Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The 2 Albums That Changed My Life

Here's something new. My friend Brad has a music blog. Music is his passion, and this blog is the result. If you like music, specifically dance-remixed music, it's a great resource. He has about 100 or so daily readers, and I'm sure he'd love to have more, so go check it out.

Anyway, over the last week or so, he's decided to have guests posts on the topic "The 5 Albums That Changed My Life." He didn't actually invite me to participate, given my usual apathy towards music, but I heard about it and wanted to contribute, and he was nice enough to let me. The only problem is that I couldn't come up with 5 albums, so I went with 2.

So, without further adieu, here (and at Brad's blog Wacky on the Junk) are the 2 albums that changed my life:

I think I'll be lucky if Wacky even publishes this post since my taste in music isn't exactly (or at all) similar to his. But, I thought the idea of albums that changed my life sounded fun, and I thought my perspective would be a funny addition considering: 1) How different my musical tastes are from this blog and, I assume, its readers, and 2) I really don't listen to music all that much, so I'm waayyy out of my league here. But oh well, here goes.

I started listening to punk rock and ska back in the genre's brief heyday--the mid-to-late nineties. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and the like actually made it to radio and semi-mainstream fame back then. It was the summer of ska, or something like that, and I loved it. While the radio bands were good, the best thing that came out of the period was that it expanded my musical tastes out of the mainstream and led me to what soon became my favorite band(s), led by my favorite musician, even to this day.

The band's name was Catch 22, a ska-punk band from New Jersey, led by an adorable singer/songwriter named Tomas Kalnoky. The album, released in 1998, was Keasbey Nights, and it somehow became one of the pioneering albums of the ska-punk genre, although I didn't learn of the album's esteem until much, much later.

I was a freshman in college when the record came out. I fell in love with the poppy tempo, the upbeat horns, but most importantly the energetic nature of the album. Somehow it was the first time I actually could relate to song lyrics. Maybe I was just a lonely college freshman looking for anything to cheer me up. Whatever it was, it worked, and to this day the album puts me in a good mood. Over the years my favorite songs on the record have switched back and forth, starting with the title track, "Keasbey Nights." Over a decade since, "As The Footsteps Die Out Forever" is probably my favorite song of all time, by any artist (maybe I'm showing how much of a musical novice I actually am, I don't know). Earlier in the album, the song "Supernothing," which has now been re-recorded 3 times in different incarnations by Kalnoky, is also still a favorite. Don't get me wrong, though, the whole album is good, and I rarely skip any songs when listening to it.

Sadly, soon after learning about Catch 22, I went on to their fledgling website to find that Tomas, the person most responsible for creating Keasbey Nights, had left the band. I continued to listen to the album, nearly incessantly for years, and I saw Catch 22 live, sans Tomas, nearly a dozen times. They played my favorite songs and later released a few new albums, but the band was never the same, and their live perfomances, while energy-filled, sounded more like a garage band than talented professional musicians. So, I held on to listening to that one cd, and that was that.

Then, in 2003 my musical indifference was re-ignited when I somehow stumbled upon word that Tomas had started a new band by the name of Streetlight Manifesto and had released a new record, Everything Goes Numb. Even better news was that the band was performing live in just a month at a local venue (which ended up being a living-room sized basement, 9 foot ceilings and all).

I admit that it took a few listens for me to start to appreciate EGN. The songs were a different style, longer, less poppy, sometimes less energetic. The lyrics were deeper, more emotional. The band wasn't in college anymore (and neither was I). To this day, though, it still is my favorite album. I didn't think Keasbey Nights could be replaced, but it had been, and markedly so.

I can, and do, listen to the record regularly, all the way through. I even flew myself to NYC on a whim last fall to see the band perform the entire album all the way through with around 1000 other people (which was just a tad larger than the basement I'd initially seen them in). My mind was blown. Hands down some of the best musicians I've ever heard. Their live show, especially considering they have 7 members and a 4-piece horn section, is incredibly tight. Their energy is unforgettable. My favorite songs on this record haven't changed since the first times I listened to it. "A Better Place, A Better Time," referred to as "Annie" by fans, and "The Big Sleep" are their best songs, but the entire album is great.

So, that's that. If I haven't mentioned that I think Tomas Kalmoky, the bands' lead singer and songwriter, is a genius, I probably should now. He is. These two albums sparked an interest in music that I never had before. They got me through freshman year of college, a semester abroad in Argentina, and later gave me an interest in live music I'd never even considered. I know these two albums are pretty different from the other choices Wacky will probably post, but give them a listen, and hopefully you won't be disappointed.