Saturday, March 07, 2009

Top 20 Albums

Here's another Facebook post that I figured I'd put on the blog as well...

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"Think of 20 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 and emotions. When you finish, tag 20 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill."

I wasn’t actually tagged for this, but saw someone else's list and was so intrigued I decided to do it anyway. It was harder than I thought, and made we wish I could be as eloquent as someone like Nick Hornby about the music that really moved me over the years. I’m probably forgetting some albums that I used to have but lost somewhere along the way, and I definitely feel like I’m missing some from high school and earlier. Then again, singles were bigger then (ask your parents, kids). These aren’t necessarily the “best” albums, and aren’t necessarily the ones I listen to most frequently (there are a few that I listen to constantly, but I don’t necessarily have a strong emotional attachment). I'm not going to tag anyone, but do it if you're feeling so inspired. In rough order of when I discovered them:

1. Abbey Road – The Beatles. I had a big Beatles phase in high school, which preceded my country music phase (a time when I actually thought being a redneck was a good thing). This was my favorite of their albums.

2. Who’s Next – The Who. This coincided with my Beatles phase. While I liked some Led Zeppelin, I never got into them as much as I got into The Who. Hard to top the combination of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for air guitar fun.

3. Synchronicity – The Police. My last year in high school, I was still listening to a lot of country music and was reluctant to get into so-called New Wave music. This was the first step in getting over that reluctance. This album was probably the closest thing to a soundtrack of senior year.

4. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd. I didn’t go through a stoner phase, but this even blew me away sober. I associate it with long road trips and drinking outdoors with friends. I still listen to it on long flights.

5. Avalon – Roxy Music. This was either the first or second CD I ever bought (the other was Sting’s “Nothing Like the Sun”), and is still one of my all-time favorites. “More Than This” is absolutely brilliant—just typing that inspired me to play it.

6. The Hurting – Tears for Fears. In college I finally gave into the New Wave thing, and while there were a lot of great songs from the mid-‘80s, I always liked this album as a whole. (Also in contention: Yaz’s “Upstairs at Eric’s.”)

7. The Joshua Tree – U2. Blew me away at the time. I happened to be in Tempe, Arizona when they opened their U.S. tour in support of the album, and even though I didn’t go to the show, we had listened to it while driving across the desert, and it was all anyone was talking about. Shortly after that I saw them at the San Diego Sports Arena. I probably listen more to “Achtung Baby” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” (which brings back its own memories of our time in Switzerland) now, but nothing takes me back to a specific place in time like “The Joshua Tree.” And “With or Without You” is still a favorite.

8. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes. My sophomore year in college, I went on an exchange program for a quarter at Dartmouth. My roommate there introduced me to the Talking Heads and the Violent Femmes, and while I’m probably more likely to listen to Talking Heads now, Violent Femmes defined the times. (I went back and forth between this and the Rave-Ups’ “Town + Country,” and I’m still not entirely sure I made the right choice.)

9. The Trinity Session – Cowboy Junkies. Another one that’s still an all-time favorite. In a time of New Wave pop (which I liked) and bad hair bands (which I didn’t), this album was almost revolutionary. It just has such a mellow vibe.

10. In My Tribe – 10,000 Maniacs. The first album I strongly associate with my post-undergrad days. I guess it was a little more grown-up than what I had listened to in college. Saw them in concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley (with openers Camper Van Beethoven). They seemed destined to go on to greatness at the time. Go figure.

11. Out of Time - R.E.M. Maybe not their “best” album, but one that I listened to constantly. It still holds up quite well.

12. Pet Sounds – Beach Boys. Not sure why I didn’t discover one of the greatest albums of all time until my mid-20s. I was dealing with an ill-fated attempt at a long-distance relationship at the time and this album spoke to me on the long drive back to the Bay Area from L.A. It used to make me wistful; now I just appreciate how great the music is.

13. Passion – Peter Gabriel. I never actually saw The Last Temptation of Christ, so I’m not sure how I got into this album (other than already liking Peter Gabriel). I did a lot of thinking to it.

14. The Road to Ensenada – Lyle Lovett. I’ve got most of his CDs and went back and forth between three or four of them for this list, but I ultimately settled on this one because I probably listened to it more than any of the others. I still listen to his music all the time. Helped me realize that I still liked good, intelligent country music, and didn’t have to be a redneck to do so. (This just as easily could have been Mary Chapin Carpenter.)

15. The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails. Most of my list is on the mellower side, but this CD helped me get through grad school. There were many late nights when caffeine wasn’t enough, and this gave that extra jolt. Plus, it sounds freakin’ awesome with headphones. Gretchen would call this my “angry music.”

16. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I don’t remember exactly when I discovered this, but “Ode to Joy” still inspires me and sometimes gives me chills.

17. Massachusetts – Scud Mountain Boys. I discovered this at a music store in Chicago on a cross-country drive to Seattle. The trip ended up being something of a nightmare, so this CD helped keep me sane. Another one that I still like to listen to, and another one with a strong country influence.

18. So Long So Wrong – Alison Krauss & Union Station. Like Lyle Lovett, I could just have easily listed anything of hers. But this is the album that turned me on to her music, and I have a very strong association with the giddy whirlwind days when Gretchen and I were first dating.

19. Songs 1993-1998 – Moby. Even though this is technically a greatest hits compilation, I didn’t know any of the songs on this CD prior to owning it. (And I’m still not entirely sure how I discovered it.) I was doing a lot of international travel when I started listening to this, and the more atmospheric songs were great to sleep to on red-eye flights to Europe. I can’t hear this without thinking of waking up to flight attendants serving breakfast as the sun was rising a couple of hours before landing somewhere in Europe. (Same is true of Moby’s “Play” CD—many of the songs from both are on the “Sleep” playlist on my iPod.)

20. Ibiza Chill Session 2006 (various). When we took a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital before Anneliese’s birth, we noticed that each birthing room had a CD player. One of my jobs, therefore, was to pick out some music that would help Gretchen relax. I went to the MediaMarkt and picked up a few random trance CDs, and this ended up being the best of the lot. I seldom listened to it before or after, but it makes the list because it was the soundtrack of our daughter’s birth.

(Honorable mentions that almost made the list: Body and Soul – Joe Jackson; Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen; Rabbit Songs – Hem; Someone’s Got to Pay – The Wilders; Time*Sex*Love – Mary Chapin Carpenter; Whatever & Ever Amen – Ben Folds Five; The Essential Yo-Yo Ma; Hotel California – The Eagles; Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins/Nevermind – Nirvana (tie).)