Sunday, February 22, 2009

15 rock albums that shaped my taste over the years (part III)

See also: Part I (Nos. 1-5) and Part II (Nos. 6-10)

11. Sigur Ros - ( )
I heard about Sigur Ros from one of the unlikeliest of sources: my blue-haired roommate Colin who was, at the time, pretty much exclusively into punk rock. He'd read about them in some music mag that said something extremely complimentary about it. He liked it, so I gave it a listen, and I fell asleep. Actually, this is probably the best album I can think of to fall asleep to. The words are some jibberish combination of English, Icelandic, and made up sounds, so there are no lyrics to occupy your mind. The tempo is slow, and the mood is dramatically mellow. This is night-time, headphone music. I have no idea what they're saying, but I think it's better that way, because the singer's voice acts as just another beautiful sounding instrument along with the reverbed guitars played with violin bows and the synths hovering idly on whatever note or chord would be most likely to stir up some sadness and awe. Getting into Sigur Ros opened me up to ambient sounds like SOAD opened me up to metal.  

12. Dismemberment Plan - Change
The Dismemberment Plan embody the "grower" label for me. I love all four of their albums, but it took a lot of listening to each one until I "got it." I got into D-Plan's discography in a backwards manner, literally. I started at the end, and worked my way to the beginning. Change was the DC band's last album, and their most accessible work too. It was a good starting point. Songs like "Time Bomb" and "Following Through" kept the CD in my car stereo long enough to let songs like "The Other Side" and "Pay for the Piano" settle into a comfortable space for my ears. This was, and arguably still is, my favorite band. They're a bit too weird for most people, but the mix of indie/emo/post-punk/prog sounds is right up my alley. The lyrics are clever, sometimes deep, sometimes funny, and the eccentricity of lead singer Travis Morrison really shines through in all of their best work. Sadly, the band broke up before I ever knew about them. They played two reunion/charity shows at the Black Cat two years ago, and the first one of those still ranks as my favorite concert of all time.

13. Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Neutral Milk Hotel represents the first band on this list that I was not told about by someone I know personally. I just found them based on reviews online, which seems so obvious to me now that I'm kind of obsessed with this stuff, but reminds me that the internet has made such a difference in every area of life. I'm sure I gravitated to this album because of an existing affinity for bands like the Flaming Lips and  Modest Mouse, who I think owe at least some of their inspiration to this great but short-lived band. This album is the work of what I think must have been some sort of mad genius. All the best musicians are a little mad, but NMH almost flaunts it. The genius part is what makes it so interesting though. The music and lyrics represent timeless songwriting. The crazy sounds you hear may irk you at first, but they all come together to paint a surreal, dreamlike picture of love and loss, or at least that's what I think it's about.

14. Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium
Just when I thought I'd fully swayed from prog to indie rock, Mars Volta came along and called me back. This album blew me away on first listen, and still blows me away every time I listen to it. I think this album is one of the most amazing things to come out of rock music in the aughts (...hmm future blog post?). This album incorporates some of my favorite features of prog bands like Rush and King Crimson, classic rockers like Pink Floyd and Zeppelin, with some of the smoothness and class of Latin music, and the edge of post-punk. High praise, I know, but this album and their next one, Frances the Mute, definitely warrant it. It didn't bring prog-rock back to favored genre status for me, but it reminded me how unimportant it is to have a favorite genre, because there are always going to be exceptional bands and albums that defy the boundaries and just sound like damn good music.

15. Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand, The Faint - Danse Macabre, The Rapture - Echoes
I know, I totally cheated here. It bothers me a little, too. I don't think I would put any of these albums on here on their own on this list. I got into all of them around the same time, and all three of them together contributed to get my ass on the dance floor. Until not too long ago, I was one of those guys that refused to get up and dance. Then, the infiltration of dance beats into my favored genre of music got me wanting to move my feet. It's unfair to the bands to lump them together like this, but in my life, these are the songs I put on at parties to get people moving, even though it usually ends up being me alone.

Honorable Mention:
Beatles - Abbey Road
Dream TheaterScenes from a Memory
YesClose to the Edge
CakeFashion Nugget
Fiona Apple - When the Pawn...
The WalkmenBows + Arrows
Sufjan Stevens - Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State
The NationalBoxer

1 comment:

Andrew B. Watson said...

Kudos again on a list that further portrays what has helped shape and define your musical taste.

Sigur-Ros' ( ) remains in constant play for me. Franz Ferdinand is a perennial favorite for bouncing around. What would the world be w/o The Mars Volta. Hell, I got dumped for going to a The Mars Volta/System of a Down concert (with you I might add).

Cheers to the honorable mentions. We shared many an epiphany in college as we delved into the Beatles, Yes, Dream Theater, etc...

We begin everywhere and nowhere. We grow through perception and focus, carefully honing our tastes in the hope of reaching a status of aided self-expression/identity through the arts. Music is just one of many outlets available to us.

Cheers my friend.