Hello everyone! St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, and as far as I know, no one has a hangover in my house, so I think it was a successful holiday. Hopefully none of y’all got pinched! Today is the day I finally start one of the projects I’ve always wanted to do, but never really had the motivation to do: listing out my all-time favorite albums (in no particular order, of course).
Ever since I can remember, music has been a very important thing in my life. Both my parents are lifelong musicians, and as a musically and artistically inclined family, there was always noise in my house. Even now, I can’t do much without having some sort of music in the background (or, lately, Game Grumps or Super Mega Cast, but when it comes to getting things done, music always makes me more productive). Over on Tumblr, I tried to make a list of my favorite albums a few years back, but I couldn’t quite get it all out the way I wanted it to. Now that I know people actually want to read what I write, I feel a little more motivated to express my admiration for the music I’ve grown up with, and the music that has gotten me through this life up until now.
There are only two requirements for this list:
These might seem like very similar requirements, but honestly, I can like an album and want to skip songs, and I can listen to an album halfway through and like it just as much. The difference is the feeling that the album gives me before, during, and after listening to it. To me, there is a huge difference between a good album and a great album. I hope that I can explain myself well enough to get that point across to you with these posts! They’re gonna be long posts, so get a snack and settle in with your phone/computer!
Read on to see my top albums, and if you enjoy reading about them, please go listen to them! You can find all of these albums on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, etc. I’ll see if I can figure out how to link Spotify to the end of each blog post so that y’all can hear what I’m talking about. I’d like to think I’m technologically savy, but I know damn well I’m not as smart with it as I want to be, so if I end up not figuring it out, go look the albums up whenever you have time! Trust me when I say it is totally worth it.
(Credit to all the info on all the albums goes to Wikipedia unless otherwise stated…you know I don’t just know this information, guys…)
Number One: “Hot Fuss”, the Killers
First on the list is an album that I’m sure you have heard at least one song from. “Hot Fuss” by the Killers came out on June 15, 2004. I was going into middle school, so I must’ve been about 11 or 12 when I first heard the album (since I was one of the younger kids in my class). I don’t remember exactly the first time I heard it, but I distinctly remember the feeling I got when I heard it. The opener, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is a song that really just gets the blood pumping. It wasn’t too different from what I had been listening to prior, but the synth, the bassline, all of it was so…uniquely energized. It made me excited to listen to it on the way to school every morning.
My dad was the one who had purchased the album, and of course, he sang along to every song even before he knew all the words. My dad and I have a lot in common, and if you know me, you know I’m loud…I get it from my dad for sure. He would sing along, singing all the wrong words, and that was 100% the reason I never knew any of the words until about a year or so later, when I listened to it on my own for the first time and actually heard what Brandon Flowers was saying. My dad likes to make up his own words to songs to this day. It used to bother me, but now I do it too…I am turning into my father!
Anyways, this album was one of my biggest reasons I picked up the bass guitar when I was in middle school. It was the reason I wanted to get more into music in general. I was more of a casual listener up to this point in my life, just listening to whatever my parents had on (which, if I’m being honest, was MUCH better than the average parent’s CD collection). I had heard music like “Hot Fuss”, but I had never heard it and really truly felt something until my dad threw it in the morning rotation.
I know everyone is probably waiting for me to talk about “Mr. Brightside”, which came from this album and is STILL the Killers’s most popular and profitable song to this day (15 years later!). But! I’m going to talk about the entire album (since this is, after all, a series on my top albums), so wait just a little bit and we’ll get into it. It IS the second song, after all.
“Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” is the first song of the album, and lemme tell ya: what a great first song. It’s got that helicopter synth opening, and then the guitar just comes IN. According to the band, this song is part two of their “Murder Trilogy,” which is pretty neat by itself. It’s definitely got a ‘whodunit’ feel to it and I’m here for it.
When I saw Brandon Flowers live a few years ago with my concert buddy Kara, he performed what I would call a ‘Wild West’-esque version of this song and I absolutely LOVED it. I can’t find it anywhere, so if anyone has that version, ya girl wants it. It made the song feel even more urgent and tense than it already is, which is not a bad thing. I love the feel of the song either way.
Okay, “Mr. Brightside” is one of the most iconic songs of my generation, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. When that song comes on in the club, EVERYONE knows it. Everyone gets excited, even the people who make fun of the people who unironically like this song. Like, if you don’t like this song, it’s fine, but we’re gonna fight about it cause it’s just…it’s it.
My dad told me one day that the line “She’s touching his chest now/He takes off her dress now” to him means that the guy is wearing the girl’s dress and she wants him to take it off, so he takes off the dress that he’s wearing, aka her dress. I was lowkey shook, and now I can’t picture the lyrics any other way but this man wearing the lady’s dress and Brandon Flowers seeing all of it. Have fun forever thinking of that when you hear the song now, people.
“Smile Like You Mean It” is a song that makes sense to me more now than it did when I heard it for the first time. It’s definitely a song that I feel like adults can appreciate more as they get older. To me, it feels like a parent talking to his children, or a friend talking to his younger, more naive friend, remembering when they were young and telling them that nothing is forever, so smile while you’re here. It creates a nostalgia in me that I can’t really describe, but I feel like it’s a song that I will keep understanding more as I get older. I also like hearing it at work on occasion, so there’s that.
“Somebody Told Me” was technically their second single from this album, but it feels like their first, and I think that has to do with the fact that most of the songs on the album are actually demos. That being said, this song slaps. It’s one of those songs that didn’t make any sense to me when I was young, I just liked it because it felt cool. Now that I understand the lyrics (100% about two people talking about their transgender ex partner, and I’m confident that I’m right about it) I like it even more cause it’s one of those plots that you’d see in a bad prime time drama or some shit. Also, the bassline is dope and I wish I could play it to speed but I can’t (I like the bass, but I am not good at playing it).
The song “All These Things That I’ve Done” is the song that’s the most similar to the Killer’s style of today. It’s got a sort of country rock feel while still being alternative, and the structure of the instrumentals (shoutout to the organ player) and Flowers’s voice is so soulful you kind of forget you’re listening to an album that is dominated by a new wave aesthetic. “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” was a controversial line as well, as far as I can remember. Of course, Lil Mary didn’t pay attention to politics, but I remember being against war in general back then so I felt that line pretty deep for someone who was literally in 6th grade.
Lemme tell ya something. I love all the songs on this album, but “Andy, You’re a Star” awoke something in my lil brain back in the day that I had never thought of: Boys can write love songs about boys? Shit’s crazy! I don’t think this song is supposed to be a love song, per se, but to me, this is a song about obsessive love and I fucking love it. At first, I read it as a girl who was in love with Andy, the dude in the song, but then on the second listen, I was like “Wait, it can be a guy singing the song…this dude loves this guy wtf”. As time went on, I slowly began to make the story in my head that the singer is obsessed with Andy, the star of the football team, and Andy got in trouble for assaulting a girl and the singer doesn’t want to believe it because to him, Andy is perfect (or “a star/In nobody’s eyes but mine”…like come on). This song is structured to be lazily sung while wine drunk and I’m so here for it.
“On Top” is another song that Lil Mary didn’t get at first, but I’m grown now, and this is a sexy song about sexy people. The drums in this song are killer, and the plucky synth is dope too. To me, this song is about two lovers who are enjoying each other’s company, but not too much! The subject of the singer’s affection wants the singer, but she’s new to the whole sexy thing while the singer “has been down across the road or two”, so to say. I really like this song cause it’s not-so-innocent, and when I was like 15 or 16, that shit was so, so relevant.
The next song, “Change Your Mind”, is a poem to me. Honestly, I still don’t really know what this song is about, but it sounds hopeful, so my loose interpretation is that a couple still loves each other, but they have to go their separate ways even though they don’t want to. It’s a very bouncy song, so I like it because of that, but the lyrics “We’re all the same/and love is blind/The sun is gone/before it shines” were juuuuuust deep enough that Teenage Edgelord Mary was 100% here for it.
I think “Believe Me Natalie” is my dad’s favorite song on this album, but don’t take my word for it cause I could be wrong. That being said, this is for sure one of my favorite songs on the album because to me, just like the one before it, it is a poem set to song. It feels like a foil to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” in the way that it opens with the soft synths and comes in with a softer feel, so if they had ended the album here it would’ve been alright (it’s okay though, there’s two more songs after this). The lyrics still aren’t clear to me 100%, but in my head, Natalie is probably like, dying or at the end of some phase in life and it’s her “last chance” to go out and do something that matters.
