No. 8- Weezer (The Blue Album)

Album: Weezer (The Blue Album)

Artist: Weezer

Year Released: 1994

I really got into this album...
Circa 2000

Favorite songs include...
“Say It Ain't So” 
“Buddy Holly"
“Only In Dreams” 

Why it’s so good... 
There's just something great about a band that can write perfectly crafted pop songs while still maintaining serious integrity with their instrumentation. Anything you want from a rock act- you got it here.

It's kind of like a showcase of what makes Weezer one of the best acts in the last 20 years.
Great vocals, amazing guitar solos, catchy melodies, and a clever/sarcastic attitude. But most of all, they've got heart.
Take a song like "Say It Ain't So". Rivers voice has never sounded so smooth and raw, before or since. It's one of the catchier songs on the album, and yet it probably packs the most punch emotionally. And it features some of the best guitar playing I've heard from a 4-piece in a long long time.

Since this album Weezer has gone through so many phases that I sometimes forget what they really are about.
But I just start this album up, hear those first words "My name is Jonas!" and I remember why this band has been one of the foremost influential acts in my life.


No. 9- Abbey Road

Album: Abbey Road

Artist: The Beatles

Year Released: 1969

I really got into this album...
Summer 2009

Favorite songs include...
“Here Comes The Sun” 
“You Never Give Me Your Money” 

Why it’s so good... 
What can I say about Abbey Road that hasn't already been said? It's one of the most iconic albums of all time. It's the final album of the greatest act of modern music. It's appreciated by every generation since, a staple of what good music is.

But why do I love it?
I've always identified with The Beatles' music, as friends who knew the words and melodies to express what was in my heart. But what I appreciate about Abbey Road is that they were so mature that I have this different kind of respect for them. They're no longer just friends- but more like mentors. Men who were married and starting families, experiencing life and figuring out what matters most.

The songs are undeniable classics. George Harrison is at his best here- songs like "Here Comes The Sun" and "Something" are some of the best Beatles songs ever.
And you have to talk about the second half of the album- the medley. 16 minutes of finished and unfinished short songs blended together to form this epic masterpiece. Listening to it from start to finish is one of the more rewarding experiences music has to offer. Seriously.

It wrapped up the legacy of one of my favorite bands. It's perfectly crafted.
"And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you make"


No. 10- Return of The Rentals

Album: Return Of The Rentals

Artist: The Rentals

Year Released: 1995

I really got into this album...
Circa 1998

Favorite songs include...
“The Love I'm Searching For” 
“Friends of P."
“My Summer Girl” 

Why it’s so good... 
Without a doubt the most under-appreciated band in the last 20 years, The Rentals are a band that everyone needs to listen to. You honestly can't get a more unique sounding band. I could compare them to Weezer or Ozma or a handful of other emo bands, and just make sure people know that they have a heavy synth presence- but that wouldn't really do it.

Matt Sharp (original bassist of Weezer and present-day myth) wrote the ideal emo music. It's catchy, but still awkward. It's got soft synth, but heavy guitar and bass. It's energetic, but has an underlined somberness to it.
It IS emo rock.
And the fact that you have Rachel Haden mixed in there makes it that much more ideal. If you don't know who she is, google her. She's basically made music with almost every great emo band there is.

I basically grew from a small boy in a young man on this album. I can remember being in grade school and loving these songs, and it's just that much more special that I listen to it in my car today. It's one of the most consistently enjoyable albums in my collection, for sure.


No. 11- Figure 8

Album: Figure 8

Artist: Elliott Smith

Year Released: 2000

I really got into this album...
Spring 2007

Favorite songs include...
“Can't Make A Sound” 
“Somebody That I Used To Know"

Why it’s so good... 
It's pretty simple to explain why this album is so good.
I would listen to it each day when I'd take the bus home from school. The city, the people, the end of the long day- it was all just the backdrop to this album.

This is Elliott Smith at his best- in songwriting, guitar playing, singing, and everything else he does.
It features one of my favorite songs ("Can't Make A Sound") and is one of the best sounding recordings out there- both for clear quality and unique sound.

It's just one of those albums that's hard to sum up any other way besides just listening to it.
So do yourself a favor and give it a solid listen.


