Best Albums of My Life

How many times have you been asked "What kind of music do you like?" 

How many times have you responded with the catch all answer, "Everything"? (But didn't really mean it.)

These are albums I loved and still love. That is, they have been and continue to be the soundtrack to my life. I've been careful not to pick albums that a) I don't love in their entirety and b) I loved at one point in time but do not love now. Some of them might be hilarious and/or embarrassing, but that doesn't change the fact that I love them.  You can listen to all of them here. Without further ado - in order of release - and coupled with some context, here we go:

’N Sync - ’N Sync (1998) - I was an ’N Sync girl, not a BSB gal. I know the lyrics to every track of this album, and would venture to say it was better than both of their follow up albums, No Strings Attached and Celebrity.

Fun fact: I never really liked Justin when he was the frontman of ’N Sync. Lance was my favorite and I was devastated when he came out - as my childhood dreams of marrying him were foiled.

Dixie Chicks - Fly (1999) - Best chick band of all-time. Best country album of all-time. I have a terrible memory in general, but I have a very distinct memory of a classmate bringing this to my third-grade class and playing it on the boombox. I still love and listen to this record, especially on Texas highways.

John Mayer - Room for Squares (2001) - This was probably the first album I truly "discovered" and it kicked off the development of my own taste in music. I remember seeing young John Mayer performing on the Grammys and looking him up online. I also remember getting made fun of by a friend for buying a guitar magazine at 7-11 with John on the cover - she said she "didn’t think he was that cute.” My retort then was: “He’s one of the best guitar players around.” (At this point in time, I was taking guitar lessons). My retort today would be: "Look who was wrong, John Mayer is a babe. Also, he's still one of the best guitar players AND songwriters around."

Fun fact: I still haven't seen John Mayer live. I intend to see him front row when I do.

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (2002) - When I think of Norah Jones, I think of my mom. We listened to this album often - it was usually on when we were getting dinner ready or bouncing around the house. I think this is one of the most listenable albums of all-time across generations - and definitely one of the most romantic. If the city of Paris had an album, to me, it would be this one.

The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army (2007) - The Polyphonic Spree were introduced to me by a friend who took a bunch of us to their concert for her birthday. The band can be easily mistaken for a cult - with anywhere from 15-25 members on stage all clad in robes (or army outfits). Lead by former Tripping Daisy singer and Good Records store-owner Tim Delaughter, the “Spree" exudes symphonic goodness. Truth be told, they probably were my saving grace in high school - with their generally uplifting and get-through-it-together mentality - I always came home exhausted but grinning ear-to-ear from singing and dancing along at their shows (and I still do). 

Fun fact: The Polyphonic Spree has a Christmas show every year called the “Holiday Extravaganza.” They do a Christmas set, a rock set, and usually have a number of other family-friendly happenings. Every year I’m back in Dallas, I volunteer - usually as an elf. 

St. Vincent - Marry Me (2007) - The first time I saw the Polyphonic Spree, I was inspired by the female-guitarist on stage and proceeded to look her up. It turns out her name was Annie Clark, and she was about to release a new record - Marry Me - under the moniker St. Vincent. Since Marry Me, I’ve collected all of Annie’s records to date. I love the rest, but this one has sentimental value. St. Vincent was the first band I discovered before most people did, and I like to be annoying about that.

Fun fact: I met Annie when she opened for Andrew Bird in 2009 at the Ryman. I told her I was from Dallas and she signed my Actor ’45 “To Anne - Dallas! xo Annie”. 

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz (2010) - Annie Clark also played for Sufjan at one point in time, but that’s not how I discovered him. I remember a lacrosse teammate casually playing his Illinoise record on the way home from practice one day. While I liked it, I didn’t really look him up until I heard his tunes on the Driving Lessons soundtrack. (Driving Lessons is a movie most people don’t know about. It was an indie flick that I only saw because Rupert Grint, the actor who played Ron Weasley, was in it.) I adored Sufjan’s Illinoise and Michigan albums in high school, but The Age of Adz is my favorite until this day. It got me through my college sophomore slump, when I was upset and a little angry. 

Fun fact: I performed “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” at my senior talent show in high school. What a terrible, terrible choice… but at least it makes for a good story.

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow (2011) - When I moved to Nashville, I heard about this band called “The Civil Wars” that were all the rage. I remember going to an in-store at Grimey’s where they played a few tracks from their E.P., Poison and Wine. A couple years later, I pre-ordered Barton Hollow from Grimey’s and met them at their in-store performance. If there’s anything better than Barton Hollow, it’s seeing the two of them perform live. The last time I saw them was at ACL in 2012, shortly before they broke up in 2014. Their follow up self-titled album is also a favorite, but leaves a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth given the messy ending of the band. Barton Hollow doesn’t feel that way.

Fun fact: J.P. said I looked familiar and asked if he had met me before at the meet and greet - to which I responded “No, but I’m really close to Johnny Depp.” It was a lame attempt to tell him he looked like Johnny Depp and try to be funny. At least Joy thought I was funny.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (2011) - I found out about these “cowboys singing sweet 4-part harmonies” shortly before I went on a trip to Europe with my high school senior class in 2009. “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” was our soundtrack on a bus through the Swiss Alps. A few years later, Helplessness Blues came out and I was at the Ryman Auditorium giving the band a standing ovation with the rest of the audience before they even came out on stage. The drummer, J. Tillman (Father John Misty) made a joke about them being a bunch of “cowboys singing sweet 4-part harmonies”. A few days later, the tracks from this album accompanied me on a bus not unlike the one I was on in 2009, except this time I was traveling through the Holy Land of Israel, Turkey and Greece. It seems that whenever I am surrounded by natural beauty, Robin Pecknold & Co.’s sweet harmonies swarm my ears.  

Fun fact: I went to a Joanna Newsom concert just to see Robin Pecknold (the lead singer) open for her. This was in-between the two records, so I wrote down some of the lyrics of my favorite new tunes he sang, one of which was Montezuma.

Katy Perry - Prism (2013) - I shunned top 40/pop music for most of my life until I moved to Nashville, which makes me chuckle. Who would've thought I would've been snobbier before I moved to Music City! I didn’t like Katy Perry until I saw her documentary, Part of Me, which made her a tangible/real human being in my eyes. (Go watch it, it’s on Netflix. I’ve seen it four times.) Prism came out in 2013 and I loved it immediately. My initial favorite track was Walking on Air, but as time went on, I warmed up to the deep cuts Love Me and This Moment. I got to see her live in 2014 and she surpassed my expectations. 

Fun fact: My friend Nathan was in her band for the Prismatic World Tour, so it was pretty fun to see him shooting flames out of his guitar at the show.

Colony House - When I Was Younger (2014) - Led by Chapman brothers Caleb and Will and guitarist Scott Mills, Colony House came out of the gate running with a record featuring the most hope-filled set of songs from an indie-rock band I’ve ever heard. I mean that in the non-cheesiest way possible. Not explicitly Christian, but also not shying away from their faith, their songs reflect the attitude of the next generation church. 

Fun fact: The Chapman brothers also have a side project with Jillian Edwards called “The Inlaws.” Their 3-song EP on Spotify/iTunes worth listening to.

That's it for now, folks. I hope to keep doing a completely subjective "best of" series when it comes to things I like/enjoy. This is just the first stop on the journey.

Until then -
A