This is an impossible exercise, I realize, but here goes:
1. Radiohead, OK Computer
They are my band, what can I say? I’m glad “Paranoid Android” came out before iPods made it possible to know exactly how many times a given song has been listened to.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I was the last person on the planet to hear this album and I still can’t stop listening to it. Brilliant lyrics.
3. R.E.M., Murmur
I don’t listen to this album as much as I used to, but it was really my soundtrack in high school. Favorite all-time R.E.M. song on the flip side: “Shaking Through.”
4. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
I would love this album even more if Dylan had kept “Up To Me” on it, instead of taking it off because it sounded too much like “Shelter from the Storm.” Still absolutely phenomenal.
5. R.E.M., Reckoning
6. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
I’m partial to this one largely because it reminds me of when I lived in Cambridge and they played regularly at the Middle East. But on its own merits it is also a great album.
7. Radiohead, The Bends
8. Arcade Fire, Funeral
Incredible connectedness, like a great short story collection. And they are such talented musicians.
9. The Clash, London Calling
Another short-story-collection-esque album.
10. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup
11. The Wrens, The Meadowlands
This album never got as much attention as it deserved. Also, probably the most likable band around. Check out their web page: http://www.wrens.com.