Albums that changed my life

When I started this list, I had sixteen albums immediately come to mind, but I decided no one cares to read a list that long. So, my apologies to Abbey Road, Under the Pink, Chutes too Narrow, The Black Album, Our Endless Numbered Days and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
  1. ELO, A New World Record, 1976
    I remember a few things from my early childhood. This album is one of them. My dad was a DJ in the seventies, and this record was one of his favorites. When my parents got a divorce, he played it often. Hearing the dial tone at the start of "Telephone Line" still makes my eyes well up. It taught me love is a beautiful thing, but when it's over, it hurts like hell. "Hey, how you feelin'? Are you still the same? Don't you realize the things we did, we did Were all for real, not a dream?"
  2. Sublime, 40 oz. To Freedom, 1992
    Not sure I'd get into this band now, but when this album was released, my mom, brother and sister played it repeatedly for years. It was something we could all agree to listen to without issue. Many of the tracks are what you would expect from a band like this, but "Rivers of Babylon" has and always will stop my heart.
  3. Ani DiFranco, Little Plastic Castle, 1998
    I have my mom and sister to thank for this. At ten years old, I was singing along to angst I couldn't possibly understand, but Ani's storytelling makes you feel as if you experienced these things with her. Her feminism sticks with me still, despite my incessant need to shave my armpits.
  4. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
    I still have the scratched-up, hand-me-down copy my sister gave me. My friend Sarah and I discovered it at her parents' friend's house one day in middle school. When we dropped the needle on the vinyl, I recognized it as if I had been listening to it my whole life. As it turns out, my dad played this before I could even remember, but each song was still stored in my mind.
  5. Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica, 2000
    Riding in the backseat of my older sister's car, piecing together the words and meaning of this album was my favorite. Hearing her belt out, "Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank," I remember thinking how important it was to enjoy life for what it is, while it is. Later, this album was around for a not-so-great time in my life, and the opening line, "Everything that keeps me together is falling apart," struck a chord with me that still reverberates from time to time.
  6. Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963
    In the summer of 2002, I rode my bike to the library most days and scoured their CDs. I listened to everything I could get my hands on -- some great, some terrible. This is the album I remember most vividly from that time. As I peddled up the hill to the library, I heard the melodic guitar at the beginning of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." I had never heard a rooster crow at the break of dawn, but I felt like I knew what "Goodbye is too good a word, babe" meant.
  7. Radiohead, OK Computer, 1997
    Despite being released in '97, I didn't stumble upon this album until 2002. (I'm not sure at the ripe age of nine I would've understood, anyway.) I heard "Paranoid Android," and half a decade after the rest of the world, I lost my mind. After reading more about the song and learning the structure of it was inspired by the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun," I was sold.
  8. Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism, 2003
    Before I could drive, my mom and I spent a lot of time at Borders. She'd get lost in books, and I'd make my way to the music section, where'd I'd throw on headphones, and squat there for an hour sampling their top ten album recommendations for the week. When I came across Transatlanticism, I listened to "Title and Registration" several times before leaving the store with it. When Ben Gibbard described rifling through his glove box after a breakup, he had me.
  9. Arcade Fire, Funeral, 2004
    Two months after I got my driver's license, I loaded my car down with new speakers and a subwoofer. Enter this album. I may never be able to hear as well after blaring it on long drives to nowhere. I got into the habit of heading west on I-44 and just yell/singing about everything and nothing at the same time. I was obsessed with the idea of "forced coming of age." Each time, I'd start with "Neighborhood #1" and just let it play. There is no lyric that stands out to me, just the entire feel.
  10. of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, 2007
    After 2005's "The Sunlandic Twins," I wasn't sure I could love oM more, but Hissing Fauna proved me wrong. Memories of my senior year of high school are filled with dance parties, seeing the band live several times and a breakup that destroyed me. My best friend and I parted ways after years, my dog died, I was leaving for college and oM was there to push me up the hill. When I was down, I'd cue up, "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" and make myself dance. Sometimes, I still do.
  11. Honorable Mention: "Highway 61 Revisited"
    Historic, to me, because of a fan yelling, "Judas!" at the beginning of the live performance. I imagine Bob Dylan standing with his band, prepared to move into the rock portion of his show, and a fan yelling at him for not being exactly what they wanted him to be. And then, Bob Dylan did the coolest thing imaginable, the sort of thing I aspire to do in life --- he told his band to "Play it fucking loud!"