Sunday, March 22, 2009

Five Albums That Shaped Me

So, I saw this on Facebook, and I figured it was worth talking about here rather than being another nuisance on that increasingly cluttered site.

Really, I'm approaching this as albums that made me rethink how I approach and interact with music. I am cherry-picking here, obviously. I had a lot of shortcomings with regards to taste in high school, so I'm self-editing my own history. But in reality, these albums truly do ring true with a sort of renaissance of discovery during my life, and that not-so-surprisingly coincides with my college years.

While writing this, I quickly discovered that it also happened to be incredibly chronological. This was in no way intentional, but it's interesting how it worked out like that. I guess it's the whole notion of recency vs. relevance. But the older albums have obviously had more staying power. On the whole, these albums were watershed moments that immediately redefined how I viewed music.

5. The Mars Volta - De-loused in the Comatorium
During my freshman year of college, my friend Stephan, in a hazy living room, would play this album ad nauseum. I never knew what Cedric was saying, but the music was so engaging, transporting all of us to a broken down landscape of exoskeleton street cars or whatever he was talking about. It was my first foray into music I had never heard of, as college, and life still today, served as a kiosk for introducing me to unknown music. It was, however, the last album of theirs that I would truly like, but that album still rings of autumn 2003.

4. Sigur Ros - Ágætis Byrjun
After a free screening of The Life Aquatic at the Midtown Art Cinema, I recall being taken aback by the beauty of one of the songs in the film, "that song by that Swedish band" I think I labeled it. Eventually, Katie nudged me towards this album, which became the go-to album for listening to late into the night. I would just sit at my computer, turn the speakers up, and let "Svefn-g-englar" completely envelope and swallow me whole. It was, and still is, wonderful.

3. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
This was the first 'indie' album I ever had, introduced by my friend Amber, the first cool film student I became friends with. She was, and still is I'm sure, obsessed with this band and Kevin Drew's dreaminess. For me, it was an album that possessed a lot of energy that immediately resonated with me, even if I wasn't fully sure why. The culminating moment occurred when one spring break we all danced to "Anthem for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl." And then Katie and I saw them live, which just solidified the level of transcendence they enjoyed. "Lover's Spit" is another favorite, so bold and naked and primitive. "I'd like it all that way"

2. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
I never thought I would listen to music with a bunch of screaming in it, but that's kind of what happened. I'm pretty sure Wesley introduced me to Mastodon while we were living together. Then, this album came out, and I distinctly remember listening to it on my iPod, walking through Midtown, when I realized that I fucking loved every second of it. The screaming was not just some indicator of genre or ploy for manipulating the listener; it was an asset being utilized, a layer of music on top of everything else, augmenting the emotion that exists in their writing and exposing it. But mostly, their music just sounds really fucking cool, and I am super proud that they're from Atlanta. And I totally met the guitarist at Kroger.

1. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
I think I have Julian to thank for this one. I honestly thought, before writing this post, that this album came out in 2006, but I guess that's just how memory plays with us. This album feels like it's been with me for a lot longer than a mere early 2007 release, and I think that can be attributed to the fact that it basically provides the soundtrack to so many of my memories of East Atlanta and the Blake house. The incredible pop sensibilities mixed with the powerful storytelling (the semi-coherent kind lacking from their latest, but anyway) was something that clicked with me right away. I understood exactly what Barnes and co. were doing with this, and every facet works. Every transition, juxtaposition, whim, and contradiction feels perfectly aligned here. Not to mention that a lot of what he goes through over the course of the album rang true with a lot of how I felt. I'd never really connected with a musician through what they were exactly trying to say. That's probably why Weird Al spoke to me more than anything else growing up.

Almost made it: Mogwai - Mr. Beast/Rock Action; Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah self-titled; The National - Boxer; M83 - Saturdays=Youth; and anything by The New Pornographers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Actually doing

Had some incredible epiphanies tonight. Most people would rather strive towards a goal than actually get there. Wanting to do happens more than actually doing. In Paul Thomas Anderson's words, we're all too concerned with building the boat when we could just be building the boat. I think in a way people set themselves up to constantly be headed towards their goal instead of actually achieving it. They don't want people to tell them how good they are, they just want to dream about that (maybe because dreaming can last longer). It's sort of what the American dream is founded, the idea, the notion, that you could get to the top. What happens when we get to the top? We could be told we're great or that we suck, and we'll fall right back down. We cushion ourselves from the acme of success, we're always struggling.

I hope the same sense of profundity sticks with me. I can't just write this off in some practical way.