Music is magical. It has a power to it, the ability to instantly make you feel a certain emotion or remember a particular place and time. In a way, we all have our own soundtracks: the songs, artists, and albums that played when we had our first kisses, danced our first dances, or broke our noses in a mosh pit. It might not always be a good feeling, but the right song can make you feel the way you felt at any particular moment in your life and that is nothing short of incredible.
So, as an exercise, I pieced together a few key albums from my own life. I tried to remember the peaks and valleys of growing up, the hard times and the good times, and I focused on the tunes that played while it all happened. This isn’t just a list of my favorite albums (such a list would look very, very different) but rather a list of albums that represent specific events of my life. So, at the risk of baring my soul, here are some highlights for the soundtrack of my life.
Let it Bleed by The Rolling Stones
My parents didn’t have a lot of rules in our house when I was growing up. The only hard, fast law we had to live by was to love and respect The Rolling Stones. Some of my earliest memories are scored by Let it Bleed. The drifting guitar intro to “Gimme Shelter” or the haunting choir of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” mingle with visions of the house I grew up in. Let it Bleed is one of the Stones’ best albums, no doubt, and my father raised me to respect it. To this day, I still do.
Korn by Korn
We all make mistakes, guys. In confused years of teenage angst, I latched onto something that sounded as angry as I felt. In retrospect, Korn is not a very good album. Not at all. But teenagers are rarely lauded for their good decisions. When you listen to this album now, it sounds so pubescent. It also boasts one of the worst sounding bass tracks of all time. Still, I can’t deny the fact that I loved this album and listened to it on headphones constantly. It’s the perfect representation of those muddled and directionless early teenage years. Those times when we don’t know anything about life or the world. The times when we think Korn is a good name for a band.
Milo Goes to College by Descendents
This album, more than anything else listed here, is a symbol for me finding my true self. When I discovered punk rock, specifically the Descendents, I felt like I was coming home. It made sense to me and was a scene I felt like I could belong in. I became obsessed with attending shows, seeing every punk and hardcore band that came through town and since I grew up in Southern California that means I went to a lot of shows. Songs like “Bikeage” fueled my broken teenage heart, the words spoke to me in ways that music never had before. This stuff is so important to me that when my wife and I had our first child, we of course named him Milo.
When the Pawn… by Fiona Apple
I can remember the first time I fell in love. The exact moment I knew what it meant to be totally and completely consumed was the first time I saw Fiona Apple’s music video for “Criminal.” Years later, the release of When the Pawn… only further cemented this true, rich love. Apple’s bitter and dark songs about love, hate, and everything in between are so beautiful you can’t help but be entranced by them. At this point in my life, I had never experienced the things she was singing about, but boy oh boy did I want to. I wanted to be crushed like that. I wanted that kind of misery. I’ve felt that kind of pain now and it’s not nearly as sexy as Fiona Apple made it sound, but I still think “I Know” is one of the best songs ever written.
Automatic Midnight by Hot Snakes
When you grow up a little and move on from the tormented years of high school, it’s natural to find yourself significantly less angry at the world. I still loved punk rock music, but I needed something less enraged. Something with the same energy but less doom and gloom. Enter the Hot Snakes. Automatic Midnight is a lo-fi masterpiece, a pounding post-hardcore experience that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced up until that point. Listening to this album made me want to make music, so much so that I would jump into a van and spend the next four years touring and playing guitar in band. I wanted to be John Reis, the groovy, down-stroke warlord whose guitar riffs made the Hot Snakes so damn cool. Hell, I still want to be John Reis.
Crack the Skye by Mastodon
In college, I became slightly obsessed with authors like HP Lovecraft, Hunter S. Thompson, and Mastodon’s album Crack the Skye. I loved that bleak outlook, that hardcore bitter attitude. Plus, Mastodon rocks so freaking hard, man. I can remember walking from class to class listening to this album on repeat, absorbing every solo, drum fill, and growl. I love metal that is played by big dudes with beards, heavy stuff without the glam. Crack the Skye is mature and brilliant, perfect for an egotistical college student who wants to sit around and talk about the life of Ernest Hemingway or the mythology of Cthulhu. That’s who I was–and maybe who I am–in a nutshell.
So there it is–a brief snapshot of my life told through music. I would challenge you to do the same; it’s a process that is reflexive and powerful. Close your eyes and listen for the songs that played during your best and worst moments, the albums that define a specific point in time for you. What’s the soundtrack of your life?