About 8 years ago I made a list with a few of my friends of my top 20 favorite albums. I was curious to see how different the list would be if I made it today, as I believe my tastes have changed (and hopefully matured) since then. While there definitely is some overlap, there are a lot of new albums that I now consider favorites that either never heard of 8 years ago or didn’t exist.
Below is my original list, complete on 9/12/08. Note that these are in no particular order:
- Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation
- Suicide Machines – Destruction By Definition
- Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary
- Weezer – Blue Album
- Brand New – Deja Entendu
- Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
- Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
- Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends
- Method Man and Redman – Blackout
- Say Anything – Is a Real Boy
- The Loved Ones – Keep Your Heart
- Gym Class Heroes – The Papercut Chronicles
- Mad Caddies – Just One More
- Vandals – Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
- Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
- Lagwagon – Blaze
- Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
- Bad Astronaut – Houston, We Have A Drinking Problem
- Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview
Mostly a mix of punk, emo and ska, with some hip hop and a few “alternative” artists thrown in the mix (Weezer, RHCP, Muse). There is a lot of spillover from my high school and college years, of which some I had to drop for the new list as they simply don’t resonate with me as much.
And now for the updated list. Overlaps are bolded, and are also the first 9 albums on the list. I hope this shows a growth an maturity in my musical taste.
Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This is one of my favorite punk albums of all time, and encapsulates (both in sound and album title) my introduction into this genre, as it was released in 2001, my first Warped Tour experience. Still holds up today and I don’t think they’ve put out a better album since (although there are some close contenders).
Favorite Track – Gone
Suicide Machines – Destruction By Definition
So I found out a month or so ago that they did a reunion tour last year in which they played this entire album, and had Derek Grant (original drummer of Suicide Machines and current drummer of Alkaline Trio) play with them. No idea how I missed this, but I was upset to say the least. Anyway, this is the perfect punk/ska/hardcore album in my opinion. It’s filled with melodies, catchy hooks, and even horns, but doesn’t lose it’s edge. 20 years old and still gets a spin every few months.
Favorite Track – Hey
Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary
I would consider Alkaline Trio to be my favorite band during at least one point in my life. I’ve seen them numerous times and actually met them during a random electronics show in LA during college and felt like I almost died. This album is polished but raw, melodic but heavy, and one of my favorite punk albums of all time. I still can’t believe Matt Skiba is currently a member of Blink 182, so proud of that guy.
Favorite Track – Bloodied Up
Weezer – The Blue Album
Weezer to me will really always only be the Blue Album. This was the first band I noticed that were nerds, and not afraid to show it. I know that’s not innovative for music or even for that time, but to me it was revolutionary. Here were 4 skinny white guys who weren’t ashamed of it, and maybe they aspired to be rock stars, but they didn’t care about not being cool, and at a time in my life where that seemed like all anyone cared about, it was a breathe of fresh air. Still their best album. I know Pinkerton is also a big favorite, and I love that one as well (I actually bought it the day it came out), but 20 years later the Blue Album still wins.
Favorite Track – Say It Ain’t So
Brand New – Deja Entendu
I knew I had to have a Brand New record on here, and was debating which one to include. It really came down to Deja and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and while I feel the latter is an amazing album, it doesn’t have the replay value and personal connection that Deja has. This was the first time we saw a pop-punk/emo band mature, and move away from their original sound while still slightly maintaining it, and ultimately all leading to good things. When you put on Devil and God or Daisy and then throw it back to Your Favorite Weapon, it’s hard to believe it’s the same band. Deja bridges the gap, and shows us how it’s possible simply to like a band as a whole, not necessarily a specific sound or type of song.
Favorite Track – Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t
Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit
While this album ultimately is about California (and I had to blast while passing through Santa Monica last time I was there), for me it was all about New York. I got into this album after visiting my friend in Hoboken for a weekend a few months after college. 2 months later I was living there myself. The funny thing is, we were in New Jersey for most of the weekend, but I knew I wanted to live in New York City, I could just feel it. And I basically made that decision while listening to Everything in Transit on my Amtrak ride back home. 10 years later and it’s still one of the best decisions of my life.
Favorite Track – I’m Ready
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
I was always a fan of this album, and the Chili Peppers in general, but didn’t really appreciate the album as a whole until much later in life, years after college. I just feel it was so advanced for its time (it came out in 1991). A great mix of rock, pop, punk, and funk, with monster hits (“Give it Away”) and amazing ballads (“Breaking the Girl”), and still doesn’t get old or dull at 17 tracks.
Favorite Track – Under the Bridge
Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends
This is the ultimate emo/screamo album from this era. Many would agree with me, and some say this isn’t even real emo, but I’m counting it. I was about 19 when I first got into this album which honestly was perfect timing (could have even been a few years earlier). Is it a great rock album that will stand the test of time? Absolutely not. But it is great for anyone going through a breakup, or is upset about something, or just has some angst and want to sing along to every word while driving in your car.
Favorite Track – Bike Scene
Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
Probably my favorite hip hop album of all time (with Method Man and Redman’s Blackout! a close second). This feels like something that came out of the late 80’s or early 90’s, but has a modern appeal to it. Amazing beats, great choruses, easy to sing along to, and lyrics that all intertwine between fun, catchy, political, and culturally significant. These guys never got the respect they deserved, and I thought would have been more in company with The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, etc.
Favorite Track – Monkey Bars
The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
Definitely my favorite Gaslight album, and quite possibly my current favorite of all time, or at least in the top 3. I remember reading on various punk forums about these guys and their second album, and one day I all of a sudden just got it. While I definitely didn’t like them from the beginning, this is a band that I have followed since 2008, and closely at that, including various Brian Fallon side projects (see additional albums on this list). They are the answer to the question of my favorite band, and a confident answer at that. I was debating putting another one of their records on here as well (Handwritten to be specific), but ’59 Sound is it for me. Every track flows into the next, and is the perfect mix of punk rock and americana. “Great Expectations” might be one of my favorite opening tracks of all time, and “Here’s Looking at You Kid” into “The Backseat” is the absolute perfect way to conclude an album. The other day my girlfriend and I were at a boutique shop in our neighborhood and stayed an extra half hour once I realized they were playing this album in entirety. They could do the whole 10 year album reunion tour in a few years which would be awesome, but honestly I’ve heard every track performed live at least once. This is one I don’t see ever being removed from this list.
Favorite Track – The Backseat
Brian Fallon and the Crowes – Painkillers
The newest album on my list, by a few years at that. So while I haven’t had nearly as much time with this as most of these other records, I still think Fallon’s solo debut album is fantastic. There’s not a bad track on here, and I can easily listen to this from start to finish, multiple times. I hope this will also be on my top list for years to come.
Favorite Track: Red Lights
The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
These guys are what I consider the next wave of punk, which is more in line to what I listen to now. Them, along with bands like Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus, Japandroids (all on this list, btw), as well as Modern Baseball and the Front Bottoms, contain a lot of the punk/pop punk sensibilities of my younger years but add a bit of growth and maturity more akin to what I am interested in now. On The Impossible Past is another buzzed about album that also lives up to the hype. Full of angst and emotion, and definitely more punk than rock, this makes me feel like being 18 again but at the same time knowing I’m not and accepting that.
Favorite Track: Freedom Bridge
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
The ultimate modern punk concept record. I still don’t fully know the entire story, but has a Civil War era backdrop and involves someone moving from New Jersey to New England and dealing with how life is treating him. Multiple sing-alongs, 7 and 12 minute tracks, strings and accordions, this is Titus’ magnum opus for sure, even though their latest release is just about as ambitious, if not more so.
Favorite Track – Four Score and Seven
Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street
This is the first “classic rock” album that snuck into my list. This is a genre that I become more and more interested in as I age, discovering older bands and artists that I never had much of an appreciation for (e.g. The Replacements, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke). The magazine that is named after this band destroyed this album in their initial review, and pulled a 180 to put in in their top 10 albums of all time in 2003. The story behind the recording of this sounds like a nightmare, and you would think it was going to be a random assortment of Stones experimentation. And it is in a way, but it flows so damn well.
Favorite Track – Shine a Light
Fun – Aim and Ignite
Before these guys became a band my parents love, they released Aim and Ignite, which is more of a sequel to The Format’s Dog Problems, Nate Reuss’s first band. Aside from Nate’s amazing voice and ability to craft impeccable pop melodies, this album is all about the instrumentation. You can hear everything in there, horns, strings, additional percussion, even a backing chorus. As amazing as Some Nights is, Aim and Ignite will always be my favorite of the two.
Favorite Track – Barlights
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Another buzz record. Although they are currently on tour and playing new songs, this is their latest proper release. Clocking in with 8 tracks and about 30 minutes in length, it feels a lot longer than it actually is. It also feels a lot bigger than it is. Just drums, vocals, and guitars, the band’s goal was to make those limited instruments sound like a full band, and it works. They’re moving forward while not letting go of the past, with lyrics that, for lack of a better phrase, are really going for it. It’s been said that most of them could be perfect high school yearbook quotes, if kids in high schools nowadays even know about them. I cannot wait for their next release and to catch them live again.
Favorite Track – Fire’s Highway
Mariachi El Bronx – II
Who would ever thought a hardcore punk band would decide to create a mariachi side project, and actually be good at it? When I first heard about this idea, I, like most people I would imagine, thought it was a joke. And maybe it was at first. Then I started listening to their second album, and got hooked. Now I will admit I am not very well versed in mariachi music, and not sure if purists would think that a punk band from LA trying to make this type of music would be respected, but for me this works. And it’s amazing to see how loyal Bronx fans like this project as well. A fun album you can listen to all the way through and completely different from anything else on this list.
Favorite Track – Revolution Girls
The Raconteurs- Consolers of the Lonely
The first Jack White project I really got into. It’s a perfect mix of rock and folk, still packs a punch but can use acoustic guitars. And I love the vocal sharing of White and Brendan Benson. I hope these guys reunite again and perform some live shows, as my only exposure in person was during Jack White’s solo tour.
Favorite Track – Rick Kid Blues
The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Brian Fallon’s first proper side project, which kind of morphed into Brian Fallon and the Crowes. Not sure if this project will see another release and/or tour, but this album shows a bit of the darker side of Fallon, with some songs that one could argue are Gaslight B-Sides, but overall the album has a feel of its own. Less punk than Gaslight and less folk than his solo work, these are dark, emotional songs where you can really feel what Fallon is talking about. Also, “Blood Loss” might be one of the best tracks he’s ever written. Another highlight is the opening of a beer can right before the bridge of “Ladykiller.” I’m very, very biased towards this man and believe he can do no wrong.
Favorite Track – Blood Loss
The Get Up Kids – Live at the Granada Theater
Not sure if a live/greatest hits album should count, but it’s my list so whatever. Not only does this showcase the bands best collection of songs (in my opinion), some of the live versions I think are better than the originals (“Don’t Hate Me,” “Mass Pike”). Call them third wave emo pioneers or whatever you want, but these guys put on a great live show. I caught them around the time this album was released (during their farewell tour), and it’s still one of my favorite shows of all time (as others might agree as well)
Favorite Track – Don’t Hate Me