Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top Ten Albums

Two friends of mine recently did Facebook posts of their top ten albums that have affected their lives in major ways, and you know what, I took it as a challenge to compile my own list. And then I found out that it is OMG SO HARD to do this, since 1) I'm not really a huge music nerd, 2) I tend to stick with single songs as opposed to whole albums, and 3) I am horrible about making top whatever lists.

But here you go: Juju's Top Ten Albums, in no particular order.

1) Third Eye Blind - "Third Eye Blind"
This is one of those albums that I will listen to the whole way through, over and over again. It came out when I was in seventh grade and I remember just feeling so connected to the songs. I mean, I obviously didn't get any of the drug references, of which there were plenty (I was fourteen, you guys; give me a break), but there was this sense of raw anger and frustration and angst and loss that made sense to me. I don't really connect with that any longer, since I'm almost twenty years removed (WHAT??) from the extreme hormonal imbalances that affect every young teenager, but it holds a special place in my heart. And when I become famous, I will definitely find some way to use "God of Wine," "The Background," or "Motorcycle Drive-By" in a soundtrack.

2) Bruce Springsteen - "Nebraska"
I actually just discovered this album, since I'm not really that huge a Springsteen fan. (Well, that's not true, anymore. As I started listening to "Nebraska," I began my own research into Springsteen's career and found that, ha, some of his biggest hits came of his worst, most commercialized album.) It's kind of like a concept album in a way, and it's incredibly dark and bleak, but it's one of the most honest things I've ever listened to. In a time where we're listening to songs about wealth and partying all the time, it's strangely refreshing to hear something about the struggles of ordinary people.

3) Radiohead - "The Bends"
Yet another nostalgia trip for me, but whatever: "The Bends" is such a great album. For me, it's the most accessible thing Radiohead ever did. Sure, I enjoy their other albums, although I'm definitely on Thom Yorke's side on the "Creep" hate. Ugh.

4) Ani Difranco - "Not a Pretty Girl"
This was my introduction to Ani Difranco when I was in high school, and I fell in love with her musicianship with the opening guitar of the first track, "Worthy." I loved how unpolished it was, reminiscent of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill," where Difranco wasn't worried about absolute perfection. The artistry was in the mistakes and slight scratchiness on the strings. She wasn't trying to be anything other than herself, and I appreciated that. The titular song really sold me since it just screamed "Juju, this song is about you!" at me, and that hasn't really changed.

5) Alice In Chains - "Unplugged"
Back when MTV was, like, good and shit, the Unplugged series was pretty amazing, but Alice In Chains was by far the absolute best. Seeing and hearing Layne Staley after such a long absence was such a wonderful (and at the same time, painful) experience. "Nutshell," which is my favorite AIC song, was just so beautifully done and actually made me cry when I saw it. See, now I wanna go watch this again.

6) Poe - "Haunted"
If you haven't listened to this album, stop what you are doing, go to Spotify, YouTube, whatever, it doesn't matter. Listen to the whole thing. This was a concept album that Poe did with her brother, author Mark Danielewski. Well, kind of. "Haunted" was based around a bunch of audio cassettes she found with recordings of her father's voice, but she also tied in her brother's book, House of Leaves, into the album, too. You can experience each song separately, of course, but it's best taken at one time, from "Exploration B" all the way to "If You Were Here." Her voice is magical, the lyrics are witty and heartbreaking, the music is (appropriately) haunting. It's as close to a perfect album as I think you can get.

7) "Macross Plus" Soundtrack
This one isn't as well known by the general public, but I suggest everyone check it out as soon as possible. Yoko Kanno, who did the music for "Cowboy Bebop" (which I almost used in this list), is just phenomenal. I actually cried when the CDs I owned were cracked, I didn't have enough money to buy them again, and the albums weren't on iTunes. I still have yet to purchase them again (there are two) and listen to the songs on YouTube, but eventually, I will again hear Sharon Apple's "Idol Talk" in my car.

8) "Star Wars" Trilogy Soundtracks
Okay, I'm putting these three soundtracks into one long albums because this is my damned list and I do what I want. "Star Wars" has been such a huge part of my life, both as creative inspiration and just unadulterated fun, that it would be wrong of me not to include it on this list. I mean, I have the tracks memorized and synced up to the movies, to where I don't even need to have the movie playing to know what's going on. I don't know if that's sad or awesome, but I choose the latter over the former.

9) Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra - "Theatre Is Evil"
Say what you will about Amanda Palmer. Yes, she can be obnoxious and pretentious and dismissive and yet is somehow married to Neil Gaiman (??), but dammit, this album is excellent. I love her confidence, her experimental approaches to lyrics and musical themes, etc. It's not Dresden Dolls (thank GOD) and she's shown a lot of artistic growth since 2008's "Who Killed Amanda Palmer."

10) "Mass Effect" Series Soundtracks
I know, I know, another compilation of several soundtracks (there are, right now ... at least six?), but I don't care. I listen to at least one song from one of these once a day. I'm not kidding. I will just put my ME playlist on shuffle and go. My only gripe is with the ME3 soundtrack, where Clint Mansell, an amazing composer in his own right, got a ton of publicity for writing a whole two songs, while the smaller names developed the rest, and although Clint's additions ("Leaving Earth" and "An End, Once and For All") were spectacular, there were only two. Sam Hulick, Cris Velasco, Sasha Dikiciyan, and Christopher Lennertz did most of the work, and Sam Hulick even co-wrote "An End, Once and For All" with Mansell. But that's all politics. This entire series should be listened to by everyone because it is amazing.
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