Favorite Albums of All Time: 140-131

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141
240-231 190-181
230-221 180-171
220-211 170-161
210-201 160-151



Artist:Jimmy Cliff and Various Artists
Title: The Harder They Come (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Year: 1972
Favorite Tracks:

  • “You Can Get It If You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff
  • “Rivers of Babylon” by The Melodians
  • “Many Rivers to Cross” by Jimmy Cliff
  • “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff
  • “007 (Shanty Town)” by Desmond Dekker
  • “Pressure Drop” by Toots and the Maytals

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s/Early 90s?

Thoughts: I’ve never watched the film The Harder They Come, although I hope to address that soon.  The soundtrack album, though, is a classic time capsule of Jamaican music of the early 1970s.  It introduced US listeners to ska, reggae, and rocksteady at a time when recordings of Jamaican music were hard to come by in the States.

Bonus Sounds: My family had the Jimmy Cliff album The Power and the Glory when I was growing up.  It is VERY 1980s but it does include the classic “We All Are One.”


Title: Kerosene Hat
Favorite Tracks:

  • Low
  • Movie Star
  • Get Off This
  • Take Me Down to the Infirmary
  • Sweet Potato
  • I Want Everything
  • Euro-Trash Girl

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Mid 90s

Thoughts: Cracker created alternative rock with an Americana twang and had some minor hits in the early 90s.  They seemed particularly popular when I was at college at William & Mary, possibly because the band was based in nearby Richmond.  This is their best album with the best every hidden track in “Euro-Trash Girl.”

Bonus Sounds: Cracker lead singer David Lowery previously was in the cleverly-named Camper Van Beethoven whose signature song is “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”


Artist: Black 47 
Title: Live in New York City
Year: 1999
Favorite Tracks:

  • Funky Ceili
  • The Reels
  • James Connolly
  • 40 Shades of Blue
  • Maria’s Wedding

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Picked it up after seeing Black 47 play live after a Mets game on Irish Night at Shea Stadium in 1999.

Thoughts: Black 47 are a band that never impressed me on their studio albums but seeing them live changed my mind.  They were like the ultimate party band with a great rapport with their audience, who also would use their performances to celebrate Irish socialism.  This album captures the vibe.

Bonus Sounds: Black 47 band leader Larry Kirwan also wrote an entertaining autobiography entitled Green Suede Shoes.


ArtistJosh Wink 
Title: Profound Sounds
Year: 1999
Favorite Tracks:

  • Johannes Heil & Heiko Laux – “D2”
  • K.A.B. – “Anjua (sneaky 3)”
  • Sylk 130 -“When the Funk Hits the Fan (Mood II Swing When the Dub Hits the Fan)
  • DJ Dozia – “Pop Kulture”
  • Merio’s Dubwork Meets Kathy Lee – “K-Mart Shopping”
  • Blaze – “Lovelee Dae (Eight Miles High Mix)”
  • Sound Associates – “Boom Box”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1999

Thoughts: My Electronica Phase (which coincided with my Folk Music Era) saw me going to dance clubs from around 1998 to 2004 to hear some of the best DJs spin trance, house, and drum & bass. Philadelphia DJ Josh Wink was one of them and this mix collection is kind of the epitome of what was great about the scene at that time.

Bonus Sounds: Josh Wink’s most famous release is “Higher State of Consciousness” with an appropriately trippy video.


Artist: Various Artists
Title: Party Girl: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Year: 1995
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Wolfgang Press – “Mama Told Me Not To Come”
  • Dawn Penn – “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)”
  • Nation Of Abel – “Anyone Could Happen To Me”
  • Chantay Savage – “If You Believe”
  • Ultra Naté – “Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 90s

Thoughts: This is the soundtrack to one of my all-time sentimental favorite movies and a time capsule of the mid-90s club music scene.  Makes me want to dance on the tables at the library.

Bonus Sounds: Another great 1990s soundtrack with a techno beat is from the German film Run, Lola, Run.


ArtistBlind Faith
Title: Blind Faith
Year: 1969
Favorite Tracks:

  • Had to Cry Today
  • Can’t Find My Home
  • Presence of the Lord
  • Sea of Joy

The First Time I Heard This Album …: My teenage Classic Rock period of the late 1980s

Thoughts: Blind Faith recorded only one album with just six songs, but it was a great one. The supergroup was made up of Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton of Cream, Steve Winwood of Traffic, and Ric Grech of Family.  Winwood and Clapton went on to long, successful solo careers, but I think some of their best work is on this album.  In fact, it’s even possible that they complement one another in a way that brings out their best attributes.

Bonus Sounds: Obviously, there’s nothing else to share from Blind Faith, but Winwood and Clapton, as well as Rolling Stones’ members Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, served as the backing band for Chicago Blues legend Howlin’ Wolf on The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions.


ArtistLiz Phair  
Title: Whip Smart
Year: 1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • Supernova
  • Shane
  • Nashville
  • Go West
  • Cinco De Mayo
  • Dogs of L.A.
  • Whip-Smart
  • Jealousy
  • Crater Lake
  • May Queen

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1994

Thoughts: Yes, I know it’s cooler to like Exile in Guyville, but this was my introduction to Liz Phair.  I acquired Whip-Smart from one of those mail order CD clubs without even knowing what Phair’s music sounded like.  Turned out, it sounded like something I liked a lot, and still do.

Bonus Sounds: Exile in Guyville, of course.


Artist: D.J. Maüs
Title: Intersections
Favorite Tracks:

  • Polar – “Breaking Thru”
  • TeeBee – “Fingerprints”
  • Banaczech – “Zlin and Back”
  • Myer – “Brown Sugar”
  • Amon Tobin – “Piranha Breaks”
  • Plug – “Me and Mr. Sutton”
  • Omni Trio – “Assassins”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2000

Thoughts: On Memorial Day weekend in 2000, I went to Montreal with two friends (one of whom I ended up marrying).  A highlight of the weekend was going to a club called Blizzarts which was basically a storefront that looked like it was decorated like someone’s basement rec room, but had a totally unpretentious vibe as people danced to drum & bass.  The music was spun by D.J. Maüs (a.k.a.Louise Gauvreau ), a rare woman behind the turntables in a male-dominated field and a true artist of her craft.  I ordered this album as an import after returning home.

