As I know I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’m an avid CD collector. I remember in 8th grade I made a conscious decision to obtain as many CDs as I could — at that point in life I had really had no exposure to most music, simply because I had never actually given it much thought as a thing to be enjoyed. On Christmas of that year, my dad gifted me two CDs that changed my outlook and approach to music forever — those being U2’s Achtung Baby and Toad The Wet Sprocket’s P.S. It’s really difficult to overstate the effect these albums have had on my life, and now is not the place where I will go into very much detail on it, but my love of music and the way I consume it can be directly traced back to those two CDs.
My world opened up after that, and I remember saving up my meager weekly allowance to have my mom drive me to the used CD store and buy whatever albums looked interesting to me, or which came highly recommended from friends who were more musically aware than I was. I would spend a lot of time looking for the best deals to get the most bang for my buck, and then spend my free time after school holed up in my room just listening to CDs on my stereo, enjoying the simple act of hearing something I had never heard before.
As I got older my collection grew, and over time it became a huge source of pride for me — something I had that few other people did. As my musical vocabulary expanded I came to take a very specific joy in finding albums and artists that none of my friends knew about. Once I got a job and was able to drive I spent a lot of time at the used CD store — I knew that place inside and out, and I would often visit weekly if not more frequently than that. I came to love the hunt — and still do. The thrill of finding a CD that you’ve been searching for off and on for a long time — months, sometimes years — still makes scouring that store (and others, like Half-Price Books) worth it to me. Although any CD you could want is often easily available with the click of a button on Amazon or Half.com, I still tend to do my CD searching in brick-and-mortar stores, while they’re still around.
At last count (which would be the night before I’m writing this), I have 1,001 CDs (assuming I didn’t miscount, which is a distinct possibility/likelihood). This is the bounty of about 15 years’ worth of work and searching and money spent, and while I’ve gotten a fair amount of good-natured ridicule for spending my money on a medium that is, for all intents and purposes, outdated and pointless in the 21st century, I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.
All that said, I’ve realized that, over the years, the collection as a whole has become more important to me than the actual contents. It’s gotten to the point where I will purchase CDs simply because they’re cheap and I might like them when I listen to them someday, and the excitement of actually hearing the music has taken a backseat to the excitement of adding one more piece to my collection. I thus have put off listening to many of my albums for years, and they’ve become forgotten and neglected. This is not only ultimately a waste of money, but devalues the collection as a thing to be enjoyed.
I decided to go through my collection and build a list of all the CDs that I either have never listened to or listened to only partway and don’t remember anything about. To my horror, I counted 231 albums — almost a quarter of my entire collection! I’ve decided to remedy this, by listening through each and every album on this list of rejects, in full. I want to document this journey, so I’ll also be writing about each album immediately after I finish listening to it, although to save myself (and you) from my verbosity I’ll be making an effort to be as brief as possible — only a couple sentences, ideally, with each album (although I’m sure I’ll fail here and there). [Edit after finishing writing this first post: I failed hard.]
I have no idea how long this will take me. I know for a fact that many of the albums on this list — maybe even most — I will not particularly enjoy. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised over and over again but I have no illusions about the quality of a lot of albums on here. As a result, I may reach dead spots that take me a while to get through simply because I need to take a break from listening to stuff I don’t like. I’m going to post my progress every time I get through ~25 albums, which means this will be a series of nine posts (give or take). This could take a couple months, or it could take a year or more. I don’t know, but it’ll be a (hopefully) entertaining ride.
Anyway, this has gotten too long already, so I’ll wrap up the intro by noting a couple other quick things: I’ll be going through this list in alphabetical order by artist name, and then in cases where I’ll be listening through multiple albums by the same artist, by album release date. I’ll also note the date I listened to each album or group of albums so I (and you) can track the chronological progression. Do you really care about that? I doubt it, but here we go anyway.
