Albums That Changed My Life

I’ve been threatening to publish this for years now, and after wasting countless hours and brain cells it’s available for your consumption/ridicule. I actually did one of these about 15 years ago and posted it to my then employer’s website - New West Records (check them out…they’re awesome) - but many redesigns later it’s long lost. Along with my youth and innocence. This is going to be hella long so I won’t waste any more time with a preamble. Let’s dive in. 

73. Rage Against the Machine - S/T

72. Bon Iver - S/T

71. Radiohead - OK Computer

70. Tricky - Pre-Millennium Tension

69. Miles Davis - In A Silent Way

68. The Antlers - Hospice

67. The Field - Looping State of Mind

66. Girl Talk - Feed The Animals

65. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

64. The Rapture - Sail Away

63. The Notwist - Neon Golden

62. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - Source Tags & Codes

61. Secret Machines - September 000

60. U2 - Achtung Baby

59. Sigur Ros -  Ágætis Byrjun 

58. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing

57. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

56. Godspeed You Black Emperor! -  F# A# Infinity 

55. James Blake - S/T

54. PJ Harvey - Rid of Me

53. Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

52. Elliott Smith - XO

51. Primal Scream - Screamadelica

50. Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin

49. Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret

48. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders

47. Dntel - Life is Full of Possibilities

46. Fridge - Happiness

45. Fugazi - 13 Songs

44. Four Tet - Rounds

43. Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night

42. Portishead - Roseland NYC Live

41. Echo & The Bunnymen - Songs to Learn & Sing

40. U2 - Joshua Tree

39. Seven Percent Solution - All About Satellites and Spaceships

38. Sonic Youth - Goo

37. Massive Attack - Mezzanine

36. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

35. Nirvana - Nevermind

34. Beck - Sea Change

33. The Strokes - Is This It

32. Arcade Funeral - Funeral

31. The Police - Synchronicity

30. Slobberbone - Crow Pot Pie

29. Jane’s Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual 

28. Outkast - Stankonia

27. New Order - Low Life

26. The Postal Service - Give Up

All of the albums on this list mean something to me, represent a time in my life and affect me emotionally in some way; I could probably write a post on each of them. But I’m lazy and this is already hella long. But I am going to write about the top 25. If you’ve made it this far, I salute you. Also, you’re either related to me or one of the other 4 PSBers. 

25. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

I woke up at 915 on the Tuesday this came out and walked through West Campus to Tower Records on the Drag and waited for the store to open. I bought it, went straight home, smoked way too much weed and spent the rest of the day listening to this over and over. I was so jazzed that not only was it not a disappointment, it totally exceed all my expectations. 

24. My Morning Jacket - At Dawn

MMJ played Austin a ton around the launch of At Dawn and I was lucky to catch them a number of times. I knew from the first time I saw them this was a band that was going to be huge. I always thought they would sell millions of records, but I guess that doesn’t interest them. Doesn’t matter - they headline festivals and Mexican resort shows (yes I would totally go) and make the records they want to make. This is still their best one. 

23. Centro*Matic - Redo The Stacks

Think I’ve written about my ill-fated foray into A&R so I won’t rehash it here. But this is the album that made me want to sign them. Sloppy yet super tight indie rock with massive hooks and incredible, underrated production from their also rock solid drummer, Matt Pence. Oh and Will Johnson is an amazing, prolific songwriter. 

22. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I love that Kanye knows how great he is and won’t stop until the world agrees with him. He has yet to put out anything less than a great album (yes I believe that - they’re all great to varying degrees) but MBDTF is on it’s own level. The only word that captures it for me is exquisite. 

21. Duran Duran - Rio

Duran Duran sounded different than everything else on the radio when I was 11/12 and Rio holds up as a great album from start to finish. And those videos sealed the deal…

20. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

Another album that sounded like nothing else out at that time, I was able to catch a practically teenage Trent Reznor opening for Peter Murphy at one of the most under-appreciated and under-utilized venues in Houston - Cullen Auditorium. Left 2 songs into Peter Murphy because I felt bad for him after seeing NIN. 

19. The Smiths - Queen is Dead

Their Cullen Auditorium headlining show on the Queen is Dead tour remains the best show I’ve ever seen. They were at the top of their game and while I love their entire catalog, they definitely let loose and rocked out on this album. Johnny Marr & Morrissey never made better music than when they did it together - it’s a shame they couldn’t continue doing it. 

