No. 1- OK Computer

Album: OK Computer

Artist: Radiohead

Year Released: 1997

I really got into this album...
Circa 1998

Favorite songs include...
“Let Down” 
“No Surprises” 

Why it’s so good... 
Radiohead has become the favorite band of any cool kid.
They are trendy, in a weird not trendy way. If that makes any sense at all.

Because of this it's easy to forget why Radiohead is probably the most creative, revolutionary band since (dare I say it?) The Beatles. And the fact that they genuinely don't care what people think- it's a cliche idea that you can typically see is artificial from other acts but they're the real deal. They make music because they want the world to be better. Not just the world at large, but more the world that surrounds them.
Thom Yorke's imagery on this album is nothing short of haunting- he took a step back as the world basked in its technology and achievements to realize the danger we faced of losing our identity as humans. He captured the emotion of everyone who, though appreciative of the world they live in and the opportunities that come with technology, are desperate for to feel more than the cold hard plastic of automobiles and iPods.

The best track, in my opinion, is "Let Down". Simply because it captures the general vibe and message of the whole album. Who hasn't felt this rush of energy and passion flow over them- the desire to metaphorically grow wings in a chemical reaction? The need to fly off and experience life through a real interaction, not by television or youtube.

And Yorke's work is only that much stronger with the presence of his fellow bandmates- most notably Phil Selway on drums (see: "Airbag", the guy is a walking drum machine) and lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood, one of the most skilled and creative guitar players since the Woodstock era. Greenwood's most impressive work is the track "Paranoid Android", a song filled with movements of both the beautiful and the dangerous. The guitar work on that song will blow your mind.

But the best thing about the album- I really think it taught me how to be bold in music.
To not fear coming off as pretentious, but rather take your art as far as you can. Make it important. Treat it as such.
All music sounds different after you hear this album. Nothing compares.


No. 2- Pinkerton

Album: Pinkerton

Artist: Weezer

Year Released: 1996

I really got into this album...
Winter 2000

Favorite songs include...
“Across The Sea” 
“El Scorcho"
“The Good Life” 

Why it’s so good... 
Pinkerton is the little boy inside of me that I sometimes am embarrassed to admit exists. That was extremely true when I was introduced to it at the age of 14. It provided me the words, the sounds, the outward manifestation of what I had been feeling all along.

It is the rawest sounding record I've ever heard. I've talked a lot about how valuable I think rawness is in music, and this is the ideal example of what that sounds like. You hear it in the tone of the bass and guitars, you hear it in the style Pat plays the drums, and most of all you hear it in the way Rivers sings out those words.

And it's the words that are the most powerful to me.
How this guy managed to make such a catchy collection of songs while still writing such honest, sincere music is beyond me. Rivers writes of his fears of love and loneliness, his frustration with his insecurities, even the more awkward/intimate thoughts in his mind.
But it's all done with one intention- to express. And that's what music is about. Not making money, not to gain popularity, and I don't even know if it's to change the world. I really think it's so much more personal than all that- music is about changing yourself. Rivers opens his heart- every intimate and embarrassing part- and in this process of letting it out he is changed. And so is the listener.


No. 3- Clarity

Album: Clarity

Artist: Jimmy Eat World

Year Released: 1999

I really got into this album...
Winter 2001

Favorite songs include...
“Table For Glasses” 
“Just Watch The Fireworks"
“For Me This Is Heaven” 

Why it’s so good... 
Being from Mesa, you tend to find that people have a clear opinion on Jimmy Eat World. Either they're an amazing band that you grew up with and love, or they are your sister's friends band who you have tolerated hearing about since high school.

I challenge anyone who does not have a fond appreciation for JEW to sit down and listen to Clarity- the band's finest piece of work and one of the best albums I've ever heard. Like any great album, it is an experience to listen to.

Jim Adkins writing is at its peak on this record- both with his commercial appeal and especially in the way he is so genuine and heartfelt with each song. "Lucky Denver Mint" is one of those songs that is so catchy and fun, you can never quite get it out of her head (and you're totally ok with that too). And then you have the song "For Me This Is Heaven"- one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard. I can't listen to it without having my heart race and get goosebumps.

And I love the balance of emo rock band (see "Crush" and "Your New Aesthetic") and gorgeous orchestra-present tunes (see "Just Watch The Fireworks" and "Table For Glasses"). And definitely one of the highlights of the album is its finale- the 16 minute epic that is "Goodbye Sky Harbor". You'd think it gets old and boring, but if you're really litening it's actually a brilliantly constructed piece of art- one of Adkins finest moments.


No. 4- The Beatles (The White Album)

Album: The Beatles (The White Album)

Artist: The Beatles

Year Released: 1968

I really got into this album...
Winter 2004

Favorite songs include...
“Dear Prudence” 
“Mother Nature's Son"
“Good Night” 

Why it’s so good... 
Over the years I've heard a lot of criticism for this album. How it's not really a "Beatles" album because they basically worked as 4 solo artists. Or that due to the ego of each member, each refused to have any of his own songs cut resulting in several tracks that are weak. And some of the harshest criticism actually comes from The Beatles themselves.