The Academy Is… – Fast Times At Barrington High (2008)
Stupidly fun, catchy, and energetic pop-punk. This album is basically an idealized version of high school — the high school experience we all wanted — in musical form. I have a soft spot in my heart for this type of music anyway but this takes it to another level. Ironically, this is the kind of thing I would have found too saccharine and dumb in my high school days, but now am able to enjoy simply for its pop sensibilities. Excellent release. — 4.0/5.0
AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
Never been a fan of AC/DC; I inherited this album from my dad when he decided he didn’t need a bunch of his CDs anymore (prepare for many more in this vein as we go along). This album was okay, I liked it more than I was anticipating, but Classic Rock Radio has more or less killed its explosiveness. Besides that, I’ve never been much for the drugs-sex-rock-and-roll culture that permeates every nook and cranny of this thing, and the blatant misogyny on display with “Give The Dog A Bone” disgusts me on a deep level. Probably will never listen to it again. — 2.5/5.0
Ace Troubleshooter – It’s Never Enough (2004)
Once long ago, there were a bunch of CDs available for the taking in my church’s youth room, so I picked this up one day because it looked interesting and proceeded to not really think about it for the next 10+ years. I wasn’t missing a whole lot — generic pop-punk/alternative, although the singer has a surprisingly good voice and the opening two tracks are really, really good, along with the more downtempo “Helen Burns”. I liked this one, all told. — 3.5/5.0
Antony and the Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now (2005)
I don’t mind Antony’s distinctive voice in small doses, but a whole album of it — even a sub-40 minute one — is too much. A few good songs on this one — most notably “Man Is The Baby” and “Fistful of Love” — but not something I will be returning to often, if ever. I much prefer Antony’s work in Hercules and Love Affair (“Blind”, of course, being the quintessential cut) to this. — 3.0/5.0
Arcade Fire – Reflektor (2013)
I was pretty ready to hate this album — I’m just so over Arcade Fire and their bloated pretension. My enjoyment of their music has steadily declined over the past several years, and I had put off listening to Reflektor for so long because I knew it would be a chore to get through, and I was half right — the first disc is bland, boring, flat rock that did absolutely nothing for me. The second disc though was significantly better, with more of James Murphy’s production taking the spotlight (which is a good thing). Loved the funk on “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”, but it was pretty solid all the way through. Still, my opinion on Arcade Fire wasn’t much improved, and I probably won’t be checking out anything more that they release. — 3.0/5.0
Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence (2011)
I picked this album up (along with Hush, which I’ve already listened to) simply because Asobi Seksu CDs always seem to be hard to find, and I really enjoyed Citrus so why not? Plus, I remember that this was cheap, only like $2.00. I looooooooved “Perfect Crystal”, but the rest of the album was immediately forgettable. It’s shimmery, hazy dream pop, the likes of which you can find in countless other similar bands. This is my whole issue with shoegaze/dream pop in general — by nature it’s so intent on making vague soundscapes that it often neglects things like melody and sonic hooks. Citrus was able to inject enough moments of pop clarity to distinguish it from the crowd, but with the exception of “Perfect Crystal”, Fluorescence had nothing similar to offer. — 2.5/5.0
The Ataris – Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits (1999)
Blaaahhh…I distinctly remember buying this album while on vacation with my family in high school. For some reason we stopped at a used CD store (probably at my request) and I found this, and knew that it was considered a good album by the type of people who like this kind of music, so I bought it but never actually gave it a listen for whatever reason. In reality it’s just really, really boring pop punk. “San Dimas High School Football Rules” is okay, but honestly this type of music is much better realized in other albums by other bands, not least of which is Fast Times at Barrington High, above. — 2.0/5.0
The Ataris – End Is Forever (2001)
This was a nostalgia trip…I listened to the first five or six songs on this album often in my high school years, but rarely (if ever) anything beyond that. Despite the stupidly juvenile lyrics (Kris Roe has always been a cringey songwriter, even 16 year-old me recognized that “I guess I’m giving up on love, ’cause it really kind of sucks” is lazy lyricism), I actually enjoyed this album, quite a bit more than Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…, although I have a generally high tolerance for this sappy, sentimental emo stuff so take that as you will. – 3.0/5.0
ATB – Dedicated (2002)
I braced myself for a trudge here, but this was better than expected, although not in a “Hey this is quality music” way, more in an “Oh look at this kitschy turn-of-the-millennium trance” kind of way. Listening to this album made me realize how much electronic music has changed and evolved in the last 15 years, and while it would be easy to write this off as soulless fluff, there is a certain something that kept me listening and enjoying this one through its hour run. I fear the dreaded hipster “I like this in an ironic way” response may be the only way I can justify it, but there seems to be no other explanation. — 3.5/5.0
