Beatles, Let it Be. This could literally be any of their last eight records for me — excepting Submarine — but this one is messy and beautiful. I remember getting into this record with my girlfriend one fall and since it’s an “out there” and unpopular Beatles record we felt like we had finally discovered our own Beatles and not our parents “Love Me Do” mop tops.
Nick Drake, Pink Moon. Everything I’ve ever wished I was as a musician. And obviously enough melancholy and midnight for the moping teenager still residing within me. Bryter Layter and 5 Leaves Left are just as good and totally different.
Guided by Voices, Alien Lanes. A transmission from another planet, as if there crackling on the AM dial in the middle of the night arose this harmonious fuzz with incredible lyrics. This record reminds me of getting a good pre-buzz before heading out for a night on the town.
Led Zeppelin, II. I am a shameless Zeppelin fan. Their powers are gigantic and evident so there’s no need for me to recount them here. Once again I could take any of their records really but this one was in my cassette walkman for the entire summer of my 14th year here on this rock and that means getting to second base with the most amazing girl I’d ever met and drinking warm beers someone stole from the damaged bin at Winn-Dixie. So it’s nostalgia for sure and there probably isn’t a white male in his 30's who doesn’t have the exact same experience but it was the suburbs in South Carolina so what did you expect? I should really get another Zoso T-shirt soon and solidify my standing as the old guy at the next rock show I attend.
Jeff Buckley, Grace. I used to loathe him. He was on MTV constantly one summer just whining away in his oversized Hanes tee about lost love and I hated his voice. I have to be honest about that as a prologue to this record but something clicked one day and I couldn’t get enough. This record is my mid-twenties: unpaid utility bills, hardwood floors, hangovers, bartending, late-night ennui in a shitty old mill town with delusions of grandeur and nothing to show but smoker’s cough and pissed off ex-girlfriends.
Smog, A River ain’t too much to Love. Fits nicely alongside most anything from Harry Smith’s germinated seed. One eye longingly hung up on the past and the masters before and one eye stubbornly honed on furthering the vision. His voice may be an acquired taste but once it gets you it never lets go.
Neil Young, Live Rust. Once again, take your pick. Throw a dart at a wall of Neil albums and you’ve got a good shot at getting a record worth your time. He’s not as important or influential as say Dylan or Lennon has been on American music but he’s all I’d need on a desert island.
Silver Jews, Bright Flight. Our Leonard Cohen makes a country record and the world is somehow lifted by its sadness. Actually Berman is more in the vein of American surrealist James Tate than Mr. Cohen. I listened to this record a lot with my dad when we were working together.
Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin. I remember coming home from a boned existence in Williamsburg, VA to visit my closest friends and listening to this record from a copy I snaked from the record store I was slumming in. I didn’t even steal it either, nobody wanted it. It speaks of a time and of a mind to me that I share with three other people; by people I mean man friends.
Pink Floyd, The Wall. Well this is another boring, predictable, and safe suburban cracker choice here but I’m trying to be honest about these records, not cool. I listened to a cassette of this in my headphones going to bed every night for about two years of my teen-aged life.
Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. Unwashed jeans, an incredible amount of heroin, and a bunch of British rock-stars trying to be southern black musicians. Also a great record for pre-debauchery warm-ups (see №3).
Television, Marquee Moon. Punk-rock poetry. Incredible lyrics, exquisite guitar playing, and inner-city swagger all rolled up in one messy bundle of catchy pop tunes.
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks. One of many masterpieces by the 20th century’s greatest songwriter. Once again however it’s all in the timing and this one along with Desire and Blonde on Blonde got me through a shit-load of heartaches, tribulations, and hangovers. It’s also worth nothing that I’ve never really tried to write a song that wasn’t somehow ripping this guy off.
The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime. In my opinion you’re just plain un-American if you don’t worship this band and attempt to summon D. Boon from the spirit world on a regular basis. Either you’re a Minutemen fan or you’re a fucking terrorist.
The Complete Stax/Volt Singles, Volume I (1959–1968) The height of 20th century American music? How can these songs sound like Christmas and summer at the same time? I have no idea. Embrace it, learn it. Repeat it.
Curtis Mayfield, Live. So tight yet so loose. So hip yet so political. So hot yet so cool. This man was a genius and the band he assembled for this tour…whew!
I could easily do 30 more but this is a good, honest start. I’m sure I’m completely ignoring huge gaps in my taste and life experiences with amazing music. Off the top of my head: The Velvet Underground & Nico, any George Jones Best of, Gram Parsons two solo records, Son Volt’s Trace (I can drive for days without sleep if I have that record), Kris Kristofferson’s Border Lord, Dusty Springfield’s In Memphis, Sir Douglas Quintet’s Mendocino, The Possibilities’ Way Out, Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain, Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information, The Pixies Doolittle, Bad Brains’ I Against I, the Misfits, the first 10 Kinks records, the Roger Miller box set, Sandy Bull’s E Pluribus Unum…..
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Medium: https://medium.com/@hjbacchus/16-albums-6a6920069cff