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The Top 5 Albums That Just “Get Me”
Music is believed by many mental health experts to have incredible healing power.
Everyone’s tastes are different and what makes music so magical is that it’s so subjective. Some people need “brighter” music to pick them up when they’re feeling down and remind them that everything is going to be OK. Personally, I find if I’m in a bad place or feeling depressed, I need music that says “Hey, don’t worry, I’ve been there. In fact, I am here right now and created a tape of how I feel for all of time and posterity.” Maybe the artist was struggling with depression or drug addiction or a nasty break-up when they created the album or maybe they just wanted to capture a certain feeling. I like music that comes from reality and a desire to capture something intangible as something you can feel with every note. So, without further rambling, here are my top 5 albums that just “get me”, in no particular order.
Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)
Radiohead has yet to release a bad album in my opinion, but they’ve also never made anything quite as perfect as OK Computer (In Rainbows comes close). Whether it’s the 2017 remaster or the 1997 original mix, this is maybe the most perfectly produced album ever. Right from the double guitar attack that kicks off Airbag to the final haunting triangle ding of The Tourist, everything feels like it belongs here. There are no skippable tracks, at least not if you want to feel the full devastating effect of Thom York’s ghostly drawl played against the rest of the band at the top of their game. OK Computer is relatively well known as a bit of a go-to for people who love music that’s a little too depressing for its own good. It will only take a few listens before this album starts to feel like a best friend sitting next to you at an abandoned aqueduct somewhere, feet dangling, talking about life and death and stuff.
Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)
This one might seem a little daunting. 33 tracks and over 90 minutes might seem like entirely too long to be listening to one band, and it would be if that band wasn’t Eels. Blinking Lights accomplishes the oft-failed feet of being a double album that’s never boring and doesn’t backload the second disc with what feels like B-sides from disc one. This is basically a Mark Oliver “E” Everett solo album. E has never been more raw and honest than he is here, exploring the depths of his soul and a lifetime of personal loss (read Everett’s Things The Grandchildren Should Know if you want a truly fascinating autobiography) for anything that he can use to express his soul. Everett intended the album to play like a long conversation with God and what a conversation it is. Introspective fair like Railroad Man and I’m Going to Stop Pretending that I Didn’t Break Your Heart bounce perfectly against lighter stuff like Going Fetal and Losing Streak, but nothing really feels like it’s being shoved on there to force a radio hit. The happy stuff and sad stuff is all coming from the same guttural place that makes the whole experience as life-affirming as it is depressing. Appropriately, it begins with the naive explorations of baby E in “A Magic World” and ends with old E getting all retrospective in Things the Grandchildren Should Know, ending with the proclamation, “If I had to do it all over again… Well, that’s something I’d like to do.”
Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
I would be remiss of I didn’t include some can-con in a mindyourmind blog, but I’m not really including Funeral because it’s Canadian, but because it’s one of the best albums of the past 20 years. Appropriately titled, because several band members had experienced the loss of loved-ones at the time. From that grief came Funeral, one of the best debut albums of all time. They’ve released some great stuff since, but Funeral represents Arcade Fire at their most epic. Funeral is equally life-affirming and dark, with songs drawing on childhood memories, the Russian space program and the 1998 Montreal blackout. It’s an album that breaks down life into small, digestible moments of beauty and despair. More importantly, of all the albums on this list, it’s the easiest to bop along to, with some super solid bass lines. That instrumental outro at the end of Crown of Love though.
Beck - Sea Change (2002)
Yep, the guy who brought you Up All Night and Loser also wrote one of the most beautiful and painful break-up albums of all time. The studio wizardry that characterizes Beck’s more well-known hip-hop/ pop-country fusion albums is gone and what’s left is a stripped back folk album of brutally honest singer-songwriter music that actually gels together as a cohesive whole, exactly the kind of thing Beck deliberately avoided on his earlier efforts. That’s why Beck is so awesome though. Beck has no rules. There’s a few lines in songs like Guess I’m Doing Fine that make me go “dang” every time I listen. “It’s only lies that I’m living. It’s only tears that I’m crying. It’s only you that I’m losing. I guess I’m doing fine.” DANG, Beck! This is the one album I always recommend to anyone who just went through a nasty breakup and needs some music that feels like it’s basically crying for you so you don’t have to (or you can cry along, because that’s fine too). This album proves that Beck doesn’t have to be silly and nonsensical to make great music. He can be raw and real and bare his open wounds just like the rest of us. Also, check out 2014’s Morning Phase for what is basically Sea Change Part II.
Nick Drake - Pink Moon (1972)
The fiery crucible from which the preceding four albums were born. Of course Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was a massive bomb when it came out. Nothing this raw and under-produced and personal and beautiful could have been successful then or now. However, Drake’s influence even on artists you HAVE heard of, cannot be overstated. Besides a piano-overdub on the title track, the entire album is just Drake (I should really call him by his full name so you don’t think of the Canadian rapper) with a guitar and a microphone. Somehow you’ll manage to forget the sparsity of the recordings, however, because the emotional depth is so great. (Nick) Drake had basically already quit the music biz when he decided to quietly slap down the remainder of his song ideas on tape, usually in one or two quick takes. This wasn’t made by someone who thought that his music would be influential enough to spawn a possible Neil Young remake. It was born of a compulsive desire for creative expression by someone who thought no one cared. Still, somehow there is no ill will here. Drake doesn’t lash out at anyone or blame the world for his lack of success. Instead, he looks inward, drawing on the emptiness he felt inside to create something incomparably powerful. Tragically, Pink Moon would turn out to be an impromptu last testament from Nick Drake, whose life ended tragically under mysterious circumstances a couple years later. The true irony is that this album and the rest of Nick Drake’s short, but impressive discography became so powerful and influential only after he left this world behind.
Obviously, music like this isn’t for everyone and if you’re experiencing any of the signs of depression, you should speak to a loved one or a medical professional. I’ve just found that for me it’s nice to know that there are musicians who have been where I’ve been and created beautiful music I can relate to.
Also, if you love music as much as I do, check out mindyourmind’s soundcloud for some interviews we’ve done with other awesome musicians.
David is the newest member of the mindyourmind team, doing a summer internship with Huron University. He is a mature student currently in his second year of East Asian Studies. He speaks English, Japanese, terrible, broken Spanish and a few basic phrases in Mandarin Chinese. A lover of anime, fitness and weird music, you can often find him working out at the gym or blasting some random band through a pair of headphones (or both). He loves travelling and has lived abroad twice, in Taiwan and Colombia, and hopes to go study in Japan next year. David has Autism Spectrum Disorder with depression and OCD and he hopes to spread the word to Canada’s youth that they are not alone.
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