My Great Albums

Rolling Stone devotes an issue every couple of years to the Great Albums – 500 of them, 1000 of them, 100 of them.  They rank and divide the genres, parse the artists – we cannot be too over-representative of a style or trope.

So when I say the Great Albums, I do not mean to discuss all the greatest albums ever made, and I do not mean to declare my list as definitive in any way except for personally – and even then, it’s arguable.  I do think that a great album feels like a work from beginning to end – consistent even if the songs are different, and greater than the sum of its songs, which should also be pretty great. 

I began writing about my favorite albums in some form or another in high school, and wrote about them differently a few years later.  When I read what I wrote of those records, it’s a journal entry as much as a review – a reflection of my experience that made that record so meaningful, a context of the lens from which I viewed each record and discovered its merits. 

Then at some point, I decided I was too old to write in this way – it was me taking my opinion too seriously.  I do take my opinion too seriously – it’s my opinion.  Now I wish that I’d written about the way, say, Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf made me first feel when I heard it four years ago, or described the epiphane of falling in love with The Velvet Underground’s White Light/ White Heat.  I hope to write about why those records are great, and I hope to recall the circumstances and ideas it’s brought up for me.  But those initial sensations are lost.

Once I had a writing professor who helped me distinguish that which was personal and “incisive” (his favorite word) in my writing, from that which was “portable.”  Music is such a subjective meaning that avoiding portable language and cliche is difficult.  I hope this will be as personal as it is incisive though, and I hope it describes the music I love and has affected my life.


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