Monday, April 6, 2009

not a shocking list, really.

"Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you that 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 -- no matter how they were received by the critics -- shaped YOUR world. When you finish, tag 15 others if that makes you happy. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill."

ooh, a facebook meme. it's music related, and may give ya'll an idea where i'm coming from/a chance to bash my taste. i can only do 14. sorry.

jethro tull - aqualung
this is the first album i can really remember loving, and it's mostly because of the last song "wind up". i mean, one cannot deny the thundering power of the title track, or 'hymn 43', or 'locomotive breath'. but it is the quiet rejection of societal expectations of 'wind up' that always stuck with me the most. church was never part of my life growing up personally, but being a quiet studious nerd, i ran with a lot of christian kids and this album helped me articulate and eventually understand why organized religion always seemed terrifying to me. is it a stretch to say that it was this sort of dissatisfaction with the accepted norm that led me to punk rock, and the musicianship on this album led me to metal? maybe. but i think it's not without truth, either.

the who - tommy
this, along with "aqualung", are both albums i inherited a love for from my father. his love for music was something that pervades even my earliest memories. i remember riding in his classic chevy(i forget the year, i was never any good with cars)and listening to the radio and he knew all the words, and i thought that was about the coolest thing ever. he really loved this album, and while it has taken a back seat to other who albums in my preferred listening line-up, it still looms large in my listening history. i have memories of taking this record out of my dad's collection and playing it clumsy, placing the needle on the groove(god, my dad must have been so patient to let a dumb kid ruin his records), and reading along with the lyrics, marveling at the spiked fists on the inside cover. so i suppose this is one of the first albums that allowed me to view music as an artifact, as something in and of it's own right, not just something to fill up empty space.

they might be giants - flood
i have no idea how i found they might be giants, but i do know this is the first cd i ever bought. it was probably on one of my periodic audiogalaxy/napster binges, and their weird, dark take on pop seemed perfect for a kid yearning to be different but not too different. one of my favorite parts of the fantasy novels i devoured as a young kid was always the all-knowing wizard, and music like this, filled with references to greek mythology, and german cities i've still never been to, allowed me to both expand what i expected from music and my knowledge of the world at large and maybe get one step closer to that shrewd warlock from those cliched books.

the dillinger escape plan - calculating infinity
i will admit i had a brief nu-metal phase. however, it was brought on mostly by MTV and napster, and so i never really listened to anything but singles for those three dark months. eventually, i found my way to this, and fuck. jesus fucking christ. how are you supposed to go back to fucking drop-d chug-chug-chug 'i hate my life' bullshit after a fucking neutron bomb like this? i spent too much of my time learning the words to '43% burnt' when DEP was looking for a vocalist, and recording abysmal attempts. man. the follies of youth. anyway. this fucking album kills, and introduced me to other bands like deadguy, botch, creation is crucifixion, and was pretty instrumental in getting me to go to local shows, and listen to loud music and suchlike.

bane - it all comes down to this
this is the album that got me into hardcore, and it is still as powerful as it was the first time i heard it in 2002. between the fierce metal background screams, to the beautiful acoustic guitar interludes, this seriously challenged what i expected from music. top it all off with aaron's tremendously intelligent lyrics, and this album still wows me when i put on it to this day. "a place in the sun" is one of the best songs ever, and the part where aaron sings "or how badly i miss my mother" and builds to "or how much i've come to LOVE! MY! FATHER!" and then the back-up vocals kick in, and goddamn. the idea that heavy music could deal with more than anger was eye-opening.

the suicide file - twilight
of course, there's nothing wrong with anger. boston hardcore defined most of my high school/college years, and this album was a huge part of that. i can remember listening to the suicide file's demo tape over and over and once this album came out, it was entrenched in my listening habits immediately. writing hardcore songs that were as catchy as they were furious, the suicide file eloquently captured my disgust with most of my 'peers' and with the way the world seemed to work. the last time i saw this band i was screaming so loudly i almost threw up three-fourths of the way through their set.

godspeed you black emperor! - fa#oo
sometimes punk songs won't take you where you need to go. post-rock is a mostly bullshit tag for a mostly full of shit genre, but this album is fucking flawless, and is one of the reasons why i have the attention span to sit and listen to black metal, and noise. the opening track('dead flag blues') is maybe one of my favorite pieces of music ever, mostly for how the entire piece sucks you into this morass of despair, a post-apocalyptic landscape of broken cars and scorched bones, and then at the end there is this charming uplifting melody, and you can hope again, and that's what i love about it. no matter how shitty things get, there is light at the end.

