Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Music Through Our Lives

Pitchfork is doing this thing where they have certain artists list their favorite albums at different ages, starting at five and going out in five year increments. I think it sounds fun so I did it too.

5 - 1979 - John Denver - Back Home Again. I used to take naps to this when I was a kid, so I'm guessing this was probably my favorite at age five. Five is too early to have a favorite album. But this is the first album I remember.

I bought it again when I was in college, and it really is a great album. I had terrific taste in 1979.

10 - 1984 - Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA. This is the first album I remember loving and actually owning. I had liked many of Wendy's records but I actually owned this one. I also recently reacquired this one. And it also holds up. I've gone through a few different phases with Springsteen. I thought he was awesome. Then I thought he was a cheeseball. Then he was just boring for a long time. Then he recorded that Pete Seeger album and I liked him again. I can't say I've listened to much since, but I have seen a few documentaries about him, and watched his Storytellers episode on VH1. I am convinced he is a genius.

15 - 1989 - U2 - Rattle & Hum. I was in a computer class at Hefner Junior High. The exercise we were doing required me to list my favorite band. I was listening to a lot of Classic Rock at that time. The Doors, The Who, The Beatles. But I figured I better pick a band that was actually making music. At that moment I decided that U2 was my favorite band. I was obsessed with Rattle & Hum at that time, but wasn't that wild about anything else. Thankfully Auchtung Baby came out soon after and bailed me out of that. Not that I don't still love that album. But my 15 year old mind was unable to see all the overt self-righteousness that makes that album so embarrassing for me now.

20 - 1994 - These get harder as I go on. It's hard to decide between U2's Zooropa, Beastie Boys' Ill Communication, and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. But I think I have to pick Ill Communication. I can't really listen to that album anymore though. I'm just way too embarrassed for 20 year old Brent, drinking 40's, and rapping along with it. Some people are idiots when they are 20. Also, does anyone else agree that the 1990's don't really hold up all that well as a decade? Or maybe Brent in his 20's doesn't hold up all that well as a person. But even all the hipster movies from the 1990's do not seem so hipster now. I don't know.

25 - 1999 - Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin. By 1999 I had a car. I remember driving around New Orleans and listening to the Tulane radio station and hearing Waitin' for a Superman for the first time. I kind of recognized the voice, but couldn't quite place it. I ended up listening to that station for like a week straight, waiting to hear it again. I found out it was the Flaming Lips (I knew who they were of course, I just hadn't listened to them since like 1994). This is one of my favorite all-time albums. And it fit perfectly with my life in 1999. It was just what I was looking for. Songs about space and fake sci-fi and love and gravity and all that. I can still listen to it whenever for as many times as you would like.

30 - 2004 - Arcade Fire - Funeral - When I first got wind of this album, I understood them to be a new project from the people behind Neutral Milk Hotel. I don't know how that happened. And then suddenly there was huge buzz about this album. Funny, because I don't even know how I was getting my music news at this point (not Pitchfork), but I knew I wanted the album before it came out, and Chuck and I actually saw them before they took off. I remember thinking about halfway through that show that if they had led the crowd into the streets and incited a riot, I would totally be on board. I listened to this again the other day. It's still one of the best albums of my lifetime. I think I've never been able to fully enjoy their two follow-ups because of how much I cherish Funeral.

35 - 2009 - Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Chelsey really liked Ash Wednesday, and I came around to it too. But this album is darn near perfect. It has a lot of what I look for in music. Lots of instruments. Ornate lyrics. A trombone featured prominently. And a single "Doomsday" that I cannot kill - despite repeated efforts. It's a beautiful creation. Nothing has touched it the almost three years since it came out. Also saw him perform many of the songs live that year, and they were even better that way. Holy shit. What a good album.

Okay! That was fun! Someone else do one. If you need help with layout, let me know.


5 years old - 1976

1976 was the year we moved to Logansport, IN. I don't honestly remember listening to albums that early. One of my earlier memories is dancing i.e. closing my eyes and spinning in circles with the song "blinded by the light" playing on our giant stereo.

10 years old - 1981

Okay so this would be like third grade than. Was I buying my own albums by then. Probably not. We were definitely listening to a lot of John Denver. I think by now we had found this Brother's Four album of our parents. It had a fun/racist song about Superman that we all liked.

15 years old - 1986

I remember 1986 pretty well because it was the year I moved from catholic school to public school. That year for my birthday I got Invisible Touch - Genesis and So - Peter Gabriel. So was probably my favorite album at the time. Sledgehammer, In Your Eyes, etc.

20 years old - 1991

Freshman/Sophmore year in college. Probably Stone Roses - Stone Roses was my favorite. I remember when I was interviewed by the Creighton newspaper regarding what I would do if I won a million dollars I said, "Buy Winnipeg Jets tickets, and give the rest to the Stone Roses". Chuck Koster - not trying too hard or anything.

