Saturday, March 07, 2009

15 Albums/Artists

This meme has been floating around on facebook, and I thought I'd duplicate my posting here, too.

The idea is to post about fifteen albums or artists that have influenced your life in some way. Here goes:

1. The Annie Soundtrack: This is one of the first records I remember owning, and I loved the songs as much as I loved the movie. My cousin Amy and I would put on our own performances singing and dancing along with Annie and the other orphans. My favorites at the time were "Hard Knock Life," and, of course, "Tomorrow." Now I realize how amazing any song featuring Carol Burnett as Mrs. Hannigan was; "Little Girls," for example, is hilarious and so well-done.

2. Amy Grant, Age to Age: I had this one as a record, too, and when I just now checked the song list on Amazon to make sure I was thinking of the right album, I not only recognized all the songs, but could sing most of them again. I played the heck out of this one, most likely soulfully closing my eyes and swaying as I sang along with "El-Shaddai." Amy Grant was also my first concert experience; I went with a group of girls in my class (I think this was fifth grade?) to celebrate Livija Shannon's birthday. It was rad. I think I wore something totally killer, like stirrup pants.

3. Mozart: If I were really being honest, I would put down Warner Brothers cartoons and a rickety old Hooked on Classics albums as being my real introductions to classical music, but I think it's fair to trace my interest in classical back to a tape my parents had of Mozart. It was a pretty standard $3.99 at the checkout style assemblage of Mozart's better-known stuff, but it knocked my socks off when I listened to it again and again on my walkman (probably in the dark, while thinking sadly about how no one understood me...this was junior high, after all). Of course I liked Eine Kleine Nachtmusik like everyone else, but my absolute favorite was the Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem mass. When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of singing this one with our choir and choirs from other Christian schools around Iowa...singing en masse one of the creepiest, most mournful songs I knew was pretty amazing. I also went to a performance of Mozart's Requiem at the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, which was phenomenal. I got chills when I heard those first strings of the Lacrimosa.

4. Cranberries, Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We: Of all the standard top-forty stuff I listened to when I was in junior high and high school, I remember being blown away by the (relatively) crazy sounds of the Cranberries. I just thought her voice was so haunting and the songs seemed to be about something really important, like war and love and strife. I still occasionally listen to this one, along with No Need to Argue.

5. The Beatles. Is it cliched to like the Beatles? Probably. The oldies station out of Des Moines would broadcast a show called the Beatles Brunch on Sundays. It was always on when we got home from church, and I would tune in on my stereo in my bedroom and listen as I changed out of my church clothes and waited for Sunday dinner to be ready. The show featured not only songs but interviews with the Beatles and clips of news stories from the time periods when the songs were released. I think it was during this time period (junior high and high school, again) when I was listening to Beatles Brunch that I decided I really should have been a sixties kid (not really knowing what that meant, of course).

6. Simon & Garfunkel: I "discovered" Simon & Garfunkel midway through high school. I was familiar with the two most-played radio songs, "The Boxer" and "Mrs. Robinson," but the Greatests Hits tape I bought had all these amazing songs that I had never heard: "Homeward Bound" and "America" remain two of my favorites. I listened to my tape on my walkman on our family vacation to the Ozarks and on the long bus ride to Rhode Island (for the CRC convention) and still associate the songs with traveling and road trips.

7. Bob Dylan: My freshman year of college, I took on the task of educating myself in two areas to impress a boy. The first was baseball; I memorized some stats and learned the differences between the American and National leagues and watched games and generally learned to appreciate the sport. The second was Bob Dylan. This boy was going through a period of Dylan obsession and was actually writing a research paper on Dylan for his history class, so I thought it important to familiarize myself with this musician. I can't say that my original interest was pure, then, but my love of Dylan grew into something separate from my relationship with the boy who (SPOILER ALERT) I would later marry.

Writing about Dylan could be its own entry, so I'll keep it brief. I can't name a favorite song, although if forced at gun point I'd probably say "Like a Rolling Stone," which is a little cliched, I know, but really it's such an amazing song. But what about "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "Visions of Johanna," and, and...oh, it's too overwhelming. The whole Desire album! I can't stop!

Dylan is also the only musician I have deemed to see in concert multiple times. I don't go to a lot of concerts, but I've seen Bob live four times (with Jeff every time).

