A few months ago, my boyfriend Jason and I were at my mom’s house for dinner, and found ourselves in a discussion of the top ten albums of all time. Obviously we each had our own ideas about which 25-minute-or-longer musical artifacts hold the most significance, and it ended up being a really interesting conversation. I first tried to think of which albums I’ve listened to the most, because surely those must be my favorites (right?). The following list still reflects that thinking. For my mom, it was more about a moment in her life or an experience that was connected to an album. Jason, on the other hand, realized he hadn’t listened to many albums in their entirety (and has since been listening to full albums on repeat in the car). Since that conversation, I’ve continued racking my brain (and cursing iTunes for no longer existing, because even at 12 I was crankin’ out playlists) and come up with the following. I feel like I’ll have an entirely new list next week, and have, in fact, been writing and rewriting this post for a week. So, let’s get to it!
No Strings Attached (2000) – NSYNC
This was probably my first favorite album. At the ripe old age of 4, I knew musical gold when I heard it. I jammed to this one from the backseat of my mom’s green Toyota Camry and choreographed dances to “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me” at the YWCA with my best friend Shantelle. I still listen to “Just Got Paid” (aka Track 4 #nostalgia) all the time.
Meteora (2003) – Linkin Park
Meteora got me through the struggles of being 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly how I got so obsessed, but I do remember signing up for Linkin Park Underground (their fan club) and waiting eagerly for my oversized LP shirt and poster to come in the mail. I wasn’t an angsty kid (yet), but felt like Linkin Park really got me, ya know? Every song on this album is good, even now.
Dangerously in Love (2003) – Beyonce
I was definitely too young to be listening to this album when I was, but I chored hard for this CD in 2nd grade. I distinctly remember crying to “Dangerously in Love” when I felt sad. I just listened to it again, and that song still makes me feel like crying, even though it’s a really beautiful love song. Lol.
Stadium Arcadium (2006) – Red Hot Chili Peppers
I am still regularly exposed to this album (thanks, Jason), and I’m not mad about it. Everyone hates on RHCP, but why? Yes, their entire repertoire sounds the same, but if it’s good, it’s good. Stadium Arcadium also reminds me of my dad, who used to blast the Peppers in his Mustang while we drove around Topeka (and later, Eden Prairie). We don’t have a relationship anymore, but he did introduce me to some damn good music.
Lungs (2009) – Florence + the Machine
Lungs was my go-to in high school. On the bus, in the hallways, and after school, I had my 3rd generation iPod nano (RIP) in hand and turned up as loud as possible. Even now, I still can’t listen to Florence + the Machine quietly. Lungs is one of those albums that always sounds like it just came out. I guess the word for that is timeless.
Sigh No More (2009) – Mumford & Sons
Another favorite in high school, though I keep thinking it’s called The Cave and shouldn’t be allowed to claim it as an all-time fave if I can’t even remember its title. I don’t actually listen to Marcus and the boys much anymore, but Mumford & Sons is still the first band that comes to mind when someone asks me who my favorites are. In 2015 I got to see them live, and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. They’re that good.
Laminate Pet Animal (2011) – Snowmine
I obsessively listened to this album as a high school senior, and remember walking around campus at the U of MN (yay for PSEO) feeling so freaking happy. I don’t have much to say about it, other than that it still brings me a lot of joy.
Mutual Friends (2011) – BOY
BOY is a group I stumbled upon after hearing “Skin” on The Current and falling immediately in love with their sound. My sister and I started learning guitar during the summer of 2013, and this was the first song I played and sang. It’s still my go-to whenever I pick up a guitar, and my sister Anissa and I bonded a lot learning to play it together. I don’t play much anymore, but Nissy still does and she’s good as hell. BOY, if you’re reading this, please send more tunes.
Hozier (2014) – Hozier
Hozier released an EP on Bandcamp that I couldn’t stop listening to during my senior year of high school, and I was so excited when I got to Notre Dame and found a group of friends that already loved Hozier as much as I did. I will never forgive myself for not going to see him in Chicago for $20 freshman year. Instead, I stayed up all night cramming for a test that I failed. Some of my favorite college memories feature this album as a soundtrack. My friend Kat and I would blast this in the dorm showers and sing along. Good times.
How to Be a Human Being (2016) – Glass Animals
Another college favorite, another concert I regret missing (though I did at least buy tickets to this one). Junior year was a weird time for me. I had my gallbladder removed after freshman year and was fine for a while, but by fall of junior year I was in the worst pain ever and wasn’t super productive. I laid in bed, listened to this album, and watched Parks and Recreation for what felt like an entire month. Kat, our friend Ida, and I had tickets to go see Glass Animals, but I felt like trash and Ida got mono, so we had to sell them. Rough times. This album still slaps though, and it’s still in my regular rotation.
Honorable Mention: The Pitchfork Mix CD from Leanne G. (2007?)
My mom had a cool yogi friend named Leanne, who gave her a burned CD with a mix of songs she’d heard on Pitchfork. I listened to this CD nonstop, and cite it as the beginning of my love of indie music. Some notable songs: “Elephant Gun” by Beirut, “Opposite of Hallelujah” by Jens Lekman, and “Kill the Director” by the Wombats. I wish I still had that disc.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let me know your top ten in the comments!