I know I’m going to take some heat for this; so, before I dive in, I want to make it clear this is not a list of the best 10 albums of all-time. This is simply a list of my favorite albums; the ones I could listen to from start to finish without skipping a track. There is not a Beatles album on the list, and despite recognizing them as the greatest band to ever play, there isn’t a specific album I can listen to through and through (with all respect to The White Album). I wanted to compile a list of records that meant a lot to me, personally–something different than what you’ll find on a Rolling Stone top 25. I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in tunes. With that being said, here is my ten favorite albums ever along with three highlighted tracks.
10. Morning View- Incubus
This album takes me back to high-school. Whether I was looking to get pumped up (Wish You Were Here) or mellow out (Are You In?) this album had a track for whatever mood I happened to find myself in. Wish You Were Here was my favorite song growing up, but the highlight of the album is Aqueous Transmission. The use of a Chinese Pipa makes it the most tranquil song I, literally, have ever heard. It’s the perfect song for lying in a hammock taking a day nap, it takes you away as you drift to sleep. As Brandon sings about floating down a river” you can close your eyes and it feels like you’re on the wooden-makeshift raft beside him. If you know me, you know I like chill…and it doesn’t get chiller than Aqueous Transmission.
Highlights: Wish You Were Here, Aqueous Transmission, Are You In?
9. Country Grammar- Nelly
To show diversity…like, in genre, not racial/ethnical…I had to put my favorite rap album on the list. Country Grammar dropped in ’99 and is still getting mad spins on the radio. It was the first album I went out and purchased myself, so it holds a lot of sentimental value. Although, I admit, I had to buy the edited version, but that’s neither here nor there. You know the big hits from CG (Ride Wit Me, Country Grammar, E.I.), but the singles aren’t the only solid songs on the album. As a baseball fan, Batter Up has always been one of my go-to tracks. Murphy Lee’s verse was so confident and oozed swagger “I want my name not–not said but screamed, I went from fantasy to dreams and dreams to bigger things”. Long live Country Grammar, derrty.
Highlights: Besides the singles, my favorites were—Luvin’ Me, Batter Up, and Wrap Sumden.
8.Eagles- The Eagles
I remember in 8th grade, our teacher offered extra credit to anyone in the class who could name the highest-selling American band in history. Kids exclaimed their hopeful answers rapidly “The Beatles!” “Billy Joel!” “Aerosmith!” All of us were very, very wrong. Not a single student in the class guessed the Eagles, not even the kid in the patched jean jacket and concert tee. I may not have fully understood at the time, but the Eagles are worth the hype. Countless hits got them to the level they obtained, and it all started with their self-titled debut album. Take It Easy and Witchy Woman kicked this record off on the right foot, setting up one of the greatest easy-listening albums I’ve come across.
Highlights: Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Tryin’ (most would say Peaceful, Easy, Feeling but I like Tryin’ so it’s going on my list!)
7. The Mollusk- Ween
The Ween split just might have been the saddest break-up I’ve, personally, ever gone through. From the second I heard Ween (it was Mutilated Lips) I knew that it was love. They were weird. They were smart. They were really funny. I couldn’t describe they’re style, it was comparable to no other band. To this day, I still don’t know how to describe Ween, as they can play any genre and constantly change their flavor album to album, and even track to track. Gene Ween had a bit of a dark past and struggled with demons time-to-time (you can google it, I’m not getting into it), and often put it into his songs which made the music feel very real. In songs like Birthday Boy and Baby Bitch I find myself really emphasizing to him and almost feeling his pain in a relatable way. For some reason, their weird always made sense to me. It was hard for me to choose a favorite album to share because they’re my favorite band and all of their albums are special to me. I chose The Mollusk over Chocolate and Cheese because it’s what I started with when I first got into Ween. It has the trippy/psychedelic songs like Mutilated Lips and Buckingham Green and emotional songs like It’s Gonna Be Alright. Compared to C&C, I felt like The Mollusk had a stronger line-up of songs with a deeper assortment, but I will forever second guess my decision (until three months from now when a reader happens to notice #7 has been changed to Chocolate and Cheese).
Highlights: Mutilated Lips, Ocean Man (you may recognize from the Spongebob Movie, Ween also wrote/performed the Loop-de-Loop shoestring song in Spongebob!), It’s Gonna Be Alright
6. Oracular Spectacular- MGMT
When I talk about albums I can listen to without skipping a song, this is one of the first that comes to mind. MGMT has that free-spirit look and sound that I’ve always found inspiring. They have a way to creatively speak their mind through not only their music, but dress. In other words, I love their style and Andrew VanWyngarden is the reason I started wearing long headbands in college and…I’m getting off course, sorry. We used to put on Oracular Spectacular and hangout at my buddy Goatman’s house. Sitting around talking and basking in the tunes. We would have it on an endless loop, we loved it. It had funk, it had jam, it had soul. To me, those are ingredients to the perfect album.
