Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
When I was 9 years old, I received a yellow plastic turntable and a gift certificate from Sound Warehouse for Christmas. I had grown up listening to my parents’ albums, and music was always playing in our house. I was so excited to go to buy my very own albums. I ended up getting Thriller, The Go-Go’s Vacation, and a K-tel sampler. Thriller is such a perfect album. It’s packed with hooks and hit songs. The performances are incredible, but even at 9, it was the sound that drew me in. [Producer] Quincy Jones is a genius musician and arranger. It ended up being one of the biggest pop albums of all time.
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)
I 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.
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