I get “tagged” to do these time-wasting meme’s all the time, but I actually like this one and think it fits well on this particular blog. So here we go. Feel free to join in:
Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years.
These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that musically shaped your world.
In vague/rough order of importance:
Ten – Pearl Jam
I don’t think this one needs any real in-depth description being that my ever-present love of the band has to be exhausting to those who don’t share my enthusiasm. However, while this particular album is a given in my personal list, I’ve found that different songs land in different areas in my life. “Even Flow” was the first song I ever heard by the band, sitting mesmerized on my couch while “illegally” watching MTV while my mother was out of the house and not yet realizing the effect that moment would have on the rest of my life. The morning after I lost my virginity some nine years ago, I climbed into my car to go home and “Black” was the first song that played from my stereo, so I always associate that song with that time in my life. “Once” reminds me of the first time I saw Pearl Jam in concert (2004) because I pretended not to know the words and my bee-eff-eff promptly gave me Incredulous Stink Eye.
Elton John Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
My old standby. When I was two years old, my father kept me up late one night to watch this concert when it was aired on HBO. Since then, ‘Your Song’ has been our song (which is why I began sobbing the first time I heard him singing it to my daughter once when he was rocking her to sleep. I’m such a sap.) and he’s constantly kept it around in his car along with a handful of his other staples. The whole album is beautiful, actually, even if you don’t like Elton John and the arrangements are staggering. There are many of E.J.’s hits on the album that I don’t like the original recording of simply because of the way they were performed with this symphony. It’s honestly one of the most underrated albums of all time. (I’m saying Top 3)
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack – Various Artists
I somehow managed to receive this CD from my 8th grade crush, although I’m not sure how considering we never actually dated and there was no Secret Santa exchange to speak of that I can recall. However, that entire winter I remained engulfed in the compilation, often playing the soundtrack on repeat for weeks. That January, I went with my family to Snowmass, CO and listened to the darkly-romantic CD on the four-ish (maybe 6-ish?) hour drive from Denver to Aspen. Even now when I listen to Radiohead’s incredible “Talk Show Host”, I am taken back to the frigid Colorado countryside, how it looked so barren and lonely at night and how it seemed like a perfect rendering of my sad, lonely, adolescent heart.
“I want to be someone else so I’ll explode.”
Demon Days – Gorillaz
Perhaps the most frustrating argument from this music fanatic’s perspective is the ignorant notion that Gorillaz is simply a hip-hop/rock fusion band based on the 5 singles that have graced the American airwaves. ::: Sigh ::: Being that the general public of America has absolutely no idea who Damon Albarn is (or what the name of his most successful band was… or more than two of their songs…) and even less of a concept regarding his massive influence on music in the last 15 years on a global scale, it is far past fruitless to try to engage a casual listener into a riveting discussion pertaining to the genius of the virtual group better known as Gorillaz. Frankly, I could go on for weeeeks (and have, actually) discussing the various levels of innovative genius found in the Gorillaz project, from the marketing of four fictitious characters in order to cloak Albarn’s countless collaborations which create the whole soul of the “band” (freaking GENIUS, I say!), to the unbelievable risks these collaborators take in their musical ventures, bridging genre gaps and melding sounds with more success than we’ve seen since the arrival of Beck.
However, being that I don’t want to spend the next month composing a thesis on the matter, I’ll take this back to a personal level. I bought the ‘Demon Days’ album the minute I arrived back in the States in 2005. After my initial delirious rapture in being introduced to every single track, I found myself obsessing about analyzing each track, dissecting every sound and deciphering every artistic choice. I even bought the vinyl LP (from the record shop in Athens, GA where the album’s producer – Danger Mouse – got his first job! Danger Mouse, by the way, is one half of the recent musical phenomenon Gnarls Barkeley. But I digress.) The whole album is just staggering in it’s beauty and complexity and real, genuine power. I felt absorbed by all of it, especially the last two tracks which are a combined gospel-style medley of two of the most inspirational, perspective-altering, heartrending songs I’ve ever heard (as performed with Albarn and the London Community Gospel Choir. Not. Even. Credible.) They’ve become my anthem during my darkest hours and in my most depressed episodes, I’ve found myself repeating segments of the chorus.
“Turn yourself round, don’t burn yourself, turn yourself. Turn yourself around to the sun.”
OK Computer – Radiohead
Alas, I was the weird kid on my 9th grade trip to NYC who bought the weird album by that weird British band with the weird music and the weird faces. (This, of course, was four years before we’d all go off to college where every other dorm room was plastered with ‘Kid A’ posters and Thom Yorke’s effervescent moaning seeped out into every hallway.) And from the moment I put the CD in my Discman, I was madly in love. Every song resonated in my soul, every sound released something in me I’d never been able to identify, every movement controlled my emotions like marionettes. Even to this day, I consider it a special day when I can lose myself in the entirety of OK Computer. (Kid A coming in as a close second, by the way, although, despite the fond memories of cutting school to purchase this album and listening to it in a McDonald’s parking lot, the haunting melancholy of the album is what comes over me the most when I regard it. Brilliant, though! And not as pretentious as Sigur Ros…. stupid emo kids and their made-up language.)
