SUPERLATIVES: Current and All-Time Media Favorite Lists

(The Favorite Music, Favorite Record Labels, Favorite Films, and Favorite Print and Other Media pages should serve as lists which meet with Julian's approval. But what about things which currently have his eyes' and ears' attention? What things does Julian recommend without reservation as the most deeply significant/if-you-don't-like-it-he-doesn't-like-you level?)


Jump To: Favorite Songs, Favorite Albums, Favorite Albums of the 2010s Favorite Musical Artists, Favorite Bands, Favorite Chinese Songs, Favorite Concerts, Bands/Artists Most Underrated & Deserving of Fame Rather than Obscurity, Favorite Bands Who Require Album-Length Appreciation, Favorite Films, Favorite YouTube videos, Favorite Music Videos

CURRENT MUSIC ALBUMS (By approximate date of mild obsession. I generally listen to iTunes on shuffle, but I'll seek these out lately to play all the way through, even repeatly within a single week on very rare occasion.)

July 2015: ALTZ - "V4" crazy hollerin' electronic dance from 2007 ; Le Bombe - "Min Sa Kallade Soul" apparently all in Norwegian, very playful electronic with vocals

Aug. 2015: MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular" late to the game with them (since it came out in 2007) but I see they're popular for a reason

Jun. 2016: Bodies of Water - "Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink" after an eMusic binge, this one get the most repeated plays because it's explosively choral and uplifting. Agh! I thought this was a follow-up to 2011's "Twist Again," but lo it was originally released in 2007. Guess this list hit the jackpot w/ 777. Maybe I'm sonically stuck.

May 2020 As of now my most played album w/ 12 spins is 2018's "Momentum" by Roman. Instrumental jazz rock for just $3 here.

MOVIES I SAW RECENTLY WHICH I THOUGHT WERE GREAT (Again, no guarantee of currency.)

Approx. since 2014: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Dogtooth, The Way Back, Only Lovers Left Alive

SONGS RECENTLY STUCK IN MY HEAD (Beware the earworms!)

July 2015: "Le Fox" - Owusu & Hannibal (shamelessly disco, but there it is.)

TOP 10 FAVORITE SONGS (As ranking five-star or 10-point songs is an exercise in hopeless exclusion, these kinds of lists are impossible, but it's important to be on the record for important issues like this. Chances are I don't want to hear them right now; too much else to listen to! I'll try to explain why each is on the list. Immediately after making it, I disagree with every entry. Must resist the urge to make ten more lists like it. Also, pardon the autobiographical tilting; someone who appreciates music only on a technical level to the exclusion of what it means to him/her as an individual is not actually appreciating, only analyzing, IMO.)

11. "Heaven Is a Wire" - Mighty John Henry (paired with the instrumental closer "Pachinko Rebellion," there's an awful lot of noise and different directions that struck me as unlistenable when I first heard them in high school, gradually creeping into genius and now classic status.)

10. "Purple Bananas on the Moon" - Art-Paul Schlosser (It makes me happy and harkens to days of randomness. Gotta have an outsider novelty song on here.)

9. "The Unutterable Occurrence" - Philosophy Major (It's an instrumental, and it's dark. It works as a modification of dub, which I am always transfixed by.)

8. "Silver Rider" - Low (As long as it's not overused, this one always gives me goosebumps, stirs my heart, and has been known to bring a tear to my eye. Great to sing along and let out all your emotion.)

7. "Hire a Bird" - Think Tree (Just a strange but beautiful chorus carries this one. One of the happiest discoveries on vinyl from days at WOBC)

6. "Wichitaw Lineman Was a Song I Once Heard" - The KLF (Highly evocative mix of old synths and a sample that sticks with you. Despite not aging well, it's still an all-time favorite.)

5. "In the NA" - The Hidden Cameras (Long but extremely catchy and sweeping, lyrics apparently meaningless but also somehow deeply moving. The whole album was my soundtrack to living in NYC from 2009-10. The video is suitably odd.)

4. "Playgirl" - Ladytron (Snap Ant Remix) (One of the smoothest and nicely layered tracks I've come across, really takes me away for its duration. Had the original on a compilation for the longest time before knowing who Ladytron was, and the vocals on it don't hold up to repeated listens quite like this remix.)

3. "The Box" - Orbital (From the EP, the second one in which a driving chord progression leaves the listener damaged. I'll always remember hearing for the first time at the Middlebury Chinese language school in the summer of 2001. The video of the single version is also rather haunting.)

2. "Hands Inside" - Sin Ropas (Probably the most damaged and difficult song on here, from my summer managing WOBC. It's got a noisy ramshackelness to it that is unlike anything I've heard while hammering home an almost dissonant chorus.)

1. "Peaches in Regalia" - Frank Zappa (Going with a consensus pick here. Much respect to FZ, and I still hum this decades after using it for the biographical speech in sophomore English class. That was the only speech I got a B+ on, I recall, because the song was distracting.)

