1. The Beatles -- Abbey Road. Discovered through The Beatles Rock Band (I'm sorry, everyone), my discovery of the second side medley was the moment I finally crossed the line from thinking "The Beatles are pleasant-but-overrated" into thinking "the Beatles can basically do no wrong, and I need to start listening to more old, critically-acclaimed albums." And I honestly still think that the second side of Abbey Road is the peak of rock music.
2. The Clash -- London Calling // 3. The Rolling Stones -- Exile on Main Street. This was my second stop on the road down the classic rock canon. I got a 25-dollar iTunes gift card one time (this was around 8th grade, for the record), and after a quick glance at the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list, I took a swing at these two. And by my second listen of each, I was completely and utterly sold. Both are still in my top five of all time, and this led to my deeper exploration of the Stones, who would become my favorite band within a year or so of my discovery of Exile.
4. The Dark Side of the Moon -- Pink Floyd. After avoiding it for a while due to how much of a cliche it is, my initial listen to this album led to my middle-school self pretty much thinking it was the best thing he had ever heard. I don't think I've ever had a musical experience any more impactful than the first time I heard the chorus of "Brain Damage".
5. Before and After Science -- Brian Eno. I found John Mc's site a little before my freshman year, which led to my discovery of a whole host of new bands. But Mr. Eno was the most important of these discoveries for me, and BaAS was where it all started. These days I'm not sure if I prefer it to Another Green World, and I still think John way underrates Taking Tiger Mountain (easily in my top 100), but it's a pretty effective intro to Eno, and I still think that second side is his magnum opus.
6. The Gilded Palace of Sin -- The Flying Burrito Brothers. My triumphant return to my childhood, parentally-influenced love of country music, but this time with music far superior to that of, say, Alan Jackson. Led to a rediscovery of my adoration of the genre, leading to an extreme Gram Parsons obsession and an exploration of guys like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakum, et al. But none of them ever made an album this good.
7. The Soft Bulletin -- The Flaming Lips. One of the easiest-to-love albums I ever heard, the first time I listened to "Race for the Prize" I instinctively knew I had found one of my favorite bands. And ooh boy, had I -- this led to a rather lengthy diehard obsession with the Lips. I listened to them basically every day for a good year and a half, quickly becoming a solid number two behind the Stones for me. I don't get the urge to listen to them much these days, but whenever I do, my appreciation for them remains about the same. Truly one of the all-time-greats, right up there with Radiohead as far as modern music goes IMO.
8. Songs of Love and Hate -- Leonard Cohen. I enjoyed his debut, but this was the one that really hooked me. It remains the ultimate album for dark nights and early mornings, and for better or worse, always makes me think about my longest high school relationship.
9. Bee Thousand -- Guided by Voices. It took me SEVERAL attempts to finally get through this album, but after I finally adjusted to what they were trying to accomplish, I fell madly in love. It's hard to explain just how profoundly Bee Thousand affects me; it really makes me FEEL ThinGS, DEEP THINGS, despite that it's near-completely absurd, light-hearted, and sloppy. I've turned to it on many occasions, and it never fails to soothe, to trigger reflection, to make me smile, etc, etc. I have no idea how it's so damn effective, but "Tractor Rape Chain" alone can floor me emotionally if I'm not careful. (PS: I've never been able to love Alien Lanes nearly as much, and I've been trying for years. I like it a lot, but my adoration comes nowhere close to the feelings I have for Bee Thousand, despite plenty of people claiming it's the same thing done better.)
10. Merriweather Post Pavilion -- Animal Collective. The first time I heard "In the Flowers" was akin to the first time I heard "Brain Damage". One of those albums I never thought I'd like, but when I finally listened, I was positively raptured. Honorable mention goes to Person Pitch, which while not as good (or addicting) as Merriweather, at least comes darn close, and probably affects me more on an emotional level.
It's interesting to be writing this only a few years after I first discovered most of these. I wonder, in 10-20 years, if I were to list the defining albums of my teenage years, would they look like this? Or will hindsight change my view? HmmMmMMm!