Monday, August 28, 2006

Top 5 Most Important Albums

Usually I'm coy with the titles, but this one kinda went right at the issue. A few nights ago I was in a very High Fidelity mood and thought about my Top 5 most meaningful albums. Which CDs over the course of my life really shaped me? Which ones really helped me through high school, or The Break-Up (important caps), or just a bad day. I own a lot of albums, some good, some bad. I'm a very proud owner of The Roots' Things Fall Apart and an incredibly embarrassed owner of Ace of Base's The Sign (I was like 10, ok). This list is by no means based on artistic merit (which is my way of explaining the lack of Beatles) but is simply based on their impact on me. It also is a nice way of saying "you can't dispute this and say something sucks, cause I don't care what you think." You are free to comment on your own top 5 in the comments section. Let's be interactive, folks. I've missed it lately. Maybe another Ask Manton....

Honorable Mentions:
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head This was the first real "deep" CD I owned, and it came right around the time I started to think I knew everything (Junior year of high school). Luckily, I still think I do so this one is constantly being played, even though I think their album Parachutes is better. It holds sentimental value as it is the CD that Josie and I made out to while her sister and her boyfriend drove us back from the shitty Anger Management. Only now do I realize how awkward it truly was. I eventually want the title track to be the end of my movie (if I ever write it, let alone film it).
Radiohead - the bends I know what it was like when someone dropped the needle on The Beatles' Rubber Soul thanks to this album. There is something about it that just makes you want to better yourself, to achieve that level of genius. I play it a lot while writing, and obviously am not really making that goal of "genius" any time soon. Planet Telex is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it starts the album off, so how can it go wrong? It's also incredibly depressing, a fact I realized post-Break-Up when reading the lyrics. I felt bad for myself after being happy for loving such a sad song. I hate when that happens.
Pearl Jam - Vs. This CD never left my car the summer going into college. I simply could not turn it off. It, along with seeing the band live, made me absolutely love them. Pearl Jam is all I listen to, prompting comments such as "do you have any music in the car...other than Pearl Jam?" The answer? Yes, but I refuse to play them. So shut up and listen to “Betterman” from State College again.
Muse - Absolution Just when I thought rock was dead, here comes a British power trio who quite literally sound like the end of the world. It was also the first time I got a CD from someone at college, opening the flood gates for...pretty much every piece of music I have listened to since. If not for school, I might actually still be watching MTV. Sweet Jesus. *Shudder*

Now that I got past the ones that aren't good enough to get into the top 5, here they are, in chronological order. Yes, chronological. Each one hits a certain point in my life, and therefore I'll go in that order, from the obvious youngest until now. There is no way I can numerically say which is better or more important, so this is my cop out, ok?

Green Day - Dookie I had grown up on 92.3 K-Rock, like a lot of the kids from my generation, listening to classic rock. I had nothing but Clapton, Mountain, The Beatles, and Led Zep from even before I was birthed. Third grade, I finally got to watch MTV (I used to watch Notorious B.I.G.'s Warning and turn it off cause it made me feel...funny) and listening to Z100, ready to craft my own musical identity. Out of nowhere came Green Day. They were punk--I didn't know what that meant--and catchy as hell. It was on a constant loop around my house. It was the soundtrack to hockey in my basement, to playing basketball outside, to playing Genesis, and anything I did with my friends. I played it from beginning to end, waiting anxiously for "All By Myself," the secret song, to play after the last track, F.O.D. ended, since my CD player couldn't fast forward. It was the first record I absolutely adored with all my heart. Any time you play a song now it brings me right back to that time, that place, that basement, that Genesis game, those friends. And I still know all the words.

Weezer - Pinkerton Weezer's first album--affectionately referred to as The Blue Album--was one of my first CD gifts, from my older cousin who was getting me into good music. Needless to say, I fell in love with it, if only to look cool. A few Christmases after, my Aunt Loraine bought me their follow up, Pinkerton. I didn't listen to it for about five years. Freshman year, I dusted it off after falling into the new emo notion that it was one of the best albums of the 90s. It is a strange mix of resentment ("Tired of Sex"), extreme dorkism ("El Scorcho"), and lamenting about your girl being a lesbian ("Pink Triangle"), none of which I could easily relate to. For some reason, the general mood of the album took me over. I didn't know what it was like for Rivers to get a letter from a Japanese girl and feel a longing for her even though she's "Across the Sea," but I felt the same pang about the girl across the Biology room. Any time I felt depressed (which occurred more often than not) that CD didn't make me feel better, but in good company. Rivers never made me feel alone. By the final track, he was so god damn sad I could comfortably say, "well, at least I'm not crying about chasing butterflies." It got me through my teen years more than anything else. It's a damn shame they couldn't grow up with me and be anything but a joke (God dammit how could they even put out Make Believe and be proud of themselves?!).

Blackstar - Mos Def and Talib Kwelli Are... Blackstar I had always been a fan of rap, dating back to when my mom unwittingly let me buy the profanity-laced Wu-Tang Clan debut CD Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). After some time I started to feel that something was...missing. Even in 2000, I was getting tired of the chicks and the slinging of yayo and the shootings. It all felt shallow, already done. One of my friends told me to pick this up, and since I had a few extra dollars in my pocket (from slinging yayo) I bought it. From the onset, it just felt different; it felt important. There was a different experience from this album. All of the glorified pieces of the rap game were questioned. Why do we shoot each other? Why do we only get an education when we're in jail? What is going on here? What drove it home was the song Respiration, featuring Common. Here, three MCs talk about hope, dreams, reality, and death in such a way that it is seductive and thought provoking, but most importantly, moving. I personally feel it's what every album, regardless of genre, should aim for. This CD was also a gateway to Atmosphere, the Roots, and Common, as well as countless other acts. For that, I'm eternally greatful. Turn off the radio, folks - hip-hop is still alive and well.

Green Day - American Idiot I had followed Green Day since they first struck me when I was younger, a casual fan of all their work. After the more subtle Warning, they sort of dropped off the face of the Earth. After some time, I read that after having one full album stolen, they decided to just do a concept album. I cringed. You know what was a concept album? Styxx with that Mr. Roboto song. This did not bode well for anyone. The CD came out with the usual-sounding single "American Idiot," which was the normal Green Day fare. What followed was one of the most impressive and epic albums I've ever heard (and yes, I said ever). What really connected with me was that it followed the life of a teenager from young rebel to the wizened mid-20s. While not exact, it certainly mirrored my growth from Dookie til now, ten years later. Certain songs held sentimental value, such as "Wake Me Up When September Ends," expressing the lament I'll feel leaving the girlfriend after a summer together. "Whatsername" becomes more and more poignant with each passing day, discussing the past in a very non-sentimental way ("Remember? Whatever. It feels like forever ago"). It's one of the few CDs I can listen to anytime, the whole way through. In many ways, it's the soundtrack to my life.

Ben Folds - Rockin' The Suburbs This is a CD that grows with me. As great as American Idiot is, it also talks about lots of drug use, which I (at least as of yet) have avoided. Rockin' The Suburbs deals with a lot more common, personal occurances, in a nice power-pop, piano-centric way. There is the catchy one-two punch of "Annie Waits" and "Zak and Sara," which are almost throwaways compared to the rest of the work. "Still Fighting It" is a ballad from Folds to his kid about how much growing up sucks, and that you'll never stop fighting the process; makes me feel like I'm not alone. "Gone" tells the story of people who leave your life (specifically significant others) and that after a certain point, he'll just consider them gone from his life, a very hard eventuality with life that I'm dealing with currently (and will be forever). While the album talks about a lot of adult issues that are certainly in my future--which I dread--it ends on "The Luckiest," a song about him and his wife. It's a comfort to know that after all of this crap I'm sure to go through, it could end on the happiest note of all - love. The problem is I have to get through about 14 tracks of learning and misery to achieve it.

Well there you have it. Please, leave your disgust ("TWO Green Day CDs? How can you even put up ONE?!") and/or your own lists if you feel so inclined. Hope you enjoyed mine (not really, I could really care less, but it's a nice way to end it).

Well there goes that nice end.

3 comments:

Pam said...

"Silver Street" isn't on Rockin' the Suburbs. And you call yourself a Ben Folds fan. Pssh.

Manton said...

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about

Pam said...

Loser.