1. Nevermind, Nirvana – Age 12
In 1996 my parents took me on a vacation to Michigan. We drove over the course of two days from Central Minnesota to Mackinac Island. We only stopped to sleep and to see any, and every, goofy road side monument – e.g. the world’s biggest ball of string. My brother and sister hadn’t come for whatever reason, so there wasn’t much to do for entertainment in the back of our stuffy station wagon. My choices were to either endure my mother reading endlessly out loud to my father or to pull out my walkman and take a listen to the tape I had borrowed from my friend. It was Nirvana’s Nevermind, and I had never heard anything like it. Every time I would come to the end of one side I would flip the tape over and keep going. I was hypnotized. The dynamics were so intense. Kurt’s voice was so raw and honest. Everything about it made sense to me, and for the first time in my life an album gave me a sense of personal expansion. It was as if listening to it had turned on a light in a corner of myself that I didn’t know existed but had been there all along.
2. Clarity, Jimmy Eat World – Age 15
In 1999 I was on the verge of some real independence. I had started learning to play the guitar two years prior and spent most of the hours of my day writing shitty music and riding bike around town with my friends. We had a band and we were ambitious. We traveled around Minnesota playing shows to eight kids in basements for what felt like ages. While we were out on one of these so called tours I was introduced to Jimmy Eat World’s album, Clarity. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I loved every moment of every song on it. I basically lived and breathed that record for an entire year. It became a part of me, and I started to take myself seriously when I thought of making a life out of being an artist and making music.
3. Songs of Love and Hate, Leonard Cohen – Age 26
Starting when he was four years old my father would spend his summers with my Great-Grandparent’s at their farm in Central Minnesota. When I was young we would go out every summer to that same farm to visit my Great-Grandparents. After they passed away the farm was relatively uninhabited for 11 years. In 2010 I was at an interesting point in life. I was treading water emotionally and needed to connect to something real and true. I thought of the farm and drove out to rehabilitate the place over the next few months whenever I could. It was completely overgrown and rundown. I spent a lot of time out there bringing the place back to life, and one of the albums that grew to define that place and time for me was Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate. His songwriting is so bare and effortless. His lyrics are masterfully conversational and frank. Leonard Cohen is a great poet and songwriter. He understands what’s important to him to explore and he doesn’t seem to spread a lot of his creative energy outside of those realized priorities. I gained a new level of focus from the example I found in Leonard and in Songs of Love and Hate. On that album he explores ideas that I relate to so deeply that sometimes it feels as if some of my work could be a response of some kind to his. I feel I can go places lyrically that I would’ve hesitated to before because I know I’m not alone in the admittance of something so real and dark and complicated and beautiful. Maybe I’d be more of a coward without experiencing Songs of Love and Hate. Maybe some other album would’ve helped me find my way. I can’t say for sure, but I did find It. I did spend the time to sink into it, and I’m glad I did.
If you have any recommendations or stories of albums that have changed your life, please leave them in the comments.
See you out there,
This post was written by Nate Eiesland of ON AN ON as part of their Takeover of Indie Music Filter. Follow Nate and ON AN ON on twitter.