TOP 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS (Time to get my High Fidelity on, but again, on a desert island, anyone who doesn't die of musical understimulation is no friend of mine. These have to be enjoyable all the way through. And once more, depending on one's mood this can be utterly pointless.)

10. Soundgarden - "Down on the Upside" (1996): I'd venture to say that most people's lists will be dominated by albums they heard repeatedly in high school, and there's scientific reasons for this apparently. I think this would be a minority opinion for best Soundgarden album, but it's definitely my favorite, not only for the handful of singles but for being enjoyable all the way through (previous albums, I admit, got too metal sometimes for me). Even the tracks that could be called filler material have their perks. Certain riffs from this are indelibly carved into my mind and pop into my head unpredictably, even 20 years later. I may never hear the 2012 album b/c there's just so much more to listen to, but no top-10 list can deny one's past.

9. Roots Manuva - "Brand New Second Hand" (1999): I didn't hear this until the early 2000s, but it almost single-discedly brought me around to the world of hip-hop, a leap which many a rural Wisconsinite like myself has yet to take. Maybe electronic music is a gateway in general to urban sounds, and this just sounded unlike any rap album I'd heard, one of the first I myself would choose to listen to, rather than being subjected to at a party, through a wall, or blaring from a car. The beats are generally mellow, and the rapping can be indecipherable, both good qualities in my book. Figuring out what he's saying evokes a joy similar to re-watching Trainspotting to understand the dialog, so treating the album like a journey of discovery guarantees replay value. Later albums by RM seem to be in a bigger hurry, perhaps with a greater focus on the lyrical flow than in setting a mood with the beats, so this one's the album I go to try when I want to win people over who think rap is obnoxious noise.

8. Le Bombe - "Min Sa Kallade Soul" (200?): Here's an obscure one that I only recently heard from a Swedish lady who doesn't deign to sing in English. Her songs are infectious synth-pop firecrackers, indomitably upbeat, and while her voice will grate on some, it's a unique sound that uses brevity to great effect. It remains to be seen whether the album has the staying power of the others on this list, but I'm always happy when something comes up on the shuffle.

7. Boards of Canada - "Music Has the Right to Children" (1998): Having been a fan of electronic music for as long as I can remember, this album forever changed what I expected from an electronic album. An immaculate melding of washed out images and sound, this classic introduces a dystopian world which enfolds itself upon the helpless listener. Sublime samples and tricks abound to make one want to listen again and again.

6. The Starlight Mints - "The Dream that Stuff Was Made of" (2000): The downright catchiest and most playful dissonant noiserock album ever made, IMO. Really sweet and both musically, lyrically odd. This brief album comes to mind when someone mentions catching "lightning in a bottle" at the studio. It's a travesty--no--a crime against humanity's ears that more folks don't know this album. I tend to compare it favorably to Weezer's Blue Album. It's as catchy, but far weirder and more interesting. All Music Guide's 3-star rating is insulting (again, compare 991 ratings to 7). Their following albums are fine, but this one takes the cake for me for sheer freshness.

5. Frank Zappa - "You Are What You Is" (1981): Grew up with this one and the much earlier "We're Only in It for the Money" and can probably still sing along to most of both. Being more familiar with the 1980s, this one gets the nod on this list. When people talk about 80s music, this is what comes to mind.

4. The Hidden Cameras - "Origin: Orphan" (2009): This was, as the kids so like to say nowadays, my "jam" for a year in NYC from 2009-2010, a moving piece of work with gay overtones that kept me bopping on the subway.

3. The Books - "The Way Out" (2010): Despite relaxation affirming samples, this is the duo's most frenetically electronic album, and I love it!

2. Plaid - "Double Figure" (2001): This is a lengthy album with enough standout tracks to be a classic. Few can combine experimental elements so seamlessly with catchiness. While again not the consensus pick for Plaid's best, I feel like most other albums only have a track or two which really hold my attention.

1. Orbital - "In Sides" (1996): Though finding it in the dollar bin lately makes me worry this has become dated, nothing's going to displace "In Sides" from my list because of memories of my brother(s) playing it over and over again in our house in London (, WI) and my grandma's quote on a long road trip that it "really keeps you moving." Long tracks which lean toward the darker side of the electronic spectrum, this album still transfixes me and evokes melodies despite not having heard it in many years.

TOP 12 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF THE 2010s (I posted this on Reddit at the beginning of 2020, I think. There was also a version limited to Bandcamp & eMusic. I'll scrounge around for the link eventually, as some folks did leave comments, surprisingly.)

12. “Bedrooms of the Nation” - Shimmering Stars (2014). Surf rock encrusted with barnacles of grunge in a short album that I let loop over and over again in a car stereo (something I never do) while I was lost in Los Angeles. Not even listed on All Music Guide, a travesty.

