Not necessarily the greatest albums of all time, but I distinctly remember each of these knocking me off my feet.
  1. Nightmare Before Christmas - Danny Elfman
    Danny would send my dad demos as he was writing them - singing all the parts himself - and we'd listen to them in the car endlessly. I was three I suppose and knew every word to every song before the film came out. It was the first memory I have of truly loving music, of caring about composition, melody, harmony, lyrics, and performance.
  2. Graceland - Paul Simon
    I had just started playing bass when my step-dad played this album and was completely blown away: I had never heard a bass tone like this before, polyrhythms, or this level of cohesion in an album. To this day it is my favorite album.
  3. Heavy Weather - Weather Report
    Someone in my high school jazz band recommend I listen to this album, specifically Jaco Pastorios' bass playing. I didn't know the bass could do that. Sadly, I don't think it ever will again.
  4. Chutes Too Narrow - The Shins
    Summer of 2007. I was on vacation in Laguna Beach, missing a girl back home in Oregon. Not that this album is particularly romantic or about longing, but I remember sitting on the balcony watching the waves lap up against the beach just listening to - what I considered in that moment - the most incredible production and fidelity. Every song was just better than the next. I hated that the album had an end.
  5. Strategic Grill Locations - Mitch Hedberg
    I saw Hedberg live (before he died, to clarify) but he was opening for the artist I was there to see: Stephen Lynch, which should give you some indication as to how old/mature I was at the time. Years later when I listened to this album I was stunned to remember I had the pleasure of seeing him. And upset with myself for having no memory of his set.
  6. Extraordinary Machine (Jon Brion Version) - Fiona Apple
    Jon once told me "no one has heard the album " which was, I assumed, a reference to it being scrapped and re-recorded with a different producer (Jon's version leaked online.) "because the album has yet to be finished..." He said one day he'd like to finish it with Fiona, but truthfully, I don't know how it could get any better: his lush, baroque arrangements, her performances - so honest and true to where she was in life at that point - the album - finished or not - is perfect.
  7. Bitte Orca - The Dirty Projectors
    Sophomore year of college, in my soon-to-become best friend's apartment. He put this vinyl on and I don't remember anything else about that night, just this album. I had never heard anything like it before (or since) and was angry that anyone would put out music that wasn't this. Dave Longstreth's compositional genius is unrivaled in modern music. I couldn't believe this album existed and there was a time I didn't know about it.
  8. Strange Mercy - St. Vincent
    My college roommates got an early copy our Senior year and listened to it with great excitement. I, however, was bitter. Bitter I had neglected to take the time to listen to Annie Clark before that moment. Bitter that I had passed up several opportunities to see her live. Bitter no one forced me to listen to "Actor" or "Marry Me" - albums I immediately sought out and was equally floored.
  9. I Love You, Honeybear - Father John Misty
    I don't want to like Josh Tillman - I think he's a really undesirable human. I want to believe his music is trying too hard, phony, and just shit; he's a condescending jerk neglecting the real world through a haze of drugs. But every song on this album is fantastic, both lyrically and musically. I've never loved an album so much that I wanted to despise.