This is my list of my favorite 35 albums I've listened to, or been largely exposed to, since I started college. I limited each spot to a unique artist, so while there are some artists that would have potentially taken up several spots, I wanted this list to represent more artistic diversity than just specifically the albums themselves.
- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
While I'm not the biggest Wilco fan, this is my favorite album of theirs as their songwriting seems more mature and slightly darker than on Summerteeth. Wilco certainly doesn't lack in melodic hooks and excellent instrumentation.
Favorite Track: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
34. The Strange Boys
- The Strange Boys and Girls Club
The Strange Boys don't really try to break new ground or blow you away with their technical prowess, but they do represent the power of a few chords and an electric guitar. This album is just a great example of garage rock sounding blues with only the longest tracks going over 3 minutes.
Favorite Track: This Girls Taught Me a Dance
- Slanted and Enchanted
I've only listened to this album all the way through once, but one listen is enough to indicate that Pavement puts their music before anything else. A lack of true compositional ability is made up by their passion and their earnest ability to rock out. I'm sure that with further listens, Pavement would move farther up the list.
Favorite Track: Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at: 17
32. The National
I confess that my first impression of The National was not great. I thought that the band was a little too pretentious and didn't have many interesting qualities. Well, at this point I've reversed my position and realized that although The National can be a little quirky with lyrics and such, they are definitely great musicians capable performing and writing a surprisingly wide range of material. Alligator is certainly worth the time it takes to listen to and more.
Favorite Track: Abel
31. The Millenium
Don't be caught too off guard listening to this album for the first time, you might think that the release date of 1968 might be off by 30 years (really, it's only about the first half of the first track). This album represents pop at its 1960s best. Infectious tunes without too much sugary sweetness, Begin is a great album when you're just in a mood to relax and listen to track after track of simple, well-written music.
Favorite Track: I Just Want to Be Your Friend
30. A.C. Newman
- The Slow Wonder
Power pop genius A.C. Newman really triumphed with his first album, The Slow Wonder. The best part of this album is A.C. Newman's vast lyrical repertoire, which he incorporates quite sucessfully. A.C. Newman is modest enough to make you think that you could potentially emulate his style, but I think he's actually far more talented than his songs initially reveal.
Favorite Track: Drink To Me, Babe, Then
- Streethawk: A Seduction
Dan Bejar led Destroyer offers very original music while still being relatively accessible and melodic. Dan Bejar and A.C. Newman both being members of The New Pornographers reminds me a little of John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles. In many ways, each member of both pairs brings out the best in the other, at least in the sense that there is frequently quite a strong contrast. A.C. Newman and Paul McCartney often achieve great success with their lighter, more engaging material. In contrast, Bejar and Lennon stand out for their subtlety and irony. Streethawk may take a few listens to fully enjoy, but each listen demonstrates Bejar's supreme ability to craft a diverse range of material.
Favorite Track: The Sublimation Hour
28. The Flaming Lips
- Transmissions From the Satellite Heart
To many people, the fact that The Flaming Lips have done albums other than Yoshimi might seem surprising. The most rewarding part of listening to their earlier works is noticing the progression that has occurred. Transmissions is certainly more raw, though vintage Flaming Lips songwriting is still obvious. Arguably not quite as good as Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi, Transmissions still stands high in its own class and is a very solid record.
Favorite Track: Pilot Can at the Queer of God
Seeing Japandroids in concert really helped cement this album in the top 30 simply because of the ridiculous energy Japandroids have at their shows and on their album. If you are a fan of loud, fast, intense, or any combination of those 3, this album will probably live up to your expectations. I look forward to their future endeavors.
Favorite Track: Wet Hair
26. The New Pornographers
- Mass Romantic
I listened to some New Pornographers prior to college, but had my full introduction to them during my freshman year. Choosing a particular album from their selection was difficult because I'm not as familiar with all of them, but Mass Romantic certainly highlights all of their strengths as a band, particularly catchy hooks, great lyricism and vocals in general, as well as being a great change of pace from styles I typically prefer.
Favorite Track: Execution Day
25. The Avalanches
- Since I Left You
Frontier Psychiatrist was my introduction to this album so I had high hopes for the other tracks. The Avalanches are masters at sampling and some of the transitions between songs are just awesome. Describing this album is difficult as you don't really listen to it as much as you experience it. Just go find it and listen to it now if you haven't; you won't be disappointed.
