The Top Five Records of All Time (A Personal List)

I was speaking with a good fellow tonight and amidst conversation about more important things, the topic of top five records came up. This is dangerous territory; top five lists tend to be either boring or discrediting, and my main concern is twofold: one, that even if no one else is, I am quite tired of my own top five lists, and two, my top five record list is indeed quite rote. Does anybody need to hear my say that Exile on Main Street is a good album?

The answer is yes. I have decided to forgo my reservations and record this, my list of the top five albums of all time. But before I begin I must get a few things out of the way.

1. This is the last top five list I will make public. It truly is the most trivial kind of blog post, and if I wasn't taken with a sudden desire to write this, I would have stopped ages ago. There will not be a follow up list if it turns out I forgot something. Though you are welcome, nay encouraged, to respond with a list of your own. We may subsequently debate, and make merry.

2. They Might Be Giants will not be on this list, though they are very good.

3. Lists tend to be a fairly revealing exercise. I take the example of movie lists. If your favorite movie is The Truman Show, probably you haven't seen that many movies. If your favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine, you're probably a douchebag, and if your favorite movie is Yes Man, you probably don't care that much. Any of those positions are fine, but I think its far more interesting to say your favorite movie is, say, Pan's Labyrinth, which is a commendable choice but means your perspective is uniquely yours, than it is to say your favorite movie is the Godfather. Sadly my own list will tend more towards the latter, as my music tastes were defined primarily by the tapes my dad had in his car (a Chrysler LeBaron, no less).

4. Because I really want Rain Dogs on this list, but can't see fit to substitute anything else for it, this is actually going to be made up of six albums. Rain Dogs is very good besides, so go pick it up if you haven't.

So without further trepidation, let's begin:

6. Rain Dogs - Tom Waits

The shit that hit the fan the hardest. I find it increasingly difficult to say that Tom Waits doesn't just have like seven things he does very well that he does over and over, but this record's pretty fucking inspired. Also worth noting is I was inspired to pick it up based on Paul Rudd wearing a t-shirt with the album art on it in Knocked Up.

5. Wowee Zowee - Pavement

In which Stephen Malkmus gives up trying to be a rock star and retreats into his dickishness. But this is the album I will play for my children, the implausible majesty of a poetic musician who claimed to care only slightly and cared only slightly more.

4. Exile on Main Street - The Rolling Stones

Possibly the most vicious album of all time, and one that doesn't shy from dropping N bombs because Mick is not from America and doesn't care about it. Not that this concept doesn't appeal to the meanest-spirited part of my nature, but there's a certain vindication that a record of such cynicism was embraced by the earnest-at-large general public. And not one song is not awesome.

3. Highway 61, Revisited - Bob Dylan

I didn't like Dylan's quote about not liking nature because it can't touch the fortitude of dreams until I read Rousseau and realized that the enlightenment's obsession with the Natural is limiting and Dylan's invection is much further-reaching. Taken as a statement of philosophical weight, it injects his lyrical concepts with an artistic height that as much as I've always revered him, I never credited him with, and even if not, these are the songs on which Dylan's songwriting is at its premium. Much like Lil Wayne, its possible no one will really ever understand him completely, which ascribes a quite literal timelessness to this record for as long as anybody still cares. Also, a Wayne/Dylan collabo would be ideal.

2. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground

Necessary. If I had a nickel for every time a band wasn't as good as the Velvet Underground...

1. Abbey Road - The Beatles

The real shit. This is it, the greatest album of all time; a statement about the state of the world (The Beatles would hereby like you to believe we are all connected, by love) pulled off with the grace and beauty that makes me believe it. If all music were this good I'm convinced there would be no wars. You hear that, Barack Obama? Start making music now.

And that is it. The six greatest things anybody has done to sound. And despite my initial acknowledgement of subjectivity, I now believe that this is pretty much Truth. That's what writing alone will do to you.

But if you were truly offended by this, here is the list of honorable mentions:

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
Loaded - The velvet Underground
Greetings from Asbury, NJ - Bruce Springsteen
Hex Enduction Hour - The Fall
Doolittle - Pixies
Bee Thousand - Guided by Voices
Illmatic - Nas
Emperor Tomato Ketchup - Stereolab
The Lonesome Crowded West - Modest Mouse
Separation Sunday - The Hold Steady
Gimme Fiction - Spoon


Spencer | April 17, 2009 at 4:23 PM

I think everyone should do one of these. You can never know the value of documenting something until you are many years removed from the time of documentary. Right now I'm commenting from a public computer on the 6th floor of Kimmel where some dick is checking his (own) myspace and playing his guitar. If life were merely a series of inconsequential fantasies I would actually dispatch this guy right now... God this is so awful, he's bobbing his head in time. He might even be closing his eyes. It's like in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Judge Reinhold is caught masturbating. So many insufferables at NYU...