Music Issue > Music Issue
Local Musicians All-Time Favorite Albums
I’m still startled by the opening song of The Beatles’ “White Album”: The jet plane fades in, electric guitars squeal, a piano hammers, and at once with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” the listener is warned this is going to be a wild trip. This is the Beatles stripped-down, rocked-out, tongue-in-cheek, and fucked-up maybe. Years later, I would learn it was an oblique diary of what they did on their India vacation, a period of meditation and mourning. Their mystical, magical pepper trip is over; now the eclectic music — in retrospect revealing the parts more than the whole — is dovetailing Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding mood but taking it somewhere else, filtered through cryptic self-references, ominous, haphazard sound effects and those distinct, if weary, voices.
At the time, I just thought it was cool, haunting, scary, and mysterious. I bought the double album at ABC Music in Laredo (my parents’ hometown) a few months after it came out. I was just shy of turning 13. In the modern vernacular, this was my tweener music. It was Kurt Cobain’s, too. That’s the power of it. I played the hell out of it — wondering why I liked the songs I did, hated others, and then why I had to change that opinion with each play. My favorite, because it's weird, undisciplined, sometimes unfinished and sad, but always laid bare — and made even more oblique and mysterious by the fact that "Hey Jude" (not on the record) came out of the same sessions.
Hector Saldaña sings and plays guitar for The Krayolas.
I first heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl. It was my parents’ album, and since then I’ve had it on several tapes and CDs. I’ve replaced it many times because I use it up, playing it over and over again. It’s a beautiful-sounding album, especially at night with your headphones on when you’re supposed to be asleep.
I used to fantasize about being each member of the band, playing their instruments. Once I was the keyboard player, another time the rhythm-guitar player, another time the sax player. “Us and Them” is my favorite track. It’s got all the elements of a good song. They’ve got a chick singer at the very end who sounds like a black gospel singer. She goes off on a vocal cadenza, and it’s the best. Just perfect.
Jacinto LeFebre plays trumpet for the band Xemilla
My jaw dropped the first time I heard Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, and continues to. It’s so powerful and has such raw energy. The album is truly a masterpiece. Although it came out more than 20 years ago, you could throw it on today and it would sound just as fresh as any new release.It is music to make out to, to drive to, to dance around to, to scream to, to lay in bed to on Sunday afternoon. It’s so diverse, it has so many colors and emotions compacted into 70 minutes of bliss.
The album opens with “Teenage Riot,” which, in my opinion, is one of the most climactic songs of all time. It starts out so slow and sedate and builds into such a raucous, in-your-face anthem. It makes me wanna scream and spin around the room and fall down and get back up and do it all again. On “Kissability,” Kim Gordon’s vocals ooze sex appeal. I’ve heard some say that Sonic Youth is just noise, but to deny their individual musical talents is ridiculous. This album and this band will never cease to amaze me.
Sarah Reynolds plays guitar and sings for the indie-rock duo Robo Trumble
What is your favorite mountain? That might as well be the question. I could have said Revolver (Mt. Everest) and been done with it, but The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society (Mt. K2), Big Star’s Radio City (Mt. Kanchenjunga), David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World (Mt. Lhotse), Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak (Mt.Makalu), The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Mt. McKinley), Flying Burrito Brothers’ Gilded Palace of Sin (Mt.Logan), Badfinger’s Straight Up (Mt. Kilimanjaro), Willie Nelson’s Willie and Family Live (Mt. Popocatepetl), and The Who’s Live at Leeds (Mt. Rainier), would be completely and sacrilegiously missing from such a monumental expedition.
My personal “Enchanted Rock,” if you will, is the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. I have come back to this album time after time for a lesson from the masters in dirty beauty. Before you stand at the top, you have to cut your hands, skin your knees, fall in a river, knock yer head on a tree limb, get bit by somethin’, accept it, hallucinate, re-awake, enlighten, and reflect. By the time I get to the “Moonlight Mile” I have been changed forever, again.
Christopher Lutz sings and plays guitar for the band Snowbyrd
We chose Take It From the Man! by the Brian Jonestown Massacre because it’s just such a cool album and we’ve both been really inspired by it. It’s one of those records that can make almost any moment a memorable one. Throw it on when you’re alone at home with your headphones or in your car with the windows down on a sunny day and suddenly you really want to be in a rock band. The songs and performances have such passion in them, they just burn themselves into you. The combination of experimental production and such a variety of musical styles is something that rarely works so well, but the group’s knack for pop melody pulls it all together.
It’s so distinctive in its sound — even when stacked against the rest of the BJM catalogue — that you're instantly put into a very specific altered state. A lot of people have had the music of the 1960s handed down to them. Some of us have instinctively connected with it, studied it, re-interpreted it and created something new. Take It From the Man! is probably the finest example of this we could name.
Blake Cormier and Zach Dunlap play for the band Druggist
Having to pick a favorite album of all time is something I simply can’t do. I like different albums for various reasons and at different points in my life. There is one artist, however, who has really inspired my music. In 1998, Amon Tobin released an album called Permutation, a sparkling example of the possibilities of electronic music to break new ground and be a tool of invention.
Permutation is speeding down the highway under fluorescent orange lights in a futuristic car but feeling like your motionless while everything else is just passing you by. It is quite possible that the album is really the work of aliens who found our transmissions of jazz, reassembled the signals and sent them back to earth with a note saying “Oh yeah? How ’bout this?”
Ernest Gonzales is a DJ, producer, and owner of Exponential Records
Trying to decide on one favorite recording from everything that I listen to and love and have been influenced by is a daunting task. I can confidently say that these three records have long been special to me: Bill Evans’ RE: Person I Knew, Shirley Horn with Strings’ Here’s To Life, and Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry. These would definitely be on my desert-island list along with some Mark Murphy and Steely Dan... and Ella Fitzgerald... and John Coltrane.
To narrow it down to one, I’d choose Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry. I’ve been listening to this record since I was in high school and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it. Laura Nyro was not only a gifted songwriter and musician, but a passionate, sensitive singer and poet who influenced our generation. Her work draws from jazz, blues, folk, and soul, but sounds completely fresh and vital. Laura’s music and her soulful, intimate style touched me considerably and will always be a very important part of my life.
Joan Carroll is a jazz singer and host of KRTU’s “The Jazz Voice”
Sometimes (in my experience, almost always) buying weird, cheap shit you’ve never heard of pays off. Wine, weed, music, whatever. That’s how I discovered Tom Waits.
I found the cassette tape of Bone Machine for seven bucks with a blurred photo of someone’s goggled, screaming face and knew I had to buy it. Plus, it was called Bone Machine. At the time, I didn’t know who Tom Waits was, but with song titles like “Earth Died Screaming” and “Murder in the Red Barn,” I didn’t care. “Earth Died Screaming” starts with the sound of bones being knocked together (it’s just sticks on concrete, but it sounds like fucking bones!). I was terrified the first time I heard this album. I was also envious of Tom’s voice, songs, face, attitude, everything. The Ramones covered one of the songs on this record! He sounds like a crazed hobo, an old black preacher, a drunk, a carnie, and the weirdest man on earth all on one record.
I was smitten. Call me simple. Call me easy. Tom Waits blew my mind the first time I heard him. Well, not actually the first time, but I don’t rate his cameo vocal on Primus’s “Tommy the Cat.” The point is, I’ve never been the same.
John Edds sings and plays guitar for Big Soy.
When I was 5, my Aunt Bea took my brother and me to the Winn’s 5 & 10 on San Pedro (now home, ironically, to CD Exchange) to buy us a little something during her visit, which she always did. But instead of picking out a toy like my brother, I handed her a record album. She looked down at me and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want?”, to which I replied most assuredly, “Yes.”
The album was the soundtrack to The Beatles movie Help!, which I’d recently seen on TV. I had to have it, and when I got it home and put it on, and John’s vocal leaped out of my tiny little record player’s speaker with that plaintive yet driving “Help!”, I knew I’d made the right choice. I soaked up everything on the record: how upfront and dry everything sounded, how the tambourine worked to create the backbeat of “Ticket to Ride,” even the snippets of music from the original score. It all made sense to me somehow, and even today it’s still the blueprint I use whenever I write, sing, or record. It also has the first song I ever learned to play and sing at the same time: John’s Dylanesque “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” There are other albums that I love, that I’ve consumed in a similar way, but this was the first and I can never thank my aunt enough for taking us to the store that day. I love you, Aunt Bea.
Joe Reyes plays guitar for The Swindles,
Buttercup, and Lara & Reyes
Being a writer is one of the most beautiful and agonizing traits in the creative arts world. If it were not for the encouraging melodies and rollercoaster ideas of others, no seed would ever be planted. Through all my phases and eclectic styles of music, certain albums stick out. Mr. Bungle’s California is a great album. Each song sets its own mood. Jeff Buckley’s Grace is memorable and breathtaking. The Beatles’ “White Album” makes me want to scream because some gents actually figured it out. The main album which is haunting and inspiring is Nirvana’s Unplugged. That for me is an unforgettable album.
I don’t think people should have a favorite album. How could you choose just one single album on this earth? I go through many phases where one particular album is my favorite at the time. Recently it was Rufus Wainwright's Want One. At the present time it is Elvis Presley's top 30 hits. It has all my favorites such as "Don't" and "Suspicious Minds." You can't ever go wrong with Elvis.
What's funny about being asked "What’s your most influential or favorite album?" is that most people I've seen will dig into their brains to give the coolest albums that are already a given. Cool points. Play it safe. Of course, Bowie, T-Rex, and the Ramones are influential. I think the question is, “What album opened your eyes to music to make you realize why those albums are so important?” Which one made you see music? The albums that did that for me were Nirvana's Bleach and Babes in Toyland's Fontanelle. Honest music. Musicians being true to themselves and their sound. It's very important to me to be able to do that with our music and I hope we can influence others the way these albums did for me.
Girl in a Coma are signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records
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