It's time to stop being coy about the albums we love, says Garry Mulholland in his new book. So we asked him and a panel of experts to reveal their Top 10s.
What's your favourite album? It's a simple question, but I bet you're already making it difficult.
A long-player immediately came into your head - one that you would gladly listen to any time, again and again, no matter your mood or environment - and you've rejected it.
You've started thinking about the album you ought to choose, the one that critics and fans' polls always say is the best album of all time. But ... you don't love it. It doesn't move you. It can't reach inside you and revive a whole set of buried emotions and memories of love won and lost, friendships kept and squandered, traumas endured and survived.
How could it? That universally recognised classic was never a crucial part of your life. You only bought it because you were told to.
Our tiny island has constantly overachieved in the field of popular music since The Beatles era, and, because of the "cool" that pop has bestowed upon Brit culture, we are ridiculously self-conscious about our music taste. We're terrifiedof appearing naff, old or stupid when we confess that we prefer, say, Phil Collins to The Arctic Monkeys. Hence our willingness to go along with the Rock Pantheon - even when we would much rather buy that new Sugababes compilation than try, yet again, to "get" Nirvana.
It's the close personal bond that's important when picking your favourite album - for my latest book I picked 261. But if I were to have to choose just 10, they would be the ones that got me through my confused teens, and convinced me that music was my life. Albums expect to be partners for life.
You'd need them, alone, on that desert island, and you'd need them to be both comforting and inspirational, just like the person you'd hope would get shipwrecked with you.
Maybe that's one trick that an iPod on random just can't pull off. So tell me again... just what is your favourite album?
Nicky Wire - Manic Street Preachers' Bassist:
Everything But the Girl - Baby the Stars Shine Bright (1986)
The album I fell in love to, with the girl I'm still married to. It has a really lush sound. Back then Tracey Thorn was every indie boy's dream.
The Clash - The Clash (1977)
I love this for its crudeness. Richie [Edwards, fellow Manic] and I spent a whole summer spray-painting clothes to it, hatching revolutions. And Paul Simenon became my hero.
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)
Dexy's were obsessed with manifestos, with trying to attain something you never will. That really struck a chord.
McCarthy - I am a Wallet (1987)
The most political band that's ever existed - their dissection of Thatcher's Britain came from a completely different angle from the boring Red Wedge movement.
NWA - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
If Public Enemy were the Clash, NWA were the Sex Pistols, full of nihilistic outrage, bent on destruction. Brutally harsh.
Rush - Moving Pictures (1981)
A fantastic record from a time when rock was in its death throes.
Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain (1981)
The most poetic band of the Eighties. This made you feel good to be an outsider.
The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps (1993)
A sprawling double album, full of amazing melodies the indie equivalent of The Beatles' White Album.
Blur - 13 (1999)
A really dark and dense record - Blur sound like a band who are teetering on the edge. By this time, I'd realised Damon Albarn was pretty much the modern David Bowie.
The Libertines - Up the Bracket (2002)
I'd have loved this record if was 15. As it is, I think it's the last album that really resonated culturally. Raw and real.