14 December 2011

Twenty-Five Albums [That Made Me]

A couple years ago, Tim over at Fantastic Distraction posted a list of "The 25 Albums that Made Me" -- it was a very cool read and really lets you see a lot about the person through a medium that speaks to so many people. So I thought I'd give it a go! I actually started this list shortly thereafter, but it's taken me nearly two years to complete! These are not my favorite albums, necessarily, but the ones that had the greatest impact on my life (and all the many aspects thereof). In no particular order, other than roughly chronological.

Steve Taylor . On The Fritz [1983]
My parents introduced me to music early on in my life. I can remember them always listening to records. It was a time when listening to records was a family affair -- no personal stereos or iPods to speak of, you listened to the album on the family stereo system together. We laughed, sang along and danced around like crazy people to most of them...especially this one!

Public Enemy . It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back [1988]
As a white, middle-class kid coming of age (ha!) in the late-80s/early-90s, I guess I was somewhat obligated to listen to Public Enemy. Of course, I didn't understand any of the issues Chuck and Flava were rapping about, but it just didn't matter. The beats did. So did the samples. So did the intense delivery of Chuck's lyrics. The fun and craziness of Flava's rhymes (and that clock!). And the intrigue behind the crew they associated with (S1W's anyone?). This was my gateway, oddly enough, to earlier hip-hop and what fuels my search for the real hip-hop.

Slaughter - Stick It to Ya [1990]
I should also mention that I grew up on a rather healthy dose of 80's Hair Rock -- I would call this album the soundtrack to that era. One of the tracks on this album -- Fly to the Angels (Acoustic) -- is the first time I can recall hearing an acoustic version of a song. Although the notion of creating and releasing an acoustic version of a song was worn out over the next 10 years by the corporate music industry, it's still hard to deny the beauty that lies in a stripped-down version of one of your favorites.

Black Crows . Shake Your Money Maker [1990]
Don't laugh, but I spent the summer before my freshman year of high school sitting in my room building models -- cars and trucks -- and listening to this tape in a Magnavox boom box. It was edgy. It was about love, which I knew nothing about. And contained lyrics whose meaning I couldn't fully grasp. Hence the intrigue.

Guns N' Roses . Use Your Illusion I & II [1991]
Although I didn't understand the draw of these albums at the time, hindsight shows that the deeper longings and searchings that eminate from both is what distinguished them from GN'R's previous two records. I can see now that I'm wired for the search for truth...for what is real. Believe it or not, Axl Rose is on that same journey. We've certainly taken different paths and I suspect we've found different answers along the way, but we're both travellers on the journey. Oh...and that piano used throughout both albums...I'm still a sucker today for any artist that skillfully uses a piano where it's not necessarily expected.

Beastie Boys . Check Your Head [1992]
This is THE record of my high school youth. I used to drive around in an '88 Mercury Tracer booming this mix of punk and hip-hop. To this day, the Beastie Boys remain one of my favorite bands.

Led Zeppelin . The Complete Studio Recordings [1993]
I used my Pap's Christmas money one year back in high school (1990-94) to buy The Complete Studio Recordings. Led Zeppelin's brand of rock is classic in every sense of the word. Still go to these albums all the time, and it never fails...I always hear something new or something that is just awe-inspiring.

Smashing Pumpkins . Siamese Dream [1993]
This album was my Nevermind. While everyone else was listening to Nirvana, this band just totally captured my musical interests. I guess you can chalk that up to the current you see running through most of these 25 albums -- a nod to the reflective, internal, and longings of one's heart. For me, rock music was never about banging my head into nothingness, it was finding yourself lost in the music in such a way as to engage true reflection on where you had come from, what you had learned as a result and how you were going to move forward.

Beck . Where It's At [1994]
Not quite hip-hop. Not quite alternative. Not quite pop. But just about perfect.

Veruca Salt . American Thighs [1994]
Two women fronting an alternative rock band in the 90's? It was for this very reason this band never really got a lot of credit for doing anything; but I believe them to be, and this album to be, one of the true gems of the alternative rock era.

Portishead . Dummy [1994]
Hold up -- there's actually a group that uses lush, electronic production and instrumentation, that's fronted by a woman with alternative leanings who can actually sing the pangs of her heart and make you believe...sign me up!

Radiohead . The Bends [1995]
Yes...before OK Computer there was The Bends. I guess more than anything, it raised the level of what I should expect from the music I listened to. More proof that music, good music, should be defined as art. This is a Top-10 all time record for me.

Deftones . Adrenaline [1995]
Introduced me to a level of emotion in music -- both lyrically and instrumentally -- to which I had yet to encounter. This album will always serve as the litmus for emotional music.

MTV's AMP [1997]
So there used to be this one hour slot on MTV that ran in the wee early morning hours that played nothing but electronic music videos. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before (these guys make music with computers and electronic instruments, no guitars or drums?). The focus was the music and drawing out that inner sense that every soul feels to express itself through dance, you just needed to heed the call. And I did. I certainly didn't live and die for raves (or even join the movement, so to speak), but I did enjoy going out every once in a while with some good friends to dance myself into a frenzy. Photek's Ni Ten Ichi Ryu is the standout track here and one of my all time favorites. I don't dance anymore (at least publically), but I would venture to say that a significant portion of the music I consume today is electronic of some sort. The sound has changed over the years, but that inner call still screams for its freedom.

Björk . Homogenic [1997]
If you look up the dictionary definition of the word "original," you're sure to find a reference to Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. The songs from this album touch a point deep inside me with their lush production, sweeping melodies and delicate vocals that feel strangely familiar. It was just another reminder to me that it was okay to be different in life.

Weezer . The Blue Album [1994]
In a weird way, Weezer was indie before indie was indie. I discovered this album a few years after its release (with some help from my friends). For that reason, this album defines a certain time in my life (late-college/post-college) and the friends and times we shared. I definitely miss my Pittsburgh peeps!

Elliott Smith . XO [1998]
This album opened my eyes to the whole singer-songwriter genru. A guy, his guitar, and the lyrics of one's life. Today I would say it's the one genru of music I could not do without.

1.8.7. - Quality Rolls [1998]
Electronic dance music is littered with too many sounds and sub-genrus to name. This was my introduction to drum-n-bass, the sub-genru that quickly became my favorite.

DJ Shadow . Entroducing... [2001]
A talented guy from the West Coast takes a bunch of old records with amazing hooks and puts them all together to create his very own piece of original work.

Tree63 . Tree63 [2001]
Opened me up to "christian" music in my adult life. I hate labeling bands as secular or christian because I believe true art should bridge all gaps...but at the same time I have a true appreciation for these guys becasue they weren't afraid to mention the name of Jesus or His transforming message in any of their songs. I credit this album with opening me up to artists such as The Benjamin Gate, David Crowder*Band and a tiny band from San Diego named Switchfoot.

k-os . Exit [2003]
I grew up on 80's and early-90's hip-hop, witnessed the "death" of hip-hop with the introduction of gangsta rap and then caught a glimmer of hope for hip-hop's second coming with this album. Not sure you'll see this much credit given to this album in any other place, but it represents everything to me that is hip-hop and creativity.

Cool Hand Luke . Wake Up, O Sleeper [2003]
Saw these guys live at the Purple Door Festival and ordered their first album the minute I got home that day. I remember listening to the album for the first time in my car on the way home from work one day. Specifically, I remember sitting at a red light and hearing lyrics that were just bathed in depth and honesty. I rebelled against Christian music for so many years because of what I perceived as its lack of depth. When I heard this, I remember how hard it was for me to believe that these guys loved God and could sing about it with honesty and true emotion. It changed my view of everything artistically worthy of our Lord, that there was this level that we must all strive for -- a level that does away with the need of labeling something as secular or Christian. Everything is sacred.

Sufjan Stevens . Seven Swans [2004]
Phew...where do I even begin. Thanks to the robust indie music blog-o-sphere, I discovered Sufjan's music art about six years ago. Much like my God...it has changed my life. And I don't say that lightly. The sincerity and musicianship that comes across in this album is breath-taking. Top 5 all time for me, no doubt.

Imogen Heap . Speak for Yourself [2005]
Creativity at its best. In some ways, Imogen is a modern-day Björk. True independence and fresh thinking in music, at a time when the scene was well on its way to being overcrowded. A time when any 13-year old could make music (and I use the term loosely) on a computer, but very few were actually creating anything of note. This is a sweeping, rich-textured masterpiece of sound that led me to other artists like Kate Havnevik and Milosh.

Josh Garrels . Love & War & The Sea In Between
There are a few albums one comes across in life at just the right time that simply feel as though they've been written for you -- this is one of them. Frankly, I've been in this weird place spiritually for quite some time. And it's not like this album served as a magic elixar or anything, but I truly believe that the Spirit has used it (and continues to use it) to speak truth into my life -- about who I am, about who I was created to be and a little more about how this faith thing can be worked out in this World. I should also note that Josh is giving away the album for free.

1 comment:

Tim said...

a brilliant list. your listing of MTV Amp convinced me to listen to some electronica today on Spotify. i've always been a big fan of Underworld's Pearl's Girl which i believe is on that album. Reminded me, too of the Playstation game Wipeout XL which featured an electronica soundtrack with lots of Photek.

also great: P.E. remember the video to Fight the Power? made you want to join Professor Griff and the S1W's, didn't it?

On the Fritz - brilliant.
Check your Head... rap with live instrumentation. mega-brilliant.

Zeppelin box set. yup, never fails.

Siamese Dream - taking me to another place just thinking about it.

Portishead... Radiohead The Bends... Beck... Veruca Salt...

i could go on. well done.

p.s. i too had a cassette copy of the Black Crowes Shake your Money Maker... loved that album.