51. Fiona Apple - Tidal
Her next two albums were all about production, while this, her debut, was all about the lyrics, sung in a voice both sultry and scary, bigger than her body and wiser than her years, vivid and honest and painful and real, like nothing else I’d ever heard (I didn’t know Tori or Aimee just yet), a welcome alternative to phallocentric rock, an early text for my feminist bookshelf, five gold stars for my misses-education (I still don’t know when to hold back the wordplay). This album didn’t change my life, but it did change the type of music I liked.
52. Aimee Mann - Magnolia
The best soundtrack ever to the best movie ever.
The perfect marriage of music and film, both of which comfort me in sickness and health, with songs and scenes I’ll remember till death, praying for redemption and less clunky metaphors.
Am I a guy "in need of a tourniquet"?
God, I wish I wrote with such grace.
God, I wish my voice was so distinctive.
God, I wish I were Aimee Mann.
Lyrics much better than any of my words. A sound so perfect I can’t do it justice. A singer, musician, writer, artist to whom I owe an apology.
53. Nada Surf - Let Go
In the past two years, since I started my novel, I’ve written more words on this band than any other, coming to terms with our buzzed-about pasts, albeit through the words of my Matthew Webber stand-in. (There’s a kid who’s got it figured out!) For one-hit wonders and valedictorians, the future seemed limitless in 1997. Now, we’re joined in tiny clubs by dozens of travelers whose moments have passed, singing and swaying along to these words: "I wanna know what it’s like on the inside of love." If they can continue to grow, so can I. Maybe I’ll let go.
54. Tears For Fears - Songs From the Big Chair
I did a disservice to Prince by not praising him, ignoring his pop to talk about myself, failing to mention the funk that angered Tipper. I also didn’t mention how much I hate the ‘80s, music’s fakest and cheesiest decade, which is why I’m having trouble here big-upping Tears For Fears. I love the way these guys write songs: quiet buildups, hooks galore, synthesizer fills that enhance instead of dominate. Again, the hooks, like a kindergarten coatroom. And that’s why this album transcends my eighties-phobia, probably because I discovered it later, thanks to a girl who made me a mixtape.
55. David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
I hear this album; I hate myself. Not because of its interstellar rock, but because of how late I discovered David Bowie. I didn’t own this album until my mid-twenties, even though I’d listened to scores of his apostles. Now, I hear traces of Bowie almost everywhere, which would’ve been cool to have noticed in my youth, back when I was rocking the "classics." Instead of progressing from Nirvana to Bowie, I regressed from Nirvana to bands their singer hated, whose albums failed to educate or challenge me. Damn the corporate-rock hegemony! I learned too late this album kicks ass.
56. Beck - Odelay
Except for Sea Change, Beck’s music doesn’t move me. I don’t play his albums to dwell on my emotions. Instead, I play them because they move me. They actually make me want to dance. It’s weird, because they’re not really dance music, a genre I "hate" or "don’t understand." They’re not really rock, or rap, or funk. Instead, they’re experiments, collages, mashups. Also, of course, they’re totally ‘90s, even the ones he’s made in the ‘00s. And this one album, the one he’ll never top, sounds like the whole of my music collection, even with just a sampling of country.
57. The Muppet Movie Soundtrack
For a bunch of puppets, these things emote! Their voices aren’t what you’d call technically good, but they carry the tunes and the weight of the world. More than just a soundtrack to one of my favorite films, this album is a soundtrack to all my favorite dreams: making friends, falling in love, and daring to dream at all. Plus, according to Webber family lore, this record was the first in my now-expansive library, a gift for – sigh, do you really wanna hear it? – successfully going potty. Sigh. Regardless of that, these songs remain magical, for lovers and dreamers and you.
58. Nirvana - In Utero
Another awesome soundtrack to physical exertion, this album by Nirvana (again) kicks ass. Guitars are shredded, (ear)drums are punished, and feelings are screamed and literally bled. We actually studied these lyrics in school – albeit in a lesson by an eager student-teacher – not that I knew them without the helpful lyric sheet, not that I know what all of them mean. I do know, however, the images linger, the screams sound primal even today, and the scholarly treatment hasn’t ruined my band. Another awesome soundtrack to being young and angry – or being old and mellow and feigning youth and anger.
59. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
A top-ten album when I was twelve. A top-twenty album when I was sixteen. But now that I’m the age when rockers start to die, I don’t need this album, this band, in my life, at least not every day after school, or pretty much the whole damn weekend, working out or re-reading The Hobbit or aimlessly driving around and around, turning it up till it shakes my rearview mirror... which doesn’t mean I hate them or never want to hear them. (I’ll never grow out of playing "Stairway.") I just don’t love them as much as I used to.
60. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
Again, I like them. Really. I do. I recognize their influence on music and my life, as well as how awesome they sound when I need them. But this band’s fans have told me I suck, since I’d rather spend time with Mayer and Mraz, artists who actually speak to me today. My tastes have been replaced along with my cells. But these two albums? Fine. They rock. A punch to the gut and a kick in the nads. The music, really, is unimpeachable. Still, I can’t defend the words: "Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg?"