Ten albums that shaped my life

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

There are few things in existence quite as powerful as music.

Since I was a child, I have been drawn to the idea of people bonding over a song and just enjoying history together. Whether you are with friends huddled around a speaker, at a concert surrounded by thousands of strangers or by yourself trying to unwind, music tends to strike an emotional chord unreachable by other outlets.

I feel as if I can provide a general timeline of my life through different albums and when I experienced them. This is a list of the ten albums shaped my musical taste and who I am today.

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10. “Supernatural” – Santana (1999)

I will credit Carlos Santana as being the first artist I was addicted to listening to. While Santana has been making his mark on the music industry since the ’60s, this album attracted me because it was my first exposure to the guitar. You can hear almost every emotion Santana feels conveyed in his unique playing style, a style in which the beauty lies in the subtleties. My dad would play this album almost constantly while I was in the car, usually per my request. I also could not get enough of “Smooth” featuring Rob Thomas. That jam is timeless because it connects such unlikely genres, which reflects the album as a whole. There are songs like “Maria Maria,” which blends Latin guitar with smooth R&B.

9. “American Idiot” – Green Day (2004)

This album takes me back to my days as a youth hockey player. I have to give some credit to the Decatur Flames for this one because this record played in our locker room before every game.  I remember knowing at least half of the lyrics before I even bought the CD. I would then spend hours listening to “American Idiot,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” This album holds a special place in my heart because it was basically my introduction to punk and the heavier side of music.

8. “Colors” – Between the Buried and Me (2007)

On the topic of heavy stuff, I began my high school career listening to what some would call screamo, or the classic “Devil’s music,” which was insanely ironic because most of the music was from Christian bands. One of the more obscure bands I listened to was Between the Buried and Me, a progressive metal band that did things on instruments I could not even comprehend. One of my band instructors introduced me to the concept album “Colors,” which blew my mind with its ferocity and musical wit. This was the first time I viewed an album as a story, rather than just a collection of songs.

You can find the full album on iTunes here.

7. “Kush & Orange Juice” – Wiz Khalifa (2010)

Lets flash back to 2010, when I got my first car. One of the first things any 16-year-old has to worry about when cruising in their first whip is their music selection. Wiz Khalifa, a Pittsburg rapper, had yet to transform into the global name he represents today, but thanks to the good old Internet, I discovered songs like “Mesmerized” and “In the Cut.” While some people argue Wiz’s lyrical content is shallow or similar to most of his songs, the instrumentals are really what stick out to me. His feel good attitude in most songs on this album really paint a youthful picture and provide nostalgia for me now.

6. “Downtown Battle Mountain” – Dance Gavin Dance (2007)

Arguably my favorite album on the list, Dance Gavin Dance’s first full length album “Downtown Battle Mountain,” destroyed countless pairs of my headphones in high school. This album also holds a fond place in my memory because I discovered it through MySpace. You know, Facebook’s older and burnt-out cousin? Yes, MySpace was probably my greatest source for music in high school and this band’s unique blend of heavy riffs and obscure beats caught my attention.  They also featured one of my favorite vocalists of all time, Jonny Craig, whose work on this album was way ahead of his time.

5. “White Lies for Dark Times” – Ben Harper and the Relentless7 (2009)

My first exposure to the magnificence that is Ben Harper was during a live Dave Matthews Band film released sometime in 2010. The film began with this unbelievable slide guitarist Ben Harper and from then on I took to the Internet to do some research. While Harper has had other backing bands, like the Innocent Criminals, I felt the funkiest combination came from him and the Relentless7. To this day, “Keep it Together (So I Can Fall Apart),” is one of my favorite tracks of all time.

4. “For Emma, Forever Ago” – Bon Iver (2008)

It is always good to balance out the some high energy albums with some softer ones and Bon Iver has always been a nice escape. I really started getting into this artist when I was a senior in high school, which was an emotional roller coaster as I was trying to balance family, relationships, school work, getting into my favored school and just being an “adult.” The sense of bliss this album provided me with in such hectic times is something I will never forget. The album’s chill instrumentals provide more of a background to Bon Iver’s beautiful lyrics. Lines like “Only love is all maroon, gluey feathers on a flume. Sky is womb and she is the moon.” just solidify his poetic genius.

You can find the full album on iTunes here.

3. “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” – Kendrick Lamar (2012)

I was in the middle of my first year of college at Bradley University when one of the greatest hip-hop albums of the new millennium hit the airwaves. Moving out on your own is a pivotal moment in life, so some of the small things from that time really stuck out for me. Whether I was sitting in my dorm on the computer or out at a party, I could not escape King Kendrick. The way the album flows from track to track as the memoirs of a young Kendrick Lamar are narrated by the older Kendrick really assured me that true artistry was not dead.

2. “L.A. Woman” – The Doors (1971) 

While this album does not follow the chronology of my list, I have to say, it is one of the most important ones. If you did not already notice, I did not include any of the great albums of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, because, well, I can only make a list so long. My fascination with the Doors and Jim Morrison did not blossom until recently, but I am so glad it did. “L.A. Woman” was recorded in the later years of The Doors’ career, and you can actually hear the strain of copious amounts of strife and drug use in Morrison’s voice. I might just be attracted to bands that do innovative things, like include an organ or write about obscure topics, while camouflaging external struggles at the same time.

You can find the full album on iTunes here.

1. “The 1975” – The 1975 (2013) 

I am finishing off my list with one of my more recent discoveries and even though this list is chronological in terms of my life, it would top it off either way. There was a two-month period in my life where I fell into, what some people might call a depression, though I am still not sure what to call it. I slept way too much, had trouble eating and was about 12 hours away from my friends and family. I am not saying this band saved my life or anything, but they did keep me positive in a dark place. They also got me interested in different eras of music and seldom do you see a new band revert back to effective techniques of the past in such a way. Their use of ’80s synth, ambient noise and eerie vocals really showed me how artists can use influences from other artists or time periods and spin them into unique and unforgettable sounds. 

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