Albums That Changed My Life

I had an idea to write about the music that has influenced me so I'm starting with my favorite album, which is:
Neutral Milk Hotel,
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge, 1998)

My old band-mate worked in a record store and she brought home music I'd never heard of all the time. Some I loved instantly (Nick Drake, very pre-Volkswagon commercial), some I couldn't wait to be turned off (what's their name? Buffalo something?) and others just kind of didn't register with me. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea fell into the last category.

I'd heard the album a few times but didn't really get it until one unbearably hot van ride in Los Angeles. Our band was on tour and headed to downtown Los Angeles. Of course, we were stuck in traffic. The van didn't have air conditioning and we were nearing the end of a mostly disastrous, two week tour during a record-breaking heat wave. In short, there wasn't much left to say, the sun was mercifully going down and the van was finally quiet. I listened and listened. The imagery of "fingers through the notches of your spine", his voice, my failed life on the cusp of changing forever. Love, sex, death, family and freaks. All of it. It changed something in me. It made me want to write a different kind of song.

The band had been broken up for about six months when I finally purchased my own copy. At the time, I was going through a bit of a transition. I knew I still wanted to play music but was having a really hard time finding my voice. It was the first time I'd picked up a guitar in a while and I was trying really hard to change my style. Trying too hard. I was sick of all the songs I'd written so I decided to learn other people's songs and leave my own behind for a while.

So I'd bought In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and now that it was mine, I could read the words so I learned those songs. Most involve no more than six chords and it struck me how much they did with those chords. I didn't need to make a song complicated to make it good. It seems to me that I wrote the first part to The Current Or The Undertow? shortly thereafter and finally felt like I was heading towards the things I wanted to keep.

Next time: Let's talk about Ted Leo.

1 comment:

mikel garmendia said...

Now she's a little boy in Spain
Playing pianos filled with flames
On empty rings around the sun
All sing to say my dream has come