Bonus Sounds: DJ Maus has a Soundcloud account.  This is the most recent track available.


Artist: Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer 
Title: When I Go
Year: 1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • When I Go
  • Kate and the Ghost of Lost Love
  • The River, Where She Sleeps
  • Lancelot
  • Frank to Valentino
  • Elvis Presley

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2000

Thoughts: Dave Carter was a singer/songwriter in the visionary American roots mode, Tracy Grammer is a fiddler who became Carter’s musical and romantic partner.  The duo from Portland, Oregon released three albums before Carter’s unexpected death in 2002. This was the first of their albums that Carter gave to me personally when I worked the merch table at one of their Club Passim shows.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Dave & Tracy to come in this list, but until then enjoy their rendition of Woody Guthrie’s  “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” by way of Billy Bragg & Wilco.


Artist:Erin McKeown 
Title: Distillation
Year:  2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • Queen of Quiet
  • Blackbirds
  • La Petite Mort
  • The Little Cowboy
  • Fast As I Can

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2000

Thoughts: Erin McKeown stole the show at the new artists showcase at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in July 2000, and I immediately got her album at the merch tent.  This was 90s folk music with an alt-rock edge.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s a version of “Fast As You Can” on McKeown’s debut album Monday Morning Cold that  I like even better than the one on Distillation.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 150-141

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191
240-231 190-181
230-221 180-171
220-211 170-161
210-201 160-151


Artist: The New Pornographers 
Title: Twin Cinema  
Year: 2005
Favorite Tracks:

  • Twin Cinema
  • The Bleeding Heart Show
  • Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
  • Sing Me Spanish Techno

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late Oughts?

Thoughts: The New Pornographers are kind of a collective of musicians who come together from their various individual projects.  I feel the mid-to-late Oughts were kind of their peak period as a band embracing a more musically adventurous approach than their earlier collaborations.  And, oh, those harmonies are such a delight!

Bonus Sounds: There will be more Pornographers coming up in this list, but you can also read my reviews of their two most recent albums, Whiteout Conditions (2017) and In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (2019).


Artist: Ex Hex
Title: Rips
Year:  2014
Favorite Tracks:

  • Don’t Wanna Lose
  • Hot and Cold
  • Everywhere
  • Outro

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2014

Thoughts: This Washington, D.C. punk rock power trio lead by Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag fame) made a statement with their hard-rocking debut album.

Bonus Sounds: The band’s sophomore effort, It’s Real, is also pretty good.


Artist: James Brown
Title: Live at the Apollo 
Year: 1963
Favorite Tracks:

  • I’ll Go Crazy
  • Try Me
  • Think
  • Lost Someone

The First Time I Heard This Album …: High school, late 80s/early 90s

Thoughts: If you’re familiar with James Brown from his pop hits like “I Feel Good” or with the funk sound he developed in the 1970s, you, like me, may be taken aback by the more simple R&B sound of this early live performance.  Brown already had the reputation of “the hardest working man in show business” (he said so himself!) when he made this appearance at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre.  The biggest flaw with the album is that it’s too short, but the powerful performances pack a wallop!

Bonus Sounds:  Another significant James Brown concert, for entirely different reasons, occurred on April 5, 1968 at Boston Garden and is documented in the film The Night James Brown Saved Boston.


Artist: Blondie
Title: Parallel Lines
Year: 1978
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hanging on the Telephone
  • One Way Or Another
  • Pretty Baby
  • Sunday Girl
  • Heart of Glass

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2021 was the first time all the way through although most of the songs were familiar

Thoughts: Blondie managed to be an innovative New Wave/post-punk band, indie rock before there was indie rock, while also having a ton of radio hits.  This album is full of bangers from their peak era of commercial and critical success.

Bonus Sounds: Blondie’s 1977 debut album is also highly recommended.


Artist: Funkadelic
Title: Maggot Brain
Year: 1971
Favorite Tracks:

  • Maggot Brain
  • Can You Get to That
  • Hit It and Quit It
  • You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks

The First Time I Heard This Album …: My P-Funk Music Discovery in 2016

Thoughts: The album begins with one of the most intense guitar solos in rock history courtesy of Eddie Hazel and follows with gospel and blues influenced psychedelic funk.  The socially conscious lyrics and sing-a-long tunes make this one of P-Funk’s greatest accomplishments.

Bonus Sounds:  I have a Parliament album coming up on this list, but as for Funkadelic albums, I highly recommend Funkadelic (1970), Standing on the Verge of Getting it On (1974), Hardcore Jollies (1976), and Uncle Jam Wants You (1979).


Artist: Dua Lipa 
Title: Future Nostalgia 
Year: 2020
Favorite Tracks:

  • Don’t Look Now
  • Levitating
  • Break My Heart
  • Good in Bed
  • Boys Will Be Boys

The First Time I Heard This Album …: May 2020

Thoughts: This is one of the albums I listened to during the peak COVID isolation time when I was looking for new music to listen to, so despite being music suited for dance clubs it reminds me of staying at home.  I liked it just fine at first but it’s really grown on me on repeated listens over the past couple of years.  Plus the more I learn about Dua Lipa the more I’m impressed by this talented artist.

Bonus Sounds: Did you know that among all her other work, Dua Lipa also hosts a podcast?  I haven’t listened to it but I mean to check it out.


Artist:Al Green
Title: Call Me
Year: 1973
Favorite Tracks:

  • Call Me (Come Back Home)
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  • Here I Am (Come and Take Me)
  • You Ought To Be With Me

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  2021, Rolling Stone 500 project

Thoughts: Al Green had one of the great soul voices of all time and this album captures him at his peak.

Bonus Sounds: I’m Still in Love With You (1972) released a year earlier is a good companion piece.


ArtistNeko Case
Title: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Year: 2006
Favorite Tracks:

  • Margaret vs. Pauline
  • Hold On, Hold On
  • That Teenage Feeling
  • Dirty Knife
  • Maybe Sparrow

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2006 or thereabouts

Thoughts: Neko Case is a member of The New Pornographers and the one whose solo career I’ve also been following avidly.  This album features some of her best work with her powerful voice and indie rock/folk rock tunes.


