My musical history: the early years

travisI have blogged about most things that are important to me on this blog – TV, politics, the environment, friends, family and movies (a lot). But I realised that I have only given music a passing mention. This is quite odd given music is pretty much the backbone of my day. A nightmare for me would be to go to a deserted island and not have access to any form of music. Sure I could grab a few coconut shells as drums and maybe (if I was channelling MacGyver) create an impromptu ukelele from some plants. But it isn’t the same as having a whole musical library to call on. If my itunes was wiped I would be well and truly lost (note to self, back up computer…). Anyway, this got me thinking about some of the formative albums that I associate with particular phases of my life (it’s my birthday week so am feeling retrospective). Here are some of the albums that stand out as part of Jessica’s Musical History (the early years).

Whitney Houston – Whitney (1987): Yep, I will admit to being a MASSIVE Whitney fan when I was a kid and, if I am not wrong, this was the first ever cassette tape I bought (google it, kids…). I do feel sorry for my family and neighbours who had to endure me singing along ALL THE TIME. I may think I can hold a tune, but reaching the high notes on a Whitney track isn’t easy for professionals, let alone an eleven year old with delusions of musical grandeur. But the album certainly kept me amused and I would argue that some of the tracks at least still stand up today. I for one cannot pass up the chance to dance to ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ whenever it comes on at a wedding. Love it.

Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories – Tails (1995): I rediscovered this one in my collection recently and was surprised to find I still love it! I think people discovered Lisa Loeb, she of the slightly geeky glasses and nerdy before nerdy was cool look, through the film Reality Bites – where the song ‘Stay’ featured on the soundtrack. Not sure if that is where I encountered it, but encounter it I did and this soon became a regular spinner on my CD player (again, kids, google it…). It had enough angst in it to be attractive to a teenager and enough imagery and random lyrics to keep my brain engaged. I am definitely one of those people who pays more attention to lyrics than melody – and the recent trend towards completely meaningless dance numbers leaves me cold. Each of Lisa’s tracks is like a little story in itself. It also ranges from soulful and chilled (‘Sandalwood’) to head bangy (‘Alone’) to pop anthem (‘Waiting for Wednesday). Splendid.

Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1995): Ah, no one did angst as well as Alanis.  This album was a huge hit – both generally and with me. I loved it and to this day can recite all the lyrics to all the songs (yes, I am one of those people who has way too much brain space filled with song lyrics). This album got me through a particularly challenging student exchange in France – when I had endured a day of my host sister being not so nice to me, I would come home, hole myself up in my room and put Alanis on REALLY LOUD on my Walkman. The perfect catharsis. I still listen to it today though – although some of the songs are a little too heavy handed to really enjoy ‘You Oughta Know’, there are other tracks like ‘Hand in my Pocket’ and the lovely ‘Head over Feet’ that are just beautiful little tunes. And, as much as people like to point out that none of the things she says are ironic actually are, ‘Ironic’ is a great sing along tune. Awesomely angsty.

Travis – The Man Who (1999): it is no secret that I am partial to a decent Scottish accent and an impish grin, so Travis and lead singer Fran Healy had me won over from the get go. The fact that they backed up their look with a superb album of poppy, folksy tunes of a sort I had never really encountered before, made them even more appealing. This is a fantastic album that always put me in mind of sheltering from horrid weather in a stone house in the Scottish highlands by a roaring fire. Particular highlights for me were ‘Writing to Reach You’, ‘Driftwood’ and the beautiful ‘As You Are’. Of course, ‘Why does it always rain on me’ was a massive hit, but got blasted by the radio stations a little too much. And of course, the answer to that question was always going to be ‘because you live in Scotland’ 😉 Seriously though, this is a fantastic album and also, for the insomniacs amongst you, for me the best way of getting to sleep if I am struggling to. And I mean that in a good way…

Zed – Silencer (2000): I vividly remember the first time I encountered Kiwi band Zed. I was watching music videos with my friend Sarah and their track ‘Oh Daisy’ came on. Both Sarah and I looked at each other and said ‘that guy is hot!’. So yeah, it may have been Nathan King’s good looks that hooked us initially, but their debut album went on to produce some stellar tracks – including ‘Glorafilia Says’, ‘Drivers Side’ and the now kiwi classic (and Rebel Sport anthem) ‘Renegade Fighter’. I saw them live a few times in Dunedin and they were buckets of fun to watch. They went on to almost success in the US of A with their second album, but it is their first which I will always associate with uni days. And I dare you not to tap your toes while listening to ‘Renegade Fighter’ 😉

So there you go, a wee bit of musical history from me. I know, many of you will be shaking your heads at the mainstream nature of my list, but I waited til I was older to go a little bit alternative. More on that in a future blog. Rock on people!!!



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