Unedited and barely proofread musings on music and other things
I know what you’re thinking. 67? Fucking 67? Who has 67 favorite bands and artists? Well, here’s the thing: this initially started as my top 30 bands list but then I thought, “what about the rappers and other artists that I love? Why shouldn’t they be represented?” So I started mixing in the Biggies and Michael Jacksons. But then that pushed out some of my favorite bands and why shouldn’t they be represented? Basically, I settled on listing all the bands and artists for whom I’ve held a strong affinity at one point in my life, thanks to some guidance from a pretty girl. And from there, i organized them from most favorite to least favorite (but still pretty favorite-able).
It was, in a word, agonizing.
It was agonizing because it was difficult to reconcile who I love now and who I loved then but also how long I’ve loved them. How much of their anthology do I know? Do a few songs dominate the catalog as a whole? These questions are tough when you’re essentially making 60+ Sophie’s Choices. Follow my playlist on Spotify to get updates over the next week.
Without further ado, my 67 favorite bands & artists, ranked.
I can’t remember exactly when and where I first heard their only release in their short history as a band, but I ran this EP into the ground. First song I heard was “Openly,” which was jangly and catchy and just different. It set me up for the rest of the album, which proved to be a very different sound from the now defunct Drive-Thru Records. Great melodies, weird chords and good energy all contributed to my love for this band. (This EP is not on Spotify but here’s where you can hear “Openly”.)
Album to Check Out: Morning Is When Jenoah Wakes Up
66. Busta Rhymes
Back when I wanted to be a rapper (seriously, I went by 40 Free), I wanted to emulate the best traits of my favorite rappers. Busta’s trait? His delivery. It was fast, aggressive and gravelly and I would lose my voice trying to mimic it.
My brother introduced me to Busta’s first album The Coming and that was all I needed. For a moment, picture ten-year-old me as Busta Rhymes. You’re welcome.
Album to Check Out: The Coming
65. Gang Starr
Gang Starr is a legendary rap duo and I never gave them the attention they deserved. Not for any particular reason, I thought Guru was a brilliant lyricist with a perfect rap voice and DJ Premier killed it on the beats, but I was probably too busy playing soccer or, more likely, chasing girls. For Christmas, I got Gang Starr’s Full Clip compilation (I’m sure my brother had something to do with it) and immediately was into what I heard. I played the hell out of that double disc album. When I was a big rap fan, lyrics were what I listened for and Guru was one of the best.
Album to Check Out: Daily Operation
64. As I Lay Dying
AILD was one of the first metal/hardcore bands that I ever heard and thanks to my buddy Ryan, I was given quite the introduction. 94 Hours was the first song Ryan showed me and although I was really into the tapping and guitar work, it was the double bass drum that hooked me (at about 1:13 in on the Spotify track). I had never heard anything like it before and because of that song (and the album it appeared on), I became metalhead pretty quickly.
Album to Check Out: Frail Words Collapse
63. At the Drive-In
ATDI was one of those very rare bands that broke up and then formed two successful bands (can you name another?). One Armed Scissor was on several mix CDs I made because it was one of the first songs I loved when I
started playing guitar. Actually, the first song I ever wrote was a miserable attempt at basically re-writing One Armed Scissor. It ended up as a pop punk song with the same rhythm. I couldn’t wrap my head what was going on musically at the time but that didn’t stop me from annoying all my friends by playing it constantly.
Album to Check Out: Relationship of Command
Prince is a singularly talented individual. Apparently, his virtuosity spreads to something like 30 instruments, which could be pure myth but still super fun to think about it. Late 80s/early 90s Prince is tough to beat. The hits are so good that they’ve become timeless. I appreciate that he sings in falsetto so much and he’s definitely one of the reasons why I like doing it at as well but I believe he thrived in his composition and instrumentation. If you haven’t discovered early 80s Prince, then, well … hoo boy. Just do it, okay?
