The world of blues, Chicago Blues, Delta Blues, wasn't foreign to me, I'd exposed myself to a variety of artists over the years that I'd appreciated. It was hearing, "Like A Bird Without A Feather" on WMNF late one night that shifted curiosity into passion. As painful or sad as all predecessors had been, nothing struck me like the lyrics and playing of R.L. Burnside. I was lucky enough to catch a documentary one afternoon, in which a young, white guy made it his passion to track down delta blues legends and record them. R.L. Burnside was prominently featured, and his captivity over me swelled into full blown infatuation. Stripped down, or electrified, his humble approach to a life most would consider not worth living, translates musically into a beautiful, rhythmic tragedy. It seethes and pulses, and probably made the ladies hungry. Maybe not a pioneer in the genre, but an inspiration to all that followed. His visceral retelling of pain via Son House, Bukka White and Robert Johnson is as if a man possessed by their wrecked ghosts.
Yes, it was "Sour Times" that urged me to buy this disc. I was captivated by the atmospheric, film noir, haunted approach to the song. I really had no idea I was going to be treated to an entire album that essentially came from no recognizable direction. There was an element familiar to me, but that had been years earlier - and no part of me was ready to equate Portishead with Neneh Cherry's, "Homebrew". The only way I could describe Portishead to anyone, was to paint a picture of an immense space station floating through the nether regions of the galaxy, and Portishead as the lounge act that has performed every night for the past 20 years, playing the same songs, tired and withdrawn. I had no idea the achievement I unlocked was my own self-discovery of trip-hop. It was the moment I pieced it together, Geoff Barrow was the common denominator, producing many of the tracks for Neneh Cherry, and responsible for the inescapably beautiful and haunting, "Dummy". It wasn't just that the music was an alien lifeform to me, Beth Gibbons' vocals cut straight to the heart and stirred the phantoms of sorrow, loss, and love. I forgive the exhaustive brainwashing of "Sour Times", it gave foundation for the albums that followed, and without it, my path through the world of trip hop may never have been ventured.
This was a purchase on a whim. I had no idea the band was fronted by Kim Deal, or that the $19 I paid for it would translate into roughly 75 Cents per minute of listening time. What I immediately realized was that "Pod" was the most beautiful, cohesive collection of music I'd ever heard to that point. Every song was infectious, and the lyrics were a mysterious, innocent swathe that at times bore talons. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I was so enamored with this release, that I shared it as my own music to friends and family. It's a devastatingly short album that tugs and tugs at you for more, and sadly, the band never came close to achieving such delicate brilliance again. I want there to be no other Breeders than what offered such intoxication as "Pod". It serves me as a beacon to which nothing could follow. Nothing else in my collection parallels what I discovered on "Pod", it stands alone in it's brilliant beauty.
I used to work with Mike Ness at a wind-chime factory. Well, not really, but he looked like him, and drove a '67 Falcon, and a Harley, and he loved music. And he was Scottish - which really was the only indicator that he may not be Mike Ness. We developed a report and began sharing music with one another. One Monday, he presented me with a stack of Caster U.S.M., Candyflip, a bunch of other horrid crap, and DCD's, "Aion". Until that moment, I'd had zero exposure to Neo-Classical, so needless to say, I was floored. I sat in my tiny bedroom playing the disc over and over. I couldn't figure out how I'd lived 20 years on the planet and didn't know about Dead Can Dance. It was a beautiful mélange of traditional (and not in the folk sense - but the medieval sense), dance, tribal, and the most powerful, chill-inducing voice my ears had ever heard. If Lisa Gerard isn't an immaculate conception of a choir of angels - then such a thing simply can't exist. Never before had such a procession of history and culture passed before me, leaving me to seriously question my love of music. If something so stunning existed without my ever knowing, then certainly my grasp of music was far too narrow and jaded. To this day, hearing Lisa Gerard sing ushers back the flood of emotion and wonder from my first listen to "Aion". This is a band that has it's mimics, some of them finding success, but no one presents history and culture with an authenticity that Dead Can Dance does. And more importantly - no one else can play with the same authenticity that Dead Can Dance does.
Paisley Underground: I was a fan. Redd Kross, Jellyfish, Rain Parade... it was a scene full of talent and influence. But it wasn't paisley I was seeking when I picked up this album, I was looking for something brooding and dark and I believed from the title and the cover photos, I might be on to something. Like many of the albums on this list, I was completely unprepared for what happened next. Opal was perfection at psychedelic and the elements that made up the paisley scene, but there were no rainbows or fields of marigolds here. "Happy Nightmare, Baby" was a black & white pictorial of loss, vices, and simply existing. If Opal were a mood ring, they'd be black and cracked. Fuck your incense, your body paint, your wanting to be naked in public - this is naked in a fetal position with a bottle of wine and the curtains drawn. Broadening your mind here means seeing the horrid reality by which we barely exist, withdrawn and unimpressed, which is exactly what solidified this album as a part of my self-awareness within the world around me.