Clearly I’m a glutton for punishment, but after seeing the following Tweet from Duncan Epping, I just had to sit down and make a decent list of my favorite albums of all time.
I started out by just writing down a list of albums I knew had to be on the list, but after a while, that list was quickly heading towards the mid-thirties, or even early forties. Coincidentally just like myself.
30 or 40 is a little bit more than 10, and that’s just what came popping out from the top of my head. I had to narrow it down somehow. My next step was to have a look at my last.fm profile, after all I’ve scrobbled more than 76k songs there, but that didn’t really help narrow it down much either. Sure, I can see which albums I’ve played the most, but are those the best albums? Is that a proper way of gauging which albums I love the most?
Not really, the problem is this;
To me, music is different things at different times. Some times I actively listen, some times it’s just background noise and some times it’s the soundtrack of my life. And some times, music is just music — and nothing more.
The statistics that last.fm generates are interesting, but they don’t really say which albums I enjoy the most, nor do they take into account everything I play on good old fashioned vinyl — And yes, I love the sound of vinyl.
In order to narrow it down further, I decided to make a list of the top 10 albums I love actively listening to. By this I mean albums I listen to with the intent to listen, with focus and intensity, without paying attention to anything else. Of course, I could, and probably should, have limited it to genre or even a specific timeframe, but why make it easy, eh?
I also limited myself to one album from one band/artist, which made it even harder. There are a couple of bands here that would otherwise get two entries.
Anyway, here it is.
The definitive guide to my My Personal Top 10 Albums of All Time.
10. Tool — Ænima
Pretty obscure at times, complex and completely unique. Tool is one of those bands you either hate, or love. I’m in the second category, and Ænima is their best album to date.
9. Stone Temple Pilots — Core
Mostly famous for having their best known track Plush on it, this is a feast of an album. Fun fact, they got voted Best New Band and Worst New Band by Rolling Stone’s readers in 1994.
8. Death Cab for Cutie — Plans
This is probably the wildcard in the list. More of a pop album than the rest of the list, but I simply love it. The lyrics, the emotions and the soundscape is just right. It’s smooth, but edgy. It’s mellow, but still raw.
7. Alice in Chains — Jar of Flies/Sap
Haunting, depressing, and absolutely beautiful. This double EP has been with me since it came out in 1994, and it’s withstood the test of time just perfectly.
6. Mad Season — Above
Mad Season, a Seattle “supergroup” was a short-lived experiment, but the album they made was not. Layne Stayley’s vocals, and Mike McCready’s guitar makes this a true masterpiece. It’s not Alice in Chains, it’s not Pearl Jam or The Screaming Trees, it’s Mad Season.
5. Pearl Jam — Vitalogy
Here it is. The album made me drop three places down on Duncan’s “people who get good music list”, and the reason I sat down and wrote this list at all. Before I thought this through, Vitalogy might have been placed at #1 on my list, but the truth is that I was never a huge Pearl Jam fan in my youth. Pearl Jam is one of those bands who has grown on me as I get older, and Vitalogy has grown the most. These days I do listen a lot to Pearl Jam, and I’ve even seen them live on several occasions. If this was a list of my favourite bands, well, Pearl Jam would definitely rank higher than 5th. Highlights of this album include Spin the Black Circle, Immortality and Corduroy.
4. Radiohead — The Bends
Radiohead has released some great albums, but for me The Bends stand out. It was never a chart success, not that I care an iota about that, but on some personal level this album speaks to me.
Any album that includes a song like Fake Plastic Trees belongs on a list like this, and when you add Street Spirit (Fade Out) to it, well, it’s a given. Radiohead’s world is a strange place, but it’s a place I feel like I belong in.
3. Dinosaur Jr. — Dinosaur
Again, another “moment”. This album was released in 1985, but I discovered it in 1994. And what a discovery that turned out to be. Ever since the first time I heard Dinosaur, Dinosaur Jr. has been a staple in my musical references. J Mascis voice, and the sound of that guitar is simply earth shattering. It’s noisy. It’s awkward, and it’s sonically weird. I understand why a lot of people don’t really ”get” Dinosaur Jr, but personally, they hit me right where it matters — in the feels. The definite highlights of the album are Forget the Swan, The Leper and Repulsion.
2. Nirvana — Nevermind
Much like Dark Side of The Moon, Nirvana’s Nevermind changed music for me personally. Released in 1991, when I was 14 years old, this album made a lasting impact on my musical preferences to this day. It just hit me, and has stayed with me ever since. I’m probably one of those old farts who seem to cling to the music they listened to in their teens for dear life, perhaps in a vain attempt to stay young as long as possible. Regardless of the reasons why, this album is so pivotal that it almost got the number one spot on this list, and that says a lot. Highlights? Yes, absolutely: On a Plain, Come as You Are and Something in the Way.
1. Pink Floyd — Dark Side of the Moon.
My first real musical love was without doubt Pink Floyd.
I still vividly remember the first time I really listened to Dark Side of the Moon, with an old Sennheiser HD420 headset on, complete with bright yellow foam ear-pads, only focusing on the music and nothing else. I must have been about twelve years at the time, and it completely transformed my view of what music could be. I remember closing my eyes, and just disappearing into the images painted by the music. I had no idea music could be that transformative, personal and at the same time so incredibly present. Hightlights of the album? The entire thing. I can’t really just play one song from this masterpiece, it’s all or nothing. Mostly all.
And there it is. My top 10 list. At least that’s what it looks like today, if I had written this next week, it might be different. Or not. I’m surprised that there isn’t a Foo Fighters album on this list, and I feel kinda guilty about it. Nor is there any Norwegian albums, even if there are a ton of great ones. This has been a mental exercise to get done, it’s surprisingly hard to make such a list. At least it was for me.
Music is one of those things that just keep surprising you, once you start thinking about it and actively listen.
Do people still do that, or is music just background noise for most people these days?