Sunday, July 10, 2005

Yet another post about music I like

Back in February of 2004, I sat down, went through my entire music collection, and narrowed it down to lists of my top 10, 25, 50, and 100 tracks. I've been meaning to update it for quite some time, and I've finally finished the 2005 versions of the lists. I decided that I could no longer pretend to pick my top 10 songs so I got rid of that list, and the 50 list wasn't very useful so I got rid of that list too. So here's what I ended up with for my top 25, with the new additions for this year in bold:

Balligomingo - Privilege
Basement Jaxx and Lisa Kekaula - Good Luck
Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance
Enigma - Gravity of Love
Enya - Anywhere Is
E.S. Posthumus - Ebla
Frou Frou - Breathe In
Gorillaz and De La Soul - Feel Good Inc.
Hooverphonic - Human Interest
Jerry Goldsmith - Ba'ku Village
Jurassic 5 and Nelly Furtado - Thin Line
Kelli Ali - Angel in L.A.
Linkin Park - Somewhere I Belong
Madonna - Nothing Fails
Maroon 5 - Harder to Breathe
Michelle Branch - 'Til I Get Over You
Nelly Furtado and the Kronos Quartet - One-Trick Pony
Newsboys - Million Pieces (Kissin' Your Cares Goodbye)
Olive - Smile
The Postal Service - Nothing Better
The Roots and Cody ChesnuTT - The Seed 2.0
Sneaker Pimps - Loretta Young Silks
Snow Patrol - Run
Vanessa Carlton - Paradise
Zack Hexum - How Many Times

I imposed a maximum of one song per artist on my top 25 list, and three per artist on my top 100 list. (Nelly Furtado broke the rules as a guest artist on a Jurassic 5 album.) I really can't say enough about those tracks; I've listened to them so many times. I'd recommend basically all of them to just about anyone. They're my desert island songs, my time capsule songs, and my weld-the-CD-player-shut songs. Some of them (but definitely not all of them) I can sing in their entirety (and often have on the way to/from work).

As I was doing this I came across a few other interesting things. First, there are some artists who barely show up on my lists at all despite being some of my favorites. Included in this list are Amon Tobin and 311. In the case of Amon Tobin, I think it's because his work is all so strong but also blends together so well, and it's hard to pick out single tracks that I like better than others. I'd need a whole Amon Tobin section if I'm going to include much of his work at all. There's also 311, which is one of several groups whose work I really enjoy, but none of it quite made it onto my top 25 list.

Soundtrack artists had a tough time getting on even the 100 list despite how much I love soundtracks; the list includes exactly one from Hans Zimmer (Now We Are Free from Gladiator), Jeremy Soule (Easthaven in Peace from Icewind Dale), Jerry Goldsmith (Ba'ku Village from Insurrection), John Williams (Anakin's Betrayal from Revenge of the Sith), Matt Uelmen (Tristram from Diablo), and Yann Tiersen (La valse d'Amélie from Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain). Brian Tyler had two because they're so singleworthy, even though I don't think his work is quite on par with those others (House Atreides and Inama Nushif from Children of Dune). Howard Shore had two from The Two Towers (The Riders of Rohan and Evenstar from The Two Towers), but it was really hard to pick those; the LOTR soundtrack is too rich and intertwined to pull out single threads. Finally, Rob King got two spots as well (the theme from Armageddon's Blade and The Academy of Honor from Heroes of Might and Magic IV), partially because his work is so incredibly memorable for me, having played the Might and Magic games for far more time than I've spent watching any movie or series of movies. Out of all those, though, the only one that made it into my top 25 is Ba'ku Village from Insurrection, a simple song that makes me happy and sad all at once. It beat out songs that probably deserved more to be in the more exclusive list, but I just didn't have the heart to demote it.

Maybe I should have an emergency list of five desert-island albums. I should probably disqualify greatest hits albums, though. It would look something like this, I think: A Day Without Rain by Enya (2000), Final Straw by Snow Patrol (2003), Bloodsport by Sneaker Pimps (2002), The Two Towers by Howard Shore (2002), and Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane by Hooverphonic (2002). 2002 was clearly quite the year for music. Like most of the music I like, all of those are recent. Besides classical music and soundtracks, I really don't know of that many older albums that I particularly like. Enya's been good since 1981, Newsboys have been good since 1992; basically all of my other albums have been released in the past ten years. I haven't really found a whole lot that I like that was older besides scattered singles (like, say, Every Breath You Take by The Police, and what have you).

I find this pretty interesting. Basically from as far back as I remember until the mid-90s (end of middle school), I didn't like much in the way of popular music. There wasn't a whole lot in the way of any music that I liked, actually. When I was little I heard a lot of 80s rock music from my parents and a lot of Christian sing-along tapes that my mom would buy for me, but I hadn't really heard enough types of music to really know what I liked. Before high school, I only had a few CDs and tapes. So, for the past year or two I've been wondering: am I just unaware of music that I would like from before the mid-90s, or did the styles of music that I generally like not really exist until then? There's one thing that's for certain, though; a strong part of whether or not I like music depends on its production. A well-produced, quality recording will always rate higher with me than something equivalent that was produced in a basement. It pervades the entire piece, making everything sound much more appealing to me. So, the lower production and recording technology that was available before that time period undoubtedly has something to do with why I rarely find music from earlier time periods that I enjoy.

Those 1,000 words just flew by, though in reality I apparently spent fifty minutes on this post, and much, much more than that making my top 25 and 100 lists.


Anonymous said...

Hi Travis,

You don't know me, but I've been following your blog for a while. I found it through the blog of your friend Jesse Whidden, with whom I chat semi-regularly.

As for your question about music, I would have to say, looking at your list, that the style of music you seem to most enjoy didn't really exist that much prior to the mid-1990s. For the most part, the current fad with hip-hop influences in pop music (which comprises a good part of your list) didn't really come about until 'N Sync and Britney Spears hit MTV in 1997, but now pop songs everywhere seem to have strong hip-hop roots. I might suggest looking into some of the earliest rap music from the '80s to add to this.

The other big part of your list seems to be made up mostly of recent alternative-rock works. Alternative rock has quite a history that goes back into the mid-1980s; some of its pioneers, such as Nirvana and Soundgarden, were from Seattle. I might also suggest 311 (you should have known I was going to mention Zack Hexum's brother :-P) and the Beastie Boys' earlier stuff.

If you're ever bored and need something to do, I invite you to poke around my site. :) Take care.


Travis said...

Howdy Jesse's friend. Glad to hear I've got more mystery readers.

I haven't actually been all that excited about earlier rap. Granted, I haven't had a lot of exposure, but I've at least sampled some of the big artists. I never really could listen to the Beastie Boys for too long.

I think that a big part of it is that I like melody, interesting percussion, and things that are catchy, and a lot of the hip-hop-influenced pop of today fits under those categories. A lot of earlier music is missing one or more of those things, or production values, or the kinds of instruments I like, or...

Something that I definitely should do is try to plot out the common characteristics from my top 25 list. Maybe I'll see interesting patterns that I didn't realize were there.

I do like 311. I have all of their currently-available albums, including Omaha Sessions and the like. I'd consider them one of my favorite artists, despite their weak showing in my top-X lists. Be sure to grab the I'll Be Here Awhile acoustic version from

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I hope I've been at least occasionally entertaining. :)

Travis said...

I decided that I would, sort of, total up the different characteristics that the tracks in my top 25 list share. Results were not very conclusive. Almost all of them involve singing, and not rapping. More than half of them had strong electronic influences. More than half had strong, thick percussion. Two-thirds were energetic. Four-fifths were what I would consider highly melodic.

Often I think to myself that it would be nice or fun to analyze the music I like, and usually in the end I decide that I don't really care that much.