20 Albums

Cross-posting this from Facebook since it seemed to have some relevance here.  Props to Scott Schnaars for inviting me to participate.

Think of 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you that 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 that, no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world. When you finish, tag 20 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good.

This is in the rough order that these records came into my life (which isn’t necessarily the same as when they were released).

1. Various Artists – Back To The Future: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack
The first album I ever owned — on vinyl…

2. Nirvana – Nevermind
A dubbed cassette that Brian Boyden copied for Jon Mack who then copied it for me. Somewhat cliche, but this was the record that started me off on my musical journey and helped to make me what I am today.

3. Various Artists – Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
One of the first CDs Jon Mack ever bought. We played the heck out of it and always wondered why it didn’t include a Nirvana song. This probably kicked off my fascination with compilations, soundtracks, and tribute albums.

4. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
The exact moment I started to deviate from “grunge” and expand my horizons was when I read a review of this record that started with the words “Mmmm….pop music.” Went out and bought it and never turned back.

5. Brad – Shame
I sought this out since it was a Stone Gossard side project, but now I consider it my gateway to Shawn Smith. They call him “Seattle’s Best Kept Secret” and I’ve been along for the ride ever since. Plus it has the most awesome title origin story of any album: They wanted to name the band “Shame,” but another band with that name threatened to sue unless they paid big money for the rights. The leader of that band was named Brad, so they decided to name the band “Brad” and the album “Shame” as a royalty-free workaround. Brilliant…

6. Carter USM – Post Historic Monsters
Carter became my favorite band on April 1 1994 when I saw them live even though I never heard a single song by them before. I bought this album the next day, and the rest of their back catalogue days later.

7. 311 – Music
The band I caught before their prime, followed religiously, and a couple albums later dropped almost cold turkey. But Music/Grassroots/311 are the soundtracks of late high school and early college.

8. The Beatles – Past Masters Volume Two
I know this is an odd choice. Under the influence of my parents I always knew a lot about the Beatles and probably had their entire discography memorized at a younger age than I can even recall. When it came time to actually “buy” my own Beatles album this was the one I got first. Sort of a “best of the Beatle B-Sides,” though I don’t think you can really classify any Beatles tune as true “B-Side” material. Both the rocked out version of “Revolution” and “Old Brown Shoe” have held the title of my favorite Beatles song (if not favorite song overall) at certain points in my life.

9. Backbeat – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Brilliant idea of forming an alt-rock all star band to do traditional, straight up, rockin’ covers of the covers the Beatles played in the German clubs in their early days. The Backbeat Band — Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum, Greg Dulli from The Afghan Whigs, Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, Don Fleming from Gumball (how’d he get this gig?), Mike Mills from R.E.M.and Dave Grohl from Nirvana (pre-Foo Fighters) — put together 27 blazing minutes that introduced me to the concept of the “Supergroup” and still puts a smile on my face to this day.

10. R.E.M. – Monster
The first record I ever stood in line outside a record store at midnight to buy, and probably still my favorite R.E.M. disc to this day.

11. Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Come Find Yourself
My mom used to work in the corporate office of Strawberries record stores. She’d always mail me advance copies of new CDs, but most of them were pretty forgettable. This was the only one I ever felt privileged to hear before most people did.

12. Billy Joel – The Stranger
One of the only tapes in my grandmother’s old car that I drove the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. Only 9 songs, but I fell in love with the utter perfection embodied in this album.

13. Mike Doughty – Skittish
One man and his guitar…and probably the greatest record ever made.

14. James Robert Morrison – J.R.
It sucks when your favorite band breaks up, but it hurts a lot less when one of the members goes on to make a solo record as beautiful as this. (Skittish referenced above would also fall into that category.) In one of the last Carter USM songs Jim Bob sang “I don’t want the honeymoon to last; I just want my future to live up to my past.” On this record, it did.

15. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
My friend Chris Evjy told me for years that I should check out Wilco and I never got around to it. Then I had an Amazon gift certificate on the verge of expiration and bought this with it a couple weeks after it came out. And then I bought everything else they ever did…

16. Stereo MCs – Deep Down & Dirty
Reminds me of Luxembourg.

17. M. Ward – Transfiguration of Vincent
Heard his cover of “Let My Love Open The Door” on the radio, bought this album on iTunes as soon as I got home, and bought the rest of his back catalogue a few hours later. (I’m starting to detect an obsessive pattern…)

18. Mason Jennings – Mason Jennings
The official soundtrack of doing the dishes, and quite possibly the best 1-2 punch of songs to start a folksy album.

19. James – Laid
I knew this album long before this point, but I never really appreciated it until years later. Jon Mack would probably put this on his top 20 influential records for completely different reasons, but it became the go-to mellow mood background disc for me in my old(er) age. Also one of those interesting cases where the single is the worst song on the album — and that’s not a knock on the song.

20. Local Boy – Local Boy Done Good
The greatest fictional album of all time, and one I hear so vividly in my head it almost makes me want to learn to play the guitar just so I can record it.

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