18. Def Leppard - Pyromania

Another album that was omnipresent in my formative years. Pop metal with swagger, visuals courtesy of this exciting new channel Music Television. It’s hard to describe how very different MTV was then as opposed to now, but it was nothing like I’d ever seen and I miss it. Great shows like 120 minutes, Yo MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball, Liquid Television, The Young Ones etc. It couldn’t remain awesome forever - what does - but fuck man…

17. Jon Hopkins - Immunity

The best album of this decade and the most excited I’ve been about an artist in years. Open Eye Signal blew me away when I first heard it and while I had high hopes for Immunity I didn’t really expect…perfection. Quick aside - I’m an Immunity purist. I didn’t like any of the version he cut with vocalists. Don’t mess with a good thing I suppose.

16. Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet

Look at this track list. Welcome to the Terrordome, Brothers Gonna Work It Out, Burn Hollywood Burn, 911 is a Joke, Fight The Power. PE were so exciting because not only were they saying dangerous, important things that the world need to hear, they were making cutting edge music that was undeniable. 

15. Kanye West - College Dropout

A debut that’s start to finish rock solid and an album that holds up with every listen. We all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it. Indeed. 

14. Slobberbone - Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today

This is where I should include my disclosures around the band I’ve seen more times than any other, and for my money the best live band in the world on any given night. I’ve worked for 2 of their labels and my sister is married to their drummer. So I guess I’m biased. That said, I fell instantly in love with this band when Lexi gave me a dubbed tape of the now out of print, independently released Crow Pot Pie. Long before Doolittle, long before New West, long before I even knew the guys personally. Brent is a criminally ignored songwriting talent and the band is as tight as any on this planet. Everything is their best album and the perfect distillation of everything they could do. 

13. The Rolling Stones - Her Satanic Majesty’s Request

Whether or not my love for this album has to do with being young, away from home for the first time and pot/other chemicals doesn’t really matter. Nor does the fact that most critics consider it a sub-standard Stones record. They’re wrong. It’s fantastic and She’s a Rainbow is one of their 5 best songs alongside Dead Flowers, Satisfaction, Gimme Shelter, Sympathy and Can’t Always Get What You Want. Another aside - I was always a Stones guy. 

12. Bob Marley - Legend 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little embarrassed to include this because it outs me as stereotypical stoner guy that has to go through his Marley phase. But there’s a reason this happened and continues to this day: he’s a phenomenal writer, singer and performer. 

11. Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes

Red Red Meat is like my personal Velvet Underground ie the hub of many records and bands I love, including the next 2. Califone is somewhat of a reconfiguration of RRM and Q/C is still my favorite record of theirs even 10 years on but I’m never quite sure what it is I love about them. In terms of the emotions it evokes, their music sounds like the visual palette of True Detective. To me. 

10. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog

Produced by Brian Deck of Red Red Meat, this was the perfect incarnation of Sam Beam, marrying one of the best voices in music today with production and sonics worthy of him. 

9. De La Soul - 3 Feet High & Rising

Wore out multiple CDs because I continue coming back to it. It was the first time hip hop felt “alternative” to me (not that it should have mattered) and I loved that they seemed to be doing something that no one else was at that time. They were having a shit ton of fun. 

8. Prince - Purple Rain

The GAWD. It’s impossible to understand how big this dude was back in the day unless you lived through it. I guess all the pop stars seemed bigger then - dude was second fiddle to Michael, Bruce and others but he seemed like he was from another planet (and if you saw Purple Rain the movie he acted like he was too). He was like Kanye in that genre and racial artistic boundaries just didnt matter. 

7. Radiohead - Kid A

More than enough has been said and written about this album. I won’t contribute anything else other than to say this is my favorite Radiohead album and I don’t find it difficult, I find it beautiful.

6. Mogwai - Rock Action

To this day I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that gets me with Mogwai. Many bands do the soft/loud epic instrumental thing, but to me they’re something else entirely. I feel like there’s a groove to everything they do that roots even their loudest, most dissonant sounds in accessibility.

