So much beauty out there

March 2, 2010

10 Albums That Changed My (Musical) Life

Filed under: All,Dear Diary — Josh @ 12:28 pm

Ok, inspired to finally do one of these by my brother’s awesome post about his list. These are not neccesarily my favourite records now (indeed I don’t even own one of them anymore) nor can I claim that they really shaped my personality, but they are the ones that shaped my taste in music. In order of when I listened to them.

1) The Pet Shop Boys – Actually

This was the first album I ever owned (I did have a few singles before it, but we should draw a veil over them). I’m not sure what prompted me to ask for it, and it didn’t lead to any other similar albums. But I really liked it (and still love It’s A Sin, What Have I Done To Deserve This and Rent) and I guess it must have opened up my mind to listening to music in general.

2) Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

I don’t really remember listening much to music at all when I was very young, but as adolescence came on, I became aware of what my Dad was listening to. 4 albums in particular stick in my mind, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Randy Newman’s Land Of Dreams, Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA and this by Leonard Cohen. Of them, I’m Your Man is the one that made the most impact on me, both in terms of enjoying it at the time and as something that has stuck with me.

3) REM – Out Of Time

We never listened to music on the radio at home (it was Radio 4 only) so for a couple of years my taste was entirely dependent on what my Dad played. But on the school bus one day, they played Losing My Religion, and I fell in love with it on one listen. I bought Out Of Time and then within 6 months pretty much the entire REM back catalogue. REM were my first proper “favourite band”, but also they made me realise that there was life outside my Dad’s collection. I don’t have the album anymore, but I reckon I’d still like most of it.

4) The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps

On a school trip to London we listened to Radio 1 for 5 straight hours on the bus. Mostly this was taken up with repeat playing of the chart hits of the day (Informer by Snow is permanently scarred on to my brain from this trip) but they also played (once) the glorious pop of Wishin’ I Was Skinny. I bought Giant Steps at the first opportunity and was disgusted to find that the rest of the album was filled with discordance, dissonance and feedback. I stuck it away for a few months, then tried it again and for some reason liked a few more of the tracks. Gradually it became one of my favourite ever albums and was integral to my taste widening beyond easy listening.

5) Tindersticks – Tindersticks (first album)

As my brother has described it, our musical relationship was fairly one way up until this point, he would like most of the music I recommended to him, I would dismiss mots music he bought on his own initiative. When he lent me this, he even warned me that the first couple of songs were weak and I shouldn’t rush to judgement. But I loved the album (still do) and had a new favourite band. More importantly, a huge part of my subsequent record buying was informed by recommendations and compilations from my brother.

6) Pulp – His’n’Hers

Just a great album, and for the next few years Pulp and the Tindersticks were a constant musical reference point.

7) The Four Tops – Greatest Hits (can’t remember actual title)

I’m not sure what prompted me into listening to this, as I wasn’t really aware of soul music before. I knew that I loved the likes of Stand By Me, Reach Out, I’ll Be There, Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay and I Heard It Through The Grapevine when they appeared on adverts or were re-issued, but I was not that inquisitive about music from the 60s. Still, something must have prompted me to listen to this compilation. It’s an amazing quality compilation, I reckon only 2 or 3 songs don’t qualify as great. I was hooked. Ben E King was next up, then Etta James, Al Green and Nina Simone, and on and on to Bettye Lavette and Brenda Holloway.

8) Various Artists – The Essential World Collection

I had always been sceptical about “World Music”, people I knew who liked it tended to have terrible taste in “Anglo-American music”. But I needed another CD to complete a “Buy X CDs for Y” deal, so I picked this up. It’s very good – almost all from North and West Africa and the Carribean. Ali Farka Toure, Habib Koitie, Cheikh Lo, Sierra Maestra, Africando. It not only got me into lots of different sounds from around the world, but made me much more open-minded about other genres that I hadn’t really given any consideration towards before.

9) Louise Attaque – Comme On A Dit

While living in Paris, and listening to French radio they regularly played Pour Un Oui, Pour Un Non from this album, which prompted me to buy it. I’d read lots of scornful comments about French rock music, so I was rather surprised at how good it was; and I’ve subsequently found that there are lots of good guitar bands in Europe who never get played in the UK because they don’t sing in English (Kaizers Orchestra, Mickey 3D, Jan Plewka, Bob Hund)

10) Yeah, can’t choose a number 10. Could be any of: Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska, Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I See A Darkness, Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball, Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs, Gillian Welch – Hell Among The Yearlings, Massive Attack – Blue Lines etc, etc.


  1. Mmmm, good choices, eerily parallel to mine, (or would be eerie if we weren’t brothers) and some details I never knew before. I presume the one you don’t have any more is “actually” and that’s because I have it?

    Comment by Ian — March 2, 2010 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  2. P.S. Can’t decide whether to take a chance on the new tindersticks album. OK, “The Hungry Saw” was pretty good, but I’m not sure I need another tindersticks album now that’s only pretty good, or more of the same.

    Comment by Ian — March 2, 2010 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

  3. I don’t have Actually or Out Of Time anymore, thinking about it. And His’n’Hers and the Tindersticks first album are both stuck in Shropshire. So I am stuck without half my musical heritage.

    I bought the new Tindersticks album, I don’t think it’s an essential purchase, but you can copy it next time you’re in Shropshire.

    Comment by Josh — March 2, 2010 @ 7:44 pm | Reply

  4. Excellent! And if any of the Tindersticks or their record company are reading this, OBVIOUSLY I’ll buy my own copy if I like it!

    Comment by Ian — March 2, 2010 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  5. Get out of my music head. It’s eerie.

    Comment by Keri — March 3, 2010 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

    • Have you done one of these lists, Keri? I know a few people who read this blog have.

      Comment by Josh — March 3, 2010 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

      • Maybe this weekend when I can sit done and properly have a think about it.

        School takes all my brain cells during the week. And I only have so very few.

        Comment by Keri — March 4, 2010 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  6. Mildly alarmed by the impact you’ve had on my music collection.

    Comment by Tea Drinker — March 13, 2010 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

    • Why should it be a cause for alarm? Possibly the fear that you might never have had access to such an improving influence had I not at some point realised there was no-one called Sophie in my history class?

      Comment by Josh — March 13, 2010 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

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