No. 19- Has Been

Album: Has Been

Artist: William Shatner

Year Released: 2004

I really got into this album...
Spring 2007

Favorite songs include...
“Common People” 
“You'll Have Time"
“I Can't Get Behind That” 

Why it’s so good... 
Let me start by making one thing clear- yes, I'm absolutely serious. This album easily made my top 20 albums.

What are things you want out of a great album? 
The ability to listen to it over and over and have it never lose it's freshness? This album does that. A unique quality in the songs and their recordings? Has it. Memorable tunes that you're always down for hearing? Done. Produced and co-written by Ben Folds, the album features amazing songs with an impressive range in style. Starting with a cover of the Pulp standard "Common People", you get tastes and blends of spoken word, country, jazz, hard rock, and electronica. And on top of that you have a lineup of guest artists that just add to the fun. Joe Jackson, Lemon Jelly, Henry Rollins, Brad Paisley, and Ben Folds all contribute musically to a song on the album.

And of all the albums I've written about thus far, this one has been the most difficult to choose only 3 songs as favorites.
Cause really, each song on this album is exceptional in its own way.

But the thing that sets this album apart from the rest is how serious it's taken by Shatner.
I think people pick up because they think it'd be funny or amusing. And for the first little bit, it is (it's hard not to find "It Hasn't Happened Yet" pretty amusing). But as you get further in the album, you realize the guy is absolutely serious in his pursuit to make a quality album expressing his views and feelings.
Still don't believe me? Listen to the song "What Have You Done". If you know of Shatner's wife's tragic death- you'll know the guy isn't just doing this for kicks and giggles. And follow that up with a song like "Together"- gorgeous and surprisingly inspiring.

The truth is, I think this album is one of the more artistic efforts of any artist in the last decade.
 Seriously. Give it a listen.


No. 20- XO

Album: XO

Artist: Elliott Smith

Year Released: 1998

I really got into this album...
Circa 2000

Favorite songs include...
“Tomorrow Tomorrow” 
“Sweet Adeline"
“Waltz #1” 

Why it’s so good... 
Elliott Smith was exactly what my teenage self was desperate for. My brother bought me this album, sure that I would love it- which I immediately did. But over the years as I've grown older and (hopefully) matured, my appreciation for Elliott and this album have increased.

First off all, he's one of the most under-rated guitar players ever. The guy just has an amazing ear for the instrument and uses it in a way I've never seen. His voice is haunting, smooth, and so raw that you can feel his emotion even when he's just breathing in. And lyrically it's hard to match the guy. He's poetic without being impersonal. Yes it gets pretty somber sometimes (see "Waltz #1") but it's just so beautifully tragic that you can't help but love the man.

But this album particularly has meant so much to me because of it's straight-forward approach to the music. I just like that the guy didn't seem to care about success or even connecting other people necessarily. He just needed to express himself. He's so much more real than I'll ever be.


No. 21- Is This It

 Album: Is This It

Artist: The Strokes

Year Released: 2001

I really got into this album...
Fall 2002

Favorite songs include...
“Last Nite"
“Trying Your Luck” 

Why it’s so good... 
There's just something to be said about an album that you can listen to, start-to-finish, and love each moment of it. And it's not like those modern artists who try way too hard to write something catchy or meaningful.
The Strokes just do it. They've gotten it down so well that they make it look easy.

This album holds the attitude and energy of their New York roots.
Along with some of the catchiest guitar parts I've ever rocked out too.

I honestly feel like this is one of those albums that defines my generation. It not only holds the sentimental value but also the defining energy of that time, I think.
It's timeless.


No. 22- Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

 Album: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Artist: The Beatles

Year Released: 1967

I really got into this album...
Fall 1999

Favorite songs include...
“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
“She's Leaving Home” 
“A Day In The Life” 

Why it’s so good... 
Often considered the greatest album of all time. You know, by the people who know. 
But there's some serious validity to the hype that surrounds Sgt Pepper's.

I don't know even know what it is- the concept surrounding it. The overproduction, but in a good way. The clear presence of Paul McCartney in almost all the songs on the album.
I think it's because this is the album where The Beatles started making music not for or about themselves, but it was for everyone. This is where they became universal.