11. “The Pool” - Jazzanova (2018). An urban album with limbs placed equally in pop, hip-hop, funk/soul/R&B, jazz, and electronica. It’s substantial and groovy and flows from start to finish very smoothly, but without ever dumbing itself down. Every song is accessible but with pleasant surprises, and while I’m much more inclined to hum along with basslines, maybe you’ll be singing.

10. “Hollowed” - iTAL tEK (2016). IDM cool enough to approach absolute zero, an hour of stark, non-compromise. Works equally well as a soundtrack to the struggle to advance in the Snowpiercer or survive outside it. Sometimes we need sound to transport us into a mindset of pure, cold calculation. Or to jar us from blurred lethargy into focused action. Not for everyone, but this album accomplishes that while offering a bonus of goosebumps.

9. 9. “Carry On” - We Are Enfant Terrible (2013). Female vocals over unsettlingly ramshackle synth-rock, the only time I could use “tinny” as a compliment. They’ve got attitude but don’t lose the catchiness of the songs or go full new wave or punk. I think it’s a crime that these guys were overlooked into apparent oblivion. “Laze Away” is one of my favorite songs of the decade, but the album is solid enough that you’ll like a different number more, maybe each time you listen. Count me clearly among those who think a little dissonance makes melodies shine brighter. I’ll go farther and say I prefer WAET to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I think 8-bit cults ought to tip their hats to someone who can make real pop out of the old bleeps.

8. 8. “Mines” - Menomena (2010). Many of my classmates listened to the same rock as my parents’ generation, some enjoyed alternative rock that was played on commercial radio in high school, but sadly not many took the next steps to indie rock and chamber pop. Menomena, hardly obscure, is the perfect band to help make this crucial transition. At their full strength, this is an indie rock chamber pop powerhouse of an album full of triumphant anthems, rousing choruses built on guitars and vocals that transcend what commercial radio can handle (most songs are about five minutes long, and they feel refreshingly like they have room to breathe). After “Dirty Cartoons” tugs at the traveler’s heartstrings, be sure to catch the video where they play it while walking through a residential neighborhood.

7. “Stubborn Persistent Illusions” - Do Make Say Think (2017). Emerging after more than a decade with their longest album since their debut in the late 90s, this is upbeat (!) post-rock that establishes an atmosphere with far less repetition or cheap tricks and more engagement and accessibility than is typical of the genre. Fully instrumental, with songs often building on conventional guitar foundations and working their way up through piano and brass to blissful climaxes. There’s lots to please fans of psychedelia and prog rock, especially on the almost Glass-like, epic second track and rousing finale. For one not steeped in post-apocalyptic dronescapes, it’s difficult to describe how refreshing it can be for music to be caught ambiguously between crushing dystopian and uplifting utopian. DMST has been working the Constellation circuit as long as anyone (over 20 years!), and it’s time they’re heard by the masses.

6. “Relatives” - Mad Gregs (2012). Even with one foot in 1970s soft rock, this album is yet more wildly innovative than their revelatory “Big Nun.” The instrumentation is highly distinctive, as are the lyrical themes. Bright, shiny pop akin to The Aluminum Group or a mellower Yeasayer at times, my favorite songs here are more experimental and expansive with strings, brass, and reeds (clarinet and bassoon!) popping up often but still unexpectedly. Despite complexity and occasional chaos, these are very enjoyable, hummable songs for any occasion. Maybe this one’s the most obscure on the list; I can hardly find any reviews online, and it’s not on Napster. By all means, ask yourself how many YouTube videos you’ve watched with under 10 views not posted by friends or family. I was very lucky to have stumbled upon their previous album in a hip LA thrift store, definitely among my happiest accidents b/c the record label’s completely unknown. “Moldy Mold” is a clear, otherworldly highlight, and the following “Grimmy’s Luncheon” goes in unpredictably opposite directions in the heart of the album. I could listen 100 times an always appreciate something new.

5. “Mediation of Ecstatic Energy” - Dustin Wong (2013). Epic of guitar atmospheres and experimentation, paired at times brilliantly with the vocals of Takako Minekawa. Layering loops is a composition method people can find innovative or lazy, and it’s notable that Wong laid the foundation for this 4.5-star masterpiece five years earlier on an album rated an almost unheard-of 1.5 stars, by Ecstatic Sunshine in 2008. The pieces all come together here thanks in no small part to Thrill Jockey and TM. Driving past a venue w/ my ex in LA where he and TM were performing in the mid-2010s but not going in b/c I would have been alone w/out a ride back is one of my big concert regrets. I hope they’ll keep collaborating, b/c the way this album ends is one of the most impressive build-ups I’ve ever heard. If you’re not into the style, it’s a weakness that you might just find this album irritating, but I think it’s beautiful and hope you will too.

