Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top 10 Albums

I have a little post-election political hangover. It's going to keep me from putting up any political posts for a good long time ... maybe 24 hours or so (grin). It's not a full-blown 6-tequila-shot-hangover. Perhaps a 6-beer-on-an-empty-stomach-hangover.

Anyway, to completely change the tone for a bit, I'm going to post my top 10 favorite albums of all time (OK ... 11. I couldn't cut it down any further) and I expect you guys to, at the least, skewer or complement my list. Ideally, you would also post your own either here or on your own blogs. No "Best Of's" allowed ... except maybe Legend by Bob Marley.

I'm going to do this in descending order so that I can force you to read them all or to be a ninny and skip to the last (for those people that read the last page of the book first).

11. Disintegration -- The Cure
In a word, it's the "atmosphere" of this album. While a lot of the lyrics are upbeat, the feel of the album is very consistently dark. The signature Cure guitar sound permeates it. Highlights for me are Pictures of You and Lovesong.

10. Taking the Long Way -- Dixie Chicks
This is a recent addition to my list. I've always been a fan of the Dixie Chicks for their music. I think Natalie Maines has one of the best voices in country music (2nd only to Allison Krauss for me). But with this album, they took it to the next level because of the political content. Writing or co-writing all the tracks on the album, these songs are teeming with the angst of the last few years. Obviously, Not Ready to Make Nice is a highlight but it is by no means the only one with biting content. Upbeat defiance would be the most apt description for most of these songs. We are going to see them in concert tonight and will also see Shut Up and Sing in the next few days. Reviews of both will be upcoming.

9. Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses -- Slipknot
This album is very evocative of another album higher on my list, Angel Dust by FNM. A 9 piece heavy metal band from my home state, Iowa, Slipknot had two previous albums that showed promise but that had major problems with tone and dynamics. They were basically one note albums that went at 100 mph from the get go. With this album, the band sat down with producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin (also the producer of the Dixie Chicks album on this list) and came out with a great album. Not confining themselves to the normal constraints of the genre, they allowed songs to be slower or longer when necessary. Other songs would show up early in the album and then have a reprise later. With this album, they escaped from the banner of being a gimmick masked band. My favorite songs are Before I Forget and The Nameless.

8. Jar of Flies -- Alice in Chains
Just an EP, this album was recorded in a week. It is the only EP to ever have been #1 on the Billboard Album charts. It is largely low-key and acoustic but it shows the strength of the band: Layne Staley's haunting vocals and the vocals and guitar work of Jerry Cantrell. I Stay Away is a highlight.

7. Angel Dust -- Faith No More
Faith No More were like chameleons during their career and this album is the perfect example of that with songs ranging from metal to funk to avant garde. Most people remember their big album (The Real Thing) but this album is much better, combining jazz, classical, rock in a crazy mix. Outstanding songs were A Small Victory and Midlife Crisis.

6. Rage Against the Machine -- Rage Against the Machine
The perfect synthesis of musical angst and political commentary. I don't believe any band has done a better job of combining the two. It ranges in subject matter from racism in law enforcement to Native Americans to government control of media. Even if you didn't agree with their politics, it would be hard to deny the power of the music. But with me, since I did agree with them, it was that much more profound. The best songs are Killing in the Name and Freedom.

5. Ten -- Pearl Jam
I believe that Pearl Jam was the best band to come out of Seattle in the early 90's and their first album is probably their best. Along with Nirvana's Nevermind, they effectively killed the late 80's hair metal revolution ... thank god. Because they refused to do videos and rarely did interviews after this album, many people assume they disappeared but they have been going strong ever since. Singer Eddie Vedder cited the fact that they didn't want to influence people's views of what each song meant and didn't want to project their own feelings on to the listener. The music was and always should be the focus. Black is my favorite track on this album. Vedder's lyrics are typically very poetic.

4. ... And Justice for All -- Metallica
This album jarred a shy nerdy high-school kid out of his fondness for new wave and pop music. An unblinking, dry and angry album, it opened a new world of music to me that would culminate in me eventually liking bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Godflesh. That wouldn't have happened without this first step. And Justice for All addresses subjects like war, the environment, freedom and suicide. My favorite track is Dyer's Eve.

3. Nothing's Shocking -- Jane's Addiction
Brilliant and absolutely original. Nothing before or since as sounded like Jane's Addiction. Combining funk, metal and an arthouse feel, this album has no filler. It is solid from top to bottom. Jane Says and Mountain Song are my favorite tracks.

