Tom Cochrane: Mad Mad World – with “Friendly Advice” video cover

Tom Cochrane - Mad Mad WorldPart 10 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

If you know Tom Cochrane’s biggest hit, it’s probably as “that Rascal Flatts song from Cars“. Indeed, the original “Life is a Highway” was pretty big for a couple weeks at the end of 1991, but it faded away pretty quickly. As an anthem for a bunch of computer-animated, anthropomorphic automobiles 15 years later, Pixar could’ve picked worse.

The rest of the album is … well, it’s not at the top of  many lists. Maybe “Tom Cochrane solo records” or “least politically challenging post-Gulf War releases”. Were it not for my own nerd rage at country covers of rock songs and a final track I could play acoustically at open mics to a fair amount of praise, the whole disc might’ve faded from my memory too.

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Muse: Black Holes and Revelations – with “Exo-Politics” video cover

Muse - Black Holes and RevelationsPart 8 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

Before delving into the utter craziness that is this album, let’s talk about the final track, “Knights of Cydonia”, shall we?

I don’t even mean the crazy sci-fi video, a mashup of Firefly-style gritty space Western with robots and mustaches and plenty of other cult movie references. Or its thematic and auditory segue into the first track of the following album, released three years later.

Nope, it’s the fact that the song changes key about a zillion times without a single hint that it’s happening.

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The Who: Tommy – with “Christmas” video cover

The Who - TommyPart 7 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

By far, Tommy is the oldest album on my list. The ’70s and ’80s are entirely unrepresented, but this rock opera from 1969 was always an obvious one for me to include.

The reason? Story. Every album I listen to, I try to tease out a storyline, even if one clearly was never intended. The idea that a collection of songs should be more than that, should be bound together and greater than the sums of their parts, undoubtedly stems from hearing Tommy in my childhood.

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Fiona Apple: When the Pawn – with “A Mistake” video cover

Fiona Apple - When the PawnPart 6 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

When reviewing Fiona Apple’s third album, Extraordinary Machine, I said that When the Pawn had “made me feel like all my ex-girlfriends ever were yelling at me all at once. Moreover, it made me feel like I deserved it.”

I stand by that assessment from … cripes, nine years ago?

Okay, break for feeling old. Now, onto reviewing this album from a 22-year-old following her multi-platinum debut.

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World Leader Pretend: Punches – with “Lovey Dovey” video cover

World Leader Pretend - PunchesPart 5 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

Warning: turn down your speakers the first time you listen to this album. It begins with a loud cymbal crash, followed by four bars of nothing but drum. Piano and guitar join in from there, soon enhanced by strings from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Piano and strings are hardly unheard of on rock albums, but Punches makes particularly adept use of them. It also manages to incorporate the lead singer’s frequent strong exhalations effectively and is the only winner ever of the jaQ Andrews Best Use of Sleigh Bells to Unify an Album Award. (The cash prize has already been donated to charity.)

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