I have decided to take part in what has become a recent Facebook trend. No, I am not posting a video in response to a Neknomination. The trend of posting binge drinking videos on Facebook seems to have passed, to the benefit all who wish to remain employable. Instead, I’m taking part in the trend of posting twelve albums that have stayed with me in some way. I have wanted to write about music for a while, so I can say something more than the lines I append to my Song of the Day choices. As the Facebook instructions say, the albums don’t have to be great works that received critical acclaim. Instead, I have chosen albums that I have come back to over the years that continue to mean something to me.
1. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
I know that many people were critical of Amy Winehouse, especially while she was still alive, but I’ve always thought this album was brilliant. I liked her first album, Frank, but I loved this album because of her work with The Dap-King. The album is dark, and sadly, foreshadows her downfall. We lost a great talent the day she died.
Stand out song: Back to Black
2. Jackson Square by Arkells
I love the Arkells. They are one my favourite bands because their live shows are fun and energetic, and their albums capture the same energy. Michigan Left is one of my favourite albums, but I have to give credit to the album that started it all. I can’t wait for their third album to come out. Little known facts, I’ve seen the Arkells six times, and I have spent some time in Jackson Square.
Stand out song: No Champagne Socialist
3. Gordon by Barenaked Ladies
This is one of those albums that makes me feel everything. The Barenaked Ladies captured humour and emotion, all in one debut album. My parents and I listened to Gordon as we drove back from Chicago. By the time we arrived home, I had had the time to question every life choice I had ever made, and was able to feel good about these life choices by the time we reached “If I Had a Million Dollars.” It’s an essentially Canadian album by the first band I ever saw in concert.
Stand out song: Brian Wilson
4. The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle by Bruce Springsteen
I’m a big Springsteen fan, and this is definitely my favourite of his albums. Each song tells a story in words and in music. His voice is amazing, imperfect like the characters he creates. I love “Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” but nothing can match the beauty of “New York City Serenade.”
Stand out song: New York City Serenade
5. Fantasies by Metric
Metric layers sounds in such an interesting way, to create a compelling album from start to finish. I saw Metric at Osheaga two years ago, and Emily Haines’ stage presence is electric.
Stand out song: Sick Muse
6. Porgy & Bess by Miles Davis
I’m a big jazz fan because I grew up listening to my father and my grandmother play it. I love Kind of Blue, but there’s something about the way Porgy & Bess makes me feel that has made it my favourite. Plus, it always makes me think of my grandmother.
Stand out song: Gone, Gone, Gone
7. Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’ve listened to this album on repeat, letting my ideas flow around the sounds. I’ve often listened to Californication when I’ve needed music to think to. It’s both wonderful and sad that I can listen to this album now without really hearing it, as though I’ve already internalized the sounds.
Stand out song: Otherside
8. More Adventurous by Rilo Kiley
This is one of the lesser known bands on my list, though Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis recently had a song on Girls. I love this album because it’s imperfect, with music that is too grand and lyrics that are too honest, and most significantly, feelings that are too relatable. “Does She Love You?” and “A Man/Me/Then Jim” tell stories of people who don’t want to love anymore but still do, while “More Adventurous” says, “At least we’ll be loved.” You have to listen to this album.
Stand out song: Portions for Foxes
9. Bone Machine by Tom Waits
I had a hard time deciding on just one Tom Waits album because Waits is one of my heroes. Though my favourite Waits album is Blue Valentines, I chose this one because it is the first of his albums I listened to. I was amazed by the gravel in his voice and words, and the beautiful images they create. The album is one of his darkest, with death throughout that he seems to both lament and celebrate. “That Feel,” which features Keith Richards, is one of my favourites, but nothing matches the words of “Who Are You.”
Stand out song: Who Are You
10. Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip
One of my earliest childhood memories is of listening to Trouble At The Henhouse in the car with my father. As much as I like that album, Fully Completely has always been my favourite by the Hip. I love the way that the album alludes to figures in Canadian history. “Pigeon Camera” brings me back to high school, when we would drive around hanging out the windows on hot days.
Stand out song: At The Hundredth Meridian
11. Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans
This is definitely my favourite album. If I had to choose one album to represent my life, this would be the one I would choose. I recently wrote an essay on Reconstruction Site, considering the album within the context of Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author.” I listened to the album throughout my thirteen page essay, and I never got tired of it. John K. Samson has a remarkable way of representing the world with humour and pathos and talking cats. This album also has my favourite song.
Stand out song: Plea from a Cat Named Virtute
12. Pinkerton by Weezer
The first time I listened to this album, I hated it, and yet I still felt the need to listen to it. I played it three times in a row, and by the end of the third play, I loved it. It’s dark and more distorted than Weezer’s first albums, and than any album they’ve made since, for that matter. The emotion and sound is so raw, which make it stand out in a series of self-titled albums with similar sounds. It’s also hard not to like “The Good Life,” with the line, “Shakin’ booty, makin’ sweet love all the night.”
Stand out song: Falling For You
Albums that made my shortlist are: Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys, Live Through This by Hole, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar, and Underdogs by Matthew Good Band.
Now the questions that remain are, which albums would you choose, and what should I listen to next?
Song of the Day: The Good Life by Weezer