Top Eleven Albums – Part 2

So last month there was a bunch of Facebook posts to talk about your favorite albums, but not actually give any reasons… just post something and leave it like that. But as I said in part 1, context is key.



The Police – Message in a Box

This is a cheat and it isn’t one at the same time. This is a full collection of all their albums. But when I received this box set for Christmas I was 14 or 15 and I only had Synchronicity. But I also knew that I loved any songs by the band which came on the radio. For some reason, I asked for this thing which might have been $40 or $50 on that basis alone. And when I think about it, I probably only really knew about 5 or 6 songs of theirs.

So I got this full thing of like 78 songs which ran the gambit of their entire career. And like most things, I probably listened to it all once and then skipped to my favorite songs.

But as time went on, I started listening to the other songs. And I found ones that I never knew existed. Driven to Tears is a punch to the gut every time. The Bed’s Too Big Without You speaks to me anytime my wife and I are apart for too long. I Burn For You.

Deeper cuts for me.

So it is a Christmas gift, but more than that it is a gift where as I got older, it showed me different faces to the music. And while that might happen with any album, when it is an entire catalogue, it makes it to the point where you appreciate the band all the better.


Nirvana – Nevermind

Like so many people of my age, this album fundamentally changed how you listened to music. In many ways it is the true line of demarcation. There is certainly a time Before Nevermind and an After Nevermind stamp. But weirdly, I more remember when I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was at one of our High School Basketball games where it was played during the shoot-around just before the game. As much as I watched MTV, I didn’t know what this song was, but instantly liked it.

Later, I realized the irony of that moment with the Cheerleaders and the stands and all of that. Everything the song was sort of railing against, and here it was being played without any other regard.

And I had no idea what it was, but I was instantly drawn to the sound. I needed to know more. I needed to hear more.

The other part that I think about is when Chad Shonk had a BBS (Bulletin Board) and to test it out, we would chat across the computers through our modems (this feels like the stone ages now). But sometimes you weren’t sure if you were connected, so he would write:




And I would respond with:

How low?

Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

With Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, I didn’t have those albums until Egg Embry made me a pair of tape copies. This was at the time when I would have just gotten a CD player in the car and so tapes weren’t going to get listened to all that often. Yet, I listened just enough to know I liked Pantera.

This album sealed that for me.

However, as much as the album told me how much of a metalhead I might have been, it was going to the concert for this tour that sealed it for me. It was at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta and we managed to get like 13th row. Strange as that sounds to have seats for a Pantera show, it is a Top 5 show for me.

Alice in Chains – Dirt

I found out about Alice in Chains from the Singles Soundtrack (which would/should be in my top 20 for influential albums). Where Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the darlings of the magazines and MTV, Alice in Chains felt like it was still a secret (even though it was not). They felt more metal than any of the Grunge bands. And listening to this was the first time I’d really heard a concept album. It took you on a full story from beginning to end, made the agony of that downward spiral into drugs and death… you felt the pain.

Weirdly, I don’t know if I have a specific story for this. I remember it being a major soundtrack of my teenage life even if I never dabbled in drugs or alcohol, this was as good a reason why I stayed away.

Deftones – Around the Fur

It was another soundtrack that introduced me to the Deftones: The Crow 2. They had one song on there and were the standout track for me. I searched them out (back when you needed to go to record stores for such things) and found their first album and fell in love with the band.

This was the soundtrack of my 1997 and 1998. It accompanied me on many a road trip. It was a comfort when I needed to rage at the world and, probably, more importantly, was one of those albums that all my friends loved. Which, especially when you are younger, helps create an even stronger bond with the music.

Pearl Jam – Ten

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, Pearl Jam has been mentioned. Heck, if you’ve ever met me and we talk about favorite bands, I don’t hesitate to claim them as mine.

As to stories, Chad left his copy of Ten at my house and I had it for a few days when he asked for it back. I hadn’t listened to it at all. For some reason, without hearing any of their music, I was convinced I didn’t like them. But, seeing as I needed to bring the disc into school the next day, I played it.

And then I played it again.

And then I got out a blank tape and copied it onto it.

With most albums, the first listen is rarely a “fell in love with it”. I normally find a couple of things I like and as I continue through, I like it more and more. But Ten was different. It spoke to me through the music and lyrics and the actual construction of the songs on the album. I fell in love with the non-hits like Deep and Garden to the point that I may love those songs as much as any hit they’ve ever put out.

And when Release comes to an end, and we slowly fade to what was the intro… my journey becomes complete.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at


Top Eleven Albums – Part 1

Image by annca from Pixabay

I was talking with my in-laws over the weekend about memory. They volunteer at Grace Arbor, a place where older folks with various memory/dementia issues can go for the day and have activities and listen to music (among other things). They mentioned that they heard the portion of the brain which remembers music never truly goes away.

