In no particular order, and for no particular reason, here are 8 albums that really helped shape my musical influences in the past 10 or so years:
1. Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child (Tooth and Nail, 2002), Norma Jean
Norma will always have a soft spot in my heart. I bought this album in a Mardel’s Christian book store in Ft. Worth, TX when I was 14 or 15. I remember taking it to my grandma’s house and putting it in my walkman CD player…and freaking out over the intensity of the music. It was controlled chaos, my first big leap into metal/hardcore, and my first great admiration of brutal breakdowns.
2. A—>B Life (Tooth and Nail, 2002), mewithoutYou
Interestingly enough, on that same trip to grandma’s in that same store in Ft. Worth, I picked up this little number as well. I have to admit that this album was, to me, an acquired taste. I had never heard anything like Aaron Weiss’ now trademark speak-sing-scream. It’s kind of like spoken word poetry run amok. After a few listens, I really began to appreciate the depth of lyrical content, and mwY has remained a consistent favorite of mine over the years.
3. Peregrine (The Militia Group, 2006), The Appleseed Cast
This album is definitely in the running for my favorite album ever. Again, The Appleseed Cast were an acquired taste for me, and looking back, I probably would have been better off with an introduction via the Low Level Owl albums, but alas, twas not to be. However, after having Peregrine for a few weeks, I became enamored with the richness of their guitar tones, and their attention to detail, such as the snare hits on “Sunlit Ascending”; each hit was gated differently, or perhaps an altogether different drum, giving the song a unique rhythmic pulse. Peregrine is a keeper.
4. A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol, 2002), Coldplay
Don’t laugh. This album was great. For me, it marked the transition from my primary concern being “how crazy is it?” to “does it move me?” I distinctly recall sitting in my best friend’s living room in 8th grade, and Chris Martin appearing on a commercial singing “The Scientist”. At that time, my friend, his dad and I joked about how lame he was. By the 9th grade, I couldn’t stop listening to this CD. There are songs on this album that soar majestically, like “Clocks”. There are morose, passioned pleas like the chorus in “Warning Sign”. Every time I listen to this album, even 11 years later, I feel something.
5. The Kite EP (self-produced, 2007?), Ours to Alibi
My freshman year of college was another transition point. I began to fall in love with post-rock instrumental music, and I have Ours to Alibi to thank for it. Because of this album, I eventually connected with Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, Unwed Sailor, and more. The delay-happy guitars playing off of one another, creating a fluid and beautiful melody, building to a full, huge, blanket of sound. It’s just good stuff.
6. Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop, 2008), Fleet Foxes
This album is nearly perfect. The deep reverb on the vocals and the rich finger-picked acoustic guitar create a simple but unmistakable sound that harkens to a time in recorded music long before I was born. It’s almost as if you recognize these songs, even if you are hearing them for the first time. It basically makes me want to build a fire and grow a beard that birds can live in.
7. The Swiss Army Romance (Vagrant, 2000), Dashboard Confessional
Can you tell when I went to high school? Now that I am in my mid-twenties, this album is kind of like a guilty pleasure. Nothing about Chris Carrabba’s vocal ability is dazzling, and at times it’s even borderline annoying, but man, does that guy wear his heart on his (tattoo) sleeve. This album carries all the glorious and embarrassing mental visual of a teenage boy, fresh out of driver’s ed, belting emo lyrics at the top of his lungs while driving in his parents’ car.
8. Mending (The Militia Group, 2008), The New Frontiers
The New Frontiers is one of those bands that you are forever angry at for only producing one full-length before breaking up. This album is a melodic and heartfelt indie record soaked in Americana. The slide guitar riffs add just the right amount of grime to give The New Frontiers all the trappings of a great bar band, but this record is so much more than that. Every single song is listenable, and some of them ( “Mirrors”, “The Day You Fell Apart”, “Walking on Stones”) are downright phenomenal.
So there you have it. My 8 (although there are many,many more). What artists/albums have most influenced you?