A Facebook post I saw recently made me think…what albums were the most formative for me? You know the ones: they come along at just the right time in your life and form your music taste and even part of your personality for the rest of your adulthood. There were three that came to me immediately and stuck out in my mind with no question, but I had to think a bit before determining the last two. These aren’t necessarily my favorite albums (although they’re all great, and a few of them definitely make my top 10 or even top 5 list), but what they did helped to cement my entire identity from the point I first heard them forward.
Here they are, the most influential albums of my young adulthood:
1. Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse
I listened to this album on repeat when I was going through a bad breakup, so it signifies my newfound independence in my mind. Before this breakup, I struggled to find my own identity – I was more an extension of my (older, much more outgoing) longterm boyfriend. I did develop some of my own taste during that relationship – I had started to stray from my previous preference of singer/songwriters and jam bands to stranger, more indie bands that were just gaining popularity at the time – but mostly kept in the shadow of those around me. When we broke up, I temporarily moved in with my best friend and bought this album after Modest Mouse had been recommended to me by an ex co-worker (who I still keep in touch with today – thanks, Traina!). It sticks in my mind because it was such an emotionally raw time, but after I fell in love with this album and out of love with my ex (much, much later), there was no turning back. I was finally my own person, and I liked what I liked. I had always liked slightly different music than my peers (my taste was heavily influenced by my psychedelic music loving father), but from here on out I’d seek out the unusual and the unique, and was proud of it. Basically what I’m saying is, my tendency to be pretentious and obnoxious (and the fact that Jeff’s always referred to me as “hipster adjacent”) is Modest Mouse’s fault.
2. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse
Of course, when Modest Mouse came out with a new album less than a year after my aforementioned breakup, I bought it immediately (along with two other albums – more on that below). These three albums are the first that I specifically remember going to the music store and purchasing on my own as an adult (of course, I had purchased CDs before this in general – I was 22 when this came out in 2007 – but this is the first time I remember choosing completely on my own, as an adult, without any influence from friends or boyfriends). I remember listening to the samples on those big headphones they had in the music store (talk about a throwback) and racing home to wrestle the CDs out of that horrible plastic covering and listen to the whole albums on repeat. This was also one of the first albums I introduced to Jeff when we started dating, and the song “Florida” got him to open up to my music a little (which is saying a lot, because Jeff likes a total of about 4 bands).
3. Funeral by Arcade Fire
This is probably tied for overall most influential album of my adulthood with Modest Mouse’s GNFPWLBD. This album was one of the three I purchased that aforementioned day, and it blew my damn mind (along with probably every other indie band loving human in America/Canada), and remains arguably my number one favorite album of all time to this very day. I don’t love what Arcade Fire’s become over the years – I’m not sure if they got too big (remember when they instituted a black tie rule for their concerts?) or if my tastes just slightly changed, but most of what they put out these days is just “meh” to me…but this album was a true masterpiece. The arrangements were so lush and dramatic without being over the top, the melodies were gorgeous, the lyrics were beautiful and authentic. I can’t think of anything wrong about this album. This is the album that caused me to start telling people my favorite genre of music was “indie” (which I feel conflicted about to this day – see this).
4: Wincing the Night Away by the Shins
This was the third album I purchased on that day in 2007. I was already familiar with The Shins (mostly from the movie Garden State), but this was the first album I really fully dove into by them. Along with Funeral, this album helped cement my love for “indie” music, and got me to dive into Sub Pop (the record label that helped make a lot of early indie bands into mainstream names).
5: Our Love to Admire by Interpol
By the time I started listening to Interpol, I had started hanging out with people who had similar interests and musical tastes to my own, and these friends introduced me to a lot of the music I listen to even now. Again, I was already vaguely familiar with Interpol, but this particular album kicked off my long-lived obsession with everything Post-Punk. Wrecking Ball off of this album remains one of my all-time favorite songs, and Miley Cyrus can’t take that away from me.
Honorable Mention: Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
This one just missed the list because it was a bit later when I got into it (I was already living in Delaware when it came out), but it helped to transform my musical taste into the form it is today. The previous albums introduced me to indie music, but it took me a few years to really nail down my true taste. I spent a lot of time convincing myself I enjoyed really out there music, when in reality I just liked it because it made me feel cool – I actually think a lot of that stuff is just noise and couldn’t be paid to listen to it these days. See: Neutral Milk Hotel and most Animal Collective (minus the song “My Girls,” which is a masterpiece). My taste continues to evolve and change to this day – I’m now almost exclusively into indie folk or whatever you’d call Dawes and Blitzen Trapper type stuff, but also go through periods of being obsessed with hip hop or even more poppy electronic stuff – but I feel like this album helped me really settle into myself, or at least came along during the time that was happening for me.