This is infeasibly difficult. I often listen to stuff concentratedly when I find new songs, and I tend to like whole runs of stuff by the same band. More than books — I suppose because listening goes alongside other activities, and because songs tell stories without demanding you look at them — music is a vice of mine. And I like CDs. Digital, even legit d/ls, doesn't have the same satisfaction (it's not really that I care about inlays/art.)
Expect cheating and lots of mentions of other songs. What you won't find is bands that haven't had lived-in appreciation, because I do fad a fair amount. Far fewer bands stick around in my affections for years, and many have stuck around but I wouldn't go to bat for and say they've produced any definite classics.
Ready? You can count if you like. I'm not, and these are in no order.
1) Beautiful South — Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud) ... I like lots of BS songs; this was the first track I heard on radio, fell in love with and eventually got as a Christmas present — thanks to a sales clerk at Savacentre in Oldbury who knew it wasn't called Carry On Regardless. Mention should probably also go to the WHSmith saleswoman who (via a parent) bootlegged LP by The Rembrants for me when it wasn't available in-store and I loved the Friends theme tune. Some of the first music I got into, along with Meat Loaf (Bat out of Hell II) and Iron Maiden (Powerslave, a great 'fake' metal album.)
2) Eels — Mr E's Beautiful Blues ... again, I like a lot of Eels songs; this one makes me smile the most. Daisies of the Galaxy is mellow and reflective but also pragmatic and uplifting. The simple, stripped-down arrangements on both lyrics and instruments are beautiful. Other highlights are Tiger In My Tank, Packing Blankets and I Like Birds, and from other albums My Beloved Monster, 3 Speed, Last Stop This Town, PS You Rock My World, Hey Man, Old Shit/New Shit and Railroad Man. But particularly the first three of their albums.
3) The Crocketts — Palisade ... I don't even own this on CD. It wasn't released on CD originally, and by the time I got into the band the self-published run was gone. It's a very hard choice between this and something like Will You Still Care, Frog On A Stick or Tennessee from the first proper album period, and on another day maybe I'd pick Million Things from the second. This one is extra-special because I've lived in Aberystwyth. Davey's still writing excellent stuff in The Crimea.
4) Murry The Hump — The Smell Of You ... I've got two quite bad recordings, one from a gig and one from BBC radio as later band The Keys. They're one of those bands that sound great live but never quite got the hang of studio recording. The lyrics are charmingly direct and genuine, and call to mind a few specific ladies. Thrown Like A Stone, Green Green Grass, Booze And Cigarettes, and New Deal are other favourites, all of which fit a criteria proposed by Billy Joe Armstrong (who backed it up on the original version of Good Riddance, not the one on Nimrod) that most good songs can be played live on an acoustic guitar. Throw in some Hot Puppies (the first Green Eyeliner single? Bonnie And Me?) and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Our Time, that whole EP) for good measure.
5) Mary Prankster — New Tricks ... a relative newcomer to "songs that are important to me" and one that strikes a chord at present. That's the weary and understanding side. The response is Oasis — I Hope, I Think, I Know.
6) Catch 22 — Keasbey Nights ... if you want me on a dance-floor play this (or Smells Like Teen Spirit, or Hitchin' A Ride, or Enter Sandman, or 80s cheese, or Come On Eileen — I'm a whore for classics, but Keasbey Nights is much less likely to be on a club playlist, and that's a shame. You can't help but bounce to it.) Good backed with Superman by Goldfinger. Thanks to Lisa for the introduction to both, and for Waitin' For A Superman by the Flaming Lips, and Beatnik Girl by Snug.
7) The Wildhearts — Pissjoy ... though you need the mood and the tracks before it on the album, and there are so, so many songs by this lot that are unreservedly classics. Endless, Nameless (the album this is from) marked an implosion of the band, and a cacophony of scarred sound layered over poppy guitar rock — I've no idea how some of it was produced. Pissjoy is a wall-of-noise, screaming cast-of-thousands five minutes or so. Not quite as effective at destroying speakers as Anthem, but very cathartic.
8) Bon Jovi — Bang a Drum ... from the only Bon Jovi album I can generally stand to listen to, and it's the only kind of religion I subscribe to. I link it mentally with Science Fiction/Double Feature (Rocky Horror) and the middle of nowhere in Wales... plus they're both heartfelt cheese. Throw in Run With Us (Lisa Lougheed, theme to The Raccoons) and Dare (Stan Bush, the 1986 Transformers movie) and you have memories of schools from childhood through to present.
9) Mighty Mighty Bosstones — Storm Hit ... though really I count Is It and Storm Hit as one song. They're b-sides, and I've never really cared to follow up an interest in the band (much like Keasbey Nights) or liked much more that I've heard by them. This song falls in with Less Than Jake (perfections such as Big Crash) and Fountains of Wayne (Survival Car, Leave the Biker) in being feelgood music I keep coming back to, and can credit Gaz and various others for exposing me to. I'll always have a soft spot for Californication, too.
10) There's also stuff I like from a particular period — rather a lot — such as Hole (Celebrity Skin) or the Manics (Holy Bible) or Marilyn Manson (Mechanical Animals)... And random songs such as Jack Off Jill's cover of Love Song, or Gigantic's cover of Seasons In The Sun, or the Lightning Seeds' The Likely Lads, or covers by the Sex Pistols. Or simple stand-out tracks like Hybrid Children — Like Every Day Is The Last, Where Is My Mind by the Pixies, She's Automatic by Rancid... anything by Motorhead played loud. Blame the Police Academy movies for that Shirelles track, and other movies for King Of The Road. There's stuff I've inherited as musical tastes such as Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Chris Rea. There's a lot of music, and I reckon I can put together a few good playlists.
Remember You're A Womble.