Favorite Albums

Let's talk music. Instead of listing favorite bands, I'm going to list my favorite albums. These are works that transcend the value of an individual song. An album with my favorite song in the world but total filler crap around it isn't going to make this list. We're talking about a collection of songs that is a whole and complete masterpiece - in other words, a perfect album. These are in no particular order.

August and Everything After - Counting Crows
This is my desert island album. If all other music were to disappear, this is the album I would want to survive. Amazing lyrics, performances, musicianship, arrangement, production, recording, etc...it is timeless. I first had it on cassette tape and actually listened so much that the tape stretched, lowering the pitch, and requiring me to learn to play the songs on guitar in a different key to match my cassette. I have it on CD, but I'm really thinking I should add the vinyl to my collection as well.

Recovering the Satellites - Counting Crows
When it came out, it was nearly trashed in the reviews, and I couldn't bring myself to listen to it for years for fear of it destroying everything I loved about "August and Everything After." Well, I was wrong. While not quite of the monumentality that was August, it is still a complete album of amazing songs. Definitely worthy of a best album list.

Beautiful Midnight (Canadian version) - Matthew Good Band
A band that never hit in the US, Matthew Good Band, is my favorite Canadian band of all time making amazing music from the late 90s into the early 2000s. This is their most consistent album with incredible songs. It's not true Canadian alt-rock that while sounds like the era it came from, never feels emotionally dated. It totally holds up and god, his voice! Be aware that the U.S. version combines some of these songs with some from "Underdogs" so you don't get everything off both.


Underdogs - Matthew Good Band
The prior album to Beautiful Midnight, it opens with one of the best alt-rock songs ever to open an album. Every song is a winner, so if you like late 90s alt-rock but hate stupid bands and prefer something that is cerebral but still emotional, this is your band, and a great album.

All We Know Is Falling - Paramore
Hard not to pick "Riot" which has a handful of incredible songs. Unfortunately "Riot," their second album, doesn't have the consistency to make this list with a few "filler" songs. "All We Know Is Falling" is amazing, with every song being memorable and single-worthy, and even more so given just how young Hailey Williams was at the time. Even though it occasionally shows its immaturity from a songwriting and performance standpoint compared to the more produced and polished nature of "Riot" it still has the best songs and never a mediocre moment. She was a young girl at the time, and embracing that esthetic makes this album overcome a flaw we would attribute had she been 10 years older when it was written.

Dulcinea - Toad the Wet Sprocket
So hard to pick between this and the album before ("Fear") and after ("Coil") which are also two nearly perfect albums, this makes the list because every song is a perfect Toad song. Glen Phillips has the voice of an angel, the lyrics are great, the production is polished (unlike "Fear") without feeling overdone (like "Coil") making it the perfect balance. "Windmills" still gives me chills and started my love of the Don Quixote narrative (notice the nod in the album title too!) This is 90s pop-rock at its finest, most beautiful, most melodic, most sincere. A classic.

The Moon Is Down - Further Seems Forever
Chris Caraba with Further Seems Forever's amazing instrumentalists putting together a genre defining group of songs. Each one memorable, brilliant, and timeless. The production is dated, but that lack of high polish works better for this genre where some punk aesthetic helps it retain some roots. This is "emo" in the classic sense. No one sings like Chris and no one plays like Further Seems Forever.

Clarity - Jimmy Eat World
Another classic of the early "emo" genre, this too was a genre defining album. Moments of bombast, production, intimacy, experimentation, melody, lyrics, and a unique voice (which unfortunately doesn't quite translate live, but hey, I'm no one to talk about singing). Where "The Moon Is Down" gives us the harder version of emo, this gives us the cerebral version. Endlessly re-listenable.

The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me - Brand New
I'm the rare one that prefers this to their prior album "Deja Entendu." While that album seemlessly melded early emo with emergent hard-pop-core-making-up-genres stuff, this second album felt like it arrived at something truly unique and has stayed as such. It blends a thoroughly angry indie esthetic with intense production and driving rhythms and lyrics. It's haunting, brutal, beautiful, and complex. It will age well.

New Miserable Experience - Gin Blossoms
All I can think of when I hear this album is listening to it on endless loop on cassette while reading this really crap comic book series that I totally loved and had picked up at a garage sale. This is early 90s pop-rock at its most endearing. It's all ear candy with jangly guitars and a sound that will never ever be cool again. Update 2019 - just found the CD used for $1, listened again, and it's still a masterpiece!

Goldfly - Guster
So hard to not go with "Lost and Gone Forever" or even "Keep it Together" (which made me cry because of how awesome it was and how it didn't destroy my love for them). But "Goldfly" makes the list because it combines amazing songs with a level of rawness in both production and energy that is missing from the next two albums. This is acoustic pop perfection. AND the nicest guys in the world.

The Eleventh Hour - Jars of Clay
Another shocker perhaps because it's certainly not one of their more well-known albums, but for me, it is the most pure from start to finish. It aged better than their earlier work and with much stronger songs than the later work. It also brings back incredible memories of listening to it in my girlfriend's (now wife's) apartment senior year of college. We were so sad, so on-again-off-again, and the yearning on this album was a perfect soundtrack to our confusion being young and facing big feelings at the critical growing-up juncture of our life. It's a beautiful work of art.

Tails - Lisa Loeb
This has just aged so well because although it sounds so much like the times, it's still just as awesome. Her songwriting is amazing, her voice perfect, her wit so sharp, and a band that feels like a band rather than great studio musicians. It's totally of its era and yet every song is awesome and transcends its time because of the strength of her writing and voice.

One Moment More - Mindy Smith
One of the most devastatingly beautiful albums you will ever hear. Great writing, great singing, great playing, great production, great songs. Done.

You Were Here - Sarah Harmer
A pop-folk-rock gem from the early 2000s, the single from this got a lot of AAA radio play, and she has many other good albums that followed, but here, every song is amazing. Her voice is great, the lyrics are great, and the mood it sets can transport you. 

Straylight Run - Straylight Run
A late 1st era "emo" band if you want to call them that, this is an album that while not being amazingly well produced, has incredible songs. The lyrical value alone is enough, but I love the combination of a male and female singer and this album does it right. I didn't get it when my best friend was obsessed with this album (Hey Lance!), but a few years later I became obsessed and I haven't stopped listening to it since.

Update 2019 - I SOOOOO wanted to include Chvrches "Love is Dead" album here because 1/2 the songs are the greatest things ever, but the other half are only good, not great. Therefore, I have to stick to my rules and say the ALBUM isn't a perfect ALBUM. Sigh.... Go buy it anyway

2022 update - so each of the four Chvrches albums are SOOOO amazing (including their newest "Screen Violence"), but each only has 1/2 great songs, and 1/2 okay songs. So Chvrches, you are still my favorite current band even though I can't list any album here as a "perfect" album.

These are just some albums that are perfect from front to back. What are your favorite albums?


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