4. “Rhine Gold” - Choir of Young Believers (2012). I loved the previous “This Is for the Whites in Your Eyes” and his subsequent freefall into despair, but this album does it all superlatively. In short, it combines the best parts of a band with string-heavy classical leanings like Lost in the Trees with the improvements on 1980s sentimentality transcending mere nostalgia on Timber Timbre’s 2017 album. Rock and roll can lead to contemplation just as well as anything.

3. “Istiklaliya” - Aufgang (2013). How often do you hear an album based around a piano that is both experimental and exhilarating? Classical enthusiasts excepted, I presume not very often. Unique for combining elements of EDM with acoustic ivories and drums, it took a few listens for me to appreciate just how special this album is. At almost an hour long, I don’t know if most people could handle the whole thing in one sitting, so be sure to check out all their artsy and creative music videos, too. When they’re not making you shake a leg, they can sound downright sinister or not just detachedly experimental but actually playful. They’ll put a spring in your step and make you feel ever so cultured (for being Julliard-trained), whether it be via “hooked on classics” on steroids or flourishes of Middle Eastern flavor. If “it’s got a nice beat, and you can dance to it” applies to rock, why not piano music, too?

2. “Dracula” - Nurses (2011). The singer’s voice is of the make or break kind, nasal and odd, but when the harmonies kick in here it all becomes strangely beautiful and unrecognizable as anything but itself. Backing rhythms are bumpy, like a wagon wheel about to fall off, the perfect accompaniment to voices, keyboards, and noisy elements. How do these pieces fit together in a way both challenging and soothing? The overall effect is uneasy, but pleasantly so, what I imagine it must be like under the influence just before one loses consciousness and blacks out. These are dark yet wistful, psychedelic lullabies that are kinda dub, kinda rock or new wave, and there’s a strong 1980s influence in here I can’t quite place. Totally ignorant of who they were, I happened upon a concert of theirs in 2010 in NYC, just before this album came out, apparently, and their show knocked my socks off, only to sound completely different here. I don’t know what they were thinking on their 2017 album “Naughtland” to abandon this sound that their two previous albums only hinted at with much more straightforward indie rock, but it was too far out for me. Dracula is solidly cohesive and delightfully off-kilter from top to bottom, I wish you luck trying to sing along. “Trying to Reach You” might be the most accessible place to start, and if anyone at all was listening, they’d be the perfect band to donate their revenue to fight COVID-19 and support essential workers like, well, nurses.

1. “Anchor” - Zammuto (2014). Ex-Books mad genius is unleashed to go wild with rhythm, electronic backing, and vocals. Unpredictable, concise, and catchy, with lyrical themes equally whimsical. A few 5-star tracks stand out for me: “Great Equator” is the perfect soundtrack to my uncle’s gravity experiments, “Electric Ant,” and the irresistibly funky robotic bounce of “IO.” 2012’s self-entitled album was downright angry, almost caustically aggressive, but this one finds the sweet spot between catchy melody, danceability, and experimentation. In the same vein, whereas previous work with The Books may have been too experimental, abstract, or mild for many listeners, this album is an accessible embarkation point to explore his weird audio world. For listeners who appreciate unpredictability.


TOP 10 FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTISTS (Yes, let's just judge entire bodies of work to compile more punchy, easily digestible lists. This includes not only self-released albums but also collaborations, compositions, and productions, but the point is this one person was involved in something I like a lot. Each should have more than a few albums to scrutinize.)

1. Frank Zappa - I was recently informed that FZ was NOT a great guitarist; rather, he hired a lot of great guitarists. Whatever. Anyone who can run for president and mix highbrow new classical with offensive tales of CA decadence gets my vote as undisputed favorite. Gotta wait until I'm old to listen to the full catalog, though. As it turns out, he was also a rather outspoken person, as the 2016 documentary "Eat That Question" shows. I think the inseparability of Zappa's music, humor, and politics is the main reason I find it so appealing, with variety and unpredictability a close second. And apparently his band's various iterations put on quite a live show, many of which have been recorded for the benefit of those too young and/or poor to attend.. Though he says books are far from his favorite medium, The Real Frank Zappa Book also offers a non-musical window into his mind. And personally, I'm convinced that Carleton College waitlisted me as an undergrad because my admission essay on who I'd most like to have dinner with chose FZ. Orchestral "The Yellow Shark" was the first CD I ever bought, one of the most belabored decisions I've probably ever made, in a time when a new CD was a rare event to be savored, liner notes a document to be pored over, and my listening habits resembled far more the kind of person who had time and lack of resources or imagination to listen to a small collection of songs and albums over-and-over again. He was my choice for my sophomore English speech in front of the class, and I played two songs in the background, which the teacher found distracting, the only speech I remember getting a B+ on instead of an A or A-.

