|51 Favorite Artists (July 20, 2009)|
Bored at work + obsession with cataloging everything in my life = this list. The only rule I decided to make was that I'd only list a band if they had more than one album I really liked (or had heard, at least). I suppose if I could only listen to 51 bands for the rest of my life, it would be these 51... though Deadsy's "Commencement" and Slapp Happy / Henry Cow's "Desperate Straits" would have to work their way in as well.
My introduction to IDM and probably to true ambient as well. Aphex Twin is consistently interesting, even if some his songs aren't really listenable.
Rollins is a dick, but an oddly likable dick. Ginn is a great guitar player. It took me a while to truly love this band, but I've not looked back since then. The best of the first wave of hardcore.
One of the most underrated bands ever. Every member of the original lineup was a phenomenal musician - every part matters in every song, and that is only amplified by the way the parts intertwine and play off one another. Geezer Butler might be my favorite bassist ever.
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks... are those enough reasons for Zimmerman to be on this list? The fact that he's still relevant today only strengthens his place on here.
Best. Guitar player. Ever. The amount of styles he plays is mindblowing. From the laid-back "Colma" and "Electric Tears", to the jazz fusion of "Population Override", to the hyper shredding of "Cuckoo Clocks of Hell", to the quirky classic rock of "Giant Robot", to the electronic experimentation of "Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse" and "Day of the Robot", there's barely a genre Buckethead doesn't cover. And "Pepper's Ghost" has some of the best riffs since Sabbath's "Master of Reality".
|6||The Chemical Brothers|
One of the first electronic bands I got into. Influenced in equal parts by hip-hop, psychedelic pop, funk, and techno, the Brothers manage to merge these disparate styles into an intensely listenable final product.
|7||Dear and the Headlights|
Catchy indie rock/pop with the occasional tinges of folk and country, plus lyrics that put most other bands to shame. That doesn't begin to describe how much I love this band... please listen to them if you haven't done so already.
One of the bands that made me realize I really do like country music. Any band that makes a double concept album about Lynyrd Skynyrd that's actually worth listening to is pretty cool in my book. And how great is that name?
|9||El Ten Eleven|
Post-rock with zero pretention or grandiosity, and a reliance on melody rather than atmosphere and soft-loud-soft dynamics. The poppiest I think post-rock gets. Also notable for the first (only?) legitimate use of a double-necked guitar. Their band would be a gimmick if they weren't so damn good.
Started as electronic drone/ambient, but has gotten progressively more organic with each release. Still, I think my favorite album is the tragically short improvisational piano record "An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death".
|11||First Commu-nion Afterparty|
Amazing psych rock from Minneapolis. Their first studio album is perfect from start to finish, and they're absolutely killer live. Another great band name, too. (That hyphen shouldn't be there, but without it, the band's name won't display properly)
Their music and lyrics are great, but mostly FR got me through a rough period of my life. I owe Scott Hutchison a beer if I ever meet him.
Best punk band since Black Flag. Their full-lengths are psychedelic, shoegazey, experimental, upbeat punk, while their singles tend to be based in more traditional hardcore. All of it is awesome, though. Pink Eyes has a killer voice and happens to be the best frontman ever. These guys are also great live.
The king of the super mashup genre. Everything about Night Ripper and Feed the Animals is perfect, and they're the best party albums ever created to boot.
|15||Godspeed You! Black Emperor|
The first post-rock band I got into. Also probably the first band to truly move me through purely instrumental music. Thanks, 28 Days Later.
|16||Goo Goo Dolls|
I love everything this band has ever done, from the hardcore punk all the way through the uber-slick radio staples. Except Superstar Car Wash, that album is not so great.
|17||He Is Legend|
Nonsensical yet awesome lyrics? Check. A blend of hardcore, 90s alternative rock, and southern groove? Check. Vocalist with a sweet beard? Check. This band has it all.
Emotional post-rock from the land of Oz, without any wank. Just straight up rocking out.
I love his work in both Songs: Ohia and The Magnolia Electric Co., even if it tends to be depressing as hell; however, if you're ever in need of something to listen to while you smoke cigarettes alone in your darkened bedroom, Molina is the ticket.
The first hip-hop group I got into and still one of my favorites. Feedback wasn't that great, but everything before it was. Cut Chemist is a great DJ, and Chali 2na is one of my favorite emcees.
Langhorne Slim makes me feel better about everything, even when he's singing a sad song. His voice is ridiculously endearing.
Andy Hull is one of the best songwriters around right now. I'd call him the new Conor Oberst, but he's not a whiny douchebag. The fact that he's like 15 months older than me makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life.
Gypsy carnival viking rock. This band strikes the perfect balance between innovation and accesibility. Honus Honus has a cool voice, too.
My favorite band that's still currently making music... sort of. Apparently they're on hiatus after they finish their current tour. I hope they make more stuff, because Aaron is my favorite lyricist ever, and I really want to see where the band goes. The progression between each album has been staggering, yet they're all about equally amazing, and I would love to see where they go next. mewithoutYou's music has become part of who I am at the core of my being.
Along with the Chemical Brothers, Moby was one of the artists I listened to when I was first getting into electronica. He deserves a spot on this list for the number of times he's reinvented himself and still managed to make great music. From techno to ambient to heavy metal to pop to sampling fetishism, Moby has never been one to pigeonhole himself, and I think that's what I love most about him. The essays he puts in his liner notes are always worth reading as well. Moby is a smart, interesting, talented, and legitimately hilarious guy.
I should have been listening to these guys since their first full length came out in 1994. My life would have been better for it.
