Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time Capsule Album Obsessions: High School

My high school years aren’t really a period I’m nostalgic about.  Like a lot of people from a small town, I spent much of  high school looking forward to leaving home and going to college.  I was more of an honor students than a rebel, but I did experiment with punk rock and light subversion.  After spending my freshman and sophomore years listening to emo (Bright Eyes, mostly) and glam rock (thanks to Ewan McGregor) I discovered the Cure and 80s post punk (which would dominate my playlists until grad school).  Below are five albums that I listened to way too much during high school:  
The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead.
Find it in the catalog!  
The Smiths are basically required listening for every angst-ridden high school student.  At the time, I could certainly relate to Morrissey’s sizable amount of self-pity on songs like “I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever.”  But it was more than just adolescent woefulness that drew me to the Smiths.  Morrissey has one of best voices in rock, and he can be pretty funny at times.  Also, Johnny Marr’s excellent guitar work makes the music still sound fresh today.  
Favorite tracks: The Boy with the Thorn In His Side, There is a Light (That Never Goes Out), Some Girls are Bigger Than Others

Joy Division- Closer
I think I definitely enjoy this album more now than I did in high school. Back then, I thought liking Joy Division made me dark and edgy, so I pretended to enjoy it more than I did.  And I liked the cryptic but bleak lyrics.  It wasn’t until college, when a lot of bands started to emulate Joy Division’s sound that I began to appreciate how spare and yet awesomely rocking they were.  Still, I listened to this album a lot in high school for only sort of liking it.  Perhaps, I just wanted to scare my parents.
Favorite tracks:  Isolation, Heart and Soul, The Eternal.  

  Joni Mitchell-Blue
My sophomore year of high school, I bought a turntable.  I had a cheap box record player before this, but the turntable was a definite step up.  To build up my record collection, I'd buy pretty much anything from the 60s and 70s that was reasonably cool or had a spiffy cover. This was one of those records.  I bought it for it's pretty blue cover, but played it over and over again for its mellow vibe and romantic angst.  At 15, I hadn't really lived enough to understand the complex emotions on the album.  But I was naive enough to think that I did.

Favorite Tracks: California, River, A Case of You.

Simon and Garfunkel- Bridge Over Troubled Water
I went to high school about 30 years after it was cool to like this album.  Thankfully, none of my classmates knew who S and G were and therefore were clueless as to how much of a geek I was.  I started listening to S and G after hearing that Paul Simon was a big influence on my then rock-God, Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes.  My dad didn’t have Graceland, but I permanently borrowed his copies of Bookends and BOTW.  Paul Simon’s witty, literate, and offbeat lyrics really appealed to me.  I also liked the band’s quirky folk rock sound.  BOTW is an ambitious but fun album.  S and G played around with a bunch of sounds, including gospel (“Bridge Over Troubled Water,”) straight rock ‘n’ roll (“Baby Driver”) and even Bossa Nova (“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright”- not my favorite).  There are lots of classic songs on the this album, including the title track, “The Boxer” and “Cecilia,” but my all-time favorite song is the haunting “Only Living Boy in New York.”
Favorite Tracks:  Cecilia, Keep the Customer Satisfied, Baby Driver, Only Living Boy in New York, and Song for the Asking. 

Belle and Sebastian- If You're Feeling Sinister
I discovered this band from one of my friends who was much hipper than me.  From their cool, retro red cover to their jangly, 60s inspired folk pop, Belle and Sebastian were pretty much perfect in my book.  Stuart Murdoch's lyrics were smart and funny, but a little wistful.  Belle and Sebastian were more or less the sonic equivalent of watching a Wes Anderson movie.   What more could a pretentious, old soul 17 year old want in a band?  Even with their post-Juno popularity and accusations of tweeness, If You're Feeling Sinister and Tigermilk are still favorites of mine. 

Favorite Tracks: The Fox in the Snow; Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying; If You're Feeling Sinister

Check out my whole list of high school album obsessions