Inspired by the narrator in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, here’s my desert-island, all-time, top five favourite albums.
1. Darklands¬†(1987) – The Jesus and Mary Chain
Darklands was released in 1987, and I can’t believe I only discovered it four years ago. Thanks to its simplicity, it doesn’t sound dated at all. I wish bands like this still exist. What’s magical about this album is that it works for every mood. It’s at once chill and upbeat, brooding yet cheerful, and can wake you up or lull you to sleep.
2. Urban Hymns¬†(1997) – The Verve
Urban Hymns is the perfect title for this album of emotionally-rich rock songs sung by a soulful Richard Ashcroft. I never get tired of hearing “Bittersweet Symphony,” which is worth the price of this album alone. But there’s also spectacular songwriting in “Sonnet,” “The Drugs Don’t Work,” “Space and Time” and “Lucky Man.” One of the great Britpop albums.
3. Arular (2005) – MIA
I’ve always been a huge M.I.A. fan, and when her debut album dropped, it was an exciting time in music. Arular¬†is bold, raw, eclectic, in your face, and FUN. Some of the lyrics deal with serious matters such as immigration and violence, while others are¬†straight-up trashy, which makes for an interesting mix. You can enjoy this album on many levels, but at the core, it’s a banger of a dance album. Kala, her follow-up album is pretty amazing too, but I just remember driving in a car and blasting songs like “10 Dollar” and “U.R.A.Q.T.” and having the best time. M.I.A. deserves more credit for her influence on contemporary music. It’s safe to say, though, that Arular is now a classic.
4. Contra¬†(2010) – Vampire Weekend
I had a hard time choosing between this album and Vampire’s weekend’s self-titled debut. I ultimately chose Contra because it’s a little more musically ambitious and sophisticated, while still maintaining their indie pop/rock sensibilities. “Diplomat’s Son” even samples M.I.A. Admittedly, I’ve never really paid much attention to their lyrics, but they probably contrast the joyful nature of the songs. If you’re wondering who that mysterious woman is on the cover, I recently learned there was major¬†drama over the use of that photo.
5. Room on Fire¬†(2003) – The Strokes
The first two Strokes albums became instant classics as soon as they were released. I know Is This It¬†was a decade-defining album, but I simply listen to Room on Fire more. It’s hard to beat “12:51,” “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” and “Under Control.” And to this day, I can’t think of a guy cooler than Julian Casablancas.