The first thing you’ll probably notice about my list is how much pop-punk and emo is present. Three of the ten albums are from definitive pop-punk bands. Three more albums narrowly miss that category but are more emo than anything. One band is a classic hair metal (aka butt rock) powerhouse. Another was from a teenage blues prodigy. You’ve got a rock revivalist group and then Incubus, which at times, defies categorization. I’m not going to say it’s the most eclectic list ever, as there are no indie staples, alternative/grunge mentions, or anything classic rock. However, this is my list and you’re not obligated to read it at all.
1. Def Leppard – Hysteria
I could write an entire blog dedicated to this album. The fact that my summers as a kid on Lake Coeur d’Alene were defined by this album, or how excited I was when I rediscovered the band in my late teens, notwithstanding, this album is nearly perfect. There’s hardly a single misstep, and the production was light years ahead of its time. Don’t believe me? Ask Allmusic.com: “The strong pop hooks and “perfect”-sounding production of Hysteria may not appeal to die-hard heavy metal fans, but it isn’t heavy metal — it’s pop-metal, and arguably the best pop-metal ever recorded.” Plus, it’s butt rock, which is by far, the best, worst genre of music ever.
2. Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
Forget that I know the lyrics to all the songs on this album (which is no easy task, no thanks to Patrick Stump and his vocal acrobatics), but this album was the soundtrack to the post college era in my life. It’s everything you want from emo and more. The heart-on-your-sleeve uber-emotions are delivered cleverly but from a very pissed off place. And I love it.
3. Sum 41 – All Killer, No Filler
Spring quarter of my freshman year at college was epic, which is when this album dropped stateside. This glorious pop-punk set of tracks sums up that epic-ness. It’s punchy and swift, clocking in at just about a half-hour. A solid album and a great listen while driving with the windows down.
4. Jimmy Eat World – Futures
Another album attached to a defining period in my life. That aside, Jimmy Eat World followed up their smash hit “The Middle” with an album that rocked harder, sounded cleaner, and at times, was meaner than their previous effort. The track “Night Drive” still sends chills down my spine with each listen.
5. Amely – Hello World
Wow. The lead singer can belt out a tune. At times, you can picture him in a butt rock band, if only he were born 20 years earlier. Still flying under the radar, Amely is a band set to capture a large (teenage) audience and sell out arenas. Hello, world.
6. Jonny Lang – Wander This World
This album is sort of the odd-man out. You can correlate the other bands together, but Jonny Lang is what he is: blues rock. His voice sounds like it comes from someone else, his guitar playing is ridiculous, and he doesn’t wear shoes or socks when he performs live. However, this album is moody and covers a lot of styles and eras.
7. Incubus – Morning View
Good morning, laid back Incubus. On “Fungus Among Us,” Incubus seemed ready to jump the bandwagon of rap rockers (a la Limp Bizkit. Ew.) but quickly altered their sound on “Make Yourself.” By the time “Morning View” arrived, it seemed like Incubus was prepared to settle comfortably into an alt-rock porch swing. And that’s just fine by me.
8. Blink 182 – Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Certainly not a family friendly album, and that was just fine by me whilst in my early college years. Most kids at Western Washington University were busy worshiping groups like Dave Matthews Band and Jason Mraz, and I was the black sheep listening to cheery, bright pop-punk. So what?
9. Oasis – [What’s the Story] Morning Glory
There’s not a lot to say about this album that hasn’t already been said. Nearly every critic fell in love with Oasis and hailed them as the second coming of Brit-Rock. That didn’t matter to me much at the time. This album just flat-out rocks, maybe not in that melt-your-face way, but it gets the job done.
10. New Found Glory – Sticks and Stones
Another one of those cheery, bright pop-punk albums. I was playing on it almost constant repeat, while my peers were traveling to the Gorge to see Dave. Again. Plus this album gives the best shout out to the homeboys ever on My Friends Over You.
Honorable Mentions: Leeland Opposite Way, SR-71 Now You See Inside, The Maine Pioneer, The All-American Rejects Self-Titled