Keely Chisholm ’17 / Emertainment Monthly staff writer
It’s not easy for a music fan to name one favorite anything, be it a song, an album, or artist. Even narrowing my music collection to my ten favorites was a feat in itself. In the process, I went through the music I listened to on my very first CD player, the CDs I played on my pink Barbie boombox, and the new albums I downloaded just last week. The final result is below: a mix of albums from boy bands, country artists, a Celtic punk band, and a band that broke up seven weeks after their first EP came out. This isn’t a list I expect to still agree with in ten years, but it’s a pretty good summation of where I am now. That said, here are my current top ten albums, in no particular order.
5 Seconds of Summer – Sounds Good Feels Good
Sometimes I hear a song and I just feel it so deeply that I don’t really know what I’m feeling. I can only sit still, letting the music and the lyrics wash over me and take me wherever they want, and I’m glad to go. This album is full of them. It’s the conviction of “Airplanes,” the stark reality of “Permanent Vacation,” the nostalgia of “San Francisco.” It’s the message that “we’ll be alright.” It’s one of those albums that I can’t put on shuffle because of the story it tells from start to finish. It starts off fun and bouncy, almost hedonistic, before the realization that life isn’t all rosy sets in. Lovers leave, plans don’t pan out, you lose yourself. But in the end, they sing about carrying on, and isn’t that how life goes? We’ll be alright, so we carry on.
The Tossers – Emerald City
Combining elements of traditional Celtic and Irish music with punk rock stylings, Celtic punk is the modern St. Patrick’s Day soundtrack. Bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly usually get all the glory, but The Tossers’ most recent release really is the best of both worlds. It has energy and a rough-around-the-edges feel, but it also has a certain warmth. It’s a bit like trudging up three flights of stairs on a cold February day and opening the door to your apartment and finding all your housemates home, with the TV on and chicken nuggets in the microwave. But I digress. Highlights include the bluntly sincere “Wherever You Go” and the upbeat “Sláinte,” which takes its title from the Gaelic expression for “cheers.” The lyrics are crafted to be reminiscent of traditional Irish drinking songs, poetic and complete with striking realizations about life. One highlight comes from the sentimental “St. Patrick’s Day,” which acknowledges that “grace will come, my love, even when you think it’s flown.”
One Direction – Four
Of all the One Direction albums, this one has to be my favorite. I’ve been with this band as they grew from giggly teenage boys frolicking on a beach in blazers and red chinos to tattooed, brooding young men writing their own music; the transformation in just five years has been dramatic, and this album showcases it the best. Four bursts with hope and intensity. Where Midnight Memories, the album before, seems to yearn for something unreachable and Made In the A.M., the album after, feels like a retrospective, Four encompasses confidence. Sure, they cry out for a lost love on a few songs, but what stands out to me are the anthems of conviction and the youthful determination of finding happiness at any cost. They’re “Ready To Run,” they have “No Control,” and they feel “Fireproof.”
Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance
My mom used to play this album in the car while driving me to kindergarten, and it’s the first album I remember singing along to. I definitely didn’t understand the words I was singing, but I sang them anyway, and I’m pretty sure this was the start of me singing. Somehow, no matter how many dates and definitions I had to memorize for school, these lyrics stayed with me throughout my life. As I got older, dated, and broke up, I found new meaning in these songs, meanings that I couldn’t possibly have grasped when I was five. I finally got what “Thinking With My Heart” was about, I understood “Why They Call It Falling,” and, most importantly, I realized what my mom was telling me when she played “I Hope You Dance” for me. The themes of love and loss on this album are timeless and universal, so much that I can still relate to it, 16 years after its release. And that, to me, is the mark of a good album.
Taylor Swift – Fearless
I’m that person who sits in the corner when everyone talks about Taylor Swift and stubbornly says, “I liked her older stuff better.” Before she was a pop princess, she was a country singer. Of the five albums she’s put out, I find this 2008 release, her second album, to be her best. This was back when she wrote about her relationship with her mother (“The Best Day”) and the trials of being a teenager (“Fifteen”) and how things would get better (“Change”). It amazes me that this is a Taylor that some fans today don’t know; it’s a Taylor that everyone deserves to know. Before her life became a media circus and before she made Billboard headlines every day, she was a regular teen, which is evident from this album. She was the voice for everyone going through those rollercoaster years of high school and figuring out who you were as a person. That’s worth remembering.
Anna Nalick – Wreck Of The Day
I first heard this album when I was eleven. There’s no way I picked up on every nuance of the record back then, but these are songs that I’ve come back to over the years to reflect on. The songs on his record inspired middle-school me to try my own hand at songwriting; every word is precisely chosen for maximum effect, without feeling inaccessible. They’re simple images that convey so much, like this line from the title track “Wreck Of The Day”—“driving away from the wreck of the day and the light’s always red in the rearview.” Everyone knows the radio hit “Breathe (2AM)”, but the real gems are the deceptively upbeat “Paper Bag” and “In the Rough.”
Brad Paisley – American Saturday Night
Brad Paisley has a knack for cleverness in his songs, and his seventh full-length release, American Saturday Night, showcases the best of that wit. The title track celebrates cultural diversity by naming off parts of everyday American life that come from other places: “It’s a French kiss, Italian ice, Spanish moss in the moonlight.” The retrospective “Anything Like Me” sees a new father looking back on his own life and wondering how much mischief his own son is about to get into. There’s none of the stereotypical broodiness that people think of when they think of country music, even in the requisite ballad “Oh Yeah, You’re Gone.” This is an album that embraces the world as it is, and finds a little happy corner in the process.
You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth
This album, the fourth release from the British band, is a favorite of mine for the overarching feeling of youth. It encompasses what it means to be wild, uncensored, even confused sometimes. These songs get to the heart of the complicated emotions that plague us when we’re young, whether it’s frustration (“Room To Breathe”) or being in love (“Cold Night”) or the warmth we feel when we find that friend or lover who completes us (“Wild Ones”). The album is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, quiet outros and growled bridges, but it balances out, and it feels like life itself.
District3 – District3 EP
Spoiler alert: in this episode of “a boy band comes off The X Factor UK,” the band splits up before they get too far off the ground. District3 entered the ninth series of the reality show (which produced the slightly more successful Union J in that season), left in Week 6, released this EP, and then broke up seven weeks after the release. Despite the brevity of, well, everything surrounding them, this five-song EP stands as what could have been the start of a promising career. “Let’s Reload” has the bouncy club appeal of The Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” while “What You Know About Me” is a kiss-off to those quick to criticize.
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
Country music, at its heart, is known for being real. There’s a famous joke: “what happens if you play a country song backwards? You get your truck back, your job back, your dog back, and your wife back.” Hackneyed though it is, there’s a grain of truth, and it’s that country music is gritty, earthy reality. It doesn’t haven’t to be depressing, though—Musgraves’s debut album takes a rather serene approach, and the result is lyrical poetry. “Merry Go ‘Round,” her debut single, she tackles the sharp realities of what it’s actually like in a small town. It’s not cutesy, nor is it scathing. It just is. A coy but delightfully snappy attitude peeks through on occasion, like in “Step Off” and “Keep It to Yourself,” which keeps the album out of a dreary ditch.