Tim’s Top 100 Albums of All-Time & Best Album of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close you’re probably being bombarded by year-end “Top 10/50/100 Album” lists.  And just like every year, I’ll lay down a sizable chunk of my hard-earned money on a handful of magazines to make sure I don’t miss out on anything good.  Yes, I’m a sucker for these lists – it’s people like me that are responsible for this year-end pontificating by music journalists…it’s probably the reason I immediately loved Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity with all the top 5 lists rattled off by the lovable slacker Rob and his record-shop sycophants.

Incidentally, High Fidelity is the only film soundtrack to make my list.  Read on.

Watch Rob reel off his “Top 5 Side 1’s Track 1’s” in the movie version.


In summer of 2012 I began a project ambitious in scope and execution.  At 41 years old, I gave myself the challenge to make my very own top 100 list.  I figured I’d spent half my life reading about what others considered to be their top albums and therefore deserved to make my “Top 100 Albums Of All-Time”.

Here are the criteria I used:

  • Before an album could make the list, I had to listen to it in its entirety (no track skipping!) and enjoy every track on the album, i.e. the album as a complete piece of work.  As you can imagine, this automatically disqualified many worthy candidates which would easily have made my list if it had been a conversation down the pub – the most conducive environment to authentic list-making, in my opinion.  Sadly, I made it about 15 seconds into the Jacko-Macka duet, “The Girl Is Mine” off Thriller before it got the boot.
  • The album needed to have relevance to me now or was at least still capable of giving me an emotional reaction, i.e. nostalgia alone was not enough. (PJ Harvey / To Bring You My Love ’95 – Yes. Social Distortion / Social Distortion ’90 – No.)
  • The third and final criterion was that once the album went on the list, it had to stay there – in other words, no revising.  Firstly, it would have become a never-ending project.  Secondly, I wanted to trust my gut reaction on first listen.  Admittedly, I did give a few albums 2-3 listens to account for the odd bad mood or sub-optimal listening experience.  Case in point – Lou Reed’s  New York makes the cut on second listen, Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle doesn’t.

Watch Lou rock “Dirty Blvd” with a little help from his friend David.

Lou Reed & David Bowie

As with all lists I’d imagine, it would certainly look a lot different if I now went back with my critically-trained editing pencil.  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti easily knocks out Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head.  Case in point.  However, I forced myself to abide by the self-inflicted criteria and live with the consequences.

If you’re interested in my final “rough” cut, I invite you to take this visual journey:

Tim’s Top 100 Albums.

If you made it to #100 you might not have recognized this album as it is just came out in October of ‘13.  Although it hasn’t stood the test of time like the other 99 entries on the list, The Avett Brother’s Magpie and the Dandelion has all the right stuff in my book – raw, heartfelt lyrics, great melodic hooks, soaring harmonies and most of all fantastic musicianship from this hirsute crew from North Carolina.  Watch them with special guest Chris Cornell play “Vanity” on Jimmy Fallon.  Hands down, my favorite album of 2013.

Let me know what you agree with or what you think is missing.  Or better yet, send me your top 100…or perhaps just your top 5:-).  Either way, I’d love to hear  your all-time favorite tunes…

Happy holidays and all the best to you in 2014!

Fantastic Voyage

Haruki Murakami has been praised by The Guardian as “among the world’s greatest living novelists”.  Although I’ve read or listened to most of his fiction, I wouldn’t have whole-heartedly agreed with this until now.

His latest novel 1Q84 was first published in Japan in 3 parts in 2009-10.  Coming out in English in October, 2011, I waited almost a year before making this 1318-page journey.

For a more traditional take on Murakami’s latest tome, I highly recommend this review:  The Economist Review.

I would love to have been alive and reading in the late 18th, early 19th century.  “The Golden Era” of Russian Literature.  Anton Chekhov.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Leo Tolstoy. Epic plot and character driven stories interwoven with universal truth and wisdom in times of war and peace.

Similar to the Russian giants, Murakami has the uncanny ability to make even the banal and mundane somehow compelling.  I don’t know if it’s the way the characters speak to each other, what they actually say, or how he describes them and their surroundings.  Either way, I experience a kind of effortless flow as I read.

Take this scene as the male protagonist Tengo describes his first meeting with a despicable, potentially ominous interloper:

His trunk had already filled out so that it had lost all sign of a waist, and excess flesh was gathering at his throat…His teeth were crooked, and his spine was strangely curved…Around the borders of the flat, lopsided area of his head clung thick, black curly hair that had been allowed to grow too long, hanging down shaggily over the man’s ears.  Ninety-eight people out of a hundred would probably be reminded by it of pubic hair.  Tengo had no idea what the other two would think. 

With Murakami’s fiction I always know I’m going to be highly entertained.  And with his best work, transported into a bizarre universe occupied by larger than life heroes and villains, helpers and hinderers and always an animal with something wise to impart.  Universal truth, however, is not something I’ve come to expect.  Until now.

Murakami has dealt with the phenomenon of the cult in Japan before and he re-visits this theme again in 1Q84.  As I myself grew up in an extremely religious family, I was struck by this particular passage when a key character speaks on the phenomenon of religious leaders:

People have been repeating the same kinds of fraud throughout the world since the beginning of time, using the same old tricks, and still these despicable faces continue to thrive.  That is because most people believe not so much in truth as in things they wish were the truth.  Their eyes may be wide open, but they don’t see a thing.  Tricking them is as easy as twisting a baby’s arm.

Nothing earth-shatteringly new here.  Nevertheless, a brilliant explanation for a lot of things that are simply wrong in our world.

So if you’re looking to lose yourself in the early 21st century in a strange world (or two) full of intriguing personalities and the occasional nugget of wisdom, this fantastic voyage is waiting for you.