Favorite Track: Frontier Psychiatrist
24. The Arcade Fire
Epic is proabably the best way to describe Arcade Fire's sound in general, but it works especially well to describe Funeral. Diehards might think Funeral only being at 24 is low, and while I admit that it is an excellent record, I don't love it the way I love other records. That being said, finding a flaw with this record is hard as Funeral is brilliantly produced and written. This album will certainly be highly regarded for quite a while.
Favorite Track: Crown of Love
23. Animal Collective
- Merriweather Post Pavilion
This is another album I've only listened to once all the way through, but Animal Collective have already proven to me that they are masters of sonic space and studio perfection. Some criticize them for being overly indulgent in the way of experimentation, but I don't really find their willingness to challenge convention to be that detracting from their appeal. As with Slanted and Enchanted, I could only expect this album to be higher if I had 15 more listens invested in it.
Favorite Track: Summertime Clothes
22. Dinosaur Jr.
- You're Living All Over Me
Dinosaur Jr. really turn up the volume on this album dating from the late 80s. This album is not super accessible as noise is part of Dinosaur Jr.'s agenda, but beneath the surface layer of in-your-face electric amplification, Dinosaur Jr. displays the capacity for musical complexity and beauty. Not often do you find such disparate qualities in one band.
Favorite Track: Little Fury Things
21. Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith really comes into his own on this album. Either/Or displays Smith's profoundly stunning, yet saddening, ability to share his emotion in the form of guitar strums accompanied by his mournful voice. An album to be appreciated more than enjoyed given how depressing it is.
Favorite Track: Say Yes
Probably one of the top 2 shows I went to last year, adding to the ambiance of the performance were concert-goers asking me for ecstasy mid-show. Deadringer is full of ridiculously good beats and some of the highest levels of production you can ask for. This is music for all times and seasons: parties, background music, or just playing it as loud as possible. A very intelligent and well-recorded album that everyone should check out at least once.
Favorite Track: Final Frontier Ft. Blueprint
19. Broken Social Scene
- You Forgot It In People
Broken Social Scene quickly became one of my favorite bands last year after hearing a few tracks and later exploring their full albums. BBS is able to cover a good amount of material resulting in a very unique, enjoyable sound. For me, they are a band that get better with every listen.
Favorite Track: Cause=Time
18. TV on the Radio
- Return To Cookie Mountain
TV on the Radio are easily one of the top 10 most talented bands currently making music. I think it's very hard to overrate this band simply given how ridiculously incredible both Dear Science and Return to Cookie Mountain are. This album really blew me away the first time I heard it. They are a band that know how good they are, know what good music is, and then go into the studio and make good music.
Favorite Track: Wolf Like Me
17. Beach House
- Teen Dream
I chose Teen Dream over their self-titled because Teen Dream was the album that really got me into Beach House and caused me to explore their other stuff. Teen Dream are able to create a very mellow, atmospheric type experience for their songs. This album isn't for parties or blasting through speakers; enjoy this when you really have time to listen to every song carefully.
Favorite Track: Walk in the Park
16. Viktor Vaughn
- Vaudeville Villain
It was Madvilliany that inspired me to hear Vaudeville Villain, with Daniel Dumile's antagonistic aliases: MF Doom and Viktor Vaughn performing on Madvillainy and Vaudeville Villain, respectively. Vaudeville Villain's greatest asset is its amazing lyricism and turns of phrase obvious on every track. Production is also very high and as a whole, the album flows quite smoothly.
15. Stevie Wonder
Innervisions is Stevie Wonder at his creative best. While most of these songs are catchy and accessible, you never really get the impression that Stevie was trying to sell a ton of records; he just wanted to write his music. Stevie's voice and the wide array of instruments used on this album are the highlights.
Favorite Track: Too High
14. The Kinks
- The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
I'd listened to Kinka Kinks (1965) quite a bit before college, but only a few months ago had I heard Village Green. Village Green is my favorite Kinks' album because it's more ambitious than their earlier works, but still has the classic Kinks' sound that their later albums seem to lose. If you are a fan of British Rock, you will appreciate Village Green's distinct British feel.
Favorite Track: Animal Farm
13. George Harrison
- All Things Must Pass
Anyone who has listened to The Beatles' album Revolver should know that by 1966, George Harrison had already established himself as equally talented to both Lennon and McCartney in songwriting ability. It's no surprise that in 1970, the year The Beatles disbanded, Harrison released the TRIPLE album All Things Must Pass. If you wish that the Beatles had featured more Harrison, just listen to this album; your wish has been granted. Also, just look at the album cover: he's a fucking badass.
