Last week I took a deep breath and made a major commitment to life abroad: I bought an iPod. I got it used, on eBay, after deciding that I should break it in this summer before introducing it to other countries (turns out my iPod was born in China anyway). It’s black and sturdy and has a beautiful color screen and a shiny round touch pad, and it’s advertised to hold 7500 songs. I used to scoff at iPods, ostensibly because they had become so cliché (but really because I couldn’t afford one), but now I can’t deny it: I am in love.
The first best thing about my iPod is that it has put me back in touch with my entire music collection. Those CDs that I long ago started to ignore are suddenly interesting again, from the single tracks I always loved to others I never gave a fair shot. And my favorite albums are all the more precious, earning new recognition as the first to be copied over. So in the spirit of getting back in touch with your music, this post has two key sections.
First is a baker’s dozen list of the inaugural albums I put on my iPod. These are not homemade mixes or greatest hits compilations, and not necessarily my top thirteen albums of all time, but right now they are the original, full-length albums that I wanted on my iPod first, in their entirety. Because I love sharing music, I’ll provide brief descriptions of each for those who are interested. But also because I love sharing music, make sure you don’t miss the second, and equally important, part of this post below. But first, the albums:
13. New Ancient Strings by Ballaké Sissoko and Toumani Diabaté ~ This was the dark horse of the bunch, an album from Mali that my parents introduced me to less than a month ago. The music of the kora, an ancient African harp, is so simultaneously relaxing, uplifting, and energizing that I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it.
12. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel ~ Also relatively new to me, there’s something haunting about this Indie album that makes me think I could probably fly if I concentrate hard enough. My good friend Meredith, who gave me this album for my birthday last year, will be glad to see what a excellent present it’s made.
11. Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) by Digable Planets ~ This is a bit of a seasonal selection since I have come to associate this incredibly mellow hip-hop album with the beginning of summer, but it’s also a classic and completely appropriate any time you want to kick back.
10. Live at Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash ~ Kind of obvious, especially since the movie, but it took me awhile to get turned on to the Man in Black so maybe this will help someone else out there, too.
9. Mushroom Jazz 3 by Mark Farina ~ Technically this is a mix CD, but in the house/chillout/trip-hop genre almost everything is, and Mark Farina’s mixing is original enough to keep things interesting even for those who might otherwise find electronic music tedious. The oh-so-smooth Mushroom Jazz 3 helped change my mind — thanks Aaron!
8. Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan ~ It’s hard to imagine anyone hasn’t heard of this fella, but if you appreciate him at all and you haven’t spent some serious time with Blood on the Tracks, you’re missing out.
7. Catch a Fire by Bob Marley ~ At some point I realized that most of my mixes had songs by multiple guys named Bob, but you just can’t get around it. This narrowly edges out Natty Dread as my favorite Bob Marley album.
6. Homework by Daft Punk ~ Again, some folks may think electronic music is boring or bad for dancing, but with catchy melodies, frequent changes and no bad tracks, up-tempo Homework should challenge both assumptions. Thanks Jer.
5. Led Zeppelin IV ~ The more you listen to Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, officially untitled, the more you will love Led Zeppelin, and the more you love Led Zeppelin, the more you will love rock and roll. Thank you — classic rock radio stations around the country?
4. Do You Want More? by The Roots ~ The famous Philadelphia-based all-original hip-hop group got everything so, so right on their second full-length album.
3. The Joshua Tree by U2 ~ I think this album is nearly flawless, and even if U2 and Bono have become pretty clichéd, The Joshua Tree never will.
2. Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis ~ This music is so intelligent and intimate that I’m sure thousands of actual jazz critics have already said it much better than me.
1. The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 by David Bowie ~ Yes, I just became a flat-out hypocrite by picking a “best of” album. But that’s how good Bowie is — how could you possibly limit yourself to one album? If you have to, get your hands on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Thank you, Amherst College.
Having written down this list, it mostly just makes me want to apologize to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, John Coltrane, Bach, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, St. Germain, Simon and Garfunkel, Radiohead, Jimmy Cliff, The Cure, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, The Allman Brothers, Weezer, Ian Pooley, Carl Cox, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many, many, more. My tastes shift with the seasons and any other time it could have been them. But it had to be done. Now, on to part two . . .
This is especially for all of you who have been longing to drop your first comment here, but were just a little too shy or a little too distracted by pretending to work to do so: please give me your recommendations! None of the albums above were my own discoveries; all were introduced to me by others, and with any luck this post will pass some of those introductions on to a few more folks. So help me take the “I” out of iPod: what music did you, or would you, load first onto your pod? What music do you love that I should love too? What albums or tracks would you want with you if you were living abroad for a year?
Feel free to provide just one word or to wax poetic; either way I promise to check it out. Note, however, that I will only check out your recommendations if they are in comments!! I welcome and love getting personal e-mails, but this time around I’m also hoping to see some fresh commenters (maybe we can even break the previous comment record of 14, still standing from my first post). Commenting is fun and easy; for those who haven’t registered yet and are afraid of it, the “How To . . .” link above should provide practical reassurance.
So hit me! For final encouragement I’m ending with a colon, providing an ideal segue to your ideal music recommendations: