Saturday, November 26, 2011

20 Albums That Influenced My Life

I had a similar post on Facebook from Feb 2009 ( a lifetime ago!) but wanted to share it here.  I also updated it a bit to include 20 albums instead of the original 17.  It was one of those memes going around and I knew immediately I wanted to do it. Music is such a part of my life that I can instantly go back to certain time periods when hearing certain songs.  I love that kind of sensory memory.

Clearly this is going to reveal some terribly uncool stuff, but I was 8 when I started really listening to music, so I can't help it that I was influenced by what was on MTV and Top 40 radio at the time :)

Think of the albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. Not your favorite albums now: the ones that 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. Albums you wore into the ground.

These aren't in any particular order. And I am too lazy to look up the release year, so you'll have to live with that.

Michael Jackson: Thriller
I was 8. Gimme a break. But listening to it again now, it really is a great album. And I only recently found out that Eddie Van Halen does the guitar solo on Beat It. So it *is* a little bit metal :)

Def Leppard: Hysteria
I was 13, and my mom drove my friend Judy and me to a different state so we could see my then-favorite band live. Someday, I'll do that for BabyT, because I too will understand just how important it is.

Queensryche: Operation: Mindcrime
I saw them open for Def Leppard at that show and was *hooked*. I have seen them at least 9 times since then. I still don't really understand the whole story behind this concept album. Something about a dude who had to kill people, and a priest and a nun? Good times. Plus it seems to be one of TJ's favorites, too, so that's how I know we are meant to be together :)

Death Cab for Cutie: Plans
This one snuck up on me. It's not my usual kind of music. But when I heard it, I couldn't stop listening to it. It reminds me of my favorite part of my career - when I ran the beta program for Microsoft Speech Server 2007. I spent a lot of time at work then, and this album kept me company.

Counting Crows: August & Everything After
College. 4:30am on a Tuesday, doing wretched Physics homework. Debating about what Adam Duritz really meant in the lyrics.

10,000 Maniacs: Our Time In Eden
I love her voice. It was the soundtrack to my first summer back home after starting college. Bonus points because she sings in a range where I can also hit most of the notes, so I sound less wretched than usual when singing along.

Indigo Girls: Indigo Girls
In the midst of all the metal in high school, I found this album and inexplicably fell in love with it. I've seen them live more than a few times and my friend Judy took me to Emily Salier's restaurant in Atlanta a few years ago.

Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes
Bad choices in college. Unreliable boys. Last time I "saw" her live, I took Peanut over to Marymoor park and camped out on a blanket across from the venue. Free concert. Woot.

Vienna Teng: Waking Hour
Saw her at the Tractor Tavern on a whim upon recommendation from someone at Microsoft. Was blown away. I've seen her at least 7? 8? times live.

Live: Mental Jewelry
Soundtrack to the summer after my senior year in high school, waiting to go to California for college. I still take it with me on every road trip. I have never seen them live, and don't really want to, since their first album is the only one I love.

Toad the Wet Sprocket: fear
Happy, cheerful soundtrack for most of college. I have seen Toad live at least 7 times, nearly always with my friends Chris and Jasmine.

Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet
I was 10, and this started my glam/hair metal phase. I wasn't allowed to go to their concert, and didn't see them live until 1994 in LA at the venue formerly known as the Great Western Forum.  This is also the year I learned a lot of swear words from a friend who introduced me to this album. I remember being a little sad when those words entered my (mental) vocabulary - it was like a glowing neon sign saying "your childhood ends here".

Rush: Presto
Senior year in high school. Moping around waiting for it to be over. This album made me look forward instead of back. I know, it's the Rush album everyone else hates. Too bad.

Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs: Crooked Path
Reminds me of new friends, but also reminds me of the year I lived in Butte, MT against my will. I'm apparently a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll...

Pearl Jam: Ten
College, Ruddock House friends and a bad ski trip that turned out ok in the end. Made me want to visit Seattle someday. Here I am :)  I still have not seen these guys live, and I deeply regret missing my chance in 1994 because of some lame excuse like too much homework, not enough sleep, blah blah blah.

Guns 'n' Roses: Appetite For Destruction
I think I was 13 or 14 when I first heard it, and I was both horrified by it and loved it at the same time. It was so much *dirtier* than any of my other hair metal albums that I listened to at the time, but different and awesome. I saw these guys with my friend Uma at Three Rivers Stadium in 1992 (may it rest in peace), and they played with Metallica and Faith No More. It was amazing, just like when I met Uma and found another Indian-American girl who liked the same kind of music as I did.

Matchbox 20: Yourself Or Someone Like You
I found this used at my favorite CD store (RIP, Disc Go Round in the U-District). I was in grad school, and really felt like I shouldn't be there. I was in a relationship I really felt like I shouldn't be in, and to make matters even more complicated, was seriously crushin' on someone else who shall remain nameless but lives with me now :) I know it's cheesy and Top 40, but Rob Thomas can write a catchy pop song with tortured relationship lyrics like no one else. I saw them play in a high school auditorium before they hit it big, then saw them in Key Arena when Adam Duritz showed up out of nowhere to sing "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys". Swoon.

The Decemberists: The King Is Dead
Like Death Cab for Cutie, this is another band I thought only hipsters wearing skinny jeans liked and I did my best to ignore them.  But I couldn't.  The first time I heard "This is Why We Fight" on the radio, I knew I had to own it.  Something about this album reminds me of the 70s classic rock I grew up with on WDVE in Pittsburgh, the only radio station we had in the 80s that would play anything remotely "metal".  The whole album is great, and classic, and 1 year-old BabyT would request it.  That made it even more fun.  She still likes to listen to "'Cemberists".

Dave Matthews Band: Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95, Disc 1
This album got me skinny.  I was living in Seattle, and decided I needed to make some changes in my life.  I started walking on the Burke Gilman trail, miles and miles.  DMB kept me company.  This album was long enough that I never made it to side 2 on those walks.  Plus, it was before I had an MP3 player so I was listening to the actual CD and it's hard to carry extra CDs when you're out walking and running.
Dave Matthews Band: Under The Table And Dreaming
Caltech, senior year. Not sure how I discovered them since I was pretty much living in a media-free bubble, but it was hard to avoid DMB in the mid-90s.  It was so different from the metal and grunge I had been listening to, but this one was *always* in my CD player.  I listened to it when taking my very last final exam (Analytical Chemistry) and made a mental note to mark that occasion.  16 years later, I still remember sitting at my desk in my room, and feeling the utter relief tinged with a bit of sadness that I was almost done with college.  Even now listening to "Warehouse" makes my heart rate increase just a little, remembering that stress.

That's my 20.  Now I want to know yours!  Leave me a link in the comments.  Jenn, Shalini, hush, Cloud, caramama, LauraC, Di, and Shannon, I'm talking to you!  If you weren't listed here, I'm talking to you too!  Think of this as a homework assignment :)


  1. Ooh, you've picked some good ones. Thanks for the shout out. I accept! (How nice to get some lurve from my bloggy friends.) Let me think on it and get back soon. I'll probably be ditto-ing a couple of your picks!

  2. Done! Here's my list:

  3. That was fun! I love your blog by the way. Here's my list:

  4. Right, it has taken me ages to get my act together to comment and respond AND I've taken liberties with the details of the meme - but here is my list of 20...

  5. So cool to see all the links here!!!


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