Staff picks: CTR writers choose our 17 favorite albumsSteve O - October 10, 2014
So I believe that this is something that’s been going around on Facebook. Not being very Facebook active, it made no sense for me to post this list on there. It made perfect sense, however, for it to be a special feature for Change the Rotation. Instead of just having a list of favorite records (which honestly probably changes every day), this is a combination list of favorites and some of the most influential records. Also, what’s up with limiting this to 17? Anyways, the list:
1) AFI – The Art of Drowning (2000)
So back when I was first getting into punk in 7th grade, it was 3 “A” bands: AFI, Alkaline Trio, and Anti-Flag. AFI are the representative of that era to make it onto this list. I love the way they mix a hardcore vibe into these melodic songs, all marked by Davey Havok’s distinctive voice. There’s a dark overtone to the whole record, but it’s still insanely catchy. 13 years after hearing it for the first time I still know every word.
2) Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose (2002)
There are two trends on this list that the majority of bands fit into: fitting into some vein of hardcore or being a political band. There are some extremely political songs on here, from the blatantly obvious “Baby, I’m An Anarchist” to the more subtle and thoughtful “Reinventing Axl Rose.” The songs are infectious, with huge sing-alongs (see “We Laugh At Danger And Break All The Rules”). The raspy voice of Laura Jane Grace permeates throughout, preaching political tomes in catchy, raw punk rock.
3) Agalloch – The Mantle (2002)
And we have our first outlier. As much as I wanted to try to avoid having too much metal on this list (see note below), there is no way I can leave this record off. It is one that really needs to be listened to as a whole, as flows together perfectly. Ranging from soft melancholic interludes to volatile blasts, The Mantle has it all. Even when it drifts into heavier ground, there’s still that haunting calm lying beneath. Listen to it on a gloomy, cold day; its atmosphere provides the perfect soundtrack.
4) Andrew Jackson Jihad – People that Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World (2007)
I’m lazy and I really should be writing the test for my class instead of doing this. I already wrote about this record. Read about it and listen to it here.
5) Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
If memory serves me correct, I picked this record up back in 2000. It was the first introduction I would have to metal, and while bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motörhead would solidify my love of metal, it was Black Sabbath where it started. For a 12 year old kid, it was heavy and evil sounding, with a distinct voice. It wasn’t until a few years later that I could fully appreciate the significance of a record like this. There’s a reason it’s probably in your collection in some format. And while there’s no telling if I would’ve gotten into punk without my metal introduction first, it likely would’ve been a much more difficult adoption. So, Black Sabbath, I have you to thank/blame for everything I listen to today.
6) Blind Guardian – Live (2003)
Yeah, I’m totally cheating. I couldn’t pick any one Blind Guardian record, so instead I went with a live record containing 22 songs. That’s precisely why I couldn’t pick any one record; as Blind Guardian have so many great songs. Here you get a collection of the highlights. I was really into power metal and bands with that classic 80s, NWOBH vibe for a long time. Blind Guardian are essentially the pinnacle of that. Hansi Kürsch has one of the greatest voices in metal, everyone is a master at their instrument, and oh, yeah, because it’s live you get a sense of how tight and professional they are.
7) Boysetsfire – After the Eulogy (2000)
I discovered Boysetsfire my freshman year of high school. Up until then my idea of heavy political bands were bands like Anti-Flag or Bad Religion. Equal parts melody and crushing hardcore, Boysetsfire opened that door that would lead to some of the heavier hardcore, crust and grindcore bands I listen to today. I had the pleasure to finally see them live in 2013 (they broke up in 2007, and only played sporadically in the meantime), which was the culmination of a decade spent of listening to their music.
8) Good Riddance – Operation Phoenix (1999)
On the topic of bands I finally got to see live after they had broken up for a while, add Good Riddance to that last. And just like People Who Can Eat People, I already wrote about Operation Phoenix on this site.
9) Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)
Just like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden is one of those bands that is largely responsible for getting me into metal. Unlike Black Sabbath, however, I still listen to Maiden quite regularly. While I’m not sure The Number of the Beast is my favorite Maiden record, it was definitely the one that introduced me to the band, and therefore holds that most influential title. I finally got to see them live a couple years ago on one of their back in time tours, (where the play the songs from the 80s, a.k.a. the songs everyone wants to hear), and even after doing this for over 30 years, they still kick ass.
10) The Lawrence Arms – The Greatest Story Ever Told (2003)
So when I walked out of Record City (remember that place?) back in 2003 I had no idea I had just bought a record from what would become one of my favorite bands. Nor that I would eventually see them live so many times that it became quite difficult to keep count. But here we are, over a decade later, and I have a hard time picking which positive words to use to describe both this band and this record. The dichotomy between Brendan Kelly’s gravelly voice and Chris McCaughan’s smooth one, the brilliant lyrics with a myriad of references to all sorts of things (big props for references to The Master and Margarita), and just plain great and catchy music make this one of the no-brainers for the list.
