Picking five favorite albums is difficult. Sure, it’s not quite as tough as picking a favorite Beatles song,
cooking a turkey, or building a church, but it’s still difficult. I’ll mention, for those of you new to Top Five, that these are my favorites right now, which is subject to change over time.
5. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
I had trouble with this pick. This album came out last year, so I’m still kinda new-car about it, but while writing this post I listened to it twice and decided it was too good to be left out. I wrote an article about it a little while back, but to summarize, the band is filled with virtuosic musicians who wanted to put less emphasis on instrumentality and focus on songwriting. The result was nothing short of wow, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you should.
4. Coldplay – Parachutes
You know those moments in life when your head hurts, your ears are ringing, and all of it makes you cranky? Good, me too. I usually have them after long gigs. You may think that the cure is Advil or some other headache medicine, and I’m not afraid to tell you that you’re wrong. The cure is Parachutes. Sometimes the musical stars align, and a band gets it absolutely right. This album is the perfect example of that. It’s one of those records that you put on during a long drive and let it take your troubles away. Also, the title track is one of the best short-songs ever written, clocking in at 46 seconds.
3. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
There isn’t a whole hell of a lot that can be said about Sgt Pepper that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just get down to brass tacks. The bass playing alone makes this one of the best albums ever made, and would warrant it being in my top five. Additionally, the songwriting is obviously out of this world, and the recording quality is still legitimate and enjoyable. One of my favorite aspects of Sgt Pepper is how John and Paul sped or slowed the sound of their voices to suit each song. That’s just the kind of brilliant idea that would never occur to me, and it’s a technique that doesn’t really get used anymore. I’m gonna bring that back on my next album. You just wait and see. Or… Um… Hear…
2. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen
They recorded this album in the living room of Ben’s house in Nashville, and it feels as at home as it sounds. Maybe the reason I enjoy listening to the piano so much is that I can’t play it, but I’m pretty sure that even the best piano players in the world would love this record. My favorite thing about it is the fact that it was recorded by three musicians who each play one instrument, and that there’s barely anything else on it. Believe me, there’s definitely a place for oodles of production, but the fact that this album doesn’t have it and is still as powerful as it is really sticks out and makes it stand the test of time.
But it’s not number one! The Award goes to…
1. Nickel Creek – Why Should the Fire Die
I almost had trouble ranking this number one because I’ve listened to it so many times that I’m nearly sick of it, but when I think about the fact that I’ve listened as many times as I have, I realize that it’s still definitely the reigning champ. First time I heard this record, I thought it was stupid. No idea why. Turns out, first time I heard this record, I was stupid. Anyway, second time I listened to this record, it changed me. It made me listen to music and approach songwriting in a completely different way. People who know this album well often comment that they hear it’s influence on my writing, and if that’s even 10% true, then my writing is infinitely better for it. This record possesses exquisitely well blended music, instrumental brilliance, and first class songwriting. Not only that, but it was recorded live to tape in an era when every thing is all pro tools’d to shit. I love raw, open acoustic music, and if you do too – buy this friggin’ album.
Honorable Mentions: Extreme – III Sides to Every Story, Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism, John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together, Chris Thile – Deceiver, Ben Folds – Rockin the Suburbs, Blink 182 – Blink 182, Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II, Frou Frou – Details, CSN&Y – Deja Vu