My Top 15 Albums (1995–2014)

Honorable mention:
1. Gillian Hills (never put out an album, only singles and an EP) — british girl who only sang in french, very yè-yè, very 60's. VERY specific aesthetic, loungy and reasonably campy. Be sure to drive a convertible or shower with your significant other with the song ‘Près de la Cascade’ playing. Additionally, this work is great for a transatlantic crossing and obviously, fucking around near the French Riviera.

Top 15:
15. Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)— Out Of The Blue: Always a favorite, I kind of grew up on this album, asking my parents to put in the ‘yellow tape’ on long drives to a vineyard that the late king of Saudi Arabia gifted them in the early 2000's. Great for the aforementioned and impressing your Fairfax County uncle who thought ELO and the Bee-Gee’s were the same band.

14. David Gray — White Ladder: Another from my early years, I didn’t like this album too much as an 8 year old child, actually very much hated it because it was so sad and dark and I lived in the countryside in a big dark semi-unfurnished house… the whole period of my life was dim and unfortunate (Think Ms. Havisham from ‘Great Expectations’), but upon a recent listen, i have a renewed love for it. I’m almost nostalgic for that misery… good if you have an 8 year old who is not convinced love and romance is meaningless and likely to leave you depressed.

13. Ponytail — Do Whatever You Want All The Time: both tremendously disruptive and totally minimal, DWYWATT is an album I can both dwell on and rock out to. Truly, freak out your roommates by bursting in the door with ‘Beg Waves’ blasting through your Apple earphones. Good for dancing by yourself. Try playing the first 30 seconds of any Ponytail song for your father to ‘give him an idea of where you are in life’.

12. Dixie Chicks — Fly: I’m usually intolerant to country music, but it’s impossible to skip any song on this album. many memories with this one. ‘Sin Wagon’ and ‘Hole In My Head’ both are incredibly intense and could be regarded as feminist anthems.

11. Cults- Cults: introspective and triumpant, ‘Cults’ feels sunny and bright, but deals with problems I only wish I had. Good for impressing your friends that are indie only in name, not in practice.

10. Friends — Manifest!: Samantha Urbani is one of the smartest chicks in indie music and made this one-off gem of an album. Both bass and percussion heavy, it’s an easy listen. A danceable listen. Irritating to a lot of my friends only because they don’t understand tasteful reverb. Good for listening at the beach or aboard a kayak. Not recommended for sitting in traffic.

9. Braids — Native Speaker: If this album was a room, it’d be tall and big and white and pure. If this album was a conversation, it’d be one with surprise and anger and eventual satisfaction. Good for when it’s 3 am and you’re online, reading about how to get through the boarder crossing at the Gaza Strip, looking at Google Streetviews of Enya’s house or, perhaps simultaneously, mentally addressing the reality that you will die some day.

8. Real Estate — Real Estate: The album that soundtracked the summers on the New England coast and on the water. Lazy guitar, meandering percussion and lyrics discussing petty issues (one song is about losing a Rolex in the sand), its music that you can snooze to, but with the occasional triumphant swell, will wake you up. Good for real sailing, no Maltese-Falcon shit. Good for drives in the following automobiles: 1990 BMW 325i, 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E, 2001 VW Cabrio.

7. Tennis — Cape Dory: two musicians buy a boat and sail around the atlantic coast of America. This album is the result. Play on a sunny day only.

6. Wavves — Wavves: lo-fi and beachy and rude, this album is my favorite of all the wavves albums (runner-ups being ‘king of the beach’ and ‘wavvves’, respectively). this album basically guided me, for better or for worse, during my sophomore year of high school. In 2010 Wavves went all mainstreamy with the ‘king of the beach’ album. Technically it was some of the best new music of 2010 it was totally different than the original wavves albums because it took advantage of an actual recording studio, instead of a basement. it was a giant bitch slap to all the original wavves lovers, but the album was equally addicting as the others, for original wavves’ fans and ‘pseudofans’ alike, pseudofans being people that only listened to “wavves fake shit” [via original wavves fan].

5. tUnE-yArDs — w h o k i l l: Listened to this relentlessly while spending a month on the Chesapeake bay, riding my bike to and from Annapolis.

4. Vampire Weekend — Contra: in these top few, I really had to choose my very favorite album, despite liking the artist or band’s entire body of work. I most closely associate with this particular Vampire Weekend album for its lyrics, literally living out the story of ‘Diplomat’s Son’ on at least four different occasions. it was my first introduction to VW (Taxi Cab was the very first — heard on Last.fm in 2010), and has left a lasting impression on my very personality.

3. M.I.A. — Kala: M.I.A. can really do no wrong, and her music is thoroughly modern, but ‘Kala’ has stood the test of time the best. With lyrics still relevant and relatively controversial and beats that go just hard enough, Kala is M.I.A.’s magnum opus. (but ‘vikki leekx’ is VERY close behind). Nice one to bump up a party. And, dammit, who on earth doesn’t like ‘Paper Planes’?

2. Henry Mancini — ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ soundtrack: see below

1. Fantasea — Azealia Banks — (1 & 2) both of these albums soundtracked wild parties, groggy morning drives to school, late night drives from work, fancy evenings in the city and criminal evenings i had piles of homework (or that one time I did my entire Cooper Union application in one night). Fantasea with the only thing i listened to when I worked at google ventures. literally. Breakfast at tiffany’s was my go-to movie and album (though invictus is creeping up there, olé). Both enriched bike rides and 5k runs, beachside relaxing or a jacuzzi soak. These albums are totally different yet they are playable in almost every situation, and every song have some story associated with them. these albums made me feel powerful, handsome, sophisticated, restrained (Mancini), uninhibited (Banks). Truly context-centric works that have the ability to bend with the environment, they fall back and simply complete the scene, adding the final detail that makes a moment a memory.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Benjamin Schmidt’s story.