25 years old - 1996

1996 was the year I attended and flunked out of graduate school. It was also the period in time when I thought I was listening to relevant music, but really I was just buying the music that was on mtv and the albums of bands that I was already into. I suppose The Rentals kind of fits into both of those categories, but I still love this record.

30 years old - 2001

Still missing out on a lot of really good music. I don't think I was listening Neutral Milk Hotel, or Modest Mouse, or Magnetic Fields or Yo La Tengo or Belle and Sebastian at this point. I was listening to The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Moldy Peaches, which I think was my favorite of the year despite only coming out in September.

35 years old - 2006

I may have been tracking my favorite albums by 2006, but I don't remember what it was. I checked Pitchfork's best of 2006 and Night Ripper was on there, so let's go with that because God knows I played the hell out of that one.

40 years old - 2011

I think I said The Weeknd was my favorite of 2011 on this blog. I could still go with that, but just for inconsistency sake I'll switch it up and go with Cults, who have the most songs on my best songs of 2011 Pinterest board.

Re-looking at my choices, this seems like more of a best case scenario favorites list than maybe the truth or maybe I just got lucky that the years of record just happen to not be the years that I was listening to Milli Vanilli or Indigo Girls.


Chelsey (I made her do this last night over dinner):

5 - 1988 - Roxette - Look Sharp.

10 - 1993 - Boys II Men - Cooleyhigh Harmony

15 - 1998 - Blink 182 - Dude Ranch

20 - 2003 - Postal Service - Give Up

25 - 2008 - Cat Power - Juke Box


Age 5 (1983): There was music in my house constantly. My dad worked in Center City and almost every Friday he would buy a new album, bring it home, and we would all listen to it incessantly on the stereo in the living room.  In fact, I was looking through the 1983 albums and he bought a ton of them that year, but the best, to me, was She's So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper. Made me the feminist I am today.

Age 10 (1988): Bon Jovi, New Jersey.  Nothing shows I'm from Philadelphia more than this, really.

Age 15 (1993): Cure For Pain and Kerosene Hat were released that year, and if I knew that then, one of those would be #1, but since I hadn't met Kent yet, we're going with Songs of Faith and Devotion by Depeche Mode.

Age 20 (1998): College. Ani. Dilate. All of her stuff, basically.

Age 25 (2003): Hail to the Thief, Radiohead. We went to their show in Washington and it was fantastic. Stephen Malkmus opened, but he cursed at people who wanted him to do The Hook.

Age 30 (2008): Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend. We re-did the Atlanta house to this album. I didn't like it at first, but now it's one of my favorites. And they put on an awesome show.


1979 - Mardi Gras in New Orleans - This is the first "album" that I can remember, surely because it came out of wherever we kept it every year for Carnival.  The cover art is very clear in my mind.  

1984 - Thriller - Thriller was the very first record I bought.  For some reason the two strongest memories I have of the album does not include the music video for Thriller, but instead the tiger cub on the inside of the album cover, and "The Girl is Mine," the duet with Paul McCartney.

1989 - Appetite for Destruction - There is no other possibility here.  This was the album that changed it all for me.  I had never heard anything like Guns N Roses.  They were so dangerous.  I was also into the Sex Pistols at this point in my life, but they were all dead or making new wave pop music.  Guns N Roses were actual teenage rebellion personified.  God bless my father for camping with me all night outside of the Maison Blanche to buy tickets to their show.

1994 - Bone Machine - I don't know why Brent Joseph and I picked up a copy of Rain Dogs from Tower Records on Decatur Street in our senior year of high school.  I think we liked the cover.  Whatever the reason, it saved me from hair metal.  Rain Dogs may have started my infatuation with Tom Waits, but Bone Machine cemented it.  It came out in 1992, I most likely got a copy in 1993, and was still going strong on it in 1994.

1999 - Pet Sounds - This was a toss up between my discovery of the Beach Boys and the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin.  Brent already discussed The Soft Bulletin, so I'll go with Pet Sounds.  In 1999, I was a full-on music snob.  I'd always been a music collector, but the employee discount I got from working at a Borders Bookstore accelerated the growth of my cd collection.  I discovered the Beach Boys in the basement of Borders.  I worked in the basement taking corporate orders alongside another guy who did inventory.  We didn't have a lot to do, and we were allowed to listen to music, so we basically swapped music all day long.  I exposed him to Tom Waits, Morphine, Radiohead, and The Flaming Lips, he exposed me to the 1960s and 70s, particularly the later Beach Boys.  Their whole story hooked me, and I ate up every possible session outtake, bootleg, and remix of Smile I could.  I have certainly cooled off on the Beach Boys, but Pet Sounds pretty just sounds perfect to me.