Bonus Sounds: I saw Neko Case in concert once.  It was a great performance.  Case has also just released a career-spanning compilation album, Wild Creatures, which is a good jumping off point for new listeners.


Artist: Passion Pit
Title: Manners
Favorite Tracks:

  • Little Secrets
  • Moth’s Wings
  • The Reeling
  • Sleepyhead

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2009

Thoughts: The debut album from the Cambridge, MA electropop act features Michael Angelakos’ impossibly high falsetto over fractious electronic sounds.  It was a sound that blew me away when I first heard it and still impresses me now.

Bonus Sounds: Passion Pit has released consistently good music in ensuing years with “Lifted Up (1985)” being among my all-time favorite songs.


Artist:Miles Davis
Title: Kind of Blue
Year: 1959
Favorite Tracks:

  • So What
  • Freddie Freeloader
  • All Blues

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 1990s

Thoughts: Kind of perfect.

Bonus Sounds: Miles Davis’ other most legendary album is, of course, the psychedelic jazz fusion of Bitches Brew.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 160-151

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191
240-231 190-181
230-221 180-171
220-211 170-161


Artist: Fleet Foxes
Title: Fleet Foxes
Year: 2008
Favorite Tracks:

  • White Winter Hymnal
  • Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  • He Doesn’t Know Why
  • Your Protector

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2008

Thoughts: “White Winter Hymnal” left me dumbfounded the first time I heard it and it’s still just a sonically amazing song.  The debut album of Seattle’s indie folk band Fleet Foxes indie folk is full of such treasures.

Bonus Sounds: Fleet Foxes have released three albums since their debut, and while none resonate with me quite as much, they are all excellent: Helplessness Blues (2011 – the title track is another of my all-time favorites), Crack-Up (2017), and Shore (2020).


Artist: Crooked Still
Title: Shaken by a Low Sound 
Year: 2006
Favorite Tracks:

  • Can’t You Hear Me Callin’
  • Come On In My Kitchen
  • Ain’t No Grave
  • Wind and Rain

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2006

Thoughts:  Crooked Still were a Boston-area band of recent music school graduates who took a modern approach to traditional folk and bluegrass.  I’m pretty sure I saw their debut show at Club Passim in Cambridge.  This album highlights the gorgeous vocals of Aoife O’Donovan and the resonant cell of Rushad Eggleston.

Bonus Sounds: Crooked Still haven’t been active for over a decade but Aoife O’Donovan continues a successful solo career including this year’s release Age of Apathy.


ArtistTilly & The Wall 
Title: Bottoms of Barrels
Year: 2006
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rainbows in the Dark
  • Bad Education
  • Lost Girls
  • Sing Songs Along
  • The Freest Man

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2006

Thoughts: Around 2006 I started listening to podcasts from NPR Music which kickstarted another phase of my listening history of indie rock/pop bands that apparently appeal to NPR audiences.  Tilly and the Wall were a band from Omaha whose high-energy performances exuded positivity and whose tunes were built on the percussive sounds of tap dancing.

Bonus Sounds: Tilly and the Wall made a memorable appearance on Sesame Street, teaching the ABCs.


Artist: Kris Delmhorst 
Title: Five Stories 
Year: 2001
Favorite Tracks:

  • Damn Love Song
  • Broken White Line
  • Words Fail You
  • Yellow Brick Road
  • Garden Rose
  • Mean Old Wind
  • Honeyed Out

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2001

Thoughts: Kris Delmhorst is one of my favorite singer/songwriters who arose from the Boston-area folk scene in the late 90s/early 00s.  Five Stories came out during the peak period where I was seeing her perform in local venues on a regular basis.

Bonus Sounds: There will be more from Kris Delmhorst coming up on this list, both solo and with others, but I have also reviewed her most recent releases Long Day in the Milky Way and The Wild.


Artist:The Jimi Hendrix Experience 
Title: Electric Ladyland
Favorite Tracks:

  • Crosstown Traffic
  • Voodoo Chile
  • Burning of the Midnight Lamp
  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: During my high school Classic Rock Phase in the late 1980s.

Thoughts: The third and final studio album from the Jimi Hendrix Experience shows an artist diversifying his musical range and displaying the maturity of an already massive talent.  The sounds of this album blend psychedelic and hard rock with blues and funk.


Bonus Sounds: All three of the Jimi Hendrix Experience studio albums are stone-cold classics, so definitely check out Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love as well.


ArtistKate Bush
Title: The Sensual World
Year: 1989
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Sensual World
  • Love and Anger
  • Deeper Understanding
  • Rocket’s Tail
  • This Woman’s Work

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016, although I’d heard bits and pieces of it going back to the 80s

Thoughts: Over a decade into her career, Bush made maybe her most accessible album.  That being said it thematically deals with issues relating to computer sex and a musical interpretation of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from Ulysses, so it’s still pretty esoteric! “Love and Anger” remains one of my favorite Kate Bush songs, and “This Woman’s Work” always makes me weep a bit.

Bonus Sounds: There is more Kate Bush to come in this countdown, but in the meantime you can read my Kate Bush Music Discovery blog post.


Artist: Squirrel Nut Zippers
Title: Hot 
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Got My Own Thing Now
  • Put a Lid On It
  • Hell
  • Meant to Be
  • Blue Angel

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I heard “Hell” on the radio in 1997 and cracked up laughing while also being struck by how unusual it was for the time.

Thoughts:  North Carolina’s Squirrel Nut Zippers were one of the main acts of the late 1990s swing arrival, but unlike other bands who just recreated older sounds, they used the swing sound to make quirky songs that fit the alt-rock mood of the era.  Some songs feature the ethereal voice of Katharine Whalen while the the tracks with male vocal leads tend to have tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: The Zippers follow-up studio album, Perennial Favorites (1998), includes the absolutely brilliant “Ghost of Stephen Foster.”


Artist: The Mekons
Title: OOOH! (Out of Our Heads)
Favorite Tracks:

  • Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem
  • Take His Name in Vain
  • Only You And Your Ghost Will Know
  • Bob Hope & Charity

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Probably around 2004-2005 when I borrowed it from the library

Thoughts: The Mekons were already in their 4th decade when they created this album, but seemed to have lost none of the creativity or edginess.  They veer easily from post-punk to folk rock to “what the hell is this” over the course of the album.

