I am currently in a school-work purgatory (unclear which side is life and which is…not) in which I have very few things I HAVE to do, but lots of self-induced pressure to spend my time thoughtfully and beneficially. I’ve been pretty bored. It seems deadlines and stress are essential to my productivity. As such, I’ve made myself a very lengthy to-do list, and many of the items on that list involve making other lists. Today’s item is to list my top ten albums. You know, in case someone asks.
1. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan.
My CD collection came to college a few weeks after I did, so music-less, unaware of how Napster worked, and too awkward to make any friends, I was sent this by my friend Evan. It’s all I listened to for those weeks and while it did not make me less lonely, it provided a great soundtrack for loneliness wallowing.
2. Paul Simon, Graceland.
My favorite high school teacher had a little son and thought to call him Sonny, thus no longer able to keep the kitten I gave him. We thought to call him Bitey.
3. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
I saw Wilco when they were touring for this album and I didn’t know the album or Wilco very well. Their performance was so weird and wonderful, and my appreciation grew after finding out about their struggle with their label and their willingness to diverge so much from their pop-y beginnings.
4. The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
5. Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender
A good friend in college was sad about things not working out with a girl he really liked. I played him Joanna Newsom. Your skin is something that I stir into my tea? Can’t be sad with a line like that to mull. He felt better and the world seemed infinite.
6. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska.
The harmonica alone is enough to make you cry over memories you don’t have. I think I had made fun of Born in the U.S.A. and someone made me listen to this. Thanks, someone. I’ll never forget you.
7. Elvis Costello, My Aim is True.
I was so obsessed with the song Alison my junior year of high school. I was suffering from unrequited love something awful, and that song made it seem pretty noble.
8. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I was in love with this when it came out, during the height of my “I am going to be a singer” phase (elementary school). I had kind of forgotten about it until a coffee shop in Ann Arbor decided it was going to play the whole album every night during finals. Thanks, coffee shop!
9. Grateful Dead, American Beauty.
Not at all embarrassed that I was introduced to this album by Freaks and Geeks.
10. Josh Ritter, Hello Starling.
I skipped senior prom to see Josh Ritter at Oberlin and during that show, I decided to go to college in California. I hesitated to put this album on the list because Josh, like the Beatles or Bob Dylan, is an artist I like so much that it’s difficult to parse through individual albums. But this one was the first, and it feels like an old friend.