I read this article on Pitchfork with Andy Bell talking about the music that was integral to his life at the ages of 5, 10, 15, 25, 30, etc. I loved the concept and thought I would give it a go here. You should read the article too, by the way. I’m going to do the sequence a little different though, seeing as I’m still in my 20s and this last decade really shaped my musical listening.
Age 5 / Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual
This album is my first music memory. Child of the 80s, I am. To this day whenever I hear the first few bars of any song off the album, namely ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ I am instantly transported to dancing on the shag carpet in my parents living room. Saturday night dance parties were big at my house, and although other bands and artists would come later…The Beatles, Sam Cooke…this is the first record that taught me music was fun. I fear for the day my parents find our home videos.
Age 10 / Green Day – Dookie
This was the first album I bought with my own money (on tape and the later CD). I’d never heard anything like it before. It had me at hello, and turned me into a little punk kid. I can still remember listening to it with my dad, who then sat me down and gave me my own copies of London Calling and Tim. Then the floodgates really opened.
Age 15 / Matthew Good Band – Underdogs
The Matthew Good Band was my first ever concert, and “Everything is Automatic” was the first song I ever learned to play on the guitar. I can only listen to this album by MGB because anything after now depresses the crap out of me (same goes for his solo work), as it reminds me how horrible high school was. Still, this album deserves to make the list.
Age 19 / The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
This was a big year for me. Not only for music, but it was the year I moved out and went to university. I had without a doubt the most challenging roommate on the planet, not only because she was a pretentious music snob, but because she was downright filthy to live with. However, there were gaps when the pretentiousness faded and we were able to talk music, rationally, and we bonded over our shared love of the White Stripes. This was the first time I had found someone I could talk to about music. I grew up in a small city, the oldest child, and my friends hated the “stuff” I liked (this is why I moved so far away), so it was mind-blowing to hear someone reference the stuff you liked. I knew we were going to be okay though when she made me a mix that started with “We’re Going to be Friends.”
Age 21 / The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
I had listened to The Smiths before the age of 21, but I had never really listened to them, if you know what I mean. It was summer, and I had just moved to Vancouver, feeling very nomadic, sleeping on my friends couch while I worked as a PA on various film sets I had this record on repeat in my disc-man (life before the ipod, ah) during my commutes. Driving in your car, I never never want to go home, because I haven’t got one…anymore. A few years later, I would see Morrissey perform at a festival in England, and the t-shirt “It’s Morrissey’s world, we just live in it” was everywhere. Still remains the best ever concert tee I’ve seen.
Age 23 / Arcade Fire – Neon Bible & David Bowie – Low
I think I’ve said this before, but in 2004 when I heard “Rebellion (Lies)” by Arcade Fire, it changed my life. I had always been interested in music (um, see above) but this song made me obsessed and it’s when I started blogging and that too was like a floodgate opening. Fast-forward a few years, and their next album drops and it really becomes and album I listen to on such heavy rotation I wear it out. It may sound silly, but I can feel “(Antichrist Television Blues)” in my bones.
I can’t pass this year without a mention to Bowie though. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone the real reason I never listened to him before this age. Pretty simple, really, his character in Labyrinth freaked me out as a child and I had trouble dissociating. Thankfully, I got over that and was introduced to his music. Low was the first, and remains my favourite Bowie record. I’ll never forget listening to that album late one night in my apartment in Kingston and by the time I’d reached the third track wondering where he’d been my whole life. Those kilometers and the red lights, I was always looking left and right…
Age 25 / Radical Face – Ghost & Pixies – Doolittle
This may come as a surprise, but I have a penchant for handclaps. This album came around for me when I was in a really bad place and filled me with hope. Its one I listen to quite regularly, especially when sleep don’t visit. If you haven’t heard of Ben Cooper, you really should go and get this album. You can start by listening to this track first. One of my all-time favourite lyrics to the song linked; Ships are launching from my chest. Some have names but most do not. If you find one, please let me know what piece I’ve lost.
During this year, I spent a lot of time revisiting old albums in an effort to share music with my German friend, Anna, whom I met while studying in Newcastle. Doolittle was one of the first albums I gave her in an attempt to show her lyrics could still be succinct and say something. And in doing so, I fell in love with this album all over again. It’s one of few that when I hit play on the first track I have to listen to the whole thing.
So that’s now. I’m trying to think of an album that has really gripped me over the last year and I keep coming back to The National – High Violet but also the latest Papercuts record Fading Parade. Still I’d be remiss without mentioning Boxer when in reference to The National…you can see where this is headed, let’s wrap up.
I’d say the direction my musical listening is headed is here. I’m entering my mellow dream pop stage.
What about you? Albums that were integral to you at 5-10-15-20-25-30, etc…