Bonus Sounds: I need to dive deeper into The Mekons catalog, but they remain an active unit after 45 years having commented on Brexit and still releasing new albums.


Artist: Mission of Burma 
Title: ONoffON 
Year: 2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Enthusiast
  • Falling
  • Prepared
  • Wounded World
  • Nicotine Bomb
  • Absent Mind

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: Boston’s legendary post-punk band Mission of Burma broke up in 1983 due to guitarist Roger Miller’s tinnitus.  They made their triumphant return in 2004 with their second studio album ONoffON. Listening to this album alongside their earlier work makes it seem as if no time passed, and it was perfectly time for the post-punk/new wave revival of the 2000s.

Bonus Sounds: There will be another entry for Mission of Burma in this list, but their later releases – The Obliterati (2006), The Sound the Speed the Light (2009), and Unsound (2012) – are all worth a listen.


Title: Post
Favorite Tracks:

  • Army of Me
  • Hyperballad
  • It’s Oh So Quiet
  • Isobel
  • Possibly Maybe
  • I Miss You

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Probably around 1997-1998 when I went on a big Björk kick.

Thoughts: Björk’s sophomore album as a solo artist shows an amazing amount of growth as an artist and willingness to experiment with electronic dance sounds.   This album is full of bangers including some of Björk’s most famous and timeless songs.

Bonus Sounds:  There will be more Björk in this countdown, but do not overlook her earlier work with the Sugarcubes, such as the classic “Birthday,” and tracks from her first solo work Debut, like “Big Time Sensuality.”

Favorite Albums of All Time: 170-161

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191
240-231 190-181
230-221 180-171


Artist: Various
Title: Rent [Original Broadway Cast Recording]
Year:  1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rent
  • Today 4 U
  • Tango: Maureen
  • Another Day
  • Will I?
  • Santa Fe
  • Seasons of Love
  • I’ll Cover You (Reprise)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: In September 1997, I saw Rent performed at the National Theater in Washington. One of those friends gave me a copy of the cast recording and I listened to it over for the next year or so.

Thoughts: Jonathan Larson updated La bohème as a story of people with AIDS, the LGBTQ community, and artists and academics struggling to survive in Manhattan’s East Village.  That community is long gone, but the issues that they deal with are startlingly relevant.  While generational notions can be overdone, this really feels like the defining musical for those of us who came of age “living in America at the end of the millenium.”

Bonus Sounds: Last year’s tick, tick… BOOM! is a sort-of (auto)biography of Rent creator Jonathan Larson set as a musical.


Artist: Afro Celt Sound System
Title: Sound Magic 
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Saor (Free) / News from Nowhere
  • Whirl-y-Reel 1 (Beard and Sandals Mix)
  • Dark Moon, High Tide
  • Whirl-y-Reel 2 (Folk Police Mix)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1996, around when it was released

Thoughts: Afro Celt Sound System are an ensemble of musicians who mix traditional Celtic and African music with electronic music.  In other words, everything I like all together.  I came upon this album serendipitously and until researching the band for this post, I didn’t realize that they still existed and released several other albums.  I guess I have some catching up to do.

Bonus Sounds:


Artist: Various
Title: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto 
Year: 1985
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Awungilobolele” (Can You Pay Lobola for Me) – Udokotela Shange Namajaha
  • “Holotelani” (Daughter-In-Law) – Nelcy Sedibe
  • “Qhwahilahle” (Leave Him Alone) – Moses Mchunu
  • “Sini Lindile” (We Are Waiting for You) – Nganezlyamfisa No Khambalomvaleliso
  • “Nansi Imali” (Here Is the Money) – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Checked it out the library in the late 80s when inspired by Paul Simon and Johnny Clegg to listen to more music from South Africa.

Thoughts: A great compilation of different styles of South African music released at a time when the boundaries of popular music in the US were expanding beyond North America and the U.K.  The guitar styles remain an amazing revelation.

Bonus Sounds:


ArtistThe Roches
Title: The Roches
Year:  1979
Favorite Tracks:

  • We
  • Hammond Song
  • Mr. Sellack
  • The Train

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s.

Thoughts: The first album by the sisters Roche (Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy) as a trio sounds really like nothing else from 1979 (or before or after for that matter).  The quirky lyrics about everyday matters, the sublime harmonies, and Robert Fripp’s guitar combine to make a masterpiece.

Bonus Sounds: I listened to other albums by The Roches, but none compared to this debut. The Avalanches (who will appear later in this list) are known for their deft deployment of samples and the segment of “Hammond Song” that appears in “We Will Always Love You” (featuring Blood Orange) is divine.


Artist: Hüsker Dü
Title: New Day Rising
Year: 1985
Favorite Tracks:

  • New Day Rising
  • The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
  • Celebrated Summer
  • Books About UFOs
  • I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, as part of the Rolling Stone 500, to my eternal shame.

Thoughts: Something was in the water in the Twin Cities in the mid-80s when Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, not to mention Prince and all his associated acts, were churning out some of the most enduring albums of all time.  New Day Rising anticipates the hard-crunching guitar sound that’s nonetheless melodic of the Alternative Rock revolution by about 5 years.

Bonus Sounds: I wasn’t aware of Hüsker Dü in the 1980s (except the name) but I did come to really like Bob Mould’s next band Sugar in the 1990s thanks to Alt-Rock radio staples like “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.”



Artist X
Title: Under the Big Black Sun
Year: 1982
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Hungry Wolf
  • Riding With Mary
  • Blue Spark
  • Dancing With Tears in My Eyes
  • Real Child of Hell
  • How I (Learned My Lesson)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s.

Thoughts: Like the Lakers, we move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, but in punk instead of basketball.  The punk rock sound of X seems to be a natural progression from earlier L.A. bands like The Doors as well as incorporating rockabilly and folk rock elements. The interplay of John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s voices creates an ominous mood for the lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: X is so Los Angeles, they named one of their early albums Los Angeles.


ArtistBob Marley and the Wailers
Title: Catch a Fire
Year: 1973
Favorite Tracks:

  • Concrete Jungle
  • Stop That Train
  • Baby We’ve Got A Date (Rock It Baby)
  • Stir It Up
  • Kinky Reggae
  • No More Trouble

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s.

