Unedited and barely proofread musings on music and other things
25. Jimmy Eat World
The first Jimmy Eat World song I heard was Bleed American/Salt Sweat Sugar and although I liked it, it didn’t hit me like the second song I heard from Jimmy did, which was Sweetness. Sweet chocolate Christ that song hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s infectious from the start and the catchy-ness sustains throughout the song. Jimmy has always had consistently high quality in their output thanks to catchy melodies, heartfelt lyrics and upbeat tempos.
Album to Check Out: Futures
24. Alkaline Trio
Chicago’s own Alkaline Trio are punk rock legends. Every punk rock kid loved Trio. They quickly reached the pinnacle
of the punk world thanks to an amazing debut album in Goddamnit and equally amazing follow-up in Maybe I’ll Catch Fire. Trio’s high energy, upbeat songs tackled heavy topics such as addiction and personal tragedy which captured the spirit of punk rock that could be felt through the speakers. If you were down and out, you could take solace in their music and come out feeling just a bit better about things.
Album to Check Out: Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
23. Big L
Big L is one of the most respected rappers of all time due to his inimitable lyrical prowess that was on display before his death. His storytelling acumen is on display on The Heist while his freestyling, wordplay and punchline acumen can be heard on ’98 Freestyle, which is a song I played to death when I was younger. He was a deeply intelligent rapper that kept you on the edge of your seat as you awaited the next ridiculous rhyme to come out of his mouth. He’s cited by many other rappers as an influence and was on his way to becoming the next big thing.
Album to Check Out: The Big Picture
22. Sam Cooke
I discovered Sam Cooke only a few years ago as I was a latecomer to soul music. He’s often considered the Godfather of Soul and for good reason. His voice had the timbre and versatility to be one of the greatest ever and used both to record one of the most important songs of all-time: A Change Is Gonna Come. The song is one of the most famous not only because it’s devastating in its beauty but also because it became a cultural touchstone. Many artists have tried covering the song and some have done really well with it, but in this case, nothing will ever beat the original.
Album to Check Out: Night Beat
21. My Chemical Romance
Like Underoath, MCR was a band I hated until I saw them live. I guess sometimes that’s all you need. They were fast and goth and lived in minor keys. They played with great love and respect for music and could move a crowd like few others. Many of their songs are cinematic so it’s easy to get caught up in the big, swelling sounds and anthemic melodies. Gerard Way, the frontman, had a tremendous command of melody as well as an aggressive approach to his delivery so many of the songs were vocally engaging in a very immediate way.
Album to Check Out: The Black Parade
20. The Used
I’ve always thought of The Used as the kind of band I can listen to when I’m ready for all kinds of moods. They can go
heavy and angry or reach down and come out with something delicate and beautiful. They’re a versatile rock band with a talented and charismatic frontman in Bert McCracken. Bert always delivered in the studio but it’s live where he really shines. He used to throw up on stage because he’d go so hard. But here’s where he really separates himself: he’s supremely talented. His range is unbelievable (check out what Bert does at this point) and his live scream makes other screamers jealous.
Album to Check Out: The Used
19. The Early November
One thing I’ve always heard about frontman Ace Ender is that he just writes tons and tons of songs. It could explain why each TEN album has so many good songs – when you write a buttload of songs, you’re bound to get at least a few good ones. Though I thoroughly enjoyed their first album (and probably like it more now than I did then), it was their ambitious, sprawling triple disc third album that I really loved. It’s so versatile and wide-ranging that you can’t help but appreciate how well Ace moves from one song to another without losing passion and sincerity. You have rock songs and ballads and some weird little things going on all over the place but it’s wonderful when it hits your ear.
Album to Check Out: In Currents
Whatever I say about Queen simply won’t do them any justice. They’re my favorite older band (doesn’t include solo artists) and by no small margin. Elaborate, epic, cinematic and singularly talented, they seemed to have approached
rock through an entirely different lens. No band has been able to match what they’ve done (although, some critics will say that fun. is the new Queen, which is an abominably heinous comparison) which makes them even more special. Freddie Mercury could be the greatest frontman of all time. He exuded charisma and talent and once he got a hold of you, he didn’t let go.
