The following are albums (and some single songs) that I think every person should at least check out. No matter what you think about music, these are amazing, well recorded, all-around mind-exploding pieces of art.
full albums of mind-blowingness
John Mayer - Continuum
I love pretty much everything this man does, but his new(est) album is AMAZING. Seriously... every track makes me tingly. Especially Belief (what puts a hundred thousand children in the sand / belief can / what puts a folded flag inside his mother's hand / belief can), The Heart Of Life (his voice goes down all low and hot at around 2:40 and I melt), Vultures, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room... I'm listing the whole album, like I thought I would. Screw it. Go listen to it immediately. No, I don't care about your preconcieved notions about John Mayer. No, screw you. Go now! Or I'll never speak to you again.
Nickel Creek - Why Should The Fire Die
Mmmmm. Bluegrass! Guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, all recorded on analog! It sounds so warm and smooth (because of the analog tape) and I just love Nickel Creek. Tomorrow Is A Long Time is a Bob Dylan cover, Scotch and Chocolate and Stumptown are instrumentals that always make me dance no matter what... and Helena. Oh holy hell, this is one of my favourite songs ever. EVER! Please, at least listen to Helena. But honestly, the entire album is (and all of their others are) really really great. Listen to them and get obsessed now, because they're taking a 'break' after this year! Go see them live, they do insane covers... at Bonnaroo, I got to hear a surprisingly accurate and rocking version of Britney Spears' 'Toxic'. Yep.
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Freaky ass psychadelic music. Chances are you probably won't love it, but it's something you at least have to experience. It's a fairly obscure, but very very important album. More than likely one of your favourite bands would list this as an influence. Just try it! I love Holland, 1945.
Mute Math- Mute Math
I accidentally discovered them at Bonnaroo last year. They're a band that left their label because they wanted to market them as a Christian act, even though they weren't. They came up to Nashville and started a label (Teleprompt) with their producer. They play the keytar, invented an insane electronic instrument, and put on an amazing live show. Really catchy stuff. My mom says a few of their songs sound like Sting, but I just think it sounds like kickass. Yep... I really just said that.
Panic! At The Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out
Another band that probably has a bad rap... look, I know they owe their popularity to Fall Out Boy (sorry kids, but ick) and they've had a couple bouncy Top 20 songs, but this is an AWESOME album. The lyrics can get really silly, but the music is really complex, and their lead singer is great, and like... 19? It's good on a lot of levels, as driving music, walking to class music, anything. Love it.
Guster - Keep It Together
You had to know there would be Guster on here. In fact, I wanted to include all of their albums but I can't! So consider this your Guster introduction, because Lost and Gone Forever (and Parachute and Ganging Up On The Sun and Goldfly) are incredible, but a lot heavier than KIT. Anyway, when I first got this album about 4 years ago I only listened to the first five tracks, over and over. Those are lighter and catchy as hell, but once you finally get past those, the other tracks are great in a different way. Backyard is on pretty much every mix I ever make (oh, that bongo hit at 2:03 gives me chills) and Careful was my ringtone for FOREVER. Gahhhhhhhhh I love Guster. They're great live too! This was the album that took me to college.
Blue Merle - Burning In The Sun
Bluegrass and rock and folk music... a lead singer (Lucas Reynolds, one of his solo songs is below) with a great unique voice and a mandolin and a violin! After all, I was raised in the Bluegrass State. Anyway, it's very fusion-y and in general really easy to listen to. I'd insist that you see them live, except they broke up last spring. On a day when I was wearing their shirt. It was very sad. :( It's still one of my favourite albums, though. Especially the title track, Places, Made To Run, and Stay.
Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams
Oh, Jack. This is my happy place. If I'm having a bad day or need to relax, I put this on. Lots of acoustic guitar and his really sweet voice. Good good good stuff! Once again, all of his albums are great, but this is a good Jack introduction. Better Together, Never Know, Staple It Together! I feel so warm and fuzzy now. :)
Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
I really hope for your sake that you are already well-versed in this album. If not, you should be ashamed of yourself. It came out in 1997 and it's just really awesome. The first track is called One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces. Do I really need to say anything else? Oh, and Evaporated will make your heart bleed.
Citizen Cope - The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
I was about to put Bullet and A Target on the list below, but then I wanted to add My Way Home and Son's Gonna Rise and then I realized that it belonged up here. I first heard him at a Marc Broussard concert (someone else I highly recommend, on album and in concert) and they gave out this CD in the audience. He has this incredible sound, it's part rap part roots part acoustic... I don't think I've ever seen him open his eyes all of the way. That's totally unrelated but true. Great voice, surprisingly deep lyrics, catchy music.
Foo Fighters - everything they've ever recorded
I refuse to say any more on the subject.
.......okay. Dave Grohl is pretty much my hero (no pun intended). In case you didn't know, he played the drums in Nirvana, then went on to kick ass in Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain's death. Now he primarily plays guitar and sings. Seriously, this man is insanely talented. Just a couple great tracks are- Virginia Moon, a duet with Norah Jones off of their latest studio album, In Your Honor. Times Like These from One By One. My Hero, Monkey Wrench, and Everlong off of their first, The Colour And The Shape (you're most likely to know one of those :). Next Year is just one of those songs... it was the theme song for Ed!
Ginny Owens - Something More
Yep, she's a Christian artist. I've gone through a lot of religious phases in my life, but this is one album I will undoubtedly always love. You can hear the compassion and belief in her voice, the songs are all amazing, and she is just an amazing person. She's blind, writes all of her own music, and plays the piano. Really really inspiring, whether religiously or not. Unlike most Christian music, none of it is pushy. She sings about her life and her beliefs and struggles, and what works for her. Yay!
