Like probably many of you, I'm obsessed with lists, especially the Best Albums/Films/TV Shows of the Year/Decade/All-Time variety. A year ago, Rolling Stone published a poll presenting their Top 500 Albums of All-Time. Dreadfully predictable and skewed towards the same tired classics that tend to pop up on such endeavors, it inspired me to create my own list of 100 favorite albums (I'd be really scraping to get to 500).
I sort of attempted an embryonic version of this in 2001. With an excess of free time at the job I had then, I began writing brief, Robert Christgau-like paragraphs about fifty of my favorite albums. I did this randomly, not placing the entries in any particular order. If you're curious to see it, forget it--I lost the file some time back. Fortunately, blogging gave me the opportunity to execute and complete a proper list. The title comes from a song called "One Thousand Words" by Northern State. My original goal was to write at least a one hundred words about each album, thus a total of at least ten thousand words (as I got closer to number one, the entries got longer, and the final word count is somewhere around 15,000).
As for the rankings, well, isn't it difficult to say exactly what makes one album ever-so-slightly better than another? When I started this project, I culled together 100 albums that I loved with a general idea of which ones I valued significantly more than others. Early on, I changed the order here and there and made a few substitutions. I've acquired some great stuff in the interim, and if I had started the project today, it would definitely include The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow, Massive Attack's Mezzanine and possibly Ted Leo and the Pharmacist's Hearts of Oak. Kings of Convenience's 2004 album, Riot On an Empty Street, would certainly take the place of Quiet Is The New Loud, and Bjork's Medulla might be there instead of Selmasongs.
But, such speculation is irrelevant going forward. You'll notice that the recent, higher ranked entries seem a little more personal than the earlier ones. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I had difficulty writing about some of these albums without placing them in a context that expressed how much of an impact they had on my life, and exactly how (or when or where) they made that impact. What follows is a sort of musical autobiography in bite-sized pieces...