I don’t think there is any doubt that the music industry is changing – and has been for a while. In my lifetime we have gone from cassette tapes to CDs to mp3 players to smart phones to online streaming services. The way we listen to our music has all but killed the “ALBUM” as an art form. Everything seems to be driven by singles, playlists, and YouTube views.
And that’s a shame.
Artists/Bands put effort into crafting entire albums full of music. Take some time to listen to an full album this week. It will definitely give you more insight into who they are as an artist/band.
Here is a list of 10ish albums that have stuck with me over the years. They aren’t necessarily the BEST music albums (no Grammy winners). But these are the albums I find myself able to listen to over and over again. They have, in one way or another, shaped who I am today and helped form my musical taste over the course of three decades.
In no particular order:
WEEZER // THE BLUE ALBUM
I have a hard time believing this album is almost 25 years old. It’s still SOOOOO good. Weezer’s debut album ushered in an era of angry nerd rock and paved the way for punk rock and demo bands to hit the main stream. I still find myself singing along to every word of “Say It Ain’t So,” “Surf Wax America,” “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and of course “Buddy Holly.” I’ve been a huge fan of Weezer ever since, but nothing has quite captured the magic of their Blue Album.
If you haven’t seen the music video for Buddy Holly, stop what you’re doing and fix that now!
THE KILLERS // HOT FUSS
This is another album that has stood the test of time. Fourteen years later and I still hear people rocking out to “Mr. Brightside.” In my opinion, there is not a weak song on this album. It feels like The Killers really put everything they had into every single song. The overall feel of the album is like a retro-future vibe – a little jazzy, a little new wave, a little 80s synth, and a whole lotta weird. Many of the songs on Hot Fuss will still get stuck in my head for weeks.
“Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looks like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year…”
“I got soul but I’m not a soldier…”
“Smile like you mean it…”
BRAND NEW // THE DEVIL AND GOD ARE RAGING INSIDE ME
My favorite rock band’s third album is widely regarded as their best one (out of five). This album came out during one of my darkest times. In a way it felt like it was released just for me. Some of these songs spoke so deeply to me at the time that they can still bring chills and take me to the edge of tears. Jesse Lacey has struggled with his own demons and mental health issues throughout the years. His song writing is cathartic for him and has helped many of us emo kids cope with our own demons.
Lines that resonated with me and still hit me hard:
“I was the glue that kept my friends together, now they don’t talk and we don’t go out.” (Sowing Season, Yeah)
“Jesus Christ, I’m alone again. So what did you do those three days you were dead? Cause this problem’s gonna last more than the weekend.” (Jesus Christ)
“In the choir I saw a sad Messiah. He was bored and tired of my laments. Said ‘I died for you one time, but never again.'” (Limousine)
RELIENT K // MMHMM
Relient K has been doing their thing since 1998. They blur the lines between Christian and secular, preferring to focus on making amazing, high energy pop-punk music than targeting a specific faith-based demographic. In other words, their Christians in a band, not so much a Christian band. That being said, their fourth album, Mmhmm, explores the expanse of human experiences – from the silly to the serious to the romantic and everything in between. They can do it all.
On these gloomy, cold, early-Spring days I’ll still crank “High of 75” to lift my mood. When I’m feeling like I can’t do anything right, “More Than Useless” gets me right back in the game. When I’m doubting myself and God, “Be My Escape” reminds me of the profound truth that “the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” And what millennial out there can’t relate to “This Week the Trend?”
THE AVETT BROTHERS // THE CARPENTER
I became a fan of The Avett Brothers back in 2008 with their album Emotionalism, which is also a fantastic album. But when they released The Carpenter in 2012, I fell in love. They’re part folk, part indie rock, part Southern rock. Musically they are unbelievably talented. But their bright spot for me is their poetic songwriting. They have a way of expressing emotions and experiences in ways no other band I’ve heard has even come close to. Just try listening to “Through My Prayers” without your eyes getting sweaty.
