This isn’t an ordinary list. These albums have at one point in my life helped me understand something about myself, develop a new appreciation for a particular genre of music, or helped me relate some of my personal struggles to others. Music is all about making relations.
The Clash: Combat Rock
This album was one of the first albums that drastically changed who I was in my early teenage years. This album opened my eyes to how music could be an outlet to talk about politics. The Clash is the reason I fell in love with punk music. Listening to punk music helped change my perspective. I started to think about how others viewed me, and how I viewed them. I started to alter my style to fit in with other punks. It was actually a lot of fun in some ways. I was able to experiment with style, hair colour, and what others viewed as socially appropriate. As I got older, I got lazy. These days I find it much easier to rock a pair of jeans or slacks and a t-shirt. I also spent a fair bit of time in the washroom every morning putting glue into my hair to make my Mohawk stand up. It turned out to be a lot more preparation than I thought it would be.
I let myself get reckless and became part of a scene. I started going to a lot of concerts, drank alcohol too frequently, and experimented with drugs. There was a ton of positives though. I learned a lot about myself. Combat Rock was the first album that sent me down a road of music and self exploration. Through listening to The Clash I got into bands like Propagandhi, NOFX, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, etcetera. Some of these bands I still listen to today! My interest in politics started with music. It’s kind of strange when you think about it.
Blink 182: The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show
The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show was the first live album I ever bought and thoroughly enjoyed. The banter back and forth between Mark and Tom made the album what it is. The album was an accumulation of the best of Blink. My appreciation of live albums started with Blink 182; for that I am extremely grateful. I picked up bass guitar in my late teens and started to learn Blink 182 songs. The bass lines were simple, quick, and fun to play. I still listen to this album today and enjoy it just as much as I did thirteen years ago.
Brand New: Deja Etendu
Music is about sound, but it’s also about words. There is as much skill in telling a story as there is in writing one. Brand New’s album Deja Etendu was one of the things that helped get me interested in writing. I would spend a lot of time researching lyrics and exploring some of the meanings behind them. Jesse Lacey is someone who is blessed with the skill of writing and singing. It’s a deadly combination. Through Brand New’s music I was able to explore written text and ways in which I could evoke emotion in my own writing. There’s an intrinsic quality in Brand New’s music of being genuine. Often artists get put in boxes, and produce the same exact music over and over.
Brand New to me adopted the philosophy of progressing and writing music that was relative to their age and experiences. I’ve been to countless Brand New concerts and watched several interviews with Jesse Lacey on the topic of not playing old material at new shows. From what I interpret, and what Jesse has stated is that for a long time people would go to their shows and want one or two things from him. The songs on Deja Etendu and Your Favourite Weapon are written when Jesse was in his early twenties. The bands sound and lyrics have evolved over the years, which shows the members of the band changing as a group and individuals.
It might have been hard for some fans to get over. I myself have struggled at times to get into their new music. Once I got past the fact that no album will ever be the same as the one before I started to appreciate each album individually. As a writer I have adopted this philosophy with my writing.
The Postal Service: Give Up
This was a transition album for me. I was still into punk music, but I was feeling burnt out and worn down. Punk music is intense; it can be extremely enjoyable in small doses. In large doses it can get on your nerves. The Postal Service was something new. It was a mixture of electronics mixed with heartfelt melancholic lyrics. It was the right album for the right time in my life. Ben Gibbard’s lyrics hit home on sadness, loss, and strangely enough optimism. I remember listening to tracks like Sleeping In and Recycled Air and feeling a great deal of release.
Kanye West: College Dropout
This album was pivotal for me. It helped me to appreciate a different type of hip hop. The music was fun, catchy, and had some great lyrics. Kanye’s skill of mixing tracks, and beats was impressive. I was able to relate to the lyrics about money, family, and the struggle to be successful. Kanye poured his heart into this album, and touched on subjects many artists only talked about on a superficial level.
The depth of the album is seen where Kanye shows his versatility as a rapper on tracks like Through the Wire and Jesus Walks. He then transitions into being soulful and sweet by revealing intimate details about his life and family on tracks like Spaceship and Family Business. Last Call is part song, part story. It helps close the album in such a way that gives the listener a great deal of context into how hard Kanye had worked to be looked at as an artist, and not just a producer.
Kanye surrounded himself with talented musicians on this album. The tracks are made better by the collaboration. This album made me look outside the box, and discover what is currently being done in mainstream music – and more so what someone can do. Talented people feed off of other talented people. This is something that transcends all type of art.
“Now the music divides us into tribes” – Arcade Fire
Looking back, I couldn’t see this. My eyes weren’t open to other genres of music. I’m glad that my music palette has grown and evolved over the years. I’d love to hear from other people about how music has had an impact on their lives.
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