Album to Check Out: A Night at the Opera
17. Van Morrison
I’ve always felt that Van Morrison had one of the top three most soulful voices among male singers ever. Where I believe Marvin Gaye is first, I think Van Morrison is tied in a close second with Sam Cooke. You feel every ounce of every note he sings. This is especially apparent in his landmark release Astral Weeks which takes on a more somber tone than, say, Moondance. A lot of publications name it as his greatest work and although I love it, it tends to meander at times and that’s why I prefer Moondance. Admittedly, they’re albums with different directions but it just goes to show how deeply talented the man is. He can release something like Brown Eyed Girl and turn around and compose something impressionistic and as transcendent as Astral Weeks without missing a beat.
Album to Check Out: Moondance
16. Passion Pit
I’m sure I’m like a lot of people insofar as my introduction to Passion Pit was by way of their first hit, Sleepyhead.
Immediately catchy with staying power, it’s the kind of song that’s cool because it’s catchy as all get out but not quite mainstream catchy, if that makes sense. At least, I felt cooler after listening to it. But when you listen to rest of the album (Manners), you hear a plethora of sounds and textures and unbelievable polish in composition. They are dance-y and electronic songs but obviously well thought out and executed. But for me, it was their second album that really did it for me. My favorite song, Constant Conversations, is an R&B song man alive, is it something else.
Album to Check Out: Gossamer
15. Bon Iver
Bon Iver’s music is beautiful. But it’s not enough to say just that. Frontman Justin Vernon can make his songs beautiful in a number of different ways. If you’re listening to his first album, For Emma, you’ll hear a delicate and stripped down simplicity. But you’ll also hear hypnotic almost metronomic passages that slink you deeper into the music and cause you to be hyperaware of what you’re listening to. It’s sleepy without putting you to sleep. It’s melancholic without dwelling. It’s opaque but accessible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Bon Iver will be back anytime soon as Justin Vernon is focused on other projects.
Album to Check Out: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
14. The Dear Hunter
I think baroque is a good way to describe TDH. It dazzles the listener with complex structures and changes and instrumentation, but not pretentiously. TDH has every bit of my adoration. From the storytelling to sublime composition, this band can put together three or four hooks in a song and still have enough for the rest of the album, which tend to be sprawling epics filled with ambitious and fearless songwriting. For his part, frontman Casey Crescenzo’s voice fits perfectly for the dense music he’s writing as it’s got just enough grit to match the edge that’s portrayed in the harmony. A blurb about TDH wouldn’t be complete with mentioning one of my all-time favorite songs Red Hands.
Album to Check Out: Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading
13. Taking Back Sunday
Taking Back Sunday’s first album pretty much overtook every fellow teenager I knew. The dueling and unbelievably
catchy vocal countermelodies sprinkled throughout the album quickly became the band’s hallmark. Compositionally, they leaned on the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-soft bridge-big outro formula but it never failed, no matter how many times you heard it. It is simply the perfect album for a long drive with a buddy or two. For my group of friends, we’d sort out who sang Adam’s part and who sang John’s part because it was Important, with a capital I. Their energy was infectious in an unmistakable way and you didn’t want it to end. You wanted to sing until your lungs gave out and your throat was bleeding.
Album to Check Out: Tell All Your Friends
12. Brand New
Inventive imagery, catchy hooks and moody textures could describe Brand New’s middle two albums, which are both stellar. Personally, I go back and forth between which one I like more but because I can’t think of Brand New without thinking about my cousin, the album you should check out is Deja Entendu, even though The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is equally brilliant. Their deeply meaningful songs hook you in for that reason but Brand New isn’t afraid to grow and try new things. They’ve gone further and further away from their pop punk sound that all started with Your Favorite Weapon for which I’m thankful. Don’t get me wrong. I love YFW, but the albums that followed were just overall better.
Album to Check Out: Deja Entendu
11. As Tall As Lions
Often when I go to shows, I don’t find the opening bands all that interesting. I get it. We’re all chasing the same dream but genuinely liking the support has been difficult for me. That’s where ATAL is different. I first saw them open for Circa Survive at the ICC in Boston during my freshman year of college. I was blown away. The quality of Daniel’s voice was exceptional and the ambient rock full of fun delays and reverbs was so immediate, so thoroughly exceptional that I had to buy whatever music they had on iTunes when I got home. I loved the different influences that shaped this prone-to-be-boring brand of rock because it was fresh and it stayed with you. Fun fact: Ben (who plays guitar currently in my band) shared a practice room with them when he was playing with a band in Long Island. And what shirt was he wearing when he first them ATAL? An ATAL shirt.
Album to Check Out: As Tall As Lions
And tomorrow concludes this week’s series of my favorite bands of all time. The coveted top ten. See ya then!