Has everyone on Facebook pretty much done the 15 meaningful albums off the top of your head list by now? I made my list but now I'm itching to say something about each of them. The idea was that you had to list them quickly, no searching your iTunes or going through your CD collection to find the best albums-just 15 things that came to you naturally. Here we go...
My sister sent me this album when I was lonely and homesick in California in the fall of 2002. Her note said that while all the songs were gems on their own, it was an album best enjoyed in it's entirety. This was a couple of years before iTunes crushed our collective ability to listen to anything other than a playlist so I followed her advice. This album is actually kind of sad but it ended up being an enormous comfort during those months when I was tempted every day to run away. It was also my first introduction to Ryan Adams, a love affair that hasn't cooled over the last eight years. This is a live version of "Jacksonville Skyline" and it's beautiful.
2. The Flaming Lips-The Soft Bulletin
In early 2003 my friend Dave sent me an email that said, "my friend Keith lives in LA. He likes music, you like music. You should be friends." He gave Keith my number and the first time he called we talked for 2 1/2 hours. I probably had a crush on him for about five minutes because that's how I function but we soon settled into one of the sweetest and most meaningful friendships of my life. He gave me The Soft Bulletin for Christmas one year and the more I listened to it, the more I adored him. He is married now and about to be a papa but his is still one my favorite names to see in my inbox. You all know this song but I think the lyrics are fabulous and when I saw The Flaming Lips live at Madison Square Gardens for New Year's several years ago it got me all choked up.
3. Heartbreaker-Ryan Adams
Anyone who knows me or reads the blog knows I'm almost irrational in my affection for Ryan Adams. I think he's enormously talented and there are literally dozens of songs between Whiskeytown, the Cardinals and his solo albums that thrill me right down to my toes. There isn't a period of my life in the last eight years that doesn't have a little Ryan woven into it. Here's a lovely one from Heartbreaker, a perfect album if ever there was one.
4. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-Wilco
Again, a little credit to my sister Emily here. She made me a mix CD that included "Jesus, etc". I have never once skipped this song when it cycles through iTunes, I have put it on every mix CD I make for boys I like, I sang along to this song at that same New Year's show in NYC with a sold out crowd. The whole album is terrific and the story of how it almost didn't happen is worth checking out. But this song will always be the standout to me.
you can rely on me honey
you can come by any time you want
I'll be around
you were right about the stars
each one is a setting sun
5. August and Everything After-Counting Crows
Oh the Counting Crows. Oh this album. Oh freshman year of college. A pattern in my life seems to be that I kind of hate the first two or three months of any new and exciting adventure-college, mission, California, Boston...apparently I need to be miserable for a bit before I can really enjoy anything. August and Everything After came out my senior year of high school and I really connected with it. I took the CD to college and played it and played it and played it. To this day, the first few bars of "Round Here" will instantly take me back to my goofy little College Way apartment in Cedar City.
6. Crash-Dave Matthews Band
I was a nanny for a few summers in college and spent a fair amount of time in Chicago with eight kids, three dogs and divorcing parents. It was a zoo to say the least. One of the daughters was only a few years younger than me and we got to be good friends. We spent an inordinate amount of time driving kids around and Ashley had a CD of "Crash" that we would listen to almost exclusively. It cracked us up to teach the little Vasya and Ola the lyrics to all these adult songs. And then I liked to listen to it in the rare moments I got to myself and be glad that I was a carefree college girl and not anyone's mom. There is a Dave Matthews album for my sophomore, junior and senior year of college but this one will always be my very favorite. "Say Goodbye" is a stand out since at any given time I had a crush on one of my guy friends.
7. Give Up-The Postal Service
In the space of about three months, three different people put "Such Great Heights" on mix CD's for me. It happened to be a time in my life when I was reevaluating my tastes in everything from jobs to clothes to music to boys and The Postal Service was a band I might have been too afraid to like before that summer. Keith and I saw their very first show at a little club in San Diego and two years later a boy who would go on to shatter my heart quoted the lyrics "I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images" in a moment that I later managed to settle into a sweet memory.
8. Tracy Chapman-Tracy Chapman
Oh what to say about Tracy Chapman..."Fast Car" came out when I was in elementary school and I would scour the radio waiting to hear it. I wasn't totally sure what the lyrics were all about but I knew it was sad and at 11 or 12, that's kind of your favorite thing. When I was in high school I got the CD in one of those Columbia Records 12 for 1 deals and played it nearly to death. My favorites tracks on this album have changed over the years, it always manages to feel new to me. This is one I used to skip when I was younger but as I've gotten older, find to be incredibly romanatic. I love these lines
Deep in my heart
Safe from the guards
Of intellect and reason
Leaving me at a loss
For words to express my feelings
9. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy-Sarah Machlachlan
Were you a girl in America in the mid to late nineties? Then you have some sort of connection to Sarah Machlachlan. I guess it probably doesn't seem this way anymore since she played the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics but 15 years ago, Sarah was edgy and liking her made me feel like I was growing up (I was 18!). I bought Fumbling Torwards Ecstasy at a record store after-cliche alert!-a boy broke my heart. Years later, Megan used Sarah Machlachlan to track Felicity's feelings for Ben in an episode of one my all time favorite television shows. Mary is a pretty song that still makes me feel better even when my heart is in good shape.
