The following is a sort-of chronological listening of important songs, albums, and musical experience which have all helped to create my current musical tastes. It’s by no means a complete list of all of my favorite songs or albums or bands, and some of these selections aren’t even things I like anymore, but they were all immensely important in one way or another.
Harold Faltermeyer – “Axel F”
Best remembered as the theme song to Beverly Hills Cop, which came out the year I was born. Worst remembered for that stupid Crazy Frog bullshit. This is going to sound really weird, but one of my very first memories as a baby was hearing this song. I know I was a baby because we were still living in my parent’s first home, which they moved out of when I was still very young. I can’t begin to understand why I have this memory, but I think it says something about how powerful music has been in my personal history. And maybe it planted the seed that made me love electronic music later in life. I can’t really explain this one. I have at least three distinct memories of things that happened to me before age three and, bizarrely, this was one of them.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (specifically The Nutcracker Suite)
As a baby/toddler/tiny yachtsboy, my mom would put me to sleep listening to classical music. We had a set of tapes focusing on about ten different composers which included selections of their music mixed in with biographical information. This was like the early precursor to listening to music while browsing info about them on Wikipedia, I guess. My favorite of the bunch was Tchaikovsky. During his career, Tchaikovsky was often criticized for being overly dramatic or compositionally shallow, yet there would eventually be a reevaluation in the 21st century which praised his amazing tunefulness and craft. And for a little kid, I’m sure it was this tunefulness that planted his music so deeply into my brain and continued to fuel so much nostalgia whenever I hear his music. Even after being exposed to more complex and experimental classical music later in life, there has always been a spot in my heart for his music. I’m thankful for the early exposure to classical music, which allowed me to later appreciate figures like John Cage, Igor Stravinsky, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among many others.
The Beatles – The White Album
Another staple of my early childhood was, not surprisingly, The Beatles. I remember that we had a small cassette stereo in the wall of our dining room that was often playing The Beatles. And then, a few years later, The White Album was one of the first compact disc purchases my parents made. You know, in one of those weird long boxes that they were originally housed in? If I remember correctly, my dad bought it from K-Mart. Oh, K-Mart. Every year on my birthday, my parents would wake me up with their “Birthday”. I was completely fascinated by every song on this album (and other Beatles albums, but this one in particular). It contains some of their best songs, obviously, but also some of their weirdest. I remember lying in the floor listening to “Revolution 9” over and over again, confused and intrigued that this could even be considered “music”. A lot of fans think it’s one of their most annoying “songs”, but it was also my first exposure to experimental music and led me to using my Talkboy to record household noises and try to make goofy “songs” of my own. I went to the college library as a kid and studied every book they had about The Beatles. I don’t listen to The Beatles nearly as often any more, but they definitely were a major factor in my love of music.
Journey – Infinity
My parents REALLY love Journey, as did all parents in the ‘80s, I think. This was the particular record of theirs that I remember being on the turntable a lot. I still have it in my collection. Cheesy music, but I still have a lot of nostalgic feelings from it. This isn’t even their “best” record (whatever it means to call something the “best” Journey record). For some reason, any time I hear “Wheel in the Sky” I have flashbacks to getting my hair cut. I guess maybe it was playing in the salon or something. I had a lot of really goofy haircuts in the ‘80s/early ‘90s, including a mullet and a couple of those Brian Bosworth-style designs shaved into the sides and back of my head. Man, Brian Bosworth.
Kiss – “Detroit Rock City”
Elton John – “Crocodile Rock”
Bill Haley & The Comets – “Rock Around the Clock”
RIck Dees – “Disco Duck”
Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music”
The Beatles – “Yellow Submarine”
My grandparents have a vintage jukebox full of 45’s and my sister, cousin, and I listened to everything on it over and over and over again. I spent A LOT of time at my grandparents’ house, and my grandma loves music every bit as much as I do, so she was pretty encouraging of our behavior. These were the songs that I was most likely to pick. My grandma, to this day, REALLY loves disco, and my dad was probably responsible for that Kiss record being in there. It isn’t hard to hear why these songs were big hits with us little kids. “Disco Duck” is an awful song though, and I feel like I owe my poor Johnny Cash-loving grandpa a billion apologies. No wonder he always seemed to be outside working on cars, feeding cattle, or riding through the pasture on the brush hog.
Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
Speaking of Cash, my grandpa did his best to expose me to quality country & western music. I went through a phase where I only wanted to listen to country music, wear cowboy boots, and watch black & white westerns. I wanted to be just like my grandpa. Johnny Cash has always been his favorite, but I also remember listening to a lot of Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr., and stuff like that. I still love classic and outlaw country and I have all of his original Johnny Cash LPs.
Garth Brooks – “Friends in Low Places”
Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
CMT was always on in my grandparents’ house (this was years before they discovered QVC and Fox News), so I heard a lot of Reba, Garth, George, and Clint. My dad hated country music. I LOVED “Friends in Low Places”. Heck, I still love it for whatever reason. Unfortunately for my parents, I also LOVED “Achy Breaky Heart”, which I think is kind of the moment when modern schlock-country fully manifested itself, leading to the Toby Keith’s of today. My grandma bought me Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind cassette in the 1st grade. I was disappointed that “Friends in Low Places” wasn’t on it, but I still wore it out. I think it might have been the first non-kid’s music cassette that I owned. My country fascination wasn’t long-lived though.
Faith No More on MTV
My dad had a VHS tape that he recorded the Knebworth ’90 Festival onto (classic rock bands like Dire Straits, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Plant & Page…I still have that VHS in my room somewhere) and I watched it quite a few times. At the end of the tape there was also part of a Faith No More concert, which really intrigued me. Faith No More is a really weird band to hear when you are six years old. Heck, Faith No More is a weird band as a 28 year old (a couple weeks ago I re-listened to their discography, and still love them). I would guess this was probably my first exposure to alternative rock.
Vanilla Ice – “Ninja Rap”
MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This”
I was obsessed with anything to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I watched the movies and TV show constantly, played the Nintendo and arcade games, read the comics, and had a ridiculous number of the action figures. I probably heard “Ice Ice Baby” first, but “Ninja Rap” was what I really loved, mostly because of its connection to my favorite movie heroes. And then, of course, everyone my age loved MC Hammer. He was the reason that I wanted stupid parachute pants and British Knights sneakers. So, yeah, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer were my introduction to rap culture. What can you do?
Madonna – Like a Prayer
For reasons I still can’t explain, my grandma had this album on cassette. But I listened to it when she wasn’t around. I will never stop loving ’80s-era Madonna.❤
Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
My dad primarily listened to hard rock when I was a little kid, and this was the heaviest CD he owned at the time. I remember hearing David Lee Roth-era VH on the radio and not being able to connect with it like I did Van Hagar. How naïve of me. This isn’t even the best of the Hagar-era Van Halen albums, and is probably only the tenth best Van Halen album overall. Maybe I just really liked Crystal Pepsi. I don’t know. Whatever, I still love Van Halen (even if I eventually realized that Roth was cooler than Hagar) and this is probably the one album that made me most want to play guitar. I had to settle with pretending to shred on my dad’s tennis racquet for a couple more years though. Around this time, my dad also was prone to wearing a t-shirt that said Bush-Whack Saddam Hussein. Not sure that’s connected to music in any way, but I guess it’s worth mentioning that the Persian Gulf War had a major impact on my childhood because watching the scud missiles on CNN scared the shit out of me, I had Persian Gulf trading cards, and I was interviewed about my thoughts on Hussein by KTEN, which was kind of my moment of fame among my classmates. None of my friends seemed as up on current events as I was, so I guess I was the only choice for local news political commentary at Hayes Elementary School. I think that’s when I became anti-war.
Fleetwood Mac – Greatest Hits
My dad was also a big fan of Fleetwood Mac and I listened to this CD a lot. Tusk is my favorite Fleetwood album. What can you say about Fleetwood Mac? They’re the best.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge”
Dinosaur Jr. – Fossils
One of the first “alternative” songs I distinctly remember hearing (after the brief exposure to Faith No More), at age seven was “Under the Bridge”. My neighbor friend had an older brother in junior high or high school at the time and I remember one night he was in his driveway playing this song on repeat while he and his friend skateboarded. On a side note, he was supposed to give me a skateboard, but that same friend of his accidentally broke it in half the day before I was supposed to get it. Really sidetracked my professional skateboarding career with that move. I wasn’t supposed to watch MTV (and even got my TV taken away from me for getting caught watching “Beavis and Butthead” and lying about it), but I remember this video was on heavy rotation every day and I loved it. I wanted long hair like Anthony Kiedis. I’m glad that’s the only thing about Anthony Kiedis I ever ended up emulating. This same neighbor had a Dinosaur Jr. cassette of “Fossils” (the one with the Troll Dolls on the cover) and, even though I hadn’t heard them, I remember that cover implanted itself in my mind and about a year later I finally saw my first Dinosaur Jr. video on MTV and thought they were awesome.
