So I saw a post on reddit recently and it got me thinking. I've always been a big fan of music albums as a whole. Not a couple of good songs, but entire albums as a unit. I feel like it's much easier to crank out a non-cohesive collection of stand-alone songs, but creating an entire album with a general feel to it is much more difficult. There's an art to it. It doesn't even need to be the same feeling throughout. But I love albums the I can just put in and push play and enjoy the entire thing. I guess by extension it goes without saying that I love concept albums as well, but that's not a requirement.
So then I started thinking, if I had to pick my favorite albums of all time, what would they be? Maybe not even necessarily albums that I currently listen to all the time, maybe something I used to love but not so much anymore. And then I started making a list in my head. So here it is...
The Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
If you had asked me in the late 90s what the greatest Smashing Pumpkins album was, I would have told you Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I was so wrong. Over the years, I've listened to Siamese Dream countless times. I know all the songs by heart, and while some are stronger than others, it really is just a fantastic piece of art. In my mind it's the quintessential 90s grunge album too. Sure, Nirvana might have started the trend, but The Pumpkins perfected it with Siamese Dream. This may be my favorite album of all time.
Favorite songs: It's pretty much all good, but Cherub Rock, Today, and Mayonaise (sic) are probably my favorites.
Paramore - Brand New Eyes
I admit I'm kind of embarrassed to put this on here. Paramore is just about as teenage-pop-rock as I can go without gagging, and their newer stuff kind of crosses the line for me. But this album is a masterpiece. The songs are all catchy and well-written and it never gets old. The lyrics are heartfelt and well composed, and I really think Hayley Williams is at her best all around on this album. I really think the Farro bros brought something out of her that was forever lost when they left the band. I don't have a lot of hope for the future of Paramore, but fortunately the world will always have this album to remember just how good they could be.
Favorite songs: The only song I don't really like on this album is The Only Exception. I suppose if I had to pick favorites, I'd go with Careful, Turn It Off, All I Wanted, and Misguided Ghosts.
While I'm on the topic, Paramore's first album All We Know Is Falling is also pretty fantastic, particularly the tracks Pressure and My Heart.
ALSO, if you go to Amazon and search for Paramore's latest album (the self titled one, from 2013) and you click "All Reviews", the #1 "Critical Review" is mine and has been for over 3 years now. So I'm guessing Hayley has probably read that at some point. And she probably hates me. *sigh* I guess we'll never get married now ;)
The Ataris - so long, astoria
In all honesty, I could have put other Ataris albums in this slot (Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits or End is Forever specifically) but I chose this one because I feel it's the most polished of the three, and also because it's a lot less focused on teenage angst and has much broader themes. I love how it somehow manages to make you feel nostalgic, optimistic, happy, sad, and a whole bunch of other things. There's a few weaker tracks, but in general it's all pretty good. I think most people bought it just for the Boys of Summer cover, which is without a doubt a great song, but there's so much more to this album. I still can't listen to The Hero Dies in This One or Looking Back on Today without getting all misty-eyed. There's only a handful of songs that have that effect on me, and this album has two of them.
Favorite Songs: Aside from the two I mentioned above, so long, astoria and All You Can Ever Learn Is What You Already Know make the list. Radio #2 is a fun song too.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
This is the quintessential concept album, and for good reason. I've never heard a piece of music that can take you on a trip like this one. Have a bourbon or two, turn off the lights, and put on Dark Side, preferrably the 5.1ch SACD mix or the Alan Parsons Quadrophonic mix, close your eyes and just listen. I find it more immersive than watching a movie.
In my opinion, this album just doesn't work if you split it into songs. Sure, you'll hear Money or Time on the radio, and they're great songs, but when you take them out of the whole package that is Dark Side, it's just not the same. It's meant to be listened to from start to end. There's just no other way to do it. So there's no Favorite Songs list for this album.
These nearly made the list and were not already mentioned above:
Led Zeppelin IV
Van Halen - 1984
Marilyn Manson - Antichrist Superstar
Flyleaf - Flyleaf
Kamelot - The Black Halo