10. Sufjan Stevens-Greetings From Michigan
I don't even know who first told me about this guy. It just seemed like there was a month a few years ago where everyone was talking about him. It's hard to explain what he sounds like, you just kind of need to trust the person recommending him and just listen. I love that he's a religious guy and he's not shy about weaving spiritual themes into his music but he's uber talented enough that it doesn't ever come off as cheesy Christian rock. This song is not from the album noted above but it's a cover of my favorite hymn and it makes me cry almost every time I hear it. He does a brilliant job of making it his own, and the words have always felt like it was written just for me.
11. Florence and the Machine-Lungs
I've already written about this one recently. Great album, been in my ears a lot lately. Reminds me of someone I maybe have a little crush on.
12. Trouble-Ray Lamontagne
I used to participate pretty regularly in an internet message board. It was started by a bunch of my brother's friends from high school and was essentially a cyber hang out for kids who wanted to talk about music and politics and religion and movies and relationships with friends who were spread out all over the country. Everyone kept inviting people and soon we had a pretty active network of folks sharing their favorite albums in the same space they shared their fears about life and questions about their beliefs. It was a fascinating little society and although I don't participate anymore, I made some lifelong offline friends there and got literally hundreds of amazing music suggestions. One of them was from Jeff in Tennessee who might have sold his soul to the devil to get his impeccable taste. He told me if I liked Ryan Adams, I would like Ray LaMontagne and I bought the CD at Newbury Comics on my way home from work that very day. Every. single. track. kills. I think he keeps getting better and his new album has been my permanent driving soundtrack for a few weeks now but I still adore this album. Here's one of the many keepers.
13. Grace-Jeff Buckley
I really can't remember when I bought this album. I just know that Jeff Buckley has a voice that is other-worldly. My favorite song is "Last Goodbye" and the lyric, "kiss me out of desire baby, not consolation" pretty much slays me everytime.
14. The Bends-Radiohead
I almost didn't put this one on my list because I'm sure somewhere on "Stuff White People Like" there is an entry on "pretentious rock bands, i.e. Radiohead". But whatever, this truly is an album that means a lot to me. It took me a loooooooong time to warm up to these guys. I had tried-every single person I trusted would get almost reverent when they talked about Radiohead. But I just never really got it. Then I got a mix (you knew that was coming right?) with Fake Plastic Trees on it. I was letting the whole thing play while I was out for a run on the beach one afternoon and it was like this song just exploded into my head, took root and wouldn't leave. I asked my friend Jayd at church that week which Radiohead album I should start with, he said it was a controversial choice but definitely The Bends and I never looked back. I finally got to see them live with my friend Linda a few years ago in Boston and when they played Idioteque we both nearly fainted.
15. Broken Social Scene-You Forgot it in People
I think I have mentioned this before but for all the wonderful blessings I have in my life in terms of family and friends and jobs and opportunities, I have a pretty terrible relationship record. I was thinking about that the other night-not feeling any particular sadness, just looking at the facts of my age and my relative lack of real relationship experience. So then I started counting sweet romantic moments and thought that perhaps I've had more than my share of those over the years and maybe I'll take them over the series of painful breakups a normal 33 year old ought to have had.
One of those fabulous moments was when all the planets aligned and put me in San Francisco for work on the very birthday of the boy I was stupidly trying to date while living in Boston. It also happened that a band we both loved was playing that night and fifteen of our friends wanted to see them too. So we enjoyed a perfect show, with a bunch of people we loved and then spent the rest of the night laughing and talking and catching up at my hotel. He had brought a couple of CD's for me which is truly the best thing a boy can ever do. One of them included a Broken Social Scene song. People had been CRAZY RAVING about BSS and their self titled album for almost a year at that point and I just hadn't ever bothered to listen to it. "Lover's Spit" completely changed my mind and I became one of those raving lunatic fans as well. I still consider them one of my all time favorite bands, that discovery night ranks pretty highly as well. I saw that boy again last weekend in California and even though it's been six years and we've both certainly moved on-I still feel an enormous amount of affection for him and for what a delight our time together was.
I could on for days with this stuff but I'll obey the meme and leave it at 15.
p.s. Yes, Miss Katie, for sure there are albums that I might not want to brag about that meant a lot. John Mayer, Taylor Swift, Kenny Loggins. Maybe next I'll do a guilty pleasures top 15 ; )