Album to Check Out: Dirty Mind
The more I think about it, the more I realize that hardcore bands didn’t really do it for me. Yeah, some of the breakdowns are brutal enough to indiscriminately dole out moshpit snaggleteeth just by simply listening to them but for me, that joy only lasts so long. Throwdown was the only hardcore band to stay with me. I took a break from them for a while but came back to them last year and actually really enjoyed their latest releases. Vendetta, however, is the album that I came to love.
Album to Check Out: Vendetta
60. Wu-Tang Clan
Classic. They are gritty and raw and helped define a rap era in the 90s. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is their most famous work and rightly so. It’s reached rarified air since its release and is regarded one of the finest rap albums ever. Personally, it’s a top 5 rap album for me and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It gets a lot of love for the lyrics but RZA’s production may be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ever for a rap album. It was inventive and out of the box to this day, you hear RZA’s influence throughout hip-hop.
Album to Check Out: Enter the Wu-Tang) 36 Chambers
59. Jackson 5
Is there a song that elicits bigger smiles than One More Chance? As soon as you hear the instantly recognizable bass line, you can’t help but be happy. Everything about the song is wonderful. It’s got a groove that you can dance or just
kick back to, a consistently catchy melody and unassailable talent on display. That’s not selling ABC short, which is another impossibly infectious hit, but in my eyes, One More Chance stands alone.
Album to Check Out: ABC
For a long time, Saosin was the band that everybody loved and couldn’t wait to hear more of. After the Translating the Name EP made everybody lose their minds, we just didn’t hear all that much from them for a while so hype turned to impatience. They did release another EP and LP in 2005 and 2006 but not with the singer that most people probably expected back in 2003. Cove Reber joined as frontman after current Circa Survive frontman, Anthony Green, left. Like a lot of kids, I couldn’t leave that first EP alone. Anthony’s vocals demanded your attention and as a listener, you acquiesced. You couldn’t help. He has an unusually high voice with an unusual and unique timbre.
Album to Check Out: Translating the Name EP
57. The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds is widely considered to be one of the greatest albums ever for a lot of reasons. For me, it’s about composition, song structure and instrumentation. Brian Wilson crafted one of the finest albums which showcased baroque and psychedelic elements as well as some experimental sounds and textures. It’s lauded for its complexity and groundbreaking methods of production which helped usher in a new era of sonic sophistication. The album is a rare treat that consistently delivers and can be appreciated thoroughly by casual listeners and music veterans.
Album to Check Out: Pet Sounds
56. The Academy Is…
TAI came into my life when I was listening to a lot of pop punk. I wanted something rock-ier that wasn’t screamo or too heavy. Fortunately, TAI had what I was looking for. It was slower than pop punk and didn’t venture into screamo.
It was nice to hear quality vocals. Almost Here was a big part of the the soundtrack to my sophomore year at college and we put songs those songs on mixes at every opportunity. I loved their follow up, Santi, and came around to their next effort, Fast Times…, but like with a lot people, the reason I loved this band was because of the first album I heard from them.
Album to Check Out: Almost Here
Nas released his first album, Illmatic, when he was just 20 years old and it was an instant classic. Think about that. 20 years old and dropping an instant classic rap album. The hip hop community is big on respect so when it earned rave reviews from critics (including the coveted five mics from The Source), respect was earned. Lyrically, Nas features unmistakable depth in a mostly autobiographical telling of his time in Queens. However, Nas never burned out. He continued releasing great music and eventually reached commercial success by going platinum on six of his studio albums. In short, Nas is legend who can be mentioned in the same breath as any other hip hop icon.
Album to Check Out: Illmatic
When I think of 16- to 17-year-old me, I think of Coheed & Cambria, New Found Glory, Saves the Day and Finch. What It Is to Burn was one of those albums that featured very singable melodies perfect for loud car rides and losing your lungs at shows. You would belt the lyrics to try and match Nate Barcalow’s intensity and when it came time to scream, you went for it with all your heart. You’d always come out less one voice but the euphoria you felt during those times was just too good to pass up. Everybody loved this album because it showcased everything that we loved about music at the time – emo lyrics, soaring vocals, loud guitars and booming drums.
Album to Check Out: What It Is to Burn
Tomorrow will feature #53-#40. See ya then!