“…I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth…”
Hey there folks! I know I am not alone in my opinion of the importance of music in our lives. I have had conversations with several of my loved ones about this very topic and one of my favorite analogies is that your music collection is like your journal. In a lot of ways I agree with that statement. After all not everyone is good with words so expressing their emotions using words is not easy. Hell, even for people who are good with words certain feelings can leave you at a loss. Not to mention there is a certain kind of communication that can occur within rhythm and melody that words can never really match.
So, as I was in the car yesterday listening to some of my personal music collection a thought struck me. If I was trying to introduce someone to who I really am as a person, what five albums would be absolutely necessary to help paint that picture?
At the time I thought of a few people I could have that conversation with, because I would love to hear their 5 albums as well, and I will certainly still have those conversations. However, right here and now I sit by myself and those people are busy living their lives. Being a single thirty something who is not terribly fond of superfluous social interaction can make holidays a rather lonely time. So, I am going to come up with my top five list and share it with whomever cares to read. Mind you I think this same discussion can be had for really any type of art but those are conversations for another day, today I want to share with you the soundtrack to the montage that is my life.
Final disclaimers, this will be in no particular order. I will be choosing albums in their entirety so they are meant to be listened to from beginning to end. Lastly, I know I could choose far more than five these are just the one I am deeming most important to understanding who I am as I sit here in front of my computer at this moment and are therefore subject to change at a later date.
Nirvana – Incesticide
Being a white kid from the suburbs in the 90’s I felt compelled to include a Nirvana album on my list. However, my relationship with Nirvana was a little peculiar. First, to be fair their prime was a little before me. I was 11 when Nevermind came out so I remember the hype surrounding them but I did not really connect with the music initially. In fact, I hated Smells Like Teen Spirit the summer it came out because you could not get away from the song. I was a latch key kid so what time I did spend inside during the summers was spent watching MTV back when they actually played music videos.
Two things happened to me that really opened the door for my love affair with Nirvana. 1) Puberty hit and all of a sudden the world changed and Kurt started making some sense and 2) I was moved from suburban NE Ohio to the edge of nowhere North Carolina. The resulting culture shock that ensued proved to be ripe breeding grounds for the kind of angst only Kurt could speak to.
So the reason I choose this album over others is because it seems the least designed for mass consumption from their catalog. It is a collection of b sides and tracks deemed not right for Nevermind. Even though the songs sound less polished there is an authenticity about them that I love and this album holds some of my favorite songs by the band.
The Doors – The best of compilation
I was reluctant to use a compilation album here but if I was a little late to the whole Nirvana experience I was way past late for the Doors. I was roughly 12 years old when I discovered the Oliver Stone movie about the Doors and it blew my tiny little mind. I did not know what half of it even meant but I became fascinated with Jim Morrison. So, one year for Christmas my parents bought the best of compilation for the Doors for me.
For as long as I can remember I have always felt unusual, especially in comparison to my peers and loved ones and the music of the Doors taught me to take solace in those feelings in a way that nothing else ever has.
Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
My introduction to NIN was the song Closer. This was another situation where over saturation drove a powerful distaste in my mind. This song was so prevalent my freshman year of high school it felt like the single for this song was handed out at freshman orientation. Yet, as previously mentioned a big change came for me when the summer between freshman and sophomore years I moved to NC. The frustration and alienation that comes natural with teenage years was amplified and I found this album. Trent spoke to feelings of betrayal, confusion and loss in ways that rang very true with me and allowed to learn to process some of what I was feeling at this very formative time in my life.
Marilyn Manson – Antichrist Superstar
At first I was unsure if I wanted to include this and Pretty Hate Machine because they are both coming from the same stage of my life. However, after careful consideration I realized that each album speaks to important aspects of my development. If NIN was teaching how to understand what I was feeling, Manson taught me how to channel those feelings. The reason I choose this album over others is not because it is his seminal work, but rather because of the story it tells. This album speaks of transformation. A person who is confused and angry at the world around themselves allows this anger to shape them into a monster that no longer resembles what they once were. The idea of forcing the world to look at their own hypocrisy by seeing the what they had created in you was a powerful motivator for me during this time in my life.
Flobots – Fight With Tools
This album makes the list for me because it very much speaks to the man I am now. Even though the previous albums do not reflect this I have always enjoyed hip hop music. And I like this in particular because while it maintains a dissatisfied attitude with society as a whole rather than raging against the system it wants to focus that frustration into positive action. Learning to try and use what I am going through to a positive effect has been a big focal point for me as I have aged, while never losing touch with that revolutionary spirit of youth.
Like I said I could certainly think of a few more albums to add to the list but these are certainly deserving and inform the person I am today. There were also some very important songs that are not listed because I either did not like the rest of the album or was just unfamiliar with the rest of the album it appeared on.
So what do you think? Are any of you willing to share your list?