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I still have a lot to learn about this album! Anyways, I love “Believe Me Natalie” because it’s kind of repetitive, but in a good, mantra-type way. The way Flowers approaches this song is so unique that I don’t think it could ever be replicated by anyone if they wanted to. It’s a very “I’m your conscience talking to you and it’s Important so Listen Up” kind of way of singing that he uses more in future songs that he has perfected. Also, the way that the song ends as it begins makes it feel very rounded out, and I love that.
“Midnight Show” would also be a great last song on the album song. It’s very powerful, and super fun to rock to. It feels very musical theater, which you’ll find in most of the Killers’s songs, if we’re being honest here, but to me it’s their most theatrical song in the way the story is told/sung. The best part of the song to me is the last half, after the guitar solo. Flowers’s voice is so powerful here, you can feel that exact feeling of need and urgency in it and even when I was too young to really understand lyrics like I do now, I can tell you that I Felt That Shit.
The last song, “Everything Will Be Alright”, feels like a secret song or a song that accidentally got onto the album, but that is it’s charm and I think it’s still one of the best songs they’ve come out with. It’s almost alien compared to the rest of the album. The synth truly makes it feel out of this world. I also feel like it is a song they wrote on the spot, which is both endearing and impressive if true. Growing up, the repetitive “Everything will be alright” chorus was one of the things that got me through the Hell that was middle school (middle school is never good for anyone, let’s be real) and is still something that’s engraved in my mind to this day. Even though lots of shit has happened and is happening in life, everything in fact will be alright eventually. But that’s a deeper blogpost for a deeper day…Just know that the whimsy of this song is what keeps me coming back to this album. Going through the emotions that all these songs make me feel, whether they be intense, hopeful, thoughtful, what have you, only to get to the end to feel the happy sigh that is this song really makes a full listen through feel like it’s worth it.
“Hot Fuss” is one of those albums that you have to listen to at least once to hear how the Killers started out. It’s not too different from their future albums, but I think it has a unique sound when compared to the others.
Seeing them on their “Sam’s Town” Tour and their “Battle Born” Tour was a treat, and especially so for the former since it was one of the first concerts I’d ever been to. Whenever they play songs from this album, you can feel the energy shift slightly in the crowd. Some of the younger fans don’t react at all, but you can tell the older ones get excited hearing “Somebody Told Me” or the like for the first time in a while. And gurrl, “Mr. Brightside” live?! That energy is only matched to hearing “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt live (which was a religious experience on its own). If they go on tour anytime soon, I’d go see them again, even though I haven’t heard their newest album and only listened to “Battle Born” once before seeing them on that tour.
Thanks for reading this post! I know it’s a lot longer than it probably should be, but I’m very passionate about hitting every song and why it makes the album a great one worthy of writing about. If you want to leave me feedback (either here or on Twitter @merrinator) feel free to do so! I’m always down for constructive criticism on my writing, and I’m always down to talk about this album. Next week, I’ll hit another great album, so stay tuned!
If you want to listen to “Hot Fuss”, click here!
Number Two: “Hail to the Thief”, Radiohead
The next album on the list is one of my favorites specifically because of my father. “Hail to the Thief” is Radiohead’s 6th album, and it came out on June 10th, 2003. I’m pretty sure I was still in elementary school…I remember my dad playing it in the car for years (along with “Hot Fuss” and many, MANY others), and he even played this one in the house on mornings where it was time to clean.
I picked up on the idea that it was an album that was influenced by the political climate later on in life, when I was in high school and really learning about the War on Terror. None of the political themes came through to me mostly because I was too young to care about that, but because the lyrics are strange and sometimes make no sense, which if you’re a fan of Radiohead, you might know that that’s Thom Yorke’s MO for the majority of his songs. He writes about stuff that matters but in a way that is so abstract that it’s hard to follow sometimes.
I honestly really like that I can’t understand the lyrics sometimes with Radiohead because it makes me appreciate the music itself. This is a return to Radiohead’s style first starting out while keeping to the electronic sound they developed with the two albums prior to this that I’m familiar with, “Amnesiac” and “Kid A”. Merging the two together is something that really built the foundation to how I pick and choose what I listen to today. I love anything with a good electronic vibe.
“Hail to the Thief” is also cool because it has a main title and a sub title for every song. That was unheard of when I was a kid, and it’s still pretty unpracticed to this day. I like the creativity and storybook feel it has.