2. Beck - I'm old enough to remember when the term "one-hit wonder" was applied to him in the radio-dependent days of "Loser." Left subsequent albums mostly to my brother and college roommate, was a bit repulsed by earlier, rough recordings, but never looked back after "Sea Change" got me through the two years of Peace Corps in far western China. Subsequent albums that I could listen to on my own terms manage to rise above the fray and get multiple spins, and I'm unreservedly/unabashedly a fan. I wonder if I'm now playing the role of my brother and roommate for holdouts who still have reservations about his voice, lyrics, or something else. His earliest, rare and rough albums are not something I would choose to listen to, as even at this high position I'm no superfan.

3. Rob Crow - Here's the first but probably not the only artist on the list I wouldn't expect an average music fan to have heard of. For maximal enjoyment of lofi-songs that do a lot with a little, unlike #2, the prolific Pinback half gets my vote for his solo work as well as Optiganally Yours and several experimental collaborations. Pinback will always be my favorite of his many incarnations, and it's unfair to Mr. Smith IV to give Crow full credit for it (Three Mile Pilot is a fine band in and of itself, and making me like emo is no small feat). That said, combining the band I've seen live more times than any other (thrice) with solo work I'm always happy to return to and appreciate something new makes him an infinitely more formiddable figure in music I like than his unassuming stature suggest. A true giant wizard of guitars, synths, and always soothing vocals (even when his lyrics are self-deprecating or hilarious), I think his louder work as Goblin Cock is the only stuff I don't adore.

4. Brian Eno - For basically inventing ambient music and eternally perplexing people who don't get it, that's achievement enough to merit inclusion. While he may most famous for producing classic David Bowie and other seminal rockers, I'd actually prefer to listen to his own 1970s rock albums than anything he's produced. Their influence on the indie rock of today probably can't be overstated. While some of his mid-to-late period collaborations can occasionally seem mailed in, he's still making albums well worth hearing. I thought about including the recently deceased Harold Budd on here, or Robert Fripp, but I think they were both at their best when working w/ Eno.

5. Bill Laswell - Another master collaborator and producer, I've often remarked that everything this bassist touches "turns to gold" to my ears. I was first introduced to him electronically as Material, then his Axiom label, then his work in dub, and finally his forays into world music. I suspect his album credits could rival Zappa's, but I don't know anyone else who's into him or even many who'd know his name. After browsing the sheer quantity of music he's had a hand in, I'm sure there must be some duds in there, but it'd take up too much space here to list all the solo, collaborative, and production work I love.

6. Aphex Twin - Having captured the imagination of critics and then the general public who restisted taking electronic music seriously, there's little I can say about Richard D. James and the mystique he's cultivated over the decades. I'd like to see one of his DJ sets live. His self-entitled album and "I Care Because You Do" were so foundational to IDM that they were still called techno at one point, right? He gets the slight nod over Mike Paradinas, though the latter needs more promotion, IMO. It'd be an interesting exercise to put their influence on IDM and my appreciation of their work head-to-head sometime.

7. Les Claypool - Playfulness will get one shunned more than most characteristics, and while his occasional noodling can't be denied, I've even grown to appreciate his voice. I find his solo work more varied and really appreciate having seen him live w/ various experimental basses and a virtuoso xylophonist, in a concert where he just gave a stern warning that he'd leave the stage if the raucous crowd ever threw another item at him, rather than actually storming off, to his credit. His voice and sense of humor are both acquired tastes, which required a lot of effort to get into Primus in high school. Prawn Song has to be one of the most consistently odd and interesting record labels, an occasion I do appreciate streaming and the internet for b/c they were so hard to find cheaply on CD.

8. Dan Deacon - He has a Masters Degree in music, so there's gotta be some technical chops behind his songs that take noise and repetition to very challenging extremes of unnatural energy. Extra bonus points for audience participation and activity in live shows, as on NPR's "Tiny Desk". Undeniably experimental but also ecstatically danceable.

9. Amon Tobin - An aversion to jazz combined with the fact that I don't remember hearing any of his groundbreaking work in the 1990s on my favorite electronic music radio show gave me a wholly unjustified and now reversed prejudice against this guy. I haven't been wowed by much of his newer stuff, but the sheer unpredictability of his songs and indeed entire albums is something very few more popular electronic composers can claim. His drum & bass tracks have more flavor than many albums in the genre, and individual songs can turn a hard-edged bassline on its head in the blink of an eye, suddenly becoming catchy or even cute.

10. David Bowie - His recent, unexpected passing reminded me how much I appreciated having most of his albums in my collection growing up. The Bowie records alone would make my Dad's pawning of nearly all my vinyl in 2006--after I returned from the Peace Corps and just weeks before visiting him--a painfully traumatic memory. I haven't heard anything since the 2000s, though unfortunately like FZ there's also no more pressure to get current. Like Prince, unfortunately, it's high time to catch up on what I missed, as I expect there won't be anything but inessential compilations coming posthumously. Surprising how the Italian guy on insists he's so incredibly overrated.

