I've always felt as if I'm missing out on something when it comes to music. I feel like I was late to the game, and I'm still catching up. I'm certain I didn't really know anything at all about music until I was in high school and even though there are songs from before then that will bring back memories - good and bad - I couldn't name them. Even well into high school I don't think my interest in being a music fan had reached tipping point and my music taste certainly hadn't matured to a point where I could be proud of it. Part way through senior I was starting to get the hang of it, but by then I'd missed so much music of my own time that it hurts to think about it, and I still had to catch up on all of history1.
Without further ado, here they are - in no particular order2:
Which Ween album to include was a real toss up. Gene (Aaron Freeman) and Dean (Mickey Melchiondo) make some crazy music, and each album has both highlights and moments of boredom, but the variety and experimentation truly make up for any boring bits. In the end I choose Chocolate and Cheese mostly because of the Ween albums I like most, its the oldest so it gives me more Ween loving cred. Also it has boobs on the cover.
I discovered Daisies, and the Eels in general, about 2000 when Mr. E's Beautiful Blues was on high rotation on Triple J. I must have come to school listening to it at least a quarter of the school days that year. By this time my music taste was starting to mature, and I was fairly certain I could never actually have a favourite band because I liked such a wide variety of music (and in some ways I still feel that way). However, over the next couple of years - and albums discovered - the Eels took that mantle.
- Mr. E's Beautiful Blues
- I like birds
- Tiger in my tank
Eels (with strings) - Live at Town Hall
This album makes me deeply sad I'm not a New Yorker because, then being there might have been a possibility. It's a live album recorded at a one off concert performed at New York's Town Hall. They were accompanied by four strings artists playing various percussion parts, two violins, one viola, one cello and one vibrator. This is essentially a 'best of' album but better. There's no doubt in my mind that this brought Mark Oliver Everett's music to its glorious best. I can only hope that he manages to top it. There's also a DVD of the concert. I don't even know where to start with highlights on this one. There are only about three tracks I'd even consider leaving out of the highlights list.
Although I knew many of the songs, I didn't really discover this album until about 2001 when I discovered it in my Aunty and Uncle's collection and gave it a spin. One of my earliest memories is of my mother (kind of annoyingly) singing Morning Has Broken on a fairly regular basis. I've kept the list of highlights on this album to one, but I could easily have listed six or seven as genuine highlights. This is my hippy blood shining through.
- Morning Has Broken
A 36 track epic double album (and his only album to date), this really is a masterpiece. If you take music as a window into the moral character of the artists who write and perform it, then Cody ChesnuTT is close enough to being the antithesis of Cat Stevens. It's rude, egotastic and off-the-scale misogynistic, but damn is it good music. I think I discovered this through the Js again. Look Good in Leather was on high roatation some time about 2001/2 I think, and I bought the album based on that one song.
- The World Is Coming To My Party
- Somebody's Parent
- Look Good in Leather
- 6 Seconds
Yet again, I more than likely discovered these guys through JJJ, and it was probably 16 Military Wives that piqued my interest. Fairly folksy and at times moving strongly into the surprisingly robust category of the modern sea shanty, this music isn't going to be for everyone. What keeps me coming back to this album is the story telling. 16 Military Wives is a poetic, if somewhat obvious, political comment which I wholeheartedly agree with and like hearing. The storyline in the Mariner's Revenge Song feels like it could be a classic. Mariner's Revenge is also the closest you'll get to a title track on this album. If you don't know what picaresque means, you should look it up. Great word.
- 16 Military Wives
- Mariner's Revenge Song
I know, I know, another best of. Well, that's just the way it is. This is my highschool punk rock band of choice. I clearly remember hanging around outside some dance music stage at Livid one year (turns out it was 2000 on investigation) and convincing Aidan we should head over to the main stage to catch Green Day. About 20 meters from the entrance to the main stage area I heard the start of Hitchin' a Ride, turned to Aidan and gave some no doubt stupid indication of how excited I was and promptly lost him in the crowd while making my way, unstoppably, to the front. I managed to find him about an hour later not far from where I left him and, as I remember it, having spent the time buying a drink for some random girl no doubt hoping for some kind of tongue action. And here I find myself at number seven with at least six more albums on my short list. Bummer.
- When I Come Around
- Hitchin' A Ride
- Good Riddance (unfortunately this is border line cliché)
This album is on the list for two reasons. First, I think it probably deserves to be, and second it's here representing all the Beatles albums that should be on the list but I don't know well enough. The only Beatles album I know really well is Sgt. Pepper's, which I like a great deal (and upon further reflection, maybe should be taking this album's spot in the top ten). Unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to put it on the list ahead of the others I don't know well enough.
- Stand By Me
Well, thank fuck there's finally some Australian music in the list. This album seems to be fairly widely considered a masterpiece of the electronic music genre, and so it should be. As far as I'm aware, it was created exclusively from samples. It has an energetic flow that's difficult to describe. There's enough depth in most of the tracks to keep you interested if you want to listen intently, and at the same time you could probably have it playing for hours in the background of a good conversation and not really notice it. The conversation would have to be good though, or you'd no doubt end up wanting to listen intently.
- Frontier Psychiatrist
I remain unsure that some of the albums I've selected for this top ten really deserve their slot. They're all albums I love, there's no question of that. However the title 'top albums of all time' makes me feel that unless love for the album has a real depth - like the Eels albums - each album selected should define a critical moment in the history of music, and most of mine probably don't. This album is one that I feel can't be denied it's spot. I love it, and feel as though it really has made a permanent mark on the history of music.
- Seven Nation Army (obviously)
- Well it's True That We Love One Another
There are some things I think are unfortunately missing from this list, and over time, could easily become glaring omissions. I fully expect to be embarrassed by some of my choices once I unpack my still boxed CD collection, and once the passing of time has provided more clarity. Some of the things I think are missing (and possibly mistakenly so) are as follows. Australian music, notably Powderfinger and (early) Silverchair. The Shins. Somehow the Decemberists edged them out of the list, but Shutes Too Narrow should be there. Anything from the 80s. Queen. Muse. I never really understood Muse until seeing them live last year. They blew me away. But, alas, I am yet to listen to a whole muse album so I couldn't select one for this list. I fully expect they would be on this list a year or so from now.
- Part of this I'm going to blame on my growing up where only there was very little radio reception. The only even vaguely music oriented station I got listenable reception for was, the banal and poppy B105. [↩]
- For anyone reading this who isn't in the know. I spent a glorious three weeks over the Christmas-New Year period of 2008 in a small Italian town called Pitigliano. The desire to compile this list came from some great conversation had with some great friends during that time. [↩]