OK, so I have to admit that this was a really difficult decision. It’s really hard to whittle down my favorite music into five albums. Top five bands would be much easier. Top five most influential songs, I’ve got that covered. But top five albums really made me need to be honest with myself.
What five albums—that I listened to in their entirety—on repeat—had a significant influence on me? They may not be on the Rolling Stone Top 500 of all time, but they did leave their mark on my life and my friends and family can confirm that I sang them loudly in my car in high school, still quote their quirky lyrics, freak out when I hear one of their songs in a film or in a commercial. They have become a part of my history and the DNA of me.
Nada Surf: Let Go (2002)
When my amazing friend Chad told me that I needed to listen to Nada Surf: Let Go, I thought he had gone nuts. “Do you mean that band who sang, Popular?” No. Thank. You. But he insisted, and he was overwhelmingly right. What an amazing album, I found it incredibly relatable especially at a time when I uprooted myself and moved to NYC. It enlightened me to the new city, and as I walked through it’s streets listening to this album it thrilled me with the magic that it revealed.
I also related to the fact that I was born in the winter of ‘77 and grew up hearing about the “Blizzard of ‘77”—it’s like this album already knew me. It hit me right in the heart.
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver (2007)
This album summed up my relationship with New York and Brooklyn. “New York I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down”, I loved this city, and was having an amazing time exploring and growing as a person. It was a fun time, this album helped perk me up in an incredibly challenging environment.
Andrew and I even capped our lives in New York with one of the final LCD Soundsystem shows before we all threw in the towel. I will dance to this album when I’m old and arthritic.
Death Cab for Cutie: You Can Play These Songs with Chords (2002)
You Can Play These Songs With Chords, summed up my college taste in music. It’s dated mono recording style and minimal production really appealed to me. This band was everything to me when they were still unknown. It seemed old and new at the same time.
This album is dark and dreamy, maybe even a bit harsh. It still holds up to the test of time as I listen to it while writing this. It brings me back to design school when we were trying so hard to act like adults, but really still struggling to shed our high school selves and become truly independent. In other words, it’s moody.
I remember sneaking into the back door of the Southgate House in Covington, KY to see them play, and found the band out back tossing a baseball by their tour van. This album is a far cry from the band they are today, with their huge production budgets, and famous wives, but their early albums really got things right.
the Breeders: Last Splash (1993)
Kim Deal with my musical hero in high school. She was tough and experimental. She set herself apart from the pack by not being girly, and presenting herself as a artist. Her baselines, feedback and succinct lyrics are embedded in my brain. I didn’t know that girls could be this cool, and I wanted to figure out her secret.
Cannonball was, and maybe still could be my theme song.
Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988)
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by this. “Where is My Mind” got stuck in my head, and I was hooked for life. This album was pure fun and nonsense. It made quirk and silliness cool and edgy—and exceedingly quotable.
The combination of Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering set the tone for my musical taste, and in my opinion, was fundamental to the evolution of the independent music of today. I love the albums listed above, because I love this album. It caught my ear, started an obsession, and opened my eyes to a whole genre of music that was challenging for a child of the Midwest to access. This album was a great unifier of friends—like a secret society of misfits—bound together by something that we had been searching for but was undiscovered until this album arrived in our lives.