But this album is what made The Beatles one of my favorite bands.
Yeah, there's a lot of music on there (it's a double album) and I love how much there is to listen to.

And each Beatle shines, as opposed to other albums where they kind of each take a turn looking good.
Paul delivers with classics like "Back In The USSR" and "Blackbird", John has "Dear Prudence" and "Revolution", George gives "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Piggies", and Ringo has his best songs with "Don't Pass Me By" and "Good Night".

But my favorite thing about this album touches on what Ringo tends to say about this album: It's The Beatles doing great rock and roll music. There's not this overproduction or theatrics accompanying it (although I do enjoy when these guys pull that off). But because of it's straightforward approach, I think it really makes it timeless. No matter what era you're in, The White Album is always significant and enjoyable.


No. 5- Why Should The Fire Die?

Album: Why Should The Fire Die?

Artist: Nickel Creek

Year Released: 2005

I really got into this album...
Fall 2006

Favorite songs include...
“Doubting Thomas"
“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” 

Why it’s so good... 
I was already a big Nickel Creek fan by the time they released Why Should The Fire Die? But it's this album that took them from a band I enjoy to one of the most influential and inspiring musical acts in my life.
You have the expected features of Nickel Creek: Masterful instrumentation from each member (mandolin, violin, and guitar) and equally flawless singing and harmonies. You have the rawness that only bluegrass can deliver. You know- Nickel Creek standards.

But on this album they did a few things different with their composition and particularly their themes.
Many of these songs are so intricately composed, you wonder how the songs are still so listener friendly. They don't have over-production, doubling of guitars, over-kill on synth orchestras, and all the other tricks bands use these days to fill their sound. They just have their music- raw and simple. They do what albums were meant to do- let you hear what the group sounds like in person.

And the themes within each song is much deeper than their previous releases.
Take a song like "Doubting Thomas"- a reflection of singer Chris Thile's hesitance to commit to his beliefs for fear of being found wrong. Or "Evaline", one of the darkest and epic songs I've ever heard. The harmonies, the riff, the bridge of chaotic instrumentation- it all gives backdrop to the strain in Thile's voice.

I feel like of all my top 10 albums, this album will be the least listened to by my friends who follow this blog.
So on this post, more than any other, I want to stress how benefited you will be to listen to this album. 
It is what music should sound like.


No. 6- Grace

Album: Grace

Artist: Jeff Buckley

Year Released: 1994

I really got into this album...
Circa 2000

Favorite songs include...
“Lover, You Should've Come Over"
“Last Goodbye” 

Why it’s so good... 
Jeff Buckley is one of the most under-rated artists of all time. His only complete studio album, Grace, is one of the most under-rated albums of all time. There's a lot to mention about why Jeff and this album are so great, but I'm going to focus on the most dominating aspects.

First, the man's voice is unique and full of more emotion than anyone I've ever heard. It's incredibly haunting while still beautifully vulnerable and sweet. The guy can seriously sing.

Secondly, you can't talk about this album without touching on Buckley's cover of the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah". Why? Because it's one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Honestly. These days there are dozens and dozens of covers from all sorts of artists spanning several genres. And I have gotten into plenty of arguments with people who claim the best version is by so-and-so, not Jeff Buckley. But the fact of the matter is that every artist after Buckley (most of the versions you hear now) are just re-creating the masterpiece that Buckley composed. They're covering Jeff, not Leonard. It's a flawless track in every aspect and having it in the very middle of the album perfectly structures the mood and emotion of the rest of the album around it.

And lastly, and most present on the album, is the haunting reality of Jeff Buckley's death not long after the album's release. Drowning in the Mississippi River, he left this album as his legacy. The songs are packed with lyrics about death and mortality and there's a haunting presence in each recording, as if you're not merely hearing an album recorded by a man who later passed away. Instead it's as if you're listening to a piece of art from the mouth of Buckley's soul still lingering about.

It's absolutely beautiful. It touches your soul and changes you.
Don't think that Buckley's death brings a darkness to it, rather realize that it brings with it a spiritual quality.


No. 7- Kid A

Album: Kid A

Artist: Radiohead

Year Released: 2000

I really got into this album...
Circa 2003

Favorite songs include...
“Motion Picture Soundtrack” 

Why it’s so good... 
I purchased Kid A a few days after it's release. I had high hopes- since their previous release (OK Computer) I had become a huge fan and I was sure this would blow my mind. I popped that disc into my CD Walkman and heard that heavy presence of electric piano. As I listened on for the next few tracks, I was confused and let down. I gave up on the album.

A few years later I realized that I had never fully given the album a chance. I randomly chose a track on it with the intention to really open my ears to these songs. The first song was a track called "Optimistic"- now one of my favorite Radiohead songs. It set the stage for the rest of the album- one full of artistically epic sounds and themes.

You certainly need to respect the guys for doing something so unexpected. I could also mention that it was picked as Rolling Stones top album of the 2000s. And I don't take away from that cause it's all legitimate.
But my love for this album is far deeper than that. Simply put, it's one of the most creative albums released in my lifetime. It has such depth, and yet the quality of songs and variety within them offers just as much breadth as well.

It's just one of those albums that changes you. Once you've heard it, music is different. Forever.