Tommy: Motion Picture Soundtrack – The Who
Oh, like you’re totally surprised. After seeing the movie, I just cannot get into the original ‘Tommy’ album as recorded long before the film was considered. I know. It’s practically sacrilegious and painfully shameful for any decent Who fan. I don’t give a crap what any critic or fellow musician says (Liam Gallagher, I’m talking to your drunk ass…), I think the movie – while rough in spots… namely Eric Clapton’s ridiculously bad scene – was nothing short of genius and every single actor and guest star was absolutely brilliantly cast. Tina Turner was a riveting, insane Acid Queen, Elton John was a hilariously, stoically arrogant Pinball Wizard and Ann-Margret was one sexy drunken psychopath. Love.
The Best of – Jimi Hendrix
I was a bit of a late bloomer with the psychedelic era, but once I found it I was hooked.
Mmmm.. The summer of 1999. I bought this album only knowing one song on the whole thing and found myself listening to it every single night on my way to sleep while I was working at a summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina. I couldn’t get the wailing riffs and haunting melodies out of my head for a second and I enjoyed the significant rush I got during “All Along the Watchtower.” Jimi Hendrix’s band was aptly named as even in his recordings, he is still an all-encompassing experience.
The Grand Illusion – Styx
Another one from my dad’s timeless rotation, this one reminds me of roadtrips to the beach when my dad would take me with him for a whole week each summer. (He used to commute here weekly from our home 2 hours away.) Just me and him. Doing anything I wanted to do. This album was our soundtrack for many years.
Odelay – Beck
This album came out my 8th grade year but I didn’t fully embrace it until my freshman year of high school when I listened to it with my then-BFF and tried to learn the absurd lyrics. Even today, this album stays in my car for immediate access and it is impossible for me to hear any song from it at any time in any location without involuntarily squealing in delight. It’s absurd, it’s revolutionary, it’s simple, it’s brilliant, it’s non-categorical, it’s timeless. It’s perfect.
Debut – Bjork
Hey, I just wrote about this one the other day. Summer after high school graduation when I ran around town every night dancing with the illegal Irish immigrants who come to the beach every year for summer work. I painted watercolor and laid on the beach and wore slightly more risque attire than I’d ever dared and it was a really wonderful time even though it was extremely short-lived. I accredit Bjork’s first attempt at a solo career to helping to nudge my self-exploration along and fueling this new sense of creativity that seemed to emerge overnight. Her music inspired me to step out of my expectations and traditions and think differently for a change, without worrying about the end result. She’s continued to do that in the years since, but this specific album is where I retreat when I want to get back to that mindset of great possibility.
Tenacious D – Tenacious D
I bonded with my best friend over the humor and harmonies of this album. No matter how unbelievably immature and utterly pointless the D’s array of tracks may seem, their inherent genius and incomparable musical talent peeks through the penis jokes and is ultimately what keeps me coming back to them year after year. Although the music on their movie soundtrack far outweighs any on their debut album, the latter has much more sentimental value for me.
Big Calm – Morcheeba
Sure, it sounds like late-20th century hippie porno music, but after seeing them perform at Lilith Fair, I was hooked on their sultry sounds and incense-laden sensuality. This album is the best of the band’s, unfortunately, but it’s still one of my favorites for a mod-style, chilled out evening.
Aha Shake Heartbreak – Kings of Leon
When I first arrived in Australia, one of the FIRST questions one of my housemates asked me was whether or not I listened to the Kings of Leon. When I got home I immediately bought Aha Shake and plunged headfirst into the gloriousness of these emaciated brothers’ sound. They honestly began to give me hope for the future of rock music and moved in me something I hadn’t felt from music since I was first listening to the earliest of grunge. Now, my Aha Shake album has been autographed by the band from when I snuck back to their tour bus after watching them perform with Pearl Jam, which naturally enhances my passion for the band. The album however, is tangible evidence of my realized hope in our generation’s musical future.
What’s the Story Morning Glory? – Oasis
I wrote an essay about this album, too, about a year ago. 7th grade I remember hearing “Wonderwall” for the first time and feeling my heart undulate with the slow cello progression. The whole album escorted me through the tumultuous-yet-trite years of my earliest adolescence and allowed me a place in which to burrow away from the loneliness and heartache of experiencing a Christian, small-town America as a liberal girl totally unaware of any worth she may possess. Some songs let me cry, some let me dream… it was a nice reprise.
In the last year I repurchased this album from having misplaced it over the years. It landed right in that familiar spot in my heart and I felt an incredible release, unlike anything I’d been able to feel in years of therapy and meditation.
