Top (whatever) lists can be such buggers to create, because one: obviously, how do you pick your favorite favorites?!

 There are so many angles to come from when building a list. To prevent myself from dumping my entire pile of favorites into this post then arguing each album’s merits (a slippery slope, I have found), I had to select an arbitrary set of criteria to frame my list. I do what I want. Two: taste and mood and life circumstances (all factors influencing favorites-selection) fluctuate constantly, or at least I’ve found that is true for current myself, being stuck somewhere in between Erikson’s Stage 5 (Identity vs. Role Confusion) and 6 (Intimacy vs. Isolation).

Can you tell I’m a systems-thinking analysis junkie? INTJs represent.

Anyway, the point of this very-nearly-in-the-wrong-month post is that Janice and I thought it would be fun (yes, thinking this hard is fun for me) and quite illuminating to share our favorite albums, as discerned at this time point in our lives. I have no idea what parameters Janice set for herself, but I had to do some combination of

(personally meaningful) x (technical talent) x (abstract, not-quite-definable quality of awesomeness)

to pick these albums. I also noticed a trend of loving albums that have a chunk of songs that all turn into each other, but this list also doesn’t cover all of the albums that I like that do that.

Come on, Captain Ramblepants, how about moving on to the core of this post? Okay!


Colors: Between the Buried and Me

Despite all my album angsting, this is one album that has a clear definition to me of BEST ALBUM IN THE UNIVERSE. This is pretty much the LP that kicked me off the cliff into the waters of metal and hardcore appreciation. Scream vocals are definitely an acquired taste, but somehow, Tommy Rogers on this album made it easy for me to buy in. Other evidence for BAITU status: the musicianship on this album is pretty insane. Being a classically trained pianist who resorted to Hulk-smashing the biggest chords I could find because I never had the patience to refine my technique, I have a lot of respect for people with the impeccable fine motor skills required to play intricate passages. And to write them, holy hell. This album blends so many genres together so convincingly that I am convinced that this band’s collective IQ must be five million. Plus, there’s a bonus twinge of weirdness lacing the musical phrases and vocals that is pretty mesmerizing.

Why Aren’t You Listening to This Already Jam: “Prequel to the Sequel” – it’s my favorite, but you’ll miss out if you listen to it out of context, since it’s pretty much one with the preceding five tracks.


The End is Not the End: House of Heroes

Underrated band of the century, underrated album of the century. These guys are beyond talented, and it makes me really sad to go to shows where they wail on their instruments in front of a crowd of like 4.7 people looking awkward and uncomfortable. (Or maybe that’s just Nashville for you.) I have a deep appreciation for the theme of American war imagery woven throughout this album, and find the song “Field of Daggers” especially goosebumps-inducing. This is another band that knows their way around interesting songwriting and solid production. Can someone recommend another group that falls into this genre of modern yet classic rock (not the radio format, literally rock and roll that is classic in its style and composition) but that isn’t generic and predictable? Because I haven’t found any, and that stinks.


The Everglow: Mae

Keys and I have a major love-hate relationship. That’s the role in the band I never ever want, ever, even though piano is the instrument I play best. My loathing colors the way I listen to music incorporating keys, and makes me hypercritical of key parts. They usually feel either really corny and trite or are really basic and boring. But Mae doesn’t make that faux pas in The Everglow; their piano is sheer MAGIC. Rob Sweitzer jabs you in the face with his keyboard and then the rest of the band follows up with an uppercut of grit and beats and chords. And the result is music that carries you up and away and into a night sky sprinkled with stars. Give it a listen, you’ll see. It’s not just an album, it’s an experience. Also notable: only a handful of albums have vibed with me so well that I knew before the end of the first listen that they would be one of The Favorites, and this is one of them.

I’ve Claimed This One for My Wedding, Thank You Very Much: “Suspension”


Dead Throne: The Devil Wears Prada

Somehow, I’ve associated this album so closely with autumn that I am pretty much conditioned to smell impending frost and dead leaves at dusk whenever I hear a song from it. I’m not sure how this works, but I haven’t been a fan of the Prada catalog before or after this album, but Dead Throne is really all I need. I think what blows me away the most about it is something to do with the production, which creates an ethereal, dark atmosphere that creeps over you and hovers there through your entire listen. I could be listening to this album in the middle of a lush, warm field in the high noon sun and I’d be lost in a world of fall and fog. This album is also a lovely balance of sonic heaviness and intelligent writing. I try very, very hard not to be a music snob because they suck, but if you actually know how to play your instrument, I am all about that. So sue me.

Drive Far Into the Moonlit Countryside Blasting This One: “Born to Lose”


Even if it Kills Me: Motion City Soundtrack

And here we have the wild card – it doesn’t have songs that run together, it’s not particularly ambient nor is it intensely technical. But, I have infinite love for it because it captures a good amount of my current self in both its lyrical subject matter as well as its vibe. I am definitely pop-punk-esque at the core, and if you could encapsulate personalities in genres, MCS would be a fairly accurate representative sample of me. The song that hooked and reeled me into this LP was “Point of Extinction”, but almost every track from beginning to end gets equal love from me, for one reason or another. I was going to list my Songs You Can’t Miss from it, but I’m pretty sure it would end up being the entire tracklisting. So we’ll go with Song That Best Describes Me Currently That You Can’t Miss: track 10, “Where I Belong”.

Well. That was so hard I pretty much put it off for an entire month. Woof! And because I can’t end one without talking about food, how about…

Top 5 Foods Ruling My Life Right Now

Bento boxes. Artisan Bento in Banker’s Hill, San Diego, is off the hook. But I will accept ALL bento box donations. My favorite combo usually involves some teriyaki protein, maybe some sashimi, and tempura veggies. Yesssss.

Pizza. My arteries are lined with Jet’s (Nashville) square Hawaiian with banana peppers. Simultaneous ouch and yum.

Fruit Tarts. My love was re-ignited at Whole Foods, but then I found Krakatoa‘s vegan fruit tarts and I have been dreaming about them daily ever since. The carob lining absolutely makes these.

Burrito bowls. Or meals inspired by different aspects of Chipotle and Qdoba’s bowls. Check out last month’s post where I describe broiling my own chicken to make these at home because I can’t afford to spend $8 every day, sheesh.

Extra hard nectarines. Oh, look, it’s kind of healthy! I’ve been eating one of these bad boys nearly daily, because the crunch and the taste is just so dang good. Don’t give me any (even vaguely) squishy nectarines though, I hate the texture, and they make me extra itchy.

Okay, that’s enough fun. Back to the grind!

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