No. 29- Magical Mystery Tour

Album: Magical Mystery Tour

Artist: The Beatles

Year Released: 1967

I really got into this album...
Summer 2008

Favorite songs include...
Strawberry Fields Forever
I Am The Walrus 
Baby You're A Rich Man   

Why it’s so good... 
The most random piece of work you'll find. This is the culmination of The Beatles' amazing ability to write great pop music and their psychedelic experimentation. The first thing I think of for this album is actually not the music but rather the images associated with it- from the ridiculous cover art to the pre-MTV music video for Hello Goodbye. It just captures the feel of this album- colorful, playful, and often times bizarre.

And this is definitely a John Lennon album. I mean John's got some really amazing songs on other albums, but this is the highest concentration of solid tunes from him. Which definitely explains the general mood and feel of the album.
It's definitely one of the more creative albums of that era, going against any remaining rules that the Beatles had kept around after Sgt Pepper's. But it's not groundbreaking for the sake of being groundbreaking. It's just different because they were trying to get to a part of the heart that requires some different methods.

And be sure to listen for the cryptic, low-voiced phrase uttered in the last seconds of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (panned to the right side if that helps).

No. 30- The Colour and the Shape

Album: The Colour and the Shape

Artist: Foo Fighters

Year Released: 1997

I really got into this album...
Winter 1999 

Favorite songs include...
Walking After You 
Hey, Johnny Park!   

Why it’s so good... 
This is the soundtrack to my teenage life. It encompasses all the angst, the heartbreak, the energy, and the passion of my teenage self. In any conversation that may get brought up about music that inspired me in my younger years or conversations about the first bands/albums/songs that meant a lot to me- this is always one of the first that I mention. It's just so foundational to my musical journey.

Dave Grohl just understands how to take that hard rock sound that he loves so much and channel it through a pop sensibility. I love a good rock out song that I can sing along to. And this album definitely features some of my favorite drum playing on any record. Not because it's overly complicated, but because it's powerful and it's consistent- all without being distracting from the rest of the song.

I love each song on this album individually (seriously, a couple of them are some of my all-time favorite songs), but they all add up to form one cohesive unit of music. It's without a doubt the most under-appreciated albums of the 90s and probably of all time.


No. 31- Spending Time on the Borderline

Album: Spending Time on the Borderline

Artist: Ozma

Year Released: 2003

I really got into this album...
Summer 2003

Favorite songs include...
Spending Time 
Game Over 

Why it’s so good... 
A lot of Ozma fans don't really get behind this album for some reason. Maybe it's because they tried to write less playful emo rock. 
Whatever it is, I think this album is exceptional, especially for Ozma.

I think it's cause it's got a little bit of everything. From funky harmonies to sappy love songs to college age ballads to face-melting guitar solos- it's all here.
You've also got two old-school Ozma songs that finally found themselves on albums in "Eponine"- easily one of the most epic songs ever written (have you heard that buildup?!)- and "Game Over"- classic Ozma with heavy synth, rocking guitar, and an overwhelming presence of Nintendo references.

I think I just love this album because it's a band I knew and loved and respected that was trying to do something bigger. Something more than they were expected. 
Light years will burn, but I will still turn up the volume when this album comes on.


No. 32- Rockin' The Suburbs

Album: Rockin' The Suburbs

Artist: Ben Folds

Year Released: 2001

I really got into this album...
Summer 2007

Favorite songs include...
Not The Same 
The Luckiest 
Annie Waits

Why it’s so good... 
I liked Ben Folds Five. Didn't know much of them while they were together, but I liked what I had heard. And throughout high school several of my friends would occasionally introduce me to a Ben Folds song off Rockin The Suburbs, and I enjoyed each one but never thought much more of it.

Then I spent one summer with a particular small group of friends. And one night we decided to all drive out the Carefree, AZ to see the world's largest sundial together. I have a lot of great memories from that night but one of the things that has always stuck out is the music we listened to in the car. That is when I discovered what great music Ben Folds had done on his own.

Ben Folds is a pretty exceptional songwriter when you listen close. He has this ability of taking a format that has been done already- and quite well by a man named Billy- and completely recreating it on this album. 
I mean, I don't play the piano really but to me each song shows the use of the piano in an interesting an unique way. Ranging from the rock piano ("Zak & Sara" , "Gone") to ballad ("Still Fighting It", "The Luckiest") and the classic Ben Folds Five sound ("Fired", "The Ascent Of Stan").

It s just rare to find such a great group of well-written songs with such a solid range and variety.


No. 33- The Man Who

Album: The Man Who

Artist: Travis

Year Released: 1999

I really got into this album...
Winter 2000

Favorite songs include...
Why Does It Always Rain On Me 
Writing To Reach You 

Why it’s so good... 
If you look at my music taste as a teenager and my music taste now, there's an awful lot of difference. You could even say they're two different identities altogether. I was soaked in the sounds of Seattle grunge and 90s alternative rock. Not that I don't still love such music, but I definitely needed to branch out.

And that's where The Man Who comes in. It's a simple album- not overly produced, plain yet catchy lyrics, even the album art is plain in color. 
But it's the perfect winter album because of all these things.
It's the most melodic, feel good sound with melancholy lyrics about being cold, struggling with pessimism, and dealing with old relationships gone sour.

And I honestly consider Francis Healy to have one of the best voices in music.

No. 34- Trouble

Album: Trouble

Artist: Ray LaMontagne

Year Released: 2004

I really got into this album...
Fall 2008

Favorite songs include...
All The Wild Horses

Why it’s so good... 
The fall of 2008 would’ve been a really hard time to survive for me without Ray LaMontagne.  
Trouble re-taught me what it is to feel.

I’m a sucker for acoustic guitar-driven music, soulful singers, string quartets, and all live recordings. 
And this album possesses each of those.

Assuming you’ve heard the man and are already aware of how mind-blowing and heart-quenching his voice is, this collection of songs is so well written. You want to hear a love song that isn’t like every other one you’ve heard- this album is packed with them. 
It’s honest and real, to the point that I really feel like I’m becoming acquainted with Ray as I listen. And you can tell that he’s aware of each piece of the song and what it’s meant to communicate.


No. 35- Room On Fire

Album: Room On Fire

Artist: The Strokes

Year Released: 2003

I really got into this album...
Summer 2003

Favorite songs include...
Between Love & Hate 

Why it’s so good... 
I love The Strokes for their ability to keep their music so basic, and yet it packs such a punch. 
There is no Strokes song- particularly on this album- that does not possess an awesome and incredibly catchy guitar riff along with an equally catchy lyric hook.

At the time this album came out, I was approaching my songwriting with the mentality that each part needed to have dense layers of complex instrumentation accompanied by 3-part harmony. Not that this is a bad approach, but The Strokes showed me music can be fun and catchy but still possessing a certain element of danger and rock spirit.

And I still want to know how they got the guitar to sound like that on “12:51”.

No. 36- Ys

Album: Ys

Artist: Joanna Newsom

Year Released: 2006

I really got into this album...
Fall 2009

Favorite songs include...
Sawdust and Diamonds 

Why it’s so good... 
I read somewhere once that Joanna Newsom said she wanted the orchestra to feel separated from her singing and playing the harp. Meant to create a sense of isolation.

This album took me a couple of months to get all the way through. Not because I was uninterested or unimpressed- quite the opposite actually. Because the tracks are so lengthy and even more so because each is dense with picturesque lyrics, it really took me a while to digest each song fully. I wanted to savor each pluck of her harp, each squeak of her voice, each piece of imagery. And in an age when artists writing with movements often comes off as pretentious, she does it in such a fluid manner.
And that’s what she is- an artist. Not merely someone trying to make money off of selling a product.
She created art.

But my favorite thing about this album is her voice. She’s definitely a unique singer- no doubt about that. Once I got used to what some may consider distracting, I found how vulnerable she really is on each track. My heart aches when I hear her ask “Why the long face?”
She makes music sound otherworldly, yet so personal and intimate.

No. 37- Revolver

Album: Revolver

Band: The Beatles

Year Released: 1966

I really got into this album...
Winter 2009

Favorite songs include...
Eleanor Rigby 
For No One 

Why it’s so good... 
It took me a very long time to appreciate Revolver. For so long I had heard how it was one of the greatest albums ever made. How many great musicians it inspired, most notably The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. It’s the beginning of The Beatles' transformation to the revolutionary artists they’re now famous for being.

But if I were trying to help someone understand why this album is so good, I’d simply put it on.
It’s an album that does the speaking for itself.

The strings of “Eleanor Rigby”, the pristine harmonies of songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “She Said She Said”, or the rock spirit of songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Taxman”. It all delivers.
It’s without a doubt Paul McCartney’s best collection of songs. Once I made a mix of Paul-only Beatles songs for a friend and every McCartney song on Revolver made it on the mix, because each is flawless and so unique to his style.

And an aspect that some may not appreciate but I love is the quality of the recording. I really feel like this is one of the most crisp sounding recordings ever made. The tone of the guitars is perfect, the drums are punchy but not overwhelming, and the vocals were recording in such a way to make them feel intimate. And let’s face it, every string recording since has just been mimicking “Eleanor Rigby”.
Plus, you can’t go wrong with a solid French horn solo (“For No One“).


No. 38- Give Up

Album: Give Up

Artist: The Postal Service

Year Released: 2003

I really got into this album...
Summer 2007

Favorite songs include...
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight 
Nothing Better 

Why it’s so good... 
A lot of my friends got really into this album in high school- I avoided it. Probably to seem separated from what I perceived as "trendy". I often explained that I figured no album with so much synth, drum machines, and other technology based instruments could have any heart.

How wrong I was. 
In fact, there are few albums that will get my pulse racing quicker than this album. From the very first bass-heavy synth on "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight", I am in a trance.
I've always respected Ben Gibbard's lack of fluff in writing music, particulary with his lyrics. You can see the time and effort put into each element of each song he writes, whether in Death Cab For Cutie or especially on this project with Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello.

But what really earns Give Up's spot on this list is its role in my taste in music. I was explaining to a friend who had seen this album's position on the list and was surprised, without Give Up I don't think I would have ever given bands like Passion Pit or MGMT or a hundred other bands a real chance. They showed me that there is plenty of passion in an emo kid's heart to pour out over drum machines and synthesizers. And I argue that Ben Gibbard's was actually accented by the strong presence of cold, hard technology.


No. 39- Ágætis Byrjun

Album: Ágætis Byrjun

Band: Sigur Rós

Year Released: 1999

I really got into this album...
Summer 2006

Favorite songs include...

Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása 

Why it’s so good... 
One night I was driving home from a friend’s house who lived quite a ways away as it was pouring rain. I didn’t have much experience driving at the time so I was wary taking the freeway home. I knew it’d be a long drive home so I decided to turn on an album I had recently downloaded but never listened to. And that was the first time I listened to Ágætis Byrjun. The night sky, the rainy air, the open road- it all added so much to the arrangement of sounds I heard.

I like that everything on this album feels so natural- nothing forced. They just let the music go where it wants to go. This often results in songs that are incredibly long (10 tracks and over an hour long).

And I appreciate music that brings with it its own world. 
Like you've been taken out of Mesa, Arizona and taken to the other side of the universe and you're just learning this new way of living. The fact that they sing no lyrics in English also helps with that.