Thursday, May 10, 2012

Time Capsule Album Obsessions: College

Somehow when I had dreamed of going way to college, I didn't imagine that I'd be escaping to Appleton, WI-a city almost more culturally devoid than the tiny, far-north Chicago suburb that I grew up in. I had more exotic locales like Chicago or New York City in mind. But a scholarship, parental pressure, and a campus that reminded me of Rushmore Academy won out in the end and I went to Lawrence University in Appleton.  Lawrence University is one of the premier colleges for music in the United States, which is great if you like classical music or the opera. However, for rock music you pretty much have to drive to Milwaukee (a little over an hour away) or Madison (about an hour and a half away) to see anyone decent live.  Unsurprisingly, I didn't go to a lot of shows during this period.  However, I did discover a bunch of new bands thanks to being surrounded by a bunch of music geeks.  Below are my five most listened to albums from college (check out the whole list here):

Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie (2003).
Find it in the catalog!
This is one of the few early Death Cab albums that I can still listen to without cringing too much at my former, college-aged self.  I related to these songs immensely then, so listening to them is sort of like looking at pictures of yourself with a bad haircut that you thought was awesome at the time.  That's no diss to Death Cab.  I actually like their recent stuff quite a bit (especially Codes and Keys).  And Chris Walla's guitar work has always been superb. But Ben Gibbard's lyrics seem a little too angst ridden and confessional in hindsight.  Maybe I've just grown to hate earnestness.  In spite of this, Transatlanticism still holds up pretty well for me, possibly because Gibbard's lyrics aren't as intensely personally as on some of Death Cab's other albums from the early aughts.  I'm not a huge fan of "Tiny Vessels" or "Death of an Interior Decorator."  But the rest of the album is pretty solid. 

Favorite Songs: Sound of Settling, Transatlanticism, Passenger Seat

Alligator by the National. 
Find it in the catalog!
The National were a band I had been hearing good things about for a while, but could never track down one of their records.  When  I saw Alligator on the shelves at Borders (in McHenry, of all places), I picked it up and fell in love with it instantly.  The National were different from a lot of the bands I had been listening to at the time.  The music was dark and well-crafted, and singer Matt Berninger had a deep, world-weary voice.  The National is still one of my favorite bands and I've loved both of their subsequent albums, but Alligator still probably has the most songs on it that I love (Boxer is my favorite overall).  Out of the albums that I loved in college, this is definitely the one that I revisit the most often. 

Favorite Songs: All the Wine, Geese of Beverly Road, Daughters of the Soho Riots, Mr. November

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- Wilco (2002)
Find it in the catalog!
When I was in high school, "country" even of the alt variety, sounded like something that I just couldn't get into.  So it took me a really long time to listen to Wilco.  So long, in fact, that I did not check out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot until a year after it was released, in spite of its universal acclaim.  However, once I finally did get around to checking it out, I pretty much listened to it on repeat for about two years (it is part of my subconscious now). This is still one of my favorite albums of all time.

Favorite Songs:  I'm Trying to Break Your Heart, Ashes of American Flags, Jesus, Etc., Poor Places

Something Else- Kinks
Find it in the catalog!

The Kinks were probably my favorite band in college. Yet I don't remember how I started listening to them, I just remember suddenly being into the Kinks.  But it's pretty safe to blame the movie Blow-up, which made me want to check out anything that British and from the 60s.  The Kinks definitely had a gritter sound than other music from the 60s that I was used to (i.e. The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel), which made their music sound more modern to me.  Also, Ray Davies is probably one of my favorite songwriters ever.  His lyrics are funny, biting and have great social commentary.  Something Else was my introduction to the Kinks.  While I'd eventually love The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society and Lola Versus Powerman and the Money-go-round more, Something Else remained in heavy rotation until grad school, largely thanks to "Waterloo Sunset."

Favorite Songs:  Waterloo Sunset, Afternoon Tea, and Tin Solider Man

69 Love Songs- Magnetic Fields
Find it in the catalog!

I first got into the Magnetic Fields with the album The Charm of the Highway.  I liked how poppy and yet bleak Stephin Merritt's songs were, as well as how clever some of the lyrics were.  Pretty much all of the Magnetic Fields albums were played in heavy rotation in my dorm room, but 69 Love Songs is probably Merritt's masterpiece.  Also, the three disc set was the perfect length to drive home for breaks.

Favorite songs: I Don't Want to Get Over You, I Don't Believe in the Sun, No One Will Ever Love You,  The Sun Goes Down and The World Goes Dancing, Busby Berkeley Dream, I Can't Touch You Anymore