8. Cat Stevens: Another college discovery. I think my love of Cat began when Jeff and I listened to his brother Steve's greatest hits CD whilst necking at his parents's house early in our courtship. (Sorry for the details there). This music became the soundtrack of my early relationship with Jeff but also seamlessly became the backdrop for so many other experiences: traveling to England, working late at night on my old Mac computer at our house in Grand Rapids, etc.

9. Dar Williams, The Mortal City: When I was in high school, I tuned in somehow to the public radio station broadcast out of the University of Northern Iowa. The signal was weak, and I could only hear it in certain parts of the house or particular areas of town if I was driving around, but this is where I was introduced to folk artists and lesser known world musicians for the first time. I heard Dar Williams singing "Iowa" live (from Iowa City, I think) during the summer before I left for college, and her music became emblematic of the kind of new, independent woman I thought I would become while studying at college. I still love her music although I now realize how embarrassingly hippie-chic it is.

10. Elliott Smith, XO: One night while I was in college I saw this shaggy guy performing a moody, melancholy song on Late Night with David Letterman. That song was from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, and that shaggy guy was Elliott Smith. I bought the album XO not long after and played it to death. My favorite song from the album was "Waltz #2 (XO)" which I put on every single mixed tape I made in college. When Smith killed himself a few years ago, I went back and listened to the album and realized how dark and depressing it really was, but when I think about these songs I get happy, because I associate them with some of the best times of my life.

11. Moby, Play: I'm kind of embarrassed by lots of the entries on this list, and Moby is one of them. Look, I realize that I'm not really hip regarding musical artists; I don't keep up with who's new and cool or who's indie and undiscovered. It seems like a lot of work to me. I know Moby isn't real techno or whatever, but I loved his music and can't hear this CD without thinking of my time in England, when I bought it at a Virgin megastore. I have a very strong memory of listening to "Porcelain" on the bus trip to Hampton Court Palace and knowing I would remember that moment forever. Ack! It sounds so lame when I write it!

12. The Jazz Station: This is a set of four CDs I bought from some random vendor at the Portabello Road market in London. It was ridiculously cheap, like 15 pounds or something, which probably meant it was an unlicensed compilation. I didn't know much about jazz (and honestly still don't) but this collection was the perfect intro for a newbie. Dinah Washington, Miles Davis, Etta James...a song or two from each of the big names. Another one I can't think about without thinking of England.

13. Patty Griffin: Another artist I discovered via the public radio station in Iowa. I heard her song "Sweet Lorraine" the summer before Jeff and I got married, and sat in the parking lot of the store I was going to to listen to the rest of her live set they were playing. I was late for something but the little slip of paper on which I scrawled "Patty Griffin" once the announcer said her name was more important. I have several of her CDs and am never disappointed. This woman can belt it out.

14. Beastie Boys: I was a late-comer to the Beastie Boys, never listening to them during their heyday in the eighties and nineties. Jeff was a fan, and I became one after their 2004 album, To the 5 Boroughs, came out. One of the best times of my life was their concert we attended in 2004. General admission, one row from the crush barrier, within spitting distance of MCA. The story of how I threw a punch at a frat boy with a neck-head and sustained a cracked rib as a result has become legendary. If Ad-Rock ever shows up at my door asking me to come away with him, I can't be held responsible for the result. I'm sorry, Jeff.

15. Neutral Milk Hotel, In an Aeroplane Over the Sea: Jeff brought home this CD in late 2005 when I was early in my pregnancy with Charlotte, and wanted to play it for me right away, but I was constantly nauseated and tired and wasn't giving him the reception he wanted, so we had a big dumb fight about it and I forgot about the amazing CD he couldn't stop talking about for months. It wasn't until spring that I happened to pop the CD in on my own, and holy cow, what was this insane, amazing music? When Jeff was gone over spring break and I was writing my final papers for school, my laptop edged out of my lap by my growing stomach, I listened to NMH almost constantly. When I listen to the songs on this album, I think of that amazing time in our lives when anything was possible and so much was on the horizon. The title track is quite possibly my favorite song of all time.

Whew! That's it, although I thought of more I could have included as I wrote.


M said...

Don't be ashamed of your Moby love! I got into techno music my freshman year of college (to impress a boy lol) and went to see Moby live in Columbus. He might not be the greatest musician but he put on a pretty good show.

Sarah said...

I think I could have written #s 1-7 for myself! I remember the Amy Grant concert too!