11 albums that defined our writers’ tastes in music
Some people equate the effect music can have on a person to that of drugs — a sudden, intense rush straight to the heart, creating a sense of euphoria that clouds the entirety of your being. Just like drugs, music acts without your control, and by the time you comprehend what’s happening, it’s already got a hold of you. One experiences such feelings when they discover an album that resonates with their musical proclivities and sensations. So, we asked our writers to reveal which album evoked those intoxicating feelings, defining their taste in music.
I spent the best parts of my teenage years in mosh pits. In grade eight I went to my first metal show, where I watched a man on a stage (with a sex doll tied to his back) churn a pit of perspiring people with nothing more than a guitar and some flying fingers — I knew I needed to experience that action for myself. And for the next six or seven years, that’s exactly what I did. Thinking back to the music that defined those times, I’m immediately drawn to Australian metalcore masters Parkway Drive, and their mosh maelstrom Horizons. Everything about it is designed for teens to tear themselves apart. “The Siren’s Song” detonates with shredding guitar and atomic drums, “Carrion” has you singing till your lungs burst, and “Idols and Anchors” is a crowd surfer’s calling card. But “Boneyards” is the song that redefined the meaning of mosh; boasting blast beats, breakdowns, riffs, and that guttural growl of “there’s blood in the water.” Sadly, I only got to mosh to Horizons once — during Warped Tour in 2010 — but whenever I press play on it, wherever I am, the thrill of that pit stays with me to this day.
– Sam Podgurny
Coffin For Head of State, Pt. 1 & 2
My choice is partly sentimental because this is one of the albums my parents loved to jam to when driving me to school in my elementary days. This album is one of the spectacular offerings from Kuti, one of the pioneers of Afrobeat, a genre synonymous to West Africa. Housing two tracks and spanning 22 minutes and 42 seconds, it’s filled with rich theatrical, experimental fusion of jazz elements together with West African musical tropes and eccentricities. The first track provides a grand jazzy theatrical introduction, with Kuti’s rich saxophone solo along to the grooving of his band, Afrika 70. Kuti starts singing 10 minutes in, crafting a visual narrative on the state’s killing of his mom and the corruption-filled monotheistic religions forcefully introduced by colonial powers in Nigeria. The poetic, narrative, and cohesive nature of this album is a highlight, ultimately shaping my musical palettes.
– Floyd Robert
Led Zeppelin II
Growing up with parents who’s prime was in the ‘70s, I was raised on classic rock. You could always catch my dad and I belting out rock n’ roll in the car, much to the chagrin of our fellow passengers. An album that stood out among the rest however, was Led Zeppelin II. I always had an appreciation for rock music, but when I was given this album, I had a new found connection to the genre I hadn’t discovered before. Upon hearing the opening riff of “Whole Lotta Love,” I felt like a musical hole had finally been filled. I came to know this album backwards and forwards, intrigued by its emotion, inhuman guitar ability, and passion. It took me down a musical journey that has since influenced my life in many aspects, particularly in the way that I express myself through my own instruments and songwriting.
– Jessica Jack
Yes, it’s classic rock and blooming with heavy guitar, but my dad had the record on vinyl and ever since I heard “Life in the Fast Lane,” I was hooked on the oddly soothing vocals of Glenn Frey and Don Henley. The Eagles were edgy enough to draw me into rock and roll, but acoustic enough to initiate my singer-songwriter craving. My favourite song is “Take It To The Limit” and although it’s not from this album, it’s the song I would have playing during the final scene of my life, as I drive down a Californian coastline in a white hot convertible. The Eagles first transformed my dad’s teenage-hood, but I would argue they also transformed mine.
– Raylene Lung
The first time I heard a Fugees song was on a 14-hour road trip, and I screamed the whole way through begging my dad to play the new Hannah Montana CD. Great thanks are owed to my father’s patience and persistence, because after a few bars from Lauryn Hill in “How Many Mics,” I would never go back to Hannah Montana again. With honest vocals and hypnotic beats it was the first time music felt more like a story than a song and initiated my love for R&B/hip-hop music.
