My Top 25 Favorite Albums - #1 to #10

Posted by Brandon |

Tonight I'm finishing off my top 25 favorite albums with the top 10. Somehow, in typical Down With Pants! fashion, my top 10 is actually 16 albums. Don't ask me how that works.

If you need to catch up, here's #21 to #25 and #11 to #20.

The Clash - London Calling - I don't totally and completely know why, but I found London Calling to be the best album to work to when I was packing boxes for Archie McPhee. I got more boxes packed during this album than any other. I could really go to town and part of it is because of how upbeat and dancey it is. But I found when packing boxes you need just a little touch of anger to keep you going and London Calling has just that. Poppy, angry, fun, rocking. The perfect mix to get me packing.

Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow - We were at Bumbershoot and Blackalicious had just played and all these people were leaving the venue they played raving about them. I had never heard of them so I picked up The Strangers guide and they raved, so I had to check them out. I ended up buying the CD without ever hearing even one song off of it at the Bumbermusic stand later that day and never regretted it. Gift of Gab is a master lyricist and Chief Xcel keeps the beat going strong all the way through. It's smart, it's fun, it's my favorite hip hop album. Their debut, NIA, is almost as good.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free - The individual songs on A Grand Don't Come For Free are very good, "Fit But You Know It" and "Blinded By The Lights" in particular, but when you put them all together they make a great album. It's basically a musical novel with a narrative, a plot and a resolution. The first time I heard it I didn't know it was one narrative until the last song. When the light went on, it was like a revelation and a wave of amazement washed over me.

Ben Folds Five - Self-Titled - When I was DJing in college, one of the songs that first really caught my attention was the strange, super caffeinated "Julianne" - "I met this girl she looked like Axl Rose, got drunk and took her home and we slept in our clothes, In the morning put my feet on the floor and thought, being awake never felt like this before." From that opening stanza that song just plows through like no other piano pop song that I had ever heard. I knew from the first time I head Julianne and all the other songs on Ben Fold Five that Ben Folds would be one of my favorite artists as long as he kept making music.

Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up On Me - Another Bumbershoot discovery from the same year as Blackalicious, I think. I had seen The King Solomon Burke on Conan O'Brian at one point but didn't know much about him so we went to his performance with no expectations. Being a preacher he is about as charasmatic as it gets and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand and he charmed the pants off of us. Don't Give Up On Me is the crowning achievement of his career. Solomon is an old soul singer with a silky, sexy, wise voice and he takes songs written by Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Nick Lowe and Bob Dylan and turns them into his own. All the songs are great, but "Don't Give Up On Me", "Diamond In Your Mind" and "Only A Dream" are absolutely amazing, beautiful classics.

Forgotten Favorite
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow - I can't believe I originally forgot Chutes Too Narrow. I can't bump anything out of the top five, so it's going to have to go at #5.5. I don't know if there is an album that makes me more happy to listen to than Chutes Too Narrow. From the first song, "Kissing The Lipless" to the last, "Those To Come", The Shins throw different infectious hook after different ifectious hook at you until you can't get them out of your head. Garden State was right, they will change your life perhaps just a little tiny bit.

Weezer - Pinkerton - Pinkerton reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back. Where Star Wars was loved because of how new and amazing it was, there was a slightness to it. The Empire, on the other hand, was Star Wars but darker, more brooding, more story than special effects, more twists, more turns. The hangers-on didn't really get Empire, much like they ignored Pinkerton. But the real fans know which movie and which album are the best. "The Good Life" is jokingly my theme song.

Presidents of the United States of America - Self-Titled - My favorite songs and albums are ones that sound like one thing on the surface, but if you dig deeper they are completely something else. The Presidents first album is one of the greatest examples of this. Virtually every single song sounds like syrupy, innocent pop but are chock full of sexual innuendo. When I was working for the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, there was this one old woman that came into the ballpark early and whenever I played "Peaches", she would bop along and really get into it. We were all convinced that she had no idea about the double meaning, she just really like peaches. This one's for you peaches loving senior citizen, this one's for you.

They Might Be Giants - Apollo 18 - It was hard to choose between Flood and Apollo 18. Compared to each other, minus a certain 21 songs, they are very, very close. But Flood doesn't have Fingertips, 21 different songs none longer than 28 seconds long and most just five or six seconds, that totally takes this album from great to the Top 5. Apollo 18 was their second album with a full band and I think it shows in a much more cohesive, flowing album. Flood is great and has better individual songs, but I don't think they were completely comfortable with the band yet and some of the songs suffer for it. This album completed that transformation and just works better as a whole.

Built To Spill - There's Nothing Wrong With Love - There was never any doubt in my mind what my #2 album would be. From track one, "In the Morning" all the way to the last song "Stab" it just flows perfectly giving you 12 perfect pop nuggets along the way. After "In the Morning" ends on comes track two, "Reasons" and I start to think that it might be my favorite song ever. Then "Reasons" finishes and "Big Dipper" starts and suddenly I have a new favorite song. And then you get to "Car" and "Fling" and "Twin Falls" and "Distopian Dream Girl" and by that time I'm as happy as can be but flustered and confused. Can I have six favorite songs all by the same artist? And There's Nothing Wrong With Love means so much to me. It just came along at the perfect time in my life.

The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, Abbey Road, Let It Be: Naked - Do I really need to say anything about The Beatles? Ok, just a little bit. I had to cheat, I didn't want the whole list to be Beatles albums. All of the music that I listen to - and all pop music in general - is built on a foundation of The Beatles. They influenced me more than any other artist ever has and I wasn't even close to alive by the time they broke up. I think every Beatles album is great from Please Please Me to Let It Be (though if you notice, I used the Naked version of Let It Be released a few years ago. Far superior to the original) but these six are the ones that really stand out for me. My favorite is either Rubber Soul or Abbey Road but I have a hard time choosing.


martymankins said...

Wow. Great ending to the list. And it's ok to cheat... he he. All great albums. Let It Be... Naked was very refreshing, removing the "Wall of Sound" production that Phil Spector had injected into the original album.

The Shins. I admit that I'm a late comer to this band, with their last album. But going back and hearing some of the earlier stuff, they have a great sound.

Weezer - I've been a Weezer fan since the beginning and Pinkerton was always their best and most creative. Less poppy than their other albums, but still just as great. Hidden gem: there's a big map in the liner notes that pays tribute to Howard Stern.

London Calling was and remains my favorite of The Clash. I always wished they would get back together, but that's hard now with Joe Strummer gone. Now we can only hope for a Big Audio Dynamite reunion.

Dan said...

the Streets is a fantastc album. it's completely outside my usual genre, but i love it.

Brandon said...

Marty - Exactly with the Let It Be...Naked comment. I like Let It Be, but hearing it without Spector's influence was really a revelation.

Dan - It's a little out of my genre as well, but at least you can understand their accent.