The countdown is on: It’s my last week as a teenager. Here’s the second and final part of my “favorite albums of all time” list, which I’ve put together to commemorate my soon-to-be-gone adolescent years. You can read Part 1 here.
Neil Young, On the Beach (1974)
Neil Young, I get you. I know what you mean when you sing, “I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day,” when you croon, “I’m deep inside myself, but I’ll get out somehow.” Not gonna lie, this album is depressing as hell. I have to be careful to listen to it in small doses or else I feel like I’m going to blow my brains out. Yet – in all its talk of loneliness and solitude – there’re these tiny flashes of optimism that give you a sense that Neil’s gonna be okay, so then you’re like *phew* I’M gonna be okay, we’re ALL gonna be okay, EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS GONNA BE OKAY!!!!!
That, my friends, is the genius of Neil Young.
Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (1971)
If you haven’t listened to this record before, please do. I don’t care who you are, how young or old you are, or what kind of music you like. I guarantee that you will love it.
I got into Ram during my senior year of high school. I remember being so obsessed with it that I couldn’t even walk to school without its sweet tunes streaming into my ears. From “Too Many People,” to “Dear Boy,” to “Monkberry Moon Delight,” this album knocks my socks off time and time again. It’s happy, silly, and charming, but there’s a tinge of darkness in the lyrics that creates a melancholic undertone. Personally, I think it’s one of the most pivotal albums in pop music, as its influence can certainly be heard today in so much indie music. I’ll never quite understand why, but apparently critics hated Ram at the time. I guess they were still bitter about the the Beatles splitting up or something.
Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
I’m pretty sure this is the only album I’ve ever listened to from start to finish while running. Who even DOES that, amirite? I usually have a sick playlist going when I run. At the very most, I can listen to a chunk of three songs from an artist before I have to switch over to another one.
Oddly enough, though, I would just let Crooked Rain play in its entirety when I went on runs last summer. It’s the strangest thing. I mean, this is definitely not a pump-up record or anything – more like messy, lo-fi rock. I actually do not recommend listening to Crooked Rain whilst working out. You will not feel inspired to run at an accelerated pace.
So yeah – it makes no sense, but I associate this album with the genesis of my running obsession last summer. (Basically, I’ve developed a Pavlovian response and am conditioned to start running whenever I hear the opening chords of “Silence Kid,” aka “Silence Kit” because of an error on the album sleeve.) The songs are raw and angsty and unapologetic about their imperfections… which obviously makes them perfect in their own way. At the same time, delicious guitar lines and pop hooks maintain a sense of order amid all the noise. Whoa, I think that should be the textbook definition for Pavement.
Tame Impala, Lonerism (2012)
I have been sitting here for, like, 15 minutes trying to figure out how to write about this album and its importance to me. I don’t have any special anecdotes, so I guess I’ll just say this: Whenever I listen to Lonerism, the world all at once becomes so beautiful and so tragic. This album is about living in your own head, floating through life searching for meaning, and then finally realizing that “nothing has to mean anything” because ABSURDISM. It’s a philosophical journey, yo. And the music puts you in this dreamlike trance that just makes u wanna fly or lie in a sunny meadow 4daze. I’m not on drugs, I swear.
Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
A bit of fan trivia: Wilco was legit dropped from their record label because of this album. (All of which is dramatized in their rock documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.) When the band turned the album in, the label execs were all like WHAT IS THIS YANKEE HOTEL S***? RE-WRITE AND RE-RECORD OR DIE and Wilco was all like NOPE and then the label was like UM OK THEN PEACE OUT. (Yes, that is my Drunk History reenactment of Wilco vs. record label, an important case in U.S. history.) So in the name of ART, Wilco signed with another label to release the album as it was. It has since become their most critically-acclaimed and best-selling record.
I actually didn’t learn the cool backstory to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot until after I’d grown to love the album. I’m glad I didn’t know about the controversy at first, though… I can be sure that my initial love for the album wasn’t based on some obligation to love it just because it has a semi-famous backstory. But of course I’ll admit that after I learned about the whole shebang, Yankee Hotel became infinitely more epic to listen to! If you’re into high-pitched buzzing noises, five minutes of reverb at the end of a song, and a British lady repeating the phrase “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” 15 times, give this album a try. But also, like, if you’re into GOOD MUSIC, you’ll definitely find that too.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate turning 20 than seeing Wilco in concert on my birthday (along with Bob Dylan and My Morning Jacket! What a line-up! Take ALL MY MONEY). Forever stripped of teen status and a newly-minted “adult,” I’ll fit right in with the dad rocker and Baby Boomer crowd at the show. (But actually.)