Something Different: A-Z Music Challenge

Chris from The Collector recently published a post where he went through his favorite bands from A-to-Z.  He issued a challenge of sorts for other bloggers to do the same thing - and since I'm always looking for something interesting to talk about (besides my many "look at what I got" posts), I figured I'd take him up on his challenge.

Before I get to the music, I feel like I ought to include a baseball card in this post so here's another recent eBay pickup - one of the last few 2020 Topps Allen & Ginter framed relics that I need for my set!

Now, to the music.  With that said, I should probably explain some things.  First, I was born in 1982 which means much of my musical preferences were shaped by the sounds of the early-to-mid '90s.  Second, unlike what Night Owl claimed in his A-to-Z post, my musical tastes have definitely changed as I've aged.  Third, I'm writing my preamble to the post in real time and I truly have no idea what my musical list is going to look like (and I can't wait to get started)!


The first letter of the alphabet is a surprisingly fertile letter for bands that I like!  Right away, I think my current favorite "A" group has to be AJR.  My daily commute to and from work each day is a little over 50 miles each way which means plenty of time to listen to music.  AJR is a band that I can listen to on my way to work (while I'm still tired) and on my way home (when I'm in the mood for something a bit more lively).  Heck, I can even listen to most of their stuff when I'm out running!  That all being said, AJR is a fairly recent addition to my "favorite artists" list - and choosing one "A" band has proven to me that this particular blogging challenge is going to be tricky from start to finish!

Honorable mentions:  Aesop Rock, American Authors, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Andy Grammer

B:  Barenaked Ladies

Ugh, another impossible choice for the letter B!  For years and years, I would have pegged the Beach Boys as my favorite "B" band (and bonus points for the double letter usage ala Scattergories rules, right)?!  In fact, did you know that the Beach Boys were one of the first two CDs that I ever bought for myself?  More on the other CD in that same purchase a little bit later in the alphabet.  

Anyhow, at the moment I think my favorite "B" band is the Barenaked Ladies (my '90s roots are on full display with this choice).  I think the Barenaked Ladies have a perfect blend of pop hits combined with clever lyrics and catchy beats.  

Honorable mentions: Bastille, the Beach Boys, Better than Ezra, Blink-182, Blues Traveler, Buck 65, Bug Hunter 

C:  Carbon Leaf

My musical tastes are (admittedly) all over the place.  If I had to guess, most reader have probably never heard of Carbon Leaf - they are an indie/celtic band with catchy songs and the occasionally wonderful lyric or two.  The song I linked to above (What About Everything) always spoke to me - first as a student myself and now as a professor:  It's school, then work and then life that just sharpens the blade

I think about time for fun, I think about time for play

Then I think about being done, with no resume

With no one left to blame

Good stuff - and sometimes I even play this song for my students as a not-so-subtle reminder for them to enjoy life.

Honorable mentions:  Chumbawamba, Cold War Kids, Coleman Hell, Collective Soul

D:  Dire Straits

D is the first letter where I'd say my favorite band switches completely based on my mood.  More often than not, it'd be Dire Straits that I'd choose but there are times where I'd pick either Dawes or Dropkick Murphys instead.

Honorable mentions:  Dawes, Dropkick Murphys

E:  Enter the Haggis

I'm not a big fan of going to live concerts, mostly because I don't enjoy being around huge masses of people.  That being said, I have seen Enter the Haggis in concert more often than any other band - and I think I like them just as much now as I did when I first heard of them.

Honorable mentions: Eminem, Eve 6

F:  Fitz and the Tantrums

This is probably going to be my most recent "letter switch" band.  Up until probably a month or two ago, I would have slotted in Fun. here as my favorite "F" band.  Unfortunately, Fun. hasn't put out much in the way of new music (to the best of my knowledge) and sometimes new stuff catches my ear.  

Honorbale mentions:  Fall Out Boy, Fun.

G:  George Ezra

I couldn't come up with a lot of great choices for G.  For me, it came down to George Ezra or Green Day, and while I do like a lot of Green Day stuff I also dislike a lot of Green Day stuff.  Since this is a list of favorites, I decided to go with George Ezra who I think I simply like more consistently (though admittedly Green Day's musical catalog is much, much larger so it's hardly a fair comparison).

Honorable mention:  Green Day

H:  Hootie & the Blowfish

Remember above when I said that I'd get to the other "first band" CD purchase of mine?  Well, the first CD I ever picked out was Hootie & the Blowfish's "Cracked Rear View" which is probably still a Top 10 all-time album for me.

Honorable mention:  The Head and the Heart

I:  Imagine Dragons

Sure, Imagine Dragons is a bit overplayed these days and they could even be considered "sellouts" by musical snobs.  Luckily, I'm not a musical snob and I can appreciate the variety of catchy, upbeat tunes that Imagine Dragons seem to produce year after year.  

Honorable mention:  I DON'T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME

J:  Jukebox the Ghost

Wow, "J" is a loaded letter for me!  In the end, it actually ended up being an easy choice - Jukebox the Ghost is one of my most played bands over the past three years or so (probably my most played if I'm being specific).  The group has a nice variety of sounds and I like almost every single song of theirs.  This is a particularly good group to jam to while cooking!