Thoughts: This is one of those albums that has so many great tracks on it that it is surprising it is not a greatest hits compilation. This is the peak of the Bob Marley/Peter Tosh/Bunny Wailer era of the band.

Bonus Sounds: I have another Bob Marley and the Wailers album coming up, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the band’s studio albums. Assuming you already have the Legend collection, you can branch out with Burnin’, Exodus, and Uprising to hear the evolving sound of reggae.


ArtistLed Zeppelin
Title: Led Zeppelin II
Year: 1969
Favorite Tracks:

  • Whole Lotta Love
  • Heartbreaker
  • Ramble On
  • Moby Dick
  • Bring It On Home

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s.

Thoughts: Led Zeppelin’s sophomore outing is the peak of their early Blues-infused hard rock sound. Try not to play air guitar while listening to this album.

Bonus Sounds: For this list, I pared down the Led Zeppelin contributions to just two (with one more album to come).  Other Led Zeppelin albums I considered were Led Zeppelin, and Houses of the Holy.


ArtistVampire Weekend
Title: Vampire Weekend
Year:  2008
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mansard Roof
  • Oxford Comma
  • A-Punk
  • Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  • Campus
  • Walcott

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2008

Thoughts: There was a lot of buzz for Vampire Weekend leading up to their debut album.  I think this was the first album by a new band that I purchased basically when it was released and was the most recent album on my 2009 Favorite Albums list.  Vampire Weekend have released several albums since then, overturned their lineup, and I think have basically broken up now, but their first album still remains my favorite with its high energy indie pop interpolated with Afrobeat sounds.

Bonus Sounds: Vampire Weekend’s next great album is 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, featuring the track “Step.”


ArtistSimon & Garfunkel
Title: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Year: 1970
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Cecilia
  • The Boxer
  • The Only Living Boy In New York

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts: The final album from the duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is musically and lyrically diverse, and shows how far they had come from the earnest folkies of 6 years earlier.  If only every group could go out on such a high note.

Bonus Sounds: It was hard to narrow down the Simon & Garfunkel discography to just one album for this list as all five of their albums are worth a listen.  Bridge Over Troubled Water is their most polished album and their earlier, stripped-down work is a great contrast in sounds.  Bookends from 1968, though, is more experimental and probably deserves to be on this list too.  It includes some tracks from the soundtrack of The Graduate, although lyrically they have little to do with that film.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 180-171

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191
240-231 190-181


Artist:Talking Heads
Title: Speaking in Tongues
Year:  1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • Burning Down the House
  • Girlfriend Is Better
  • Slippery People
  • Swamp
  • This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: This may have been the first album by Talking Heads I listened to as a child in the 1980s. “Burning Down the House” was definitely the first song of theirs that I heard.

Thoughts: Of all the New Wave/Post-punk bands of the 1980s, Talking Heads did the most to make the avant-garde appeal to normies. That this their most commercially successful album is also one of their artistic peaks proves the point.  And you can dance to it!

Bonus Sounds: There’s a lot of great Talking Heads music out there and another album to discuss in this countdown.  But Talking Heads will also make a crossover appearance in my Favorite Movies countdown with their Jonathan Demme directed concert film Stop Making Sense.


Artist:Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Title: Ella & Louis
Year: 1956
Favorite Tracks:

  • They Can’t Take That Away From Me
  • Tenderly
  • Stars Fell on Alabama
  • Cheek to Cheek
  • April in Paris

The First Time I Heard This Album …: In the early 90s when I was in college.

Thoughts: Two of the most iconic voices of 20th century popular music pair up to sing standards.  Louis also gets a trumpet solo on each track too. What more can you ask for? Susan and I danced a foxtrot to “Cheek to Cheek” at our wedding reception.

Bonus Sounds: Fitzgerald and Armstrong collaborated on two more albums –  Ella and Louis Again (1957), and Porgy and Bess (1959) – which are also worth your time.


ArtistThe Resophonics
Title: The Resophonics
Favorite Tracks:

  • Anna Lee
  • World of Trouble
  • Willow Tree
  • Young Love
  • Little Lies
  • Let the Angels Sing

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Picked it up after hearing the band play in 2001 at Club Passim or some other folk venue


The Resophonics were part of a wave of bands with a punk ethos playing bluegrass style music that hit the Boston area folk scene in the early 2000s.  I’ve already written about The Benders with whom The Resophonics overlapped.  Nowadays it’s really hard to find anything about The Resophonics online other than their Bandcamp page.  Thankfully I still have my CD back in the day.

Bonus Sounds:  Sean Staples, mandolin player and vocalist for The Resophonics, is still active and just year later appeared in the backing band for David Rovics‘ latest album.


Artist: Violent Femmes
Title: Violent Femmes
Favorite Tracks:

  • Blister in the Sun
  • Kiss Off
  • Please Do Not Go
  • Add It Up
  • Prove My Love
  • To The Kill
  • Gone Daddy Gone

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 1991, not coincidentally around the same time the album reached its peak on the Billboard 200

Thoughts: When I went to college in the early 90s this was one of those albums that almost everyone seemed to like regardless of their musical tastes.  It’s odd that an album almost a decade old had such popularity, but I guess the Violent Femmes’ punk/alternative sound with a country twang anticipated the DIY ethos of the grunge era.

Bonus Sounds: The Femmes have continued to release great music since their debut album (as recently as 2019), and on of my favorites is the highly-relatable anthem “Waiting For The Bus” first released on their 1993 compilation Add It Up.



Title: Dance Craze – The Best of British Ska Live
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Specials – “Concrete Jungle”
  • The English Beat – “Mirror in the Bathroom”
  • The Selecter – “Three Minute Hero”
  • The Bodysnatchers – “Easy Life”
  • The Specials – “Man at C&A”
  • The English Beat – “Ranking Full Stop”
  • Bad Manners – “Inner London Violence”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Circa 1998

Thoughts: Part of the appeal of this album is that it took me almost a decade to find.  Granted, I may have had better luck had I been more resourceful, but before the internet took off, finding old albums meant digging through bins in used record stores.  This collection contains live performances of the best bands of the UK 2-Tone sound including The Specials, The English Beat, Bad Manners, The Selecters, The Bodysnatchers, and The Special A.K.A.

