Monday, January 11, 2010

34 Albums to Live By (20-11)

20. Ryan Adams - Love is Hell

At the end of the day I'm not sure I agree with the title, but I get it. The 16 songs on this album are, every single one of them, just awesome. Shadowlands is deeply moving, and at a certain period of life really found me where I was at and kept me going. Wonderwall makes something new of something old in a brilliant way. And Please Do Not Let Me Go, My Blue Manhattan and Hotel Chelsea Nights are perhaps the most relaxing songs imaginable. I come back to them often.

19. The 77's - Sticks and Stones

Michael Roe and the 77s modelled genuine faith to me, and guided me in many ways through my coming of age. I really ought to write them and thank them. From the heart-wrenching Bottom Line to the saddest song I've ever heard, Don't This Way, Roe knew just how to get real about the struggle. And yet with songs like Nowhere Else and The Days to Come he was speaking out of a very real hope. By the time the song God Sends Quails gets to the repeated refrain "You've can't go back" and resolves, almost relents, into the soft but growing response "You can go on" I'm past suspecting mere sentimentalism and am open to belief. You should read the lyrics to that one. Michael Roe reminds me of Johnny Cash, except no one knows about him. His song 'Til Jesu Comes is on a solo album, but bears mention in such a list nonetheless.

18. Damien Jurado - Waters Ave S.

This is a pretty raw early Jurado album that sunk itself into my psyche my third year of college when I was really finding my legs (shakily) as a human being and potential leader of some sort. Notables are Treasures of Gold and Sarah and such slivers of life as Yuma, Arizona and Wedding Cake. These songs are like the soundtrack to some of the hardest months of one of the greatest years of my life.

17. Sixpence None the Richer - This Beautiful Mess

Classic. This band made a bit of a name for itself but in my opinion never bested this its sophomore release. Circle of Error, The Garden, Disconnect, and Drifting--all these songs are irreplaceable aspects of my life. There was a heartfelt searching and honesty about this album that was a breath of fresh air to my experience of Christianity and in many ways, along with the 77s, another mentor in my burgeoning faith. I think it was with these bands that I first began to appreciate the value of true lament.

16. The Tragically Hip - Up to Here

There were a couple years there where The Hip had their finger on the pulse of teenage life in Canada, or at least in Lower Mainland, British Columbia. It was like their songs coursed through our veins. Fully Completely is probably the album most of my peers would identify with most typically from that era, but it their first album, Up to Here, that I called my own. New Orleans Is Sinking made them famous, but its the b-sides of this cassette that had me hitting rewind and starting over on those many road trips and nights working meaningless jobs in high school. Great stuff.

15. The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Down at the Khyber

I wish I'd known about Joel Plaskett years ago. How anyone can be a Canadian and not know about (and thus love) this musical treasure is a tragedy. Down at the Khyber is a masterpiece of rock and roll, I kid you not. True Patriot Love is the new national anthem, Light of the Moon is an epic up there with the best of them, and Unconditional Love just shows that Joel is not a lyrical or musical pretender but an absolutely talented vocalist and guitar player and a purely enjoyable and thoughtful singer/songwriter. This album would be up there on a list of albums I'd want on a desert island. Musically marooned in Scotland its been like a lifeline to home.

14. Ryan Adams - Gold

Although Love is Hell may stand better as an entirety, this has three of my favourite Ryan Adams songs of all time and thus carries the day. La Cienega Just Smiled, Wildflowers, and Rescue Blues--these are glorious songs.

13. U2 - Boy

I don't know how it is but I am pretty sure this album was recorded in Narnia. Not the Disney Narnia, but the one in your head when you first read the books as a child. I think my conviction in this regard has to do with the fact that I first bought this album around the time when I decided to read the books again as an adult. There is also the song Shadows and Tall Trees and the overall magical quality to the album which doesn't hurt either. Some of the best U2 songs of all time are on their first album: Out of Control, Stories for Boys, and An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart.

12. Matthew A. Wilkinson - Sinners

This is not an attempt at flattering or plugging one of this blogs most faithful readers. Sinners is a fantastic album. Here is a link where you can go listen to it. You will be really glad if you do. I don't often force people to sit an listen to an entire album with me at once but I did so in this case with a good friend at seminary and he was hooked. When the last five years are said and done there are few albums which would evoke as many memories for me as this one. The songs (especially the first five) fit back to back so well and create an ethos so flawlessly that the whole has the feel of a thoroughly accessible concept album.

11. Radiohead - OK Computer

This is probably the best rock album of all time. Let Down is probably the best song of all time. It has overlapping guitar parts with different time signatures, of all things! Sounds amazing. Mention here should likely be made of Kid A and Hail to the Thief, two other Radiohead albums I can't get enough of, but which somehow aren't listed here.

And with that the ground is broken for my top 10, perhaps even more scattered than this 10, which will come along in a week or so. . . .


Tony Tanti said...

I love seeing the Hip make an appearance on your list.

Colin Toffelmire said...

And I love seeing the 77s. Makes me nostalgic for high-school, which is a pretty uncommon thing for me.

Anonymous said...

Found this page searching for Ryan Adams + Michael Roe.

Seriously -- "Anything I Say To You Now" is *straight vintage* 77's all the way through. So nice!!!