I don’t often participate in the various “challenges” often found on social media, but when CNA senior feature writer Larry Peterson challenged me on Facebook last night to post my 10 all-time favorite albums over the course of 10 days, I felt like that would be a fun list for me to compile.
I’m going to cheat a little bit, however, and put my 10 all-time favorite albums in this column.
Now, for those who know me well, I know exactly what you’re thinking. No, not all 10 albums are going to be The Killers albums (they only have five proper albums, plus a B-sides and rarities albums aptly named “Sawdust,” a greatest hits album and a Christmas album). The point is, yes, I do enjoy other artists, as well.
The Facebook challenge says to post the cover of each album and there’s no need to explain. Since I’m doing this in column format, I won’t be posting the cover and instead will be doing some explaining. Without further adieu, let’s get started.
1. “Sam’s Town” by The Killers – You’re shocked, right? Of course the top album on the list would be a Killers album. As I’ve written in my column before, this is the first album I anxiously awaited its arrival.
I spent the entire month of July 2006 on the band’s website on my sister’s desktop computer in St. Louis, listening to the teaser snippet of lead single “When You Were Young,” and then after the video was released, watching the video. I still vividly remember the feeling I had when the full album finally arrived and I first heard the opening notes of album opener “Sam’s Town,” which immediately evoked a feeling of Americana within me.
This album has fluctuated in its spot on my list over the years, but always finds it way back to the top spot.
Highlights: The obvious choice is “When You Were Young,” which remains one of the band’s most well-known songs. Others include “For Reasons Unknown,” “This River is Wild” and “Exitlude.”
2. “The Rhumb Line” by Ra Ra Riot – Another shocker for those who know me, I’m sure.
Imagine this: In August 2009, Marc Coenen, Matt Lanning and I trekked to Louisville, Kentucky, to go to a Killers concert in Elizabeth, Indiana. It was sweltering hot and we were packed in with thousands of other fans on a concrete parking lot at the casino where the concert was held. Ra Ra Riot opened the concert, and we honestly weren’t overly impressed with them, although it was hard to understand any of the lyrics since their audio mix was not great. Little did I know at the time Ra Ra Riot would turn into my second favorite band. I’ve now seen them live seven times (topped only by the nine times I’ve seen The Killers), and their debut album remains – top to bottom – their best in my eyes. For those unfamiliar, this album has been described as “baroque pop,” as the band features a violinist and cellist.
Highlights: “Ghost Under Rocks,” “Dying Is Fine,” which is based on an E.E. Cummings poem, and “Can You Tell.”
3. “Wake Up” by Youngblood Hawke – There’s not a band I want to hear more new music from more than Youngblood Hawke, whose debut album “Wake Up” is like nothing else I’ve heard. They’ve released several singles since the 2013 debut album, but not a full album. Described by the band as “the soundtrack for when we inhabit Mars,” I honestly can’t think of a better description for this album.
Highlights: “Rootless,” “Dannyboy,” which was written about a friend of the band who was in a coma after being hit by a car while riding his bike, and “Live & Die.”
4. “Hot Fuss” by The Killers – This is the album that started my love affair with The Killers, and really, with music. Most casual fans of the band only really know this album and (wrongly, I might add) think it’s the band’s best.
Highlights: “Mr. Brightside,” “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.”
5. “Wonderful Wonderful” by The Killers – I struggle with where to put this album. Some of the songs on the back half don’t interest me nearly as much as they did when the album was released in September 2017, but the first half of the album contains some of my all-time favorites. And, having seen back-to-back shows from the tour in February, it might contain some of the band’s best live songs. On another day, I might rank this fourth.
Highlights: “The Man,” “Run for Cover” and “Tyson vs. Douglas.”
6. “Need Your Light” by Ra Ra Riot – As I started working on this list, I was actually surprised this album made it this far down. Ra Ra Riot’s fourth and most recent album holds a special personal connection for me. At a show in Minneapolis in 2015, bassist Mathieu Santos took time to speak with me after the band’s set and told me about the process of recording this album. He even gave me the back story for what would become one of my all-time favorite songs, “Suckers.”
Highlights: “Foreign Lovers,” “I Need Your Light” and “Suckers.”
7. “Home of the Strange” by Young the Giant – This album is just plain fun. It largely deals with the band’s immigrant history.
Highlights: “Amerika,” “Titus Was Born” and “Mr. Know-It-All.”
8. “The Head and the Heart” by The Head and the Heart – The self-titled debut album by The Head and the Heart is just a beautiful piece of work, featuring harmonies and more violin.
Highlights: “Down in the Valley,” “Rivers and Roads” and “Lost In My Mind.”
9. “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance – This is a concept album by the now defunct band about a man battling cancer. The album plays out like a piece of performance art, which is somewhat strange for being a rock album.
Highlights: “Welcome to the Black Parade,” “I Don’t Love You” and “Famous Last Words.”
10. “Beta Love” by Ra Ra Riot – I could have gone several different directions with my last selection, but “Beta Love” gets the nod today. Another concept album, this one influenced by sci-fi author William Gibson and telling the story of robots falling in love.
Highlights: “Dance With Me,” “Beta Love” and “Angel, Please.”
Thus concludes my list of top 10 all-time favorite albums, a list that most certainly could change on any given day. Blame Larry Peterson for nominating me to do this challenge.
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Twitter – @scottvicker
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