This afternoon I go to visit my mother in the hospital. I take along a deck of Cards Against Humanity and we are having a rather unenthusiastic game. Suddenly we hear music. Mom peers out the door and comes back shaking her head over the fact that a random guy is playing guitar in the hallway.
The next thing we know, he is standing inside her room, asking if he could play a song for us. Mom is facing slightly away from him, rolling her eyes, and I say, “Sure!” See, I’m a big fan of the movie Yes Man. In theory, at least. My life would benefit from saying yes a lot more often. Do I practice this? Not really, although I find that I enjoy myself a lot more when I do.
So the man with the guitar asks what kind of music we want to hear. With much prodding, mom eventually agrees to “popular” and that something by The Beatles would be okay. As he plays “When I’m Sixty-Four”, she continues on with our game, but without the best part of reading the questions and answers aloud.
I draw a card to replace the one I’d just used. I smirk. I wait and wait for the man to finish playing and leave the room, then say “I just won this round” and play the following:
Months ago I started seeing Facebook posts listing people’s choices for 10 life-changing albums. I totally planned on making my own post. Then when I made the list, there were over 30 albums and I was only able to pare it down to 20. Also, I’m incapable of doing things without adding a little something extra, so I wanted to write a little about each album rather than just making a list. Therefore, it has taken me several extra months to do what should have been a 15-minute exercise.
(No, there’s really no correlation between the music and my tiki god collection. Unless you consider that I hear drumming when I look at them.)
The album choices on this list have one primary feature in common: I’ve listened to the full album from beginning to end dozens of times, to the point where I can hear the opening notes of the next track before it even starts. All of these albums also feature at least one or two songs that I constantly find myself singing in the car or the shower or at work when there is hopefully no one in earshot.
- Heart in Motion – Amy Grant: This album was released when I was in middle school, and several of the songs were in constant rotation on the radio station my bus driver chose. It was guaranteed that I would hear Amy Grant every single afternoon on the way home from school. [When I start to sing the blues / You pull out my dancing shoes / I think you could be so good for me]
- For My Broken Heart – Reba McEntire: One of the overall most depressing albums ever, which I became very familiar with during my first long period of depression a few years after it was released. [If I had only known / I’d never hear your voice again / I’d memorize each thing you ever said]
- Dookie – Green Day: This was the only cassette I ever wore out from playing it too much. If there had been iPods back then, I’d have had it on “repeat album” for weeks. [Sometimes I give myself the creeps / Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me / It all keeps adding up / I think I’m cracking up]
- The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails: It has been 2 decades since I discovered this album as a high school freshman, and I have consistently returned to it when I need to wallow in self-loathing. [If I could start again / A million miles away / I would keep myself / I would find a way]
- Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette: My first experience of staying home alone was not long after I got this album. It was great to play really loudly, and scream along with. Until my family walked in right as I screamed a profanity. [We all had our reasons to be there / We all had a thing or two to learn / We all needed something to cling to / So we did]
- Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos: I was several years late to finding this album, having been introduced to it by a friend in my first college dorm. None of her future albums really spoke to me the way this one did. [I’ve been raising up my hands / Drive another nail in / Got enough guilt to start my own religion]
- The Green World – Dar Williams: I found this one via a friend of a college roommate, and proceeded to spread the word of Dar to anyone who would listen. I’ve loved all her albums, but there’s a special place in my heart for this one. [And when I chose to live / There was no joy – it’s just a line I crossed / It wasn’t worth the pain my death would cost / So I was not lost or found]
- RENT – Original Broadway Cast: I somehow learned of RENT when I was a theatre major, but procrastinated on buying the soundtrack for months. I finally got it as a souvenir from a trip to Washington D.C., where I was mocked for buying something I could have gotten back home. [It won’t work, I look before I leap / I love margins and discipline / I make lists in my sleep / Baby, what’s my sin?]
- Up – Peter Gabriel: Not sure how I found this album, but it stuck in my head so much that I had a whole series of profile pictures for my online journal that were themed around the songs. [The news that truly shocks is the empty empty page / While the final rattle rocks its empty empty cage / And I can’t handle this]
- Afterglow – Sarah McLachlan: I was a fan of Sarah McLachlan since high school, but this is the one album that keeps drawing me back. [I’m lost to those I thought were friends / To everyone I know / Oh they turn their heads embarrassed / Pretend that they don’t see / But it’s one missed step / One slip before you know it / And there doesn’t seem a way to be redeemed]
- A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out – Panic! At the Disco: Love their song titles. Sure, they rarely have much to do with the content of the song, but they always make me laugh. [Prescribed pills / To offset the shakes / To offset the pills / You know you should take / It a day at a time]
- The Sound of Madness – Shinedown: You know, I have no idea what I love so much about this album. I just do. [I’m not angry, I’m just saying… / Sometimes goodbye is a second chance]
- Absolutely – Sister Hazel: This entire album makes me cry every single time I listen to it. Cry and get chills. [Where do you go and what do you do / When all you have left is hanging on you / Where do you go and what do you do / When you lose everything you ever knew]
- Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons: You wouldn’t think there’s much connection between Nine Inch Nails and Mumford & Sons, but this is the other album I always listen to in times of self-loathing. [But it was not your fault but mine / And it was your heart on the line / I really fucked it up this time / Didn’t I, my dear?]
- 21 – Adele: It feels kind of cheesy to put this on here. Like it’s too predictable. Still, I find myself (badly) singing these songs to myself all the time. [‘Cause there’s a side to you / That I never knew, never knew / All the things you’d say, / They were never true, never true / And the games you’d play / You would always win, always win]
- Ghost in My Head – Jill Hennessy: I adored Jill on Crossing Jordan, and love the independent folksy style here. [We walk hand in hand and catch the night train and try to laugh all the truth away]
- The Rock and the Tide – Joshua Radin: One of those albums where I listened through the samples on Amazon and instantly felt like I’d known all the songs forever. [This time you’ve got to make up your mind / This life’s worth living / Get up, we’ve got a ways to go]
- Born to Die – Lana Del Rey: This is what I imagine would happen if Tori Amos collided with trip-hop. I mean, that’s something I wish would happen, so I guess it’s okay if it’s a different artist who made it happen. [And there’s no remedy / For memory / Your face is like a melody, / It won’t leave my head]
- Animal – Ke$ha: This album gives me the same kind of feeling as Jagged Little Pill. If I want to get up and dance and scream along, this is what finds its way to the “Now Playing” in iTunes. [Don’t stop, make it pop / DJ, blow my speakers up / Tonight, Imma fight / ‘Til we see the sunlight / TiK ToK, on the clock / But the party don’t stop, no]
- Next to Normal – Original Broadway Cast: My current constant musical companion. By random coincidence, Amazon recommended this bipolar-related musical to me when I was having some retail therapy after my first bipolar-related emergency room visit. I’ve barely listened to anything else in the nearly 3 months since I received it. [Do you wake up in the morning and need help to lift your head? / Do you read obituaries and feel jealous of the dead? / It’s like living on a cliffside not knowing when you’ll dive / Do you know, do you know what it’s like to die alive?]