6 Albums That Changed My Life

I'm a musician & songwriter and this is a list of records that have inspired me musically and otherwise.
  1. 1.
    The National was a revelation for me when I first started listening to their records. Boxer was the first one I heard - a couple years after it came out. Matt Berninger's oaky baritone is dark and brooding, but the melodies were poppy. Bryan Devendorf's drumming is frantic and claustrophobic, but warm and cinematic . The whole thing is spooky and beautiful. It opened up my ears & my mind and inspired me musically in ways that are still resonating in my writing.
  2. 2.
    Songs From The Attic
    I was listening to this live Billy Joel record A LOT as a middle schooler. "Summer Highland Falls" is a standout and his piano work is beautiful. The arrangements of Billy The Kid and Miami 2017 are almost virtuosic in their stadium piano rock-ness. Captain Jack was totally wild to me - hearing someone sing about drugs and masturbation brought major thrills to my middle school brain.
  3. 3.
    Third Eye Blind
    Third Eye Blind's self titled 1997 record is text book 90s radio friendly pop-grunge. There are so many well written pop tracks on that record. Stephen Jenkins' lyrics might not stand up so well almost 20 years later, but something about his writing spoke to me as a kid. There was a lot of darkness beneath the pop - Semi Charmed Life famously got a generation of people singing about crystal meth and not even realizing it.
  4. 4.
    Born To Run
    It's hard for me to pick a Springsteen record, but this quintessential album is definitely up there on my list of favorites from the Boss. Every song is a total knock-out. Thunder Road and the title song are classics. Jungleland and Backstreets are shining examples of the Springsteen epic. Even less-played tracks like Night and the eerie Meeting Across the River are stunning and unforgettable. Early Springsteen inspired me to tell stories - and not be afraid of an 8 minute song.
  5. 5.
    Are We There
    I encountered Sharon Van Etten's stunning 4th album at a pretty seminal transitional period in my life. I had just boarded a midnight train in Cleveland to Salt Lake City (I was leaving NYC and going to work at my friend's theatre company in Sun Valley Idaho). I wasn't particularly 'well' at the time. The first song hit me hard: "I can't wait / 'til we're afraid / of nothing". The album touched me deeply and marked a time in my life when I took ownership of my own happiness and well-being.
  6. 6.
    I don't know if there's a God, but this album is proof that music can be immensely spiritual. Sufjan Steven's breathtaking masterpiece is totally transcendent. There are religious themes textually, but the music itself glows with a heavenly quality. Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is, for my money, one of the best songs ever written.