The Cure, Disintegration (1989)
This record was released when I was 15, but I don’t really remember listening to it a lot when it came out. I started playing guitar when I was 17, and it was probably sometime around 19 that I revisited it and realized that my guitar playing was subconsciously influenced by this album probably more than any other. I was way into Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins at the time, but I found that I had more in common, musically, with this. Aside from the guitar playing, I really love the emotion in the vocals. Also, the outrageously long intros really strike me as a kind of “recorded middle finger” to the pop-music establishment.
Various artists, The Beat: Sound Wave of the 80’s (1982)
My father’s taste tilted pretty heavily toward ’70s prog rock, and my mother’s taste was pretty much anything Fleetwood Mac or Stevie Nicks did. New Wave was my thing, and I guess that The Go-Go’s and this compilation album — purchased on that same trip to Sound Warehouse — were catalysts for that. At age 9, I already was formulating strategies for music discovery. I bought this because it had a Go-Go’s song on it and I figured I might like some of the other bands. Holy moly! This album was my first introduction to Depeche Mode, OMD, Duran Duran, Haircut One Hundred, A Flock of Seagulls, and Kim Wilde’s song “Kids in America,” which became my unofficial anthem for 1983, the year I would turn 10.
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991)
I remember hearing Loveless in
’91 or ’92 and being confused. I knew that it was being touted as
something very special, but my exposure to avant-garde music was
incredibly limited at that time. I was intrigued by the sounds, but
confused by the buried melodies and decidedly strange production. I
chalked it up to a record that I “didn’t understand.”
It would take 10
more years of music education — and exposure to other challenging music —
before it really clicked for me. It actually happened one evening when I was driving to work at The Conservatory. I don’t even remember why I put Loveless on
again, but I did — and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I really heard
what was so magical: the textures, the cleverly disguised pop songs, the
thickness of the sound. I ended up sitting in my car in the parking lot
and finishing the album before finally going into the club and spending
the entire evening trying to process what I had heard.
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
slept on this one for almost 10 years. I was already a fan of some of
the other Elephant 6 [collective’s] stuff like Olivia Tremor Control and
Elf Power, but I just never gave this band a listen. It was probably
because I thought their name was stupid or I was turned off by the hype,
but I eventually picked this CD up at Size Records one night after
working some terrible emo show at The Conservatory. I listened to it at
full volume for the drive back to Norman, and I couldn’t believe how the
lyrics and singing were affecting me: I went from laughing out loud to
weeping and back again. By the second spin, I was already singing along,
and feeling it.
an audio engineer, I rarely pay attention to lyrics; I’m constantly
focused on how the music sounds. But this album — with these lyrics, and
the painful earnestness with which they’re delivered — knocked my
fucking head off. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever again obsess about an
album the way that I have obsessed over this one. I was a decade late to
the party, but I’m so glad I finally got on board.