25, er 16 Albums That Changed My Life

I’m finally getting around to this. Actually I started this a long time ago, just getting around to posting it. I still didn’t even do the assignment correctly. No wonder I hated school.

1. [Sarah McLachlan, “Solace”]
My roommate at the time (1992) was shopping at our local record store where she knew the owners. She had been looking for a Jane Siberry album, but they were out. They suggested this to her instead. She brought it home and we listened to it constantly. Hearing Sarah’s music was like a door opening in me. I’ve always been into music, but never really identified with something so much, nor had I heard something so beautiful. I was a fan with the first listen and she is still my favorite artist today (though I can’t say I love all her work.) It led to… 

2. [Sarah McLachlan, “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy”]
After falling in love with Solace, I felt she had big shoes (her own) to fill. But this album did that and more. It became my soundtrack for several years. I list this as my very favorite album of all time. Ever. It was Sarah’s music and this album in particular that inspired me to create Collected Sounds (which had a different name back then) and to evangelize music. At the time, other than my roommate and my boyfriend, no one I knew, had ever heard of her. I thought this was a shame. So I started a women in music site, beginning with Sarah. Since the site has pretty much become my life, I’d say this was a milestone. I also joined an online group of fellow Sarah fans (Fumblers!) who helped me to discover additional fantastic music. This couple of years shaped everything I do now. Music + Internet = mmmmm. 

3. [Tori Amos, “Little Earthquakes”]
I discovered Tori around the same time as Sarah. So for awhile they were connected in my brain. But soon they drifted father apart for me. I think this is my 2nd favorite album of all time and while I don’t listen to it with any frequency, when I do, it feels like home. 

4. [Ani DiFranco, “Not A Pretty Girl”]
Enough of all the pretty piano playing and lush layered vocals. Give me gritty, snappy, sassy, tough Ani. I didn’t know what hit me, but I was smitten. I scooped up all her previous records and while some of her other recordings I may like more, this one was what started it all. Being an Ani Fan has also brought out my feminist and political side. 

5. [Billy Joel, “The Stranger”]
The first album I ever bought with my own money. Billy Joel was my Original Rock Star Boyfriend even though I was probably too young to even like boys. I don’t even know why, or what it is about him. I still love me some Billy. He shaped my musical tastes and as a result I love anything that sounds anything like him. Including… 

6. [Ben Folds Five, “Forever and Ever Amen”]
‘Cheers’-Rock! I love it. Billy Joel but younger, funnier, geekier? Sign me up. (actually Billy Joel the person is hilarious, but his music isn’t as much). I think Ben Folds is responsible for my love of geeks. 

7. [The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”]
College: This is the first Smiths album I heard and I was in love. It was in a friend’s dorm room at a party. I got my hands on everything they released and I consumed it like a normal college student consumed beer (though I did that too). One might say I was obsessed. I am still in love with Morrissey (another Rock Star Boyfriend and don’t tell me he doesn’t play for my team…I never said my fictional boyfriends were obtainable. Wait ‘til you see the next one!). 

8. [Jeff Buckley, “Grace”]
I heard “Last Goodbye” on the radio and was stunned. I had never heard a voice (or song) that beautiful and I don’t think I have since. I feel his voice in my soul. That sounds super cheesy but I don’t know how else to describe it. I actually felt like there was a hole in me when he died and I can’t even listen to him now without sobbing. I have some of his concerts on DVD and I have to watch them alone because my childish blubbering is embarrassing. 

9. [Dar Williams, “End of the Summer”]
Not actually my favorite Dar album. But my first exposure to her. In fact, when I got it, I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. I didn’t like her voice at all. But it grew on me, and I got to that crazy fan girl stage where I ended up purchasing her entire catalog. It’s Dar who showed me that one can appreciate lyrics more than melodies or voices. She’s still one of my favorites. Seeing her live is an even better treat. She’s genuinely funny and always has fantastic stories. I’ll never forget interviewing her a few years back and being so grateful it was a phone interview so she couldn’t see me shaking. Nerd Girl: That’s me. 

