Autobiographical Soundtrack

Sometimes, the inspiration for your blog post comes from a Facebook meme/quiz thingy (technical term, yes?). I’m sure some of you have seen the one floating around that asks folks to list 20 favorite albums that have stayed with you in some way. The idea is to not over think it too much and just go with your gut. It’s a very Rob Gordon-High Fidelity exercise that yields some interesting results.

Here’s my list, many with notations. As you will see, middle school and college were both very formative to my music tastes. Somehow, my high school years were a weird black hole of ska compilation CDs, Top 40, and the classic rock hits that are burned in my brain forever, thanks to marching band. The late ’90s were weird, okay?

  1. DookieGreen Day – I was in sixth grade when this album hit the mainstream. It was one of the first CDs I bought on my own and blew open the doors to a whole new world known as punk.
  2. GracelandPaul Simon – This is one of the first records I remembering hearing in the house as a tiny person. “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” is still one of my favorite songs.
  3. For Emma, Forever AgoBon Iver
  4. Greatest HitsFleetwood Mac – The original instructions asked that you not include any greatest hits albums on your list (I think to prevent people from being lazy), but I’m going to blatantly cheat in the name of Stevie Nicks. Thanks to the green cassette tape that never left my mother’s car in the late ’80s, I was probably the only kid in first grade who knew the lyrics to “Rhiannon.”
  5. UnpluggedNirvana
  6. A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A ScarDashboard Confessional – I had a lot of feelings to work out in 2003.
  7. Whatever & Ever AmenBen Folds Five – Freshman year of high school. I bought the CD on a whim right before my first solo plane ride. I was off to Disney World with the aforementioned high school marching band for a grand adventure and fell hard for Ben Folds’s brand of nerdy piano rock. Happens to the best of us.
  8. PlansDeath Cab for Cutie
  9. Bleed AmericanJimmy Eat World – Honestly, Clarity might be a better album, but this one trumps for sentimental reasons. My freshman year of college was the fall of 2001 and Bleed American (then changed to a self-titled album at the 11th hour for understandable reasons) was an anchor that first semester away from home.
  10. Deja Entendu, Brand New – I remember catching part of the video for the track “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” and scrambling to find more about this band. They’ve been a constant Top 5 favorite for more than ten years now.
  11. Room for SquaresJohn Mayer
  12. The Blue AlbumWeezer – I very much liked the “Buddy Holly” single when it was popular, but I didn’t fully commit to Weezer until college, right around their resurgence. While I love Pinkerton and The Green Album, I always come back to The Blue Album when I need a fix.
  13. Straylight Run, Straylight Run
  14. Romeo + Juliet soundtrack – Say what you will about Baz Luhrmann‘s movies, but the man is a genius when it comes to cultivating music for his films. As a twelve year old, this album was the perfect level of angst-y and served as an introduction to two bands that I still love, Radiohead and Garbage.
  15. Aeroplane Over the Sea,  Neutral Milk Hotel – I heard “Holland 1945” covered live once upon a time and immediately needed to know everything about the original band. It all comes full-circle at the end of the month when Neutral Milk Hotel plays Pittsburgh.
  16. GraceJeff Buckley
  17. Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt – The first time I saw Gwen Stefani was performing on some MTV Spring Break special. I was knocked out by her confidence – I wanted to be her then and I still want to be her now.
  18. I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child,  Manchester Orchestra – I first encountered Manchester Orchestra when they opened for Brand New (see above) at the Cleveland House of Blues in 2007 (I still use the ticket stub as a bookmark). The library owns their last record, Simple Math and I highly recommend it.
  19. …is a Real BoySay Anything
  20. Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists – First time that I heard this band was the single “After Hours,” which was on the soundtrack for Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. It was another immediate “I need everything they’ve ever made!” situation and Brain Thrust Mastery is still one of my favorite albums for long car trips.

Your turn – what albums would make your list?

– Jess


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6 responses to “Autobiographical Soundtrack

  1. Carrie

    I agree with Graceland by Paul Simon…just saw him in concert with Sting last Sunday and it was amazing. I realized that most of my favorite songs of his came from that CD. Check out this cover of ‘Homeless’ by Atlanta-based group, The Shadowboxers – done in a dressing room.

    I would be hard-pressed to pick just 20 albums. I could easily pick 20 soundtracks/cast recordings, 20 rock, 20 country, etc. I can’t even come close to fitting all my music on my 40GB mp3 player. lol

  2. Sheila

    So, last night as I was waiting of American Idol to come on (it’s a guilty pleasure of mine and I’m really enjoying this year’s judges), I decided to list the albums that I listen to the most – over and over…for my whole long life. Thanks Jess, this was fun:
    Peter Pan – Broadway Show – Mary Martin and Cyril Richard (1950s)
    Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence (1968)
    Blood Sweat and Tears (1968) – with David Clayton-Thomas
    James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)
    Marvin Gaye – Greatest Hits (1976)
    Chicago (1970)
    Blue and Court and Spark– Joanie Mitchell (1972/1974)
    Linda Ronstadt – What’s New and Lush Life (1983/1984) – with Nelson Riddle
    Bonnie Raitt – Nick of Time (1989)
    Brand New Day – Sting (1999)
    Mary Chapin Carpenter – Come on Come on (1992)
    Mary J Blige – My Life (1994)
    River – Herbie Hancock (2008)

    My favorite song is River – I have the Joanie Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Renee Fleming and Sarah McLachlan versions and have been known to play them back to back.

  3. Jen

    Romeo and Juliet soundtrack 4 ever. No seriously. My husband and I danced at our wedding 14 years ago to “you and me song.” I love that soundtrack

  4. Jen

    Hit reply too fast. Also Graceland. All the way. Love it across the years

  5. CM

    Loved this post, Jess!

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