Which reminded me of a scene in Before Sunset where Ethan Hawke is talking about how misuc can be a form of time travel for a person. That when you hear a particular song it returns you to the place where it means the most to you and instantly you are 8 or 18 or 28 again.

I love that idea.

And then on my Facebook feed various people have all been doing the FB challenge of posting your favorite albums (or ones that had the greatest effect upon your life) but without any comment.

But the comment… the context is key. It’s as important as anything else. So… here’s some context.

Far – Water and Solutions

I’m 20 and my friends have rented a ski cabin in North Carolina for the weekend. Egg (who discovered the band in the first place) puts on Water and Solutions and it becomes, for me, the theme of the trip. It’s heavy at times and yet soulful. No one who hears it in the cabin has a bad word to say about it.

Later, I’ll find out the lead singer (Jonah Matranga) has a tape of some of his solo stuff available to send off for through the mail (good lord, that’s like the dark ages). I send away for them, immediately transfer them from the tape which arrives to a digital format, burn it onto a cd, and still wear those songs out.

Even later, I’ll be at a club show for Far and decide to tap him on the shoulder and tower over him with all 6’5″ of my frame in order to tell him how much I love his music. Egg says I gave the guy the scare of a life. I’m not so sure.

!0 Years – The Autumn Effect

Somehow, due to me putting a bunch of music on my wife’s phone over a decade ago, 10 Years became one of her favorite bands. Last year, 10 Years played a anniversary show where they played this album from front to back. It was both of our first times seeing the band (somehow we kept missing them previously). As it was the first night of this anniversary tour, they had only rehearsed the album, so when they went off stage after the last song, we expected an encore song or two. The lead singer came back out, informing us that they had nothing else, but that wouldn’t satisfy us, so, all by himself, he sang one of the more beautiful versions of their song “So Long, Good-bye”. And we all joined in. Just a couple of hundred people and a guy with a microphone singing as loudly as we could.

One of the best moments from any concert I’ve ever been to.

The Misfits – Collection 1

When you are younger, there are so many ways your music tastes can go. Things you hear your parents play can go a long way to shaping you. My parents listened to the Oldies station nearly exclusively. Lots of late 50s and 60s songs. In fact, there was a time where my sister and I didn’t realize there were other stations on the radio. It never changed from the one station, and for some reason, it never occurred to us that those MTV songs we heard had to be on the radio somewhere.

Yet, it is through your friends where I think the key music comes in. So when Lee gave me a copy of the Misfits, I had no idea what I was in for. It destroyed my brain. These 2-minute songs (at the longest) were a blistering, blazing, fireball of in your face music. And they sang about the most outrageous things when they weren’t singing about some weird movies I’d never seen.

I must have been 12 or 13, at the beach in Destin, and listened to these songs over and over on my Walkman. I didn’t dare let my parents listen, but my sister still almost ruined it by sneaking a listen and then telling them about what she’d heard. For some reason, they were unfazed.

But that was really the moment that the heavier side of rock/punk was going to be my wheelhouse.

Taproot – Blue Sky Research

I’m sorry if Nu-Metal left a bad taste in your mouth. I will never understand that. It is the music that I listen to the most even to this day. And I would claim that this particular album might be my favorite of the entire genre. I can listen to it over and over and have never gotten sick of it. It feels like such a complete album where there is no one song I would remove from it. I love it so much, I’m interested in hearing any of the songs that might have been written around the same time.

With this one, I’m at work and needing to really focus on whatever project I’m working on. And this CD will not get removed from my CD Player. When I reach the end, we just loop around to begin again. But it isn’t only work, when I’m writing, it is one of my go-to albums to put on, pushing and pulling me into the correct train of thought.

Shock Lobo – My Wicked Soul

There are a handful of bands that I have seen which were openers for the band I wanted to see and then have gone on to be a favorite of mine. Shock Lobo was not only one of those (they were opening for The Josh Joplin Band and caught our eyes/ears), but since they were local to Atlanta, we saw them a lot. Pretty much every show they did locally Courtney and Chris and I went and saw them. When they needed fans to show up for a special taping, we were there. When they opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket, we were there.

So much so that the three of us are listed in the liner notes under the Thank You section.

With them, it isn’t one particular moment or performance, but all of them. Agnes Scott College. Them playing at a pizza restaurant. Underground Atlanta. The Point.

Mostly, it reminds me of a time, when I was in college, just hanging out with some good friends, listening to musicians play this music that we all loved.


My last 6 will come next week!


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at