Friday, February 13, 2009

List: Twenty-five albums that changed my life

A Facebook trend that had many of my friends writing their versions of this list.  This blog gravitates more toward singles than albums, so this might be one of the rare times I speak to albums.  This is not a ranked list. I also realize, after compiling it, that it is a strikingly different list than what would be conveyed by a list of individual songs that changed my life.  To make it onto this list these albums had to 1) be brilliant from the first track to the last, 2) take up exclusive residence in my player for an obscene amount of time, and 3) of course, leave me a different person than I was before I heard them.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite - Big Audio Dynamite

Of all the alternative albums I was inhaling at the time, this one broadened me the most, though it's hard to put a finger on exactly why. a great heritage, a new spin, sarcastic and danceable, all at the same time.  Also a good indication of my ambivalence about punk.

Hounds Of Love - Kate Bush

Ne plus ultra - and we could even limit it specifically to the second side: 'The ninth wave' song cycle that will never be equaled, by Kate, or anyone else.

Switched On Bach - Walter Carlos

Honorable mention to the Clockwork Orange score, too - it blew my mind that the inventinons I was learning on the piano could sound like that.

Blue Bell Knoll - Cocteau Twins

I love them so much, and this is the album that I reach for over and over; it's the most cohesive, somehow, and almost everything else they did can be traced here.

Bloodletting - Concrete Blonde

Alternative is not known for concept albums, which is why this is so fantastic (okay, I was reading a lot of Anne Rice at the time...)

Aion - Dead Can Dance

Their earlier albums have missteps; their later albums became progressively diluted by multiculturalism; this one is magical.

Some Great Reward/Black Celebration - Depeche Mode

A double bill because I put them on two sides of a cassette and then wore it out. synth pop has never seen songwriting and production values superior to this.

1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) - Eurythmics

I love all their albums, but the soundtrack happened at just the right time to crystalize both their rock and electronic skills, as well as Annie's incorporation of soul. And the darkness of the subject matter suits them so well.

Compact Jazz Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Fitgzerald

This album is why it's difficult for any vocalist in any genre to impress me. Ella did things live that mortal people can't do in a studio.

Porcelain - Julia Fordham

The best singer/songwriter you've never heard of

Madonna - Madonna

No shame here; her first album had more credibility then (and more now) than a lot of people remember, and it redefined a genre for the next decade.

Blue Lines - Massive Attack

For me, this just seemed to come out of nowhere, and while I could locate all their influences, I was blown away by what they made of them.

Lowlife - New Order

Movement made a play for this list, and this one doesn't have any of the killer singles, but it's a case of right place, right time, for me.

Pretty Hate Machine - Nine Inch Nails

The purity of this album is what gets me - this is the sound of someone scraping everything extraneous away to leave only the rawest emotion.

That Total Age - Nitzer Ebb

The zenith of industrial music, for them and everyone else. No ego here, this is all id, id, id.

Dummy - Portishead

The zenith of trip-hop, for them and everyone else. this is proof that rigorous artistry can elevate even a tertiary genre.

A Secret Wish - Propaganda

I am continually intrigued by the difference between European and American sensibilities in music, and I studied this album for clues; why did I love it? what made it so good, when I heard so many other people's version of the same album?

Tinderbox - Siouxsie & The Banshees

This is the moment I 'got it' with Siouxsie & Co. Plus, it operates on one throughline more than any other Siouxsie album.

Floodland - Sisters Of Mercy

I know, I know, but it's brilliant, and what's more, it achieves so many things its manyimitators have failed to do. There is an amazing literary quality to his lyrics on this album, too, and other than 'Temple of love' this is the only time his ego and his product lined up.

The Queen Is Dead - Smiths

Again, this is the moment I 'got it" with Smiths. Long after this album I'm still not much of a jangle fan, but this is undeniable.

Points On The Curve - Wang Chung

Forget the hit single; this album is so good, and so confident, and I was so disappointed that these guys sold out after this.

Upstairs At Eric's - Yaz

So amazing that it could actually make me forget Vince's Depeche Mode days. his production and Alison's voice are the great alchemy of synth pop.

Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack - Various Artists

that song by Furniture, the hit by Flesh For Lulu, the last two gems from March Violets; this soundtrack deserves a better movie, and I love John Hughes.

IQ6 Zang Tumb Tuum Sampled - Various Artists

A couple unsurprising Frankie tracks, and a couple slightly more surprising Art Of Noise tracks, a stellar introduction to Propaganda, and then an explosion of Anne Pigalle, Andrew Poppy, and the only place to find Instinct, the band that was signed to ZTT only long enough to make this compilation. This is ZTT at its visionary best.