i love music. it gives us a soundtrack to our lives. it often expresses emotions and thoughts which we cannot verbalize ourselves.
i also love lists. i enjoy ranking things and determining which things are best, or at least better than others.
thirdly, i clearly love reflection. i enjoy taking a look back at what once was and what has shaped the world and my existence today.
those statements being made, i will begin a new blog series today ranking my favorite albums, artists, and songs. i'll be going through my music library to find favorites from different genres and time periods in my life that have lasted in my memory today. my goal is to share this music with you, but also to allow me to reflect on what's happened in my life, musically, to bring me to this point. also, august is boring and school is starting soon, so it's something fun to do!
please read and respond. my favorites won't be your favorites. there are plenty of albums i haven't listened to or have forgotten about, so tell me. these are my preferences.
i'll start the series with a list of the 5 most important albums in the shaping of my musical tastes, in no particular order.
Squad Five-O - Squad Five-O
If I had to pick the most influential, it'd be this one. I'm sure most of you haven't even heard of Squad Five-O, but this Philly/Georgia quintet fused the style and energy of The Rolling Stones and The Clash into one hip, energetic, classic composition. Jeff Fortson was the frontman and will only be rivaled in my heart by Scott Avett. His energy and confidence on stage was electrifying. Their lyrics were plain and true. Squad was believable and enjoyable, flat out.
This album is important to me because it showed me what true rock and roll is all about. Brandon Gulish had me listen to this album on the way to play football in 12th grade and my life has never been the same.
Key tracks: I Don't Wanna Change the World, I Just Want to Change Your Mind; Wasted (With You); Don't Come Runnin'
The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
It took me a long time to warm up to these guys, but once I ignored the fact that the Avetts' genre (bluegrass/folk/country) isn't my favorite, I saw the core. The core of energy, truth, and incredible songwriting. Emotionalism isn't my favorite album of theirs (see: Mignonette), but it was the introduction for me. I listened to this album for the first time on a stroll to see my newborn nephew, Joshua, at Magee Women's Hospital in February 2008 (thanks to a suggestion from Andrew Armstrong). The quiet walk in south Oakland allowed for an uninhibited listen to the truth behind the lyrics of these boys from North Carolina. Eight concerts later, The Avett Brothers are far and away my favorite band, starting with that stroll with Emotionalism.
Key tracks: Paranoia in Bb Major; Shame; The Ballad of Love and Hate
MxPx - At the Show
There isn't too much room for live albums on lists like these, but this album is second in importance only to SFO. This one was also passed along to me by Brandon Gulish; this time in 10th grade. It was an introduction to music that wasn't on the radio. MxPx's energy is undeniable, as is apparent on a live recording. This was a collection of their best stuff, recorded shortly after their best studio album was released (Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo). This album was my go-to on long road trips and got me through a lot of tough times. MxPx was the reminder that simple, fast tunes about life in general were all you needed sometimes.
Key tracks: Chick Magnet; I'm Ok, You're Ok; Under Lock and Key
Brand New - Deja Entendu
Deja Entendu was the definition of my early college years. I missed the boat on the whole pop-punk/emo infusion from Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in high school, so when I happened across Deja Entendu in college it became my anthem. It's dark and depressing, perfect for those days when it just seems like the world is against you. I have plenty of fond memories from walking around campus with this album in my ears, shutting out the world along the way. This is Brand New's masterpiece.
Key tracks: The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows; Jaws Theme Swimming; Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades
Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
I resisted Bright Eyes for a long time. Super-emo, super-depressing at times, yet a lyrical genius. Conor Oberst has become an indie music legend through finding "a liquid cure for my land-locked blues", suggesting that "we must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul", and encouraging us that "i'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery". His lyrics are infectious and we can all relate to them in one way or another. This album is on the list because the songwriting is impeccable. After you listen to any track on I'm Wide Awake, you feel like picking up a guitar and singing the truth.
Key tracks: First Day of My Life; At the Bottom of Everything; Land Locked Blues