My Youth in Records.

Just for fun. These are some albums that have made an impact on me throughout my life. I was just thinking about the way listening to an album that you listened to during a certain period in your life can instantly bring you back. So I made a list. These are not necessarily albums that I still listen to frequently. Or even necessarily my favorite albums. Or my favorite albums by these artists. Just albums that perhaps were in the right place at the right time in my world. In chronological order. That is, the chronology of when I discovered them. Not when they were released. Because, you know, everything is about me. And yes, this post is long, lame and totally self indulgent, and I expect no one else to care about these albums at all.

Rush – Grace Under Pressure:

I will spare the reader of this post, and just put ONE Rush album on here, but in all honestly every single one, beginning with 2112 has had a tremendous impact on me. My father’s all time favorite band, and the band that introduced me to music. This album came out in 1984, when I was three. When it did, my dad made for me a mix tape that included some songs from this album. I listened to the mix tape every night before bed. Let the nerdiness ensue! To the best of my recollection, here is the track listing of that mix tape:

  • Distant Early Warning – Rush
  • After Image – Rush
  • Panama – Van Halen
  • Jump – Van Halen
  • Hot for Teacher – Van Halen
  • These Dreams – Heart
  • Perfect Strangers – Deep Purple
  • Knocking at Your Back Door – Deep Purple
  • Countdown – Rush

I know some of these songs are totally inappropriate for a three year old. My parents were never big on censorship, I guess. And I have no idea whether these were songs I asked for on the tape, or if my dad chose the songs.

Scorpions – Love at First Sting.

Yes, I know all the words to every song on this album. Yes, it’s terrible… Terribly awesome!

Heart – Heart

Ditto. Ann and Nancy rock. I remember jumping on the bed singing these songs before I knew what any of them were about. Matt knows that any road trip we take over a certain mileage will involve me belting out the lyrics of this entire album at the top of my lungs.

Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime:

Totally not age-appropriate. Why on earth was a 10 year old listening to music about heroin, hit men, prostitutes and the corruption of organized religion? No idea. But I turned out okay. And it got me into heavier, more serious-themed music. I’m super disappointed in what became of this band. Seriously Geoff Tate? Spitting on your bandmates?

Soul Asylum – Let Your Dim Light Shine:

If I am being honest, and I am, this album is not that good. But boy, did I love it in 6th grade.

Soundgarden – Superunknown:
Shannon, meet grunge. My dad belonged to one of those mail-order music clubs. They sent cds to him, and he had 30 days to return them if he didn’t like them. I think that is how this album came into my existence. It opened a Pandora’s box of Seattle sound for me. It took me a few years to recover from grunge, and start combing my greasy hair again, but this album will always hold a special spot in my heart.

U2 – Achtung Baby:
This album is a bit of a mixed memory bag for me. When your house burns down, in droves, people give you stuff they don’t want. This album was in a box of stuff the neighbor gave to us. She was 5ish years older than me and way cooler. For several months, after the great house fire of 1996, this was the only album I owned. It’s a good one. Still one of my favorites to listen to on quiet, rainy days.

Blind Melon – Blind Melon.
This album is full of intricate guitar melodies and beautiful Hoon-harmonies. I still love it. The bee song really ticks me off because it is by far the simplest and least good song on the album.

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness:
I’m about to make a bold statement guys. Are you ready? Best album of all time. BAM! It’s varied. It’s got mellows and manics. It expresses elation and fury. The lyrics are both thoughtful and impulsive. But it’s all cohesive. As a good album should be, it is more than just a collection of songs. It’s an opus. I think Billy Corgan blew his load with this one, though. Adore was great too, but nothing would ever compare to Mellon Collie.

Pink Floyd – The Wall:
I was like 15 years late discovering this one. I found the double disc set in a dusty box of crap my mom bought at a yard sale, or something. But it totally rocked my high school world. Butt judges? And the movie. I’m still messed up from the movie.

Yes – Fragile:
I apparently had a classic/prog rock revival in high school because this album and it’s Moog immediately transport me back to sitting in my teenager bedroom, doing teenager things. (most likely moping… or painting my fingernails) I think this is Yes’ best album. Before they went all “Owner of a Lonely Heart” on everyone.

Tori Amos – Boys for Pele:
So glorious. Such beautiful songs full of ethereal imagery. I credit this lady for getting me into lady-fronted music. And for kind of redefining femininity for me after growing up in a house where I felt shamed for feeling female. I remember feeling enchanted. Tori comes across as strong and fierce and knows how to swear, and still delicate, quiet and thoughtfully intelligent. Really? It’s okay for me to have all the emotions?

Bjork – Homogenic:
And this one, too. Although I will also credit Bjork with getting me into electronic music. Or just different music. Up until Bjork, my taste in music were pretty well-described as rock/alternative. Plus, I revered anyone who made me feel better about being weird. She’s so quirky. She just does what she wants. And I ate that up.

Jimmy Eat World – Jimmy Eat World:
Don’t lie. You love Jimmy Eat World. I feel like I hear this band described with the words “guilty pleasure” more than any other. Save, like, Katy Perry or something. But why’s it gotta be guilty? They’re brainy. They’re eloquent. They’re fun. They’re good. I’m not sure why they seem to be associated with bands like Sum 41. But anyway. This album is the soundtrack to my last summer at home before college. I could almost taste the impending freedom. And also bonding, for real, with my sister, Sherry. We stayed up until midnight to watch X-files and then went jogging after that. And got stopped by cops. Because apparently, its weird to go jogging at 1am. But anyway, that summer marks the first time I was really able to see her as a peer. Where our 4-year age gap seemed smaller than it had previously. It’s a pleasant memory.

A Perfect Circle – Mer de Noms:
Umm. Thank you, Maynard. This album is moving to another state, living in a hot dorm room and finally being freeeee! It was over 100 degrees in Richmond Virginia when I moved into my dorm, on the 8th floor of an old building with no air conditioning. I remember just lying on that linoleum floor, sweating, and feeling like my entire life was just beginning.

Incubus – S.C.I.E.N.C.E:

This is an awesome album full of energy and excitement. And it’s kind of intellectual, too. For me, it kind of defines that post-college “oh-shit-now-I-really-have-to-figure-things-out” phase. I remember feeling like such a child, and overwhelmed by my new adult responsibilities. And wondering if all the good parts of my life were over. Had I wasted them? I mean, all I really wanted to do was smoke cigarettes and work in a bakery with my friends.

Smashing Pumpkins – Adore:
There were some dark times. And some stagnant times. These somber songs resonated well, and carried me through it.

The Decemberists – 5 songs:

This short but sweet little record, I associate with a personal restoration. I discovered The Decemberists band as I emerged from those aforementioned dark and stagnant times. Weirdly, this was the first record I heard by this band. It reminds me of fresh air and picking myself back up and rebuilding my life. And also like feeling like a grown up, in charge of my fate, for the first time ever.

And I guess I’ll stop there. Is it pathetic that my “childhood” as described here ends at age 26? Ha ha. There are plenty of albums that could have made this list, I just figured it was long and boring enough as-is.

Thoughts? Can you relate? Any albums that totally define an era in your life?


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