This is surely a sign of a real character flaw, but I think that my #2 favorite of all time is also a guilty pleasure. It’s possible that I would feel less guilty about Grace if I liked it less, since really liking this album seems too tied up with the infatuation with the now way overblown mythos of the tragic mysterious genius of Jeff Buckley. (I also distinctly recall hearing “Hallelujah” played twice over misty teenaged montage scenes on The O.C., and that probably doesn’t help either). But I do really like it, especially for the ways in which it is conflicted, earthy, and even cheesy. On Grace, Jeff Buckley always seemed to me to be just as much or more a lounge singer and barroom cover-band leader as he was an otherworldly angelic figure. The cover of “Hallelujah” is still the best track, and the one most nakedly yearning toward transcendence, but it also is all about very earthy desires. (I heard a critic on the radio last week claim the John Cale’s version of the song is better than Buckley’s. That’s some contrarian bullshit, for the record.) Grace also puts “Corpus Christi Carol” right next to the most standard rocker on the album, “Eternal Life.” The effect is jarring, but a perfect encapsulation of how I think of Grace. It’s an album by a standard rocker who was a good, but not great, songwriter, but also an album that ably moves way, way beyond that. More importantly, though, it shows how the truly transcendent highs are only real or meaningful when they begin, and ultimately stay, within the mundane and prosaic language of rock and roll. Now I haven’t studied theology for a few years, but the title of the album strikes me as especially apt, because isn’t grace only grace when it enters into the ordinary and fallen world? Pure transcendence in pop music is what, Enya? Case closed.