I recently was nominated to do the Facebook thing “10 Favorite Albums.” The game is once a day for 10 days, a person posts a cover of an album that made an impact on their life and is still in their rotation list, even if only once in a while. I concluded that I would be remiss to suggest any of this music without first explaining why, so here we go! (NOTE: These are not my 10 favorite albums ever. Jimmy Eat World, my favorite band, isn’t even included.)
Fun. happened to me unexpectedly. I was tangentially aware of "We Are Young" picking up steam on the radio, but it wasn’t until my little sister showed me the title track that my mind lit up. Pop music could be this good? This experimental and personal, yet still get huge? I finally downloaded Some Nights on Amazon Mp3 and for a scant $5, I discovered not just a fantastic album, but a whole world of amazing and slightly off-center pop music. My love for this album and the band further cemented when I saw them in an 800-cap venue in Billings, MT just before the title track blew up.
From the opening harmonies, this album hooked me. Before I listened to this, I had no idea that modern technology could be used to aide harmonies and grandiose arrangements the way that Marianas Trench uses them. It certainly helped that all of my friends and family fell in love with this album too. To date, “Stutter” is one of the biggest sing-a-longs for my family when we get together. Just an incredibly diverse yet cohesive album.
While making this list, I toyed back and forth between this or Blink-182’s Enema of the State. I chose The Offspring because of the memories I created with my family and this album. I only vaguely remember my father buying it, but I remember him turning down the volume during the curse words on some of the albums better tracks, “Americana” and “No Brakes” among them. A year or two after the album was released, my uncle burned my father a CD with all of the music videos from the album and I was floored. I watched them constantly. Then I learned to play guitar to each track, ensuring that Americana sewed itself into my muscles.
After listening to just a few select Bad Religion singles on Youtube and falling in love with them, I finally dived in and bought this, my first BR album. I hated it at first. I listened only to “American Jesus” and “Struck a Nerve” and ignored the crucial album tracks that pepper the album. Through repetition the album has become my favorite Bad Religion album and one that I still bust out frequently.
It’s not often an album makes you a better person, but Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues did just that. Lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012, and this collection of music is a concept album about a transgender prostitute. Compositions like “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “Black Me Out” are raw in the best way possible, combining anthemic choruses with pure, unbridled emotion. This album did wonders for turning me into a rational, empathetic human being and I give it a lot of credit for furthering my education on the diversity of humans everywhere.
All’s first album with singer Chad Price is their most consistent. Many albums can’t replicate the one-two-three-four punch of the album’s first four songs, and few have the gall to even try. It helps that the album begins with a Price composition, "Original Me," named by drummer/songwriter Bill Stevenson as one of his favorite All songs. Stevenson’s finest offering arrives in the form of “Shreen,” a power-pop tune that achieves perfection both in its lyrics and catchiness. And that’s really why All has stuck with me: Chad Price’s gruff vocals placed in the context of catchy pop punk tunes. It’s a mixture right up my alley.
I consider this my dark horse pick. It isn’t too sonically different from the other albums on the list, but with the exception of the Weird Al album below, this is the only one with lyrics that can get plain goofy. “As long as they’re catchy,” I imagine Fountains of Wayne would end that sentence with. This album is such a lightweight debut that it is almost certainly outshined by the two albums after it, but there’s a real brevity and friendship present, right down to the silly piano clunk at the end of “Leave the Biker.” And I’ll be damned if occasionally, “Please Don’t Rock Me Tonight” isn’t one of the most relatable songs in existence.
This is the album that started my obsession and fandom with Weird Al. It doesn’t hurt that it is his most solid collection of songs since 1996’s Bad Hair Day. The album opens with “White and Nerdy” one of Weird Al’s most successful songs ever, and is bookended with an R. Kelly parody followed by a pastiche of “We Are the World.” Al also made the brilliant choice of commissioning music videos for nearly every song on the album and releasing it as a DualDisc. For a 12 year old like me to have bright cartoon music videos to go along with one of my favorite albums ensured that even my memories of the album have visuals to go along with it.
Alkaline Trio’s second album is likely their darkest. The sound palette is pitch black, the vocal performances are paranoid at best, and the lyrical content is perhaps too vivid. But I love it. Two of my all-time favorite Dan Andriano songs are present (“You’ve Got So Far to Go,” and “She Took Him to the Lake”), and some of Matt Skiba’s most jaggedly catchy choruses make up the rest of the album. I have fond memories of listening to this while mowing lawns all summer and thinking maybe, just maybe, I’d like to catch fire too.
The best Relient K album? I certainly think so, even thought I’d also argue on Air For Free or Mmhmm’s behalf. Forget and Not Slow Down was my first Relient K album after I became a fan of the band and it finds them at their most organic. There’s very little of the arena-sounding production from their album prior, and the lyrical content is appropriately adjusted for a more intimate crowd. Despite firmly being a breakup album, listening to Forget and Not Slow Down never fails to make me happy and raise my mood.