Wednesday, February 18, 2009

15 albums that changed my life

As I'm still deciding whether/where to do my 25 things, this meme seemed too important to pass up. It will also make me feel less lame for not having done a Top 10 for 2008.

These aren't all time favorites -- you'll notice Pixies, Hem, Regina Spektor, Sibylle Baier, The Smiths, Sufjan Stevens, Underworld, Darren Hanlon, Fleet Foxes, Frente, Grandaddy, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, The Spice Girls, Bjork, Blur, Crosby Still a&nd Nash, The Delgados, and many other major ones are not on here. Non-embedded links (i.e., mom, the kind you can't just lick to listen to) are deep-linked--if you do click on them, it will take you to the exact spot in the video I'm talking about.

Also, there are a few albums that changed my life like Steely Dan, Manhattan Transfer and Weather Report, but I'd rather not talk about those.

Help! - The Beatles
Any Beatles album could go here, really. But this might be my favorite. In the movie Help!, there's a scene where Paul McCartney plays a girl like a guitar to the tune of "Another Girl" and this probably awoke in me not just deep sexual feelings, but also feelings of wanting to be with someone forever and ever. Foreign feelings to a 12 years old. And since I listened to the UK version of the album, other favorites were "Yesterday," "I've Just Seen a Face," and "I Need You." In fact, all of the Beatles-penned songs on the album are probably among my top 25 favorite Beatles songs. I feel like it's cheating to encapsulate all the ways the Beatles albums changed my life in just one entry, but I must try.

OK Computer - Radiohead
What else can I say about this? This is no surprise to any of you who have talked to me for more than 10 minutes. But the first time I heard this was 6am, at swim practice, and I did breast stroke so I could keep my head above water more to hear it. Maybe this was when breaststroke become my stroke of choice, and that right there is a way it changed my life. But it continued to effect me for years. When my grandfather died, my dad was listening to this album for the first time, and he said all he could think as he watched his own father fail on life support was "Breathe, keep breathing" from Exit Music, which is why I must cry every time I hear that song, and why it is physically impossible for me to sing along. Every song has a moment like that, where its utter beauty is intermingled with a devestating moment of my life. "Kill me Sarah, kill me again, with love." Sorrow and horror become beauty and wonder. To again cheat and bring in more than one Radiohead album to this one entry, "Street Spirit" is one of my very favorite songs for the same reasons...such a dark song, all ending with "immerse yourself in love." It was confusing for a long time, until Katy told me "because that's all you can do sometimes. That's all you have sometimes, but you always have it." It helps me remember that I do always have love.

Evita - Andrew Lloyd Weber
My goodness, I wore holes in these CD! I still know the entire libretto by heart. I've seen the play twice. I just adore all the songs, even when Madonna's singing them (although I had the white-covered, studio-recorded version). I was fascinated when, 10 years after my obsession, a boyfriend's relative had a book that tied the lyrics to all the actual historical events. I looked through it longingly for hours on a trip to New York, wishing desperately I could give it to my 11-year-old self.

Blame It on the Rain - Milli Vanilli
This was the first "cool" album that I genuinely liked. I felt popular at camp for liking it, and I knew most of the words to most of the songs. It was also one of the first 3 CDs I ever owned (along with Faith No More and Martika). I remember riding home from school in 4th grade and mom telling me "We got a CD player today!" She was clearly excited by this news, but I had no earthly idea what she was talking about. Until, for my birthday, I received those 3 shiny CDs.

To The Extreme - Vanilla Ice
Speaking of firsts, Vanilla Ice was my first (and possibly only) tape. I have to include it because I really knew a lot of these words. Like Milli Vanilli, it made me feel cool at the time. But it sure doesn't now. It sure. Doesn't. Now.

"Ice, Ice Baby" (Yo, VIP, let's kick it!)

Mix Tapes from Friends
Anya gave me my first ever mix tape, as an apology for something. It was a fabulous tape, full of all the indie bands she, as a very Cool Person, knew about. Soul Coughing, Camper Van Beethoven, Joy Division. Sam, my boyfriend, gave me a ton of tapes, all filled with sophisticated adult music like Freedy Johnston, James Taylor, and Billy Joel. Not Very Cool, but enjoyable nonetheless. Leigh and I exchanged mixes, and she gave me my last mix tape in college, introducing me to Portland acts including Elliott Smith.

Mix CDs from Friends
I have loved every mix CD I've ever received. The thought that goes into a mix usually guarantees it will be a worthy endeavor, and there's never been a mix where I didn't fall head over heels in love with at least one song. My first mix CD may have been from Chad. I make him biannual mixes still, trying to repay him for that one. It had the

"Gelfling Song" from the Dark Crystal, and it had

"Ashokan Farewell" from the Civil War documentary. Andy mailed me a mix all the way to India, which sustained me through many a dark night along with his first mix for me. The song I fell in love most with was by

K's choice, but he also introduced me to Tanya Donnelly, Hooverphonic, and Architecture in Helsinki, all of whom I play on my show now. Nadine makes wonderful CDs, and she is my most regular exchanger. Last October, my favorites were the

Be Good Tanyas,

The Helio Sequence, and Joshua James. In England her first one introducted me to Dar Williams, and Eddie From Ohio. Ron's introduced me to Vetiver, Gillian Welch, and

Mark Kozelek (of Sun Kil Moon), but he has never given me a second one, which breaks my heart. Josh introducted me to all sorts of indie music, but I will always thank him most for introducing me to Angelene, by PJ Harvey.

The Magnolia Soundtrack (Aimee Mann)
Any album I listened to ad nauseum makes some stamp on my life...or really, vice versa. So a few of these, you could say are albums that my life changed. This album was imprinted during the World's Largest Road Trip with Katy and Lauren. We listened to the 6 Aimee Mann songs until we knew ever word of every song. Then we listened to them 400 times more. Hearing any one of these songs take me back to being 20 (19?), with my two best friends in the middle of America, doing god know's what, but certainly not your typical bachanalian road trip happenings.
Is This Desire? - PJ Harvey
Thanks to a CD from Josh, I learned that PJ Harvey might not be the terrifying experience I'd always seen her to be. In fact, she could be glorious, (to quote her, "imagine your whole self filled with light."). I learned not to write off things that I don't have a lot of information. It's a lesson I'm constantly learning in real life, but I've gotten better at understanding it in music.

Boy With the Arab Strap - Belle and Sebastian
One of my all-time favorite albums. It made me eventually realize that whatever he may think, my dad is not the end-all opinion on music. Far from it. It eventually led me to the realization that he's also not the smartest man in the world and also not the best guitarist that ever lived. These were things I was raised believing, so it was a weird epiphany. But Belle and Sebastian were too important, and when dad didn't like them, those two realities collided. I chose Stuart Murdoch over my dad.

Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) - The Kinks
OK, but dad was right about this one. One of my favorite albums of ever, and it introduced me in a major way to the Kinks. There are better Kinks albums, but this is the one that opened a musical chapter in my life.


Trust - Low
This is another "imprinted" album. I got it from the Austin library and had it memorized (lyrics and music) by the time I returned it 3 weeks later. It's seeped in dark, but it swells like religion, and makes me love Mormons all the more. But it will always make me think of my first months in Austin, when the city was still just a stopping point. Now I know I'll always love Austin, and I will stay here if I possibly can.

"(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace"

Nick Drake
A compilation that is currently unavailable. My dad introduced me to Nick Drake through this CD, and I woke up to Fruit Tree almost every day for a year. I once said I wanted to make a music video of River Man, and my friend making fun of me said "Shot of river...cut to, man slitting his wrists." I was irate! Nick Drake is not depressing! Nick Drake is mellow. Like Radiohead (who, OK, can be depressing sometimes), he keeps you company while you're down, he helps you NOT slit your wrists, because you don't feel quite so alone.

Hail to the Thief - Radiohead

So I failed utterly to keep it to just one album from my two favorites (Radiohead and the Beatles), but doesn't it look nice, the two bookends? Well, this one...I don't know what to say about it. It grew on me like few other albums ever have, and it was the first album I saw them perform live. Something about

Thom Yorke dancing to Myxomytosis makes my stomach flip. I remember listening to the Gloaming as I walked through pitch dark woods at Twin Oaks, feeling along the trail with my bare feet. Getting chills from the line "Murderers, you murderers, we are not the same as you."

Sgt. Pepper - The Beatles

Oh, it's so pointless to pick a second Beatles album. I could pick them all. But there's something about that red cover that always makes this one stand out in my mind. Even though Abbey Road is my favorite album after Help!, this one made me feel high for like a month. I never did drugs, but I felt like I did them with the Beatles. They were the only thing I knew that made drugs seem cool. Certain others certainly made it not seem cool ;) But THIS...

I want to go to there


Leigh said...

One I owe you--Tori Amos "Little Earthquakes" album. I don't even think you listen to her anymore do you? But I loved it; it made me feel all dark and deep.

Carrie said...

No, I don't really listen to her much anymore, but I almost put Little Earthquakes on there, too. I should have, really. And should have pointed out that a mix CD also introduced me to her song "Ireland," which I adore.

Leigh said...

Oooh yeah. I love that song too. Maybe I'll go listen to it now. That one came on when we were in your aunt's car driving to DC. What fun!