Let me preface this by saying that these are not my favorite albums of all time.
Another disclaimer is that yes, I was a mainstream girl at heart!! let me go!! when I was figuring out the music I liked. But these were ten albums (of four dozen more) that really made something click for me and stuck moving forward. I can remember where I was, how I felt, and what it meant when I discovered each and every one of these albums and I've loved recounting all of that to share with you. For me, it was all pop, r&b, and discovering rap when I started watching MTV and Vh1. Then I experienced 90s and early aughts rock.
I had had my awakening.
I am grateful to have been born just before singles took the reins over full-length, so sticking with entire albums in my impressionable years didn't require as much of a conscious effort as it might today. These 10 works led me to dive deeper into their respective genres, into the artists themselves, new favorite band discoveries, and so much more. I hope you can relate and/or enjoy.
I walked into the rock world SO wide-eyed. All I knew was the classic rock my dad showed me, but I didn't know anything about anything rock-related, not really. I was beginning to enjoy it, but I walked into my first listening experience of "No One Knows" like a brick wall. I am a Minor Chord Princess. Always have been. Even playing piano as a kid, I'd want to perform the pieces that were in minor keys, ones that were just a little bit sad or sinister. I'm a Scorpio. It's, like, our whole thing.
The unashamed, punchy guitar in that single got me so FIRED UP for intramural basketball that I had to hear more of where, or who, it came from. I'd never heard a voice like Homme's or a style quite like this before. It was so different, energetic, contagious. This album was the soundtrack to formative adolescent years and thankfully led me to Rated R and their eponymous, which I love so very much.
I can't exclude the influence my parents had on my listening patterns. My dad introduced me to so many different artists - ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, The Beach Boys, Charlie Daniels...he is also the culprit behind my love for comedy. We would go for drives just to listen to a Jerry Seinfeld tape together. Top ten in the memories were drives with dad.
He first showed me James Taylor's Sweet Baby James on one of these iconic drives to nowhere and the lyrics stayed with me so much more than the rest. Though it's not an album I found myself, it still meant a lot to me and is a special bond I share with my dad, our love for this artist. Should I one day get married, and father/daughter dances are still a thing, my dance with my dad will be to James Taylor.
They were a no-brainer. I stumbled upon them on one of my MySpace adventures. I'd stick to The Strokes almost exclusively on bus rides to school, Room On Fire in particular. They were my first toe dip into fuzzed-out rock, a serious trend for me moving forward. I'll never forget how excited I was when Angles came out and I could binge-listen to "Under Cover of Darkness," endlessly, forever and ever and ever. Also, if you want to talk The New Abnormal, I. Am Game.
P.S. I miss MySpace.
All the energy, causeless rebellion, and not caring what other people think. I was very much shaped by the music I listened to, and certainly had a (prominent) phase of rebellion and anger towards the world just because it was fun? That was fun for me. And the more music I listened to that sharpened that edge of anti-establishment sentiments or plain and simple, "I really don't care if you don't like what I do," the more fuel it added to my fiery teenage attitude, and then Sum 41 enters the chat. I'd heard the big singles "In Too Deep" and "Fat Lip" before, but having those under my belt, I dove head first into this album and it satisfied all the angsty musical cravings I was experiencing. They received a lot of heat for sounding too similar to peers like Green Day, but you like what you like and I loved All Killer No FiIler.
Let's check in with my big brother. He was not only my role model, but graciously showed me so, so much music that I have to give him credit for a lot of the 90s rock I listened to. He also showed me all the rap and r&b that got me into Nas, Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z, and Aaliyah. But he was a fan of bands like Oasis, Third Eye Blind, and The Wallflowers - and once I heard the laidback opening to "Champagne Supernova," I became a fan too. It was just light enough to make it easy listening without sacrificing the guitars I was craving to hear at the time. But it was still forward, there was attitude there and I needed that component. Oasis was one of the first 90s rock bands I was introduced to with this sophomore release, a critical intro into who I'd listen to later on.
I was at the back lunch table, and a boy I had a major crush on offered me his Walkman headphones. He was really into this new album from a band called Green Day and thought I might like it (based on what, we don't know). But Nathan was correct.
I know the "popular" choice for favorite Green Day albums are much earlier releases. All solid picks. But I cannot tell a lie, this is what I found first. From the opening chords of Holiday to trying to memorize all 45 minutes of Jesus of Suburbia, I was hooked on this album for good and knew I needed a copy for myself. Another major transitional band that led me to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foos, Weezer, Nirvana...everything. I am lucky enough to have a best friend named Morgan, who took me to Green Day's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction show in Cleveland at the House of Blues in 2015. Someone kicked me in the face in the pit. Great night.
Third Eye Blind caught me at the perfect time when the chip was on the shoulder and I was ready for the unfounded angst to fly. But they were also fun, crazy catchy, and were a happy medium between the harder and more alt-leaning sounds I was looking for. I found their debut first, Third Eye Blind, and mostly stuck with it but really enjoyed Out of the Vein as well as more recent releases. Seeing them live for the first time at Kickass Xmas 2016 was quite meaningful, and remarkably full-circle. I casually saluted Stephan Jenkins out of sheer panic and nerves. To say he was confused would be an understatement.
Several women in pop and hip-hop were influential for me. But as I hit my stride with 00s rock, I was mostly listening to male-fronted bands or strictly male artists. I was finding the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Evanescence, I'd love The Kills later on. But I was still finding my way with this genre and wanted more vocalists that sounded like me, women in rock who I could aspire to become or whose voices/pitches I could match. I didn't know of Paramore until Riot!, and Hayley Williams became that musical role model I wanted. It helps that she's philanthropic and an honest public figure, even more recently about the anti-feminist theme of "Misery Business." Riot! was a pivotal discovery and I heard it at a very impressionable age.
Big one. I knew of The Killers before my proper intro to Hot Fuss from the "Mr. Brightside" video that was on every waking hour of MTV and I was obsessed with the edge - the message, the drama, the guyliner - it was sad and spiteful, but powerful and fast. This was given to me on a burned CD which I happily plopped into my CD alarm clock. Amazing thing to own. I learned Hot Fuss front to back by starting every day with it and loving every song more than the last, especially "Change Your Mind." Heavy rotaysh.
Along with the alt, punk and rock, I really, truly enjoyed folk, acoustic, and definitely more trop sounds that I started to experience with Jack Johnson, and later on in Trevor Hall, Bob Marley, and Slightly Stoopid. In Between Dreams was my favorite of Jack Johnson's at the time, and made the Top 10 for that reason. When I got to high school, I was really digging John Mayer and much, much softer finds than I had been before. Listening to this album helped ease me into an escape, one most kids need at that age. When I popped this album in, I knew things would calm down, at least for a while. It got me through early high school woes and for that I am eternally indebted to JJ.