Celebrity Skin – Hole
I kinda missed the Hole boat when they were first on the scene (probably due to my mother’s frantic attempts to keep me away from the grunge scene… She threw out my Nirvana Unplugged album and, later, my Morrissette Jagged Little Pill. Sigh…) but at the end of my freshman year of high school I was suddenly in love with C.Love and her incredible lyrics. Sure, I loved the train-wreckery and discarded glamour and shameless self-promotion of the rock goddess, but, initially, I was set alight by her words and sounds. I wanted her confidence, her lyricism, her talent, maybe even a little of her fame. I’ve since become an all-out Courtney fanatic but this album and it’s anthems have been a central grounding point for my life in the last decade. I can still listen to the Celebrity Skin album from beginning to end and feel every single song, no matter where else my mind may be at the time.
Yield – Pearl Jam
Alright, yes. There are two Pearl Jam albums on here. So effing sue me, alright? Jeezum. You’re lucky I don’t have more from Pearl Jam or The Who or Radiohead, but I kept myself cool and tried to limit my entries, so the importance of the band wasn’t misconstrued, but the works that most effectively influenced my life were mentioned.
Twister The Motion Picture Soundtrack – Various Artists
Say what you will about the rather tragic movie, the soundtrack is one that I’ve replaced in my arsenal despite having misplaced it three times. While there are a couple seriously unlistenable tracks from the likes of Shania Twain and other country-blechks, the bulk of the album is pretty great, including a “new” Van Halen track, a harder Goo Goo Dolls song, a quirky-yet-fun Red Hot Chili Peppers ditty, a brilliant Tori Amos piece and an amazingly lovable performance by the crowd-of-weird-hippies pleaser Rusted Root. I listened to it on repeat the summer of 1998 as I travelled with a group of high school peers across the country on a 3,000 mile Wild West road trip/tour. It’s safe to say the album always taps back into that exact era.
Midgets with Guns – Pain
Easily the most underrated band that’s ever been ignored by mass media, Pain is a brilliant fusion of ska and punk (two genres I don’t usually gravitate to) with hilarious lyrics and an incredible sound. I remember driving back and forth to college during my freshman year and singing loudly, with reckless abandon along with the excited, fun-loving energy of the whole album. It’s like an ice-cream cone and a trip to the fair for my soul.
Rock Spectacle – Barenaked Ladies
Ehhhhhn. This one is a bit hard for me to talk about, but it’s imperative to an honest, complete list. Basically, I spent 7 of my first 22 years involved in a toxic on-again-off-again relationship. While the relationship had it’s good times, none were as innocent, emotionally abandoned, and intoxicating as the first few months we were together. (So yeah, I guess we spent the rest of the time chasing the white dragon in a sense.) I loooooved this album of BnL’s that was released just months before their explosion into mainstream radio and was prone to listening to it to the point of exhaustion. Some of the tracks are absolutely incredible (“Brian Wilson” being one of those.) Anyway, this was the CD I was listening to when I let this young man share a headset with me. This lead to hand-holding and light caressing and an eventual kiss that kicked the whole thing off. One of the songs on the album was considered “ours” and it was beautiful even though it was written from the first-person perspective of a suicidal window-washer. (Heh. Irony.)
Anyway, after the years of turmoil and pain, I’m no longer able to listen to the album for fear of being yanked back into that insane emotional upheaval. Which is a shame, really, because it really is an amazing album. I kind of consider my relationship with that album an analogy to the relationship I had with myself during that time and how that specific relationship distorted my ownership of self in general and is responsible for a lot of my lost innocence and cut-and-dry perceptions of relationships and personal vulnerability…
…Or it could just be a CD.
The Score – Fugees
This is going to sound racist although I absolutely don’t mean for it to. In my 7th grade year I was good friends with a lot of the black kids that went to my jr. high. Where I grew up there was real integration and everyone seemed blissfully unaware that there were supposed to be flaws in our differences. Only when I started high school and moved a couple hours south was I told that there was something socially weird about associating with people of different races. This was the first time I heard racial slurs (seriously, at 14) and saw a long-seeded sense of segregation that kept people away from each other and I simply couldn’t understand it.
Anyway, this album came out in the midst of my jr. high experiences and holds a great fondness in my heart, not only for it’s musical genius (it’s an unbelievably great album) but for the innocent friendships I had without the societal injustices and disappointments I would soon encounter.
Surfer Rosa – The Pixies
You know that side of yourself that’s a little insane? That has lilting, uncertain realities and brash, unsettling thoughts where your cracks aren’t just showing but are, in fact, leaking and molding around the edges? Yeah, that’s what this album let me tap into and learn to embrace for the first time. I like the crashing chaos, the real-life awkwardness, the distorted melodies, the screamed lyrics. It’s a catastrophic symphony and is rightfully placed with it’s public acknowledgements and honors for it’s influence on recent music.
Surrender – The Chemical Brothers
Heh. Late-high school. Lots of raves, lots of candy, lots of drugs. I remember listening to this album’s whirling sounds while driving late at night from party to party. We were careless, invincible, effing stupid. Maybe not really happy, but certainly having fun.
I know, I’m short by three, but I’ll have to pick this up later. I’ve spent WAY too much time involved with this little literary practice.
….. Jeezum, that took forEVER.