CONTENDERS/HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Paradinas, Si Begg, Erlend Oye, Liz Durrett, Damon Albarn, David Byrne, Son Lux, J.G. Thirlwell, Shugo Tokumaru, Trent Reznor, Prince, Inara George/The Bird and the Bee, Jack Dangers, John Zorn,

TOP 10 FAVORITE BANDS (Separating bands with more than one person from artists is what's called a fudge. I myself almost succumbed to the false assumption that being a band more than implies making rock music. The list is still almost half rock.)

10. Jaga Jazzist - They've got a clear leader in Lars Horntveth, but their large size and scale makes calling them a collective seem more appropriate than just a band. They're one of an elite group whose albums I'd consider buying new, and having one foot in electronica and the other in jazz is the perfect combination for my appreciation, leading me to seek out the thankfully growing number of groups that imitate their style at least somewhat. I remember thinking they were over-hyped in the early 21st century in college, or criticizing them for sometimes putting out relatively short albums. I think listening to my brother's CDs disabused me of that notion, and each album in their discography is something I'd not only be content to listen to almost any time. I think "Starfire" might be my favorite album of theirs, but newcomers should probably start with an album of more conventionally-lengthed songs. I feel like my elders and serious music friends would also be unoffended at least. They are ambassadors for the future of music as a whole.

9. Ladytron - Early and the most recent albums pale in comparison to 2005's "Witching Hour," certainly a top if not the top contender for a revision of my favorite albums list, but even they have a song or two that gets their hooks into me. While only a remix made the favorite songs list, at least five Ladytron songs have the power to stop me in my tracks if I hear them, a power I don't want to be abused. Can they be crowned as the best synth-pop band of all time? I say yes, but at the same time, they're also the best example of a band I'm afraid to see live b/c I don't know if I can handle any deviation from the perfection of their studio sound. Flawless remixes are clearly fine, but a bad live mix would be unforgivable, as with the bonus live tracks on "604". Occasionally singing in another language is also a big plus.

8. Low - In contrast to the previous entry, hearing my favorite Low songs in concert in Milwaukee repeatedly brought me to tears. They're the best example I can think of for sticking to a basic style, slowcore, without becoming predictable or (overly) formulaic. Midwestern roots make for a lot of pride in their ongoing success, and my appreciation grew over many years, peaking with that concert and listening to "The Great Destroyer" repeatedly in the Peace Corps in far western China. I can't stop pushing "Over the Ocean" on my Chinese students. I think Sparhawk's side project Retribution Gospel Choir is just OK.

7. Curse ov Dialect - It should come as no surprise that my favorite hip-hop band (crew?) is one that I'd wager the vast majority of hip-hop fans have never heard of. I fear that their lack of fame (or commercial success?) over three albums in the 2000s may mean we won't be hearing from them again, but I appreciate so very much about what they've done, from their radical politics, rapid multi-MC multilingual delivery, miles-deep sampling pool, and overall catchiness/unpredictability. I'd say their first and third albums are merely great, while I go back and forth on whether "Lost in the Real Sky" or the Roots Manuva album that forever changed my mind about hip-hop is my all-time favorite in the genre.

6. Yeasayer - I took a two-hour walk across Los Angeles to see them live in 2019, and the show was great of course. I was fairly late to be aware of them, but some people on the NYC subway took a picture of me sitting w/ a vinyl flat poster of theirs in 2010. Their jubilant sound is rock plus world elements that other bands can only dream of, with lyrics that demand to be sung along, resonant for our times. They should be playing stadiums.

5. Nurses- Finally did an episode of the OoO Podcast on their 2011 album, and I've really come around to their 2017 follow-up. Experimental enough to challenge any pop listener without losing catchiness or immediacy.

4. Plaid/The Black Dog - "Spanners" was probably my favorite IDM album of the 90s, and for the late 90s to very early 2000s I debated whether Plaid could match it, even w/ fancier technology. "Double Figure" convinced me they could, The Black Dog even had some more fine work, and their 2010s output is at least still interesting if not as revolutionary as in the olden days.

3. Menomena- I only caught their live show after one of the three geniuses split to form Ramona Falls, also well worth checking out. Nobody combined alternative/indie rock with chamber pop as well as they did, IMO, and I hope we haven't heard the last of them.

2. Pinback - I've seen them live three times: the first time in Milwaukee, when I told Rob Crow, who was holding a small child, it was a great show and he said, "Thanks, man!" Then twice more in their native SoCal. It's perhaps a point of comparison that Menomena's "Friend and Foe" was the last album that my brother played to death for me, while that never happened for Pinback's albums--always up to hear one. Not to mention side and solo projects galore!

1. Orbital - High school me won't let go of the pole position, and I don't know how many mediocre new albums it would take to shake them down. Hartnoll bros. forever? Maybe.

