My dad’s hi-fi, circa 1973 or ’74

DJO2is tagged me on Facebook for a meme about music – your personal 15, “platters that matter,” and I was all like, Oh, I can do that in my sleep, right? Yeh, um, so, not so much. Turns out that picking out music favorites is even harder than picking out book favorites – because the time reading the books is the time reading the books, but the time spent with a particular album as your life soundtrack could be years – decades, even. And the music colors those moments, and those moments color the music. This exercise was Hard, with a capital H. It took me 3 days to narrow my list, and I’m not sure it’s anything like perfect.

But, here’s my top list today. I reserve to right to change my mind as nostalgia strikes or new stuff is released.

1. Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
I just always come back to this one. Rough day, happy day, protracted project, doesn’t matter, I just keep coming back to it. It may have been one of the first albums I remember my dad playing on the hi-fi. And then it came back to me again in the Clinton era when Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow was a campaign win song. And then it came back to me again five years ago for no particular reason and stayed. While working at Higgins last year, I would start the morning with it while I cleaned the gift shop. It comes on the radio and I fall in love all over again. I can spend the whole record singing along, or just listening to production.

2. Cat Stevens – Buddha and the Chocolate Box
My dad’s hi-fi again. And later with the Harold and Maude Soundstrack. Cat Stevens comes on at the grocery store and I can’t help but sing along. It hits me on a physical level – I immediately calm down when this album is on.

3. Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts
Favorite to sing along to in the car, like whoa. Also, I have a delicious memory of sitting on the couch in Hilary’s living room with her and Matthew, just soaking it all in together. This album is all kinds of roadtrips across Texas and morning coffee. It inspired me to relearn to play guitar after decades away. One of the sweetest gems in my heart box.

4. Soul Coughing – El Oso
I didn’t know about Soul Coughing until a few years after the band broke up, but when I found out about them, I listened to everything I could get my hands on. This one stayed in the car for years (it may still be there, actually), because, as it turns out, it can calm a driving-triggered* anxiety attack for me.

5. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again: this album changed my life. Steve gave me a cassette tape in 1989 with Surfer Rosa on one side and something by Sonic Youth on the other. I listened to Surfer Rosa until the tape snapped, and started playing in my first band, of course with Steve.

6. Joni Mitchell – Blue
I had a little crush on a boy I met at an ISO meeting in 1991, and when he said he loved that album, I said I loved it too. Then I went out and picked up the album (oops). A week later I was no longer interested in said boy, but could not stop listening to the album. It’s deep in my cells now. I think of Blue, and I think of a breezy, sunny afternoon in my favorite black smock dress, hanging out on campus at UC; I am relaxed and the sun is in my hair, and it’s not too warm out, and I have plans to meet my friends at the Cove for coffee later.

7. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
I know that at some point in my early teens I went on a family road trip to Gatlinburg, TN, and it was as hairy as any family vacation by car can be. I survived it mainly by plugging into my walkman, and listening to this album over and over. Especially the B side.

8. Mike Doughty – Skittish/Rockity Roll
Some days I just lay on the floor and listen all the way through while I’m supposed to be doing yoga. I just lay there and listen.

9. Bear McCreary – Battlestar Galactica soundtrack, season 2
Oh, Bear McCreary, oh oh oh! If you’ve ever wondered what flavor of fangirl I am for a good score/sound-editing, this is the item to explain. I fell in love with his score for BSG, and it changed how I watch/listen to film. Also, I watched an entire season of Black Sails, despite the fact that I’m not at all invested in pirate stories, as well as all of the Walking Dead (I’m not into zombies, either) because of the scores. And, granted, I watched Defiance because I’m always interested in that kind of thing, but the score made me invested. That’s the flavor of fangirl I am.

10. Sugarsmack – Top Loader
This album saw me through two bad relationships, and into the current really good one with Will Dearest. The last year I was in Ohio, I put 53,000 miles on my car, and I would bet that at least 30k of those were while listening to Top Loader. Another jewel in my heart box was when my band played with them in a club in WV. Also, Hope Nicholls is my hero. That is all.

11. Krishna Das – Flow of Grace
This is the album I do yoga to, that I often collage to, and that I almost always drive home from Kripalu listening to. It made me want to know more about kirtan, and then fall in love with it a little bit.

12. Brainiac – Smack Bunny Baby
I picked this up at the merch table when my band opened for Brainiac at Stache’s, and never looked back. They became the soundtrack to my life for a good year, and changed the way I looked at music, yet again. Bless the wild electronic shriek, and bless us all for grooving to it.

13. Gorillaz – Demon Days
Much like with Soul Coughing, I arrived late to the party with Gorillaz, but at least I get points for arriving before they broke up, right? It’s not just the music on this one (not to discount the music – I love the music), but the whole multi-media shebang. I fell in love with the music, with the website, with the cartoon characters,** with the stage production. The sampling stroked my collage-loving guts. And the collaborative efforts that bring the Gorillaz stuff together struck me so deeply that I was rejuvenated and inspired on a soul level: this album made me want to do art with other people again.

14. Afghan Whigs – 1965
Hello, deeply sexy, this album makes me want to take my clothes off. I have taken my clothes off for a man to this album. This was the album that saw me through the weird year when all I wanted to do was practice yoga and have sex.

15. Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
The first time I heard Bjork, I fell in love. 1988 was a mixed bag for music, and this album was a blessing. Birthday would come on at the club, and I’d be on the floor asap. I moved into the dorms in Tallahassee with this album in my headphones. I failed out of FSU to this on the stereo, and moved to OH to this album playing in the car.

And there you have it, and in no particular order. I reiterate, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. There’s just so much that I left off the list, because it’s just a top 15.  Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Jeremy Soule and The Warsaw Village Band and  Mike Doughty (and looking forward to his new release this month!) I have playlists on my phone that include Taylor Swift and Peter Gabriel and the Dixie Chicks. I will spend hours listening to a particular song on repeat, just to admiring the mix. Guardians of the Galaxy stirred up some stuff that I had forgotten I love. There’s just SO much. There’s just so much.



*Heavy traffic, getting lost, running late – all of these things make my palms sweat and my heart race.

**Did you know there’s a ton of fanfic on the internetz related to Gorillaz? Whoa.