Bonus Sounds:


Artist: Echolalia
Title:Shamrock Shake
Favorite Tracks:

  • Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel
  • Big Bill
  • Back Home Derry
  • Boys Co. Hell
  • Serbian’s Wake

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I got the casette in 1997, and luckily I still have it because it is otherwise impossible to find.

Thoughts: This is an Irish trad band from the Williamsburg, VA area that made a single cassette that I picked up at a local record store.  I heard about them because the brother of someone I went to college with was involved with the band. I tried to go to one of their shows but somehow arrived too late.  Then I moved to Boston.  All I can find about the band now is an article from the Newport News Daily Press.  But a few years ago, the leader of the band Johnny Coe left a comment on my blog! Johnny, if you’re out there, stop by again and let us know what you are up to.  Anyhow, this all goes to prove that you don’t have to be super famous to make a great album.

Bonus Sounds: I got nuthin’


Artist:Wild Flag
Title: Wild Flag
Year: 2011
Favorite Tracks:

  • Romance
  • Glass Tambourine
  • Electric Band
  • Future Crimes
  • Black Tiles

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2011, probably after it was promoted by NPR Music.

Thoughts: The mayfly of post-punk/indie rock supergroups, Wild Flag brought together Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony,  Rebecca Cole, and Janet Weiss for one brilliant album and a tour before they all dispersed to other projects.

Bonus Sounds: Sleater-Kinney has already appeared in this list so here’s my favorite tune by Mary Timony’s band Helium, “Honeycomb,” with a video shot on location in my hometown of Jamaica Plain.


Artist:Clap! Clap!
Title: Tayi Bebba
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Rainstick Fable
  • Black Smokes, Bad Signs
  • Conqueror (Action/Assault/Conquest)
  • Conqueror (Remorse/Withdrawn)
  • Sahkii (Xirhuu)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: September 2014

Thoughts: A project of Italian producer C. Crisci, Clap! Clap! creates dance music by combining electronic sounds with samples of traditional African music. While not the first effort to make this combination of sounds, Tayi Bebba is remarkably unique.

Bonus Sounds: I reviewed the second album from Clap! Clap!, A Thousand Skies, in 2017


ArtistWillie Dixon
Title: I Am The Blues
Favorite Tracks:

  • Back Door Man
  • Spoonful
  • I Ain’t Superstitious
  • You Shook Me
  • The Little Red Rooster

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s during my Blues Phase

Thoughts: Willie Dixon is an iconic figure of the Chicago Blues sound, writing many of the most famous songs and working as a producer and  session musician on recordings for Chess Records artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter,  Bo Diddley,  and Chuck Berry.  On this album, Dixon takes the lead on some of his most notable tunes, ones that already were being covered by various Blues Rock and proto-Metal bands.

Bonus Sounds: In 1988, a few years before his death, Dixon released an album called Hidden Charms that was another favorite of mine as a teenager.  It includes “Study War No More,” a song written with his preteen grandson Alex.


Artist: Various
Title: An Droichead Beag – Mighty Session
Year: 1995
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Hairy Dogleaf/Tear the Calico/The Sailor’s Bonnet
  • Nine Pups
  • Don’t Forget to Write
  • Raiteachas mo Tairngreacht
  • The Silver Spire
  • Raghad-sa ‘s mo Cheaiti

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I picked up the cassette when I visited An Droichead Beag in Dingle in January 1998.

Thoughts: The pubs of Dingle are famous for their Irish trad sessions and one of the most famous pubs, An Droichead Beag, or The Small Bridge, put out a compilation of their best performances.  It’s a lovely mix of traditional Irish tunes and contemporary pop tunes by the likes of Van Morrison done in the trad style.  Sadly there is no streaming source of these recordings for me to share with you.

Bonus Sounds: I suppose I will have to return to Dingle to learn if An Droichead Beag have any other recordings to offer.  But another compilation of traditional music I enjoyed from the same time period was Green Linnet Records: Celebrating 20 Years Of Celtic Music.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 190-181

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191



Artist: Cyndi Lauper
Title: She’s So Unusual
Year:  1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • Money Changes Everything
  • Girls Just Want To Have Fun
  • When You Were Mine
  • Time After Time
  • She Bop
  • All Through the Night

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1983, because my sister had it.

Thoughts: As I 9-year-old boy, I underappreciated Cyndi Lauper, although I never actually disliked her.  Every time I revisit this album, I’m struck by just how loaded it is with great songs.

Bonus Sounds: Although none of Cyndi’s later albums were as big as her solo debut, she’s continued to grace us with great songs over the years.  The most memorable of these is “True Colors.”


Artist: Sly and the Family Stone
Title: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
Year:  1971
Favorite Tracks:

  • Poet
  • Family Affair
  • Time
  • Runnin’ Away

The First Time I Heard This Album …: RS 500, last year.

Thoughts: Despite liking and listening to Sly and the Family Stone for quite some time, I somehow slept on this album.  It’s deeper and funkier with more ruminative and bleak lyrics than on previous Sly and the Family Stone recordings.  Despite that – or because of that – it is mindblowingly good!

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Sly and the Family Stone coming up in this list (yay!).  So until then, you can “Dance to the Music.


Artist: Ali Farka Touré 
Title: The Source
Year:  1992
Favorite Tracks:

  • Goye Kur
  • Hawa Dolo
  • Cinquante Six
  • Mahini Me

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I had this in college in the early 90s, probably not too long after it was released.  I probably got it from Columbia House or BMG on a whim.

Thoughts:  In my teens and early twenties, I was fascinated with learning about Blues music and world music, particularly from Africa (still am, really).  Touré combined the traditional music of his homeland in Mali with the Blues, and made something beautiful and new.  So naturally I was drawn to it.

Bonus Sounds: A contemporary band from the Saharan region of Northern Mali, Tinariwen, also blends the Blues with their local traditional music as can be heard on their album Elwan.


Artist: The Ballroom Thieves
Title: Unlovely
Year: 2020
Favorite Tracks:

  • Unlovely
  • Tenebrist
  • Homme Run
  • Begin Again
  • Pendulum

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Summer of 2020.

Thoughts: It seems weird to say, but this album gives me nostalgia for the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Maybe not the whole staying at home the whole time and worried about people dying in great numbers, but I do remember working on my porch that summer and finding some peace listening to this album.

