In deciding to compile this list, I tried to be as honest as possible in that I found myself several times resisting the urge to include albums or musicians that I ‘thought’ I should have on my list but don’t necessarily listen to all that much. For example, there’s a reason I don’t have any jazz on here. I don’t find myself reaching for Miles Davis over R.E.M. so why be a poseur and include it? These are favorites…’MY favorites’.
A few notes: I shied away from live albums (hence, no “The Last Waltz”), greatest hits (with one exception), compilations and having more than one album from a particular band. What, was I going to list the ENTIRE Beatles catalog? A few times I did include multiple albums from a songwriter whether it was a solo album or offshoot band, so you may spot a few repeats in that respect. I also could have easily included many local Pittsburgh releases but decided to keep them for a separate list coming soon. With that being said, I hope you enjoy this list as much as I had making it. Hopefully in putting this together, you the reader, will discover something you never heard before or reacquaint yourself with a long, forgotten album. Look out for the remaining installments here ‘every’ Sunday.
Getting really good now. These all could be top ten…easy. Never heard of these bands or albums? All I can say by now is simply our loss. Check out the previous entries for #21-40, #41-60, #61-80, #81-100 and the albums that almost made the cut.
11. Built Like Alaska-Autumnland (2005) How did I find this band/album? I have no idea. Their music came into my life and actually became a part of my life. They are incredibly cool people who live 2,400 miles from me but that doesn’t matter. They live with me everyday because they made this music. They came to play Pittsburgh because I asked them to. That never happens anymore. Why not? I remember studying the liner notes/lyrics of the CD insert like an actual LP gatefold of yore when I got this. I cannot tell you how much this album means to me, which is actually great, it’s none of your business. Choice Tracks: ‘Train Wreck‘, ‘Does Your Mother Feel Sick‘, ‘Almost The Earth‘.
12. Old 97’s-Fight Songs (1999) Their fourth album finds the band exploring more Donny than Marie as they seemingly started as country and evolved to rock and eventually pop. I love Rhett’s and Murray’s songs and the haters will hate that the alt.country beginnings became too ‘mainstream’. People should chill and appreciate the songs for what they are worth. I turned my buddy onto this album, who eventually turned my other buddy onto this album and damn if they both aren’t bigger 97’s fans than I am today. This band is so great. Choice Tracks: ‘Jagged‘, ‘Busted Afternoon‘, ‘Valentine‘.
13. Norfolk & Western-If You Were Born Overseas (2005) I don’t know who M. Ward is. He’s playing a free gig in one of CMU’s many cafeterias? Sure, what’s to lose? Turns out he’s REALLY good. Not only that but his opening bands are just as cool. N&W also play as his backing band and have this limited edition, hand-printed cover release at the table. I hardly ever buy merch but Adam, and especially Rachel, are charming enough that I pick it up. I throw it in the player as we drive home and instantly kick myself as how I really didn’t pay enough attention as the band played these incredible songs while I was waiting for the headliner. To this day, I NEVER underestimate the opening band and what they have to offer. So lucky I saw Adam and Rachel twice again before they ‘disbanded’. The world needs more Adam Selzer music in the world. Yeah, this might the most obscure album on the list since they took many of the songs and released them again on later albums. Choice Tracks: ‘From the Interests of Few‘, ‘Edison‘, ‘Banish All Rock‘.
14. The Cure-Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987) A friend of mine bought this double album when it came out and although I really didn’t care for the band whatsoever (I was as far away from ‘goth’ as you can get), I immediately loved the crazy, eclectic vibe of this album and still love it 25+ years later. Choice Tracks: ‘Catch‘, ‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep‘ (Acoustic), ‘The Perfect Girl‘.
15. Ryan Adams-Gold (2001) I still don’t consider this his ‘best’ album but it remains my favorite. There is a subtle difference in that I listen to and fondly appreciate that this was the release that introduced me to his music over the one that I think is better. Screw it, they are both amazing, as his other albums, and this is just a fun record to blast loud, very loud! Listen to the acoustic demos for these tunes and really appreciate the finished product. Choice Tracks: ‘La Cienega Just Smiled‘, ‘Touch, Feel & Lose‘ (Acoustic), ‘New York, New York‘.
16. One Star Hotel-Good Morning, West Gordon (2004) Probably the most under the radar album on the entire list. This now disbanded little band from Philly played the Quiet Storm Coffeehouse twice and as my hopes were extremely high for these to guys to rock my world for years to come, I was told by them at the second gig they were breaking up. I am still crushed years later, even with the consolation that main songwriter Steve Yutzy-Burkey was carrying on in another band The Swimmers. My heart belongs to the two sets I saw and the two albums they left behind. I listen to this band more often than I should. Seriously, download both of their albums now, they are quite fantastic. Choice Tracks: ‘Starlight‘, ‘Falling Down‘, ‘River Drive‘.
17. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice-Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) Let me blunt in stating I hate showtunes. They are the worst. You name any Broadway melody and I’m running for the hills. Seriously, I literally gave up a career because of ‘La Cage aux Folles’. Long story but I detest that ‘Gotta Dance!’ shit. Except this. Whether it’s a ‘rock opera’ or not, I was weened on it at an early age as my siblings and I used to sing this along with my mother who, like my father, is responsible for me still enjoying the some of the music I listen to as an adult. Choice Tracks: ‘Heaven on Their Minds‘, ‘Damned for All Time/Blood Money’ (1996),’ ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him‘.
18. Slow Dazzle-The View From the Floor (2005) Imagine if your favorite band folkish rock and roll band put out an obscure, one-off, electronica-vibed, minimalist album? You would initial think it was a terrible idea, right? So did I until the minute I heard it and to this day cannot believe how I seem to be in the minority as just how fantastic this is. This is one of those secrets you hold dear. You want everyone and their mother to experience how great this is but are content to know that you and a ‘privileged’ few are privy to how a now divorced couple can document a break-up. The Mendoza Line’s divorce album wasn’t the ‘30 Year Low‘ album as everyone ran with, it was this one, released two years prior. Either way, the end of my indie hopes and dreams in some weird way. Choice Tracks: ‘Fleur de Li‘, ‘Now or Never or Later‘, ‘The View From the Floor‘.
19. Bruce Springsteen-Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) Once again I have to blame my father for insisting on having me listen to the radio broadcast of Bruce’s Cleveland gig on a hot as hell August night in 1978. I was 11 years old?!?! My old man knew what was up back then. He never ‘forced’ rock and roll on me but was definitely influential in what I listen to today because he was and always will be so damn cool. Watching him (try to) dance to ‘Badlands’ always cracked me and my siblings up. What a beautiful guy. Choice Tracks: ‘Badlands‘, ‘Racing in the Streets‘, ‘The Promised Land‘, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town‘.
20. Blue Rodeo-The Days In Between (2000) The band’s least favorite album turns out to be my go to album of theirs. I was introduced to the band with this one and caught them live the following year in Pittsburgh on a ‘Greatest Hits‘ tour at the now defunct Nick’s Fat City with Tim Easton opening. My sister in law at the time scared the hell out of Tim that night for some reason. Maybe that’s why he avoided Pittsburgh several years afterwards? I have attempted to even remotely get into any other Blue Rodeo album other than this one and weird thing is, I haven’t able to. Maybe I’m the strange one? Choice Tracks: ‘Cinema Song‘, ‘Rage‘, ‘Somebody Waits‘.