Let It Happen is the best punk album for long road trips. That's the main thing you need to know about these guys.
|28||Neutral Milk Hotel|
Jeff Mangum has affected my life more than any other artist. The first time I listened to Aeroplane, it scared the hell out of me and I never wanted to listen to it again. I think it took less than 30 minutes before I put it back on. I've been hopelessly obsessed with this band ever since. Without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
I liked them because I thought it was cool to like them. Then I didn't like them because... I don't know, probably because I was an idiot in ninth grade. I wrote off all grunge music at that point. For whatever reason, I decided to try listening to them again last year. I'm glad I did. I couldn't say why I like this band so much, but the fact is that I do.
Skeletal Lamping is what it would be like if Girl Talk made his own album, but replaced all the rap stuff with 70s funk instead. Hissing Fauna is the soundtrack to failed relationships, antidepressants, schizophrenia, Norway, and summer. Georgie Fruit is the best alter-ego since Ziggy Stardust.
Will Sheff writes lyrics that read like a novel... or more accurately, he writes lyrics that read like poetry but tell a story like a novel. His ability to turn impersonal events into intensely personal meditations is astounding. And as much as I love the band's early recordings, I'm glad Sheff learned how to sing.
Fathers of modern indie rock. Slanted & Enchanted is a landmark record. "Here" belongs on every mixtape ever. I realize that's not much about a band this influential, but pretty much everything that can be said about this band has been said by a thousand other people, and better than I could ever say it.
My favorite artist to come out of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene. Rap music with a punk ethos. Never Better is one of the most progressive hip-hop records I've heard that didn't involve the cLOUDDEAD guys in some way. His punk band is pretty good too.
Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Meddle, Atom Heart Mother. Woohoo. Also, Roger Waters is a great bassist.
While their quality may have dropped recently, they put out a string of four tremendously solid albums. Rival Factions was all right too. Project 86 taught me to question things, and for that, I thank them.
Regina Spektor is adorable AND makes great, quirky music, and I am in love with her.
Wonderful lyrics, powerful voice, great harmonica skills. One of my favorite folk artists. He reminds me a little of early Dylan at times.
Along with Saul Williams, one of my favorite hip-hop lyricists. Most of his songs feature rapid-fire wordplay and pop-culture references, wrapped up in deeply personal storytelling.
As stated above, one of my favorite hip-hop lyricsts. However, Saul's lyrics are closer to poetry than even Sage's (probably because a lot of them are taken directly from his books of poetry). Rarely does even the most raw hip-hop music feel as emotional as Saul Williams'. Added props for pushing hip-hop forward with the Trent Reznor-produced The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!
I love how much this band changes with each album, even if Anorexia/Nervosa wasn't that interesting from anything besides an artistic standpoint. I also love the fact that they try and reward hardcore fans; it makes me feel like I'm not wasting my life so much.
|41||The Snake The Cross The Crown|
I saw these guys open for mewithoutYou, and they blew me away. Their first album is this weird combination of layered, almost shoegaze-esque rock with straight up folk music, while their second is heavier on the rootsy vibe and less on the layered effects. Both are equally good, though. It's a wonder more people don't know about this band.
|42||Stars of the Lid|
One of the best bands to read, space out, or fall asleep to, and I mean that in a good way. Long, unhurried slabs of drony post-rock that are rewarding both as background music and for active listening.
Angular art-punk with clever, usually comedic lyrics. Along with First Commu-nion Afterparty, easily one of the best bands from the Twin Cities.
This is how good Sufjan is: I hate 98% of Christmas music more than I hate just about every other genre of music, and I still listen to the Songs for Christmas box set year-round. I enjoy his folkier stuff more than the heavily orchestrated stuff he's been doing recently, but it's all enjoyable.
If you think this band doesn't deserve a place on this list, go listen to White1 or Black One as loud as you can withstand on a good speaker setup (a subwoofer is a must), and then get back to me. It's even better if you make the room as dark as possible and lay on the floor next to the subwoofer.
|46||System of a Down|
I'm not so much a fan of their last two albums, and I only dug about two-thirds of Steal This Album, but their first two albums are absolutely brilliant. Their self-titled is still one of the most spastic, chaotic albums I own, and Toxicity manages to combine that chaos with some genuinely catchy melodies.
|47||Third Eye Blind|
Another tragically underrated band. Most people only know them from their singles, but if you pick up one of their albums and really get into it, you'd probably be surprised at how much is going on. Stephan Jenkins is a great lyricist, and the band did some serious experimenting on Blue.
I love basically all stoner/doom/sludge metal, but what sets Torche apart is their insistence on making their music catchy (to the point that it sometimes borders on pop) and generally keeping it upbeat. And any band that can genre-hop as much as they do on Meanderthal and still have a cohesive album is damn good in my book.
Reconstruction Site is a genius record. I don't know what it is about their music, but The Weakerthans make me feel nostalgic and hopeful all at once. Everytime I finish listening to them, I'm in a better mood than I was when I started.
From the drugged-out avant-garde hip-hop of cLOUDDEAD and Reaching Quiet, to his early solo experiments, to changing Why? from his emcee moniker to the name of his indie rock band, Yoni Wolf has an extremely varied, yet always interesting past behind him. I knew him from cLOUDDEAD, but didn't start to really get into his work until Alopecia. I loved it immediately, but I've also grown to appreciate it more with each and every listen. I've recently become obsessed with the rest of his catalog. Something about his music really speaks to me, and the fact that his lyrics are always mindblowing doesn't hurt either.
Credited with starting the current wave of metalcore on 1998's Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, Zao have reinvented themselves almost as many times as they've changed band members. Standouts are the Isis/Neurosis-inspired Liberate Te Ex Inferis, the conceptual Funeral of God, and the raw, Steve Albini-produced The Fear is What Keeps Us Here. Their live show is intense almost to the point of being frightening, too; Dan has an incredibly powerful stage presence, and the rest of the band is equally as fierce.