- Secondly, the 25 albums that changed illustrate your life. Ok, I’m only 22, so not all of these suggestions are terribly profound, and I have a terrible memory when it comes to remembering the “best” of things – remembering and ranking all the albums I’ve listened to in a year is hard enough – so this list is slightly subject to dispute:
Jason Donovan – Ten Good Reasons – The first album I ever owned, age 3. Brings back fond memories of dancing around the living room while my mum made lunch and my dad was at work.
Eternal – Always and Forever – First girl band that really had an effect on me. They’re from the last age when female soul groups really focused on their music, rather than how much bare arse they could get on MTV over 4 minutes. My mum worked with one of the sisters’ aunts, and got me my first piece of signed memorabilia.
Take That – Everything Changes – This came out when I was around 6 or 7, and I was at that age where all the girls would have Take That birthday cakes and fight over who would get the bit with Mark Owen on it. I don’t think I ever listened to many of the songs on the album besides the singles, but I carried it around everywhere, until I later changed schools and sold it for £2.
Blur – The Great Escape and Oasis – What’s the Story Morning Glory? – This is when I really became aware of music as an industry. The whole Wonderwall vs Country House thing went on around this time, and I went round the playround asking people which band they prefered – tallying up the results using a 5-bar gate (the OCD began young in this one!). This and the whole Britpop movement became the soundtrack to my next few summers, and remains the perfect Saturday morning soundtrack.
All Saints – All Saints – Remember what I said about Eternal having integrity? Well fast-forward another 5 years. A completely plastic girl group now ruled the charts, which was something I could not connect to. All Saints emerged – and continued – in their shadow, with really sensitive and interesting (this is why I hate reviewing music) songs. I learnt all the dance moves, bought RUN DMC trainers and declared war on the Spice Girls. This was the last cassette I ever bought.
The Best Indie Anthems in the World…Ever! Volume 2 – The ultimate Britpop compilation album in my opinion. This was released in the summer of 1997 and was the second CD I ever bought (the first was Natalie Imbruglia’s Left of the Middle which is also fantastic). It created so many branches for me to explore – older indie music through Paul Weller, dance music through The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, European and soundtrack music through bands like Air. Great compilation, but my iPod refuses to tag it properly.
Kylie Minogue – Impossible Princess – Maybe a bit surprising that this comes so far down the list. I had been a fan of Kylie’s ever since I could remember – watching Neighbours with my nan is my earliest memory, I Should Be So Lucky was the first song I ever learnt, her first video doesn’t work anymore I’ve played it that much, and I used to copy all her outfits. Impossible Princess signalled a turning point in my musical “journey”. It was ambient, and moodier, than anything I’d heard before and came with a visual presentation that I found really surreal and interesting. I was…11 at this point, and the album led me into an entirely different world of music, from Nick Cave to Japanese electro-pop.
Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing – I’d heard Nancy Boy on the radio before, but when Pure Morning came out, it hooked me. I bought the single, and the next one (You Don’t Care About Us) and played the six tracks over and over, analysing the record covers – and learning all the b-sides, which included the vocab for asking someone to put their finger in your rectum, something that neither my mum nor my French teacher would have taught me otherwise. I bought this album the day after Robbie Williams’s I’ve Been Expecting You came out, on a ferry back from France. I became addicted to it, and everything I heard from them consequently.
A Life Less Ordinary Soundtrack – I think this is on here because the film struck a chord with me more than the album. I’d wanted to see it for a while because I’d heard Trainspotting was so good, but couldn’t go to the cinema because it was a 15. After a bit of arguing with my parents, they let me buy the video when I was 12 and I loved the surrealism of it (Baz Lurhmann before Baz Lurhmann before he got crap). The soundtrack served the same purpose as the indie compilation – it opened up doors to new genres, this time swing music in the form of Bobby Darin and Squrrel Nut Zippers.
Slipknot – Slipknot – Not really a nu-metal album, but from around that time. This record was my first taste of a song with what seemed like a million layers of music, all doing their own thing rather than chiming to the same groove. I listened to this a lot during a school trip to Greece, so it reminds me of trying to look as gawth as possible whilst also reminding me of sunshine, feta cheese, and almost falling down the Acropolis.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral – Here’s where it really begins. The album that changed everything. I initially refused to have anything to do with NIN because I liked Marilyn Manson and they were having a giant lovers’ tiff at the time. The first time I really heard them was during a school trip to Paris – we were all in the TV room watching MTV, when the video for We’re In This Together came on. Everyone (i think) got bored because it had quite a long introduction, so I was left to watch it by myself. I thought it was alright, but thought nothing more of it. Then, on a whim, I bought it in February 2000. I’d gone shopping and had just bought my first “corset” – one of those crappy things from Ann Summers that took ages to get into – so arguably it was a pivotal day all around. It was the end of the day, and I remember picking up the CD and seeing a slimline case with no tracklisting. Was I about to pay £14.99 for a single? That was steep by Virgin’s prices for a regular album! I took the jump anyway and bought it. I had a ritual going on at that time of playing the music I’d just heard whilst unpacking the rest of my shopping. I didn’t get very far that night. A few seconds into Mr Self Destruct, I had to give up what I was doing and dedicate everything to listening to this record. It was the first time anything had ever done that to me – I felt like a deaf person hearing their first sounds. Somehow those pianos, drums and 20-odd other instruments were mapping out my DNA. Incredible.
Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile – If TDS changed everything, then (here comes the emo) The Fragile saved it. Briefly, a series of terrible things came to light concerning health, relationships, and state of mind, and listening to The Becoming and I Do Not Want This (see? emo) on loop wasn’t really cutting it. I bought the Fragile on a Monday from HMV for £21.99 and had learnt all the words by the end of the day. I still think NIN are pretty alright.
Joy Division – Substance – I’ll admit, the first time I heard this record I didn’t like it. I felt as if I should because all the magazines said so, but I couldn’t find anything in there that was for me. It took a good 5 years for me to really appreciate it – perhaps due to a bit of maturity, or a change in lifestyle – but it’s since made Joy Division one of those artists that cause me to react uncontrollably. From bored to breathless in 4 minutes.
Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left. We did Lord of the Flies at school, and had to work on a creative project in groups based on it. For part of it, I wrote a poem called The Downward Spiral (please remember I was 14!) which my English teacher said reminded her a lot of Nick Drake’s writing style. After a quick search on my newly-acquired Internet, I bought Five Leaves Left. I could sort of see what she meant, but thought Nick’s writing was a lot more philosophical than mine. Lyrically, I learnt a lot from it, and sonically…it was like sitting on a wooden bench in a fleecy blanket during the autumn.
Other notable mentions (self-indulgent descriptions get a bit tiring after a while – if curious will elaborate):
Tool – Opiate – This wouldn’t be on here had I not done RS A-level. I got this around the same time that I was doing Philosophy of Religion and Marxism, which are definitely the main themes of this EP. A couple of “According to Maynard James Keenan”s did crop up in my essays. It not only gave me a great revision aid, but fed a rapidly growing interest in this way of thinking, and is by far the least pretentious TOOL record.
The Postal Service – Give Up – The soundtrack to my first semester at university. I hadn’t taken many CDs away with me, so in and around lectures and going out, I would listen to Shoutcast radio stations, which would play songs from this album quite a lot. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight fit well with my new environment, along with the awkward feeling of being on the brink of the past and future. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were people at university that liked this stuff too.
Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret – the album that epitomises my clubbing experience. Bedsitter is a perfect description of the ennui I experienced in my second and third year of university, dragging my feet during the day until the evening came and I could dance again. It’s an album full of theatre, nostalgia, and drama, and fits in perfectly with the places I visit. It’s an album that makes me feel alive.
Robbie Williams – Intensive Care – Arguably the best record he’s ever made. It’s a truly heartfelt and sincere collection of songs that was a useful soundtrack to a terrible double-hit of events that came in 2006. There’s not much I want to say about this record that can be put into words. It’s one of those albums that everyone should have – something that speaks directly to you and helps you understand life. Ghosts still gives me chills.
Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero – These guys again. The significance of this album isn’t so much to do with what it sounds like – although this, together with X, made 2007 a year that saw the best releases by my two favourite artists, perhaps my two favourite albums ever – but where I was when I heard it. Three weeks of travelling around the country with some great people, listening to the best music and having some great nights out. Hearing the album three times before most other people had, sitting on the floor with a circle of people grinning for 65 minutes, really wishing we were allowed our cameras to take photos of the occasion. 2007 was a fantastic year in general, and this was the soundtrack to that.