Must be released later than 1985. So no White Album, no Blood on the Tracks, no London Calling, no Astral Weeks, not even Joni Mitchell's Blue, quite possibly the greatest goddamn album in existence (but if you tell anyone I love Joni Mitchell that much, I'll have to cut you. I gotta reputation to protect, after all. I'll fucken cut ya!)
This is a self-imposed one, but it's one of the quintessential rules of making a mixtape, so I figured it'd fit in here as well: no duplicates. A band gets one album in the top 20, no matter how good their second or third best album is.
The albums have to fucking rock! That should be no problem.
This list is non-binding. It is, of course, completely contingent on my state of mind here towards the end of June in the year of our Lord 2005. So it's not so much a look back, as a look inside right now, at my mind ruled by fads and passing trends and everything. Plus, there's a lot of music I missed by growing up in Fargo listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or the Beatles. Hell, I didn't even listen to David Bowie until this past year!
The list is, like its title, inspired by "High Fidelity." That is, it is in autobiographical order: that is, the order I started listening to it. Nothing else.
So, without further ado, the List!
Nirvana - Nevermind: After a youth listening to the classic rock station, hoping to hear "American Pie," or "Stairway to Heaven," or a brief daliance listening to bands like New Kids on the Block, Nirvana came and woke me the fuck up. This album was and still is like a grenade going off in my head--I'm still picking the musical shrapnel out of the inside of my brain. This lead to years listening to Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins or Metallica, but Nirvana changed my world like very little else. "Here we are now, entertain us."
U2 - The Joshua Tree: Obviously, I kinda grew out of Nirvana after awhile, and started listening to new and varied thing. The Joshua Tree is one of those albums that you forget about when you're exposed to U2's current superstardom. This album is, ummm, really great. What else can be said about it? I listened to this at least ten times while driving across country on my own. "Punch a hole right through the night."
Weezer - The Blue Album: I'd forgotten this one for so long, but it's still one of the most compulsively listenable albums out there. "My love is a life taker."
Radiohead - OK Computer: If I had to order this list, I'd put this as the best album on it. It's not my favorite of the 20, but I think it's the best, and one of the few that took the fragments Nirvana left behind and did something really truly unique and amazing with them. A paradigm shift in my head. "This is what you get when you mess with us."
Bill Hicks - Relentless: Not music, but the funniest most honest comic out there, at the height of his game. He is sorely missed right now. "I'm your little dark fucking poet."
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: "I've got reservations about so many things, but not about you."
Jeff Buckley - Grace: I really need to find a woman who I can retroactively make this album about. "It's a cold and very broken Halleluiah."
Sigur Ros - ( ): I never want to know what this album is about. Ever. If you know, drink until you forget it. Then shut up and put on track 4 again. Turn it up. Shut your eyes. Pour me another drink. Are you doing anything tonight? Oh god that's so good.
Tom Waits - Small Change: Any album with "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)" would be on this list automatically. That the rest of the album seems to be a distillation of everything that makes it all the more fantastic. It's hard to choose one Tom Waits album over the others; so many of them are so singularly good. This one stands just a little bit taller than the rest. "I'm getting harder than Chinese algebra."
Belle and Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister: "If you're feeling sinister go off and see a minister. He'll try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless unbeliever."
The Pixies - Doolittle: Yeah, Come on Pilgrim has some great songs. So does Trompe Le Monde. Bossanova has it's moments. Oh, and there's Surfer Rosa. Who am I kidding; they're all fantastic albums (Surfer Rosa almost edges this album out). But when I really want to rock, when I really want to blow the doors off this entire fucking existence and just rock out, who do I become? Un Chien Andalusia! That's who! "Slicing up eyeballs, oh ho ho ho!"
The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs: Stephin Merritt is who I want to be, who I'm afraid I am, and who I'm running from. Except he's smarter and wittier and more lovelorn than me. Out of any album on here, this is the album that's most me. "Not for all my little words."
The Postal Service - Give Up: Ben Gibbard isn't as lyrically talented as Stephin Merritt, though he sure tries hard sometimes. But it doesn't matter in this album. Goddamn is this good. "I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles In our eyes are mirror images and when We kiss they're perfectly aligned."
The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee: Even tougher than choosing between Surfer Rosa and Doolittle is the choice between the best Mountain Goats album. All Hail West Texas, Tallahassee, and We Shall All Be Healed fought it out. All fantastic albums, all from a guy who sounds, well, like nothing else out there, really. Tallahassee wins by a nose, mostly by virtue of the songs like "No Children," and "International Small Arms Traffic Blues." But it was close. "I am drowning. There is no sign of land. You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand. I hope you die. I hope we both die."
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: Jeff Mangum has a worse singing voice than I do. This album is beautiful. I have no idea how that happened. "Let us lay in the sun, and count every beautiful thing we can see."
Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out: A slightly uneven album, but this is the one to listen to when you are ready to really _listen_ to music rather than just let it play in the background. "So try and try, even if it lasts an hour. With all our might, try and make it ours."
Menomena - I Am the Fun Blame Monster!: I don't know if this is one of the best albums in the last 20 years, but dear god I love it. "This old frame once was beautiful."
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender: It's too early to tell if this will stay anywhere close to this high on a favorite album list, but for right now, it's pretty high up there. "Oh my love, what a funny little thing..."