In giving thanks we often cite influences that have come and gone from our lives. True, inspiration comes from everywhere, but sometimes there are things that just make you realize something, little details that touch your soul as nothing you could ever fully communicate and only you can understand for it being so extremely personal in your scope of reality. There are millions of cogs, snippets of information and seconds of experience that form up your collective and in there, there’s music, film, literature, and individuals that have touched you and not in the Father McCarthy kind of way. Here is a list of ten bands that I’m blessed to have heard and who have touched my life. It’s my way of saying thanks and burning some idle time I could be using to finish something supposedly productive.
What would I be without this band? Probably a gangsta rappa. Truth be told, my first couple of purchased CD’s were rap and I still really like rap, but when I first listened to Pearl Jam, something inside me clicked, snapped, cracked, and rewired itself. Something became utterly clear and it is mainly that I love music more than a hell of a lot of other things. I’ve been able to learn from life thanks to their at times straightforward and other times cryptic lyrics. I’m able to say I’ve been one of those who have cried upon hearing a song I’ve identified with on varying levels. I am constantly admitting I am a Pearl Jam mark and that this band means the world to me, hence me seeing them live three times and being hungry for more. I could ramble on and on about PJ but I’ll leave each artist with a list of tracks that though far from their entire collection, mean something to me and are definitely worth a listen. For Pearl Jam, in no particular order, feel free to check out, “Indifference”, “All or None”, “Given to Fly”, “Immortality”, “Deep”, “Smile”, “My Tree”, “You are”, “Yellow Ledbetter”, and “Wishlist”.
Nine Inch Nails
One of the harbingers of darkness in my life, if anything, Trent Reznor has taught me to embrace the messed up things in my life and try to make something memorable and beautiful out of that grey matter rather than denying its entire existence. It’s messed up to identify with such tracks some might say, but admitting that there is a dark side to your psyche and persona is part of understanding the beasts within. Check out “The Great Below”, “Hurt”, “Closer”, “March of the Pigs”, “Where is Everybody”, “Burn”, “Beside you in time”, “Right where it belongs”, “My Violent Heart”, and “Head Like a Hole”.
The other dark pole of my psyche resides within the time shifting grandeur known as Tool. If you’ve ever wondered what a fallen angel probably sounds like, just listen to Maynard James Keenan. Beautiful, destructive, mesmerizing, complex. Truly no one word does them justice and the largest lesson I’ve taken from them is that anger is constructive while hate is empty. Use anger to fuel your fire and you will accomplish great things. Use hate instead, and you’ll just be another idiot hypocrite. Check out “Aenema”, “Push It”, “Swamp song”, “Sober”, “Part of Me”, “Vicarious”, “Wings for Mary (Pts 1 and 2)”, “Right in Two”, “The Grudge” and “Schism”.
What is a list of my top ten bands without the Floyd… I don’t know how many times I was able to hear The Wall back to back but I know that I became a huge Pink Floyd fan and found myself starving to save my lunch money to buy more and more Pink Floyd albums. It was almost a sickness but since it helped me on other levels, maybe it was just me paying for a cure. Regardless, this is one of the bands that has allowed me to travel the cosmos without the need of using psychedelics ever. If you need a list of tracks I pity you for not having discovered them yet but here’s a list: “Comfortably Numb”, “Goodbye Blue Sky”, “Is There Anybody Out There”, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “Breathe”, “Money”, “Echoes”, “Astronomy Domine”, “Matilda Mother”, and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”.
We all have bouts with sadness, despair, and other types of mopey pain. Truth be told, we’re almost designed to feel bad every so often due to empathy, self analysis, chocolate depravation or sheer frustration at the limitations of our humanity. So in comes Radiohead and helps you go inward, above and beyond pain to learn from it and show you that sadness is truly something that can be extremely beautiful. Such is the nature of vulnerability and such is the nature of Radiohead. While they rewrite the rules of musical engagement, they craft some of the most memorable tunes their side of the Atlantic and I’ve been lucky enough to have been hearing them since Pablo Honey. Feel free to listen to “Bulletproof”, “Street Spirit”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Paranoid Android”, “No Alarms”, “Everything in its Right Place”, “Motion Picture Soundtrack”, “Pyramid Song”, “You”, and “There, there”.
