When reading or listening to interviews with rocks stars I always find it fascinating to discover their choices for the most influential albums in their life. As a total music junkie myself, today I thought it would be fun to share my own choices for the most influential albums in my life. I’ve chosen these albums not only because they’re filled with some of my favorite songs (both lyrically & musically), but also because they are the kind of albums that helped me discover bands or genres with which I wasn’t previously familiar. Anyhow, as I was writing I realized this was becoming quite a novel, so I decided to split it into two posts. Here’s part one:
- The Golden Age of Grotesque by Marilyn Manson (2003)
- Despite the fact that this was by far not his most well-reviewed or commercially successful work, this will probably always be my favorite Manson album. What’s interesting is that several of my favorite rock stars, including Chris from Motionless in White, have listed this as one of the most influential albums in their lives as well. Stylistically this album was largely influenced by the Degenerate Art of 1930s Germany (the kind of modern art the Nazis banned), so there is a definite jazz feeling to certain songs which I of course love (check out the bizarrely named but incredibly fun Doll-Dagga-Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zag). There is also a strong electronic influence from Swedish bassist Tim Skold. This can be clearly heard on the song that made me fall in love with this album, This is the New Shit, which is lyrically every bit as, if not more, relevant now than it was when it was released thirteen years ago. Those who don’t understand that Manson’s music has always been a reaction against the celebration of violence, gore, sex, & commercialism in modern (particularly American) culture will completely miss the point of this song. Personally, I find it brilliant. Another favorite of mine from this album is the slightly crude but clever (s)aint. I think anyone who has ever felt rejected by their peers will understand the angst of the lyrics perfectly. Other favorites from this album are Vodevil, Better of Two Evils, & The Bright Young Things. I could go on & on, but for sake of time I’ll end by saying you simply MUST check out this album.
- Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) by Marilyn Manson (2000)
- For the most part I tried to only include one album from a single band or artist but Manson is just too much of an influence to limit myself in that way. When I first fell in love with Manson, I quickly became enamored with the music & the message of The Fight Song, one of the most well-known songs from this album, but if you dig deeper into the history of this record you will realize just how brilliant the whole album really is. One must remember that in 1999 Manson was very unjustly blamed by a great deal of the American media for the Columbine high school shooting tragedy. What’s fascinating of course is to realize how maturely & humbly Manson handled the entire ordeal which truly threatened to topple his entire career (read Manson’s essay in Rolling Stone & tell me he isn’t brilliant). In any case, this record was clearly influenced by the entire tragedy & is Manson’s way of showcasing to the world just how much our society truly glorifies & celebrates violence while at the same time pretending to condemn it. There are also strong historical references to the Kennedy era. This is not an album you can digest in one sitting. Like any truly great work of art, you discover something new every time you listen to it. And like so much of Manson’s music, songs like The Love Song, Disposable Teens, & Target Audience are every bit as much of an indictment of modern American society now as they were when the album was first released.
- Halestorm by Halestorm (2009)
- If I had to choose a favorite of Halestorm’s three amazing albums, it would actually be their most recent release Into the Wild Life. However, it was their debut album from 2009 that first caught my attention & made me fall in love with the band. The first single I Get Off admittedly grabbed my attention partly because it initially sounds very sexual. But when you realize that Lzzy Hale actually wrote the song about the interaction between herself & the crowd when she’s performing her music, the song takes on a whole new power. Then there are more ballad-like tracks such as Familiar Taste of Poison with its haunting, almost gothic feel & I’m Not an Angel which perfectly showcases Lzzy’s soaring vocals. I’ve listened to this album literally countless times & yet it never loses its power, & I’m continually amazed that this was a debut album. It’s definitely the album that started my love affair with this band. (I’ve only seen them live four times now, & I’d gladly go again tomorrow, given the chance. Fun fact: my baby has already attended a Halestorm concert too because I found out I was pregnant exactly three days after the last Halestorm show I saw!)
- The House of Gold & Bones (Volumes 1 & 2) by Stone Sour (2012-2013)
- I can’t even remember what other album I was looking for at Best Buy when, on a whim, I decided to pick up Volume 1 of this incredible two-part concept album. Prior to buying Volume 1 I only knew a handful of songs by Stone Sour, but I was definitely enamored with the first single Absolute Zero which is why I decided to pick up the album when I saw it on sale. As it turned out, the minute I heard the first chords of the opening tract Gone Sovereign & how it seamlessly melted into Absolute Zero, I was in total awe (you can listen to both tracks in the prior link, as their videos are dovetailed). From start to finish there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Lyrically & musically it is completely brilliant. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: this album is like a rock symphony. Each song blends flawlessly into the next one, & the whole record just feels like one giant masterpiece. The same is equally true for Volume 2. From Volume 1 don’t miss the hauntingly beautiful ballad Taciturn which serves to make the following track Influence of a Drowsy God even more powerful. From Volume 2 be sure to check out the angry but brilliant Do Me a Favor as well as the gorgeous ballad The Conflagration which flows seamlessly into the epic ending The House of Gold & Bones.
- The Outsiders by Eric Church (2014)
- Ahh, if you know me at all, you should have known that Eric Church would show up on this list somewhere. The ironic thing is that when I first heard Church’s music I wasn’t impressed. I thought he was a little too grungy, a little too “dirty.” What’s funny is that now those are the exact reasons I love his music. In any case, seeing Church perform live was what truly solidified my adoration for his entire persona (a fact I’m sure he’d appreciate). Not long after that concert I purchased his third album Chief & quickly fell in love with every song. Needless to say when The Outsiders debuted I bought it the very day it was released. Once again from start to finish I was completely enthralled with the album & still am. From the gritty & bombastic opener The Outsiders to sweet ballads like Talladega to the best & most realistic country sex song ever, there’s something here for everyone. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention That’s Damn Rock & Roll, another favorite from this album, which I’ve only loved even more since Church had Lzzy Hale perform the song with him at the 2014 ACM awards. I also have to mention Devil, Devil, one of the most unique songs Church has ever recorded. The first half of the song is a poem spoken by Church about the evil side of the Nashville music industry while the second half is a rocking song that is all the more powerful when performed live by Church & his band.
- Reincarnate by Motionless in White (2014)
- This album absolutely has to be on this list because it became what one might call a “gateway” album for me in that it helped me to discover so many other great bands & albums. Last January (2015) I stumbled across MIW while fooling around on YouTube one night, & as soon as I heard Reincarnate, I knew I was addicted. The very next day I went to Best Buy & bought the album of the same name. From the minute I heard the first chords of Death March I knew I’d stumbled onto something really special. A few weeks later I discovered that lead singer Chris Motionless was featured on the cover of AP magazine, so naturally I went to B&N to buy the magazine. While reading the magazine I came across an interview with none other than Marilyn Manson. Up until then I’d never been a big Manson fan. I wasn’t opposed to him per se; I just thought he was weird. But once I read that article, I knew I had misjudged him & I had to check out his brand new record The Pale Emperor, which I swiftly did. Not long after that, I discovered much of his older music & became as obsessed with Manson as I clearly am now. See what I mean by a gateway album? Ok, now that I’ve gone off on that tangent, let’s return to the original subject . . . Be sure to check out the angry & feisty Generation Lost, the confidence-booster Unstoppable, & Contemptress, a sexy ballad featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment.
I sincerely hope you’ll check out some of the above albums, at least a song or two from each. Please feel free to comment below with some of the most influential albums in your own life. Stay tuned for part 2 next week (or later this week, perhaps) which I promise will contain at least one non-rock album (ha!).