Austin John Rossborough  made this just for us. Check out more of his luminous work at  austinrossborough.com . 

Austin John Rossborough made this just for us. Check out more of his luminous work at austinrossborough.com

Basecamp: Essential ALbums and Reviews

The internet makes it easy to feign cool taste. You can spend hours crafting an album of the year list that’s studded with obscurities to impress. You can post a screenshot of a song to your story and instantly harness the discovery cred when really you stole it from a rival’s Spotify. And because a good portion of our interactions are separated by screens, you never have to admit to not knowing about a band.

The web is a great tool. But, in our opinion, we err when we let the internet encourage us to conflate coolness with individuality. Many strong hearts have fallen into the trap of saddling taste with value—as if there were a gold standard in art that transcends personal taste. A set of artistic ideals which, if found and channeled, would result in one perfect album of the year list, a definitive “25 greatest movies ever,” an authoritative interpretation of a book that we should each espouse.  

How do we skirt this tar pit of pretentiousness? Undying commitment to our own taste. No matter how you discover music, your individual taste is the Rosetta Stone, the secret cipher, the conspiratorial strand of red yarn that connects all of your disparate interests together into the web that is YOU.

With taste at the helm, we can follow the rapid river of the internet into an age of greater self-expression. We have so much music at our fingertips that music lovers have become profoundly individual, opting to shed labels like genre and decade and instead pooling into pockets of like-minded groups like rain on a car hood. And the democratization of access to the tools of music-making means that folks aren’t only describing their taste (curating), but are making music to express it (creating). What a beautiful day.

While there’s nothing wrong (well, maybe a few things) with mammoth sites that run on popularity algorithms, we smell the warm, salty air rising from the gentle undercurrent of web users who choose to see the humanity behind the internet. And with this breath in our lungs, we’d like to offer a glimpse of our taste. Here is our top forty, of sorts. These are albums that serve as our music touchstones. They're works that we, Austin and Nate, continually reference to remind us of who we are. And who we were! They’ve defined periods of our lives, and continue to do so as we grow and re-contextualize them.

For this special list, we’ve applied a methodology. This is not a comprehensive accounting of our favorites—we’ve intentionally chosen albums that we think deserve more attention, stretched to represent genres evenly while still being fastened to our current taste. Our goal is to illuminate some of our favorites that're sitting in the soft light at the edge of the spotlight.

In the celebratory end credits to Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick nods to the artists who “manifest music to live in.” This is our basecamp, and we’d like to live here for awhile. It’s a nice place to rest between exploration of new albums.

During our time here, we’ve written two-line poems for each album, and we’ll be writing reviews in the days to come. Come chill. Here's wishing you many pleasant returns on this list.

Musical Touchstones

Our top forty albums list. Click on each album to read a two-line poem. Some of these we'll review in full. 

All REviews

Humble thoughts about the music we've encountered.