Holly Brook - Like Blood Like Honey
This is some of my at-home-or-have-headphones-on music. It might ruin my reputation. As a general rule, I can't stand female singers, but there's something about her voice and sometimes creepy dark songs. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I listen to her, because I feel like I'm reading her diary or something. It's all very personal and emotional. You might know her from Fort Minor's Where'd You Go. I first heard Curious on Related last season. :)
Jason Mraz - Waiting For My Rocket To Come
This kid won't do anything that's been done before. He has a liquidy voice and brainy rapesque lyrics and he's killer live. Except he has a tendency to go off on crazy musical tangents and forget the crowd is there. I'm sure you know The Remedy (I Won't Worry), or maybe even You And I Both (one of my all-times), but he has a lot to offer. Mr. A-Z is great too.
Mae - Destination:Beautiful... and The Everglow
This is a band that takes some adjustment. You might hate the lead singer's voice at first, but let it grow on you. The music itself is seemingly emo, but really solid and big. Seriously, give it a chance. I hated The Everglow at first because I was disappointed, but once I got past some of the lyrics it's now one of my favourites. He has kind of a high voice, but listen to Someone Else's Arms... ohhh I'm a big pile of girl when he sings all deep.
Mike Doughty - Haughty Melodic
If you know him, it's probably as the lead singer of Soul Coughing. Well he's solo now. I've had American Car stuck in my head for a week. Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well got some airplay, I Hear The Bells is, yes, THAT song from Veronica Mars, Grey Ghost is a tribute to Jeff Buckley (see below), Tremendous Brunettes is a duet with Dave Matthews. Another really unique voice. Oh, and there's a song called Busting Up A Starbucks!
Silverchair - Diorama
This is my first semester of college. I didn't know much about the band, except for their few singles from the 90's, but this album is another epic one. Very produced and processed, but still somehow amazing.
Snow Patrol - Final Straw
Holy crap, I got this one in the dollar bin at Cat's Music because it was a promotional copy, and it seriously changed my life. Mmmmm Snow Patrol. You know Run and Chocolate, listen to Spitting Games and Tiny Little Fractures and ALL OF IT damnit! And see my single song rec below... hehehehehe.
Will Hoge - Blackbird On A Lonely Wire
Oh Will Hoge! He's a hometown (Nashville) boy. Puts on one kickass mind-blowing show, but it's nothing like his albums. We like to say that live, he epitomizes rock and roll. His album is just as good, but in a completely different way. This is his first... try Not That Cool, Hey Tonight, Be The One, Doesn't Have To Be That Way... and his new album, The Man Who Killed Love. You'll love him, I promise.
The Working Title - Everyone Here Is Wrong (EP)
I saw them in concert with Mae on my first date ever. Rebuttal and the following track Something She Said are some of the creepiest and most moving music I've ever heard. Big and instrumental... another one of those 'what did I just listen to?' albums. It's an experience. Their major label release after this was a big disappointment to me. Stick with the EP. :) There Is None will make you cry! Good live show, too.
Something Corporate - Leaving Through The Window and North and Jack's Mannequin - Everything In Transit
These are songs that I grew up to. I started listening to Leaving during my senior year of college and seriously, it changed me. North came out my first semester of college, and Andrew McMahon released his solo at the beginning of my junior year. So many of these songs (The Astronaut, She Paints Me Blue, Bruised, Rescued) have a lot of memories for me. The combination of piano and electric guitars, and Andrew's (and sometimes former bandmate Josh's) lyrics rip me apart! Some more really unique stuff. I couldn't live without it.
and then just songs.......
Mirah - Cold, Cold Water
Creepy as all get out. Very epic. eeeeeeeee!
The Format - On Your Porch
You Veronica fans know this song. It's slow and smooth and it gets into my bones.
Lucas Reynolds - Everything Leaves A Mark
Hand claps and mandolin and slide guitar and his freaking awesome voice! It's so simple and genius, I can't stand it. One of my top played songs ever.
Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Follow You Into The Dark
Shhhhhhh about the indie emo rock! I defy you to listen to this and not cry. Very raw and moving and eeee I love Ben Gibbard anyway but this is especially freaking sweet.
Death Cab (again) - Title and Registration
The first song of theirs that I ever heard. It's just... different. Another that's on almost every playlist.
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Just go right now, if you've never heard it before. Wow.
John Butler Trio - What You Want
Another wow. These are all turning out to be epic-ish songs. Big and crazy and they make you think.
The Microphones - I Felt Your Shape
Sweet and simple. It took a long time for the lyrics to really sink in, but it's a really good one.
Neko Case - Hold On, Hold On
Another Veronica Mars discovery. There's a big Western twangy cowboy movie guitar, mushy reverbed lead vocals, and you might never get it out of your head. This was my inspiration for my last recording project.
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
Oh shut up! It's so good!
Snow Patrol - Crazy In Love
A cover of the Beyonce song that may very well be better than the original. I'm not kidding. They somehow keep the essence of it and yet make it their own....... insane. Just insane.
I know this isn't an all-inclusive list, as I was just scanning through my iTunes for inspiration, and I should have been in bed three hours ago. I'll probably add to it later, and you probably think I'm insane for putting this much time into a post. But seriously... these are all songs that have meant a hell of a lot to me, and what's music if you don't share it? Please let me know if you're interested in hearing something and can't, I'd be glad to send you some of it. And also, please let me know what you think! If you discover something new, then I've done my job. I'd also love some of your own recommendations. :)
I think I have carpal tunnel now. It's time to play some more of my iTunes and get to bed. .....that was a pretty good first post back after getting my new computer, huh?