Thursday, July 15, 2010

Making Lists: Albums

Part of my personality leaves me prone to creating lists, as many people close to me are well aware. I’m not sure why or what it is, but grouping or ranking things comes naturally to me. In an effort to provide new content in this space more often, this will be a new series of sorts; expect more of these posts on a fairly regular basis.

The first list I want to share is musically based. While I may not be as knowledgeable about music or as skilled in creating it as some of my friends (such as Tessa and Shelby respectively), I enjoy sound creations as much as anyone. Below I will lay out the ten albums which I am currently enjoying the most, and hopefully be convincing enough to nudge you in their direction. If I sound ignorant, it is because I am. So cut me some slack, if you would be so kind. Happy hunting.

De-loused in the Comatorium – The Mars Volta
This album is one of my favorites for popping into the car stereo and driving with. The uniqueness of sound created by the Mars Volta is fantastic; even after having listened to this album on and off for a few years I am always discovering new layers to the music. The concept album aspect intrigues me as well (the songs tell a story based on the death of a friend of the band). While the band has put out a good deal of new material since this studio debut album (and solid material at that), none of it has stuck with me like this one.
Songs that stick: Son et Lumiere/Inertiatic ESP, Drunkship of Lanterns, Cicatriz ESP, Televators

OK Computer – Radiohead
I ran across this album a bit later than most; despite its release in 1997, I didn’t hear it until ten years later. This album, similar to De-loused, is one that I have listened to off and on for the last few years, but I still haven’t grown sick of it. While Radiohead is certainly a rock band, they don’t fall in the trap of writing music that all sounds the same (ala Nickelback). Each song on the album carries a unique feeling with it, and that diversity between tracks is a large part of the joy I take from the album.
Songs that stick: Paranoid Android, Exit Music (For a Film)

O – Damien Rice
As I said when I profiled him in the most recent Art and Artists post, Damien may be my favorite musician at the moment. He writes and plays with passion and honesty that I have not often run across. His debut album, O, is a fantastic piece of music. So many of the songs deal with heartbreak and lost love, such a relatable thing for many of us. The contrast between his less polished vocals with Lisa Hannigan’s beautiful singing voice provides a constant reminder of the separation they often sing about. This album is folk music at its finest, and one that I enjoy greatly.
Songs that stick: Blower’s Daughter, Older Chests, I Remember

Greatest Hits I – Queen
Yes, I realize that choosing a greatest hits album might be cheating. I don’t really care. This album is one of the best collections of music I have ever heard, and nothing is more fun to listen to in the car with friends, belting out each song louder than the last. I have many great memories associated with this album, which might contribute a bit to how much I enjoy it.
Songs that stick: Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now

Word of Mouth – Timmy Curran
Curran is a retired professional surfer turned musician, something that you might expect from the free feeling that comes with this album. The lyrics don’t strike me as terribly deep or challenging, but the music is quite positive and flows well.
Songs that stick: Comatose, Slow, Joan

Amethyst Rock Star – Saul Williams
Saul is another artist I have profiled in the Art and Artists series, and beyond being an incredible poet he is a talented musician. This album contains a number of Saul’s poems put to music or shaped in a new way, and the results are breathtaking. Instead of mindless lyrics combined with a hip hop beat, Saul presents the listener with pure poetry as lyrics, intelligent and surprisingly well suited to the drum and bass or hip hop background the words are placed on. I rarely ventue into the hip hop genre, but this is a grand exception. This album is one that will definitely make you think, but the beat is enough to make your head bob and knee bounce all the same.
Songs that stick: Tao of Now, Coded Language

We Were Here – Joshua Radin
Another folk album that I greatly enjoy. Radin’s music is fairly subdued, volume control is certainly not an issue with this album. However, listening to these songs evokes some sense of familiarity with who Joshua Radin is despite my never having met him. There is a great deal of relatability contained in the lyrics, and the acoustic guitar/string pairings make for beautiful, soothing music.
Songs that stick: Everything’ll Be Alright (Will’s Lullaby), Winter

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Old, yes. From a different era, certainly. But a fantastic album nonetheless. This album contains one of my favorite individual songs of all time, some of the best synthesizer work I’ve come across, and an altogether fantastic combination of sounds. Wish You Were Here only contains five songs, two of which last over twelve minutes each, and three shorter songs. Something about WYWH makes me want to listen to it again and again, and so I do.
Songs that stick: Welcome to the Machine, Wish You Were Here

Narrow Stairs – Death Cab for Cutie
I don’t have anything profound or special to say about Death Cab or this album. I just greatly enjoy the sound, the cadence and the content. This another one of those albums that I could turn on and never reach to skip a song.
Songs that stick: I Will Possess Your Heart, Grapevine Fires

9 – Damien Rice
You didn’t really expect me to leave off Damien’s other album, did you? This effort has a distinctly different feel from O, but I love it all the same. 9 tends to be a faster, more upbeat album musically, while hitting on the same topics of love and loss. My only wish would be that Damien put out a third full length album; this one leaves me wanting more from him.
Songs that stick: 9 Crimes, Dogs, Coconut Skins

Certainly there are other albums that I enjoy and enjoy greatly. These include: X&Y by Coldplay; Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five; Everything in Transit by Jack's Mannequin; Till the Sky Turns Black by Ray LaMontagne; I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning by Bright Eyes; The Wall by Pink Floyd; No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical by Showbread; Strange and Beautiful by Aqualung; In Rainbows by Radiohead; Under the Iron Sea by Keane. I'm sure I am overlooking many great albums; feel free to add to the list in the comments below.

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