the mountain goats - tallahassee
unless, of course, you're the alpha couple, john darnielle's personification of every shitty thing about love, and hate, and the focus of 'tallahassee'. 'tallahassee' was the first mountain goats album i ever heard. i had heard it compared to 'who's afraid of virginia woolf?' by edward albee(a play i was directing at the time), and as i was having issues entering into the proper state of mind, trying to understand what kept george and martha together, this album seemed like a possible entry-way to that mindset. while albee's characters are not the alpha couple, the emotional underpinnings are very similar. this was one of the early studio mountain goats albums, and you can tell. some of the songs feel weirdly over-produced, and clunky. however, the mountain goats quickly became and consistently remain one of my favorite groups ever, and the things i love about them(the way john illuminates complex social situations with simple, repetitive lyrics being the primary reason) are in full display here.

modern life is war - my love, my way
modern life is war was one of the best bands of my generation, and their debut album is filled with anger and hunger and fury and was the soundtrack to the last five years of my life. i have words from this album etched into my skin. i've seen this band more than any other, and have gone to the greatest efforts to see them(booking them at my school, convincing people to drive from beloit to chicago to see them, driving from chicago to marshalltown with someone i barely knew to see their final show) this album is almost entirely flawless("war" is a song i'm not a huge fan, but it would provide a hint to their evolution into hardcore's masters of tension) and songs like "first and ellen" and "a tale of two cities," songs that understand how absolutely fucked things can get, and still, still in the face of all that darkness provide a glimpse of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel are few and far between, and should be treasured. this band could be your life.

bomb the music industry! - goodbye cool world
this is the album that made me think maybe ska wasn't strictly shit like the blue meanies and the aquabats, that perhaps adding horns to punk didn't just take the bite out of it. bitter, sarcastic, and genre-hopping(though there are plenty o' horns and ska guitar parts), "goodbye cool world" eased the transition from college kid to productive member of society by reassuring me that everyone else was going through the same self-doubt bullshit, and giving me a catchy soundtrack to dance along to. ain't no shame in bein' poor.

lucero - that much further west...
i went through the whole "i listen to everything but country and rap" and this album changed the country part, at least. i mean, like most things, it was the punky background that hooked me, but i stayed for the bitter yet hopeful lyrics and the rousing sing-a-longs and the glimpses into worlds i'd never seen before(bars, motel room trysts, real regret, distance, forgiveness). i will also credit this band for getting me into jawbreaker, which i cannot thank them enough for.

against me! - reinventing axl rose
whatever this becomes
whatever words I say
we are the fortunate ones...
and when the days are done
i won't forget
i don't agree with where this band has gone, but this album made me believe in myself, in other people, and in the idea of reconstruction. i probably wouldn't be playing guitar or trying to write music right now if it wasn't for this album. it also taught me that all our heroes are only human.

paul and ginger - darkness at the edge of town
i love bruce springsteen, but there was a time when i didn't. this charming folk-punk duo and their energetic takes on classic bruce songs introduced me to the idea of re-examining music i'd written off, placing it within it's proper context(NOT CLASSIC ROCK RADIO. ugh.), and finding value in places i hadn't expected it to be. it's also very tied to certain places and people, and just hearing their version of 'thunder road' takes me to a winter's day where everything was closed except a card store and the only cure for the cold was spicy soup from asia. that kind of memorytie is hard to find, and valuable to me, and so this album is important. it's also just so charming because these songs have been stripped down to their words and two acoustic guitars, and while the e street band fucking rules, bruce pens songs that fight through on the backs of their convinctions, of their words, and all of that is on full display here.

converge - petitioning the empty sky
jane doe is my favorite album by this band, but this is the one i heard first, and still, the weirdness and sadness of it is affecting and brings me back to my first adventures in punk and metal. the opening track, "the saddest day" is seven minutes of unmatched fury, but not too far from the rage and complexity i'd heard in previous bands. it was songs like "albatross" and "buried but breathing" with their openness and emotive qualities that stuck with me. jacob bannon's lyrics were also more metaphorical than the majority of what i was listening, paving the way for more intellectual lyricists, like the afore-mentioned mountain goats. i don't mean to harp on the idea of intelligent heavy music, but i do feel blessed that i started(or found rather quickly) such shining examples of what heavy music could mean(dep, converge, bane, etc) instead of getting mired in the self-loathing/sub-moronic abyss of most pop-metal.

i'm going to reserve the 15th slot for bands that have affected my outlook/musical appreciation level, but i can't pick one album by.

examples: the weakerthans, the hold steady, tullycraft, the lucksmiths, jawbreaker

mmm. in other news, i really cannot stop listening to the thorns of life bootleg. aside from the "first time", it's really fucking good.

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