2004 - The Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah - I'm not sure when Brent Joseph sent me this in the mail.  It had to be around 2003-4.  As a rule, I hate live albums (except Paul Simon's Concert in the Park), but there is no other way to capture James Booker's sound other than live.  All his studio albums fall a bit flat; overproduction and soulless studio musicians kill them.  His live recordings, on the other hand--those are documentation of genius.  To this day, I can put this album on and listen to it 8 times without tiring of it.  The way Booker can weave Mozart into Jelly Roll Morton and back again always leaves me awestruck.  And the version of St James Infirmary on this album puts all other versions to shame.  Enjoy hearing it at my funeral.

2009 - Elvis Perkins in Dearland - I spit from BK on the 1999 album, but by 2009 apparently we were in lockstep.  I considered Middle Cylcone by Neko Case, Con Law by Generationals, and XX by The XX, which were all released that year, and are all great albums.  This is the year Leslie, Brent, Chelsey, and I took a vacation to Perdido Key.  One night we went to dinner in Pensacola, and on the way there in the car, we all sang along to Doomsday.  It was awesome.

I don't know if this is the hardest for me because I am the oldest or have kids who are the oldest or because I have the crappiest taste in music.  Maybe the 5s just weren't relevant musical years for me.  Anyway, here goes.

age 5, 1974:  Lucky for me, this is the year The Streak by Ray Stevens came out.  We owned it.  Yes we did.

age 10, 1979:  Kenny Rogers, the Gambler.  I believe we've already discussed how we'd listen to this on the way to Omaha.

age 15, 1984:  I'll go with Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics.  Lord knows I loved this album.  I always will.

age 20, 1989:  This was a big Andy Leon period in my life, and was therefore heavily influenced by Elvis Costello.  For this reason, I choose Blood & Chocolate.

age 25, 1994:  I think it was around this time that I saw REM & Natalie Merchant & Radiohead in concert together.  That was a good night, even if it was technically in 1995.  Let's do Monster by REM here.

age 30, 1999:  Around this time I enjoyed Fat Boy Slim quite a bit.  Who knew he was one of the Housemartins??  You've Come a Long Way, Baby (this, incidentally was one of clever phrases I used as door decorations for my residents when I was an RA -- I tried to snip the cigs out when I could, but it wasn't easy).

age 35, 2004:  I had a pair of 2-year-olds at this point in my life and I mostly walked around in a daze.  I listened to a lot of Dan Zanes.  Family Dance.

age 40, 2009:  I don't remember liking a lot of music in 2009, but I really liked Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.   


  1. I seemed to have lost the Night Rippers cd art, but that's okay. It's not much to write home about anyway.

  2. Ok. I fixed it, and added Chelsey's picks!

  3. Brent, something happened to the format for the first album, I tried to justify it but no go. Any ideas?

  4. Blogger could use some line breaks, for real.

  5. I just realized that I was born in 1975, so my years are off. Oh well.

  6. These are really great. Wendy, you need to do yours as the senior member of this group. I my favorites so far are Leslie's Depeche Mode (I loved that album too), and Chelsey's Roxette. Chelsey also used to sing Skid Row's "18 and Life" to her family members when she was a kid the way I used to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to mine when I was little. "Bang bang! Shoot 'em down! The party never ends!"

  7. My mistake. That was supposed to be "Bang Bang! Shoot 'em up!" Not down.

  8. OK Computer really should be on my list, but it fell between Depeche Mode and Ani, and Hail to the Thief was big when we got married. Can there be too much Radiohead? Also, Key Lime Pie.

    And I remember we made my Dad listen to Roxette when he drove us to Dorney Park and he was not happy. But then he made us listen to Friday I'm in Love by The Cure for an entire summer and got us back.

  9. Leslie, I can't believe you had a dad that made you listen to The Cure. That is a type of fatherhood with which I am unfamiliar. Also Brent, I have evidently suppressed all memories of you singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Lastly this list has inspired me to give Elvis Perkins one more try.

  10. Oh man, he loved that song so much. It almost made up for his loving The Fabulous Thunderbirds. My parents were really young and a lot of fun. Their style of parenting was 'we trust you, don't fuck up.'

  11. Chuck, I completely remember the Blinded by the Light thing, but it must have just been a moment in time because there's no way our parents owned that album. Maybe it came on the radio one night when we were playing "Baby Go Bye Bye."

    Also, Brent, I completely remember your by-request renditions of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and they were by no means a one-time affair. As I recall, you did it a lot for Grandma's friends when we were visiting Omaha one summer.

  12. Thank you Wendy. I knew that happened.

  13. Not surprisingly, 25 seems to be our strongest year collectively. Everyone is so beautiful and handsome and cool at that age. Oh 25. Fuck you.