11. Beatles - The White Album
1) “Helter Skelter” is heavier than metal.
2) This is the album where Paul became my favorite.
3) One time, at a Yankees game, I saw Paul on the JumboTron! Both of us were watching the very same game!! Both of us were sitting in the same freakin’ stadium!!! This was by far the highlight of the game.
4) I’m a better person for having heard The Beatles.
5) Why do I cover “Rocky Raccoon”?
6) Why do I tolerate “Revolution 9"?
7) Great double album, or greatest double album?
8) Review your favorite Beatles memory.
12. Pearl Jam - Ten
Eddie Vedder probably hates me. I totally respect the last grunge band standing. I totally agree the president sucks. My Pearl Jam tapes are totally worn out. But I haven’t cared about Pearl Jam in a decade. I miss the riffs they used to write. I miss the reverb on Vedder’s voice. I miss the fervor I felt for four albums – one or two more than most former fans – even though they’ve put out x albums since. (Seriously, Eddie, I don’t even know.) I must miss high school, and even junior high, considering how often I still play its soundtrack.
13. Beck - Sea Change
Sometimes, this album rocks me to sleep. Sure, I play it other times, too: whenever I want to feel understood, whenever I want to commiserate with someone, and during long drives with all these other albums. But this is my favorite insomnia music. I play it when other treatments have failed: late-night talk shows, melatonin, milk. I fear I’m making the music sound boring, when actually, to me, it couldn’t sound more beautiful. Quiet, gentle, melodic, sad, it hushes and soothes and colors my dreams. A concept album, or maybe a lullaby, it breaks my heart instead of a bough.
14. Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
Ben Folds is a geek like me,
Writing’ white boy poetry,
Listenin’ to Dr. Dre,
Droppin’ dope shit every day.
Clearly, Ben Folds is a better
Singer, writer, and whatever.
Still, I do suspect that Ben
Writes some bad shit now and then.
Ballads, bangers, clever, classic,
Better than the park Jurassic.
Crackin’ wise, but soundin’ smart?
That’s the shit that breaks my heart.
Now I’m older than I was.
Still, I listen, just because.
Even though I don’t have kids,
Love the cartoon shit he did.
Sorry, Ben, for bein’ shitty.
Next time, I’ll say somethin’ pretty.
15. Elliott Smith - XO
Elliott, thanks, man. What can I say? Nothing you haven’t heard before, probably. Nothing to return the favor of your life. Your playing, your singing, sounded like a friend. Your music made me feel less alone. The sadness – the truth – in your songs helped me cope. “Cope with what?” you ask, maybe angry. “Clinical depression? A heroin habit? Increasingly prophetic suicidal thoughts?” Yes, you’re right; I don’t understand. Yes, I know; my sympathy is futile. Yes, this letter is overwrought. Still, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more. Sorry my fandom wasn’t enough. Thanks, again, for giving me your music.
16. Rufus Wainwright - Want One
Why isn’t this guy massively famous? Fine, he lisps, and his lyrics are flaming, but this guy’s songs deserve to be standards. Broadway stars should belt them out. Toddlers should sing them at preschool assemblies. Literature geeks should study their metaphors. Poor Elton John should weep into his rhinestones. This guy rewrites the history of pop – Tin Pan Alley, rock ‘n’ roll, sensitive singer/songwriter sap – swinging for the fences and never ever missing, taking a bat to popular cliches. See what I did there? He’d never do that. Instead, he’d make up something new, something to envy forever and ever.
17. Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Catchier than the common cold! Is it clear yet The Beatles are my all-time favorite band? Number Seventeen – my all-time favorite number – is The Beatles’ third appearance on my all-time favorites list. When I was seventeen, before I wussied out, they might’ve scored even higher than this, higher than women (sorry, Tori!) and artists outside of the grunge-rock canon (Beatle-esque guys like Elliott and Ben). Of course, my boys Aerosmith would’ve been here, too. And lots of Van Halen – and even Van Hagar. But my love of The Beatles has grown as I’ve aged. My listening frequency has never diminished.
18. Aimee Mann - Lost in Space
Thanks to Magnolia, I knew she was amazing, hearing her songs in the mouths of those characters. Still, I was stunned by her storytelling here, hearing her voice and picturing scenes, even without an accompanying film. That’s why she’s one of my all-time favorite writers, not just of songs, but of anything with words. That’s why I wish I could be Aimee Mann, telling the stories that no one else can, singing the songs that no one else will, finding the comfort in being alone. Isn’t it obvious why these songs strike me? No one’s around to answer my question.
19. Blur - The Great Escape
Sometimes, I’m stricken with a touch of Anglophilia, mostly due to albums like this. Chic, cheeky, rapier witty – if all of England sounds like this, I totally need to go.
When I lived in Australia, this album was my soundtrack. One of several bootlegs I bought at a flea market, this tape was my choice for contemplative bus rides, gazing out the window and seeing the world. I hope to play it on all my future travels.
Also, I imagine “The Universal” everywhere. Possibly, for real, the best song ever.
–Best Beatles Albums: No. 4
–Best Oasis Albums: No. 1
20. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
I’m jotting this down before the big comeback, before the second coming of the alt-rock Messiah – Billy Corgan, the B-side Jesus – making an angry and beautiful racket, shredding his throat and scorching the earth, beating Axl Rose in the race to risk my fandom, making new music that might not sound like this: the loudest and prettiest dirges and tantrums, youthful anthems that somehow still matter, even more now than ever before, rocking today, in Geek U.S.A., quietly disarmed – a bummer when you hummer – with high school band mates playing different songs. Soon, I’ll discover if we can rise again.