This is one of those albums that actually taught me how to sing. I used to mimic the way Justin Timberlake would sing in his N*SYNC days when I was little little, and the Spice Girls really taught me how to sing in my own voice, since I couldn’t mimic their voices as easily. “Hail to the Thief” taught me how to put the right emotion into how I sing. The way Thom Yorke sings is so emotional that I couldn’t sing along with my pop-influenced voice (although still good, I just couldn’t sound like Britney Spears while singing “Backdrifts.”).
The way the album starts, “2 + 2 = 5.” (The Lukewarm.) is kind of funny because the guitarist kind of fudges the beginning on purpose (to my knowledge, anyways,) and Yorke’s like “That’s a nice way to start, Jonny”. I’ve always taken that as a snarky comment, so if it isn’t, don’t tell me cause I like my imagination better.
The hypnotic vibe of the beginning of the song is pulsating, and as it goes, the build up is so great that it’s very satisfying to get to the end of the song. The end itself is harsh enough to leave you wanting more, which leads us into the second track of the album, “Sit Down. Stand Up.” (Snakes & Ladders.)
This song is very quiet, with lowkey scary repetitive lyrics that build up to the bridge, which is scary as hell. I love this song because it’s just creepy. It’s the musical representation of that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when they were on the boat. Y’all know what I’m talkin about.
I looked up what “Sail to the Moon.” (Brush the Cobwebs out of the Sky.) was about when I was younger and read that it was about Yorke’s son Noah, who was born around the making of this album. To me, it’s basically a lullaby in a Tim Burton movie, and I’m here for it. The lyrics are beautiful, so if you end up checking out this album after reading this, you should really listen to the lyrics on this one!
“Backdrifts.” (Honeymoon Is Over.) is one of my favorite songs of all time, which might be a list later on in life, but not anytime soon cause it’s So Hard to cut the list of my favorite songs of all time down to a reasonable amount. This is definitely one of those songs that taught me how to inject emotion into what I sing. The way Yorke belts out the chorus is so rich with raw emotion that I grew obsessed with how to get to that emotion whilst singing. Shit’s hard, but I liked singing enough to go for the mini challenge Lil Mary had come up with.
The next song, “Go to Sleep.” (Little Man being Erased). is a great classic sounding Radiohead song. It’s got that jangly acoustic guitar mixed with some electric, and even a lil crazy guitar effect at the end (one of the reasons I wish I had just stuck to my guns and studied music in college is so I could write about music with more of an educated guess as to what the “lil crazy guitar effects” were but ya know ya girl didn’t). It’s got a lil drip of political in it, which I appreciate as well.
“Where I End and You Begin.” (The Sky Is Falling In.) is another one of my favorites. My dad used to sing along to this song, harmonizing ever other time, and because of that I have to harmonize every time I hear this song now. When I hear it I think of a relationship falling apart, but I’m not sure that’s what it’s supposed to be about, especially because of the outro (“I will eat you alive/there’ll be no more lies” is kind of violent for a breakup imo). I think it’s a beautiful song though, and I love singing along to it, whether I’m harmonizing or not.
The next song I actually skipped when I was growing up if it was too late at night because it gave me nightmares, honestly. Now that I’m older I’m like “pssh whatever, it’s not scary” but I can’t end the night listening to that song, though… “We suck Young Blood.” (Your Time Is Up.) reminds me of stories about Dracula or zombies, both of which sort of freaked me out when I was a kid. Now that I’m older, I’m lowkey obsessed with vampires, and zombies are okay I guess, but I digress. When I was looking up what the actual meaning of these songs were (which I don’t usually like to do, but I did specifically because these songs are hard for me to describe), I read on genius.com that the band described it as a “slave ship tune with a free form jazz nightmare break…[which] satirizes Hollywood culture and it’s ‘constant desire to stay young and fleece people, suck their energy.’” I’d say that’s about right.
“The Gloaming.” (Softly Open our Mouths in the Cold.) is a song that could’ve been used in “Amnesiac” or “Kid A”, which I’m sure is because it might have been made during that time. Growing up, I didn’t know some artists just use old songs, remix or rerecord them, and slap them in a new album, so this song always felt like it didn’t belong on the album until I fell in love with the it as a whole. The lyrics are haunting and spoken as if a ghost were singing it, so it’s one of my go tos in October for Spooky Time. I really like how cold it makes one feel, if that makes sense.