– Cleo Williams
Hip-hop and rap are probably the two most important and innovative music genres these days, but I didn’t come to understand that until recently. For many years, I really only thought of the genre as the stuff wanna-be gangsters listened to, then Malibu set me straight. It showed me what properly good hop-hop can and should be; boasting engaging beats, interesting samples, and thoughtful rhymes, Malibu quickly became the soundtrack of last summer. It opened my mind musically and it continues to define a lot of my current tastes. It’s a great album, let’s just leave it at that.
– Matt Gwozd
Crash My Party
Hear me out on this one. I judged people who listened to country music, and I judged them hard. I don’t drive a truck, I think cowboy hats look dumb, and I was firmly determined that banjos would never have a place in my life. But soon enough, my love of shitty pop bled into a love of shitty pop-country, and Luke Bryan had me hooked. There may appear to be very little emotional depth to this album, but every time Luke croons “this is a drop everything kind of thing, swing on by I’ll pour you a drink,” I realize that I’m in love.
– Emma Jones
Back in Black
Growing up with parents who never fully left the ’80s meant my childhood played out entirely to heavy rock and metal tunes. Every road trip and each lazy Saturday afternoon spent at home was accompanied by heavy guitar riffs and rock n’ roll. But out of my parents’ vast collection, no album has stuck with me like AC/DC’s Back in Black. The first time I heard Brian Johnson’s distinctive voice and listened to the haunting bells of “Hells Bells,” I realized what music was. It was the moment that defined my love of rock n’ roll, as well as my interest in music dated anytime before 1990. Back in Black still remains my definitive answer to the question “What’s your favourite album?”
– Courtney Graham
Rural Alberta Advantage
A band singing about Alberta, but not be country seemed like an impossibility. Before my introduction to this band, my musical tastes were all over the place. Hometowns however, made me realize indie was the music to pay attention to. The album focuses on Alberta and various locations through it, each song telling a different story that could still resonate with my Saskatchewan-born self. The album also made me realize that Alberta was my true home, specifically the song “Edmonton.” It’s real portrayal of what the city is like and what it feels like to live in it. While outsiders may see the song as a damnation of the city, as that song points out, I “may be sittin’ in a city that’ll never let me go, what if I’m only satisfied when I’m at home.”
– Nicklaus Neitling
I was hardly in the seventh grade when this album came out — meaning, it was up to my older brothers to introduced me to what would become one of my favourite bands. The Suburbs is an album that both grew on me and grew with me. As I became a teenager (and my angst reached new levels), songs that encapsulated growing up in the suburbs of a big city felt exactly how I needed them to. Not only did the content relate to me in a way Avril Lavigne couldn’t, but this album also opened me up to a whole world of alternative rock that I hadn’t seen before. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” from this album STILL might just be the most defining song I’ve ever heard.
– Michaela Friedland
Hell Hath No Fury
By the time I got around to this album, I was what I would call well-versed in rap. I was up on who was dropping what, who had dropped what, how people built their careers, how those careers had ended, where rap had come from, where it was going. There was never any one album that linked all that, until Hell Hath No Fury came into my life. Pusha T was still charting with new solo work and G.O.O.D. Music group cuts, but this was something else. It had notes of the dirty, raw, corner rap of the ’90s that made Hov and Biggie who they were, with Nas’ mind-boggling wordsmithery and Yeezy’s instrumental mastery. Though it doesn’t contain the objectively perfect “Grindin” — which still stands as Malice and Pusha T’s best cut — tracks like “Ride Around Shining,” “Wamp Wamp,” and “Chinese New Year” are perfect acid tests for where rap had been, and where it was going. Though Malice has since left the game, Pusha’s continued presence as a tastemaker and game-changer artist indicates the importance of the brothers to rap. Also, if you seek Pharrell at the height of his superproducing powers, look no further.
This album defined the struggle for me as a listener from outside the cultures and places that built all my favourite artists, and condensed it into one, purified emotional drive.
“All I wanna do is ride around shining while I can afford it.”
That’s poetry, folks.