Explosions in the Sky
This is a relatively recent acquisition in my life and I would have never thought it would have such a profound impact on me, mainly because this is music without lyrics. But the effect was dramatic, real, palpable and I can’t help but love the places one can even think about from simply hearing their music. Though most albums are concept albums in a sense, you can feel free to check these individual sonic journeys: “The Birth and Death of a Day”, “Welcome Ghosts”, “It’s Natural to be Afraid”, “First Breath After Coma”, “The only moment we were alone”, and “The Rescue Day 1”.
Possibly fittingly accused of being Psych Ward Music, this band also touched a sensitive nerve in me and has helped me sort out some interesting feelings and emotions in my life. True, you can’t understand what they’re saying unless you speak Icelandic or have a dictionary of the language they made up, but it’s still music for the senses that rattles the emotions and serves to prove you don’t need to know what’s being said to have music mean something to you. Check out “Svefn-g-englar”, “Stalarur”, “NY Batteri”, “Untitled #1”, “Untitled #3”, “Untitled #8”, “Glossoli”, and “Saeglopur”, whatever the hell any of those titles mean.
This might be a big surprise to people, but I didn’t mourn Kurt Cobain’s death half as much as I did that of Shannon Hoon. This band is one of the happy bands in my list and it’s a band that was cut WAY too short from coming full circle. Two full-length albums and a third collection of rarities shows that they had a hell of a lot of potential and could have been epic if not for Hoon’s overdose. Some people need to chill and have a good time and trust me that Blind Melon is one of those bands that shall always make me smile. Check out “Vernie”, “Galaxy”, “The Duke’, “Mouthful of Cavities”, “Time”, “Change”, “Sleepyhouse”, “Soul one”, “Soup” and “The Pusher”.
Another musical behemoth comes in the way of Zeppelin. You can’t like a guitar and not like Zeppelin, period. True, Stairway to Heaven might be one of the most overplayed songs in history, but such an attribute does the song and the band justice. “Stairway to Heaven”. “The Rain Song”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Immigrant Song”, “Babe I’m gonna leave you”, “D’yer Maker”, “Tangerines”, “In The light”, “Kashmir”, and “When the Levees Break”. Kneel before greatness.
Jack is to mellow what Christ is to Christianity. Never will you see a more laid back nice guy on stage and he’s the type of guy you want to hug while you surf, even if that sounds massively gay. He plays guitar, is a world-class surfer, did surf videos and jams with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper because they like him so damn much. Check “Constellations”, “Banana Pancakes”, “Middle Man”, “Inaudible Melodies”, “Bubble Toes”, “Times Like These”, “Taylor”, “The horizon has been defeated”, “Sitting Wishing Waiting”, and “Belle”.
Very notable mentions:
Few people write better than Ani. She’s shown me the importance of equality and that being a feminist should mean you’re a humanist instead of being an inverted chauvinist.
Epic in scale, grand in execution and a sonic blast of half-step-down chords to make you headbang in a quite groovy way.
Low key band with a hardcore following, and with good reason. This is one of the bands I pride myself on owning most of their material because people normally ask me who the hell are they when it’s playing in the car.
So the last album had a few bombs that really stank up the CD enough for me not to want to buy it, who cares? This band has enough great material to be forgiven, including on the aforementioned last album. Brandon Boyd’s vocals are incredible and when he gets his shit together, which is nine times out of ten if you’re counting, great things happen in a young band that still seems to want to grow.
The Sonic Mayhem which is Mars Volta dares you to send pre conceived notions of rock music to another place. Their first two albums are masterpieces even if Frances the Mute has about twenty minutes worth of white noise in the album. The third album, although slightly disappointing, does have Asilos Magdalena and trust me, it’s a great track. Let’s see what else these crazy fuckers come up with.
An incredible band, with an incredible history who has lost two of its founding members yet still insists on plodding on even after having lost quite possibly the best drummer and best bassist of pretty much any rock band ever. I actually bought my first CD of them as an accident because I was looking for a Guess Who album, lucky for me I found this band instead. Guess who won… me.
Her body of work is a testament to her immense talent and her commitment to provide either cryptic what the fuck bliss or brutal honesty (trust me, some of the old lyrics will have you scratching your head at best). Her piano work is quite impressive, powerful yet beautiful, or is it the other way around. Oh and she’s a bit crazy, all ingredients for brilliance. I’m still pining to see her live even if her fans scare me a bit.
These are just a few of the bands that mean something special to me for different reasons