Staff picks: CTR writers choose our 17 favorite albums

Dave Anians - October 8, 2014

So for my list, I tried my best to stay away from bands with more than one competing album in my mind. This means I left out some of my favorite bands, which was pretty fun to try. It’s also in autobiographical order, in case that kind of thing is cool to you. These mean a bunch to me, so thanks for reading what I think about ‘em!

Also, this list deserves a shout out to Ryan and Corey B, who got me into punk rock in the first place. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still to be decided.

1. The Clash- The Clash

I think this is the first CD I ever bought. The Clash is my favorite band, and while I don’t listen to them nearly as much as I used to, they will probably remain in that spot indefinitely. The self-titled is their first album, and while it’s hard to say I love it more than some of their others, I can’t deny (“Deny!!”) the way that the attitude and hooks of this album molded my pre-teen brain.

2. Stiff Little Fingers- Inflammable Material

This band is considered by many “The Irish Clash”, so go figure. It’s fast, abrasive, and the vocals are so wicked. If you’ve played Tony Hawk, you’ll know their title track the second you hear it. I like to think that this album started me on the whole “politically-minded” aspect of my life. This is also an album that I have never grown out of, in either music or lyrics, so that’s really cool. Please check it out if you haven’t, this band is so good.

3. The Exploding Hearts- Guitar Romantic

If The Clash was the first album I ever bought, Guitar Romantic had to be the second. I’m just going to let the music speak for itself on this one. It’s perfect. Life is not the same after this album. Don’t call me dramatic. Shut up. Whatever.

4. The Ramones- Ramones Mania

I don’t care if “greatest hits” albums don’t count. The Ramones are great and this is another one of the first CDs I ever bought. It doesn’t really have any of their beginning stuff, but it really served as an intro to a band that would quickly become one of my favorites.

(Also, that was the first time I’ve ever seen that music video. What the hell did I just watch?)

5. The Hives- Your New Favorite Band

I have yet to find a convincing argument that The Hives aren’t the coolest band on the planet. Like, for real. Try me. Oh yeah, and this album was my intro to the world of The Hives, so it deserves a mention on the list. Also, The Hives.

6. The Redwalls- The Redwalls

The Redwalls were a Chicago band that sadly broke up after getting pretty big in the area. They were also the first non-punk band I got really into. They’re constantly compared to the Beatles, but they have their own sound as well and I wish more people were into them. I have so many good memories associated with seeing them live a bunch of times and covering their songs with my best friends. This album was their final one and it really hits me in the sentimentals (located above the right kidney). This album also coincided with the first time I ever experienced something resembling heart-break. I am so glad I’m not 16 anymore, but it’s nice to have this album bring me back.

7. Weezer- Blue Album

I didn’t get into this album or Weezer at all until I was like 17. I honestly forget how it happened, but one day the Blue Album entered my life and things have not been the same since. This album is perfect, and playing along to it helped me get decent at guitar.

8. The Avett Brothers- Emotionalism

I will forever be in debt to our friend Dave Green ( for showing me countless life-changing bands as well as folk music in general. As a person who was mostly interested in punk and rock n roll, I had no idea what kind of energy folk music could have. The Avett Brothers changed my world, in this way. Emotionalism, with its various styles and pace, was my indoctrination into all that folk music can be. For fans of energetic/fun/sad/beautiful/moving music (which should be everyone).

9. The Gaslight Anthem- The ’59 Sound

I was in my good buddy Paul’s basement the first time I heard this. It was playing while we played video games or something and I was like, “Damn, this sounds cool. What is this?” He had no idea what he had just done to me. By the next morning, I was hooked. The ’59 Sound celebrates Gaslight’s musical heroes and has songs that are somehow an original fusion of all of them. The lyrics, melodies, and overall feeling of this album changed my life in a way that I can’t really explain, and I am really grateful for that.

10. Titus Andronicus- The Monitor

When it comes to looking at an album as a whole piece of work, this is probably my favorite. The Monitor is a concept album mixing American Civil War imagery with the brutal realities of our inner selves in the modern world, among other things. It kind of needs to be listened to front to back in order to get the full effect, but please believe me, it is worth it. With some of the coolest lyrics ever, this thing will bring you down a few notches and make you realize how dirty and unworthy we all are and how strangely liberating that is. I could probably write an essay about this thing, I’m just gonna shut up now while I’m ahead.

11. Dillinger Four- Midwestern Songs of the Americas

I have to thank Lauren for this one. I was kind of a punk rock purist until I was older. I didn’t really bother trying to find out about bands that came out after the 70s or 80s. This album started me on a path of realizing how much of a dumbass idea that was. Midwestern is one of the reasons I still consider myself a punk today. Fast/political/funny/honest/intelligent, this one rules so hard. I try to live my life by its final lines.

12. Frank Turner- Love Ire & Song

Dave, Lauren, and I were driving through cornfields in autumn the first time we heard this. By the end, we all had goddamn tears in our eyes. It’s hard to choose just one Frank Turner album, but this one burst into my world in such a life-changing way. This is some of the best punk-to-folk singer-songwriter stuff you will find. Also, if you listen to my music, please do yourself an extra favor and listen to Frank Turner and realize how much I rip him off.

13. The Heat Tape- Raccoon Valley Recordings

I saw this band once and never heard about them again. Luckily, I found this record online and have been jamming to it ever since. It’s super low-fi, catchy, and will undoubtedly grow on anyone who gives it multiple listens. This one is what rock n roll is about. It even inspired me to start one of my current bands, which ended up not sounding anything like The Heat Tape.

14. Justin Townes Earle- Nothing’s Going To Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

This one hits me hard. I very distinctly remember the first time I listened to this album, hung-over and contemplative on a beautiful sunny morning. I love all of JTE’s work a lot, and I honestly can’t tell you what makes this one stick out for me musically or lyrically. It’s just something about that first time. (It’s also a record that I really recommend people listen to on vinyl if they can.)

15. Iron Chic- Not Like This

This album is so good. I’ve listened to it so many times. It was also my intro into a lot of the bands that are associated with Iron Chic (RVIVR, Latterman, etc), so that’s cool. When I first heard it, I didn’t know if I liked it, so instead of leaving it alone I listened to it repeatedly for like a month. Then I decided I really liked it. Someone who knows psychology stuff can probably explain it better, but I think I tricked my brain into thinking it was awesome. And I’m glad I did, because it is. Right?

16. The Front Bottoms- Talon of the Hawk

This one is so good. The lyrics, melodies, instrumentation, rhythms, other stuff. I don’t know anything else that sounds just like this and that’s cool. If you know, hit me up. Woo!

17. Hop Along- Get Disowned

I have no idea how this album found its way in my brain. I don’t really listen to anything else like this (not that there is much like it, really), but for some reason, these 10 songs blew my fucking brain out of the water. They were my entire winter. Some of the coolest vocals you will ever hear. Listen to the entire thing, you will not be disappointed.