The question is, if I could only ever put ten albums there, which ten would I choose?
It's a difficult question for someone who loves music like me, and especially someone with as varied tastes as I have. (Who am I kidding here? They're all indie albums.) I thought about it for a while longer, and arrived at the (slightly annotated) following ten albums:
- OK Computer, Radiohead. Perhaps the most complete album I own. It's also one of the first albums I bought with my own money, and it hasn't let me down. (Try topping that, Soundtrack from The Saint.) One of the most bonechilling moments in my life was watching 10,000 people hold up lighters during an encore performance of "Exit Music (for a film)".
- Funeral, The Arcade Fire. The Arcade Fire were the group that, more than any other, helped me make the transition from the indie music of 1997 to the indie music of today. I could listen to "Laika" and "Rebellion (Lies)" for the rest of my life.
- Flood, They Might Be Giants. Fun, light, and perfect. Anyone who was a child of the '90s remembers "Particle Man" from Tiny Toons. Anyone who doesn't is lying.
- Fisherman's Woman, Emiliana Torrini. Part of the reason I love this so much is from seeing lanada's reactions to it over a period of months, but most of it is from the heartfelt earnestness of songs like "Thinking Out Loud". Her first album leans too much toward electronica, and her third leans too much toward pop, but in the middle lies this tranquil, folksy record. (Caution: do not listen while operating heavy machinery.)
- Come on Feel the Illinoise!, Sufjan Stevens. I know, we all remember "Chicago" from Little Miss Sunshine, but the entirety of the album is that good. I've only ever really driven across the state from St. Louis to Bloomington, but if the state is as beautiful as this album, then I'll start going house shopping today.
- Kid A, Radiohead. Of course, Radiohead gets two spots on this list. Kid A, more than anything else I own, is meant to be listened to in one go. I usually think of it as the Kid A suite more than anything else. It's dark, morose, mournful, and stunningly beautiful at its core. Could there be a better song than "How to Disappear Completely"?
- Loveless, My Bloody Valentine. Of course there is - it's "Sometimes". I listened to this song for an hour straight when I was trapped in the Las Vegas airport, miserable and pining for Genuine. even though we'd only been dating for a couple of weeks. Also, the rest of the album is fantastic.
- Ys, Joanna Newsom. I know most of you out there familiar with Ms. Newsom's work think of her as a gimmicky weird voice and a harp. I assure you, there's so much more here. The average track length on Ys is nearly ten minutes, but the complex, looping structure of her songs draw you in and make it feel like only two or three. And of course, there's the textbook-length "Emily" that makes rock operas seem like couplets by comparison.
- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel. Ah, Jeff Mangum. It's a pity he has so many demons to deal with, but it's almost worth it if he can produce songs like "Two-Headed Boy" and "Ghost". Eclectic and strange - the album features dozens of out of tune trumpets and a singing saw - this album is the 1990s at their best.
- Weezer, Weezer. Oh, right. You can't really mention the best of the 1990s without bringing this up. I was once in a car where "No One Else" was playing, and the female driver refused to believe that men really think this way. My roommate and I just nodded our heads. Also, it's impossible to leave out an album that my entire generation can sing along to from start to finish.