Middle School & Beyond - Stacy's Top 10 Most Influential Albums

I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens, but thank goodness this isn’t about favorites. It’s about influence. Though, I can still listen to all of these in their entirety, and they’ll bring a smile to my face.

Of all the Facebook trends, this one doesn't bother me. I enjoy seeing the albums that influence my friends and acquaintances. Some make sense, many are humorous, some I share camaraderie. However, I wish there was context, and a story to go along with the album covers.

That's what the X staff is doing - enjoy.

Trivium - Ascendancy (2005)

I was in Campiti’s pizza, circa 2005, and the dudes behind the counter had (gasp!) satellite radio blaring. With blazing solos rotating between the two guitarists in the band, I asked “who is this?” He hands me my pizza and says “Trivium.”

Within weeks, I heard it again in more doses, as a co-worker brought it in to spin during our shift at Subway. Went straight to Best Buy, wore that sucker out, then sought out almost everything Roadrunner Records had to offer.

The boys of Trivium are disciplined song-writers, and have evolved, as they should. My fave is the more prog-metal Shogun, but I'll be honest. I have a hard time remaining a fan of them as they’ve offered anything new.

Metallica - The Black Album (1991)

With 5 singles of familiarity, whether through your big brother playing the riffs nonstop, or by hearing it on the radio, it invites you in. Memorable guitar solos that make you feel. I highly respect the men of Metallica, through all their member changes and seasons. Just listen to "My Friend of Misery." Now listen again - just Kirk's solo. It’ll put you in a posture of appreciation for the art of solos (may they freshly live on forever). It'll make you want to pick up a guitar.

The Black Album, for me, is just the same as it is to many - the gateway into bands upon bands whom exist because of, and share a love for this iconic group.

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom (1995)

I first heard "Don’t Speak" on the radio. A 4th grade friend taped it onto cassette for me, but ran out of tape before that beloved track 10 made the cut. It forced me to wait for what I wanted, unwittingly falling in love with every song in the meantime.

A girl? With a rock band? I wanted in, and aspired to do all that Gwen did. I mean, I already had the bangs.

This might have been the most influential of all, though, not a favorite to this day.

But, I'm still on the lookout for a replica of those red shoes.

Incubus - Morning View (2001)

I loved Incubus right off the bat. The fun riffs from Mike Einziger and Brandon Boyd’s tone. Mmm, he was within my vocal range and I loved to sing along.

High school is an influential time for music, isn’t it? A girl brought Morning View in to spin during a painting class. The length of the class allowing for the entirety of the album, I grew to love all but one. "Aqueous Transmission," the closing track - complete with frogs chirping after all melody has concluded, didn't grow on me until my late 20s.

Funny thing is, I find it precious that I was introduced to Morning View around the time of the release of A Crow Left of the Murder, as 105.9 the X was having an album release party - all within, I'd say, a week's time. Sometimes life works through the echoes in our lives, press into them.

I’m unashamedly a soldier for the band, loving every stage and every genre they’ve delved into.

Radiohead - The Bends (1995)

I stacked up my elective classes in high school to be art, art, art. Painting and drawing for a block of close to 3 hours each morning in ’04 and ’05. The best part? We got to pick the music. Introducing, The Bends. I knew of Radiohead, slightly, from that melancholy track on my Romeo + Juliet VHS tape. (Hated the movie, loved Leo). It led me to, yes, more Radiohead - but also down a deeper trek into what the 90s had to offer. They were the gateway.

To this day, I'm discovering artists like Portishead and PJ Harvey. Now, I can almost feel you judging me, so I apologize for being late to such music. Thanks to my beloved fiance, whom for years had simultaneously built his musical taste, I'm now 33 and taking routes into sub-genres I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. The world of music is large and impossible to ingest fully, though I wish I could. I blame the busyness of life, which is a cop-out I don't like to admit. (The quick lesson here I'm giving is to stay ever-inspired, share with others, and listen together).

Again with Radiohead, upon hearing "There There" on 105.9 the X not long after, it quickly introduced me to my ever-favorite Hail to the Thief (2003). Bleepy-bloopy, riffs, weirdo lyrics, ambience that lets your mind float around in someone else's headspace - I loved the balance. Thom Yorke is simply my favorite with which to sing along.

A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms (2000)

His voice.

I could listen to him sing the phone book, if you can find one.

Shampoo bottle ingredients.

The Swedish directions for building an IKEA bed.