5. The Cure - Head on the Door

This is the album where I started to branch out from what I heard on the radio and what was in rotation on MTV. When I first heard “In Between Days” I was immediately blown away and thus began a long-term love affair with “alternative” music. I owe a lot to The Cure. And somewhere there’s a picture of me headed to an 8th grade party with the Robert Smith hair. Hopefully it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. 

4. Stone Roses - Stone Roses

A perfect pop album that promised a long career for a brilliant band. Alas they never played the US and anyone under 30 was befuddled when they were tapped to play Coachella last year. I’ve covered more Stone Roses songs in my admittedly terrible music career - that’s how much they meant to me. 

3. Pixies - Doolittle

Seeing them in high school at the legendary Westheimer club Numbers remains one of the all-time highlights. And this album holds up over time.The right balance of sweetness and menace, aggression and tension, melody and dissonance with humor and emotion to boot. An instant classic. 

2. Son Volt - Trace

I was big into the whole alt-country thing in the mid-nineties, because I loved the bands that were part of the scene and I was also working in the business around it. And if you had told me after their debut albums that Wilco would be the definitive critical and popular favorite to come out of the Uncle Tupelo family tree, I wouldn’t have believed it. And that’s because Trace is quite simply perfect. Every song is beautiful, the tracks couldn’t be sequenced any other way and the performances are perfectly calibrated. While working at Justice Records in Houston in 1996, we listened to this album every day to simply feel good because that’s what it did for us. Every time. My wife and I’s first dance at our wedding was to “Windfall”. I have such love for this album. 

1. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

Bitches Brew to me is where everything else on this list comes from. It’s equal parts jazz and rock played with edge and abandon. And it set the stage for hip hop, post rock, electronic music and a million other sub genres that continue to push music forward. 


Music Monday: Interactive Music Video Edition

These two artists created refreshingly interactive and ever-evolving music videos using Tumblr as a platform.

In conjunction with filmmaker Braden King and programmer Jeff Garneau, Califone uses static imagery and animated GIFs to draw from a curated subset of blogs within the Tumblr ecosystem. This amorphous video is available via a secret link when you click, “show me your stitches,” in the lower left hand corner at The new album, Stitches, will be available on September 3rd. 

After nine months, Superhumanoids are back. Listen to their dreamy synth-pop track "Bad Weather" while enjoying a series of unique GIFs that the band hand-picked from all corners of Tumblr. Be on the lookout, because they plan to add more songs to this page before the August 6th release of their new album, Exhibitionists.

Michigan Girls
  • Michigan Girls
  • Califone
  • Quicksand / Cradlesnakes

I’ve been a big fan of Califone ever since I  first stumbled upon them many moons ago. It was mostly by chance, something in the Rolling Stone review of Quicksand / Cradlesnakes that I was skimming over jumped out at me as something that I might like. Or that I should at least remember to check out (it was mostly the name of the track ’When Leon Spinx Moved Into Town’ that grabbed my attention and made me want to give it a listen). So I locked it in the memory bank, and went on my way.

This was waaaay back in 2003. I was just starting to realize that you could use the internet for more than sending emails. You could also download lots of music. And porn. For free. I didn’t have my own computer, but I lived at a house where my friend did. And it was through that computer that I could finally start to hear all these bands that I was otherwise only able to read about (usually you would have wait for them to finally ‘break’ or 'make it big’, about 7 years after all the cool kids were already tired of them).

So among many, many other things that i downloaded (somethings unmentionable), I downloaded a few Califone songs on my friends computer (eventually his computer would pick up more viruses than a third world prostitute and die a slow death). I grabbed the aforementioned ‘When Leon Sphinx Moved to Town’ (which Rolling Stone had correctly described as very cool) and a song called Michigan Girls. Although I had just wanted to try out the Leon Sphinx tune, something about Michigan Girls persuaded me to give it a go too (I tend to like songs about girls, and figured Michigan Girls were probably a lot like Canadian girls, so I was intrigued).

Anyways, long story short, ‘Michigan Girls’ is one of my favourite songs ever. And because of this, Quicksand / Cradlesongs is one of my favourite albums of all time and I’ve been lucky enough to have been a fan of Califone since their earlier years (I may not have been on board fright rom the very start, but at least I wasn’t 7 years behind, which was too often the case back in those early internet days).

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// sunday noises - califone