And you gotta point out the beautiful instrumentation (is that a word?) on this album. The Beatles were always willing to add in a symphonic/orchestral piece to add to the song, but there's some gorgeous applications on this album. Most notably the harp/orchestra combo on "She's Leaving Home".
And I have to also mention the amazing masterpiece that is "A Day In The Life". The creativity of John Lennon exceeds the greatest expectations with this tune. That last note on the song/album is probably the most famous note in all modern music.
"Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos, with Martin on the harmonium, and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The final chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair."



No. 23- Static Prevails

 Album: Static Prevails

Artist: Jimmy Eat World

Year Released: 1996

I really got into this album...
Winter 2001

Favorite songs include...
In The Same Room"
Thinking, That's All 

Why it’s so good... 
My first listen to this album was immediately after Steven J. Packer purchased it at Best Buy and we were driving home in his brother, Keith's, car. I think it was a truck actually. And I instantly fell in love with it.

I've always considered the members of Jimmy Eat World unappreciated for their skills on their respective instruments. Jim and Tom are solid guitar players/songwriters. Zach is arguably one of the best drummers around right now. And Rick... ok, maybe not all of them are so impressive. But the best evidence I can use to back up this claim is Static Prevails.

More punk rock than I'm used to, yes- but it's definitely got some classic JEW emo in there (which is the best kind of emo). Tom delivers some of his best tunes in "Seventeen" and "Episode IV". And Jim steps up to bring the rock ("Thinking That's All"), the catchy ("Call It In The Air"), and the ultra-beautiful ("Anderson Mesa").

And if you only hear one segment of this album, catch the last little bit of "Digits". I often times listen through that whole song just to hear that part. It's mind-numbingly gorgeous.


No. 24- The Bends

 Album: The Bends

Artist: Radiohead

Year Released: 1995

I really got into this album...
Circa 2000

Favorite songs include...
Fake Plastic Trees"
Planet Telex 
Street Spirit (Fade Out) 

Why it’s so good... 
Thom Yorke has this ability to communicate from this dark, cryptic place that I've never understood while knowing I possess it within myself as well. Yes, he can be a bit of a downer- and this album is a clear sign of that. I mean you can't help but listen to a song like "Bulletproof (I Wish I Was)" and feel pretty bummed for the guy.
But what I really mean is the sincere loneliness we can all sometimes feel in the day-to-day motion of life. He's saying don't lose yourself in routine and the world, or you'll forget how to be happy and complete.

I really enjoy the range of this album. You have some guitar-driven rock tunes in "Just" and "My Iron Lung" (both quite enjoyable to listen on full blast) but it's really balanced with songs like "High & Dry" and one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard "Fake Plastic Trees". Imagine it- one band provides Johnny Greenwood to knock you down with extreme guitar skills, while Thom Yorke makes your heart ache with lyrics like "And if I could be who you wanted all the time".

It's the epitome of college rock. Which at first puts a bad taste in my mouth, yes, but no young adult can help but love it. It's mature but not adult. It's not juvenile- it's intelligent. But still maintaining a sense of honesty and vulnerability.


No. 25- Whatever and Ever Amen

 Album: Whatever and Ever Amen

Artist: Ben Folds Five

Year Released: 1997

I really got into this album...
Summer 2007

Favorite songs include...
Steven's Last Night In Town 

Why it’s so good... 
In 1997, I was branching out trying to find the music that would define me.
And for anyone who was in that phase of life during 1997, they know how rough it was sometimes. I mean yeah, there were some decent guilty pleasures out there (I seriously considered Third Eye Blind's self-titled for this list) but few solid acts to be inspired by. Just too much post-grunge, pop punk mixed with the pop music that would lead to boy bands.

And then there was Ben Folds Five.
In a discussion on great trio bands, this one must be mentioned. Their first album is pretty great but this is the one where you really get a feel for the group. They're 3 incredibly talented musicians who play music while not taking themselves too seriously. Rocking (yet classy) piano, drums that range from rock to jazz in style, and a heavy distorted bass to really push things out there.