2. So -- Peter Gabriel
A haunting beautiful album with production from U2 producer Daniel Lanois. We all remember In Your Eyes from Say Anything but this album is all great. Oddly, probably the biggest single, Sledgehammer, is my least favorite. The guest artists on the album were incredible and lent their help to two of the best songs, Kate Bush on Don't Give Up and Yossou N'Dour on In Your Eyes.

1. Synchronicity -- The Police
This has always consistently been my favorite album and the Police my favorite band. They (and this album) were the perfect mixture of reggae, punk, literature and philosophy. On what other pop album would have references to Carl Jung, Loch Ness and Greek mythology? Highlights for me were King of Pain and Synchronicity II.


CyberKitten said...

Well... I've certainly *heard* of them all.. which is a start I guess... [grin].

I like The Cure. Haven't really heard much from The Dixie Chicks. I don't 'get' Slipknot. Haven't heard much from Alice in Chains. Like Faith no More. I have 'Battle for LA' by Rage. I like Pearl Jam though only have one of their CD's. Metallica don't do a lot for me - though I'm far from an expert in their music. Only heard a few tracks from Janes Addiction. I like Gabriel. He rocks...and I have quite a few Police albums - though only on vinyl.

An interesting Top 11. I don't know if I could even think of doing one!

Laura said...

All right. I'll give it a try here. This is tough for me though, since it really depends on my mood. I won't try to rank them, because I will be here forever debating myself:

-Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
-Pink Floyd: Meddle
-Radiohead: OK Computer
-Amadeus: Complete soundtrack
-Peter Gabriel: So
-The Clash: Combat Rock
-Green Day: American Idiot
-Dead Can Dance: Into the Labyrinth
-Beatles: White Album
-Ministry: The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

dbackdad said...

CK -- come on, give it a whirl. You've already made some music recommendations in the past that were intriguing.

Laura -- Brilliant list. No disagreements ... though I'm not sure I can remember what Dead Can Dance sound like.

That Ministry album was my first exposure to them and I still have the album. I love the dissonance. It's like anti-music.

American Idiot is one of the best political albums by a pop artist in the last 10 years.

Pink Floyd rules.

CyberKitten said...

I certainly couldn't do a Top Ten in order... but I'll try & have something for you after I save The Imperium later tonight.

Laura said...

I can't say I've ever been a big Cure fan - I like one or two songs. Alice in Chains is (was) a great band. Jar of Flies is one fun album. I've found myself listening to Range more lately. Must be a hormonal thing. My favorite Metallica album was always Master of Puppets - just for Battery alone. You can't beat Peter Gabriel. There's just something cool about him.

CyberKitten said...

Ok... The Universe is safe from Chaos scum for one more evening...

Here are 11 of my (current) favourite CDs...

Sneaker Pimps: Becoming X

The Cardigans: Gran Turismo

Nickelback: Silver side up

Placebo: Without you I am nothing

Evanescence: Fallen

Avril Lavigne: Under my skin

Papa Roach: Infest

Texas: Ricks Road

Mike Oldfield: Incantations

Nirvana: Nevermind

Kindney thieves: Zero space.

Make of that what you will... [grin].

dbackdad said...

Laura -- My favorite Ministry album is a live one, In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up Live. It has a great version of Stigmata ... if a bit profanity-laced. lol

CK -- I can never argue with Nirvana as a choice. I'll have to hunt for a few tracks from some of the other artists.

If you like Evanescence, have you ever listened to Lacuna Coil? They are an Italian heavy metal band with a female singer. They remind me a lot of Evanescence (actually vice-versa since Lacuna Coil was around first).

Sadie Lou said...

Great List.
Since you said Favorite 10 Albums, I'll go with that instead of like, The Best 10 Albums of all time--because that would be a different list:
Black Crowes--Southern Harmony & Musical Companion
Pearl Jam--Alive
Counting Crowes--August and Everything After
John Mayer--No Room for Squares
Dave Matthews--Under the Table and Dreaming
Blue Merel--Burning in the Sun
U2--Joshua Tree
Prince--Purple Rain
Cake--Comfort Eagle

dbackdad said...

Sadie -- yep, that's what I was looking for. The individual tastes of each of you is much more interesting than what would be considered all-time "classic" albums.

BTW, nice list: I like the quirkiness of Cake. Nobody really sounds like they do ... Purple Rain was one of the first albums I ever owned. I don't think that my mom would have let me buy it then if she would have known how naughty some of the songs were. I was only 12 and I didn't even know. lol ... U2 is obviously great ... Have you seen Because of Winn Dixie? Dave Mathews actually stars in that and is very good. ... John Mayer is really growing on me. Now that he's moving past pop music a bit, you really see how talented he is.