Seven Best Albums

Hazel didn't really tag me, but I decided to make my own list because I was intrigued mostly by the number seven and because Hazel is awesome.

  1. Post your list of the seven best albums, the seven bloggers you will tag, a copy of these rules, and a link back to this page.
  2. Each person tagged will put a URL to their Blogger Album Project post along with a list of the seven best albums in the comment section HERE at Hill’s Country. Enough already!
  3. Feel free to post the “I Contributed to the Blogger Album Project” Award Graphic on your sidebar (even though I couldn’t find it), along with a link back to this page.
  4. Post a link back to the blogger who tagged you.
My major criterion in selecting these albums proved to be whether, when listening to the album, I felt like I would commit a crime if I skipped a single track. These are albums that I always listen to straight through and I'm never tempted to pass over a song. Of course, I excluded compilations and "best of" albums.

Beatles, Abbey Road
Abbey Road, The Beatles
"Come Together" and the George Harrison penned "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun" became popular singles for the group, but the furious guitar work on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", Paul McCartney's raw pop vocals on "Oh! Darling", and the perfectly harmonized "Because" convinced me to choose this album over Revolver or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Joni Mitchell's Blue
, Joni Mitchell
Blue, for me, is the perfect singer/songwriter album with its spare arrangements, melancholy melodies, and confessional lyrics. Carole King's Tapestry came in a close second to this album, but I chose Blue because in every song I feel like Joni Mitchell is exposing a raw nerve. Even the more upbeat songs like "All I Want", "Carey", and "My Old Man" are suffused with a sense of loneliness and loss.

Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out
Dig Me Out
, Sleater-Kinney
Sleater-Kinney doesn't so much play the brief 36 minutes of Dig Me Out's running length as they attack it. Rolling Stone justifiably named the title track one of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time. Other album highlights include "Turn It On", "Words and Guitar", and "Little Babies". Dig Me Out is the album on which Sleater-Kinney defined their style: the conversation of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein's vocals and guitars and their sometimes angular, off-kilter melodies are in full effect. Janet Weiss makes her first appearance on this, Sleater-Kinney's third album, adding her energetic and ferocious drumming and completing the band's roster that endured until the announcement of their indefinite hiatus in 2006.

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
Exile in Guyville
, Liz Phair
Whenever I listen to Liz Phair's 1993 debut album, I can't help but feel transgressive, as if I'm hearing something that they don't want me to hear. Phair talks about sex and specifically how women feel about sex with frankness, in terms that women weren't, and indeed aren't, really supposed to use. Besides being something of a landmark album for women in music, Exile in Guyville is really fucking good. Most tracks feature a lo-fi production of only Phair's reedy voice and her distinctive guitar work, but with only a couple of instruments Phair crafts memorable and surprisingly accessible songs with an emotional honesty rarely paralleled.

REM, Murmur
, R.E.M.
Michael Stipe has said that R.E.M. chose to name this 1983 release Murmur because it's one of the easiest words to say in the English language. It also aptly describes Stipe's vocals on the band's first full-length album, which in combination with his inscrutable lyrics, Mike Mill's rumbling and prominent bass lines, and Bill Berry's often sharp, clashing drums sustain a dark and somewhat ominous mood throughout the album's 44-minute running length. Peter Buck's jangly guitars and folksy playing style lightens the sound here and there, but Murmur is a twitchy, almost uncertain album, full of songs that talk of transition, pilgrimage, and movement. Unlike much of R.E.M.'s earlier, and quite frankly better, work that sounds very much of a certain musical era, Murmur has a timeless quality, which is perhaps why I chose it over the equally excellent Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant, and Automatic for the People.

Radiohead, OK Computer
OK Computer
, Radiohead
Radiohead's first two albums, especially 1995's The Bends, were full of anthemic, soaring ballads with dark, introspective lyrics, though still musically accessible and radio-friendly. With OK Computer, Radiohead ventured out into waters uncharted by Britpop bands of their time and created a dense, almost frightening musical landscape, blending their guitar-heavy rock with electronica beats, eerie keyboards, and odd syncopation. Lyrically, Thom Yorke tackles topics like consumerism, social alienation, and political inaction. OK Computer laid the groundwork for Radiohead's later experimentation, but it remains the pinnacle of the band's excellent career.

Nick Drake's Pink Moon
Pink Moon
, Nick Drake
I like moody music. I admit it. And when it comes to moodiness it's tough to top Nick Drake. Pink Moon is the last and most sparse of Drake's albums, featuring only Drake's voice and guitar on most of the songs. It's a short album, not even half-an-hour long, with many of the songs clocking in at under 3 minutes, but as one of Drake's friends put it, "If something's that intense, it can't be measured in minutes." Drake's voice is light and whispery but full of a melancholy that's somehow very intimate and comforting, even though it's difficult to tell sometimes what he's saying, let alone what the songs are about. Any of Drake's albums could easily have been on this list, but Pink Moon feels like a letter that a good friend wrote you many years ago that's so full of secrets and truths that you just can't throw it away.