10 Most Influential Albums in My Life

Wow, @mallofamanda, what a challenging (but fun!) request. Not to be confused with Favorite Albums; I tried to stick to music that impacted my tastes and thinking in some new, huge way. Left off stuff my Dad raised me on, which is probably most influential of all (Beatles, Who, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, King Crimson, etc.).
  1. 1.
    Ramones, "Ramones"
    Shaped so much of my worldview - for good and bad - that I don't know how to quantify it. This LP is mixed with the guitar entirely in the right speaker, and the bass entirely in the left. So I (like many others) learned guitar by cranking my stereo's balance all the way to the left and playing along.
  2. 2.
    Beach Boys, "Pet Sounds"
    I was listening to this several decades after it was released, and it felt so perfectly relevant to me on the cusp of adulthood, and each song opened new possibilities in melody and structure... Some real "kept me alive" stuff here.
  3. 3.
    Devo, "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!"
    Google "Fred Armisen" and "Devo" to hear Fred speak more eloquently about Devo's influence than I ever could. Music, comedy, sci-fi, performance art... everything I was bursting to do with my life in one, thrilling package. By guys who looked as nerdy as me (although I never thought that at the time; I thought they were the coolest ever).
  4. 4.
    The Smiths, "Louder Than Bombs"
    I didn't like them in high school, but when I moved to Los Angeles, it all clicked for me. Morrissey has probably been the single most influential artist in my life!
  5. 5.
    Public Enemy, "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
    Lots of other hip-hop had excited me, but this one sent me off toward several years of DJ-ing, producing hip-hop tracks for kids in Kentucky, etc. I can still enjoy this record every bit as much as I did then. (Oh - and my embarrassing rap group was "Double A and Tha Lunatic.")
  6. 6.
    Al Green, "Let's Stay Together"
    I bought this at a used record store in 8th grade, based solely on the cover. I'd never heard anyone sing in such an intimate, soothing manner. At a time in my life when I was dealing with all sorts of abuse and depression, Al Green was there to make me feel better, over and over again. Music as an act of service.
  7. 7.
    Kraftwerk, "The Man-Machine"
    Another high school purchase that I turned to for comfort, despite the fact that most people think of Kraftwerk as cold and robotic. I thought their songs were shimmering and perfect. Kicked off my enduring love of electronic music.
  8. 8.
    Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove"
    My Dad got a bunch of George Clinton albums at a Salvation Army and didn't like them, so I took them into my room and played them endlessly. This and "Cosmic Slop" are my favorites.
  9. 9.
    Fats Waller, "The Ultimate Fats Waller Collection"
    A more recent obsession. Listening to Fats Waller has really opened up my life to music that's simply about joy.
  10. 10.
    Steve Reich Ensemble, "Music For 18 Musicians"
    I was listening to this album while my wife was pregnant with our youngest daughter. The music's hypnotic progression put me into a trancelike state where I could truly feel the subatomic connection between me and my unborn kid. (No, I was not high!) For that experience alone, SRE gets a spot on the list! (P.S. The kid is five now and she loves this album.)