Friday, February 20, 2009

25 Albums

Yes, this is a Facebook survey, but it turned out to be so long I figured what the eff, I'm saving this bitch for digital posterity. Here is the list of 25 albums that changed my life, arranged alphabetically. As it turns out, this is not the same thing as my 25 favorite albums, because some of these I really would be okay with never hearing again. But these were all crucially important to me at certain points, perhaps to an embarrassing degree given some of the odder selections.

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral
I was fresh out of college and back at home. I was the youngest person commuting on the Metro-North every day at 6:22 in the morning to a job that I didn’t love, and for the entirety of the winter I drove to the station in the dark, sat with no windows all day, and commuted home in the dark again. Then I found this album and everything was better. Actually it wasn’t better—it just made being sad feel semi-romantic.

2. Beatles – Help
The curse of being the oldest kid in your family is that you don’t have anyone to guide your taste but your parents. Mine tend to like things like Rod Stewart. Or Il Divo. Or American Idols. So when my cool friend and her cool older sister knew all the words to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” I wanted to know all the words to “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and I got the album, and my parents hated the Beatles, and suddenly there it was! Pre-adolescence! (For the record, I still know all the words, and moreover, it was the second song I learned how to play on the guitar.)

3. The Cranberries – No Need to Argue
The first CD I ever bought with my own money. I loved the shit out of this record. It’s one of those albums I grew out of and forgot about, but recently I heard “Zombie” in Vinnie’s Pizza and my heart skipped a beat.

4. Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
Weird, right? But yeah, if this is a list of albums that changed your life, this was one of them. It came out when I was maybe a junior in high school, and my best friend Kai and I heard it, immediately went out and bought it and sat in her room with it on repeat. For, like, weeks. We talked about Eminem. We theorized about his lyrics. We couldn’t stop listening to “Just Don’t Give a Fuck.” This was not normal behavior for two girls who, basically to this day, will not admit that grunge is over. For whatever weird reason, this was the album that reminded me music existed outside the scope of X107 (though I will still pour one out on the curb for the world’s best deceased alternative rock station).

5. Footloose – The Soundtrack
This record (we had it on vinyl) contained my very first favorite song: “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” by Deneice Williams. Your very first favorite song is a life-changing thing, so this had to be on here. Shout out to the Doveman cover, which I was set to hate and didn’t.

6. Frou Frou – Details
Did everyone go through that annoying depressive phase when they were 19? Because I sure as fuck did and, in between drinking bargain vodka and crying in my dorm a lot, this was the only record that sounded good. It’s not an album I listen to much now, but then it meant a lot.

7. Heart - Heart
Not Heart’s best album, for sure, but the one my parents had on vinyl and the one that started a lifelong love affair with the Wilson sisters. I feel like Heart gets no respect, Dangerfield-style, but Ann and Nancy are total BAMFs. (Bonus trivia: I have a custom made hoodie with “Ooh, barracuda!” embroidered on the back.)

8. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
I just love this album. I’m not sure what else to say about it. The thing about the Hold Steady is suspension of disbelief; you either forget everything you’ve ever felt about electric piano and grandiosity and embrace it, or you hate it and you’re the reason I went to see them alone. Twice.

9. Hole – Live Through This
Basically informed my idea of the kind of girl I wanted to be, for better or for worse. There is a reason why my wrist reads “tear my heart out,” and it is track 9.

10. Juliana Hatfield – Hey Babe
The same cool friend who knew all the words to “I’ve Just Seen a Face” taped this album for me when we were 12 and I wore out the tape. Then I wore out two copies of the CD. Hearing Juliana's little kid voice sing thoughts I had thought myself was eerie and comforting, and is still both.

11. Leona Naess – I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll
This is one of those albums that, were such a thing possible, you would put out in the Candy Dish of Music. It’s sweet, it’s light, it’s quick, and it’s the soundtrack to two of the best summers of my life. (If you do check this out, listen to “Mexico” at night.)

12. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville
13. Liz Phair – Whitechocolatespaceegg
Liz is one of two artists who gets two spots on the list, which is probably cheating. But suck it. These are totally different albums and listening to them back to back like I do at least once a week is like United States of Tara-ing myself. Whitechocolatespaceegg is friendlier, it’s easier, it’s polished. It’s placates the me that holds doors for strangers. Exile is scarier and dirtier and blunter and probably even a little uglier, and it’s a soundtrack for the me that sometimes comes to work without going home from night before.

14. Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby
Sometimes I just listen to this album for a month.

15. Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
Okay, seriously, I know. But Madonna is…I don’t know, kind of like a crazy relative you see maybe twice a year and you’re like, oh, now you’re doing yoga? No, now you’re going to tell us all awkward stories about your love life. No wait, now you’re Jewish. But you love her because it’s comforting that she’s been in your life forever. I’ve been listening to Madonna since I was a kid; my mom loved her, Kai and I took up the Madonna torch in middle school, and then I knew a LOT of drag queens in college. Every song on this album has at least fifteen memories attached to it.

16. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
I don’t have anything to say about this album that people haven’t said approximately two billion times, but it got me when I heard it and that’s that.

17. Nirvana - Nevermind
Legally required to be on a life-changing albums list for people who attended middle school in the mid-nineties. I vividly remember requesting “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at every single canteen and, just once, the DJ caved and sandwiched it between the Real McCoy and Montell Jordan and I was so happy I could’ve died right there in my Jncos.

18. NoFX – Punk in Drublic
This album refuses to leave me alone. It was the soundtrack to my freshman year of high school. But then I was kind of embarrassed about my love for it by 11th grade and eventually lost the CD, then found it again in college, lost it, found it again when I moved back home, lost it, and then awkwardly got it back again last year from a dude. I’m not even sure I like it anymore (except for “Lori Meyers,” which I love), but I will never be able to shake it. I guarantee if I threw out the copy I have now, four would appear in my bag. Like I’d cut the head off the NoFX hydra or some shit.

19. The Replacements – Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash
Not my favorite Replacements album, but it was the first one I heard and “Hangin' Downtown” sold me on what became my favorite band. I mean, if you look on my network my computer’s name is Paul Westerberg.

20. Robyn – Robyn
This album was the best thing about going out in Manhattan for the first two years I lived in the city. New York nightlife was something I never expected to get involved in and I did it as a plus one, so I never felt entirely comfortable hanging out with angular people with angular hair at parties that don’t even exist anymore. But hearing Robyn amid ENDLESS FUCKING PLAYS OF “COMMON PEOPLE” was always the bright spot of the night.

21. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
The Smashing Pumpkins circa Mellon Collie were the first band I loved collectively with other people. There were several of us superfans and we all made sure to study and memorize the lyrics to this entire album before seeing them in concert, after which we wore the shirts to school. Another band I outgrew (like, you know, the entirety of American culture), but I heard a few tracks recently and remembered immediately how exciting it was to love the same thing as your friends.

22. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Greatest Hits
To me, Tom Petty is that acquaintance you’re always swearing you’re going to actually hang out with and you never do, but you’re legitimately happy to see them whenever you run into each other. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to one of his albums in its entirety besides Full Moon Fever, but the singles have been my car jamz and bar jamz and, fuck it, life jamz for as long as I can remember.

23. Weezer – Pinkerton
24. Weezer – The Blue Album
I got on the Weezer boat way, way late. I liked them enough back in the day, but I fell hard for Pinkerton around the same time I was commuting and full of commuterly despair. “The Good Life,” hello, Jesus, thank you. Pinkerton made me love the blue album more than I ever had, and together they keep me extending the olive branch to Mr. Cuomo after every one of his ensuing crappy albums.

25. The Wrens – The Meadowlands
I downloaded this by accident and then didn’t stop listening to it for six months. Contains the saddest song ever written, “13 Months in 6 Minutes,” and the whole album puts my stomach in knots.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Slutty Valentine

I don’t get hating on Valentine’s Day. I’m not trying to be contrarian, because at this point I’m not even sure whether it’s cool to like Valentine’s Day for traditional reasons, or hate it because you’re single/anti-consumerist/diabetic , or like it because everyone else hates it. But really, as a holiday it’s a solid 7 out of 10: no family obligations, no gift-exchanging necessary unless I opt in with platonics, and I get to look at flowers all day. And sometimes someone will offer you a truffle. Or a tiny éclair, if you’re me and the old guy who runs the bakery on your corner is holding it down as Mr. Heartwarming Geriatric Baker America 2009.

I started Valentine’s Day this year with a round of confectionary musical chairs, taking two fancy rolled-up chocolate frosted cake delights from said bakery over to Williamsburg for Brad and Christian, then stopping at Pennylicks for vegan chocolate-covered strawberries to haul back to Bushwick for Jes. (Like this was such a selfless gift; the thing about buying your roommate a dozen chocolate strawberries is that, should the urgent need to eat a chocolate strawberry arise in the middle of the night, you have access and limited guilt.)

I’ve never done anything romantic-like on Valentine’s Day because I’ve never had a boyfriend for the holiday. This is a corollary to the larger life theorem of never having had an actual boyfriend per se, but this is neither here nor cool. But I think this is the reason I like Valentine’s Day so much—when your holiday plans are fundamentally filed under “contingency,” it’s pretty difficult to be disappointed by them. Last year Jes and I went for a vegan platonidate extraordinaire and, since we’re valentines two years running and thus needed to up the ante, this year we decided to hit up Sacred Tattoo’s Valentine’s day deal before ingesting faux drumsticks of love.

