PLAYLIST: Growing with music provides adventures, surprises

See, I can look classy every now and again.

In two days, I’ll be 24, and I’ll have been listening to music with some fervor for a decade. While I was raised with a solid appreciation for music, and I certainly didn’t dislike it as a young kid, I wasn’t discovering things for myself, really. That came later; as a teenager, I started exploring music — with no small amount of credit due to internet access and music piracy becoming quite easy for someone with some technical skill. Of course, it’s now insanely easy for those without technical skill, which, given the development of technology, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

At 14, I started uncovering musical tastes I hadn’t fully realized. What follows is a short timeline of my musical development over the last decade.

Age 14: Weezer – “Only in Dreams,” from Weezer (1994)

I was probably nine years old when I first heard Weezer — but I didn’t really know it. I fell in love with the infamous “Buddy Holly” video, but more as it pertained to TV classic “Happy Days,” which I’d been watching as regularly as I could in 1995. When the Windows 95 development team decided to showcase their “innovative” video playing technology and plopped the “Buddy Holly” video on the Windows 95 beta CD my parents had procured, a series of motions was set in place, and in 2000, I fell in love with Weezer’s 1994 self-titled debut. Soon after, I discovered Pinkerton — and it’s easy to understand how my musical progression henceforth seems to have developed.

Age 15: Bright Eyes – “An Attempt to Tip the Scales,” from Fevers and Mirrors

A year prior to this, a friend of mine had introduced me to Bright Eyes, clamoring about the wonders of this band I’d never heard. “Check out ‘The City Has Sex With Itself’ on Napster,” he instructed — and I duly did. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Fevers and Mirrors that I really fell in love with Conor Oberst’s musical stylings, but “The City Has Sex With Itself” represented a distinct shift in my musical development. It marked a move away from the mainstream music I’d been listening to (early high school does that to a person) and for that, I owe my friend a great debt of gratitude. Interestingly, Bright Eyes and the rest of the Saddle Creek crew preceded my subsequent interest in punk music.

Age 16: Sigur Ros – “Untitled (track one),” from ( )

You might have thought I’d take a chance to discuss punk music in more detail, but you’d be wrong. My interest in punk music waned, and instead, I discovered Sigur Ros, a band that shaped my musical development more than any punk artist could. Through Sigur Ros, I was introduced to post-rock, shoegaze, and the wonders of Icelandic dream pop. ( ) doesn’t represent my first taste of the group, but it is the album that found a very permanent place in my listening routine and became part of my nightly sleep “ritual.” Really, I just liked the album, and it was relaxing — and what 16-year-old doesn’t need relaxing?

Age 17: Radiohead – “Knives Out,” from Amnesiac

I started listening to Radiohead at 14 — as with Weezer, with some credit due to the development of Napster. At 17, though, I discovered “Knives Out,” and it seems I’d met my match. The music corresponded nicely with my social life — tumultuous but steady, invigorating yet downbeat — and the lyrics were mysterious enough that I could interpret them as much as needed. It took six years for a Radiohead track to oust “Knives Out” for the top spot, when I became enamored with “A Wolf at the Door (It Girl. Rag Doll.)” — but both tracks saw me pushing the rarely utilized “track repeat” button to become enveloped by the play between melody, harmony, and, well, genius.

Age 18: The High Llamas – “Calloway,” from Beet, Maize & Corn

Everyone needs to develop a love for indie and twee pop at some point. This is around the same time that I discovered All Girl Summer Fun Band, Heavenly, and Barcelona, and no small part of the blame should go to SomaFM’s “Indie Pop Rocks!” station. While “Calloway,” nor the rest of the music from The High Llamas, quite represents that excruciatingly happy style — it’s much more melancholy — it meshed with my developing tastes. This isn’t the most musically representative track for my listening habits from 2004, but the music style fits the way I felt at the time with some relative ease. If I was being fair, something from Karate would be here, but I’ve saved that for a bit later.

Age 19: The Arcade Fire – “Crown of Love,” from Funeral

Oh, The Arcade Fire, indie darlings of 2004 and 2005. They’ve held strong over the last five years in my listening habits, and “Crown of Love” is still one of my favorite pop songs written in 3/4 time. I’ve been struck by time signature a few times since then, particularly with Radiohead’s 6/8 masterpiece “A Wolf at the Door (It Girl. Rag Doll.)” At any rate, Funeral represents a time when I really became interested in writing about and reviewing music; as one of my top albums at 19, it deserves at least a mention.

Age 20: Karate – “Cancel,” from Cancel / Sing EP

I couldn’t discuss a decade of my music habits without discussing Karate, and when a good friend of mine asked if Karate would be on my list, I was forced to slot this in. The request was slightly problematic, as I’ve not really had a single time when listening to Karate was something unique — I’ve been listening to them heavily since discovering them at 18 — but it was absolutely necessary. I had to bump Belle and Sebastian from the list for it, but see? I just gave them a cursory mention. They were important, too. Don’t worry. But really, Karate has played a huge role in my development. Some Boots has been in constant rotation since I first heard it, and Cancel / Sing remains one of my favorite two-song EPs, well, ever.

Age 21: The Mountain Goats – “This Year,” from The Sunset Tree

I love this song, and I love John Darnielle. I first found The Mountain Goats after reviewing the digital-only Dilaudid EP for Cloak & Dagger Media in 2005 and The Sunset Tree soon after. It should probably be listed a little earlier, but you know? I just couldn’t really find room. Ages 19 to 21 for me were packed with musical discovery, exploration, analysis, and all that jazz. It’s when I got heavy into reviewing music and, not coincidentally, it’s when I started That it’s still going strong is a little surprising, but I couldn’t be happier about it. At any rate, it wasn’t until 2007 that I really fell in love with John Darnielle’s masterful lyric-writing skill. No complaints here.

Age 22: My Bloody Valentine – “When You Sleep,” from Loveless

Yes, this album was released 18 years earlier, but I was a four-year-old and not really listening to much shoegaze at the time. I’d discovered Loveless a bit earlier, but its impact came later: I spent much of 2008 listening to what I’d now call one of my favorite albums of all time, and My Bloody Valentine, boundary-breaking group they are, influenced my musical tastes over and over. Loveless also represents the first time I thought music could really, truly influence my photography — and, to date, it remains one of the few albums I feel that way about. There’s something visual about the musical intensity involved, and at age 22, it might be the first time I was able to vocalize that notion.

Age 23: Yo La Tengo – “Stockholm Syndrome,” from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

I saw Yo La Tengo in Salt Lake City during the second half of being 23, but their energetic performance made a profound impact on me. I first heard Yo La Tengo in 2003 with their low-profile Summer Sun release, but I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, in 2009, became my favorite release from the inventive indie-rock gods. “Stockholm Syndrome” became a stalwart of my playlists alongside “Autumn Sweater,” the two of which I’d say comprise one of my favorite quick 1-2s of pop music. It’s not quite “And Your Bird Can Sing” / “For No One” — what is? — but it’s breathtaking.

Age 24: ?

What comes next? That’s always the question, I suppose. I’m constantly exposed to new music, and I have been since I was 14 — and, obviously enough, it’s not all stuck. This is the reason I continue to write about music and, indeed, listen with intent. I know something’s going to stick: I better make it good.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.