Audioslave – Audioslave (2002)
Weirdly good. I have fond memories of “Cochise” and “Like A Stone” playing on the radio right when I was starting to pay attention to music. I hate most other things Chris Cornell is involved in (“Black Hole Sun” would be on my shortlist of my least favorite songs ever), but Audioslave, or at least Audioslave as heard on this album, just works. I love the energy — there are some really intense songs on here, and I mean that in a good way. Loses steam in its final third, but overall quite a lot better than I was anticipating. — 3.5/5.0
Beach House – Bloom (2012)
I finished this 10 minutes ago and I can’t recall a single thing about it. Really, really mundane, impressionless dream pop. — 2.0/5.0
The Beatles – Beatles For Sale (1964)
I’ve heard every other major release by The Beatles, and while I love pretty much everything they’ve done, since I picked up this last, missing piece I haven’t been in much of a Beatles mood so I never gave this a proper listen. It’s pretty much what I expected — solid, but nothing too great. This seems to be the general consensus among most Beatles fans so I don’t feel too bad about it. If I was in the right mood, though, I might like this a bit more than I did today, so I’ll be returning to this at a later date I’m sure. — 3.5/5.0
Beck – Sea Change (2002)
Very boring to my ears, although I can tell there’s something here worth keeping. It had touches of brilliance here and there, but in general it just didn’t engage me very much. If I’m ever in the mood to listen to this type of music, Sky Blue Sky is and will probably remain my go-to, thank you very much. — 3.0/5.0
Belle and Sebastian – The BBC Sessions (2008)
I’m a huge Belle and Sebastian fan, so much so that I think I kind of sabotaged some of my enjoyment of this album by having listened to If You’re Feeling Sinister (an album that would easily make my Top 10 of all time if I ever decided to make such a list) so much that the arrangement and specific sound of those songs is completely burned into my brain. Anything that doesn’t sound exactly like I know it sounds on that album is just wrong. But, barring those cuts, this album is quite good — and I much preferred this album’s version of “Sleep The Clock Around” more than the album version, especially surprising as that’s always been one of my favorite B&S songs (and thus at least as sacred as anything off of If You’re Feeling Sinister). Good stuff! — 3.5/5.0
Better Than Ezra – Deluxe (1993)
There’s plenty more of this ’90s college rock stuff coming up, and I think my reaction to most of it will be about the same as this one: boring, generic, and forgettable. Being almost 30, it’s also now really easy to see through the pretty blatant lyrical pandering on display in songs like “Southern Girl” and “Teenager”. Not a fan. — 2.0/5.0
Better Than Ezra – How Does Your Garden Grow? (1998)
This was loads better than Deluxe, although it felt like a lot of other music, rather than anything unique. This isn’t a bad thing, though; parts of the first track reminded me of something off of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois…unexpected, but delightful. The second half of “New Kind of Low” sounds like something Radiohead might’ve made around the same time period. Kevin Griffin’s vocals on here are also a lot less obnoxious than on Deluxe. I enjoyed this. — 3.5/5.0
Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Sister Sweetly (1993)
You know what sounds I don’t miss? Pretty much every kind of sound that can be found on this album. Just look at the cover. You know what kind of music you’re getting into. — 2.0/5.0
Black Lab – Your Body Above Me (1997)
Most of what I said about Audioslave can be applied to this album as well. I really dig this guy’s voice, but the music is pretty generic mid-’90s post-grunge/alt-rock so it struggled to leave any kind of impression. Still, “All The Money In The World” is fantastic — there’s something about the energy in Paul Durham’s delivery of the lyric “SWITCH the children, watch the women scream!” that I can’t really equate to anything else, and that song alone makes this album worth keeping in the back of my mind. — 3.0/5.0
Boysetsfire – After The Eulogy (2000)
Boysetsfire haven’t aged well. I used to be all over Tomorrow Come Today in high school (in fact, I’d say that it was one of the more personally influential albums I listened to at the time), but to my ears now…this band just kind of sounds like a parody of the type of music they’re trying to make. In fact, this is how most blatantly political music sounds to me these days — angry kids who think they know how the world works and want to scream about it. Whether or not the political points BSF makes are valid (not gonna go there), this album at least just comes across awkwardly at the best of times — case in point, the cringey “Where’s you anger? Where’s your f***ing rage?” coda at the end of the first song. I do enjoy “Rookie”, “When Rhetoric Dies”, and “My Life In The Knife Trade”, but the rest of the album is…pretty bad. –2.0/5.0
Brie Larson – Finally Out of P.E. (2005)
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I bought this CD based off of seeing an AMV that used the song “Life After You”. I’m pretty sure it was a Girl Who Leapt Through Time video, but I can’t, for the LIFE of me, find any evidence that this video exists. It’s not on the .org (there are no videos which use this song listed on there) and I can’t remember the name of the video, or the editor. I would have gotten this CD back in 2006 or 2007ish, and the only way I would ever have bought something like this at the time is because of an AMV. It’s a weird mystery.