CONTENDERS/HONORABLE MENTION: Mad Gregs, , The Herbaliser, Hot Chip, , Jazzanova, Hardfloor/DaDamnPhreakNoizePhunk, The Kronos Quartet, Fol Chen, , Radiohead, From Monument to Masses, Grizzly Bear/Dept. of Eagles, , Sigur Ros, TV on the Radio, Choir of Young Believers, Animal Collective, Asian Dub Foundation , Battles, Beach House, BoC, Califone/Sin Ropas, , Sigur Ros, ,

TOP 10 CHINESE SONGS, ALBUMS, BANDS/ARTISTS (See the Chinese Alternative Page for these.)

TOP 10 FAVORITE CONCERTS (Once we're talking about live performances, the overall experience comes to be the most important thing, so I'll try to be a bit more descriptive about these. The date and venue should feature prominently. I think I'll probably just list my best and worst concert experiences on the page dedicated to every contender I can remember.)

10. Mong Hang - UW Madison student union. The band was comingling in strange locations around the lakefront, sometimes poised like statues. I'm not even sure I saw them perform--I might be projecting myself on my bro's experience. Sure wish I could find an album or a bootleg of their concert.

TOP 10 BANDS/MUSICIANS DESERVING NOTORIETY, NOT OBSCURITY (In a perfect world, everyone would at least have heard of these and have been exposed to at least one of their brilliant, though inaccessible pieces of music. Whether for lack of label support, rave reviews/hype, selliing out, or being too sonically uncompromising or aggressive, it seems neither fame nor infamy will find these, and that's a shame! It would be disingenuous to put them in my overall Top10 lists, and maybe they don't have a single, representative 5-star song or album that'd get them on the other lists either. But by George and by golly, what use is an obscure website if it can't shed a faint light on some of the most undeservedly dark corners of the musical world?! To make this list, they have to be either not on at all or have under 10 user ratings for any of their albums. They should also have more than one album; underappreciated single albums and single-album artists may well have their own lists eventually. If strangeness were greatness, these would be my picks for all time...)











CONTENDERS FOR REVISION: Aufgang, Think Tree, Bodies of Water, Field Music, The Books, Buffalo Daughter, Radioinactive, Demi Semi Quaver, Mad Gregs, Uz Jsme Doma, Daau, Azita, Cerberus Shoal, Cheval de Frise, IQU, yMusic, We Are Enfant Terrible, DJ Thiele, Emperor Penguin, Malorix, Solenoid, Owusu & Hannibal, Etienne Charry, Antonionian, Obst Obscure, Myro, RH+, The Show Is the Rainbow, Woven, Urichi Pangoon, Monareta, Digital Bled, Melancholic Bitch, Horace X , Little Tempo, Mighty John Henry, Mochipet, Noonday Underground, Siba, Soweto Kinch, Super Furry Animals, Trunk Federation

TOP 10 FAVORITE ARTISTS/BANDS WHO MUST BE HEARD IN A FULL ALBUM TO BE APPRECIATED... I.E. MIGHT NOT EVEN LIKE THEM IF JUST HEARING ONE SONG IN ISOLATION. (And I hope it's clear from the list that I don't just mean what better commercial radio formats call "album rock" which takes a "deep dive" into an album. I mean that the album itself, preferably half an hour or longer, is apparently the intended or only viable way to listen to something. These are gestalty, greater than the sum of their parts to the extent that taking one of their parts alone might just be confusing or unpleasant. Might need to do a separate list of extremely cohesive albums made by 1-and-done bands and artists who would fit here if only they had more than an album or two to their names.)











CONTENDERS FOR REVISION: Gastr del Sol, GYBE, Rival Consoles, Nils Frahm, Bark Psychosis, Explosions in the Sky, & Olafur Arnalds, Cerberus Shoal, Secret Chiefs 3, Do Make Say Think, Errors, Tristeza, Ester Drang, Fingathing, The Flaming Lips, Fredrik, Gentle Giant, Global Communication/Tom Middleton, Underworld, Koxbox, Lost in the Trees, M83, The Most Serene Republic, Murcof, Stateless, Tasseomancy, The Thing with Five Eyes, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Timber Timbre, Triosk, Foxygen, The Very Hush Hush


TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS (Surely I'm the first person ever to do one of these.)

1. Time Bandits - This is one I've watched at different stages of life and always been completely taken away, transfixed, mesmerized by the screen. I will resist the urge to make the whole list Gilliam from top to bottom. Finding out this was the first in a trilogy of age encapsulations never ceases to amaze me. George Harrison's "Dream Away" on the closing credits unfailingly brings me to tears of joy.

2. Trainspotting - took me three or four times through before I could understand most of what the characters were saying...with each new revelation breaking through the dialect came new appreciation, so much so that I eventually read the book! Having my favorite soundtrack of all time certainly doesn't hurt either. While a cool movie about drugs, it probably played some part--certainly greater than DARE--in keeping me a straight-edged non-partaker. The connection between drugs and swimming in urban pit toilets is one the film can claim single-handed credit for creating and solidifying.

