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A Personal Music History

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

Autechre EP7

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.

My Disappearance

Hey guys!

So, it’s been well over a month since there have been any new posts on here.

I’m sorry about that.

But in the last month I moved from Los Angeles to Seattle, and my life has been super crazy.

Things are now starting to slow down, so SiA will make a comeback.

There are an ass-load of new releases in May, and I’ll will be on top of them.  New LCD Soundsystem (which is great,) new National, Dead Weather, Flying Lotus (can it topple the brilliant “Los Angeles?”), new Broken Social Scene…….whew, I’m exhausted.

Much love to all the readers.  I’ll see you guys next week!

-Chase

Reviews: Hot Chip, Massive Attack and Charlotte Gainsbourg

This might be the point where I could point out that it’s been almost a month since I wrote an article on here. I thought about coming up with some excuse about my future move out of L.A, but in reality I’m just lazy. In real reality, I’ve been playing too much video games.

ANYWAY, I’m here now. February was a pretty good month for music. Actually 2010 has gotten off to a really strong start. If we keep up this pace, it’ll be as memorable a music year as 2007 (Radiohead, Panda Bear, LCD Soundsystem, Burial, etc). In an attempt to atone for my absence, here’s some blurbs about the note-worthy releases in the past month. (Videos below)

HOT CHIP “ONE LIFE STAND”
Hot Chip is one of those bands that has yet to make a bad album. One Life Stand is no exception, well…minus the album cover. The record stands out as one of they’re brightest yet. From the bro-mance anthem of “Brothers” to the infectious “We Have Love,” the album just manages to keep you on your toes. The album’s closer, “Take It In,” is quite possibly the best track they’ve ever cut.
MASSIVE ATTACK “HELIGOLAND”
Seven freaking years. That’s how long I’ve waited for a follow-up to the underwhelming 100th Window. Heligoland is actually a decent return too. It may not be as strong as fellow trip-hoppers Portishead’s comeback 2 years ago, but the album is pretty trim. It’s closer to 1994’s Protection in it’s larger focus on instrumentation and subtle songwriting. But it’s a hearty welcome back with tracks like “Paradise Circus” and “Saturday Come Slow.”

CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG “IRM”

Charlotte’s first LP, 5:55, has simply sat on my shelf since the week it came out. Good news! IRM will not suffer the same fate. This time around she enlisted Beck to help her write the music. And the product is the best Charlotte Gainsbourg yet, and the best Beck album since Sea Change.

As previously mentioned, I am moving to Seattle in the next month, so the site may once again suffer. I’ll try my best to keep on top of things, but I like to disappoint. Until then: I’m working on the Joanna Newsom review (3 discs is a lot to take in), I’m taking in the new Gorillaz album right now, and James Mercer/Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells LP comes out next week. I’ll try to get reviews up for each within the next 2 weeks.

-Chase


Drivel: Netflix I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

I can admit, I generally a bit of a snob when it comes to “the arts.” I’m likely to refer to 80% of the population as philistines, while I sit on the floor of my living room, caressing the cover of my latest original-pressing vinyl purchase, that I probably spent countless days/months tracking down on the internet. I’m a rare breed. A coffee shop faithful, who winces at the thought of Bon Jovi or grinds my teeth when I hear the words “Jersey Shore” float through the air. When it comes to entertainment, I demand the best, and easily shit on all the rest. But in the dark corners of mind, lurks this Bizzaro Chase, who is out to damage my pointless “hipster” reputation. He’s killing me softly, and it usually involves a good amount of gore, bad dialogue, and a budget that almost never hits 7 digits.

My name is Chase Martin, and I’m a glutton for trash cinema.

I can look over my film collection, and generally be pleased with myself. Yes, I have numerous films featured in the Criterion Collection. And I wrote several papers in school defending the brilliance of French New Wave cinema or the techno-phobia of David Cronenberg. But scattered throughout my shelf sit nasty little titles that stink of betrayal. Older ones, like The Toxic Avenger, to the more recent Crank series. The most damning of them all, and the harbinger of my dark deeds, my 43 episode collection of Mystery Science Theater 3000 sits there, reminding me of my handicap. These DVDs suggest a problem that dates back to the mid-90s. And it’s a problem that I’ve been rapidly embracing over the past few years. I can pinpoint it to the exact moment of my life: the day I signed up for Netflix.

