My brothers and me been goofing around in our Whatsapp back-and-forths trying to name the ten albums that have most influenced our taste in music. The ones that've most made us the listeners we are today. It's been doing the rounds on Facebook and it's way harder than it seems. We're not sharing good or even great albums necessarily - not all stone-cold history-of-pop classics - just the ten that, rather then end up as dead-ends, opened up long vistas of subsequent discovery.
Example: I love Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden but it's not here 'cos I never spent much time with the rest of the post-rock scene. It's an end, not a beginning for me. On the other hand, some albums prime you for others like gateway drugs; a fortnight after listening to artist A, you might have checked out another five or six bands - like the underground maps you see with the stations replaced by musicians. These gateways tend to come early in life so there's a whole bunch of old in this list; 2007 is the most recent release. That's not to say new gateways aren't possible though - a thrilling prospect, right?
Mostly these days I'm about hip-hop, electronica, lo-fi, art-rock and alt-folk - genres with hyphens in them basically. So here are my ten. For reasons that now seem wilful, I decided to limit myself to stuff I still had physical CD copies of. Sometimes I hate myself.
Without Low End Theory, I wouldn't have found Digable Planets, Mos Def, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, The Roots, Common, NAS or Aesop Rock so I owe Tribe Called Quest (and De La Soul) for that. Without The Blue Aeroplanes' Swagger - or, say, The Smiths' Hatful of Hollow - I wouldn't have found I dunno, hundreds of bands; The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Art Brut, The National, Dirty Projectors... and Future Sound of London's ISDN opened up a world of sequencers, sampling, beats and bleeps; from there I got to Orbital, RJD2, DJ Shadow, The Avalanches, Four Tet, Superflu, Quantic, Bonobo and dryhope.
The Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America opened the door to Titus Andronicus, The Japandroids, Drive-by Truckers, Richmond Fontaine... Grant Green introduced Blue Note records, be-bop, hard bop and more hyphens besides (Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey); Scritti Politti's Green Gartside was all philosophical and literate when I was just a dumb kid. Without him I'd not have been primed and ready for Prefab Sprout, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole, Elvis Costello or The Pet Shop Boys; Branford Marsalis' work on James Horner's score for Sneakers got me into soundtracks. (An aside: Spotify tells me I'm amongst Thomas Newman's top 1% of listeners. Jeez.)
Joni Mitchell's Hejira (or Blue, Hissing of Summer Lawns, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter...) was my introduction to confessional singer-songwriter stuff - Tom Waits, Ryan Adams, Joanna Newsom, Kurt Vile and Agnes Obel all came after; Crowded House's Temple of Lo Men, an unashamedly commercial album, marked the start of my predilection/obsession for guitars and melodic choruses - the likes of Shack, Ash, Foo Fighters, Kooks, Honeyblood and Bad Moves all followed... and without The Lilac Time I would never have figured out who Nick Drake was, let alone discovered James Blackshaw, Anais Mitchell or The Wood Brothers.
So there you go. Try it yourself, this is a good lockdown game folks...