Honorable mentions:  Jimmy Buffett, Jimmy Eat World, Judah & the Lion


K is easily one of the barest letters in my musical library.  In fact, even the Kongos are a stretch here as I don't love a lot of their stuff.  The obvious choice would be the Killers but for whatever reason I never really got into them much.  The Kinks have a couple of songs I like but I'm not familiar enough with most of their library to list them as anything other than honorable mention.

Honorable mention:  The Kinks

L:  Lukas Graham

Another relatively new addition to my musical library, Lukas Graham is sort of an "easy listen" that I do need to be in the mood for.  I find I listen to Lukas Graham a lot while shoveling snow off my driveway.  I can't exactly explain why that is but there you go.

Honorable mention:  Lit, Live, the Lumineers

M:  Macklemore

Macklemore is probably one of the groups on my list that my current college students might also like and listen to yet.  I've been a fan of his for a long time now and I appreciate how he can sing about struggles (both his and others') in a meaningful way without (usually) coming across as being overly preachy.

Honorable mentions:  Malibu Ken, Mat Kearney, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Mike Posner

N:  Neil Diamond

N is even worse than K in my musical library.  I even Googled "band names that start with N" and still couldn't come up with a better choice than Neil Diamond.

Honorable mentions:  NAS, NateWantsToBattle

O:  O.A.R.

My wife pretty much hates most O.A.R. songs so I this is a group that I can only listen to when she isn't around.  That being said, it's great music for when I'm doing some woodwork out in the garage!  

Honorable mention:  the Offspring

P:  Panic! at the Disco

I'm a big fan of Panic! at the Disco - one of the few groups that my college students also currently listen to as well.  

Honorable mention:  Pearl Jam, Pitbull

Q:  Queen

I'm guessing most people will put Queen here in the "Q" spot on the list simply because there aren't a lot of Q bands.  For me, Queen is a legitimate favorite band of mine.

Honorable mention:  none

R:  R.E.M.

Another easy 90s pick, R.E.M. is (probably) the band that I own the most CDs from overall.  I will admit that I don't listen to them nearly as much now as I used to but whenever an R.E.M. song comes on I'm probably going to sing along.

Honorable mention:  RDGLDGRN

S:  Stroke 9

The Stroke 9 album "Nasty Little Thoughts" is one of my favorite albums from the 90s and it's enough to land the band as my top "S" band.  

Honorable mentions:  the Score, Smash Mouth, the Strumbellas, Sum 41

T:  Third Eye Blind

Another 90s pick, the first Third Eye Blind album is good enough that they still take the top spot for the letter T.  

Honorable mentions:  They Might Be Giants, Thick as Thieves, Train

U:  ugh, nothing

I have nothing for U.  Popular pick U2 is one of my least favorite "popular" bands of all-time.  You can add them to a list with the Smashing Pumpkins as bands that most people love that I definitely do not.

Honorable mention:  none

V:  Vampire Weekend

Another relatively new addition to my musical library, I've been digging quite a bit of Vampire Weekend's stuff.  I had known about the band for awhile but for whatever reason I never really gave them much of a chance.  Well, now I have and they are really quite good!

Honorable mention:  Van Halen

W:  Weezer

Weezer gets the nod here but I almost went with the spoken word (?) artist Watsky instead simply because I love how he crafts his lyrics/words.  

Honorable mention:  Walk the Moon, Watsky

X:  X Ambassadors

Not a lot of choices for the letter X but I do like the X Ambassadors a fair bit.

Honorable mention:  none

Y:  Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Apparently the end of the alphabet is pretty weak for musical talent.  I don't know much by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but I do have their song Heads will Roll one a couple of my playlists.  

Honorable mention:  none

Z:  Zac Brown Band

This selection is less about the Zac Brown Band and more about how there are no good (to me) Z bands.  I never got into ZZ Top and that's about the extent of other Z groups I can think of.  

Honorable mention:  none

Well, there you have it.  My list of favorite artists by letter - at least for today.  Ask me to make a new list in about six months and it might look quite a bit different!  Like I said at the outset, my musical tastes are all over the place but I say that keeps things interesting!

Thanks for the fun challenge idea, Chris!  I'd love to see what others have for their favorite artists - feel free to do your own post or simply leave your list in the comments here.


  1. Yeah, a whole bunch of bands/singers there I've never heard of. Your honorable mentions tho back up the reminiscence theory as they are packed with '90s/'00s stuff. (As someone with the 'olds' I will never understand the appeal of Fall Out Boy, Panic!, etc.). I loved BareNaked Ladies back in the early '90s, but they faded enough that I didn't even include them in the HMs.

  2. What I found interesting about your list is that I like a lot of your choices, but I would place them on my honorable mentions. But some of your honorable mentions would be my top choice. By the way, I have heard of Carbon Leaf. Even though I haven't heard a lot of their stuff, I love what I do know.

  3. Nice list...Chumbawamba shout out!

  4. Good to see another '80s-'90s kid try this challenge. Based on the comments I got it seemed like everyone grew up in the '60s-early '70s. I forgot about X Ambassadors - and I saw them open for Muse once.

    Some interesting choices here, and some acts that I'd never heard of. I'll have to check 'em out when I get a chance.

  5. Hopefully we don't ever find ourselves on a road trip together, because I think that it would be a real struggle to find some common ground music-wise. That being said, it is nice to see a list with so much different stuff on it.

  6. I think how I felt reading your list is how most people felt reading mine, I have never heard of a lot of this stuff. Also interesting to see other tastes.


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