In this age of digital distribution, demands are met instantly for little effort, and usually a cheaper price tag. I still prefer my music to be in physical format, and my books to take up space on an IKEA shelf. But Netflix’s ability to stream movies instantly to my TV and computer has brought upon my household a barrage of crap movies, usually viewed during the twilight hours of the morning. The ability to view movies like Jesus Christ: Vampire Slayer and Dumpster Baby an a button’s touch has caused me to re-evaluate myself as a “film graduate.” What kind of an intellect stays up until 2am watching a movie about a zombiefied killer turkey entitled Thankskilling? And this takes place on a regular basis. I watch more crap movies than “good” films these days. Sure, Netflix puts films like Fellini’s La Strada at my fingertips, but those same fingers can’t seem to pass up something called Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.

Like any good addiction, I’m seeing it spiral out of my control. Sure, I argued with myself about it. It’s possible that I’m exposing myself to the bad in order to further appreciate the good. I’m going to extremes here. I’m overindulging on it. Maybe this is my way of keeping myself in check, or maybe Bizzaro Chase is slowly oozing to the surface. Either way, I can hear The Room beckoning me away from my computer for the 5th time.

You’re tearing me apart, Netflix!!!!!

-Chase (or Bizzaro Chase, it’s getting harder to tell)

Review: Spoon “Transference”

I can’t remember the first time I listened to Spoon. It was probably shortly after 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, and the fact that I own every album they’ve put out since then is a rare occurrence these days. Britt Daniel, Spoon’s frontman, has worked hard to elevate Spoon up to the indie royalty status they now enjoy. I mean, they’re one of the very few bands that constantly release solid follow-up albums. Nearly a decade since my first exposure, Spoon still carries weight in my over-crowded record bin. However, their 7th LP, Transference is a breath of fresh air for the band, and a welcome evolution to the band’s sound.

For the past few records, it’s safe to describe a Spoon album as…well, exactly that, “a Spoon album.” The clean production, the snappy beats and the hooky riffs that all came tightly together on every LP. It was a constant I could always count on, like Tom Selleck’s glorious mustache or the unholy suck-factor of Keystone Light. So, when Transference first pumped through my speakers, I was surprisingly shocked at how it sound so different, yet oddly familiar at the same time. This is the first LP to be solely produced by Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, and it feels like a wonderfully personal sound. What we get is a Spoon album that is an exceptional stand-out from all of their previous work.

There’s no denying that it’s still a Spoon record. The band’s signature sound is still intact, especially on tracks like “Written In Reverse” and “Is Love Forever?” where the staccato beats take some blissfully sharp turns and always manages to result in head-nodding. But occasionally the mix gets a little rough and the instrumentation becomes subtlety more than just two-beat pop songs. Its tracks like “Who Makes Your Money,” “The Mystery Zone,” and the surprising ballad that is “Goodnight Laura.” And the results are an album that still shows you the Spoon you know and love, but it gives the band some much needed stretching room, and let’s them approach their music from a slightly different angle.

Transference simply maintains Spoon’s pedigree, by releasing yet another solid album. So, those looking for more, won’t come away disappointed. It’s just the slight differences in the production and songwriting that really make this a Spoon album to take heed of. And it’s a great way for Spoon to start off the new decade.

-Chase

Review: Vampire Weekend “Contra”

I think reviewing music has made me pessimistic over the past few years. I find that even my favorite band’s next album is bound to disappoint. Take 2009 for example. I was thinking the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic was going to let me down, as their previous LP, but it rocked and completely restored my faith in them. But on the other hand, my suspicions were confirmed when Peal Jam’s Backspacer sounded like an Eddie Vedder summer mix….which was not a good thing. Now, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore record, Contra, looms before me. To be honest, I was a little less pessimistic about this record than my previous examples. It took me a while to warm up to VW’s self-titled debut, but now a few choice cuts stand out on my summer playlists.

The first thing that is fairly obvious about Contra is that it tries hard to stand apart from the light afro-beat infused sound of it’s predecessor. I mean REALLY hard. It seems like the best way to accomplish this was to bring in the synths. Most of Contra is bubbling with hard synthesized beats and riffs, which is what is going to polarize it’s audience. On one side, you have those who appreciate this new direction. The songs are more beat heavy, but they still manage to capture that brisk, light sound you look for in Vampire Weekend. Ezra Koenig’s voice still bounces up and down the scale triumphantly. And his lyrics are still filled with the double speak and clever comparisons he offered up last time. Songs like “White Sky” and “Horchata” will brighten your day.

But then there is the other side……and it happens to be the side I drifted towards. This is the side that can find the synth to be too much. Maybe it’s the production’s fault, but the beats are too loud. So the clever afro-beat instrumentation I warmed up to the first time gets drowned out. Songs like “Giving Up The Gun” and the Auto-Tuned “California English” just grate against my ears, causing me to turn the volume. Occasionally, the instruments win out (“Taxi Cab,” and the good “Diplomat’s Son”),and the album shines for me. But those moments are few and far between.