The shop had exactly the Valentine’s bargain flash of my dreams: an anatomical heart shot full of arrows. Since they were also running a deal on script, I decided to finish off one of the pieces on my chest with the word I’ve wanted to add since I had the first part done. Jes added three big pieces to her nearly finished sleeve and our friend Brett did the same, but I’m still deciding what’s going where on my arm, so I didn’t want to put the heart anywhere it might futz up future tattoo placement. I was wearing tights so shit wasn’t going on my legs anywhere; I’ve been warned that feet hurt too much to even consider tattooing; the shop wasn’t doing hands or necks. This left the very funny option of putting a bargain Valentine’s Day tattoo on my hip and, ascribing to the great philosophical school of fuck it, I did.

Except my tattooer placed the stencil while I was laying down, and I took a look at it with a hand mirror and didn’t realize exactly where it was on my body until he’d already started. What I ended up with is a bargain Valentine’s Day tattoo encroaching upon pornographic territory. It’s on my extreme lower abdomen and very nearly covered by your standard pair of underwear, and therefore exponentially, accidentally, and hysterically sluttier than intended.

Somehow this seems fitting. If my Valentine’s Days are terminally free from making out and candlelit dinners and maple flavored Russell Stover chocolates jettisoned half-chewed from gifted heart-shaped boxes, they might as well end with me eating vegan mac and cheese with my friend, my pants surreptitiously unbuttoned under the table to keep them from messing with my aching heart. My totally slutty heart.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Am I a Don Henley Song?

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the only person in the world whose life is occasionally steamrolled by an obvious metaphor.

A few nights ago I was greeted upon my return home from an enchilada run by a bunch of my own underwear strewn around my stoop. It seems as though someone in my new neighborhood is fond of picking through whatever I put out in the trash, though I will admit this has recently included some above average garbage. Like big Chinese fish windsocks. Those were cool, but I can’t reach my ceiling to put them up and I owned about fifteen and I just didn’t want them in my room anymore.

The thing, though, about garbage is that it’s not just what someone doesn’t want. It’s also things no one should want. Like my biannual underwear cull. Rejected by me and then by the phantom garbage picker and then by my neighborhood as a whole, my hole-y or de-elasticized or stretched out or too big or just plain ugly drawers were spread out like a dirty welcome mat near my front door.

I’ve been unpacking for the better part of a week now, an effort derailed by a few sick days and a few fantastically stupid nights. I mean stupid in the sense that they were impulsive, but they were also really fun, or really epic; I'm fairly sure the world at large owes me a couple of high-fives. But see? This is my problem. I have this tendency to tell every stupid story I get myself into to everyone I know, because they are funny, but I do this without regard to my privacy, the privacy of those involved in said stories, and the potentially delicate sensibilities of strangers in earshot who probably don't want to hear about my life in grisly, CSI-caliber detail. I usually stop short of putting them on the internet, but my impulse to do just that is growing stronger by the day.

And then your neighbors are gawking at your dirty laundry laying metaphorically all over the sidewalk. That's just bad writing, cosmos.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Third Floor, the Two Windows on the Right

I’ve mentioned this before, but I used to have this intense belief that whatever you were doing at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s would set the tone for the next twelve months. (Which was, a few times, sitting in my parents’ living room playing Bon Jovi’s “Always” on my Discman, but whatever.) This spilled over into lingering superstitions about firsts of all sorts: that whatever you wear on the first day of a new job can determine how well you do, or that whatever song you listen to on your way to hang out with someone for the first time can color your whole relationship, or, in last night's case, that the first DVD you throw in while you’re putting together your kitchen table can cosmically determine what happens in your new house.

So, of course, I played the boiler room make-out episode of My So-Called Life. That’s the one with the part where Jordan Catalano comes to Angela’s house all late and her mom is on the stairs and doesn’t know he’s down there and then and he’s all, “So you like me? Because your mom says you like me.”

(And I know, truly, that it is not cool or interesting to talk about this show, and the obviousness of my love for it irritates even me. I mean, if I could zoom out and pan back around to myself as a stranger I’d be just as annoyed with the cliché. Glasses? Bad hair? Nose ring despite being 26 and working in an office? Undying love for flannel? Eyeliner that is both too heavy and accidentally smeared? Large headphones? Chipped nail polish? That girl clearly loves My So-Called Life and she probably sucks.)

I’m trying not to get all new chapter-y about moving, but this is a monstrous change in my life and I’d rather focus on things I’ve felt consistently since I was thirteen than the onslaught of new, new, new. But (to continue with this recent all-consuming theme in my life of being an adolescent while simultaneously being in the middle of my twenties), that particular episode of that show is the way I want my new apartment to be. This is mainly to accomplish my one enduring teenage romantic goal: having a dude throw rocks at my window. Vibing the place all up with My So-Called Life can only help. Plus, my windows finally face the street. Big step in the right direction. All of my windows in New York have faced a fenced-in backyard. Or an airshaft! No one’s throwing pebbles of romance at a window that looks out onto airshaft.

I’ll leave a pile of rocks on my stoop. Now I just need someone to supply the charm and the decent throwing arm.
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