I was on a quest this year to rank my favourite 30 albums ever, but boy did that go wrong! Not only did I end up declaring ‘God Hates Us All’ by Slayer as mathematically the greatest album ever recorded (don’t get me wrong, it’s a great album just not THAT great) but then suddenly the stress of this list made me start to just hate pretty much everything.
So I took a step back, re-evaluated my very approach to life itself, and suddenly when I looked again at my apartment wall that was scrawled over with hundreds of album titles, they no longer seemed to be in some arbitrary order but were inexplicably ranked coherently and blocked out by particular themes. So I’m not even going to bother giving you the top 30 at this point, since 31-60 is way more interesting! Today I’m going to present my top 50-41 albums of all time, which just so happen to also be the 10 best winter albums ever.
The Dr. Loser Completely Subjective Theory on What Makes a Good Album:
At first I believed there was a formula that could determine this objectively, but just like my old equation for guaranteeing the Exactor at the horse track, that system didn’t work. I’d assigned points to certain songs, and even measured the upward trajectory on albums that would get progressively better as they went on, but these strategies just made me more confused.
So I figured out, what the hell, I love these albums, let me just listen to them again, closed my eyes, and viola – I now know what makes a good album better than just a great song:
Opening – No album opens weak, it may start slow but not weak. I don’t think any album has ever has put it’s worst song first, and therefore the strength of that opening, whether it be one song or a series of songs, is important in that it shouldn’t overshadow the rest of the album but must get you excited about listening to more.
Diversity – This does not necessarily mean genre hopping but a good album should have a sense of variety. I’m not talking about just switching from up-tempo tracks to slow jams though, that’s something but not necessarily anything. I guess a good example of this (if you know it) would be ‘Tougher Than Leather’ by Run DMC, an album that is rarely dull because each song feels slightly different despite all being produced in their typical style of rock guitar pop-rap, in contrast, something like Nomeansno ‘Wrong‘ is a badass album but wouldn’t make this list because in my opinion the songs generally all sound the similar-ish.
Main Event – The part of the album where the biggest and best song or songs emerge. Sometimes this is the hit single off the album, other times is just the best overall song, but this is the point on the album where the two biggest stars are fighting for the world championship. It’s gotta be better than the Opening and somehow sandwiched between a diverse collection of songs… and unlike before I don’t think it needs to come at the very end of the album or even build up off of some kind of narrative climax.
All that being said, this entire theory can pretty much be applied to all pro-wrestling pay-per-view events as well, so if you know how much I love wrestling than you can see where I’m coming from when I’m evaluating all these awesome albums.
Like I said, this is very subjective, and really comes from a place of love more than anything, as I’m sure no one will agree with my list and will have their own opinions, and so they should. That’s what I love about the world!
When you live in places like Seoul, South Korea or Brampton, Ontario, Canada, you’ve suffered through many, many ice cold winters. While Seoul doesn’t get the snow or the wind chill factor of Toronto, neither place is somewhere you want to be outside for long in the winter months. But I love the winter, and that probably has a lot to due with the fact that I just like being inside. In Korea the winter time is considered romantic and thus many Koreans probably prefer ballads and softer music around then, while in Canada the winter can be about extreme sports and cozy hang out spots, so the music can be fun and celebratory. However, I’m not about any of these things, when it comes to winter I think of walking to class in the snow, taking off my gloves to play an arcade game, hot chocolate, pizza slices, waiting in lines, frost bite, and most of all getting warm. In the humid summer you’ve gotta find artificial air conditioning to try and get comfortable but in the winter it’s natural warmth you’re striving for, something I like to call fire! So the winter is just like that movie Quest for Fire, and the music should be just as powerful!
10. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
No album resembles a big puffy Super Triple Goose jacket to me more than this one… and that could possibly be because of the video for the album’s best song “Electric Relaxation” is pure concentrated winter.
9. Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals
The tour to support this 1998 autumn release was just so mind-glowingly good that when it rolled through Toronto I had to check it out- despite not being a super-fan – and that forced me to revisit this album throughout that following winter.
8. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
When I declared this my favourite album of 1999 someone asked me if I thought the content was too racist against white people. Shows how much I pay attention to the lyrics since I had no idea then and 15 years later still don’t know why it would be considered racist. How could an album that is so fundamentally good to listen to in the snow hate anything white?
7. John Frusciante – Shadows Collide With People
Might be odd to rank this above an actual Red Hot Chili Peppers album, but as I stated earlier I’ve always been partial to the winter, and this solo album from former RHCP guitarist / genius-lunatic is filled with one man’s cold wailing guitar synth misery and that will always make for better music than a frolicking summer romp in my opinion.
6. Pearl Jam – Vs.
While most people would consider Pearl Jam a quintessential summer band, I think that their second album ‘Vs.’ is both their best album and the only one that really suits the winter. There was something about that short-lived tenure of drummer Dave Abbruzzese – who only played on two albums with the band – that made this album sound different than the others to me, giving them less of stadium rock sound and more of the winter hot/cold experience of early 90s concert hall alternative.
Opening – When you hear the first song “Go” you probably think this is going to be the best song on the album, and when an Opening can fool you like that you know you’re in for a classic. The drums are on fire here!
Diversity – Pearl Jam are always consistently diverse, and on this album I think more than most others because of the thread of Bonham-esque drumming that carries from “Daughter” to “Leash” without every feeling repetitive.
Main Event – I would have to say that the central trilogy of songs from “W.M.A” – “Blood” – and finally the epic “Rearveiwmirror” are the peak moments on this fantastic album.
5. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Everything from this point on is pretty much hip-hop, as the entire genre was pretty much invented and perfected by New Yorkers who suffered through the winters searching for the fire just like a young Dr. Loser around that same time. To me you just can’t escape the connection a seminal hip-hop album like the debut from Wu-Tang has to the cold harsh winter, whether anything on the album is about that climate or not.
4. R Kelly – TP2.com
As with all R Kelly albums, this frosty cover speaks for itself:
3. 2pac – Me Against the World
Few albums remind me more of York University in Toronto during the winter than this one. While primarily a guy making West Coast rap, 2pac did grow up in the east, and to me this album will always be his legacy tribute to East Coast hip-hop. Sandwiched between the songs “Me Against the World” and “Fuck the World” there is nothing that speaks more to the poet inside all of us than this collection of songs, as it did to Dr. Loser trekking through the snow to Creative Writing classes with this cassette in his pocket!
2. Digital Underground – Sons of the P
This will be a hard one to explain to anyone who doesn’t buy into the comic-book-like mythology of the Digital Underground, a group that took their love for George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic to the extreme (especially on this album as you can see from the name). Even those who are fans like me might be perplexed as to why this album represents the winter. And honestly, I have no good explanation, I’ve always just associated listening to this with the winter. Possibly it’s the release date mixed with the experimentation of this sophomore album that felt unique to me at the time, from the bizarre storytelling to the guerrilla politics. Even though they’re from the Bay Area and probably never owned a winter coat until touring the world in support of “The Humpty Dance”, it felt like a quest for fire that to this day I can still only listen to in the winter.
1. Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak
Whereas I’d always thought that last album would be the music that most reminded me of winter, I would never have expected that this critically despised Kanye West album would turn out to be the ultimate winter album in my mind.
So there you go, the best winter albums according to Dr. Loser. Sorry if I left out your favourites, like Natalie Cole, Boyz II Men or Celtic Frost, but like I said, these were great summer albums not just songs! Stay tuned for the un-albums list coming next!