Bonus Sounds: The Ballroom Thieves have a new album, clouds, coming out on July 15.  You can be certain that you will read about it here.


Artist: Sleater-Kinney
Title: Dig Me Out 
Year: 1997
Favorite Tracks:

  • Dig Me Out
  • One More Hour
  • Words and Guitar
  • Little Babies
  • Buy Her Candy

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 90s, maybe 2-3 years after it was released.

Thoughts: Screeching guitars and raging vocals are part of what makes Sleater-Kinney one the best rock bands of the 1990s. Dig Me Out captures them at their peak.

Bonus Sounds: Carrie Brownstein has had an interesting career which includes working with NPR Music and starring in the sketch comedy Portlandia.  Her book Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is a very interesting memoir of her days with Sleater-Kinney


Artist: Antibalas
Year: 2012
Favorite Tracks:

  • Dirty Money
  • Him Belly No Go Sweet
  • Sáré Kon Kon

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 2012.

Thoughts: Antibalas is a Brooklyn-based afrobeat band with ties to Daptone Records.  The channel both the sound and political outrage of Fela Kuti into a contemporary American setting.

Bonus Sounds: Another contemporary Afrobeat outfit from New York that I like is The Budos Band.


Artist: Johnny Most 
Title: Reverse The Curse
Year: 2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • An Eye Opener
  • Baby, That’s Fine
  • R.A.Y.F. (Kind of Man)
  • All People
  • Johnny’s Bender Sing Along
  • Uncle

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Circa 2004.

Thoughts: This may be one of the more obscure albums on this list.  Johnny Most was a Boston-based jazz/funk fusion band that didn’t seem to last long beyond this one album.  I believe I saw them in concert once, but I think I arrived right at the end of their set. The reason I know about Johnny Most at all is that their drummer, Joby DeCoster, was a guy who went to the College of William & Mary at the same time as me and we later worked together at Colonial Williamsburg.  I guess I was still in touch with him enough to learn that he was involved with this album which turned out to be excellent!

Bonus Sounds: DeCoster was also involved in a Boston-based alt-country band, The Scrimshanders, who just released a compilation album last fall, Songs That Never Were.


Artist: Freezepop  
Title: Fancy Ultra Fresh
Year: 2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • stakeout
  • bike thief
  • parlez-vous freezepop?
  • outer space
  • tonight

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Probably around 2006.  I learned of “bike thief” from a compilation of Boston bands, and then got the full album.

Thoughts:  Another Boston-based band, this one making synthop.  The beats are infectious and the lyrics are often hilarious.

Bonus Sounds:  Apparently, Freezepop is still active and released a new album as recently as 2020.  I should check it out, but I tend to be lazy (which is also the title of one of my Freezepop tunes).


Artist: Hum Machine
Title: Theorems and Compositions of the Last Action Rocker
Year:  2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bring it on Pepeyon
  • Remember When
  • Remote From Below
  • Mechanical Devices
  • Twisted Niche
  • It’s Gotta Be
  • Laughing As You Cry

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  Circa 2003

Thoughts: This may be more obscure than the Johnny Most album.  Hum Machine was a post-punk/power pop band from Madison, Wisconsin.  I only knew of their existence because one of the band members was on a message board for fans of the New York Mets that I frequented!  Listening to this album for the first time in a long time, I’m amazed that just every track is still a total banger.

Bonus Sounds: Hum Machine had other albums, but tracking down any information on them now is sadly a hard task.


Artist: The Velveteens
Title: ¡Viva!
Year: 1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fred Garvey
  • Dr. Moriarity
  • Wasted With the Cooper
  • Yak Farm
  • Port Authority

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Circa 1998.

Thoughts: Once again, a deep dive into the obscure.  This is another band with ties to The College of William & Mary, although I didn’t have any personal connection to any of the band members.  This is a large ska band I first heard play at a W&M reunion I attended when I was still living in Williamsburg.  I love their ska beats and story songs about a male escort, getting drunk in Colonial Williamsburg, and a woman pirate.

Bonus Sounds:  I seem to be the only one who remembers this band.  I can’t even find a way to embed one of their songs for you.  Oh well, it’s my little treat to listen to for as long as the CD holds out.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 200-191

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.


ArtistThe Kinks
Title: Something Else by The Kinks
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Death of a Clown
  • Harry Rag
  • Love Me Till the Sun Shines
  • Waterloo Sunset

The First Time I Heard This Album …: The Rolling Stone 500 was the first time I listened to these songs in entirety.

Thoughts: This album marks the transition of The Kinks from a British Invasion rock band to a band that writes wry, introspective, and observational songs about every day people. The Kinks aren’t folk rock but their music is informed by the folk tradition, and this album also reflects that odd music hall revival that coincided with psychedelic rock in England.

Bonus Sounds:  “Waterloo Sunset” is a nice song, isn’t it?  Here are some covers by David Bowie and Cathy Dennis.


Artist: Aretha Franklin
Title: Lady Soul
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Chain of Fools
  • People Get Ready
  • (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman
  • (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
  • Good to Me As I Am To You
  • Ain’t No Way

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Sometime in the early Oughts, I borrowed this album from the library

Thoughts: It’s hard to believe this is not a greatest hits compilation because it has so many of Aretha’s classic bangers.  But that’s what makes it a GREAT album.

Bonus Sounds: I somehow talked my way down to only one Aretha Franklin album on this list but  Young, Gifted, and Black, Amazing Grace, and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (and many more) are all worth a listen.


Artist: Elvis Costello
Title: My Aim Is True 
Year: 1977
Favorite Tracks:

  • No Dancing
  • Alison
  • (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
  • Less Than Zero
  • Mystery Dance
  • Watching the Detectives

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  Early Oughts when I was exploring old punk and new wave recordings.

Thoughts: This debut album features Elvis Costello at his rawest, channeling an early Rock & Roll sound into the new punk rock/new wave paradigm. So many of the tracks from this album remain in rotation almost fifty years, to the point that Costello’s earliest work almost overshadows the rest of his oeuvre.

Bonus Sounds: There are several other recordings by Costello worth listening to. I also read his memoir Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink several years ago and found out he is better at writing songs than books, but it had some interesting moments.


