Singer-songwriter Mason Jennings helped break in U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday when he played a free show with fellow Minnesota music favorites Trampled by Turtles. His new full-length, Wild Dark Metal, came out in March, and he'll hit First Avenue on Dec. 3. In honor of his latest album cycle, here's our indisputable and definitive ranking of Mason's entire discography.
12. Use Your Voice (2004)
A short (10 songs in 31 minutes) but sweet look into the life of Jennings around the time of the 2004 presidential election. A song about the death of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, “Ballad of Paul and Sheila," sticks out as one of the most touching tracks on this effort.
11. Simple Life (2002)
This was the first time Jennings decided to release an album with nothing but his voice and his acoustic guitar. The tracklist is quick and poppy -- with the exception of the 7-minute closing track, "Rebecca DeVille" -- and there’s still a lyrical blend of happy love songs and heavy-hearted breakup ones.
10. Always Been (2013)
What could be described as his most Americana-sounding release, this album features more lead guitar/banjo/harmonica than any previous release. There's just more on display here; it brings out a fun side to Jennings' musicianship.
9. Century Spring (2002)
This was Jennings' first release via his first record label -- Bar/None, as well as Architect. The difference in recording quality is apparent in the guitar tone, if nothing else. He steps away from his grittier sound and explores a more pop-infused approach to songwriting. It's an accessible vibe he’d hold onto for the next string of albums.
8. The Flood (2011)
Arriving with nothing but an acoustic guitar, Jennings manages to delve into a slew of different sounds and emotions in this minimalist folk effort. The most amazing thing: The sound is so full and rich, it’s hard to imagine added instrumentation would have added much of anything.
7. Minnesota (2011)
In his most piano-centric LP, Jennings managed one of his most intricate albums from a lyrical perspective, all backed by more somber arrangements. Some songs speak of love and relationships, while others, like “Wake Up," deal with the harshness of living with alcoholism.
6. In the Ever (2008)
So much lyrical variety. Jennings' debut with Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records starts out with a flurry of pretty love songs, before exploring deeper religious themes.
5. Wild Dark Metal (2016)
With the exception of Blood of Man, this is the album with the heaviest and most electric-based overarching sound. That said, it still boasts fun, catchy tunes that serve as callbacks to classic Jennings.
4. Boneclouds (2006)
Perhaps his most successful album post-debut, Boneclouds showcases Jennings’ biggest acoustic-based sound. It’s also, arguably, Jennings’ poppiest acoustic album, as exemplified by lead single “Be Here Now."
3. Blood of Man (2009)
Jennings once said he intended Blood of Man to be an album full of love songs. That did not happen. Instead, we have his most rock 'n' roll release, one with lyrical themes ranging from departed soldiers to his young life in Pittsburgh.
2. Mason Jennings (1997)
Songs don’t get much more personal than these. Oftentimes, a singer-songwriter's best album is their first. There's likely less pressure and professional baggage associated with it, which can yield the most intimate results. You could make this argument for Jennings’ self-titled debut.
1. Birds Flying Away (2000)
Jennings honed in on all of his best traits for his sophomore release. His blend of acoustic storytelling, historical themes, and funky instrumentation (there’s an alto-saxophone solo on the politically/historically charged “Black Panther”) makes for a perfect mix.