3. The Mosquito Coast - A less cartoonish "Swiss Family Robinson" with a social conscience, this admittedly flawed film is a notch lower than #2 (ranking is so arbitrary anyway) because it didn't inspire me to read the book. It does, however, obviously bear heavily on my life's ambition to own a "big space" in a developing country to introduce obscure sports, host concerts, and generally build a utopian community. If I don't get my own colony, at least I've had my months managing WOBC, which in a way mirrored the plot of The Mosquito Coast with considerably less tragedy.

4. Miscreants of Taliwood - The power of cinema to stop terrorism resonates with me more and more, and seeing Gittoes take Q&A afterwards at the MoMA will always be one of my favorite movie bonuses. It's hard to find documentaries which are entertaining, important, and painfully honest enough to need multiple viewings, but this really touches all the emotional and intellectual bases. I should put a Herzog flick on this list somewhere, but I've gotta say the currency and danger of this one trumps even him. Whenever I'm on a sensitive international border or otherwise doing something inadvisable for my personal safety, I try to channel this film and the courage it took to go into tribal Pakistan to make it (and others within it).

5. Spirited Away - Returns to innocence and convincingly immersive fantasies are an endless draw to me, and while I fully resist infantilizing with kids' fare, I like my parables and morality tales far less explicit and far more random than anything Disney or even Pixar now has on offer. Without fail, after watching a great anime, especially Miyazaki, I dream vividly and colorfully of being really in their worlds.

6. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - Comedy seems to be dominating this list, surprising and hypocritical since I judge the heck out of people who just watch movies for light entertainment. Pee-Wee's been such a part of my life, though, my main male role model growing up for sure, that I stand firmly with this film's cult following. As Tim Burton said himself at the MoMA when I finally saw it on the big screen, "Big Adventure" was a once-in-a-lifetime merging of great writers, a great character, a great score, and a director looking to prove himself. Having become a biking enthusiast later in life only further solidifies this one in the list.

7. Monty Python - The child in me wants to list "The Holy Grail" while the intellectual I'm supposed to have become insists on "Life of Brian". Heck, in my youth I even had the dedication to record the audio from "Meaning of Life" onto a cassette tape to better internalize the dialog when we weren't renting the movie at a given time. Unlike some others on the list which might fall off with repeated exposure, I'm pretty much always ready to revisit the Knights who say "Ni", the "You're all individuals!" sermon on the porch, or the sweet sweet randomness of the fishy fishy fish. All that reminds me to watch the whole Flying Circus in order some time.

8. Battle Royale - Only seen it a couple times, but it really shakes me to the core. Recently there's been a spate of high-profile imitations and derivations, but I'll be surprised if I like them half as much. When I first saw it on the big screen at Oberlin, I thought my humanity might never recover. I do, however, hope the rest of this list doesn't read like a fanboy rendition of extreme violence and a "hard core" plot.

9. Dogtooth - an unexpected treat that would be higher except that I've only seen it once and should re-assess before canonizing. It was disturbing, surprising, uproariously funny, and ultimately thought-provoking in a way that so few films are.

10. The Gods Must Be Crazy - a nod to a youth spent with a prized vcr. I may never watch it again, but it's shaped my world view fundamentally.

Honorable mention/contenders for revision - Tilsammens (Together), Requiem for a Dream, Labyrinth, Aguirre the Wrath of God, Amelie, Farewell My Concubine, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Toys, The Taste of Tea, Breathless. I guess I'm fairly disappointed in myself for not including more dramas, which dominate my favorite films page. When it comes down to it, maybe I just like a good laugh or a good scare like everybody else.

TOP 10 FAVORITE NOVELS (I'm much less attached to these than the other media. Guess I'm practically illiterate.)


TOP 10 FAVORITE FUNNY YOUTUBE VIDEOS (Bro Nathan introduced me to most of these "new media" viral and non-viral things, and as they're both ephemeral and guaranteed to get a giggle it's time to start keeping track of them and/or downloading them in case they disappear. No expectation that these will be funny to you or anyone else! SNL & Monty Python sketches would require a lot more research to compile a list and are both more accessible and not going to disappear from the internet. Note that music videos are categorically excluded until the next section, unless they're for some kind of novelty unique to YouTube, such as having an original source and funny versions derived from it.











HONORABLE MENTION & CONTENDERS FOR REVISION: Mr. Trololo & Remix, Jon Daker (original, subtitled, & Remix), Chakra Meditation Balancing & Healing, Pickle Surprise, Eye of the Sparrow, Muppets rap (Ernie & Bert), Spirit of Truth, Pick up the Phone, cyriak


TOP 10 FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEOS (If anything in the list of favorite songs would be included in this list, it should already have been noted. These should all be songs that if standing alone aren't my favorites but at least I like 'em a lot. The video is the key.)













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