No. 12- Hometowns

Album: Hometowns

Artist: The Rural Alberta Advantage

Year Released: 2008

I really got into this album...
Summer 2009

Favorite songs include...
“The Ballad of the RAA” 
“Drain The Blood"
“In The Summertime” 

Why it’s so good... 
Sometimes Canada just surprises me.
I mean, I thought I knew what to expect from them- Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette, and the occasional Nickelback. But then they catch me off-guard.

Hometowns is the first full-length released by the RAA and certainly one of the best albums to be released in a while. It mixes everything good going on in music today (combinations you wouldn't think to mix)- you've got the acoustic songwriter feel of singer Nils Edenloff, the occassional heavy rock guitars reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins, and the unexpected and amazing beats of drummer Paul Banwatt.

I also love how homemade and personal the album sounds.
It's not polished and overly processed. It's just a great band recording their songs with what they've got.


No. 13- Rock and Roll Part Three

Album: Rock and Roll Part Three

Artist: Ozma

Year Released: 2001

I really got into this album...
Circa 2002

Favorite songs include...
“Shooting Stars"

Why it’s so good... 
In 2001, one of my favorite bands (Weezer) released their first album in 5 years. Upon listening I was sorely disappointed and left a little empty. Luckily I came across this band that was touring with Weezer at the time- Ozma. And as Bradley Torreano of Allmusic wrote- "it is arguably written the best Weezer album of 2001".

But I'm gonna push that much further and say that this album is exactly why I love Ozma and why since 2001 they have offered the best music of the emo rock genre- beginning with this album.
As I mentioned on previous posts for Ozma albums,- they have amazing guitar solos,  incredible singers, and perfectly catchy melodies. But this album gives a punch not often seen in modern music. Listen to a song like Battlescars and you'll know what I mean- as Daniel Brummel screams out "There's battlescars on my face and my arms but you still kiss me anyway"- your whole frame feels it.

Easily some of the best pop songs in the last decade or so. It's impossible to listen to Domino Effect and not have yourself singing along by the end of it. This is what makes Ozma great. They're just four dudes and an Asian girl who play catchy, heartfelt music.


No. 14- 9

Album: 9

Artist: Damien Rice

Year Released: 2006

I really got into this album...
Spring 2007

Favorite songs include...
“Grey Room” 
“The Animals Were Gone"

Why it’s so good... 
I have never NOT been in the mood for this album. It is everything you love about Damien Rice at its best.

I can't put my finger on this one exactly though. Is it the gorgeous string arrangements that are somehow romantic and haunting at the same time? Is it the intimacy of Damien's Irish voice? Or is it the way the album seems to sound like its not just in your ears but consuming your whole body?

All of these are huge factors.
But if I were to choose just one aspect that makes this an exceptional album, it'd be the lyrics.
Damien Rice really kicked it up a notch on this album. Sometimes it's so intimate and honest, it's a little uncomfortable at first. But if you don't just hear the words but listen to the voice delivering them, if you let yourself feel the emotion carefully wrapped around each note within that melody- you get it. You know it.
By the time you get to the end of the album (the serene ballad "Sleep, Don't Weep"), your heart is pounding out of your chest and you are overcome.  Overcome in the same way you are when you feel understood, truly and completely understood. Like you're connected to someone else.

I love this album dearly. I said it already, but every time I write music I think I'm just trying to capture Damien Rice- specifically this album. It's beautifuly, raw, haunting, and so real.


No. 15- Dog Problems

Album: Dog Problems

Artist: The Format

Year Released: 2006

I really got into this album...
Winter 2009

Favorite songs include...
“Dog Problems” 
“I'm Actual"
“Inches and Falling” 

Why it’s so good... 
I spent a really long time resisting The Format. A lot of my friends really loved them, they were becoming pretty popular not just locally but nationally, but I refused to like them. For silly reasons, I'll admit.
Then they broke up and I figured I had won the fight.

Time passed and I stumbled upon a tune called "Dog Problems"- one of the most interesting and honest songs I've ever heard. Yes, it was a little melodramatic at times ("Are you listening- this is the sound of my heart breaking") but it made me feel more deeply than a song had in a really long time. Soon I found myself trying out the whole album. And eventually I gave in and had to admit- I was a fan of The Format.