11) Minor Threat – Complete Discography (1989)
Around the same time I discovered the Lawrence Arms, I discovered Minor Threat as well. And again, at the point of discovery I had no idea how big of an impact they would have on my life. I think it can be widely agreed upon that Minor Threat recorded some timeless and fucking great music. I probably don’t even need to talk about the music on this record; you probably already know and appreciate it. So instead, I’ll play that straight edge card. Not drinking, or smoking, or doing any other drugs, that ideology clicked immediately. That is why, 10 years later, and despite all the people who’ve given it a bad name, I’m still proud to consider myself straight edge.
12) Panopticon – Kentucky (2012)
I discovered Panopticon thanks to a website called RABM – Red and Anarchist Black Metal. And holy shit I’m glad I did. Panopticon have rocketed up right to the top of the list of my favorite black metal bands. And I actually agree with the politics of the band (yes, I’m calling out Varg Vikernes (Burzum) for being a racist here). It’s all played by one man, Austin Lunn, who being from Kentucky, has added some southern bluegrass elements, which prop up most prominently on this record. Traditional folk protest songs pop up sandwiched between the blasting black metal on here, all of which tackles the coal mining industry and the destruction of the mountains in Appalachia. A truly unique album, you absolutely have to give this a listen.
13) Primordial – To the Nameless Dead (2007)
More metal, and yet another one that would be impossible to leave off a list of greatest records. Like Panopticon, Primordial writes some unique music. Hints of doom, Celtic folk, black, and just straight up metal all blend together to create a sound immediately recognizable. Add in the vocals of A.A. Nemtheanga, who has one of the best and most distinctive voices in metal, to masterfully crafted songs, and you have a formula for a fantastic band. Lyrically they’re brilliant as well, an art that tends to get neglected in metal. All of their records are great, though To the Nameless Dead stands out to me the most. Branch out and give it a listen.
14) Propagandhi – Supporting Caste (2009)
It wasn’t until 2005/2006 that I got into Propagandhi. I have no good reason why it didn’t happen earlier. Potemkin City Limits was their first record I bought, though Supporting Caste is my favorite (in a very close race). There very easily could have been multiple Propagandhi records on this list. Supporting Caste is the perfect mixture of punk and metal, and almost every song is amazing (the closer, “Last Will & Testament” is the only one that gets rated as low as ‘decent’). A band of highly politicized vegans who like hockey is essentially the ultimate Steve O band. Additionally, Propagandhi are criminally underrated in the lyrics department. Chris Hannah has written some of the best, most insightful, and politically powerful lyrics I have ever read. When you listen to Propagandhi, you really need to listen to the words too, they’re brilliant.
15) Rise Against – Revolutions Per Minute (2003)
So one of the biggest bummers of RiotFest this year was that Rise Against didn’t play a single song off their best record. The era where some hardcore crept into their songs seems long gone. Revolutions Per Minute shows some of the signs of things to come, but the anger that’s lacking in some of their newer records has an outlet in songs like “Dead Ringer” and “To the Core.” The pace seems much quicker throughout this record than anything they’ve done in a while either. Maybe I’m nostalgic, maybe I’m biased to straight edge vegan bands, maybe I just really like politicized hardcore punk bands, but Revolutions Per Minute is one of those records I can listen to and enjoy every song, regardless of how many times I’ve listened to the record before.
16) RVIVR – RVIVR – (2010)
So this spot was between RVIVR and Latterman’s No Matter Where We Go...! In the end I went with RVIVR, and I think that decision mainly occurred because of the different element that Erica Freas’ voice adds to the record. And while this is one of the more recent records on the list, I think it’ll hold up quite well. It’s catchy, quick paced, and dynamic. RVIVR have definitely been one of my favorite bands lately; everything they release is top notch (last year’s The Beauty Between took its place as Change the Rotation’s record of the year), and they’re fantastic live.
17) Streetlight Manifesto – Everything Goes Numb (2003)
So I’ve already written about Streetlight Manifesto on here before, so I’ll keep this short and just tell you to go read that. I will just add that while I no longer listen to anywhere near as much ska as I once did, Streetlight Manifesto is the one that I can always listen to. Its ska, but it’s so much more than that too. So intricate and complex, it seems like it takes a couple listens to catch everything that’s going on. Every record by Streetlight Manifesto is a great one. I’d talk about how great every song on the record is, and because of that consistency, it was a no-brainer for this list. But that’s the case with every record. Instead, it being their debut record, as well as the first one I heard, earns Everything Goes Numb its spot as the no-brainer Streetlight Manifesto record on here.
Note: As this blog is primarily about punk music, I left off most of the metal records, except the ones I absolutely needed to make a list of favorite/influential records. It would be very, very easy to have a list of 17 (hell, even 34) favorite/influential records of both punk and metal. Some of the metal ones that were bumped off this list include: 3 Inches Of Blood – Advance And Vanquish; Amon Amarth – Versus The World; Burzum – Filosofem; Ensiferum – Ensiferum; Judas Priest – Unleashed In The East; Megadeth – Rust In Peace; Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break The Oath; Municipal Waste – The Art Of Partying; and Nasum – Shift.