Back in March, each of us set out to pick 100 of our favorite albums. The intention was simply to focus on personal favorites rather than trying to pick a list of the 100 greatest albums of all-time.
When we got done with those lists, we compared our choices, and 12 of our picks were the same. So we decided to rank those 12 picks in order and present them in descending order from No. 12 to No. 1. Starting today.
- Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb
ALBUM OF THE DAY
Jagged Little Pill (1995)
"All I Really Want," "You Oughta Know," "Hand in My Pocket" and "You Learn"
After Alanis Morissette gained traction as a dance-pop artist in her native Canada with a pair of successful albums in the early 1990s, she arrived in the United States and took alternative music head over feet with this amazing chart-topper. Morissette combined a fantastic voice with superb songs and just the right amount of angst that perfectly suited the decade like a well-worn flannel shirt. From the moment I heard the no-nonsense first single about an ex-boyfriend, "You Oughta Know," I was hooked. My fandom grew with each of the ensuing five singles she released from this masterpiece. At the time, it seemed like fans of every genre of music were into this album. One of the biggest reasons I am drawn back to it 25 years later is the personal nature of the songwriting. Alanis seems to lay most of her cards on the table with her lyrics, which frequently makes for some of the best art. It's a landmark album of the decade that has held up fantastically.
This is another album from my Austin years, and I'll admit that Alanis is probably an acquired taste for a lot of folks. In fact, I've never gotten much past this album myself when it comes to her catalog of work. But there was something magical about this album that seemed to draw in just about everybody as Chuck points out. It landed in the midst of my deep-catalog exploration of music history during my college years when I traced country music back to its roots and its intersection with the blues. Then I traced all the other threads forward from there where they led through swing and jazz and early R&B into the popular music of the '40s, '50s and '60s. That took me through The Beatles' catalog and the first echoes of alternative and experimental rock in the '60s. You can follow a line from there to the modern rock of artists like Morissette here.
The word that always pops up to describe her music is "angst" and it's a good word to describe the general themes and feelings presented here. After all, the opening line of the album in the song "All I Really Want" finds Morissette asking the question "Do I stress you out?" Heck, the anxiety of that track alone might stress you out if you aren't ready for it, and Morissette is just getting started. Over the course of 13 tracks, she puts her anguish on full display for all the world to see, and maybe that honesty is why this album connected with so many people who could identify with Morissette's frustrations. It won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and it's sold more than 33 million copies worldwide in the quarter century since its release. While we didn't specifically set out to pick a list of greatest albums, this one is, without a doubt, one of the greatest of all-time.
BONUS ALBUM OF THE DAY
Let Go (2002)
Why I Love It
Avril Lavigne has been open about the effect that Jagged Little Pill had on her own career, and it's unlikely that you would have her 2002 album Let Go without Morissette's classic paving the way.
If Morissette represented the post-teen angst of the mid-'90s, Lavigne was the teen version of the early 2000's. Like Morissette, she was from Canada, and got her start in the music business as a teenager. Lavigne was just 17 when "Complicated" became a massive international hit from this album propelling it to global sales of more than 16 million to date. It was one of the best-selling albums of the decade, and it's a good album to check out if you're a fan of Morissette's Jagged Little Pill.
"Complicated," "Sk8er Boi" and "Anything But Ordinary"