I’m not going to dissuade anyone from listening to Contra. It’s simply not a bad album. But, for me anyway, it is also not a great one. After their debut, I was hoping VW’s follow up would sound something like a Fela Kuti demo, sprinkled with a dash of Pavement. But, that’s not what the band seemed to be on board with. Instead, they’ve set out to sail on their own boat, doing a decent job of separating themselves from the rest of the fleet. I’m just not sure I want to keep my boarding pass anymore.

-Chase

Favorite Albums of 2009 (Chase)

Right now, I feel like a lazy bastard. 2009 is passing by, and the most remarkable event of the year for me was seeing Billy Ray Cyrus in a Starbucks. However, all my inaction allowed for me to soak up all the music and beer that arose this year.

It’s hard for me to imagine a busier year in music. With a slew of long awaited follow-ups (Flaming Lips, Eminem, Sonic Youth), new side projects (Bad Lieutenant, Beak, Them Crooked Vultures) and music news in general ( Blur reuniting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Oasis split, Michael Jackson’s death), 2009 really out did itself.

I’ve put my picks of the year, in no particular order, below.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2009

Dan Deacon “Bromst”

Coming strong of the ridiculous, and often too much to handle Spiderman of the Rings, Dan Deacon set off to blow minds. Well, that what Bromst did for me anyway. A musical venture to Toon Land that never seems to run out of energy.

Flaming Lips “Embryonic”

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my Flaming Lips to heavily doped out. For the past two records, it seemed the Lips had decided to leave the psycho-tropics out of the recording studio. We here at SiA are pleased to annouce that with Embryonic, drug-induced music made a come back, and the Lips revitalized themselves. Hurrah!

DOOM “Born Like This”

Since 2005, the Supervillain himself, MF DOOM, seemed to fall off the face of the earth. Earlier this year, he dropped the “MF” from his name and unleashed his best solo outing to date upon the world. Featuring some excellent J Dilla production and unprecedented DOOM flow, it was a most welcome return.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion”
Album after album, Animal Collective manage to hone their experimental music in to a finer degree. MWPP is an instant classic. It’s one of those career defining albums that will be a benchmark for the band’s potential. After this can only be mind shattering greatness, or disappointment.

Grizzly Bear “Veckatimest”

Before Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear proved that they were a great atmospheric band. But previous albums failed to make it past a 3 month rotation. This one, however, is different. GB forged together a great pop record, while maintaining that atmosphere the indie crowd tends to admire.

Raekwon “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2
Good hip-hop is hard to come by these days. I’ve had Ghostface Killah carrying the torch for the past few years, but his recent stumbles had me worried. Have no fear, Raekwon is here! The long awaited follow-up exceeds all expectations, and is one the best hip-hop records in the past 3 years.

Tom Waits “Glitter and Doom Live”
The Gravely One rarely tours, and his sold-out tour across America last year was not to be missed. Sadly, I did. Thankfully, snippets from the tour have been pieced together on this most excellent of live albums. His voice harsh as ever, his stage banter still supreme, and alternate versions of recent songs and classics make Glitter and Doom Live essential to fans of……well, music.
Dirty Projectors “Bitte Orca”
To say that the Dirty Projectors’ music is eccentric, is a bit of an understatement. Starts, stops, blips, beeps, and occasionally incomprehensible lyrics can scare some people off. Bitte Orca saw the group tighten things up a bit, and put out a stellar record worth hundreds of revisits. No wonder why David Byrne loves them so.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Animal Collective

No one really grabbed 2009 by the nuggets quite like Animal Collective did. They started off by releasing some of the best music of the year/their career in January with Merriweather Post Pavilion. Next, they supported that album with a great tour across the nation, with several major festival stops. They compiled an excellent box set of their work. And they finish the year strong with the 30+ minute Fall Be Kind EP, which shows that MWPP wasn’t their creative peak!

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR

Eminem’s Return To Music
I can admit, I’m not that big of an Eminem fan. His first few albums were juvenile, fun, somewhat creative and always interesting. His issues with self-image and drug abuse led him to rehab and a few years out of the limelight. 2009 was supposed to be his big comeback, but all we got was Relapse. A record with half-assed writing, mediocre beats and an Em seems to have lost all relevance to the music world. Sure it sold well, but ultimately the record was a creative failure. Maybe if I were 14 again I would have crowned him king, instead I’m just sharpening the guillotine.

-Chase