Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Album. Record. Call it what you will, it's almost extinct. Listening to 10 or 12 songs in a row by one artist or group, let alone from the same recorded source, is so yesterday. In fact, listening to a song past the first chorus is too, but that's for another discussion.
I remember listening obsessively to full albums, lying in a state of rapt bliss while an artist took me through his or her or their Grand Vision. There was a beginning, a middle and an end (or two of those whole processes if you consider listening to the A and B side of a vinyl record). The record was a journey, and for me, some of those journeys were worth going on over and over again.
So, for what it's worth, here are the first ten (of 20) most obsessed-over, repeatedly-listened-to albums of my last 20+ years, in no real order. The list, of course, reveals a lot about me, some of which I'm not too sure I'm happy with, but there's no accounting for taste.
Is there, Sting?

1. U2- The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
U2 was my magnificent obsession from 1987 on. They aren't anymore, and I plan to blog about that next. But this album, their one-before-fame, was dark, mysterious, glorious, unprecedented and supernatural.

2. The Beatles- Beatles For Sale (1964)
My other maginificent obsession, this one from earlier in my life, and one I'm happy to say is still as strong today as the day I first heard them, in 1983 or so. Of all their records, this one just made me consistently happy. A rare thing in music these days.

3. Bruce Springsteen- Tunnel Of Love (1987)
I love Broooce, his new stuff's amazing, but this one had 'Tougher Than The Rest', 'Brilliant Disguise' and the title track. For an increasingly confused teenager, this soundtracked an unforgettable space and time.

4. The National- Boxer (2007)
I had this on repeat throughout 2007. Melancholy but tough, mysterious and familiar. It just made me feel not so alone, and it was musically innovative enough for me to admire as well as love it.

5. Ron Sexsmith- Retriever (2004)
Of all Ron's beautiful albums, this is one I just had to listen to from beginning to end. Some of these songs, especially 'Not About To Lose', became anthems for me at a particularly unhappy time in my life.

6. Crowded House- Intriguer (2010)
I've loved Crowded House from the beginning, especially their second record "Temple Of Low Men". This one, their second after their 2007 re-formation, just struck me like none of their others, all at once, as a whole work. On repeat for weeks. I got to tell Neil Finn that to his face too, at their Durban show a few weeks ago.

7. Bob Dylan- 'Love and Theft' (2001)
This is the first Bob album I ever bought the day of its release. And what a day. Tuesday, September 11 2001. I was in New York City, too, and I walked up to HMV on 5th to get it while all around the world was changing. The rest of that Fall, this was my soundtrack.

8. Tom Petty- Full Moon Fever (1989)
The Traveling Wilburys led me to this. When I saw the video for 'I Won't Back Down', featuring George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Jeff Lynne, I was hooked. I'd like Tom from afar before ('Don't Come Around Here No More' etc), but this album turned me into an obsessed, life-long fan. I own everything he's ever done, but this is The One for me.

9. The Police- Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'De Do Do Do' were ubiquitous in 1980/ 1981, but I only discovered this album as a whole for myself in 1996. It opened up a world of music-making possibilites for me: a three-piece rock band, with all the space and mystery of reggae, and the accessibility of undeniable (but still slightly odd) songwriting. Of all their 5 records, this described The Police for me. Oh Sting, where is thy sting?

10. Metric- Fantasies (2009)
Didn't really get this Canadian band till this one came out. 'Help I'm Alive' got me first, and this album stayed on for months. I'm pretty sick of it now actually, but it's one of those albums, like all in this list, that I know every note of.

Ok, the next 10 soon.
Feel free to add your thoughts, similar obsessions, or violent disagreements. Nothing incites hatred, condescension or out-and-out vilification like one's music preferences, just as nothing bonds like a shared love of some obscure 80's one hit wonder.
I have a lot of those too.