But what makes this album really great, especially when comparing it to the band's other music, is the quality of songs here. You have classic and catchy BFF but mixed in their is some really gorgeous, incredibly intimate music. The lyrics of "Evaporated" still hit me pretty hard when I sing along. Ben just knows how to speak on our behalf.
And don't get me started on "Brick". Some may feel it's overly emo. Nay sir. What a beautifully crafted song about tragedy and regret. There are few artists willing to put themselves out there like that, and even most of those don't do it nearly as well as Ben does.

There's been talk of a reunion of this band lately.
You wanna understand why that's so exciting? Listen to this and you'll understand.


No. 26- O

 Album: O

Artist: Damien Rice

Year Released: 2002

I really got into this album...
Winter 2004

Favorite songs include...
Older Chests 
The Blower's Daughter 

Why it’s so good... 
Every time I record music, all I'm really doing is ripping off Damien Rice and what he does so well.

My friend Steven gave me a copy of this album in high school. I took it home and started it up. I quickly picked up the vibe and mood of the album, as any great first track should do (check "Delicate") so I paused the song, turned out the lights, laid on my bed, and cranked the volume.

This album is so good because it's so raw. It sounds like a band playing gorgeous acoustic music in a Irish coffee shop. It's so full of emotion. Again, the total lack of the over-produced sound of modern pop/rock music really gains my respect.

And there's just something about an Irish accent subtly coming through on a song.


No. 27- Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness

 Album: Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins

Year Released: 1995

I really got into this album...
Circa 1996/Summer 1999

Favorite songs include...
Thirty Three 
“Thirty Three” 

Why it’s so good... 
One of the foundational albums of my musical self. This was one of the handful of albums (and bands) that really made a significant impact on me as I first began to really listen to music as a pre-teen. Soon I wanted to be Billy Corgan and shave all my hair off, wear all black and appear as a goth, but actually write beautiful emo-infused love songs. But, you know, mix them with face-melting heavy songs.
Yes, I grew out of that dream. I love my hair, I could never be that pale, and I have come to idolize Mr Corgan much less.
But if I'm going to be completely honest, I've always had a dream to put together a concept album as beautiful and artistic, and hard and heavy as Mellon Collie.

It's what any emo teen needs- the beautiful and the angst-driven.
How they did it, I'll never know. The album begins with this gorgeous piano instrumental, followed by a love ballad (accompanied by a full orchestra), then they break into some seriously heavy guitar riffs. From there they suddenly pour out this mixed bag of pop love music and heavy alternative rock. AND THAT'S JUST THE FIRST OF 2 CDS!

The second half is definitely my favorite though. Because it appeals to the teenage Poston Panther within me that just wants a girl to love and write songs about. There are some real downers on that second half ("Love is suicide" repeated several times in one song), but you know it's all being told from this emotionally-driven individual who got a blue on his personality test.

And what's most amazing- it all works together.
It's like a human being, complicated and diverse and so very deep.
And gorgeous- absolutely gorgeous.

No. 28- Little Miss Sunshine Soundtrack

Album: Little Miss Sunshine Soundtrack

Artist: Devotchka/Mychael Danna/Sufjan Stevens/Various

Year Released: 2006

I really got into this album...
Summer 2007

Favorite songs include...
The Winner Is
You Love Me 

Why it’s so good... 
In my mind it's a little taboo to include a soundtrack on a list like this. I don't know why- it really doesn't make sense. But that's generally how I feel about it. Maybe because soundtracks are generally so dependent on the film they're for.

But this soundtrack is pretty superior to any soundtrack I've encountered. On its own, it stands pretty strong. I'm a sucker for 2 things that this album does really well-
1. I can really get behind a good instrumental song. And this album- as you'd expect from a movie soundtrack- is mostly made up of instrumental songs. But not like a score necessarily where it's an orchestra that is so disconnected from the other artists on the album. You really could imagine most of these songs being played by the same band throughout.

2. Going along with all that is the fact that this album flows so well from song to song- much like a movie. It follows a theme, a sound, a mood, and continues without any breaking of that along the way by some pop star that would help to sell records. Many of the songs feature the same melodies, but not in a repetitive way. Rather it accomplishes the synthesis that I was talking about.

And my favorite part about this album- it's ideal as road trip music.
Seriously, listen to it from start to finish on your next road trip.
Ok, you can actually skip over "Superfreak".