Do you have music that you’re passionate about? I know everyone probably feels this way about music that was made when they were a teenager, but some of the best music ever made was in the 90’s. It’s hard to compete, but there’s a lot of fantastic music that has been made in the last year, and not just by bands that were around back in the 90’s. For example, I really like The xx and Hot Chip. But they still can’t compare to bands like Nirvana and Fiona Apple.
I’ve been using Last.fm to track my music consumption since 2006 and Spotify syncs with the software, so this is an accurate list of the music I listen to:
I like to check back with my top twenty list of albums every few years to see if I consider any newer albums to quality for the top 20. It looks like it’s still mostly from the 90’s, though. Here’s the rule: to be a top 20 album, the whole album has to be good. A couple of fantastic songs on an otherwise mediocre album cannot fix the album. Below I’ve listed my top five. I’ll talk about the next ones in three more installments.
(1) The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
It’s The Beatles, right? You can’t argue with a Beatles album being in anyone’s top 20 list. But in addition to the obvious, The Beatles helped me through some tough times. I was a really moody, depressed kid growing up. I was always mad at someone, anxious about school, depressed about life, etc. Was it hormones? A true chemical imbalance? Who knows. But I distinctly remember this period of time during sophomore year of college when I was always depressed and the only thing that would cheer me up was to list to Abbey Road – in particular “Here Comes the Sun.” They also played this song at my wedding so it’s doubly special.
(2) Fiona Apple – When the Pawn Hits… (1999)
I remember when Fiona Apple‘s first album came out in 1996 and I was fascinated with this tiny girl with the strong voice. Well, her lyrics are equally amazing. Tidal is fantastic, but When the Pawn Hits is incredible. Fiona Apple’s second album was the beginning of her using words in really interesting ways. To get from campus to my apartment in college, I drove on this windy road on a street with the most beautiful houses in Atlanta. I would listen to When the Pawn Hits, especially “Fast As You Can” and feel so energized. On her latest album, The Idler Wheel, the song “Hot Knife” carries on the tradition of interesting words.
My friends and I saw Fiona Apple at The Tabernacle, which is by far the best venue I’ve ever been to. I saw Fiona Apple, Ministry, Marilyn Manson (shut up!), and so many other bands there. But when we saw Fiona Apple we were really worried because she had walked off stage when she performed at the Roseland Ballroom in NY. Fortunately, she was her usual crazy self but she didn’t walk off the stage. We were right in front of the stage and I actually saw her spit while she sang.
(3) Cat Power – Moon Pix (1998)
Cat Power is such a great band. It’s just one woman – Chan Marshall. Listen to all her music right now! Moon Pix is her original music, and a close second album in my mind is The Covers Record. The Greatest is also very good. And Sun, which came out in 2012, is really good. I picked Moon Pix because “Metal Heart” is one of the best songs ever made. Ever. The guitar work is so beautiful and when you combine it with the lyrics and the mournful way she sings, get out! If that doesn’t convince you, check out how Chan Marshall is willing to make fun of herself.
(4) Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
Like The Beatles, Nirvana should really be on any top 20 list. Their skill is in making noise sound like pop music. I didn’t even get into them until after Kurt Cobain was killed by his wife (yeah, yeah, suicide, sure, sure). Nirvana has two great studio albums and their Unplugged is excellent, but Nevermind was the album that changed music. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is classic. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” is a fantastic cover of a Leadbelly song. But “Something in the Way” is hauntingly beautiful.
(5) Alice in Chains – Unplugged
Alice in Chains has everything you could want in a band: bizarre lyrics, beautiful chords, and a singer who died of heroin abuse. A lot of the albums are too noisy for me so I chose their MTV Unplugged album because it strips away the noise and gets to the pure beauty of their music.