Ten Albums That Changed/Influenced My Life

A friend recently asked me about the most influential albums in my life.
It will probably come as no surprise to regular readers that my answer became rather lengthy.
In case you are curious, here is the list I assembled:

1. Duran Duran – Rio: It’s the first album I really remember inspiring me to dress up like the band and do lip synch performances. Duran Duran is underrated. I still love them, though I’ve not kept up with their recent output.

2. Genesis/Phil Collins output of the early and mid-80s: I was a huge Miami Vice fan, and that probably influenced my love for Collins and Genesis. I can’t pick out an album specifically. And I actually grew to detest Collins and Genesis in the 90s because of the directions they went. But I still love many of those 80s tunes.

3. Def Leppard – Hysteria: Yes, I had my own hair metal phase and listened to that album like it was cocaine (Hey, it was the 80s!)

4. Depeche Mode – Violator: This album marked a turning point in my musical evolution that is unparalleled. I still find everything about it the very definition of cool. The music. The artwork. I suddenly realized the complete and overwhelming power music could have over me.

5. The Cure – Wish: I already loved The Cure when this album came out, but it was my first time as a fan experiencing the excitement of the release day. Again, I devoured the music and the artwork.

6. Suede – Dogmanstar: I owned Suede’s first album and had heard a lot of buzz about them, but I never really got it. Then their sophomore album came out, and it was this dystopian, romantic masterpiece. It shattered me and only fed into my vision of love as something tragic, something that will inevitably be lost.

7. Placebo – Black Market Music: This album is the comedown after the party. It’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll but without the glam. But it’s also defiant. It got me through a couple of occasions when the loss of a love threw a heavy rock in my gut and wouldn’t let me rise from the water.

8. Ween – Pure Guava: No other band in my life has better mixed humor, heartfelt emotion and great musicianship so perfectly. It’s hard to pick THE Ween album, but this was my first and is among their brownest (for you Ween fans).

9. The Beatles – The White Album: This is the one Beatles album that I return to on a regular basis. I love its diversity. At the same time as “Black Market Music,” it helped me overcome some loss.

10. Cursive – Domestica: This was my introduction to Omaha’s Saddle Creek record label, so it paved the way for artists like Bright Eyes and The Faint. All three bands have had a huge impact on my life. “Domestica” is an album about the end of a sometimes violent relationship, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this journey.

Nathan Goes To Chvrch(es)

I love Churches.
Hold on. No.
Let me clarify: I love Chvrches.
They are a Scottish synth pop band — not a place of spiritual worship.
They are the kind of musical talent that makes me pity my poor friends who don’t consider music made without guitars and drums music.
Perhaps they will one day awake from their 1970s dad rock daydreams and join the technological revolution. (SLAM!) A lot has happened since disco (and disco wasn’t all bad).

Chvrches played Sokol Auditorium in Omaha recently. Going in, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a large gymnasium, and it was a Wednesday night.
When I came through the doors, I was greeted by the warm bells of The Cure’s “Plainsong” just before its keyboards swelled. (“Sometimes you make me feel like I’m living at the edge of the world/Like I’m living at the edge of the world/”It’s just the way I smile,” you said.) It’s not often that I get to hear “Disintegration” tracks played over a large speaker system. Before the show started, “Pictures of You” and “Fascination Street” were also played. That’s a good place to start any evening.

I’ve watched and read so many interviews with the members of Chvrches — (Lauren Mayberry (lead vocals, additional synthesisers, and samplers), Iain Cook (synthesisers, guitar, bass, vocals) and Martin Doherty — that they seem like old friends. They seem like very modest, grateful people who discovered that, together, they could make something unique and beautiful.
By the time Chvrches came on stage, the auditorium was nearly full. The crowd was very energetic and enthusiastic. I had no idea Omaha was home to such a solid base of synth pop fans who are willing to bring their “A” game on a Wednesday night.
For such a young band, Chvrches have developed a really good light show to accompany their performance.
A highlight was when lead singer Lauren Mayberry talked about how obsessed she was with Saddle Creek Records while growing up and how cool it was to finally visit Omaha. Unfortunately, my friend and I could only make out about half of what she said through her thick Scottish accent and the acoustics of the venue.
As they played, I became much more aware of The Cure influence on Chvrches’ sound than I had been listening to the record “The Bones of What You Believe.” It’s always interesting how new aspects of a band can emerge in a live setting.
All in all, it was a fun night. I was glad to be able to catch the band in a more intimate venue before seeing them at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in a couple weeks. (Oh yes, I am returning to that hallowed ground …)
Here is some video I caught of Chvrches: