Notes about the Bottom 50
If you refer to my overview post, I detailed the system I used to rank all of my albums. The top 150 went through a moderately rigorous process. When you are down past album #225, it’s a matter of it was sorted and I didn’t go after any tiebreakers.
I am sure that on any given day, or after a fresh listen, I would rank these differently. The point is, they made the list.
I tried to provide a link to the specific album I own for each entry. The majority of links are to Amazon or Bandcamp. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As a music lover, I don’t care where you purchase them from as long as you find something new that you love.
Trojan Instrumentals Box Set
It’s just three discs of instrumental ska. Totally chill and great melodies. I have never been let down by a Trojan box set. When I saw this box set at Amoeba Music in Hollywood I grabbed it without hesitation.
The Complete Collection
Everything we know that he ever recorded all available on one disc? Add in the mystique and the lore surrounding his alleged deal and how can you not own a copy of this album from one of the godfathers of the blues?
Why $#!+t So Crazy!?
Reggie has a routine where he doesn’t do a parody of other comedians but rather a parody of the cadence, inflections and rhythm of other comedians. That particular riff doesn’t even have many words that make sense. He is satirizing on a deep and rhythmic level. Make sure you get the live DVD as well, that is what pushes this album onto the list.
Kashmere Stage Band
Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974
Super inspiring to hear what level of musicianship (and funk) could be pulled out of a high school band. Great quality sound all things considered, too.
Johnny Guitar Watson
The Funk Anthology
My friend Todd and I would constantly scavenge for music together. Occasionally we would pool our resources and purchase an album together. One day we were at a Blockbuster Music (yes that existed) and, while going through the imports section, we saw an album called “Booty Ooty” by Johnny Guitar Watson. We couldn’t resist. We bought it. Todd got first dibs and I never saw it again. So when I saw this beautifully illustrated two album set, I splurged and it’s just as good as the reason Todd never let me have it.
We Are the Music Makers
I don’t know any band that sounds like Joy Electric. If you do, tell me because I will check them out. Not their best but it’s catchy. This album sounds like a soundtrack for a chase scene in a castle.
Buck Owens and His Buckaroos
The Instrumental Hits of Buck Owens and His Buckaroos
I heard, “Buckaroo” in the highly underrated (and eerily prophetic) movie “Idiocracy” and went out and bought this album within a week. It’s good old fashioned country without the lyrics.
Yo-Yo Ma / Ennio Morricone
Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone
Beautiful renditions of Ennio Morricone’s beautiful scores. Some versions of this album have an accompanying DVD which is worth it if you think you’re gonna love it.
Wild Cool and Swingin’
In the late nineties, after the swing revival, some indie artists started incorporating lounge music into their sound. Ultra Lounge capitalized on that trend with cultivated themed discs. This one comprised of classic crooners is fantastic. “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” occasionally will still get stuck in my head out of the blue.
The 8 Bit Hymnal
Eight bit cover albums often miss the mark for me by straying too far from the source material or by not presenting something new and fresh enough. Larson’s albums always find that perfect balance for me. I don’t think the interludes are based on actual game melodies but they feel like they are. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong about that. It won’t change my fandom of this album though.
Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures
All star lineup with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stoneage), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)? Honestly, the expectations were nearly impossible to live up to but this album still is worth a listen. When you’re done go ahead and watch the movie “It Might Get Loud*” for different set of three musical all stars getting together.
The Polyphonic Spree
The Beginning Stages of
I’m pretty sure I first became familiar with this band through the “270 Miles from Graceland**” DVD from the 2003 Bonnaroo. I’m not a big fan of choral music but the Polyphonic Spree does not come off as your typical choir. They always felt more like a band that was recruiting you for their cult. I’m not joining the cult but I am all about the sprawling songs and melodic arrangements on this album.
This was a local ska band in the Southern California scene. I love their less frenetic style of ska. It’s always fascinating to me to discover the genesis of a song and, ss a faith based band, they list the scriptural inspiration for the majority of the songs on this album which adds additional depth to the songs.
The setter on my high school volleyball team created a mix tape that we would throw onto the PA system in the gym as we warmed up for matches. “Break on Through to the Other Side” was one of the tracks. Upon graduating I watched “Apocalypse Now” in college and, upon hearing “The End” at (ironically) the beginning of the film I knew I had to pick up this specific Doors album. One thing to add about The Doors… I think their “Collector’s Edition***” DVD is amazing. You get a full concert with band commentary. I think it’s out of print but if you really love the doors, totally worth the splurge
Super Mario Brothers
Super Mario History 1985-2010
Is it cheating to put this in here? Possibly. So this is my up up down down left right left right B A Start moment. This Super Mario collection for the Wii came with a music disc that included the classic versions of many of the earlier Super Mario entries as well as some sound effects from the game.
Six Step Records
The Passion Continues
Unfortunately I believe this EP was only given away at meet & greets before some concerts. I cannot even find an image on the internet for this. It is alternative versions of some classic Passion era worship songs. These are more stripped down acoustic versions and I think that is why this album made the cut while some other songs from Passion from that era haven’t aged as well.
The Best of Schoolhouse Rock
I don’t think it is solely nostalgia for Saturday morning cartoons that drives this pick. Bob Dorough wrote some incredible songs that are full on ear worms, which is fantastic when they are educational. Personal favorite: “Three is a Magic Number.”
Sweet Surrender (Single)
I’m good with just this one song and a remix. Is her full album great? I never went all the way and found out.
Jimmy Smith Trio featuring Kenny Burrell
The mixture of Jimmy’s grooves with Burrell’s guitar work makes this a supreme jazz album in my collection.
Ambitious and interesting. Love the wild backstory and creativity. And probably worth the purchase just for the album art alone.
Unsung: The Best of Helmet
When I heard the song “Unsung” I had to learn how to play it on guitar. Just a beautiful and crushing riff. Shortly after read an interview with Page Hamilton. He studied at Juliard and is insanely knowledgeable on music theory. So glad he took the heavy route.
Dead Horse Beats
I love this marriage of old gospel and modern beats. I could listen to this all day.
Confession: There isn’t one studio album by this band that I love all the way through. There are usually two songs I love and you can keep the rest. So… The live album it is. Starts off with what I believe is one of the greatest riffs of all time (Thunderstruck) and sprints to the end. It’s missing a couple of their songs that I love so it didn’t make it higher.
Super catchy pop punk. I admit this was probably their peak but I have a soft spot for “Blue Room” so that one will show up later. It starts off strong with the guitar tuning going directly into the echoing riff for harmonic. “Sorry” hasn’t aged well at all and that, combined with some songs that are more pop than pop punk, probably prevented this album from a more glorious ranking.
The Singles Collection
I was introduced to the Zombies through “The Way I Feel Inside” on a Wes Anderson soundtrack. It’s surprising how many of their songs I recognized and I imagine, if you listen, you will feel the same. “Time of the Season” is incredible. When purchasing, I was deciding between this singles collection and “Odessey and Oracle” but since “The Way I Feel Inside” isn’t on their most acclaimed album sent I wentthe Singles route although “Odessey and Oracle” will probably get purchased one day.
The Corporate Office
Wendy’s Prank Call
This prank call is so hilarious and incredible. The conviction and authority with which the prank caller approaches everything is so high level and is the only way the madness that occurs could ever go down. “I think the problem with that one might be the heating filament is loose…” Perfection.
The Road Recordings
This would probably piss off both Gungor brothers but early entries by the Brilliance feel like what a Gungor album would be if Gungor had been a piano based band. Heavy classical influence. Incredible worship. They have done some orchestral collaborations lately that are amazing. I haven’t explored those enough to place them on the list yet. The first track starts with piano, introduces strings, brings in the bass. The piano mellows out and then brings in a frantic violin and drums. It’s a taste of the journey this album takes you on. It’s like a finely crafted pop song and an orchestra had a baby. Totally worth the trip.
Television’s Greatest Hits Volume 6
Why of all things, Volume 6? Well… The Theme to CHiPs is on this. That should be enough. Other highlights are Growing Pains, Family Ties, that sweet bass on Night Court, The Price is Right, the theme to Monday Night Football, and Diff’rent Strokes.
I did a ton of reading to see which Sonic Youth album should have been my entry point. Went with this album and have no idea if I made the right choice although at least it made the list. Should I have started somewhere else?
Van Lear Rose
Great melodies and production. This was the first album I remember being associated with Jack White that didn’t prominently feature Jack White.
Le Meu Le Purr
The Sweet Smell of Asphalt
I worked at a record store with some members of this band. They had a gig at a bar one night and I went to check them out. Always intimidating because: What do I say if they suck? Never had to cross that bridge however because they tore it up. “Pop Rocks & Soda” is one of those songs that makes you think why did some bands make it big and this band didn’t? Definitely my favorite track.
KC and the Sunshine Band
The Best of
I have a friend I text with occasionally and it’s always a rabbit hole of music memories and recommendations. Last time we texted he mentioned that one summer where he only listened to KC and the Sunshine band. Does everyone have that? I think it might be an unwritten rite of passage because I had the same thing. If you haven’t had your summer of KC, you might have to pick this up for next year.
You Are There
I was teaching at a private school that had chapels every week and this guy walked in to play the music one week and started strumming some open-E and I thought, “This is gonna suck.” Wow did I ever have to repent from that attitude. He killed it and this is one of the most unique and dynamic worship albums I have ever heard. Incredible musicianship. I would have invited him to play every week.
JEFF the Brotherhood
We Are The Champions
Discovered this band through their Tiny Desk Concert and immediately started finding out what album had “Shredder” on it. They do so much with just the two of them and always strike me as a Meat Puppets that went a little more punk. “Hey Friend” always cracks me up but I still find myself pondering the deeper meaning that I think is in the lyrics.
This album is so smooth and dark and amazing. The fact that she had such a strong voice (both vision voice and vocal voice) at such a young age and on a debut album is astounding. I linked to the Amazon site but would recommend the Vinyl Me Please record of the month edition if you really want to check this out. It’s criminal that is the first time it was released on vinyl. (See what I did there?)
The Best of Erik Satie
My top pick for relaxing and beautiful classical music. I am guessing if you don’t think you know this, you know this. It has even received a few unique cover versions.
Ta det Lugnt
Psychedelic pop acid jazz from Sweden? Yes please. Delicious guitar tones. I know Google translate exists but I am fine just letting this wash over me and not know what they are really saying.
Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains
The Big Eyeball in the Sky
When I worked at a record store the managers had to play certain albums during the day. At night you were at the whims of the manager. One of the managers was obsessed with Les Claypool. After repeated listens I really grew to appreciate this entry. Buckethead is on guitar and Bernie Worrell from Parliament/Funkadelic plays the keyboards. It’s bizarre but it’s got great guitar and I probably like it better than most Primus albums I’ve heard.
The production on this album is so dynamic. There is something about the sound on all of the guitars on this album that is so well done. I am not a producer but I have to imagine this album inspires jealousy in producers around the world. Worth it just to hear the mix alone but the songs are strong and the vibe is perfect on this album.
Washington Phillips (Death is Not The End Records)
I love the melodies and arrangements on this album and this album also benefits from the fact that no one is exactly sure what instrument is being played; adding a little mystery to the magic.
Unplugged before Unplugged, this album has so many catchy and seminal tunes. Raw and impassioned.
The King of Limbs
When my wife and I started having kids we got really in tune with what music and sounds would mellow our kids out. For some reason, this album never failed so it got lots of play in the car back in the day.
The Singles 1992-2003
This is my wife’s favorite band so we have quite a few of their albums as well as their box set. This set of all the singles they released is all the hits and perfect.
The Royal Tenenbaums
Wes Anderson puts out the most incredible soundtracks. Mark Mothersbaugh has such a beautiful, accessible and recognizable style that he brought to all of his work with Anderson.
Ennio Morricone Remixes Volume 1 & 2
(Two soundtracks in a row!) If you don’t think you are familiar with Ennio Morricone I bet you would instantly recognize the whistling, theme from dueling from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” These albums have a massive number of remixes of movie themes from the award winning composer.
This album was my introduction to Coldplay. Yes, I have read the scathing Pitchfork reviews. Oh well. I still think this album has fantastic
I love that this album is broken up into sections to display the artists range of talents. He went on to be a producer and you can see the genesis of his abilities here.
The Sopranos Music from the HBO Original Series
The remix of the theme from this album came on shuffle play the other day as I was pulling up to my house and I sat in the driveway for a while to keep listening. It’s so good.
The Ongoing Concept
The opening song is such a beautiful collision of a variety of styles. It doesn’t carry throughout the whole album but I would definitely be down for a new genre: Saloon Punk.
The Masters of Sacred Steel:None But The Righteous
When I read somewhere that Aubrey Ghent played the steel guitar and made it sound like it was singing I bought this album. Great instrumental gospel slide guitar.* ** ***