The Sound of Growing Up

by - 10:13 PM


I've been seeing a lot of people share the top ten albums of their formative years (even Pitchfork did a feature) which got me thinking. When I was in middle school and high school, I spent a lot of time writing in my diary about my favorite bands, and even wrote album reviews and my own music video rankings!

My taste in music definitely changed throughout the years, but now I like everything I used to like and more. The main difference between the me now and the me then is that I don't reject everything that's "mainstream." I think music is meant to do a lot of things, and no one form of it is superior to any other form. Except dubstep, which frankly sucks (kidding). Anyway, since I started middle school when I was 10 and graduated high school at 16, this list seems a bit strange. I do think that these albums are the most true to me, however. So without further ado, here's my list!

Green Day, American Idiot

The year was 2004. I had a crush on a boy and saw a Green Day pin on his messenger bag, so naturally when I went to K-mart with my mom, I snuck the first Green Day CD I could find in the cart and acted nonchalant as she looked at the parental advisory warning. Safely at home, I played the album in the hopes of finding something to talk about with my crush. Instead, I found the first album where I sincerely enjoyed every track.
I don't always have strong memories associated with songs, but even now I remember taking a bubble bath and basking in the album's ending track, "Whatshername," and feeling a sense of nostalgia that I'd never felt before.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Don't You Fake It

The day I bought this album, I was so excited I carried it around with me everywhere, even though I had no way of listening to it because I no longer had a Walkman. I loved looking at the (admittedly, tacky) art and the photos of the band. RJA was my first favorite band, and I spent a lot of time watching their live performances and interviews on YouTube, dreaming of meeting them one day.
This album doesn't sound very cool to me now (besides the single track "Face Down") but listening to "Seventeen Ain't So Sweet" reminds me of what I liked about the band. When Ronnie Winter sang, "There's a scream in your voice / And I hope you will be heard / There's a fire in your eyes / And I hope you'll let it burn until you're heard / You're heard" I felt as though he was speaking straight to me. I felt really lonely and misunderstood as a teen, and I found a lot of comfort in this album.

My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

To be honest, it was hard choosing between this album and The Black Parade, but I ultimately chose this one because my ringtone my freshman year of high school was "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)." It was the height of my emo phase (age 12-14) and of course, everything sucked and no one knew how much it sucked except me and MCR.
So what if things weren't right, if everyone was fake and preppy (this is literally a complaint I had), if no one was as sensitive and artistic as me (again: I was pretentious)? Singing along to this song made me feel like things were gonna be fine. Somewhere there was someone who'd get me, and for now, I had Gerard Way.

Chiodos, All's Well that Ends Well

This was one of the first screamo albums I enjoyed, and even listening to it now it still feels polished and impressive. Because of that, choosing just one standout song is hard, so I'm going with another song that was my ringtone.
Chiodos was one of my go-to's when -- like always -- I had a crush on someone. I remember furiously scribbling the lyrics "We say what we feel / Then we stop ourselves / And just walk away / Never looking back / Loving every second of it / We just walk away" in my diary and explaining why it was exactly the same situation with me and whatever boy I liked. Another favorite was on the special edition of this album, an acoustic version of "Lindsay Quit Lollygagging."

Alesana, On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax

My freshman year of high school, it was popular to have a song as your voicemail message. However, continuing the trend of me being embarrassing, I instead read out loud the lyrics of Alesana's "Congratulations, I Hate You" because I loved this album so much. I would have chosen that track instead, but I think "Ambrosia" is a better example of everything Alesana does so well: intricate guitars, layered vocals and screams, and mythological references.
Not only is this whole album magnificently produced, but it's a lot of fun to sing along to even now.

Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

If I had to only choose one album for all my teenage years, this would be it. I don't remember how I came to find Arctic Monkeys -- I barely remember that the first track I heard by them was "Fluorescent Adolescent" because of the music video. However, there was no album I listened to more than this one. Alex Turner's lyrics were sharp and funny in a way I never thought was possible, and I related to the concept more than ever: a town where everyone is boring or fake, but you're stuck there trying to make the most of it.
"A Certain Romance," my favorite song from the album (and my favorite song from back then) encapsulates this concept perfectly. A thrilling intro full of loud, rolling drums and pulsing guitars fades into an iconic baseline and Alex Turner sings "There ain't no romance around there." With sharp lyrics sung in a disinterested tone and carefuly crafted guitars, Turner declares "But over there there's friends of mine / What can I say, I've known them for a long long time / And yet they might overstep the line / But you just cannot get angry in the same way." I found nothing else to be more poignant.

Best Coast, Crazy for You

It was 2010 and I again had a huge crush on a boy I was (kind of) friends with. Once more, I was feeling angsty because he couldn't decipher my weird signals. Thankfully, I discovered Best Coast. I listened to this whole album (occasionally mixing things up with Jaymay's "Gray or Blue") over and over, wishing he would notice me while also making sure he thought I only liked him as a friend.
Don't even ask me how much time I spent moping around to "Our Deal."Simple and catchy yet painfully acute, it's one of my favorites from the album even now.

Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

To be frank, this album is iconic. Even people who don't know who Bright Eyes is have heard "First Day of My Life." Honest and laden with Conor Oberst's ultra emotional vocals, this song is a staple for romantic mix CDs and playlists. Oberst perfectly captures the feeling of falling in love: "This is the first day of my life / I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you / But now I don’t care I could go anywhere with you / And I’d probably be happy”
From the sinister yet upbeat opening track "At the Bottom of Everything" to the somber "Lua" and triumphant "Road to Joy," I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is a journey through an emotional landscape.

Arcade Fire, Funeral

I don't exactly remember how I found this band but I do remember being in awe at the opening song on the album Funeral. I read commentary before calling "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" a modern Adam and Eve story, wherein two kids in a huge storm have to create a new world together. I've always viewed it like that ever since.
The rest of the neighborhood songs are stellar, as is heartbreak ballad "Crown of Love" and "Wake Up," which boasts a chorus that you can't help singing along to.

The Horrors, Primary Colours

Because I was super into Arctic Monkeys, I read NME religiously in high school and spent a lot of time on music blogs anticipating any news about AM. Because of this, I found out about The Horrors. If you signed up for their mailing list, you'd get a free download of "Sea Within A Sea," so I did and loved it so much that I bought the album as soon as it came out.
I'd never been big on "experimental" or shoegaze bands, but I felt like the Horrors sounded compelling and enchanting. They also tend to switch their sound from album to album, so this was definitely my favorite version of them.

I'm really interested in hearing which albums impacted you all the most, especially if we have any albums in common! If you make a similar post, let me know!

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