The next song was released as the lead single of the album. Thom Yorke himself has said that it’s one of the best things they’ve ever recorded as a band. I totally agree. “There There.” (The Boney King of Nowhere.) I love the lyrics mostly because they too are spooky. They feel very helpless and evil, which I love in a good bouncy song. The drums and bassline really make this song feel good until the end, when it gets a little desperate in the way the music crashes. I really like that feeling of stress and hopelessness in a song, which might sound kinda weird for me, Everyone’s Favorite Person to Hear Laugh, but I really do! If you know me, you know I like the darker vibes of music.
Speaking of darker vibes within music, “I Will.” (No man’s Land.) is a dark ass song. Yorke wrote it after seeing news footage of a bomb shelter with children and families being destroyed during the first Gulf War (according to Wikipedia and genius.com). It’s a gorgeous song, more of a poem to me honestly, and you can really feel the anger that he felt while he was writing the song in the lyrics themselves more so than the melody. The song itself is more like a lullaby as well, which makes it feel even darker to me.
After the grief that is “I Will.”, “A Punchup at a Wedding.” (No no no no no no no no.) comes strutting into your earphones. The bassline is one of my favorite parts of the whole album because it’s so jazzy. The lyrics, on the surface, seem to in fact be about a punchup at a wedding, but it’s not so. This is one of the other songs that I looked up the meaning to when I was younger, and the lyrics actually came about after Yorke read an article about the band’s performance at Oxford. Apparently, the review was fuckin’ rude, so it made him mad (honestly, same) and this song was born. I love a good “fuck you” song.
“Myxomatosis.” (Judge, Jury, & Executioner.) is another song on that same vibe, but more abstract. Apparently the song is about the band’s relationship with the media, but until I read that during my research, I didn’t know what the hell the song was about. I think the confusion came from Lil Mary thinking the first line of the song was “the momma cat came home” instead of “the mongrel cat came home”…Momma cat came home with food, nice! Sike, it’s a song about getting fuckin killed or some shit. That’s what it sounded like to Lil Mary, anyways. The heavy instrumentals and the driving guitar riff really make it feel intense, though, and that’s why I never skipped it growing up.
“Scatterbrain.” (As Dead as Leaves.) is another beautiful song on this album. It’s very floaty and dreamlike, with a jarring bridge that kind of takes you out of the dream with the vocal skips and such. I like the reality check this song gives me in that sense. I literally never knew what the lyrics were until just now, when I decided to look them up. He’s singing about wind at first, but the second verse he’s talking about some weird shit. I guess that’s Radiohead for ya. This song is good, don’t let me confuse you guys! I just…never knew what it meant, I just liked the instrumental a lot.
The last song on the album, “A Wolf at the Door.” (It Girl. Rag Doll.) is fuckin scary too. When I was a kid I’d have to skip this one too! It’s definitely a spooky song. I like it now because it’s very monotone in the vocals, but the instrumentals are very haunting and kind of add a scare factor to the song, so I like it a lot. I’m trynna tell y’all, I like the lowkey scary dark songs!
During my research of this album, I found out that the band actually doesn’t like this album too much. They think it has too many songs and it’s not fully done. I disagree. I think it’s a great album because it’s long and feels like unpolished artwork, which makes it imperfectly perfect in my opinion. When I hear it I’m reminded of how my music taste and way of approaching singing were formed by it, along with many other songs and albums, and it makes me happy. I usually listen to it during the fall/early winter because of the dark vibe, so I definitely suggest a good sit down and full listen once the leaves start turning again.
In the meantime, go listen to it if you’ve never heard it before! This album is really hard to describe to me, but I’ve been wanting to write about it for years because I think it’s an album one should listen to at least once. It’s got all sorts of emotion, much of it on the sad side, but even if you’re not into the gloomy side of music I think one could appreciate this album based on the quality. Although the band doesn’t like the final outcome of HTTT, I believe that the quality of the imperfect style is what makes the album one that I keep coming back to year after year.
Thanks for reading this post! I hope that this is cohesive enough to understand. Like I’ve been saying, this album is hard to describe, but great none the less. If you want to leave me feed back or talk about this album (or any, really, I’m always open to new music) you can either on here or Twitter (@merrinator). Next week, I might have another album talk, I might not…either way, it’ll be on time hopefully! In two weeks, my husband Matt and I are seeing one of our favorite bands, so I might wait until after the start of April to talk about the next album so I can talk about how they sound live. Either way, I’ll talk your eyes off next week!
If you want to listen to “Hail to the Thief”, click here!