No, this is not about babies or depression or my financial black hole.
Here are five albums that have shaped my tastes in music, my most memorable experiences, and, by extension, me. To the six whole people who read this, I'd love your comments, feedback and your own choices.
1. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys: My father always enjoyed a good Beach Boys song... who doesn't, right? I have early memories of the tracks from Pet Sounds, particularly "Wouldn't It Be Nice;" the music echoing through my father's ugly, ugly green car. I don't recall being exposed to the album as a whole, although I know my dad has it somewhere, until I got to college and acquired good taste in music. The beginning half of Pet Sounds -- carefree and naive -- will always remind me of my very early youth; the back half -- serious and a bit detached -- reminds me of my final year in college.
2. August and Everything After, Counting Crows: This album defined my formative years. My closest friends and I listened to this on repeat throughout high school, and I still often listen to it when I want to feel closer to those people. A road trip, be it to Philadelphia or to Boston, wasn't complete without this record. I adore the sounds, and it feels heavy with happy, safe memories of growing up.
3. Monster, REM: I'm not sure this is my favorite overall REM album, but it certainly did have the biggest influence over my musical preferences from then on. I first heard this record when it was nearly-new, which is a rarity for me, and besides falling hard for Michael Stipe, it sounded what good music was supposed to sound like. Sure, I was still listening to Boyz II Men at the same time, but I knew REM was what legitimately cool people were listening to. I've grown up listening to REM and they will probably always define what a great band is for me. I was fortunate to see them live last summer and they blew me away.
4. You Are The Quarry, Morrissey: "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell..." LOVE. THIS. RECORD. Circa 2004/2005, I played the hell out of it. I wasn't in a car going anywhere without this present. Morrissey is the coolest person on earth. Ever. Period. I was once in a focus group and said that and the other girls in the room thought I was deranged. They so weren't cool.
5. Nothing Feels Good, The Promise Ring: My taste in music firmly changed after hearing this record around the time I graduated high school. I only took a handful of CDs with me to college my freshman year (because, hello, there was still Napster for FREE!), and this made the cut. This makes me dance and sing, and yet still breaks my heart.
Honorable mentions go to:
Born on a Pirate Ship, Barenaked Ladies / Rumours, Fleetwood Mac / Whitechocolatespaceegg, Liz Phair / Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers / Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan