Top Ten: Albums

Music has always been a big part of my life. From my early years recording radio stations to blank cassette tapes, through my Sony Discman and car stereo phases, and onto the digital iPod and streaming of present day.

I’ve started to try to determine my top ten list of albums of all time. Vanbergs and I have had several discussions recently about favorite bands, songs, and various musical debates. This has sparked me to do some soul searching and survey my life as it currently stands to determine which 10 albums have made the most impact on my life.

Behold the following list with a brief synopsis of MY top 10 albums and why I have chosen them. Note that they are in no particular order, as that was simply impossible for me to formulate.

Sponge – Rotting Pinata
The opening guitar riff of “Plowed” alone brings this one into consideration immediately. Sponge has a unique sound mixing harder guitar riffs with punkish uptones and laying down some fairly epic and emotive lyrics to complete the mix. This album instantly makes me think and feel the better memories of my high school times. Plowed is by far my favorite track, but there is not a bad song on this album. Molly (16 Candles), Rainin’, and Drownin’ complete this masterfully diverse album that is always going to hold a special place in my life.

Live – Throwing Copper
Many people claim that Nirvana’s album Nevermind was the fall of the hair bands/glam metal that ruled so much of my child hood. Live’s album Throwing Copper is what converted me. I was never a huge fan of Nirvana to begin with (still to this day, not a fan), but the solid rock background and brilliantly raspy lead vocals on this album tugged me into the alternative rock world. Throwing Copper unleashed Lightning crashes, and not to mention 4 other singles that broke the top 20 of US Alternative Rock charts. By any and all means and measures, this is a highly regarded album. It blazed the trail into the world of rock/hard rock/alternative rock for me as I matured past my hair band stages of youth.

Drist – Bitter Halo
The band Drist is not very well known. They were discovered by me via Vanbergs/Guitar Hero bonus tracks. They have since discontinued as a group, but their Bitter Halo album showcases the spirit and aggressiveness of an independent artist trying to make a name for themselves. The track “Dissolve” is one of my favorite songs ever. Period. I can’t really even put the words in place as to why I love this band/album/song – even though I’ve tried. I can listen to this entire album anytime, any place and not skip a track. That’s hard to beat.

Korn – Follow the Leader
Korn quite simply defined the nu-metal genre. Their Follow the Leader album represents the peak and culmination of me as an adult. This might sound odd, but it’s quite amazing the bond that a dorm full of college men will develop when they unite as one to repeatedly call into MTV’s Total Request Live as many times as possible to vote for Korn’s video: Got the life. Some days it was number one, some days it lost to the likes of Britney Spears or Backstreet boys. But the friendships I made during this all impressionable year are still in tact today. And as “korney” as it sounds, this album played a role in that. Robinson Hall’s 2nd floor class of 1998-1999 has their unofficial theme song. And also Reginald Fieldy Arvizu is their bassist.

2pac – All Eyez on Me
Sure, I went through a gangsta rap phase. What teenage white small town city boy didn’t? I had an expensive car stereo that could really only get a full workout with some serious bumps and bass. 2pac’s quintessential offering is the single best representation of rap ever created. It will never be topped, and it has only gotten better as it has aged. He’s truly a master with lyrics, and I really “feel you” (you feel me??) 2pac. Countless summer nights spent “cruising” with my windows down bumping 2pac over 500 watts and two 12 inch JBL subwoofers will always be the first thing I think of when my sense of hearing starts to get unexplainably worse.

Tool – Aenima
Tool has an undeniable sound. They are one of the few bands that you can honestly say “don’t sound like anybody else”. Their best work (in my opinion) comes from the Aenima album. Stinkfist, Eulogy, Forty Six and 2, and Aenima are all top tier works that a listener just cannot forget. Keenan’s lyrics are very subjective in most cases. He leaves the listener up to interpret exactly what his point is; and this only adds to the impact of the music as it forces it to become a personal relationship. Their music is completely pure and almost tribal, and their talent is unmistakable. The sound of Adam Jones on guitar ices this cake, with his creative palm muting and brutal delivery of seemingly simple power chords. This album is simply epic. And it is only fate that they were slated to play in Grand Rapids Michigan on September 11th, 2001. The show was moved to Sept 13th and it stands alone as one of the most significant events I have ever or will ever attend.

Bullet for My Valentine – The Poison
The Metalcore genre of music combines the speed and guitar riffs of “metal” with a mixture of clean and harsh vocals. This is a sound that many bands/artists simply cannot pull off without sounding very cheesy (A7X, I look in your direction). Bullet for My Valentine’s debut release is one of the best examples of doing this genre justice. The guitars almost act as an additional singer on this album, as the solos are literally world class. Their primary musical focus is on guitar riffs; and this is shown not only by the speed and key of their music, but the versatile use of various guitar tunings. Bullet for My Valentine’s initial album is very widely regarded as one of the top works in Metalcore, and this is without argument. The writing is easily relate-able for me, and its easy for me to put myself into the subject matter of these songs. Even on a first listen, I don’t think you can help but bob your head and sing along.

Mutiny Within (Self Titled)
Mutiny Within is hard for me to justify on this list. It’s a debut album from a new band that hasn’t had much time to blossom yet. But even in that scenario, the talent and composition of this album is superior on all counts. The vocals are nothing short of award winning (wouldn’t be surprised by a Grammy honestly), and the music plays the perfect counterpart. The rhythm, lead, bass, and drums are so highly technical that it’s genuinely unbelievable for all to work together in such a seamless fashion. They are EASILY the best band in their genre of all time.

Taproot – Gift
Taproot holds a significant appeal for me on a few different levels. They put on a fantastic live show which I’ve seen multiple times. Mike DeWolf uses very uniquely distorted guitar effects that give off an almost electro-static feel. Combine that with the far reaching voice of Stephen Richards, and enjoy. Richards’ clean/harsh mix gives Taproot an unmistakable depth that may turn away some “hardcore” fans. I’ll admit that I have even felt this way in the past. But I’ve grown to appreciate the wider range of music and the slower Taproot most definitely is in that category. Their album “Gift” is by far my favorite offering, even though I’ve listened to this band for approximately an entire decade.

Disturbed – Ten Thousand Fists
Disturbed has really achieved a vast following for a “metal” band. They started out as a mockable band with some silly grunting and “suack”ing. But something about their 2nd album transformed them. Somehow we all went from mocking this band to seamlessly loving them. The song “Prayer” is probably the most clear turning point – but they continued through their next release. In my opinion, Ten Thousand Fists is the very apex of the Disturbed bell curve. They started low, rose to royalty, and have fallen hard unfortunately. Pain Redefined, Stricken, I’m Alive, and Sons of Plunder are just a handful of the tracks that define this astounding artistry. The album rightfully debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Even their recent decent, I can’t deny the fact that Ten Thousand Fists may genuinely be my favorite album by any band ever.