What's there not to like?
It's catchy, it's fun, it's deep and meaningful, and it's honest. Nate Ruess is one of the best singers to come out of the Arizona music scene and his songwriting is something to envy.

It really is that simple. They just know how to deliver awesome pop songs with depth.


No. 16- This Side

Album: This Side

Artist: Nickel Creek

Year Released: 2002

I really got into this album...
Summer 2005

Favorite songs include...
“Green and Gray” 
“Hanging By A Thread” 

Why it’s so good... 
I've said it once and I'll say it again- Nickel Creek is easily one of the most talented groups in the last 10 years. Their debut album was a refreshing taste of modern bluegrass. But on their follow-up album, This Side, they really showed what they were able to do within and outside of bluegrass.

The album flows perfectly without getting boring or uninteresting- even for just a moment. Starting out with an energetic instrumental ("Smoothie Song") which showcases each member on their respective instrument playing better than most. You especially get a glimpse how incredibly talented Mr Chris Thile is on the mandolin. You may not have much interest in the instrument but you will once you hear how this guy uses it. I could only compare him to guitar legends like Van Halen and Jimmy Page.

The album is filled with impressive vocal work by each member- both as leads and simply supplying harmonies. Sara Watkins (vocals/violinist) really steps out on this album with attitude and power. She had some really gorgeous tunes on their first album but she went beyond that, doing songs that seem highly personal and cutting (just listen to "I Should've Known Better").

I don't mean to sound repetitive (have I said that before?) but this album really is an experience to listen to.
It has a defined quality to the music that is unique without being distracting.
It really is the perfect blend of bluegrass and pop music. Its the perfect first sampling of the genre.


No. 17- The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Album: The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Artist: Andrew Bird

Year Released: 2005

I really got into this album...
Summer 2006

Favorite songs include...
“MX Missiles” 
“A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head To The Left"

Why it’s so good... 
There are three reasons that stick out to me of why this album deserves a spot in my top 20.
  1. The story behind it. I don't know how true this is but when I was introduced to Mysterious Production I was told by a reliable source that Andrew had recorded the album himself in a barn he owned. That imagery is so true to Andrew Bird and the music he puts out.
  2. His musicality. The man's plenty skilled at playing the guitar and singing a tune. But its the elements you don't expect that he's really exceptional at: his harmonies are tight, he is a master violinist (notably played for Squirrel Nut Zippers before going solo), and most intriguing is his whistling capabilities. The man's whistle solo on "Sovay" or at the beginning of "MX Missiles" puts you in a trance.
  3. Andrew Bird doesn't just write a good song- something difficult enough for most of the music world. He writes a great album. There is so much range in these songs- each offering something new. And yet he ties them all together beautifully with a signature sound and texture to the recording and mood. Obviously a true mark of a great album.
 There are few albums that are an experience to listen to, but this album achieves that. From start to finish, you feel so much and identify so many things about yourself within the music. You get goosebumps and something grips your heart as "The Happy Birthday Song" fades out to end the album.


No. 18- Keep Moving

Album: Keep Moving

Artist: Novi Split

Year Released: 2003

I really got into this album...
Spring 2006

Favorite songs include...
“Glory! Glory!” 
“I Had You"
“The New Split” 

Why it’s so good... 
I've talked to David J- the man that is Novi Split- on two occassions.
The first time was the release show for this album. Downtown Mesa at the Women's Club of Mesa (choice locations for a good show). It was his first time in Arizona and he wanted to grab a bite before playing so he was asking a few of us for suggestions. I found the man interesting.
The next time I saw him was winter of 2009. Having taken home his album, listened to it hundreds of times, and fallen in love with it- I had a much different opinion of David J. I knew of his musicality, his pop sensibility, and his beautiful somber voice.

And once again, there's just something special about an album recorded with barely any money- relying wholly on the vision and artistry of its creator. The recordings aren't bad, certainly, but there's this untainted quality about them. They're not polluted by the industry or simply by others who wouldn't understand the vision. It's just his child, pure and beautiful.

In the winter of 2009 I ran into David J again. I was standing next to him at a show as the headlining band was going on (which he had opened for) and decided to let my fanatic side out a bit and tell him the truth. I said "Hey, I'm a big fan. In fact, your song Glory! Glory is actually one of my all-time favorite songs". 
He paused, smiled big, and gave me a big hug. Wonderful.