Steely Dan – Gold (Expanded Edition)
This is a case of musical exposure that had kind of a circuitous influence on me. My parents listened to Steely Dan all the time growing up, and this was the CD they had (though I ended up buying “Aja” for my mom for her birthday one year). I liked the music, but I also wasn’t sure if it was cool or not. Once I got into “indie” music later on, Steely Dan mostly just brought to mind memories of Saturday chores or riding with my parents to get the car washed. Then, sometime in college, I rediscovered them during an ironic excursion into Yacht Rock with Travis, and realized how ridiculously awesome their albums were. The Yachtsman persona owes everything to Steely Dan.
Michael Jackson – Dangerous
If you were alive during the ‘80s or early ‘90s it was impossible not to be impacted by Michael Jackson’s music. My friend had this tape and we listened to it continuously one summer. I especially liked “Give In to Me” because Slash played guitar on it and I thought that Slash was the coolest guy on the planet for a brief moment. And he kind of was for awhile, I guess. For reasons that don’t need to be explained, Michael Jackson quickly became very uncool. I still dig a lot of his music though even if I’m definitely more of a Prince guy now.
Guns ‘N Roses – “November Rain”
See, what I mean? This song was amazing to me as an impressionable youth. Guns ‘N Roses were the biggest rock band on the planet and what kid wouldn’t think that they were ridiculously cool? This video was played all the time on MTV. Appetite For Destruction still holds up as a great rock and roll record, but the Use Your Illusion albums, despite how pompous and bloated they were, did have some pretty good songs on them too. I remember my friend and I discussing this video for about thirty minutes before school started the day after he and I saw it for the first time. Axl Rose sucks.
Nirvana – Nevermind
Everyone deserves a cool uncle that exposes them to good music, and I was lucky that my mom’s youngest brother was the perfect age to expose me to bands like Nirvana. I actually was aware of Nirvana by about age eight, which would have been about a year after this came out, and at the height of Nirvana and Seattle-mania. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was so much more intense to me than the classic rock I had been exposed to. It seemed so dark, but it was also so catchy. Yeah, that all seems pretty self-explanatory now. Then one day my uncle came by the house and gave me a stack of CDs to borrow (including this, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Tripping Daisy, and a few others) and I dubbed them all to cassette. I’m not sure my mom was thrilled, but it was the greatest thing ever to me at the time. I watched Nirvana’s performance on “MTV Unplugged” and they were definitely my favorite band for a few years. I was at my aunt’s house watching CNN when they announced that Kurt Cobain was dead, and it was my John Lennon moment. I’m not sure that it’s entirely healthy for a ten year old to be obsessed with a rock star who committed suicide, but it is what it is. Is Nirvana’s music somewhat overrated? Probably. Was their impact on me important? Absolutely.
Kris Kross – Totally Krossed Out
Bell Biv DeVoe – Poison
Oh, 1992. One Saturday, my dad took me and my friend Andrew to Hastings and bought me the Totally Krossed Out cassette because we were obsessed with “Jump”. So, yeah, my first rap album was Kris Kross. And, yes, I tried to wear my clothes backwards. I remember making my grandma listen to this and she wasn’t super impressed by their ill skills. Around the same time he also bought me Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison. Just two little eight year old white boys listening to kiddie rap and new jack swing. Those were the days.
