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Being a website where the majority of the forum populace love to make little lists, everyone here probably has an idea of their own personal "gatekeeper" album. It is not your favorite album, and maybe you don't consider it a "classic": in fact you probably think it is just below that level. But you sure do like it alot. This album is your line in the sand. The measuring stick that you gauge all other albums against, either knowingly or non-knowingly. After you have listened to one album extensively, and all of your contemplating is done, you make a decision: do I like this album more than my gatekeeper? This is the choice that separates the merely "good" albums from the "great."
To me, my gatekeeper is The Replacement's Let It Be.
Now I love Let It Be, "I Will Date" particularly. It has an almost perfect mixture of hard-driving punk sounds while still having a certain amount of balladry in many of the tracks. I also love how big an influence it has on the alternative boom of the 90s. But do I think of it as an all-time classic? Deep down, not really. It just skirts the edge. So when I'm listening to something else, and I'm really, really loving it, I think to myself "Is this better than Let It Be?" And if it is, I truly consider that album a classic.
Interesting question. For me, it's The Velvet Undergrounds WHITE LIGHT WHITE HEAT. An album I consider to be perfect from start to finish. An album by which everything else is compared. I consider no other album to be perfect. Many are close (Kid A, Loveless, Closer, Pink Moon) but simply do not fall in that PERFECT category. It's very odd too, because I think VU are purposely trying to destroy perfection. The immediacy, The dead pan sarcasm, The howling distortion, slime ball lyrics, all add up to something that is transparent in nature, and culturally impenetrable. Songs like Sister Ray exist solely to destroy our senses. WHITE LIGHT WHITE HEAT broke boundaries and will forever remain in my eyes the most important album in existence.
I think what he's asking is for the album for you everything above which is great and everything below which is good.
If anything I'd probably say In Rainbows. Though, it's hard to say since my trusty rating algorithm relieves me from having to work very hard on album lists anymore.
This topic reminds me of the reason I never fit in here. My "list" of favorite albums would be completely different from day to day (hour to hour) depending on my mood and circumstances--including what else I've been listening to lately or played to death two years ago. Sunday's gatekeeper is Monday's sentimental classic is Tuesday's overplayed boredom. A rating would serve no purpose.
For a long time, it was actually Funeral, which I know will piss people off cause it's some people's #5 album of all time. I always thought there were a few too many clumsy songs for it to be considered a "perfect album."
I'd say in general, The National are kind of a gate keeper band for me; I love all of their albums, but none of them are like 5 star classics to me. Right now I'm really into High Violet, but not in a life altering way, just in a "This is great and consistent and moving" way.
PJ Harvey's Dry, because sometimes i used to keep thinking if this was my favorite album of hers, until i realized it was hard to pick just one of hers, so deep down i know this is not a classic like Rid of Me, To Bring You My Love and Stories, actually White Chalk sounds more like a masterpiece to me, but few albums are tight, without any weak songs, perfect, accessible. Man, it is such an fully formed debut album that every time i listen to the first album of a band i keep saying: "Let's hope it's a Dry." It's not her best, maybe not my favorite, not a classic despite its high raking inside AM top 3000 (389 i guess...), but it is my gatekeeper and THE debut album not considered a classic or the artists's best.