As of about 10 seconds ago, I just finished reading through a list of top five albums by a number of poets and friends that another friend of mine compiled, because he frequently makes wonderful decisions about things like this.
Pulling the Top Five together is an exercise that I love almost as much as I'm frustrated by it. Usually because (due to unruly knack to not know when to leave well enough alone) doing so involves cobbling together some kind of elaborate defense of my picks, that I will almost undoubtedly want desperately to retract six months down the road.
At the same time, I love the idea of being able to mark different periods in ones life by the music most evocative/influential/overwhelming to them at the time, as well as being able to map the manner in which those preferences can evolve, or stimulate an evolution of their own.
To that end, every few months I'll be posting a new Top 5 to see where things are at. Some will probably end up being a bit more detailed/lengthy, but I figured I'd start things off in a more straight ahead fashion.
A couple rules from the get go: for my own sanity, I'm keeping this to studio releases, so that means no compilations, and no live shows (that list is coming soon). And once its posted, no revisions.
So, as of today, in no particular order (I can only go so far), and knowing full well I'll wake up disagreeing with half of these tomorrow:
There's a section in Mo' Meta Blues, autobiography of the incomparable drummer/producer/scholar/guru/know-it-all Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, in which he explains his tendency to initially dislike, or at the very least be thrown by the music that will ultimately become most influential to him. The first time I heard Voodoo, I turned it off halfway through the opener. The second time I heard Voodoo, I jumped around until I landed at "Send It On," zoned out for a couple of minutes, then turned it off again. The third time I heard Voodoo, I sat alone in my bed listening front to back, flipped it on repeat for the fourth, and came out some two and a half hours later with a new favorite album. It moves slow. It's muddy. It never gives you everything you're looking for, at least not for as long as you wish it would. And that's a big part of what makes it brilliant.
-Abbey Road, The Beatles
I could take a good amount of time doing a track by track on this album, but the biggest part for me is that moment in "Carry That Weight" when the horns come back in with the "You Never Give Me Your Money" theme, and then a couple seconds later it drops back to hint the "Here Comes The Sun" bridge, and then hard drops into "The End"...thats a hell of a way to say goodbye (Sit down, Let It Be. No one asked you). Oh, and also, whoever's idea it was to pull "Her Majesty" out of the middle of the medley and turn it into a post-coital cigarette...That person deserves a medal.
-Dirty Mind, Prince
I've written about this before, "this" being both how easily I can swap this album out with Purple Rain depending on what time I went to be the night before, as well as how fascinated I am by Prince's ability to deploy (and I mean that very literally...this man is a calculated dude) the perfect amount of jangle to humanize his virtuosity. Its one hell of a balancing act; swing to far to one end and you've got a room full of people dancing too hard to notice you're even there. the other way, nobody's dancing because their jaws are too busy weighing them down to the floor. Prince (especially on Dirty Mind) does just the perfect amount of work, mixes in the perfect amount of off-kilter and glitch and human error for you to forget how otherworldly he can be, for just long enough to start moving. And once you do, he doesn't let you stop.
A combination of some of the most brilliantly innovative beat-making and some of the most gut-punchingly evocative writing I've heard, the majority of which was composed and recorded by a teenager. so thats fun. AZ's still got the Top Guest Verse slot locked up pretty solidly in my book. And "It Ain't Hard To Tell" will always be my second favorite MJ flip (nobody's beating out Dilla, but still...)
-Speak No Evil, Wayne Shorter
One of those perfect meetings of virtuosity and pocket. Also, Witch Hunt has one of the greatest opening shouts I've heard. And an incredibly weird form. And still feels seamless. Well played.
On the Fringes:
-Tusk, Fleetwood Mac: You give me just the Lindsey tracks, and it would be a lock.
-Off The Wall, MJ: Arguably one of the greatest 1-2-3 punches in history. But some people just aren't closers (that being said, I dont know anybody who does a 2nd to last banger as consistently) . Also, if you're gonna cover a Wings tune, at least do us the courtesy of making it a better version?
-Early Riser, Taylor McFerrin: Just a question of staying power. If I put this on a year from now and feel the same way, it might just edge something out.
-For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver: Definitely need a little more distance before I can separate this from the nostalgia that comes with it. Never underestimate the emotive power of a scruffy dude with an acoustic guitar who sounds like he's singing from outside the of the house in the middle of a snowstorm.
-A 3-5-fewer-tracks condensed version of Confessions, Usher. I could be convinced a few different ways in terms of what to slice, but I'm definitely looking at you, "That's What It's Made For." Nothing about that isn't creepy.
Thats it for today. Apologies to myself tomorrow...