Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10 Records That Shaped My Youth: Ages 21-25

It seems to me that, up to this point, I fell in love with styles of music and bands that sort of epitomized that particular style (i.e. hair metal and Warrant; grunge and Nirvana; pop and The Beatles), burning the bridge to whatever previous style of music I'd been interested in. From age 21 and on, however, you'll notice that I don't so much "burn a bridge" or "slough a skin," but, instead, sort of layer skins and bridges atop one another, which is kind of gross.

Though I'd been performing in bands since high school, this period also saw the formation of Root Shoot Leaf, my first "real" band, as I call it. Looking back, it was a pretty naive, but I certainly hinged alot on the success of this band. It was also the peak of my musical output: Root Shoot Leaf released 5 full-lengths and 3 EPs between 2004-2007.

Anyway, here's what I was listening to.

1. John Coltrane - Giant Steps
Larry Harms, one of my music instructors as Illinois Central College, really got me hooked on this record. The title track and "Naima" are two of the best songs, of any style, I've ever heard. There used to be a bar in downtown Peoria where every Friday Larry and a group of friends would play good jazz. I remember sitting in the dark with my sweating glass of whiskey and coke, letting all those notes in my ears. I wonder if they still do that.

2. Thelonious Monk - Monk's Blues
What drew me to Thelonious wasn't that we shared the same last name (as so many people have wondered) but the disjointed melodies, the unpredictable nature of his songs. Thelonious was a jazz rock star. And Monk's Blues, more than any other record, really embodied Thelonious' own character.

3. Bela Bartok - The Six String Quartets
I found this vinyl in a record store in Peoria. I'd heard a few pieces from Bartok before and really enjoyed them, but nothing prepared for the beauty and the strangeness of his quartets. I fell in love immediately.

4. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
There were a few years where I didn't write "rock songs" as it were (as I was more focused on composing string quartets and little chamber pieces), but I always said, once I heard Moon & Antarctica, that if I wrote rock songs these would be the kind of songs I would write. I don't know that I kept that promise, but Modest Mouse might be credited with getting me back into rock and roll.

5 & 6. Brigh Eyes - Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground & Fevers & Mirrors
My sister, Mandy, made me a mixtape (okay, a mix CD) because I'd asked her for some good music that wasn't on the radio. One of the songs she put on the tape (CD) was "Haligh Haligh A Lie Haligh" off of Bright Eyes' Fevers & Mirrors. I had to have more of this guy. These records tend toward the melodramatic when I listen to them nowadays, but both still hold a special place in my heart.

7. The Strokes - Is This It?
I jumped on The Strokes bandwagon a little late. I didn't get into Is This It? until their second lp, Room on Fire, was already out. But from the opening guitar riff of the title track all the way down to the last, Is This It? is a near-perfect record, fun and rough around the edges.

8 & 9. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells & Elephant
The kid who handed me White Blood Cells and said, "Listen to this record!" also listened to bands like Stain'd and Creed. I did not have high hopes for The White Stripes. Then I put the record on, and discovered even Stain'd fans aren't wrong all of the time. Both of these records sound as fresh and as hyper-active as they did when they were released. It's a shame The White Stripes are over, but they left behind a near-flawless legacy.

10. Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
Say what you will about Coldplay these days, but this record (and their debut) is solid. The melodies and guitar lines are interesting and the songs hold up. I still get a little vaklempt when "Warning Sign" comes on.

Next time, I get weird. Real weird.


  1. Lazy and weak. Fie on this and a pox on your house. And what not. NMH. N. M. H! I know this period (strange how I know these periods), and NMH should be in there. 10 be the count or not. Two White Stripes records? A The Strokes record? Jeff Mangum is spinning in his... his... aeroplane over the sea.

  2. NMH was and is a huge influence and they deserve an honorable mention here (if they weren't appearing in the next list), but as I see it, though I started listening to them around the same time as Bright Eyes, at least, this wasn't until I was nearly 25 and, wrongly or rightly, Bright Eyes most certainly was the most influential during that time. Did I perform a NMH song now and again at Hangar 9's open mic? Certainly. Did I *always* perform a Bright Eyes song from either of those records listed above? You bet I did.

    As Root Shoot Leaf began to take shape as a fully-formed band, I found NMH to be of greater influence, structurally and instrument-wise, than Bright Eyes, but during this time - what some call The Year of the Whale - it was Bright Eyes and Modest Mouse, specifically.

  3. For me, Year of the Whale was Brighteyes, Modest Mouse, NMH, and The Streets. There was a bit of the ole Coldplay and Radiohead thrown on for some flavor. Perhaps the problem is that you need a list of 10 records that shaped your youth: 25-26, THE YEAR OF THE WHALE> RRAHRHAHHAHHARHHGUGHHGUHRHRA.
    Or something.

  4. Ha! You might be right and I may do just that.

  5. Now it is official. Our love that is

  6. @Trey: I never doubted it, not for a minute.