Music

Here is a list of my favorite bands and musical artists.

Radiohead

Fell in love with them when Creep was released in the ’90s, then again when they released Fake Plastic Trees. Since then, they’ve become one of the most, if not the most important rock bands of our time and possibly all time. Their masterpiece OK Computer is consistently at the top of most critic “best album” lists, and with good reason—it was spectacularly ambitious musically and it set the bar ridiculously high lyrically. In fact, Radiohead usually has multiple albums on those lists—Kid A, In Rainbows and The Bends are usually somewhere in the top 50. Yes, they have released albums online with fixed pricing and pay-what-you-want pricing models, and that has eaten up a lot of the media chatter about this band. And that’s too bad, because at the core of their unique release strategies was the fact that they have fans that are treat their album releases like events and folders of beautifully crafted files. I was a bit disappointed with their latest, The King Of Limbs, but overall they still have the most impressive catalogue of music (IMO) and they are still my favorite band. Whether rocking out with triple guitars or dancing over bleeping noises and beats, they always produce quality work and songs that resonate in the head and the heart.

Biggest Hit: Creep

My Favorite Songs: Let Down, Paranoid Android

Best Album: OK Computer

Latest Album: The King Of Limbs

Radiohead

Elliott Smith

One of the most troubled artists and tragic stories of our lifetime—a real modern day Van Gogh—but also one of the most gifted songwriters of our era. When I first listened to Elliott, I was blown away by his soft yet powerful voice, amazing musicianship and beautifully sweet and sad songs. He had a wonderful way of composing unique chord progressions with jazz or classical chords that I don’t believe has been replicated or matched since, a way of finding melodies that at once seem utterly unique and completely familiar and a penchant for writing lyrics that were like windows into his heavy heart—full of hope, but also full of pain, disillusionment, addictions and personal tragedies. I’m glad that he left us with a few masterpieces and that I got to see him perform live a few times before he passed. But whenever I come to the end of one of his albums, I always find myself wishing there was more—more words, more notes, more beautiful sadness.

Biggest Hit: Miss Misery

My Favorite Songs: Memory Lane, Say Yes

Best Album: XO

Last Album: From A Basement On A Hill

Elliott Smith

Pulp

I was flipping through an issue of NME at a newsstand one day whilst in college, when I opened it up to a picture of Jarvis Cocker, and I just had to hear the kind of music this fashion and style icon was creating. I picked up Different Class that day and by the time I got to the chorus for Common People, I knew this was a band that I was going to be completely obsessed with. Completely British, oddly cool and totally brilliant. Pulp were creating perfect pop music and Jarvis was singing some of the most clever lyrics ever put to tape. I got to see them perform in a small club in San Francisco (they never reached the same level of fame in the US as they experienced in the UK) and the whole club was dancing along to their hits as if they were at an arena show. They’ve just recently reformed to play some festivals and shows this spring, so here’s hoping they create some more albums together soon.

Biggest Hit: Common People

My Favorite Songs: This Is Hardcore, Common People

Best Album: Different Class

Last Album: We Love Life

Pulp

Bright Eyes

The media-proclaimed next “Bob Dylan,” has his work cut out for him. Good thing then that Conor Oberst has the talent and apparently the shoulders to hold up this mantle. For such a young guy, he has a music catalogue that rivals those of most established artists—with seven albums, two compilations, one live album and countless EPs as Bright Eyes, two albums as Conor Oberst or Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, one album as part of Desaparecidos and one album as part of Monsters Of Folk. Conor has created his own unique brand of Americana-folk music with razor sharp lyrics and a passionate singing style to complement it.

Biggest Hit: Lover I Don’t Have To Love

My Favorite Songs: First Day Of My Life, Bowl Of Oranges

Best Album: Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground

Latest Album: The People’s Key

Bright Eyes

Damien Rice

My wife introduced me to this amazing artist when she happened to be listening to O at a CD listening station (remember when those were around?) and said that we needed to buy the album. Damien is a Scottish singer songwriter that writes beautifully crafted mostly-acoustic songs, and his music has a very refined style that seems to resonate with everyone I know who has heard his music. He hasn’t been too prolific with his album releases, but everything that he has recorded and released has been very moving.

Biggest Hit: The Blower’s Daughter

My Favorite Songs: The Professor & La Fille Danse, Amie

Best Album: O

Latest Album: 9

Damien Rice

My Chemical Romance

I wasn’t a huge fan when they first blew up on MTV with Helena, but they hooked me with The Black Parade. Since then, they’ve become one of the more interesting and artistic rock bands to come out of their era. And they’re one of the few musical acts today who aren’t afraid of ripping out a guitar solo every now and then. They have been able to change with every album and I can’t wait to see how they reinvent themselves next.

Biggest Hit: Welcome To The Black Parade

My Favorite Songs: I Don’t Love You, Welcome To The Black Parade

Best Album: The Black Parade

Latest Album: Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys

My Chemical Romance

Suede

Called The London Suede in the US due to a copyright infringement issue, this band was one of the more theatrical British bands to come out of the Brit Pop invasion of the ’90s. Though they were a “rock” band, much of their work—especially on Dog Man Star—was almost operatic in feel with dirge-like orchestral ballads and Brett Anderson’s trademark falsetto. They consistently put out good music throughout the decade, until it seemed like they almost ran out of creative steam near the end. They recently reformed (without Bernard Butler) to play at Coachella, so hopefully they will get into the studio to record some new stuff soon.

Biggest Hit: Trash

My Favorite Songs: The Living Dead, The 2 Of Us

Best Album: Dog Man Star

Last Album: A New Morning

Suede

Butch Walker

I was a fan of Marvelous 3 (Butch’s band after the hair metal band Southgang) and when they broke up, he started releasing a series of albums that were all very different from each other—but all good, and he found a good amount of success being a musical producer to some of pop’s biggest stars. And no wonder, since he has an uncanny knack for melody and for finding the right way to deliver a knockout chorus.

Biggest Hit: Freak of the Week (Marvelous 3)

My Favorite Songs: State Line, Joan

Best Album: Letters

Latest Album: The Spade

Butch Walker

The Wildhearts

A British Pop-Punk-Metal band that just never got their proper due in the US. One of the more melodic and one of the most talented rock bands out there, they were able to consistently deliver albums that were as good as they were ignored by the masses. Ginger has a way of cramming an album’s worth of guitar riffs into one song, and not only make it work, but also fucking rock.

Biggest Hit: I Wanna Go Where The People Go

My Favorite Songs: Baby Strange/Nita Nitro, Greetings From Shitsville

Best Album: p.h.u.q.

Latest Album: ¡Chutzpah!

The Wildhearts

Silverchair

They started out as a grunge band in the waning days of the era, as 15-year old kids. But since then they grew leaps and bounds musically with each album. They’ve recorded songs that are very complicated in chord structure and unique in instrumentation that they sometimes felt like songs from a Broadway musical or classical music played by a rock band. Though on hiatus for now, I hope that they will eventually someday get back in the studio and put out something new and amazing.

Biggest Hit: Tomorrow

My Favorite Songs: After All These Years, Across The Night

Best Album: Diorama

Last Album: Young Modern

Silverchair

Ours

A goth rock band that should have been bigger than they are. Made up of revolving members surrounding a man with a vision and a golden voice, Jimmy Gnecco. This band’s bread and butter are epic songs with driving rhythms that build up in beautiful crescendos to soaring choruses. Jimmy is one of the most talented vocalists in rock, comparable to Jeff Buckley, and he belts his lungs out when he needs to take a song to the next level—rock nirvana.

Biggest Hit: Sometimes

My Favorite Songs: Fallen Souls, Sometimes

Best Album: Distorted Lullabies

Latest Album: The Heart (Jimmy Gnecco)

Ours

The Smashing Pumpkins

Out of all of the alternative rock bands that came out of the ’90s, this one is my favorite. Maybe because they were able to cut through the clutter of detuned minor chords, maybe because they had a unique thrift shop… then in their later years, glam guy-liner look, or maybe because Billy Corgan wrote rock songs with guitar solos that were uber-catchy. Billy was also a unique guitar player and had great technique in an era when having technique was horribly uncool, and being a guitar player myself, I not only appreciated it, but have often used “Pumpkin” chords in my songs. The Pumpkins were famous for recording layers of overdubbed guitar to create an electric wall of sound and there was nothing like listening to them at full-blast in the car to feel the full effect of it. They broke up at some point, then reunited with all new band members but never really got their mojo back. So while I am hopeful for their 44-song free Internet album Teargarden By Kaleidyscope, I’m keeping my expectations low.

Biggest Hit: 1979

My Favorite Songs: Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Mayonaise

Best Album: Siamese Dream

Latest Album: Zeitgeist

The Smashing Pumpkins

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