Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Favorite bands and recording artists

Every few years I sit down and figure out my top five (or ten? it's been a while) bands, songs, or albums. I save the results as a document on my computer: these serve as a "time capsule" of my musical tastes at that point in time.

Today, as I was running Saturday morning errands, I worked out my favorite bands and recording artists.

The parameters were that I had been abducted by aliens, and put in an Earth-like terrarium. Because they only had limited iTunes bandwidth (??!!!), I had to choose ten bands or recording artists that I would have access to in my artificial environment.

Under those conditions, my choices would be weighted in favor of bands that had a deeper catalog (i.e., more albums).

First, my brainstormed list. This isn't ranked -- it's just the order in which they occurred to me. They're not necessarily my favorite bands, but rather "historically well-liked".

Note that although the list is pretty long, it's not of "bands I like": that list would be two or three times as long. Yes, I listen to a lot of bands. :)

  1. Quiet Storm (my first band, with my cousin and my roommate)
  2. Laptop
  3. Bell (a band from Seattle; released about three albums, then disbanded)
  4. Devo
  5. The Cars
  6. The Ramones
  7. The Nils (somewhat obscure Canadian band; only two albums, I think)
  8. Silicon Teens (a "fake" band, of two or three producers; only one album; got me through some tough times, so I have strong memories associated)
  9. Local H
  10. The Beatles (of course; probably on a **lot** of people's lists)
  11. Gye Greene (i.e., my own stuff)
  12. They Might Be Giants
  13. Tom Petty (his solo stuff)
  14. Chromeo
  15. Buddy Holly
  16. Rush
  17. The Who
  18. The Smithereens
  19. Logan Whitehurst and the Jr. Science Club
  20. All the Voices (very obscure band; I only have one of their EPs, but I **really** like it)
  21. Petra (Christian hard rock, from the '80s)
  22. Material Issue
  23. Nilsonance (my cousin's stuff)
  24. Paolo Pinto House Pants House Band (I know the guy from a home recording discussion list, and I read his wife's blog)
  25. The Go-Gos
  26. Men at Work (Aussies! **and** '80s!)
  27. Men without Hats
  28. Jem
  29. Jill Sobule
  30. Lisa Mitchell
  31. Aimee Mann
  32. Michael Penn
  33. 10,000 Maniacs
  34. R.E.M.
  35. B-52s
  36. White Stripes
  37. Dolly Parton
  38. Dan Bern (witty folk music-ish)
  39. Ani DiFranco (folk music-ish, with great lyrics)
  40. Psychedelic Furs
  41. Sisters of Mercy
  42. Love Spit Love (has the singer from the Psych Furs)
  43. Creedence Clearwater Revival
  44. Jim Croce
  45. Public Enemy
  46. Marginal Prophets
  47. The Rentals
  48. Midnight Oil (Aussie!!!)
  49. Weird Al
  50. King's X
  51. Jimmy Durante
  52. Joan Jett
  53. John Williamson (Aussie folk/country singer; sings a lot about Australia)
  54. The Blue Hearts (Japanese Ramones-y punk rock)
  55. M.C. Lars
  56. Simon and Garfunkel
  57. The Lemonheads
  58. (added 4/4/11) Cake (duh.)
Whew! I might've overlooked something -- but if I did, I doubt it's something that would've made the top ten.

Looking back over this list of contenders, I'm pleased with my musical diversity. There's a little from the '40s and '50s (Jimmy Durante, Buddy Holly), the '60s and '70s, the '80s and '90s (my key formative years), and -- despite being over 40 years old -- a decent amount of stuff from the last ten years. That is: my musical tastes haven't yet seized up.

Also, I have mostly "power-pop" (whatever **that** is!) and '80s synth/new wave music -- but also some bits of hip-hop, folk, goth, and country. And a few female artists (for what that's worth).

Notable absences from the list:

  • Weezer (I **really** like the "blue album"; and the rest of their stuff is "eh" to me)
  • Nirvava (Yep: good stuff, and I have most of their albums; but I can't say they're a "favorite" band)
  • U2 (some good stuff, and I have two or three of their albums)
  • The Smiths (good stuff, but not in the top)
  • Led Zeppelin (I respect them, but their music doesn't grab me)
  • Pink Floyd (likewise; I have two(?) of their albums, and yeah, they're pretty good)
  • The Rolling Stones (I have one of their albums, which I really like; someday I need to listen to more of their stuff)
  • Many albums from obscure artists where I have one album (I really like the album -- but the parameters of my task disadvantage bands and artists with only one album)

Anyhow, from the above "master list", the top fifteen jumped out at me. This strata might be thought of as "bands for whom I would wear a band t-shirt". Which isn't completely correct (I have a Weird Al concert tee!) -- but it's a good heuristic.

  1. Laptop
  2. Bell
  3. Devo
  4. The Cars
  5. The Ramones
  6. The Beatles
  7. Gye Greene
  8. They Might Be Giants
  9. Buddy Holly
  10. The Smithereens
  11. Logan Whitehurst and the Jr. Science Club
  12. Material Issue
  13. Lisa Mitchell
  14. Dolly Parton
  15. Dan Bern

But the task was my "Top 10", not my "Top 15". So -- time to exclude!!!

With reluctance, I dropped Bell. Although I really, REALLY enjoy about one-third of their songs, the other two-thirds lose out to some of the other bands where I like **all** of their songs.

Similarly, The Cars are a great band, and I like most of their stuff. But they lose out to the "density" of the quality of some of the other bands on my list.

I excluded Gye Greene (my stuff), as I hear it in my head pretty clearly, so it's o.k. if the recorded work slides by the wayside. Plus, if the aliens supply me with musical instruments and recording technology, I could re-create my older stuff pretty closely.

Logan Whitehurst is good. Very good. But sadly, he, too, falls by the wayside. (Still: "Top 15" of **all** of the bands I like is a pretty good showing.)

Lisa Mitchell: I like the album I have. But, as I've said, groups with fewer albums are at a disadvantage in this game.

So, now we're down to my (non-rank-ordered) Top Ten.

  1. Laptop
  2. Devo
  3. The Ramones
  4. The Beatles
  5. They Might Be Giants
  6. Buddy Holly
  7. The Smithereens
  8. Material Issue
  9. Dolly Parton
  10. Dan Bern

But wait! say the aliens. It turns out you only get **five** artists. Sorry for the confusion.

O.k. -- now **this** is tough.

Here's the top five -- not in ranked order:

  1. Devo
  2. The Beatles
  3. They Might Be Giants
  4. Buddy Holly
  5. Material Issue

And that's about as far as I can whittle it down. I **think** They Might Be Giants might come out on top -- under **these** parameters -- if I had to pick only one: they have a pretty deep catalog, and span a lot of genres (so, variety).

And The Beatles would probably be the next to go, as I don't have as strong of an emotional attachment to them as to the other bands. Plus, they have a handful of "clunkers", in my opinion (I've never much cared for "the white album", for example) -- whereas for the other bands I like pretty much all of their songs.

Although: except for their "basement tapes" albums, I like pretty much all of Devo's work -- whereas I've been indifferent to the last few albums from They Might Be Giants. So maybe Devo is number one.

I really enjoy Buddy Holly and Material Issue -- but sadly, both only released about three (four?) albums worth of work before the main songwriter (Buddy Holly; Jim Ellison) died. So again, under these parameters, they're disadvantaged for their lack of back catalog.

But -- there you go: my top ten, and top five, bands/artists.

One of these days I'll have to sit down and choose my ten favorite songs, or my ten favorite albums. But **that** would require that I actually dig through my LPs, cassettes, and CDs -- as I don't have a strong memory for which songs are on which albums -- or even the album titles, really.

So, not any time soon.


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