Anyway, the album itself is wholly unsurprising, aimed squarely at the female teen “rebel”, with all the baggage and poor songwriting that entails. It’s a lyrically stupid album (see: “Shoebox”), and it feels ridiculously manufactured, but that also means that it has its moments of pop euphoria (see: “Whatever”), and I can appreciate those. I actually enjoyed this album more often than not, but it’s not exactly something I’m going to go parading around that I liked. And the asinine lyrics put a pretty low ceiling on how high I’m willing to rate this. — 2.5/5.0
Bob Seger – Face The Promise (2006)
I have to admit, as I was compiling this list, I probably pre-judged this one harder than any other. If the cover art isn’t bad enough (and let’s be honest — it’s pretty bad), then the prospect of listening to a Motor City rocker from the ’70s in his 2006 incarnation certainly wasn’t helping matters. I was pretty happy to be pretty wrong about this one — although this is about as “safe” as this kind of music comes, it’s not at all bad, and man Bob Seger has good pipes for his age. I love his voice. I’ll take it farther and say that this was a shockingly good album, all things considered (not least of all that Kid Rock features on “Real Mean Bottle”, which is also, coincidentally, probably the record’s worst song), and while this type of heartland rock is really hit-or-miss for me with any artist besides Bruce Springsteen, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this one. — 3.5/5.0
Bright Eyes – Cassadaga (2007)
Solid album. I’ve been a Bright Eyes fan for a while now, and while I do remember listening to this album all the way through once, I don’t remember anything about it. There’s nothing surprising here for someone who’s familiar with Conor Oberst’s work; it feels very safe and comfortable for him, and has that trademark lyrical style where he just keeps stringing out metaphors and imagery, one line after another, pulling from a seemingly bottomless source of clever turns of phrase, all while keeping the music catchy and simple. I like pretty much everything Oberst does and this is no exception; although Bright Eyes’ best output is well in the past, this album makes perfect sense in their discography. — 3.5/5.0
Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980)
Of all the things I’ve inherited from my dad over the years, a love of Bruce Springsteen ranks up there as one of my favorites. I’m a fan of almost everything I’ve heard of Springsteen’s, but this album’s length is always what had put me off from giving it a proper listen. Hearing it now, I definitely enjoyed it, but there’s no denying that it’s a lot to sit through, and it’s not all A-grade material (a sizable portion of the middle just kinda drags, although since it’s Bruce, I’ll still take it over other albums that do the same thing). I can’t be too harsh though, because I was somewhat distracted while listening to a lot of this album, and the stories and vignettes that are woven into Springsteen’s music usually demand one’s full attention to really appreciate. I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt, and look forward to hearing it again. — 4.0/5.0
Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995)
If anyone were to ask what my favorite Springsteen record were, I’d be torn between Born To Run and Nebraska, so it’s probably no surprise that The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is basically Nebraska pt. 2, found in me a ready ear. I loved this record; Bruce’s stripped-down, intimate approach sounds just as natural as his most explosive and energetic cuts, and it’s rare to find an artist who can so easily fill albums with songs of both styles. Great stuff. — 4.0/5.0
Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002)
The album starts off really strong — “Lonesome Day” and “Into The Fire” are both fantastic songs, and ends with a trio of equally great songs in “The Rising”, “Paradise”, and “My City of Ruins”, but most of the stuff in between is pretty forgettable. It’s not bad, I just wasn’t captivated by the stories the way I usually am with Bruce’s music. It was also way too long; this could have been pruned quite a bit and it would have made everything better. Unlike most albums I rate 3/5 though, I’ll probably return to this one to give it another chance, because, well, Bruce. — 3.0/5.0
Bruce Springsteen – Magic (2007)
I may be in the minority here, but I really liked this. It has a slightly more “produced” sound than a lot of the other stuff I’ve heard from Springsteen, but the lyrical content is still strong and unlike The Rising, it doesn’t suffer from being overlong. To me it has a feeling of nostalgic sentimentality that is different from that which resides in other Springsteen albums. I don’t know, at its core it’s a typical Springsteen record, but there just seems to the weight of experience and age behind these songs, which is quite distinct from Bruce’s older work, which tends in the exact opposite direction and channels youthful impulsiveness instead. It’s a different side of an artist I love, and I’m sorry I put this one off for so long. — 4.0/5.0
Bruce Springsteen – The Promise (2010)
This was pretty great, but it’s clearly a B-sides album — lots of stuff that just doesn’t quite feel up to snuff from what is considered by many to be Bruce’s best period (The Promise being a collection of unused songs from Bruce’s recording of Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1977-1978). Still, Bruce off his game in the mid-late ’70s is still miles better than a whooole lot of other artists’ best stuff, so this isn’t exactly a bad thing. It is a double album though, and it’s just a lot to sit through, although I was entertained at pretty much all points. I will also say that I looooooved “Ain’t Good Enough For You” — one of the best Springsteen songs I’ve heard as I’ve been playing catch-up these last few days. — 3.5/5.0