Favorite Track: Wah-Wah
12. My Bloody Valentine
Certainly one of the most innovative albums in the past 20 years, Loveless achieves original melodies in very unconventional ways. The album itself is not particularly broad in terms of different sound, but the sound it does strive for is quite consistent and should be interesting enough for an enjoyable listen.
Favorite Track: Sometimes
11. Lou Reed
I listened to Transformer before I listened to any of the Velvet Undeground, but the transition was not difficult. Lou Reed is not quite as revolutionary on this album as he was with the VU, but this is still a seminal work in music history. Transformer demonstrates Lou Reed's ability to write and succeed with nearly any subject matter.
Favorite Track: Walk on the Wild Side
10. King Crimson
This album only has 5 songs, but that's all it needed to make it into my top 10 favorite albums since I started college. Red is full of crazy twists and turns, especially on the first and last songs. This album is about as cool as they come.
Favorite Track: Red
9. Grizzly Bear
- Yellow House
Yellow House, Grizzly Bear's second album, seems to play second fiddle to their most recent album Veckatimest. When I first listened to Grizzly Bear I thought Veckatimest was clearly better, but now I give a slight edge to Yellow House. While Veckatimest seems to have greater intensity and better production, Yellow House's charm is that it's a little softer and a little more intimate. Yellow House makes you work a little bit to appreciate it's warmth.
Favorite Track: On a Neck, On a Spit
8. David Bowie
- Hunky Dory
Hunky Dory is probably my favorite Bowie album I've listened to so far. While not as experimental as his later albums, Hunky Dory succeeds because of how consistently great every track is. To put it bluntly, David Bowie is just an amazing musician who has a really interesting musical style that you can't help but admire.
Favorite Track: Life On Mars?
7. Neil Young
- On the Beach
I've been a huge fan on Neil Young for most of my life. I listened to and loved After the Gold Rush and Harvest for a while before I'd listened to On the Beach. This 1974 classic from Young might be is best accomplishment. It's difficult to compare certain albums, but On the Beach is certainly Neil digging deep into his guitar for as authentic a sound as possible. The only negative part of this album is that it only has 8 tracks (compared to 11 for After the Gold Rush).
Favorite Track: Walk On
6. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Are You Experienced
For me there has never been an individual who has the same feel for the guitar that Hendrix had. Are You Experienced shows Hendrix before his legendary performance at Woodstock, but still indicates the ridiculous ability he had for seemlessly playing the most intricate blues with no effort at all. Listen to this and get experienced.
Favorite Track: Red House
Deerhunter are my favorite band currently making music. I became an immediate fan after hearing Agoraphobia the first time, and my first experience with Microcastle was just as rewarding. Deerhunter has an uncanny ability to have smooth transitions, strong melody, and still have time to throw in quite a bit of their own twists to things. Microcastle is easily one of my favorite albums from the 2000s.
Favorite Track: Agoraphobia
My introduction to Madvilliany was prefaced by two of my friends claiming that this was the best rap album they'd ever heard. As a general rule I don't really like people to hype an album that much because my expectations aren't usually met. On this occasion, my expectations were exceeded. Madvilliany is the work of Daniel Dumile's alias MF Doom working with producer Madlib. The album also features appearances by Viktor Vaughn and Quasimoto (Dumile and Madlib's aliases, respectively). Virtually every track is a gem and there are even a few really cool instrumental tracks.
Favorite Track: Figaro
3. The Zombies
- Odessey and Oracle
Odessey and Oracle stands out as one of the best albums of the Sixties. Beautifully written and masterfully performed, this album, aside from the fact that it has a distinct Sixties feel, sounds like it could've been made yesterday. Lyrically complex and compositionally original, Odessey and Oracle represents the true genius that the Zombies possessed.
Favorite Track: Care of Cell 44
2. T. Rex
- Electric Warrior
It was a tough decision between T. Rex and The Zombies for the top 2 and 3 spots. Electric Warrior gets the nod because it's a little more upbeat and has a little more replay value. I've listened to Electric Warrior probably 50 times or more since the first time I heard it over a year ago. Along with Bowie, this album represents some excellent glam rock that is sure not to disappoint.
Favorite Track: Monolith
1. The Velvet Underground
- The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground's first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, was my original favorite (and it is definitely an awesome record), but lately their self-titled has been climbing up the ladder to replace it. My honest opinion is that there is no band I've heard that approaches The Velvet Underground's range of ability. Describing this album won't really do it justice so I won't try. Listen and enjoy.
Favorite Track: I'm Set Free