of pop music.
  • “Vertigo” by Groove Armada.  Down-tempo electronica.  Absolutely righteous beats after a long night of blasting your brain with anything.
  • “The Warrior’s Code” by Dropkick Murphys.  This is hard, loud, fast, screaming rock-and-roll from a Boston Irish band.  This album is definitely not for everyone.  But the first time I heard it (on a plane) my eyes swelled open, I gripped my seat’s arm bars, and I edged forward on the seat. I could not stop bobbing my head throughout the entire album.  One of my favorite running albums.  Look for the theme of “The Departed” calling “Shipping Out to Boston”.
  • “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” by Fatboy Slim.  Fun, sometimes dancy, sometimes edgy electronic music dominated by catchy samples.  This album made this guy an international superstar.  Two years later, we’re all wondering, “Whatever happened to that guy?”

Honorable mention goes to “Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes” by Violent Femmes.  I am a huge fan of this strange sounding trio that produced a series of cover band anthems my friends and I sang along with through college.  But this is a “best of” collection so it cannot be properly grouped with the single-effort masterworks above.

Your turn! Share your comments on these albums and music that has moved you throughout the years.

12 Responses

Off-topic for work: my top 10 albums ever: http://vpivot.com/2011/01/22/765/

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  • A really interesting selection of favorites, but oh man, that Teddybears album sticks out to me as questionable (and not just because of my unwavering preference for their Teddybears STHLM grindcore from the 1990s) — they put on a hell of a live show, but don’t you find most of their pop material to be a bit derivative? “Different Sound” was basically Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” with different lyrics.

    • I recognize that “Soft Machine” stands out on this list as one of the more simple and vapid selections. But, man, I think those beats move people. Everyone that I have ever shared that album with has loved it. That’s why it made my list.

      But I am aware of the transformation the Teddybears have made in their career. I sure can believe that their more recent work would not be to your liking.

      I pulled up Sledgehammer just now to compare it to “Different Sound”. I don’t see the similarity.

      • Oh, hey, if you like the Teddybears, you might like Royksopp’s first album, “Melody A.M.” There’s not really any similarity musically between them, but I have yet to find a Teddybears fan who hasn’t enjoyed this album.

  • Always interesting to read what other people listen to – the NIN album is my number one all time fav, with head like a hole being my favourite track – know what you mean about it sounding a bit dated now; the recent emaster makes it a bit better

  • Scott,

    Great list! I love Morphine and agree Sandman died to young. I listen to “Rage Against the Machine”, Red Hot Chilly Peppers and NWA when snowboarding. Downloading Dropkick Murphys now.

    Tom

  • Scott-
    As expected, you’re all over the spectrum on this. Beethoven and the Chemical Brothers. I can’t really hang with any of them, but maybe a FatBoy Slim, London Calling, and the first Violent Femmes album. Must be bcause I’m so much older than you. But, how can you put Dropkick Murphys on a list, but not The Who’s Quadrophenia? How can you put on anything by Kanye West, but nothing by the Beatles? Again, I’m a very old man, but still…

    • Matthew,

      Well, I can only rate the albums I own. And my collection is really not that large. I own perhaps 250-300 CDs. A decent collection, for sure. But I think true audiophiles misplace more CDs than I have ever owned. 🙂

      I listed to a lot of class rock in high school and picked up a few box sets (like Led Zeppelin), best of albums (like Jimi Hendrix), and a couple of seminal albums (like Boston). But my selection from that era is pretty weak. Only one Beatles album (The White Album) and no The Who, no Rolling Stones, no Deep Purple.

      I’ll keep on building my collection, Matthew. And I’ll write another “top 20” article in 20 years. Maybe tastes will have gone in even more directions!