10. [Beth Amsel, “Kindling”]
Another artist who knew her sent me Beth’s CD because she hoped I’d book Beth for a show at the house. I had heard OF Beth, but not her music. I put it in and my first thought was, “Oh… she’s country.” (whaht-whah) But I kept on listening and was probably in love by the 3rd song. I contacted Beth we set up the first of many shows and through it developed a really nice friendship as well. If I had not been given that CD I may never have grown as close to Beth as I have and I’m lucky to call her a friend. Now all I have to do is hum the first few notes of that song to myself and I get a chill. I love her later record too. Maybe even more. But this one started it. 

11. [Terami Hirsch, “All Girl Band”]
Terami emailed me many years ago (I shudder to count) in regard to Collected Sounds and I offered to do an Artist Spotlight for her. We’d exchanged many emails and struck up an e-friendship before I even heard her music. She was about to put out a new record (To the Bone) but it wasn’t ready so she sent me this one. Once I heard it I was floored. She has since done numerous shows at the house, I’ve visited her on vacation and I treasure any time I get to spend with her (Kevin too!) So this was the start of something fantastic. Now if she’d just move to Minneapolis. 

12. [Shriekback, “Oil & Gold”]
Another college discovery. In the same dorm room where I heard the Smiths (that guy had great taste in music.) I remember sitting on the couch listening to the album (yes the album, not the CD) and holding the liner notes, reading the lyrics. The band had the lyrics written in what looked like another language, but it was sort of phonetic. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was so appealing to me I couldn’t stop listening and reading. I still get chills when I hear “Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis, no one move a muscle ‘til the DEAD COME HOME!” God, I got a chill just typing that. And the song, ‘Coelacanth’, haunts me. 

13. [Vienna Teng, “Waking Hour”]
Before she was signed, Vienna sent her CD to someone on a mailing list I was on and he raved about it. So I emailed her and said I’d love to review it. She sent it to me and it arrived right around September 11th (yes, that one). This album was a solace to me then. I was taken aback by the beauty of the writing, the playing and her vocals. Awhile later I got a letter from a man who told me that he’d been enjoying my website for years and discovered Vienna there, and signed her to his record label. I felt like this gave my site (my baby) some credibility and it was so exciting to me. That same label has since discovered and signed another band because of exposure on the site. I’ve enjoyed all Vienna’s work and have been lucky enough to stay in contact with her ever since. Last year we finally were able to coordinate a house concert with her (we’d been trying for years) and it was definitely one of my very favorite shows. At that time I was also introduced to Alex Wong who is a musical genius to say the least. 

14. [Sarah Slean, “Universe EP”]
I discovered Sarah Slean via either Ecto or Fumblers mailing list (I was on both at the time.) I thought she sounded almost identical to Tori, but I still liked her a TON. This led to my joining her fan mailing list, which led to hosting my very first house concert with her back in 2000. Which led to 20-some more concerts over the next eight years. Sarah’s music has changed drastically over those years, but my adoration has not. 

15. [Regina Spektor, “11:11”]
My #1 contributor, Anna Maria reviewed Regina’s album, ‘Songs’ on the site and I was intrigued. I went to CDBaby and listened. I was all set to buy it based on her amazing, quirky, clear voice only to see that ‘Songs’ was unavailable. So I picked up ‘11:11’ instead. When I got it I was immediately enamored. I couldn’t stop listening. I’d never heard anyone so appealingly weird. I’d heard weird, certainly, but everyone else seemed to be doing weird for the sake of being weird, what I call avant-weird. But Regina felt genuine. She and I had been discussing her doing a house concert and then she got signed to a major label and I never heard from her again. *sigh* 

16. [U2, “Under a Blood Red Sky”]
Again, in college, my first college boyfriend was a huge U2 fan. I could take them or leave them, but there’s something about listening to something that someone you love, loves that makes it more enjoyable. I saw how much this band touched him and before I knew it, I was a fan. Fast forward a year later, and we’d broken up but I still liked U2. They were not that popular yet, and the first week or so of my second year in college I met another U2 fan. She was so happy to have another U2 fan to talk about them with that we became friends listening to this album a LOT. (mumble mumble)years later we’re still the best of friends, though neither of us likes U2 anymore. 

While I could easily come up with 9 more albums that are favorites of mine, I don’t think I can recall any others that were actually life-changing for me, something that set me on a path I otherwise wouldn’t have taken. So I’ll stop here.

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