JIMMY EAT WORLD // BLEED AMERICAN
Two words: “The Middle.” This has to be one of my all-time favorite songs. Every time it comes on, I’m singing along. “Don’t you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say!” But this album is packed full of amazing rock anthems and ballads. “The Sweetness” and “A Praise Chorus” get me pumped every time. “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown” get me emotional. Let me put it this way – most of the time I skip over “Hear You Me” because I don’t feel like fighting back tears right at the moment.
YELLOWCARD // OCEAN AVENUE
I consider this album the height of the early-2000s pop-punk era. When Yellowcard hit the scene, they blew us all away with their unique blend of punk, pop, and…is that a violin? Yes. Yes it is. And it was awesome. Ocean Avenue was my anthem album for more than one summer growing up. It’s the perfect summer rock album. It’s light, high energy, full of angst and romance and longing. I still find myself singing at the top of my lungs: “Here I Gooooo! Scream my lungs out and try to get to you. You are my only one!”
But on a more serious note, this album has one of the most emotional songs for me: “View from Heaven.” During my junior year of high school, our headmaster died in a car wreck on his way home after a basketball game. My friends and I spent a lot of time listening to, singing along with, and reflecting on this song.
MUMFORD & SONS // SIGH NO MORE
The acoustic, folksy music; old-fashioned, thoughtful lyrics; a gruff lead singer’s voice – I feel like I’m in a pub back in the old world during simpler times. The album starts off strong with title track “Sigh No More,” the lyrics of which are actually taken from the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. My other favorite songs on the album are “The Cave,” “Roll Away Your Stone,” and “Awake My Soul.” While the band members are not necessarily religious, their songs point toward something deeper to live for. They wrestle with God and religion and purpose in an interesting, deep, relatable way. I actually prefer this debut album to their second release, Babel, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. I look forward to their rumored album release coming later this year.
MXPX // BEFORE EVERYTHING AND AFTER
Mike, Tom, and Yuri of MXPX have been doing their thing almost as long as I’ve been alive. They started out in 1992. When it comes to punk rock, they are about as straight forward as it gets. They have grown as a band and as an influence in the rock community while staying true to their power chord roots. If you want a fun punk album to sing, jump, and mosh to, just pick out any MXPX album and crank the volume to 11.
This particular album (Before Everything and After) holds a place in my heart because it came out the year my wife an I started dating. Many of the songs on this album are ones I associate with those early months of friendship and dating – songs like “Everything Sucks (When You’re Gone),” “Quit Your Life,” and “You Make Me Me.”
BLINK-182 // BLINK-182
Blink-182’s fifth album was the one that sealed the deal for me. I liked some of their earlier stuff (“All the Small Things” is one of my all-time favorite songs), but never considered myself a real fan. Their self-titled album hit all the right notes for me. It has the soaring punk anthems that make for a great Summer road trip. It has more contemplative, romantic power ballads. There’s just something about this entire album that feels different than most mainstream punk rock albums. It’s more experimental, more personal, a bit darker than what we were used to out of the band. They took a risk by going in a new direction, and it paid off big time.
I also really love their newest album, California, but it hasn’t sat with me quite the way this self-titled album has. But give it some more time and we’ll see.
Dashboard Confessions // A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar
Coldplay // Viva La Vida
Taking Back Sunday // Where You Want to Be
Linkin Park // Meteora
NF // Mansion
Five Iron Frenzy // The End Is Near
Sum 41 // All Killer, No Filler
Jack Johnson // In Between Dreams
Florence + the Machine // Ceremonials
Jack’s Mannequin // The Glass Passenger
As you can see, 2003-2006 was a formative time for me. I’ve heard it said that the music you listen to around your junior year of high school is the music that will stick with you. I believe it. Most of these bands have put out some good music since those days. But these are the ones that I would consider my Favorite.
What about you? What would you say are your top 10-ish albums? I’d love to know.