Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums, no matter what they were thought of musically, that shaped your world.
No particular order of preference or impact:
The White Album - The Beatles(1968)
I really like the Beatles. I’m not a person who believes that they could crap on a record and it would be gold, but I really appreciate their really good stuff. This album is really good stuff. I probably started listening to this in summer 1994, and haven’t stopped since.
Add It Up (1981-1993) - Violent Femmes
I had just moved to Chicago from St. Louis. My friend Jessi came to visit me in October, and for the whole of the visit she had “Blister in the Sun” stuck in her head. I hadn’t made any friends yet, so my musical tastes hadn’t grown much beyond our 8th grade obsessions with Naughty by Nature, House of Pain and the like. This is one of the albums that started the expansion.
Purple Rain - Prince (1984)
Prince is what pop music should be. I saw him live in 2003 or 2004…and it was awe inspiring. He plays any instrument you throw at him, seems to have a never ending supply of energy and changes costumes faster than a speeding bullet. Also, I married my sweetheart on his 50th birthday. We have this great picture of me in my wedding dress playing air guitar to the solo at the end of Let’s Go Crazy. Totally awesome.
Pretty Hate Machine - Nine Inch Nails (1989)
I had a Trent Reznor shrine in my room…a whole piece of wall dedicated to pictures of him. He’s still pretty damn hot. I can’t say NIN really made it past my teenage angst years – though they were present in a BIG way then. I wish my parents had taken pictures of the getups my friend and I wore to their concert in ’95…long fake nails painted a deep maroon, dark eyeliner, black lipstick…it was ridiculous.
Nevermind - Nirvana (1991)
I wasn’t one of the people who cried uncontrollably when Kurt Cobain died in 1994, but I did have a giant picture of his face on my bedroom wall, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard he died, and I still love, love, love Nirvana. All of it.
Automatic for the People - R.E.M. (1992)
I used to have a goal to own every R.E.M. album, but if I had to choose just one, this might be it.
Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos (1992)
A lot of things happened to Tori Amos before and since this album. She writes about all of them. It’s raw, unabashed and sometimes very strange. She does all of it while playing two or more instruments at once. I sort of fell off the Tori bandwagon after From the Choirgirl Hotel, but I’ll probably listen to her forever.
Singles (Soundtrack) – Various Artists (1992)
I was too young to really understand Singles when it came out (or Reality Bites or any of those 20-something angst movies), but I was just the right age to lust after the soundtrack. The best song Smashing Pumpkins ever wrote was on this album, it was my introduction to Paul Westerberg – it was the growing up, branching out mix.
Big Lizard In My Backyard - Dead Milkmen (1993)
I still laugh my ass off when I listen to Dead Milkmen.
Exile In Guyville - Liz Phair (1993)
Oh, Liz Phair. It was all downhill from here. Not any real talent, to speak of, other than being kinda raunchy. She’s one of the ladies that makes it okay for girls not to feel so guilty for feeling naughty, and it’s great. Well…it used to be great.
Last Splash - The Breeders (1993)
Lollapalooza 1994. My friend’s mom insisted on picking our 14-year-old-selves up at 7:00. We missed Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys and George Clinton. We did see L7, Nick Cave, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Breeders. This album is just so good.
Lincoln - They Might Be Giants (1993)
They Might Be Giants just make me happy. They’re smart and fun and make you feel like a big kid. I like that they’re so talented musically without making you feel like your insides might burst with how hard everything is. Do you have to take everything so effing seriously all the time? No. It’s exhausting. They are great, and probably one of the reasons why I wasn’t totally dragged down by all the sad sap and angst I listened to in the 90s.
Pussy Whipped - Bikini Kill (1993)
It took me awhile to come around to Bikini Kill. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to listen to a bunch of girls screaming – until I really listened, and I realized that I recognized that noise as the noise my insides made when violated by an unwanted touch, or made to feel stupid or powerless. This is that voice, taking the power back.
Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
This album came up recently in a discussion I had with a coworker about the album as a lost art. This is most definitely one of those – an art, in my opinion, that Smashing Pumpkins never ever got back.
Dummy - Portishead (1994)
I used to turn up the base, lie on the floor and just FEEL this music. It’s still fantastic for driving at night.
Live Through This - Hole (1994)
This album was my gateway to punk. I know the music snobs will snort at that, but it’s true. Lollapalooza ’95 – Beck, Sinead O’Connor, The Roots, Superchunk, The Jesus Lizard, Sonic Youth and Hole. Courtney had lost her voice, but did manage to scream obscenities at the people yelling “Courtney killed Kurt!” at her from the pit.
Dilate - Ani Difranco (1996)
Once in awhile, I’d fall for someone, and they’d never really get how hard. This album is dedicated to those folks. “think i'm going for a walk now/i feel a little unsteady/i don't want nobody to follow me/'cept maybe you/i could make you happy you know/if you weren't already/i could do a lot of things/and i do”.
Dig Me Out – Sleater-Kinney (1997)
My friend Mary got me into Sleater-Kinney in college. Both she and them were a staple of my college-going years. I’m sad that they’re no longer around – but what a great ride.
Surfacing - Sarah McLachlan (1997)
Oh, boy. So, I had it real bad for this guy in college. Real. Bad. For years. At least one person literally threatened to slap me. It was not meant to be. I still can’t help but think of him when I hear this album, but I also just really dig Sarah McLachlan.
When the Pawn… - Fiona Apple (1999)
Fiona loves and loses with the best of ‘em. Personally, I like it when she’s pissed about it, and when she LONGS for it. I’ll never get enough of this album.
Blacklisted - Neko Case (2002)
I never really got into Neko Case, no matter how many people told me how good she was. Then I saw her live. Everyone standing in the Main Room at First Avenue fell totally silent when she began to sing, and her voice filled the entire space. You know you’ve fallen in love with music when it gives you goosebumps and that queasy feeling in your stomach. “Chimney falls and lovers blaze/Thought that I was young/Now I've freezing hands & bloodless veins/As numb as I've become/I'm so tired/I wish I was the moon tonight”
Fever to Tell – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)
I hadn’t heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before I went to see them at First Avenue with my boyfriend at the time, who swore by them. There was Karen O, writhing on the stage, tearing at her fishnet stockings, sometimes sort of singing, but mostly just talking or breathing or making noises into the microphone. It sounds totally crazy, and I’m not sure I can adequately describe this, except to say that this album makes me feel like sex incarnate.
Sevens Travels - Atmosphere (2003)
This album welcomed me back to hip hop when I was emerging from a few years of really losing track of myself, my needs, my wants, my everything. When I woke up, there was Minneapolis – and Atmosphere.
Want One - Rufus Wainwright (2003)
This album was the soundtrack for the first time I ever visited the North Shore of Minnesota, which, in and of itself, was life changing. In addition to being a tremendously talented lyricist, Rufus Wainwright paints you right into a musical in this album, complete with full orchestra. The
Undisputed Truth – Brother Ali (2007)
You know that lost art of the album thing I was just talking about? Brother Ali proved with this one that it’s not lost at all. What’s more, he may be the best talent in hip hop today, and he’s from right here in Minneapolis, which I love.