20 albums that changed your life

I just got back from McNally Jackson bookstore where they held a reading for a new book titled “Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives”, by Peter Terzian. 4 contributers to this book were present to read extracts from the book and two musicians were there to perform the tracks live, in between the readings. I had read about this in Time Out and attended this with much anticipation.

Here’s a synopsis of the book:

“Remember what it was like to be 17, driving around town with a favorite cassette in the dashboard tape deck? Each of the illustrious writers in this essay collection relives the experience of discovering a favorite album, and the deeply personal relationship that followed.”

While idling on the subway platform on my way to the bookstore in Soho, I pondered over the subject, and then started scribbling down a few albums that changed my life . I do not have 20, but here’s a few I jotted down, and why.

Garbage (1995) by Garbage

The single one band that had so much influence on me, growing up. It wasn’t till 1997 before I got to hear of this album. I remember watching the MTV for Only Happy When It Rains and thinking to myself ..what a feisty sexy redhead, and a stunning video, kind of upbeat, yet it has this dark undertone. Every song on this album is a gem – especially Queer, Only Happy When It Rains, Stupid Girl, As Heaven Is Wide, Vow, A Stroke of Luck and Milk. This album, with the pink feather cover with a big G, is one of my prized possessions and the quintessential Garbage album – dark, sexy and melodic.

Version 2.0 (1998) by Garbage

This is power-pop at its best. Certainly the best Garbage album to rock out to. By the time this album was out, I was obsessed with Garbage. It was the early stages of the Internet age and I remember being really active on the official Garbage forum, making ‘friends’ with all the other ‘darklings’ (the pet name that Shirley Manson gave her fans) all over the world, getting together virtually to talk about the new album, about b-sides, about upcoming tour dates, about live tracks, about upcoming album and other trivia. That was so much fun. Lost touch with EVERYONE after Garbage disbanded, quite a waste. There were a few good people on that board, and I clearly remember the name of this American with the nick ‘theDoubtfulGuest’. Good memories.

Hullabaloo (2002) by Muse

:)

Not an album per se, but a DVD. Muse’s first DVD of their live performance in Le Zenith in Paris. I didn’t discover Muse. I was introduced to Muse. That night when I watched their electrifying performance and listened to their music for the very first time, I was hooked after watching Matt Bellamy crazy piano solo in Space Dementia. No turning back thereafter and I became the self-proclaimed biggest Muse fan (although I know I’m not) and saw them 3 times, and met the band twice too 

Jagged Little Pill (1995) by Alanis Morissette

This was truly the first album post my Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears days. Thank you Alanis for creating this album and getting me out of the pop rut!

Pet Sounds (1966) by The Beach Boys

Sometime around 2004 I started listening to The Beach Boys, and this was the album that introduced me to them. It was actually an influence from Chris, the Muse’s drummer, who’s favourite song is God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. Such happy, summery sounds and even back then, I always imagined playing The Beach Boys while driving down Route 1, along the Californian coast (even though I can’t drive, then and now). In 2008, I visited San Francisco with DL and SY, and secretly fulfilled my dream : )

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) by The Beatles

I think, this was an album that I discovered in the late 1990s, tucked away in the drawers in my dad’s room where my sis kept a bunch of her old cds. Who hadn’t heard of The Beatles … but I never really know their music until I discovered this album. With such a vast catalogue, I’m still discovering new Beatles tracks as well as songs from their solo efforts. Two of my top 20 tracks of all time are from John Lennon and George Harrison respectively – Imagine, and All Things Must Pass, both very significant songs to me. One day, at one of my favourite toy stores at Ngee Ann City in Singapore, I asked my 7-year old niece to choose a music box with a tune she liked. She played around with 15 or so music boxes, and took time to listen to each song. My heart melted when she told me that her favourite was the one that played Imagine. Meant a lot to me as she had NO IDEA what any of those songs were yet that’s her favourite. It’s no wonder why I treat her like my own.

The Bends (1995) by Radiohead

Mmmmmm Radiohead. Enough said.

Long live the 90s.

These aren’t obscure albums, on the contrary they are quite ‘mainstream’, but indeed were the ones that really got me into music. I was/am also frequently influenced by my favourite bands’ influences. Pretenders, Beach Boys, Elliott Smith, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, just to name a few. The biggest credit goes to Shirley Manson who has incredible taste in music and who used to write about it all the time. Unknowingly (to her obviously, and to me), she played a big part in me growing up.

Nostalgia. I do like the convenience of downloading songs in an instance and transferring them to my iPod. But I miss the excitement and anticipation leading up to an album launch, rushing to get a hard copy on the day of the release and then carefully removing the CD sleeve to admire the artwork. I still could do that, but I don’t anymore. It’s different even if I do – because it won’t be the only option available.

Writing the above reminds me of the film High Fidelity.

Have you thought about how your list will look like?

Dong Zhi

A year on