Top 42 Albums: CJ

The music albums I chose all have a significant part in my music story, my music origin story if you will. They all influenced me that I can’t explain, but I do know without them I wouldn’t be the same. I formatted the 42 by importance, the top 10 could only have one album per artist. The next 12 are in no particular order, but they are albums I frequently listen to when I need some sort of inspiration. The last 20 are an assortment of albums I find myself gravitating towards whenever I need comfort, where it feels familiar like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while. I’ll begin to explain the importance of my choices with cliff notes on some of the albums I chose and why.

The first 5 albums I chose are the reason I learned how to play guitar and be a musician in the first place. I first learned how to play guitar back in high school and the bands that I aspired to become were these I have been listening to these records since I was a kid when I didn’t understand music yet, but these artists spoke to me. Foo Fighters are my favorite band for a variety of reasons, but the album “There is Nothing Left to Lose” is the one I feel they shined brightest. It didn’t have the big anthems as the record before, but Dave Grohl was beginning to embrace his songwriting ability. The feel of the album has that sense of confidence of a band that knows who they are. It shows in songs like “Ain’t it the Life” and “Next Year”, a distant sound compared to “Monkey Wrench”. “Nevermind” and “Dookie” were the 2 albums I heard most as a kid. As I got older and experienced my own version of teenage angst, those songs began to take new meaning. As a big fan of Blink-182, I loved the humor they brought, as well as the infectious hooks they played on guitar. As I was starting out on guitar., I found myself gravitating towards learning songs by playing songs by Blink-182 or Green Day. It was fun to sing songs about masturbation and liking girls, but suddenly Blink-182 released their self-titled album and they grew up. The songs had the subject matters of love and longing. It was such a far cry in terms of sound and tone, that the change was refreshing. Lastly, Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend. In a 12 song album, Vampire Weekend deals with an existential crisis and questions whether or not this is the life they desire. It may have been because I was 25 at the time wondering what journey in life I was about to embark on, but something about that album spoke to me profoundly. It gives a sense of security that you aren’t alone and someone put into words, let alone music, just how crazy life can be at times.

The last 5 are some of my main influences in songwriting. “Abbey Road” is the album that needs no explanation. It is considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and its significance can’t be overstated. The “Garden State” soundtrack was the first album that introduced me to that indie/alt sound. It was more of a mixtape and love letter to singer/songwriters as well as the feel of what was to come in the music scene back in It had many artists who would become big players like Coldplay, The Shins, Iron and Wine. It was a window in time that felt innocent and relaxed. “Bleed American” is one of the first albums in Jr. high that had great hooks and melodic loud guitars. The Blue Album by Weezer was the first rock album I ever listened to back in 1994, and hearing “Say it Ain’t So” for the first time was an experience. Lastly “Ghost Stories” by Coldplay is an album that just has some of the most melancholic lyrics with some of the instrumentation having a happy feel. Whenever I hear it, it feels heavy, but at the same time you want to dance. Coldplay is one of the few bands that achieve that feeling often.

The rest of my list is a combination of albums that I listen to often to be inspired. There are repeat artists such as Green Day, Foo Fighters, and The Beatles, but for good reason. They are the bands that set the tone and foundation to what inspires me. There is albums from various artists and different genres that shape my tastes. I am a big believer in good songwriting regardless of genre, if it sounds good, it is good. That’s why you see J. Cole next to Rush or Sublime, all those sounds and songs stay in my head and when I write I hear them.

As I finish this journey through time with my ears, I gain more appreciation for all the albums that I have fallen in love with. When I listen to an album on this list, I get transported to that time in my life when I first heard it, and all the emotions that come with it, good and bad. It is a nice reflection of how powerful music can be.