Snoop Doggy Dogg “Gin and Juice”
Dr. Dre “Fuck Wit’ Dre Day”
It only took about a year before Kris Kross was replaced with Dre and Snoop, thanks to their constant rotation on MTV. Though, I wasn’t allowed to buy “The Chronic” or “Doggystyle”. I think I aligned myself with the West Coast because of the prevalence of Raiders memorabilia, though the Los Angeles of their rap videos was a little bit different than my yearly family trips to Disneyland and the wealthy beaches of Dana Point. Before too long, 2Pac would become my favorite rapper, but around the same time I also loved me some Cypress Hill, Onyx, House of Pain, Wu-Tang Clan, Naughty By Nature, and Warren G. 1993 was the year that rap music put up its biggest fight with alternative rock as my weapon of choice.
Aerosmith – Get a Grip
My best friend had this tape. It’s not even close to being the best Aerosmith album, and I quickly outgrew my love for this band, but for a brief moment I thought they were badass and the singles were on constant rotation on the radio and MTV. And my first childhood crush was on Alicia Silverstone. I have come back around to loving their first couple albums, but it took a lot of years of being a pretentious underground music fan before I could acknowledge that. I was still wobbling between classic rock like this, alternative rock like Nirvana, and rap like 2Pac. It was a confusing time to be alive.
Metallica – Ride the Lightning
The KATT used to play albums in their entirety on Sunday nights and I’d sit there by my stereo and dub whatever I could to blank cassettes. That’s how I ended up with The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream as well. My friend had recently exposed me to The Black Album and Ride the Lightning was a million times heavier. It was really my big introduction to heavy metal (along with Megadeth and Slayer around the same time). I was playing the guitar a lot and figured out how to play most of “Fade to Black” and was pretty satisfied with myself. This was also my go-to album before soccer games to get pumped up. I eventually lost the cassette in a friend’s mom’s van during a week-long Major League Soccer summer camp. Then Metallica began to REALLY suck. Coincidence?
Led Zeppelin – IV
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
I mean, duh. What young person DOESN’T get into Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd at some point? These were the first albums I bought by the two bands, though I ended up liking Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, Wish You Were Here, and Animals even more. And of course, I made my guitar instructor teach me how to play “Stairway to Heaven”. Sorry, dude.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
My sister and I had a babysitter who had everything by NIN and I remember one day she went to Hastings to buy this album when it came out and she let me listen to it. I had never heard anything that angry and I loved it. I still love it. I saw NIN in concert four times. As a full-grown adult. And still loved every moment of those concerts. I will never stop loving Trent Reznor. So, thanks, old babysitter.
The Flaming Lips – “She Don’t Use Jelly”/The Soft Bulletin/my first “real” concert
When I was nine or ten, “She Don’t Use Jelly” was a big hit on alternative rock radio, and at the time Oklahoma City actually had a fairly decent alternative station. It was such a goofy, catchy song, and I thought it was awesome that a band from an hour away had a big “cool” hit. A few years later I bought “The Soft Bulletin” (in 1999) and spent so many hours listening to it on headphones. I still think it’s probably their most accomplished album, sonically and from a songwriting perspective. As soon as I had enough money, I went out and bought ALL of their previous albums. I will never understand people who pick “Yoshimi” as the best Lips album. The Flaming Lips were also my first “real” alternative concert experience (though not until 2003, which is really late in the game, I know, but what can you do?) and I have seen them more times than I can accurately remember now.
Sonic Youth – “Bull in the Heather”
My first exposure to Sonic Youth, courtesy of MTV’s 120 Minutes. Very influential in my future explorations of noisy underground rock.
R.E.M. – Monster
I worked in the yard all day one Saturday just so I could buy this cassette because I loved “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” I still maintain that it’s a little underrated, but I’m glad I ended up buying their other albums.
Grateful Dead – assorted bootlegs
In junior high I found a Grateful Dead message board and some kindly Deadhead sent me ten Grateful Dead bootleg CD’s. I never became a fan of other jam bands, but that was kind of a pivotal experience in internet music interaction.
311 – 311
Yeah, so this was the first CD I ever bought with my allowance money, because all of my friends had a copy. “Down” was constantly on the radio, but I guess I felt like I needed even more 311 in my life. Everything was cool until I let my younger neighbor borrow it and his mom got mad at my parents because of the explicit language. So I had to sell it back and replace it with No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and the self-titled Collective Soul album. We’ll call it a wash, I guess. Can’t say that 311, No Doubt, or Collective Soul are bands that have really stuck with me through the years, but, along with Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory and The Smashing Pumpkins EP for Thirty-Three, it was the start of my soon massive CD collection.
Beck – Mellow Gold
In fifth grade we were on the Prodigy Internet service and they had a music page full of videos. The only problem is that it took literal hours for a video to buffer, so I would start loading the video to “Loser” or “Beercan” before I went to school and then watch it as soon as I got home. Eventually, I bought the Wal-Mart version of Mellow Gold, but my mom still wasn’t too happy with the edited content, thinking “Loser” was a depressing song. She took away this CD as well as Soundgarden’s “Badmotorfinger” and “Superunknown”, Bush’s “Razorblade Suitcase”, and Pearl Jam’s “Vitology”. I ended up convincing her to let me swap the Bush and Pearl Jam CD’s for my friend’s Depeche Mode greatest hits double album and she eventually gave me the Beck and Soundgarden CDs back.
Tool – Undertow/Aenima
I was a really depressed thirteen year old and Tool was the perfect band for depressed thirteen year olds of the ‘90s. Their videos creeped me out and their songs seemed so evil. I didn’t actually own either album until a few years later because my parents wouldn’t let me buy albums with Parental Advisory stickers, but I did somehow record a bunch of their songs off the internet. This was before we had a CD burner, so I had to record the songs to cassette using a cable. I was determined to find music no matter how janky it was to get it. I also taped a bunch of stuff from the first two Korn albums this way, but we won’t talk about that.
Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay
Eventually my parents got fed up with my negative attitude and decided that I needed to be exposed to Christian alternatives to the music I was listening to. Jars of Clay was the first Christian CD that they bought me and I actually really liked it. I guess I had a bit of a religious reawakening and for awhile stopped listening to most secular music (with a few exceptions, like all my classic rock albums), attempted to quit cussing, and started reading my Bible all the time. This was my Catholic guilt period even though I wasn’t Catholic. It wasn’t long before I started digging a little deeper and trying to find weirder and heavier Christian bands. Of course, these bands would always mention the secular bands that influenced them in my Christian music magazines and that would end up making me really curious to hear THOSE bands instead. Starflyer 59 mentioned some band called My Bloody Valentine and that’s how I ended up discovering Loveless. Kind of weird that Christian rock was how I discovered shoegaze and indie rock. Must have been divine intervention.
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
My parents bought me a copy of some British music magazine (probably Uncut) as I was coming out of my non-secular haze and there was a lengthy article about Pavement. The only Pavement I had heard was “Cut Your Hair”, which was a minor hit a couple years prior and a staple at the local skating rink for some unknowable reason. The only Pavement CD that Hastings had was Wowee Zowee and it was only seven bucks, so I bought it and thought it was amazing. Most fans would probably pick Slanted & Enchanted or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but Wowee Zowee has remained my personal favorite. “Grounded” is the best.
Radiohead – “Creep”/”High and Dry”/”Paranoid Android”/Kid A/In Rainbows
My first exposure to Radiohead was the music video for “Creep”, which came out the same year as Stone Temple Pilot’s “Creep”, for whatever that’s worth. Then a couple years later I saw the video for “High and Dry” and decided I liked Radiohead even more than I already did. And THEN I saw the video for “Paranoid Android” and it was pretty much the most revelatory thing to my 13 year old self. I ended up buying OK Computer a little while later and borrowed my friend’s copy of “The Bends” and then was eagerly anticipating the release of Kid A. I was sixteen in 2000, so I was able to drive myself to the music store the day it came out and listened to it nonstop. That might have been the first album I ever bought on the day of its release. After a soccer game the next year I made my parents stop at Borders so I could get Amnesiac. A few years later I was finally able to see them in concert…twice in the same summer. All that being said, In Rainbows is actually my favorite Radiohead album. I remember getting together at Blake and Aaron’s house with a bunch of friends and having a listening party the day it came out digitally. I haven’t done anything like that since then.
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
I kept seeing this album near the top of nearly every best album ever list, and without having heard a note of music, bought it on a whim. “Heroin” is still maybe my favorite song of all time. From here I quickly bought albums by The Stooges, David Bowie, Brian Eno, and the Talking Heads and thankfully mostly avoided the terrible nu-metal and emo pop-punk of the late ’90s.
The Clash – The Clash/London Calling
I think that I bought London Calling around the same time that my sister bought their debut. She really loved The Clash and The Cure. Those were two of the bands that got her out of her Spice Girls phase. The first CD she ever burned me had Black Flag, Husker Du, and the Dead Kennedys on it. And she was younger than me! I was always a bit more into the post-punk stuff that followed The Clash and The Sex Pistols, but that first wave stuff and early hardcore still was important in my personal music history. I had listened to Green Day and The Offspring when I was ten or so, but I never really got that into the ‘90s punk revival. It just didn’t seem as vital to me as the original bands. I especially couldn’t stand it when it turned emo. I like sad music, but I don’t like whiny music. Especially whiny music by guys with gauged ears.
The Cure – Disintegration
Joy Division – Closer
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
My first exposure to The Cure, The Smiths, and Echo & The Bunnymen came when I was still really young, from watching MTV’s 120 Minutes and I liked it all. Sometime in high school I figured out that post-punk was the music that meant the most to me in the world. Joy Division especially. Their music helped me through some really depressed times and they remain my favorite band of all time (along with their extension: New Order). I ended up devouring any post-punk release I could get my hands on from bands like Magazine, Public Image Ltd., Bauhaus, The Sound, Cocteau Twins, and The Comsat Angels.
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
The beginning of my jazz obsession. A pretty good starting point.
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Bjork – Post
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
Aphex Twin – The Richard D. James Album
Future Sound of London – Lifeforms
The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole
Portishead – Dummy
I became aware of electronica from watching Amp on MTV. That’s where I first heard groups like The Orb, Underworld, Aphex Twin, and Autechre and I was immediately drawn to it. It opened up a completely different world to me than the rock and rap I had been listening to up to that point. I bought all of these particular albums in a short burst. Dig Your Own Hole was a huge mainstream success in 1997 (along with The Prodigy’s Fat of the Land, which I also loved). For a brief moment there, big beat techno was as prevalent on alternative radio as Third Eye Blind or the Foo Fighters. But things like DJ Shadow, Massive Attack, Boards of Canada, and Autechre were totally different than anything I had ever heard before, and I was really the only one of my friends at the time who was into that kind of music. They were still probably mostly listening to KoRn and Limp Bizkit. It was during this same time period of trip-hop, IDM, and electronica immersion that I recorded my own attempt at an electronic album under the ridiculously stupid name Experimental Cow Patties. I used a Casio keyboard and its super basic drum machine and ran it through my guitar’s multi-effects processor and then recorded it all to a cassette. Which is still in a drawer somewhere. I bet that’s really good. I ended up getting pretty much everything any of these groups put out. Aphex Twin’s “Xtal” was especially important to me once I tracked down a copy of Selected Ambient Works 85-92.
Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
Wal-Mart used to have listening stations where you could scan a CD and then listen to clips of the songs. I had downloaded a few Modest Mouse songs on eMusic (this is how I also randomly discovered Swans, Beat Happening, Built to Spill, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Low, and a bunch of other bands before music blogs became common a few years later) and I knew they had a new album coming out. So I went to Wal-Mart and they had one copy of The Moon and Antarctica. I previewed a few tracks, was instantly blown away, bought the album and proceeded to go on the Internet to discover any and all indie music that sounded anything like Modest Mouse.
Mouse on Mars – Iaora Tahiti
Can – Tago Mago
The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
Yo La Tengo – Painful
Big Star – #1 Record/Radio City
These were the first five CDs that I ever ordered online, from Amazon. It was quite an awesome realization that I could order essentially any album I had ever read about and that it would be at my house in just a couple of days. Keep in mind that we had dial-up internet still, so downloading full albums was a pain in the ass.
Jay-Z – The Blueprint
The album that got me back into hip-hop during my senior year of high school and the album I always blasted in my truck before tennis practice. As Jigga would want it.
Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
I found this CD for three dollars. It was the best three dollars I ever spent. I had never had an album bring me to tears the first time I listened to it. I still recommend Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock to anyone who will take my advice.
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
This is the album that reminds me most of my first year of college. It also kind of marks the beginning of me buying an average of about three new albums a week and spending all of the little money I made working at the college.
Xiu Xiu – Knife Play/A Promise/Fabulous Muscles
Xiu Xiu was one of the first bands I remember Nick telling me about after meeting him at college and I went and downloaded A Promise off of Kazaa. Then that summer (2003) I was in L.A. and went to Amoeba Records and bought Knife Play. Fabulous Muscles came out the next year and really cemented my love for them (though The Air Force is my favorite). This was the timeframe when I was starting to get a little more adventurous with the indie rock that I gravitated toward. The more avant-garde and noisy the better. And, apparently, the more depressing the better as well.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs
The Microphones – The Glow, Pt. 2
Gang of Four – Entertainment
Devendra Banhart – Rejoicing in the Hands
Comets on Fire – Blue Cathedral
The Replacements – Tim
Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica
Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance
Neu! – Neu!
Television – Marquee Moon
Ghost – Hypnotic Underworld
The next year (2004) I was back out in California and made another trip to Amoeba Records to spend all of my money. I don’t know how I remember that I bought those particular albums, but I am 100% certain that I did. I left with a huge stack and was insanely happy to buy all these albums that I couldn’t find at home. It was like the greatest record coup of my life up to that point. I bought the Comets on Fire album because my dad and I had seen them open up for Sonic Youth a few months prior. My dad wore an Iggy Pop shirt to that concert.
Fennesz – Venice
My parents bought me this album for Christmas. I had one of his other earlier albums for a couple years prior, but this really opened my eyes up to a new world of sound. Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Lisbon was also influential in the same way and Nick, Jezy, and I directed an experimental short film using it as a soundtrack that ended up getting shown in an art show in Oklahoma City. Matt Hoffman was there for the screening. Weird.
Les Savy Fav live
The best moment of my first music festival experience (Intonation 2005) was definitely Les Savy Fav’s crazy set that was almost shut down by police. I can’t even begin to explain it. I saw them a few years later at Fun Fun Fun and they were every bit as incredible.
Burial – Untrue
Clark – Totems Flare
This album marked the moment when I really got back into electronic music hardcore. I had heard parts of the album that came out before this, and it’s awesome as well, but this was when the music really clicked with me. Clark’s Totems Flare was equally important for similar reasons a couple years later.
My Bloody Valentine live
I had been heavily into shoegaze for years and Loveless was one of my favorite albums of any genre, so when I finally got to see them perform live I was incredibly excited. Nothing could have prepared me for the spiritual sonic assault of that show. The loudest, most intense, most pleasurable, most insane concert experience of my entire life. The only other band that has come close to matching this experience for me was the two times I saw The Jesus Lizard or the psychedelic zoo concert that The Flaming Lips put on, but even as amazing as they were, they didn’t make me feel like I was levitating like My Bloody Valentine’s literally jet engine-loud show did.
Rage Against the Machine live at Lollapalooza 2008
This was, not surprisingly, a great show by a terrific live band that I had a lot of nostalgia for but didn’t listen to super regularly any more, but what made it so memorable was the fact that it nearly turned into a full-fledged riot when a ridiculously large group of anarchists fought through a police barricade, tore down the fence, destroyed the festival’s ATM machines, and then proceeded to crush portions of the crowd, nearly bringing the show to a halt on multiple occasions. The feeling in the streets of Chicago after the show was too intense to describe. It was legitimately terrifying, but I’m glad I was there and survived without injury. Then Obama was elected.
Sunn O))) – Monoliths and Dimensions
I had a couple of their other albums, and I had always kept one foot in the heavy music scene ever since my early Metallica/Slayer days, but this album knocked me on my ass and fully reawakened my appreciation of really heavy sounds, from black metal to noise to grindcore to death metal to doom and everything in between.
Girls – Album
I don’t have much to say about this album or this band other than I’m glad I got to see them twice before they broke up and that their music has meant a lot to me the past few years. They helped to reaffirm my belief in indie music just when I was starting to think it was all becoming watered down, over-hyped hipster mush. Just great songs. Still pretty hipsterish by appearance, but Christopher Owens is the most sincere songwriter out there right now.
Pictureplane – Thee Physical
I have to mention this relatively recent album because it has been a constant staple of euphoria during what has been the happiest year of my life up to this point. Especially “Real is a Feeling”. I loved it when it came out last year but, as a soundtrack to my current happiness, it has only increased in stature. Nothing ground-breaking, necessarily, but it fulfills everything that music is required to fulfill for me.