Highlights: Electric Feel, Time to Pretend, Of Moons, Birds, & Monsters
5. Courage to Grow- Rebelution
Courage to Grow is without doubt the most inspiring album on the list. The album is filled with good vibes, and sends a message that motivates you to be yourself and take pride in being alive and being you. My favorite song on the album is Courage to Grow. It has helped pull me out of holes and bad spots, and actually helped inspire me to start writing and doing stand-up. The is filled with motivational lyrics like “there’s nothing in the world that you can’t get; so, don’t fill your life with confusion and regret”. It really helped center that I am in control of my own destiny and that my biggest obstacle at many times is myself. The rest of the album also promotes positivity, like R Way, which takes on teaching causation in schools and Green to Black a clever take on legalization of marijuana. Rebelution got me into the new age-reggae and helped me discover other great bands like SOJA and Iration–all worth checking out.
Highlights: Courage to Grow, Ordinary Girl, Attention Span
4. Moondance- Van Morrison
If I had to choose one word to describe the Moondance album it would be nostalgic. Growing up my parents were big fans of Van and it got passed onto me. His laid-back, soulful vibe is something I’ve always admired. I often find myself wanting to live my life like a Van Morrison song. Visions of taking a nap underneath the shade of a tree in a vast, green, Irish field is a soothing image that his music typically brings. I’ve always felt Van doesn’t get enough love, Moondance in particular. Every song on the album is gold, and his work has inspired many of the greats today. This album seems to have been lost on my generation and if there’s one thing you take away from this read I hope it’s to look into or rediscover Van Morrison. Moondance is filled with classics that effortlessly flow together on the album. I’ve always considered it to be one of the best albums for a road trip because you can put it in and drift away listening to it, use it as background music while you talk with friends, or anything–it’s great for all sorts of settings.
Highlights: And It Stoned Me, Into the Mystic, Crazy Love
3. Loverboy- Brett Dennen
Brett Dennen is my favorite singer/songwriter. On my iTunes top 25 most played songs playlist, I’m pretty sure BD is at least 22 of them. He has a heart of gold and it shows in his music and having the pleasure to have met him it was refreshing to see he was just as genuine and good-hearted in person. Four of the albums on this list of 10 could have been Brett, but I had to mix it up. Hope for the Hopeless, So Much More, his self-titled album, and even his new Smoke and Mirrors albums were strong contenders to make the list. I always find myself switching which album is my favorite. Some days the soul he brings on Hope for the Hopeless in songs like Wrong About Me and Ain’t Gonna Lose You is the best, and others times I like the poetic feel of his old tunes like The One Who Loves You the Most. I went with Loverboy because the songs have a lot of sentimental value for me. I was going through a lot around the time the album came out and songs like Only Rain really helped me find something to relate to and kept my head above water. I had the opportunity to ask Brett to describe Only Rain in one word and he said “Optimism” and that really stuck. Queen of the Westside is probably my favorite track on the album because it’s so funky and unlike anything he’s done before. I’d love to hear more sexy jams like that from him. Sorry for the adjective, but that’s the best way I can describe it.
I’m in his music video at 2:39
Highlights: Queen of the Westside, Comeback Kid, Must Be Losing My Mind
2. Continuum- John Mayer
If he wasn’t so concerned about being a hammy, pop-icon, sex symbol John Mayer could be one of the best musicians of all-time. The guy can shred! Such a talented guitarist and writer. I can’t imagine where he would be if he lost that ego and focused on the tunes alone. When he plays the blues he plays it like the best. Forget the radio, John! Anyways, Continuum showcases his skill set and really separated him from the pack. This is the kind of music he should be making. It’s bluesy, it’s emotional, and it’s honest. It doesn’t get realer than the truth he spills in I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You) and Slow Dancing in a Burning Room is a song that could make even make the manliest man croon and reflect on all the wrong and hurt they’ve caused (maybe not the manliest man but certainly…well, at least, me). This is easily one of my favorite albums of all-time and I can’t name a song on the record that I don’t like. For the record, John Mayer’s live ‘Where the Light Is’ special is something to behold and his best work, but I don’t want to include any collaboratives or ‘best of’s on this list, just the studio albums.
Highlights: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You), Vultures
1. In Between Dreams- Jack Johnson
We have finally reached number one. In Between Dreams is timeless. From start to finish it doesn’t get old and is the easiest of easy listening music. It’s catchy, mellow, and essentially a bath for the soul. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, In Between Dreams can supply the good vibes and fit any mood. It’s very hard to feel negative or down when this album’s on, it’s very hakuna matata, for lack of a better term. Jack’s lyrics are easy to relate to yet smart enough to make you think. My favorite tunes are the kind you can just put on and everyone can vibe to it and have a good time, and that’s Jack’s specialty. In Between Dreams is one good song to the next, even the slower songs, such as No Other Way, are deep and retain your attention.
Highlights: Better Together, Never Know, Crying Shame