Friday, September 21, 2012

My Top 20 Albums of the Last 40 Years

My beloved KEXP is celebrating its 40th anniversary by asking its listeners to pick their Top 20 albums of the last 40 years. In other words, what do people think are the best albums of the post-Beatles/Kind of Blue era? For the fun of it, I decided to vote and, like with my Sight & Sound ballot, I opted for quick, intuitive picks rather than laboring over my selections. In both cases, I feel like I got to something purer -- and, hopefully, more honest -- than if I had allowed second thoughts to cloud my process. KEXP didn't ask for these to be ranked, so I won't bother doing that here. Instead, they'll be listed alphabetically by album title, with a few stray observations where appropriate...

Appetite for Destruction, Guns N' Roses
Nothing any of these people have done since came close. 

Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
Confirmation that I'm a sap at heart, Blood on the Tracks cuts me deeper than Dylan's '60s masterpieces. Opens with "Tangled Up in Blue," possibly his greatest song. Concludes with "Buckets of Rain," also possibly his greatest song. Such a magnificent album even the so-so "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" can't derail it.

Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
I've been told that if I was from another generation, I'd understand that Born to Run is really Springsteen's best record. Maybe, maybe not.

Call Me, Al Green
Never-ending beauty.

Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins
More thoughts on this album here.

The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
I'm the furthest thing from a stoner or a concept-album fanatic. And yet I love this record.

Endtroducing..., DJ Shadow
For the record, he's made good albums after this one.

For the Roses, Joni Mitchell
Not a popular choice among Mitchell fans, who would probably cite Blue or Court and Spark. I prefer the challenging arrangements and thoughtful anxiety of For the Roses, which she put out in between the other two.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, Sinead O'Connor
Lord, do I worry for the sanity of this talented woman.

Illmatic, Nas
I slept on Illmatic when it came out. I'm making up for it by playing the hell out of this album throughout my adult life.

In Utero, Nirvana
Why, yes, I am one of those guys who thinks this is the better Nirvana record. Just as catchy as Nevermind but even angrier and confused. Probably the greatest dealing-with-fame album ever.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy
Friends have made convincing arguments about why Fear of a Black Planet is PE's true masterpiece. For now, I'm sticking with this one.

Marquee Moon, Television
I always swear I'm going to just listen to "See No Evil." And then I listen to the whole thing.

Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols
The Clash have the greater legacy, but none of their albums is top-to-bottom as corrosive as Bullocks.

OK Computer, Radiohead
Remember when people claimed this was the '90s' answer to The Dark Side of the Moon? Wow, were they dumb.

Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan
My favorite band who don't have one indisputably perfect album. There's a Steely Dan record for every mood, but I went with Pretzel Logic because, when push came to shove, it's the one that called to me the most.

Ramones, Ramones
My biggest surprise in the Top 20, mostly because I don't listen to it all that much. But, c'mon, how can you argue with its bam-bam-bam-bam brilliance?

Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young
In retrospect, should I have gone with After the Gold Rush? You know, maybe I should have. (Update: Ah, yes, After the Gold Rush came out in 1970, so it doesn't count.)

Sail Away, Randy Newman
12 Songs and Good Old Boys have their champions. Sail Away has less filler.

69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields
One day, I will get my wife to understand what a wonderful album this is.