I haven’t done a Top Ten list in quite some time, so now’s as good a time as any to list my TOP TEN FAVORITE MUSIC ALBUMS. My music tastes have gone all over the place as I’ve grown as a person, but mostly – my top ten favorite albums stay the same. Or, at least they have for a while. These albums have seen me through some interesting times in my life, and so I’m excited to share them with you and also share why I like them. While they are listed in “top ten” order, I feel like each album sort of moves around depending on my mood – so by no means is the order set in stone. It’s just an approximation. Don’t forget to leave a list of your own top ten albums in the comments. I always love music recommendations!
10. MOULIN ROUGE!: MUSIC FROM BAZ LUHRMANN’S FILM
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. This list is already off to a bad start. Well, listen here, pal…YOU’RE WRONG. I dunno. I mean, I realize that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I was strangely drawn to this soundtrack even before I fully enjoyed the film. Luckily, Moulin Rouge also happens to be one of my wife’s favorite films – and she was surprised to learn during one of our recent road trips that I knew every word of almost every song on the album (which, in turn, helped me to realize it was actually one of my favorite albums). The most interesting aspect of this collection of music is the deconstruction and the rearranging of several different pop hits into single ballads. For example, there is a song called “Sparkling Diamonds” which is a medley mashup of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” by Marilyn Monroe and “Material Girl” by Madonna. There is also one of my favorites “El Tango de Roxanne”, which is a medley of “Roxanne” by the Police, and “Le Tango du Moulin Rouge” which is super-fun and actually works really well in the film. Moulin Rouge! is interesting, novel, and makes for a really great road trip soundtrack because who doesn’t want to sing along to something when you’ve been driving for four hours? It falls behind some of the other entries on this list solely because the songs don’t exactly stand super-well on their own without the aid of the film’s visuals. Still, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman deserve some props for their singing voices and Baz Luhrmann seems to be in tune with some serious musical tastes. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you like music with a grand scale and scope. (Plus, David Bowie’s music is filtered all through the mixes in this movie, and who doesn’t enjoy Bowie?)
09. TENACIOUS D: TENACIOUS D
Tenacious D was an album that hit me unexpectedly when it first came out. I was sort of confused as to why Jack Black the actor felt the need to produce a music album (with the help of the Dust Brothers) when he was doing just fine as the funnyman in many of my favorite films at the time. However, the music was great and before long – I was trying to sing along to Jack Black’s hilarious (and surprisingly awesome) vocals and I was chuckling at Kyle Gass’ audio antics. Despite feeling a little clunky and not being strictly technical, the music still delivers and even if you take away the hilarity of the lyrics and the banter, the music can still stand on its own. Plus, there are a few neat guest musicians such as Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Steve McDonald (Redd Kross). When you hear Jack Black and Kyle Gass on the song “Tribute” – you will convert, trust me. I placed this ahead of Moulin Rouge! because it feels more like a complete album, and can really stand on its own. However, due to its comedic nature – to me, it deserves a lesser spot in the face of more technical music and professional arrangements. Still, I rock the hell out of this (and my wife and I sing along to “Tribute” whenever it comes on in the car) anytime the mood strikes me.
08. DIVIDED & UNITED: THE SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR
I very much dislike country music. The weird thing, though, is that I am a history nerd and also seem to like bluegrass and also some of the older country stuff like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. All that being said, Divided & United has definitely emerged to become one of my top favorite albums. It’s partly due to my interest in the American Civil War, but also because the collection of music has a certain charm to it. I have found a new appreciation for some country artists like Jamey Johnson, with his insanely deep voice on the track “Rebel Soldier” – and a renewed love for old favorites like Dolly Parton who offers her vocals on “Listen to the Mockingbird” alongside Stuart Duncan. What puts it ahead of other albums on my list is the sheer variety. As a CD set, this came as two discs and contains a whopping 32 tracks. However, where it falls short compared to others on my list is in its consistency. With that many tracks, it’s hard to sort of tie them all together in a way that makes sense for a real album. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to ever take this off my top favorite list.
07. BLOODHOUND GANG: HEFTY FINE
Let it be said that I experienced my main upbringing in the 1990’s, though I was born in 1981. By the time I fully appreciated music, it was in the mid-1990’s and by then – I had begun to fall in love with the music of Bloodhound Gang. They were a perfect mix of comedy and snark and talent, and I genuinely love their music still to this day, though the band has been on a hiatus for a while. When I first acquired Hefty Fine, I had graduated college and was living on my own and that album blasted from my Volkswagen Jetta nonstop day after day for months. I feel like this album was critically panned, which is why it sits lower on this list than some of the other albums, but most of the critics only panned it due to the length of the album (only nine songs) and the fact that after five years of waiting for a new album, the Gang just went back to their old schtick. I happen to like that schtick, and I think that with songs like “Ralph Wiggum”, “Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo” and “Pennsylvania” – the band continued with their legacy of clever lyrics and wit that I always enjoy them for. Critically, other albums like Hooray For Boobies will always be “better” – but Hefty Fine remains one of my personal favorites.
06. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: AWESOME MIX VOL. 1
The last of “informal” albums on my list, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is probably the best soundtrack to a film I’ve ever listened to. I feel like this is partly due to me being born in the 1980’s, but also that writer-director James Gunn also fits these films around the music rather than the other way around. This creates a powerful unity within the music, especially if you have seen the film. Yet, unlike Moulin Rouge!, these songs can completely stand on their own without the aid of the film’s visuals. The fact that this soundtrack contains the superior “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie, as well as “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, and even “Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum pretty easily speaks for itself. Also, unlike Vol. 2 – Vol. 1 contains more obscure material which just gives it that much more of a cool factor.
05. BEASTIE BOYS: LICENSED TO ILL
Beastie Boys were ALMOST the formal introduction to my personal tastes in music. One year for Christmas or my birthday (can’t remember which) I asked for Licensed to Ill for my new Walkman. Instead, my grandmother bought me Boyz II Men. I supposed it was due to the word “Boyz/Boys” being in each title. In any case, I eventually did receive Licensed to Ill as a gift and I was blown away. Now, let me just tell you right away – this is NOT their best album, by any means. That honor would go to Paul’s Boutique or Hello Nasty for me. But Licensed To Ill is where it all began, both for them and for me. And with tracks like “Rhymin’ And Stealin'” and “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”, despite its faults – Licensed To Ill is a cornerstone in music history as well as my top ten list.
04. A PERFECT CIRCLE: EMOTIVE
Maynard James Keenan is a mythical figure to me. No joke. The guy is impossibly talented, and I enjoy everything he’s done with his main band Tool – but A Perfect Circle is also right up there for me in terms of bands I just sit and listen to. eMOTIVe is basically a collection of covers, done up in the band’s signature style, with a lone track called “Passive” that is the only original tune on the album. However, the manner in which the remaining songs are disassembled and rearranged (which, apparently I find really interesting due to my love of Moulin Rouge!) makes them almost seem like original songs, despite most of them having political origins during the civil rights movement. With everything going on in the country these days, this album is now especially poignant. Give it a listen, please!
03. DAVID BOWIE: DIAMOND DOGS
Bowie, Bowie, Bowie. One of the all-time best entertainers in the history of music. Falling at the end of an era of Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs was the dystopia after that character basically self-destructed. And from the ashes of that time period, in which Bowie was involved with many other different forms of media (plays, film, etc) – Diamond Dogs erupted as a sort of critically-maligned addition to his musical line up. However, as an album, I think it has held up. Like and unlike Moulin Rouge! – Diamond Dogs is the soundtrack to an unborn stage production, yet the album can stand on its own two legs, critics be damned. To me, this is one of the most fascinating albums to ever come from Bowie, though I don’t expect anyone else to agree with me. Right from the eerie opening dialogue of “Future Legends” (the prologue to the song immediately following, “Diamond Dogs”) to the hollow and melancholy tone of “We Are The Dead” – this is one of my top favorite albums of all time.
02. RADIOHEAD: HAIL TO THE THIEF
Wow. What an album. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but even above OK Computer, never have I been more emotionally mesmerized or drawn into a Radiohead album more than I have with this one. The entire album has a unique balance to it, a unique sound (electronic VS traditional), and from the opening track called “2+2=5” – Thom Yorke just belts it out. I get gooseflesh on my arms just thinking about it. On top of that, this album is – much like eMOTIVE – really poignant to the political climate we’re living in these days. “Myxomatosis” and “A Wolf At The Door” really hit home, too. This is an album I listen to when I actually want to sit and experience an entire album from start to finish. You should really check it out. If you do, we can be friends.
01. TOOL: ÆNIMA
The Holy Grail for me – Ænima is the genius masterwork of Tool and if there is ever another album out there that can top this one, I want to hear it. The music can be at times aggressive but then melancholy and low key. The lyrics address practical concerns (being a man, etc) but Maynard James Keenan as usual provides the perfect blend of growling and angelic resonance. The band feels supremely in tune, the album is quite balanced on its own, and every member of the band seems to have hit their stride in this almost faultless production. From the amazing title track “Ænima” to the hard-hitting opening track “Stinkfist” to the brilliantly sarcastic “Forty Six & 2” – there’s so much to take in here. Also, Bill Hicks – because this album is basically a tribute to the late comedian. Hell, I’m listening to this album as a write this.
So, with that – I leave you. These are my Top Ten Favorite Music Albums (*subject to change). But before I go completely, here are some honorable mentions:
- DAVID BOWIE: LABYRINTH MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
- MUSIC FROM VANILLA SKY
- PITBULL: EL MARIEL
- WEIRD AL YANKOVIC: RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
- WHITE ZOMBIE: ASTRO CREEP 9000
- BLACK EYED PEAS: MONKEY BUSINESS
- BECK: MIDNIGHT VULTURES
- SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS: HOT
- WU-TANG CLAN: ENTER THE WU-TANG
- JOURNEY: THE ESSENTIAL JOURNEY
- ROB ZOMBIE: DRAGULA