5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Ryan Reed, SPIN Contributing Editor

Name Ryan Reed

Best known for Writing and editing at various places, writing a book about Fleetwood Mac, and apparently (according to Google) having the same name as a NASCAR driver.

Current city Knoxville, Tennessee.

Really want to be in Colorado Springs — I went there during a 2019 road trip and fell in love. I’m lucky to have mountains here at home, but nothing beats the Garden of the Gods. I think about that place every other day.

Excited about Seeing Genesis live this year (despite my COVID-related anxiety).

My current music collection has a lot of Progressive/psychedelic/art/indie/alternative/classic rock, split fairly evenly between big-name artists and obscure acts. I also have a solid amount of jazz-fusion.

And a little bit of funk/post-punk. I’m working on expanding my collection in both of those areas.

Don’t judge me for I feel no shame for owning any album in my collection, including Creed’s Human Clay. (Flashback to tween/early teen Ryan learning the intro guitar riff to “With Arms Wide Open” in his living room, feeling like he could conquer the world.)

Preferred format Vinyl or CD — both have their advantages. The act of listening to vinyl is more ritualistic: cleaning the LP, flipping it midway through, scouring the massive artwork and liner notes. Plus, buying vinyl is the best. Record stores are my favorite places on Earth, and I’ve discovered so much music — stuff the algorithms would never think to recommend — just by flipping.

I’m not one of those people who blindly says, “Vinyl is better! Anything else is terrible!” CDs almost always sound great, and you don’t have to be so precious with them. Plus, I’m still the dummy who listens to CDs in the car, so I like having them around for that reason. I also like buying music for the medium of the time, so I’d want a 1975 hard rock album on vinyl — and then the remastered CD. I try as hard as possible to avoid digital music, but my job forces me to work with it.

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without

 

1

OK Computer
Radiohead

 

I know it’s a cliché to say an album changed your life, but it’s true here. I remember everything about my first experience with OK Computer: buying it at my local Wal-Mart, listening to it on headphones in bed, and thinking, “Oh, my god. This is speaking to me in a way I can’t fully process.” I was already listening to some pretty weird music as a kid (I remember buying a Flaming Lips CD through the BMG catalog when I was, like, six), but this was different. Years later I realized what I loved so much about it: the marriage of melody and mystery. These are digestible rock songs, but they also sprawl all over the place — from the turbulent triple-guitar majesty of “Paranoid Android” to the stacked, starlit balladry of “Let Down.” It’s a perfect album.

2

De-Loused in the Comatorium
The Mars Volta

 

This was another “turning point” album for me, but I won’t rehash that whole story since I documented it recently in essay form. Essentially I bought the CD on a lark, based on a very brief TV commercial, and I was totally unprepared for what I heard: modern prog rock that sounded nothing at all like the Genesis and Yes I’d grown up with. De-Loused in the Comatorium drew from post-hardcore and salsa and Zappa and all sorts of sounds I’d never encountered. All these years later, I still hear new things in it.

3

Selling England By the Pound
Genesis

 

Genesis are my favorite band, and Selling England is my favorite album of theirs — it would feel wrong not to include this one. I’m a prog junkie, and this is one of the all-time greats. The dramatic piano/flute/guitar theme from “Firth of Fifth” is in my musical time capsule. I also have a sentimental reason for this pick: My wife, Jenifer, is also a huge Genesis fan, and we listened to this album the first time we hung out. I didn’t know she was a fan at all. We were just playing songs back and forth to each other, and she said, “Have you ever heard this?” and pressed play on her laptop. I could have proposed right there.

4

Ágætis byrjun
Sigur Rós

 

I’d say most of us have experienced some kind of emotional epiphany on the toilet. Mine occurred thanks to Ágætis byrjun, the post-rock classic I first heard in the bathroom — jaw-dropped, as these alien-sounding tones entered my headphones via my portable CD player. Every element was so unique: Jónsi’s piercing falsetto, the bow-scraped guitars, the twinkly reversed effects, a dynamic range from music-box quiet to avalanche loud. It was a weird place to cry, but I just melted. I couldn’t help it! And no matter the setting, these songs always destroy me.

5

Aja
Steely Dan

 

 

The pinnacle of jazz-rock: pristine engineering, colorful playing, soulful melodies and the most sophisticated harmonic language of basically any album with pop credentials. My mom taught me well: I’ll never forget her buying A Decade of Steely Dan at a flea market and playing those songs for me on the way home. One spin through “Peg” and I was hooked for life.

IMPACT

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