Chimes & Choruses: Six (More) Records That Changed My Life

Featured Image Credit: Nickelodeon, Viacom 

Every now and then, I come across an album that stands above all the rest and affects me on an emotional or foot tapping level that the others just can’t reach. Awhile back I reflected on five of these, and since I listen to an inhuman amount of music, here’s five more so you can possibly infiltrate the mind of The Howler’s resident music nerd.

Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)

Matador Records

Dubbed “LA’s desert origins,” I discovered this record after a favorite band of mine cited it as an influence for one of their new songs, and it really caught me off guard; I had never heard such a lazy yet effortlessly brilliant album. Half the time, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain has the guitars screeching with this maddening charm and Stephen Malkmus’s vocals cracking and falling flat. Nevertheless, it all inhabits the character of this record so well. As a release, Crooked Rain was written as a ballad of desert-y Southern California, and the lethargic, stoned, sunburnt charisma that makes you think these songs were recorded in only one or two takes in a hazy garage just really encompasses the essence of ’90s grunge rock so well to me. While you’re raving over Nevermind and In Utero, don’t forget about Pavement’s smoky masterpiece here. (Just don’t listen to “Heaven Is A Truck” – It’s atrocious).

Favorite Songs: Silence Kit, Cut Your Hair, Fillmore Jive

Pixies – Doolittle (1989)

4AD Records

 Pixies’ influence on alternative rock will not be fading for an enduring amount of time, and Doolittle is by far one of their most distinguished, most memorable albums. I was off and on about Pixies before I heard Doolittle, only listening to a few songs off of Surfer Rosa and Bossanova here and there. Yet, Doolittle just smacked me in the face when I finally played it through from start to finish. This record’s holographic, raw pop punk serves a home for it’s offbeat, god-knows-what kind of racket that’s made it the cult classic it is today. In fact, the luminosity of the post apocalyptic “Here Comes Your Man” make for the most levelheaded song on this album, with “Wave Of Mutilation” narrating it’s protagonist kissing mermaids and scrutinizing the ocean for the Mariana’s Trench and ‘I Bleed” ringing like a psychotic love song. Before Doolittle, I’d spent all this time listening to these incredibly calculated rock records where you knew exactly what’s hiding behind each corner; this album completely rid me of those expectations, expanding my taste into more exotic, novel types of music.

Favorite Tracks: Hey, No. 13 Baby, Debaser

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1992)

Virgin Records

There’s tons of great Smashing Pumpkins to listen to out there, whether it’s the dreamy dusk to dawn storytelling on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or the spooky Halloween nerve endings on Adore, but Siamese Dream just swept my previous expectations of the band away. The record balances out these sentimental slow jams with thundering ‘90s rock hymns so well, giving it just enough breathing room to appreciate the affectionate heaviness that Smashing Pumpkins invest into their music. It always makes me laugh that the most graceful song on this album is called “Mayonnaise”.

Favorite Songs: Cherub Rock, Spaceboy, Mayonnaise

Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1977)

Rolling Stones

These are the kind of songs I can’t stop humming while walking down the street. I never truly understood the enormous amount of appreciation for The Rolling Stones until I heard Some Girls and it’s love shattered, smitten hooks and harmonies. (For that reason, I’ve always thought this record would make great friends with Elvis Presley’s Girls! Girls! Girls!) These are some of the catchiest rock & roll songs I’ve ever heard; so catchy that I’ll put the album on before I go to sleep and the songs will soundtrack a dream or two of mine. The way the Some Girls infuses the best components of pop into it’s boyish, foot tapping rock just has me by the heart every time I spin this one.

Favorite Songs: Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), Shattered, Far Away Eyes

David Bowie – Low (1977)

RCA Records

Where do I start? David Bowie’s avant-garde masterpiece Low is one of the best records of all time in my eyes, and it’s subterranean, psychedelic aesthetic that resembles some sort of spiraling mind trip refuses to leave my head. Bowie’s constructed these outlandish, surreal songs that prospect immersive atmosphere around minimal vocals so that the album is tranquil and equally preposterous at the same time. Half the record is made up of brilliant, nonsensical songs that could serve as soundtracks to when The Flying Dutchman shoved Squidward into the Fly of Despair (if you don’t understand that reference, it’s the episode “Shanghaied” from season 2), while songs like “Art Decade”, “Warszawa”, and “Weeping Well” remind me of some sort of screwball lullaby. Trumping all the others though is “Sound and Vision”, a dazzling song ablazed with inventive mechanics that reinvented the very definition of rock ‘n’ roll in my book. Giving Low a spin will do many things for you, one of which expanding your mind to wild, ingenious levels.

Favorite songs: Sound and Vision, Speed Of Life, Weeping Wall


The Replacements – Don’t Tell A Soul (1989)

Sire/Reprise Records

 Don’t Tell A Soul is constantly overlooked when people consider the cult quality of other Replacements albums like Let It Be, but I’ve always cherished it the most. Don’t Tell was the band’s “it’s time to grow up” record, and not only did they settle into this maturity excellently, but they did so with such pivotal and superb instrumentation that I love every minute of this album. Throughout, the songs showcase spirited acoustics which leave room for the occasional electric riff – The record is clean and straightforward while it experiments with contemporary, folk, and even tastes of new wave pop on “Asking Me Lies”. This is the kind of adventurous album that makes me want to write songs of my own, and I’ll never understand why it’s not held in higher regard among ’80s rock enthusiasts.

Favorite Songs: They’re Blind, Asking Me Lies, I’ll Be You