My Top 10 Albums of All Time

Expect some serious blogging for the next few days. Aside from the fact that I have a lot of material bouncing around in my head, my lovely and talented fiance will be in Vegas for part of the weekend, which means I will have nothing better to do than prattle on about whatever strikes my fancy on this blog.

I'm going to cheat a little bit for this entry, though. I'm going to cut and paste (and then expand) on a note I recently posted on my Facebook. These are the 10 albums that have meant the most to me in my 33 years on this planet.

R.E.M. -- "Life's Rich Pageant"

In the end, it's really my brother who's to blame for me being as odd as I am. He hooked me with "Superman" (not even written by R.E.M.) because I was into comics, and the next thing I knew I was listening to the entire album. It's cliche, I know, but "Fall On Me" is still one of my all time favorite songs.

I can remember, years later, going to see R.E.M. in concert on their "Monster" tour. My friend Brett and I had never seen them before, but had been fans for years. We met my brother there, who had seen them years earlier on their last tour. He had brought a friend who had actually seen them on the tour before THAT.

Pearl Jam -- "Ten"

Any note from any song on this album immediately takes me back to high school. I lived for this band. This was what moody teenagers listened to before emo. There were a good couple of years in there, from perhaps 1992 to 1995, when I was the Pearl Jam guy. I bought everything I could find by them -- I even bought a CD single because it had two unreleased songs on it...and I didn't even own a CD player yet! That was how obsessed I was. I even owned a box set by them at one point.

I honestly don't know where most of that stuff is now. I'm sure I sold it all.

The Afghan Whigs -- "Gentlemen"
Every man alive has wanted to be Greg Dulli at some point in his life. Don't try to deny it.

I actually got to see the Whigs live twice. The second time, Dulli threatened to come down off the stage and "beat up your Greek ass." This was funny because the guy he was talking to wasn't Greek, he was wearing a fraternity hat. The crowd ate it up.

Jawbox -- "For Your Own Special Sweetheart"

My introduction to the world of indie music came, not surprisingly, with a major label release. Most of my college life was defined by this band. "Savory" is also up there on the list of greatest songs I've ever heard.

I could go on and on about how Jawbox changed my life. I have two CDs worth of music that I helped write that has their fingerprints all over it. They also got me to quit thinking and looking at things on the surface and to start digging a bit deeper, not just in the music world, but culturally and intellectually (they are one of the smartest bands I've ever heard). They're also the first band I ever had any personal contact with, both online and in person.

Fugazi -- "Repeater + 3 Songs"

I can remember, the summer after my freshman year of college, driving to my job at a grocery store and blasting "Merchandise" as loud as I could. "Blueprint" still gives me goosebumps.

While Jawbox opened my eyes, discovering Fugazi was like finding the Holy Grail or, rather, an alternate Bible. These were the guys who were more or less responsible for everything I'd ever listened to over the last few years. I had no idea how far ranging their influence was. It was also interesting to learn, later in life, how Fugazi's influence seemed to stop halfway across the country, how two very different definitions for "punk" were born because of this.

Sunny Day Real Estate -- "LP2"

Sure, a decent argument could be made for their first record, "Diary." But the overall tone of this album -- and the simple fact that there's not a bad song on it -- pushes this one ahead. Enigk's yelling at the end of "Rodeo Jones" is inspired.

I'll add this, too: when I got this album, I knew the band had already broken up. I can remember very distinctly hearing the end of it and thinking "that's it. That's the last SDRE song I will ever hear." Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but the band that would reform was very different.

Radiohead -- "The Bends"

I could have been cliche and gone with "OK Computer" on this one, but the fact is I never would have bought that album if it hadn't been for this one. "The Bends" is what got me into Radiohead. And every person who has ever picked up a guitar and tried to write a sad song has tried desperately to write something as good as "Fake Plastic Trees."

Radiohead is also responsible for helping me keep a job at a record store. My boss was pretty much insane, but when Radiohead hit it big, I became the in-house expert. I picked out all the singles, bootlegs, and imports to order and we constantly sold out. Sadly, a lot of those sales came from me.

Pretty Girls Make Graves -- "Good Health"

This was their masterpiece. The energy level is so high on this album, the guitar work is so insane, and the vocals are off the charts. It's pump your fist in the air math rock. And, not to be kill a theme, but I still get goosebumps during "Sad Girls Por Vida."

I got to see PGMG at the Troubadour a few years back, before their second guitarist quit. It was -- and still is -- one of the best shows I've ever seen (most shows at the Troubadour rank pretty high on my list). When they went from a two guitar attack to one guitar and keyboards, the band was never quite the same. They were still good and the songwriting was still high end, but the energy level fell off; the music was never as kinetic.

Nada Surf -- "Let Go"

An argument could be made that if any single band could be referred to as "Kyle's favorite band," it would be Nada Surf. Known by most as a one hit wonder, this band writes songs that constantly amaze me. I've seen them more times than I can count and I will continue to see them every time they come my way, because I just love their music that much.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Nada Surf are mostly known as a one hit wonder because of their song "Popular," which, frankly, isn't even the best song on that album (probably the second best). It's weird to think that my favorite band is dismissed by so many people in such a way. It almost makes me wonder if there are some other one hit wonders out there that deserve a second chance. Almost.

Wilco -- "A Ghost Is Born"

Sad and hopeful at the same time, this is (I will admit, arguably) Wilco's best album. There's only one song on this entire album that I'm not in love with, and that's saying a lot. There's an amazing combination of songwriting and flat out weirdness on this album that Wilco will probably never duplicate, but I'm fine with that. This is enough.

Wilco happened to play one of the most serendipitous shows I've ever seen. It was at the Coachella Music Festival in 2005. Each act was given 45 minutes to play. Wilco had approximately 10 minutes left (after having played 35 minutes of every song I liked) and I though to myself "well, I guess I won't get to hear 'Kidsmoke,' since they barely have enough time for it and, besides, it's a music festival, they're probably trying to win over new fans." And just then, as the sun was setting behind them, out there in the desert, they started playing "Kidsmoke." It totally blew me away and solidified their spot on this list.

Huh. That was interesting. And educational.

Honorable mention: Minus the Bear, Voxtrot, the Shins, The Stills, Pinback, Ned's Atomic Dustbin