well, here we are. number one. i won't beat around the bush, but i want to clear up a couple of things before you read about my favorite album of all time.
first, i didn't include any albums that i have not listened to before this year. that excluded any album released in 2010 plus a bunch of new favorites that i didn't hear before, like Funeral by Arcade Fire.
second, these are just my favorites. i don't think they're "the best" ever made. they're just the albums that i've liked the most over the years and still listen to.
third, there are plenty of albums i haven't listened to. i don't own any led zeppelin albums besides IV, which is great, so they didn't have many chances to make it despite being one of my favorite bands.
there are a few albums i've encountered over this look back that could have easily made the list and i want to acknowledge them. Futures by Jimmy Eat World, Squad Five-O by Squad Five-O, several albums by MxPx and Thrice, Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard, Silence by Blindside, Weezer (Blue Album) by Weezer, Dookie by Green Day, and Say It Like You Mean It by The Starting Line come to mind as albums that have been some of my favorites over the years but didn't quite make the cut.
without further ado, my number one.
1. Squad Five-O - Late News Breaking (2004) - My favorite album by my favorite band. Squad Five-O had a certain energy that only the Avett Brothers can rival. They were introduced to me, lightly, as a Christian band, but they were the first band that I realized could be just a band of Christians without the overt message. These guys danced along the lines of my faith in a way that I needed to see when I saw it. They played raw rock-and-roll, drank, smoked, cursed, and showed love to every fan they encountered. The twins, John and Jeff Fortson, had a certain attitude on stage that demanded attention. Jeff would swing the microphone and flip his hair around while his brother stood behind him playing bass with a cigarette in his mouth. Rumor has it they tossed a coin to determine who would be the lead singer.
Late News Breaking wasn't the first album I heard from them and it may not have even been the best (re: self titled), but it was the one that stuck with me for years. At a time when so many musicians were making anti-George Bush music, Jeff sings about life in America without stepping out and telling you his political stance. At concerts he'd announce that our political party didn't matter. They wrote songs about exploiting poor workers (Bye American), playing music for the money (Two Grand and a Lotta Hassle), and the war in Iraq (No Heroes).
Most of all, Late News Breaking was fun. I've had a smile on my face every time I've listened through this album. The lyrics are encouraging, the guitar riffs are fun, and the beats get you dancing. Jeff would demand dancing in the crowd at their shows. I saw this album played in the same set list 3 times in the course of a year because I loved it so much. This was one of the first albums I'd play straight through when I was learning drums. There's never a dull moment or a song that won't pick up your spirits.
In the most impactful song, "No Heroes", the lyrics sing about the war in Iraq. It's awful and we don't like it. Life is different for soldiers than it is for the rest of us. Whether you're for or against the war as a political move, we're all against war as something that happens in the world. Jeff sings about bombs going off, us not knowing and you not caring what goes on over there. It's a powerful song that brings to light the fact that the war is actually happening whether we really think about it or not.
As with the other albums at the top of this list, Late News Breaking is fantastic from top to bottom and can be recycled over and over. I always keep it in my car just in case. Jeff's voice gives me that rock-and-roll "I don't care" attitude. But it's not the negative, anti-authority type. It's the type that encourages you to enjoy every second. Why worry about making money, pleasing the man, or waiting for opportunity when every day is right in front of you. If there ever is a Squad Five-O reunion show, I'll be there. It'll make me feel good about everything.
Key tracks: No Heroes, Bye American, 2 Grand and a Lotta Hassle, Always Talkin' Never on the Run