Artist: Beck
Title: Guero
Year: 2005
Favorite Tracks:

  • E-Pro
  • Qué Onda Guero
  • Girl
  • Hell Yes
  • Go It Alone
  • Rental Car
  • Emergency Exit

The First Time I Heard This Album …: When it first came out in 2005.

Thoughts: This album came at the end of a great decade of peak Beck music from the mid-90s to the mid-00s, but it remains one of his best.

Bonus Sounds: One of Beck’s most creative albums was Song Reader, a collection of sheet music.  In 2013, I was part of Beck’s Song Reader Performed Live, were over 150 musicians, performance artists, and dancers (including burlesque dancers) brought the song to life.  I was part of a 50-voice chorus who sang on several songs, most notably “The Wolf Is On the Hill” (Note: this link is NSFW, because, burlesque dancers).


Artist: Modest Mouse
Title: Moon And Antarctica
Year:  2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • 3rd Planet
  • Gravity Rides Everything
  • Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
  • A Different City
  • Wild Pack of Family Dogs
  • I Came As a Rat

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 2005, I was looking for new music and got this album on the recommendation of … someone.

Thoughts:  This is a great example of where indie/alternative rock was going in new directions in the early to mid Oughts.  This albums got weird sounds and creative lyrics, but Modest Mouse never forgets to make an enjoyable tune.

Bonus Sounds: This album surprisingly didn’t include any singles, but the next album released in 2004 included the bands most memorable track, “Float On.


Artist: Fountains of Wayne
Title: Welcome Interstate Managers
Year: 2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mexican Wine
  • Stacy’s Mom
  • No Better Place
  • Valley Winter Song
  • All Kinds of Time
  • Hung Up On You

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Sometime around 2003.

Thoughts: When I first learned of Fountains of Wayne, I was surprised that there was a band that appealed to both young hipsters as well as old dudes who usually only listen to 70s rock.  I guess the band’s power pop sounds has a timeless appeal.  And I find their anthems of New York City Tri-State Area ennui to be relatable.

Bonus Sounds: There are only so many slot in my favorite 250, so I could only choose one Fountains of Wayne album, a great slight to Utopia Parkway.  But do check out the collection that includes “Red Dragon Tattoo” among many other greats.


Year: 2014
Favorite Tracks:


The First Time I Heard This Album …: When it was released in 2014 simultaneously with the Prince album Art Official Age.

Thoughts: “Girl with a guitar is twelve times better than another crazy band of boys/Trying to be a star/When you’re just another brick in a misogynistic wall of noise.” 3RDEYEGIRL is the trio of Hannah Welton, Donna Grantis, and Ida Kristine Nielsen who served as Prince’s backing band from 2014 until his death.  Their one album with Prince rocks hard!  And it features a cameo from Lizzo.

Bonus Sounds: “FUNKNROLL” is a song so good that Prince also recorded a version for his own album.


Artist:  The Who
Title: Who’s Next
Year: 1971
Favorite Tracks:

  • Baba O’Riley
  • The Song is Over
  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again

The First Time I Heard This Album …: High school, sometime in the late 80s.

Thoughts: I’m surprised to end up including an album from The Who on the list since they’re not a band that has ever interested me much.  But the Rolling Stone 500 project made me realize that a lot of the songs by The Who that I really do like happen to be on this album.

Bonus Sounds: I think The Who is a band who were probably far more electrifying in live concert performance than on their albums. Do I’ll recommend listening to Live at Leeds for the closet experience to enjoying the band in concert during their prime.


Artist: The Velvet Underground
Title: The Velvet Underground 
Year: 1969
Favorite Tracks:

  • What Goes On
  • Pale Blue Eyes
  • Beginning To See The Light
  • The Murder Mystery
  • After Hours

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, Rolling Stone 500

Thoughts: After all these years I’m still kind of surprised that The Velvet Underground can do melodic ballads. There’s a lot of great music on this album that sounds different from the great music on their other albums. There’s also “The Murder Mystery” an esoteric track with different songs being sung and poems recited simultaneously in a harmonic way. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of anything like that before! I kind of wish Moe Tucker sang lead on more songs.

Bonus Sounds: Another band for whom it’s hard to pick just one album, especially with classics like White Light/White Heat and Loaded in contention.


Artist: The Ramones
Title: Rocket to Russia
Year: 1977
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cretin Hop
  • Rockaway Beach
  • Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
  • We’re A Happy Family
  • Teenage Lobotomy

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, Rolling Stone 500

Thoughts: The title Rocket to Russia, seems all to topical now.  The Ramones third album contains some of their most memorable tunes, including my all-time favorite “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”  It’ll always remind me of when I first discovered The Ramones in the late 80s and realized that I, too, could be a punk rocker.

Bonus Sounds: The title of this album sounds more political than The Ramones’ music typically is, but one of their most political songs ever, “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” from 1986, is another of my all-time favorites.



2021 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

I’ve reviewed 23 albums on this blog in 2021, and probably listened to just as many that I didn’t feel compelled to write about. From this list I’ve selected six of my favorite albums that I recommend you give a listen.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 2014201620172018, 2019, and 2020 as well.

Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar

The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite by IKOQWE

Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast

Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls

Really From by Really From

They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

I’ve reviewed 23 albums on this blog in 2020, and probably listened to just as many that I didn’t feel compelled to write about. From this list I’ve selected five of my favorite albums that I recommend you give a listen.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Everyone liked this album and with good reason.

The Ballroom Thieves – Unlovely

The Boston-based trio released one of many albums that speaks to our time, on both the levels of personal relationships and social movements.

Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

I am unable to rank my favorite albums, but this is most likely contender for my #1 album of the year, and also the most important.

Run the Jewels – RTJ4

“Speaking to our times” is the theme of this years list and no one does it better than Killer Mike and El-P.

Sault – Untitled (Rise)

We may not know who Sault is, but the British collective released not one but two of the great albums of 2020.

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

It’s the time of the year to list my favorite albums!  What follows are my ten favorite albums listed in alphabetical order by the artists.  Links in the album title go to my full review of the album.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, and 2017 as well.

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett

Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa by Jeremy Dutcher

Sugar & Spice by Hatchie

Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo

Acrylic by Leikeli47

Roza Cruz by La Mecánica Popular 

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

Orquesta Akokán by Orquesta Akokán

Wide Awake! by Parquet Courts

Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers