Hey readers, can you guess what we’re doing today? Well, I thought I’d start a new segment of Top 10 Lists. Today’s edition will be covering the controversial topic of “best albums of all time.” Before you go judging me, let me explain a few things. Firstly, if I don’t own the album, it’s not making it on my list. This only makes sense. Secondly, as a rule I am not including classics like the Beatles and Pink Floyd. Sgt. Pepper’s and The Wall can get their honorable mentions here but, and I know I said “of all time,” I just don’t think the past actually exists. Sorry. This is from ’88 and on. And, fortunately, we can skip most things that came out of the ’90s (with another honorable mention to Reel Big Fish’s Cheer Up, which was released in 2002, but is like a flashback hit of the ’90s), which really just leaves us with a list of “best albums of rather recent times.” And also keep in mind: these are only my favorite albums. I will judge you if you don’t agree. Also also, my Top 10 actually consists of 11 albums. Because it’s one higher.
11 ) Fly My Pretties – The Return
In slot number 11, we have a truly wonderful collection of music – The Return of Fly My Pretties, the sophomore effort of the New Zealand super-group Fly My Pretties. The Pretties only record live, making them stand out with a raw kind of untampered beauty. Each featured artist contributes a unique sound or song to the band, and the result is an eclectic mix of goodness. Although this might be more difficult to track down in the States, tracks like “Catch the Light,” “Get Out,” and “King of You All” make it well worth the trouble. Plug in your headphones, press play, and drift away.
10 ) Of Montreal – Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse
This album is a zany opus of pure delight. Of Montreal tells the story of Coquelicot, a fairy-like creature who’s been sent to Earth to place bells in people’s hearts. It’s got silly, it’s got sweet, and it’s even got horrific carnivorous bugs. And a happy ending. As an album, it’s not just a collection of songs; CAitP:AVoWV is an album that comes together in its storytelling and madness better than almost any other collection claiming to be an “album.” On a personal level, the story itself has influenced me almost as much as the best Neil Gaiman novel. Sounds like Coquelicot found a bell for my heart. Give the album a listen and maybe she’ll place one in yours, too.
9 ) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Up from Below
This release seemed to come out of nowhere, but it came with heart and soul. I’ve heard them described as a hippie version of Arcade Fire, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. Granted, front man Alex Ebert frequently wanders around sans shirt, but this is no reason to judge. This album is about the savior and salvation of mankind. Except, that savior keeps getting distracted by things like girls and love. As an album, this just works. The songs have a cohesive backing theme and are downright good to listen to. If you haven’t heard the song “Home” yet, you need to get this album in your ears.
8 ) Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This album got a Grammy. I really don’t think I need to defend this selection except on a personal level. For me, this album firmly rooted a Phoenix flag on my musical map. Every song works and works together, making it not only a veritable collection of singles, but also a concrete album. Actually, “concrete” is probably not the right word to describe anything by Phoenix – they make you move. It’s upbeat enough to bring you back to summer any time of the year, but reflexive enough to keep the stereo warm in winter. Really just a great album. Buy it. Buy it now.
7 ) Muse – Absolution
Every release Muse has put out to date has been a powerhouse of sound, but this is the one that got me hooked and will ever remain in my heart. This album came out the same year I started learning to drive, and it’s been with me on the road ever since. Yeah, it’s a little bit more raw than some of Muse’s more polished releases since, but I like that. From the beginning to end, I can feel myself taken away on open American road (I mean, Muse is American, right?). From the nuclear “Apocalypse Please” to the reflective “Endlessly,” this album has got it all. If you enjoy rock and roll, there is no reason not to own this album.
6 ) Kent – Röd
Speaking of rock and roll… number 6 on the list is the latest release from Swedish rock legends Kent. As perhaps my favorite band of all time, I had to restrict this list to only one showing by Kent. So, why Röd? Simple, once I press play – I’ve got to hear the entire album. From the first few minutes, this album is distinctly Kent. It’s got that dark Scan-rock feel accented in the intro by the sounds of children chanting – absolutely classic. For those of you concerned about the language barrier, you could go after some of Kent’s English releases, but why bother? Although the lyrics are brilliant, they just sound funny in English. Get this album. Then get the entire Kent discography. Experience the North without ever having to leave your living room.
5 ) Radiohead – OK Computer
Do I really need to defend this one, either? To the great majority of you, I think I’m more responsible for defending my placement at number 5 instead of number 1. Well, it’s the same reason Kent’s Röd falls in at number 6. But that’s hardly a review. Okay, this album is phenomenal. It’s even spawned a reggae cover album by the Easy Star All-Stars titled Radiodread. But I guess that’s not much of a review, either. What do you want me to say? The album speaks for itself.
4 ) Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
(Woah is that album cover moving?)
Animal Collective is crazy. Listening to this album is like watching Doctor Octavius try to harness the power of fusion. They’re mutants of sound. The entire album is just bursting with a wild energy, pushing boundaries of what makes music, lifting me up, and taking me away. To where? I don’t know. No one knows. Grab some headphones; put this music into your brain.
3 ) Fever Ray – Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson – everything you touch is gold! Like with Kent, I had difficulty picking just one album of Karin Dreijer’s to place on a Top 10 list (really, The Knife’s Silent Shout deserves to be here as well), but this… this album is one of the most haunting displays of creativity I’ve heard to date. I like the darker sound that Karin Dreijer cultivates sans her DJ-ing brother Olaf, who I suspect brings the normally dancy sound to the duo. Now with her own solo release, it’s clear to see that she can stand on her own. And stand tall. And stretching taller. Listen to this music in the dark and let the world disappear. Oh, and don’t miss the music videos. Truly, truly haunting.
2 ) Arcade Fire – Funeral
This album might have more emotion than I can feel in a lifetime (although, as an aspiring stoic, this might not be much of a boast). The composition put into this album is stunning, boasting the kind of sound that makes you listen from start to finish (although sometimes I cheat with personal favorite “Rebellion”). True, there are bits in French, but just because I can’t understand the words doesn’t mean that I can’t understand the music. This album is just transcendental. With their surprising (and controversial) feature in a Super Bowl advert, it would be surprising if you hadn’t already heard this album. If, however, you’ve been living in a cave… tunnel your way out and into the light that is this album.
1 ) Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Canadian super-group Broken Social Scene for the win. This album will hit you with a wall of sound. When awesomeness comes crashing down, you can thank me. I have nothing else to say.
Listening to: Stars and Sons, Broken Social Scene