Music was a major part of my development.
Its an art form that communicates confusing/difficult thoughts and emotions through a medium that gets right at your soul.
Nowadays, I don’t listen to nearly as much music as I used to, my own thoughts are enough to keep me busy, but I still very much enjoy discovering an interesting new artist and going to live shows.
When I was younger, you never saw me without headphones, I was obsessed with my CD/Vinyl collection, and would go to shows twice a week.
Working at my University’s radio station allowed me to have access to any album I wanted, got me into concerts for free, and allowed me to mingle with many musicians.
Most of my friends growing up were in bands, I’ve played drums with some of them, and one of my brothers is a professional musician–so I’ve been exposed to every sort of genre.
The bands I enjoy the most are the ones who seem to come out of nowhere and blow your mind with their originality.
I’ve always despised mainstream music, not just because I’m a natural contrarian, but I can’t stand any type of artist who comes across as a lesser imitation of someone else–which is all mainstream shit is.
Below is a list of the most influential bands and albums in my life. They are the ones I can listen to now and still get something out of.
The list is in chronological order, starting with the ones I listened to first.
*This is part 1 and only includes artists that were active in the 1990s. Part 2 will cover the 2000s.
The current band is something I would never be caught listening to because it caters to the effeminate hipster crowd and sounds like plastic, but the first two albums Weezer put out were what pop-music should sound like.
The amount of energy these four guys can produce through speakers will make the hair on your arms stand up. When I get together with my old friends to go surfing, we usually start our journey by blasting a bit of Weezer nostalgia in the van.
Notable albums: The Blue Album, Pinkerton.
Songs: Say it ain’t So, Only in Dreams, Tired of Sex.
Ok Computer came out when I was 14 years old and completely changed everything I thought about music. These are sounds that take you on a ride like you have never been on before.
Radiohead has consistently been one of my favorite bands and have reinvented themselves many times–the follow up album to Ok Computer, Kid A, took their sound in a completely different direction and taught me how to find beauty in electronic.
They are also the best band I’ve ever seen live, true professionals, these guys did not make a mistake and made their music tower through the sky.
This band has been an inspiring source of creative energy for me and provided some understanding to my former feelings of angst, loneliness, despair, and fear for the future. They have tapped into the zeitgeist deeper than any other band on Earth.
Notable Albums: Ok Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows.
Songs: There There, Fake Plastic Trees, Idioteque, Street Spirit, Lotus Flower, Paranoid Android.
The Flaming Lips
Who knew the end of the world could sound like so much fun?
The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots are beautiful albums that deal with some of the saddest issues that humans have ever faced. The most touching music deals with psychological sadness and allows the listener to understand he is not alone.
Wayne Coyne has created some extremely important medicine.
Notable Albums: The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
Songs: Race for the Prize, Waiting for Superman, What is the Light?, Do you Realize, Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell, It’s Summertime.
Say what you want about this crazy bitch, but she has composed some completely unique songs that make you feel like you are exploring an Icelandic wilderness filled with elves–sung with a voice that is too good to be human.
One of the most gorgeous scenes of my life was driving home from a snowboarding trip in Vermont after it had snowed two feet the night before. Vespertine was playing as we pulled over to smoke a blunt in the early morning sun and enjoy a landscape that looked like heaven. Her music is fitting for wintertime.
Notable Albums: Post, Homogenic, Vespertine.
Songs: Army of Me, Hyperballad, Pagan Poetry, Bachelorette, Hunter.
Ever feel lost in the world, wondering if there was a God, and also thinking that if he was there, he was an asshole for letting everything get so bad?
So has Isaac Brock, who’s lyrics are some of the most well-written, descriptive, and introspective you will ever hear.
I’ve hung out with Isaac a few times and can say for a fact that he lives and breathes the crazy things he sings about. We ended one all-nighter together with blood dripping from our eyesockets.
Notable Albums: This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About, Lonesome Crowded West, The Moon & Antarctica, Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
Songs: Dramamine, Ocean Breathes Salty, Third Planet, Dashboard, Satellite Skin.
What a band. What lyrics. What weirdos.
The Pixies were the start of 90s rock, the original ones to carve a sound that would be emulated by countless others. Including Nirvana.
They did it first, and they did it best. All their albums are worth a listen.
Notable Albums: Bossanova, Doolittle, Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa.
Songs: Monkey Gone to Heaven, Debaser, Dig for Fire, All Over the World, Is She Weird?
Built to Spill
Some of the finest guitar you will ever hear. Built to Spill has been going strong for almost 30 years and still playing live shows. They are some of the most technically proficient guitarists around and are as tight as ever.
Doug Martsch writes some incredible lyrics and is on a real quest for truth. It comes across in every song he produces.
Notable Albums: Keep it Like a Secret, Perfect from Now On, Untethered Moon, Ancient Melodies of the Future.
Songs: Carry the Zero, I Would Hurt a Fly, You Were Right, Randy Described Eternity, Stop the Show.
A band that I started listening to when I needed to focus on big projects.
They are mostly instrumental, and are so good they can be downright terrifying.
Listen to them if you have to concentrate.
Notable Albums: Happy Songs for Happy People, Mr. Beast, Come on Die Young, Rock Action.
Songs: Hunted by a Freak, Auto Rock, Killing all the Flies, Ratts of the Capital.
Explosions in the Sky
Another instrumental band that can take your thoughts to new heights. Some of their songs reach such an apex that afterwards you have to take a breath–extremely inspirational stuff.
They are amazing live and promise to create chills.
Notable Albums: The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Take Care Take Care Take Care
Songs: First Breath After Coma, Welcome Ghosts, Postcard from 1952
I’ll continue with more music recommendations in future posts, but this should be a good enough selection to keep you busy for a while.