You know the ones I’m talking about. When you put them on they immediately seem to be about YOU at THIS MOMENT. Sometimes they are even retroactive. I have listened to a few of them that basically voiced exactly how I felt about my nervous breakdown in high school (omg, drama gossip!) or a bad break up but years later. They make you feel exactly how you did at that moment, but it is comforting not painful. I’ll think things like “wow, I really wish that I had this album then”. Of course, if I did, it probably wouldn’t have meant the same thing. Sometimes we need that distance from those moments to actually understand how we felt and what was going on. So that is what this post is about, those albums that become almost cultural touch stones. Sometimes they come to retroactively define an entire generation or group of people and sometimes it is an album that nobody else really seems to notice that much. There are albums that I hold in higher esteem than some of these but those don’t seem to define me in the same way.
I’ll start with Emergency & I by Dismemberment Plan. This album is what gave me the idea for this post. It was one I entirely missed out on, I was not into the band (or really into music in quite the same way) when it came out and I was probably too young for it to really be “about” my life the way many critics and fans have claimed it felt to them. The pitchfork review actually was a pretty lovely and autobiographical piece about how that album grew up with those who got it just entering their early or mid 20′s; how it came to define a certain sort of individual. Although I am now on a path towards what I hope is gainful employment and a set future for myself, there are still times when I feel somewhat adrift and confused. Basically, it is quarter-life crisis time and this album is pretty much the ultimate quarter-life crisis/break up album. I’m in a very happy and stable relationship at the moment so I can really only appreciate the break up lyrics for their skill and emotion. I’m obviously not even close to the only one but the other lyrics just cut right into how I feel about the world, anxious, jittery, lost, loving a magician. I won’t bother quoting the songs here but you should listen to and read the lyrics to The Jitters, You are Invited, Gyroscope. And listen to The City and What Do You Want Me To Say, they are more relationship songs but the lyrics are killer and they are brilliant songs. Though this album was made quite a long time ago, and I had listened to the other three Dismemberment Plan albums, I did not actually hear this album until the reissue came out. You know something is brilliant when you feel like it was something that was always part of your life on first listen.
Next, lets talk about The Meadowlands by The Wrens. Also it pisses me off that The Meadowlands is for some reason underlined in red as a typo…its a touchstone of my state damn it! Anyway. I had this album for quite a long time but for some reason never actually listened to it. I had heard various critical notices forever and always wanted to but it just never happened. One day, nearly a year after my break up I decided to listen to Secaucus by the same band. I absolutely loved it, brilliant. So the next day I put on The Meadowlands and proceeded to completely get ripped apart emotionally. Then I immediately listened to it all the way through again. So, this album features a lot of songs about dead relationships, anger and sadness. It isn’t entirely made up of songs like this but there are quite a few. By this point the anger, sadness and guilt about the way things had gone down and ended in my relationship had mostly dissipated but this album basically made me feel as if it had just happened the day before. Surprisingly, this feeling was good. The songs gave voice to a lot of the things I had difficulty explaining to myself about how I had felt and forced me to deal with a lot of things that I had kind of swept under the mental carpet in the process of “moving on.” It was very good. By allowing myself to feel as angry as I did, even if it wasn’t entirely justified, and as sad as I felt, even if it didn’t entirely make sense, and as guilty as I was, even if it was more than I needed to, it finally allowed me to actually process all of that and move on. About a month later I moved to Philadelphia and started a new phase of my life. I was still lonely, but I wasn’t bitter anymore, which I must admit I had been. I put on a face of being OK and acting relatively normal again but it was there. I was nervous of being in a new city, being out of home for the first time but I was excited as shit. Then because I was somewhat lonely and nervous on my first night in the apartment I decided to call up one my best friends who had also recently moved to the city and she invited me out to dinner where I met a really pretty girl who mocked me for liking Brand New and who I immediately had a crush on. Quite a few awkward conversations and and “study sessions” later I finally got off my ass and kissed her. So thank you Kevin, Greg, Charles and Jerome for forcing me to relive an incredibly painful thing, it was the best possible medicine.
These are just two examples, there are definitely others of course but two is enough for now. This may be a series haha. Anyway, if you feel like it, leave your example of an album like that and why in the comments section!