Gosh. His voice, yes, but coupled with the rather short tracks not exceeding 4:50 in length, and Billy Howerdel’s tone - it’s a recipe for beauty. And how baaad is Paz in the David Fincher produced music video for "Judith," quickly throwing her hair in a high bun after she realizes “oh, I have a second here.” In heels, mind you.

I wanted in and wanted to do all they did. And c’mon, Maynard in the breakdown of "Thomas" will give you insta-goosebumps.

This album left me with high expectations for vocalists in rock bands. My tastes demanded excellence, after hearing what Maynard had to offer.

The connections through this first-love of Maynard grew to more. It's as if all his friends and collaborators were my automatic friends. Introducing, Tool (yes, Tool was second in line of discovery) and even way over to into left field to the feisty Tori Amos.

Ultimately, Maynard led me to Deftones. I first hated Chino's breathy singing in their White Pony single "Change (in the House of Flies)," it made me uncomfortable. But the comfort settled in with Maynard in the hook of "Passenger," opening me up to a now favorite band.

If you're reading, Maynard James Keenan, thanks for everything.

Ace of Base - The Sign (1993)

Mom probably chose it as a “wasted” pick from Columbia House. We poke fun at the poppy singles, and sure, Full House ruined the title track. However, I can listen to this in its entirety today. (And just maybe I will!)

It’s eerie. It’s got dark sonic elements for a pop record. And it was its darker side that I was drawn to. Looking back, it’s a precursor to where my tastes evolved. Not to mention, it was the original blonde + brunette, as I was a 6-year-old Linn, and my sister and 8-year-old Jenn. We might have tried to create our own language and formed our own girl-band, after hearing "Voulez-Vous Danser." No. Nevermind. It's too cringe-worthy to attempt to retell any details.

I will say, it shows that I'm still a sucker for a 3:00 pop song once in a while. Gimme a hook and I'll give you my ear.

(Sentimental footnote: I met my fiance through an acquaintance. That acquaintance once heard me talk about Ace of Base in a passionate way on the air. This acquaintance had only heard such passion over Ace of Base from one other individual. The set-up ensued, and we'll be married in June, with said acquaintance - now friend, officiating. I'm not going to walk down the aisle to "Waiting for Magic" or anything, but this album entertained, inspired, and later paved way to destiny).

Between the Buried & Me - The Coma Ecliptic (2015)

Perhaps this is a mirror image of how my tastes have evolved in more recent years. A band that’s been sonically heavy in all prior discography, lacking in clean vocals, has now become - for lack of better word - listenable.

As I approached my late 20s, I veered from actively seeking out the heavy-listening community. I just haven’t had the drive for heavy metal as I once did.

I have a soft spot for a basic rock song, yes, but there’s nothing like a progressive song that demands your full attention. And Between the Buried and Me softened themselves just enough in this record.

The inspiration here might actually be allegory - for my life. My once-heavier prominent tastes have taken a turn and become more selective.

Brooke Fraser - Albertine (2006)

Curveball for ya, if Ace of Base wasn’t already. A cool singer-songwriter from New Zealand, and perhaps the more influential album on this list.

Believe it or not, I find solace in life by reading Psalms and old Proverbs. She writes love songs for a higher power, if you will. I appreciated her song writing. It’s happy, yet, not overdone. A natural vibrato and just enough of that New Zealand accent to set her apart, Brooke Fraser is not like the forced “indie” style we hear today.

A guitarist & pianist herself, her band backs her up just-enough to keep the main thing the main thing. Pretty, but meaningful sing-song tracks that inspire me… to simplify.

Scorpions - Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years (1995)

It was a double-disc, greatest hits - where every hit sounds the same! Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it was middle school.

I would listen to 102.5 WDVE, with a cassette tape loaded and ready to catch "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "No One Like You." My memory doesn’t serve me in how I got my hands on this near 30-track album, likely a Columbia House or BMG leftover - thanks Mom. But I wore it out. I loved harmony.

Overdone, over-the-top, emotional harmony.

It was just enough of an introduction to “metal” that I needed in those awkward, awkward years. (I still must must must see them live).


I know there's honorable mentions in the back of my mind. In fact, I expected my brain to pull on more heavy stuff, but the above were precursors. The above are what led me to more. That's inspiration. It should take you on deeper trek into the wonders of music.

ABBY Top 10 Inspirational: https://1059thex.iheart.com/featured/abby/content/2020-05-13-abbys-top-ten-most-influential-albums/

RUSS Top 10 Inspirational: https://1059thex.iheart.com/featured/whip/content/2020-05-06-my-ten-influential-albums-just-ten-ok-ill-try/

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