Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10 Records That Shaped My Youth: End of Days

There's no way to tell what records I'm listening to right now I'll be listening to in ten years, or five years, or two. But, as far as it goes, here are ten records that have really shaped my musical experience over the last two years.

1. Real Estate - Real Estate
I was talking to Dave from the Nothingheads last night about this band. We both agreed that Real Estate relaxes the listener. So many gorgeous guitar riffs.

2. Woods - Songs of Shame
"To Clean," the first track on Songs of Shame, reminded me of my old band, Root Shoot Leaf, so much that I had to hear the rest of the record. I'm glad I did. It's a lo-fi jam classic. Supposedly, their follow-up, At Echo Lake, is even better, but I have yet to hear it. Anyway, what's not to love about messy songs and falsetto voices?

3. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
It took me a long time - A. Long. Time. - to get into this record. I've always loved Noah Lennox's melodies, but this record is 50+ minutes of repetition and samples. Of course, that isn't true - deeper listenings reveal  a lot of really cool stuff happening in these songs. It also works greatly as a record to just sort of get lost in.

4. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
God, I love Bill Callahan. Listen to that crooning bass; he's almost never faster than mid-tempo and, you know what? I'm okay with that. When he sings, "If I could only stop my heart beat for one heart beat," staggering the words out over two minutes, I'm there with him, all the way.

5. Radiohead - In Rainbows
A casual reader might've noticed the lack of Radiohead as youthshaper. Well, let me say that I liked Radiohead. Kid A almost made the list from ages 21-25 (it's also the only CD I've never pawned for beer money, so that must mean something, right?), but I just never listened to it. Sadly, Ok Computer was released during my Beatles-only phase and, though I owned it and had listened to it a few times, well, all I can say is: it wasn't the Beatles, man! Now, In Rainbows is the record that got me back into Radiohead. Over the course of its ten songs, I run the gambit of emoto-meter. I am spent by the time Thom Yorke sings, "Today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen."

6. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Each consecutive TVOTR release I've loved more than the last. This is a band, as my friend Leah pointed out, that stays consistent. You can always count on Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone and David Sitek for some seriously good songs. Dear Science is the peak of this band and what a peak it was. This is another of those "perfect" records. It seethes with life and energy and enthusiasm.

7. Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
I've been saying for awhile now that Kurt Vile is one of the last, great true songwriters. His lyrics are ethereal and weird; they float around the edges of the songs, almost never landing. But when they do land it's with the power of a oncoming train. "Flopping and flipping around like a fish on a ship!" Vile screams. Damn straight.

8. Deerhunter - Microcastle
There's a lot to love and a lot to hate about Bradford Cox, lead singer and songwriter of Deerhunter. His musical output is staggering, sometimes releasing a song a day on his blog. Some of those songs, however, are pure garbage - Cox doesn't care, he just loves making music. Microcastle is Deerhunter on a good day. It's honest, it's dark, it's cool, it's weird, it's fun, it's heartbreaking.

9. Distractions - Dark Green Sea
Distractions are a local Chicago band fronted by one-time keyboardist for Tin Tin Can, Tom Owens. Owens might be the epitome of everything I currently love about music. Here is his low baritone, there is the washed-out vocals, here are beautiful major seventh chords, there are frequent meter changes, here is that vintage organ sound, oooh, and there is some tremolo. There's no losing when it comes to listening to Distractions.

10. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
I actually started listening to and loving Jens Lekman in 2007. Oh You're So Silent, Jens - compilation of songs he'd released in his native Sweden - caught my attention, so that when I heard he had a new record coming out, I bought it immediately, and fell deeper in love with this crooning heartthrob. I'll be honest, it probably should've made the list last week, but I still listen to this record almost weekly, so it counts now if it counts anywhere.

Honorable Mentions (over the entirety of this series):

MC Hammer - 2 Legit 2 Quit
Radiohead - Ok Computer/Kid A
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Sigur Ros - ()
Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Okkervil River - The Stage Names/The Stand-ins
Paul Simon - Graceland
The Kinks - Arthur
The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free
Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
Beat Happening - You Turn Me On
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
James Blak - James Blake

I'll leave you with a question and an answer. What's your favorite record, right now? Mine is Cass McComb's Wit's End.


  1. I think the singer for Real Estate sounds like Justin. Great band. Bill Callahan is the best living poet that I know of. And Kurt Vile creates the most gorgeous, lilting, tossed-off melodies I've heard. I'm not a fan of TVOTR. I actually felt like each album was getting worse, but I didn't give 'em much time. My favorite record right now is the new Tune-Yards, WHOKILL. Hyper-creative pop music.

  2. New Tune-Yards is excellent as well. She has one of the voices, you know? It can do no wrong.