Music

Free Falling

Music for missing curfews, messing around, and feeling like your stomach might drop through the floor because you are excited and nervous and free.

And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Yo La Tengo
2000, Matador

Last October, when I heard that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were divorcing after 27 years of marriage, I was really bummed out—for them, for music, for their daughter, Coco. Then another thought occurred to me: “OH MY GOD ARE IRA AND GEORGIA STILL TOGETHER?!” Although not as well-known as Kim and Thurston, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, once referred to as “pop culture’s best advertisement for marriage,” have been making amazing pop music together as Yo La Tengo since 1984, and as long as they’re together, I still have faith in love and indie rock. Having faith in love is what a lot of Yo La Tengo’s music is about, and this, their ninth album, is the most perfect expression of that. This is a seriously dreamy, unbelievably catchy collection of songs, awash in reverb-y guitars, tinny drum-machine beats, and whispered odes to quotidian love—the everyday joys and compromises you make when you really love someone. If any other band wrote a song called “Our Way to Fall,” you might expect a whiny song about doomed love, but in YLT’s hands, it’s an earnest paean to the awkward early days of a crush that has not yet turned into a lifelong love, delivered in Ira’s hushed Lou Reed-via-Hoboken drawl. If this is starting to sound corny, let me reassure you that Ira and Georgia are way too weird to write something so obvious as a love song. This band has a wicked way with a hook, but they bury their catchiest pop tendencies in a wall of squalling guitars and oblique lyrics about a girl “with cherry ChapStick on and nothing more.” “The Crying of Lot G,” with its refrain of “you don’t have to smile at me,” is a painfully honest song about the anxiety after an argument and trying to get through to an angry partner. So much of Yo La Tengo’s music is about the struggle to maintain an untroubled relationship between two troubled people. These are songs for people who get that even good love isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It also contains the best song ever based on an obscure Simpsons joke. —Leeann

Laughing Stock
Talk Talk
1991, Polydor

This album is so goddamned cool for so many reasons, the first of which being that it’s one of Talk Talk’s FREEDOM records. At the height of their career, they were this international smash of a pop band, whose synth-y hits you might have heard on the radio. But then they were all FUCK THIS FAKE BULLSHIT and made these beautiful, weird, meandering post-punk/jazz/experimental records, like this and 1988′s Spirit of Eden. Laughing Stock is one of my favorite albums ever. When Talk Talk started making this kind of music, Talk their was like, “?????” and quickly dropped them, but the band was like, “We don’t care about commercial success anymore. We’re going to quietly make these gorgeous weirdo records and NUTS TO YOU.” At least, that’s how I imagine the conversation going. “New Grass,” if you listen to it with your eyes closed or while working on artwork, is 10 minutes of bliss. It’s among my top-five-favorite-forever songs. The whole album is a good soundtrack for writing in your journal, driving, and painting, specifically, but also basically everything else. —Amy Rose

Music of Many Colours
Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers
1986, Celluloid

It was the deep end of a Chicago winter, when the snow had gone filthy and there was approximately no fun to be had. I was watching a movie with some friends and mentioned I had never heard Fela. Three minutes later, a Fela record was on the turntable and we were all up, dancing. We danced through the entire box set. We sweated our winter sadness out to transcendent, 20-minute Afrobeat songs that took up entire album sides. Now that was music. Fela was like the James Brown of Africa, a huge, unmistakable force—he made nearly 50 records between the early ’70s and the ’90s—with big, funky horn sections and relentless rhythm that mixed traditional African sounds and rock instruments. I promptly acquired eight Fela records, including this album with American jazz vibrophonist/singer Roy Ayers. There were only two songs on the album: “Africa, Centre of the World,” a 17-minute laser beam of African pride, and “2000 Blacks Got to Be Free,” which incorporates both of their styles. Ayers’s icy cool American funk is ramped up to an almost gnashing disco. The song is a jubilant wish for liberation, but it’s also dance-floor dynamite. —Jessica

Whip It On
The Raveonettes
2002, Sony

This EP is only 21 minutes long, but the fuzzy guitar and echo-y vocals make a perfect soundtrack for an entire night of fun. Basically it’s a mini-movie in eight songs, during which a lot of bad decisions and not-giving-a-fuck takes place. It is dark, but in a sexily mysterious way, and as hazy as an all-nighter. When Sune Rose Wagner sings, “She says all the things that make you sick / But do you believe her when she says she loves you?” you totally understand the amazing vibes that run through this whole record: wanting things you can’t have, wanting things you know are bad for you, and then at the last minute saying “screw it” and throwing caution to the wind. By the time you get to the last song, which starts “Wanna die in beat city and run, run, run / Wanna hang with girls and shoot my gun,” you know that the answer is yes. —Laia

…And Out Come the Wolves
Rancid
1995, Epitaph

This album is the soundtrack to my junior year of high school. It’s me and my best friend in my car, driving endless loops between the 7-11 parking lot, Denny’s, and that dark road through the forest preserve where we’d cut the headlights, stomp on the gas pedal, and go flying over the train tracks, screaming along with Tim Armstrong that we wanted to go “back to Olympia” even though we’d never been, because we had no doubt it was cooler than suburbia. We were the little sisters that Tim sang to on “The 11th Hour,” whose broken dreams had come crashing down our doors. We were the punk rockers with nowhere to go from “Roots Radicals.” Songs like “Lock, Step & Gone,” “Listed M.I.A.,” and “Ruby Soho” spoke to our angry, restless spirits. They were a release for our frustrations and a promise that we would break free one day. We did, and now we have matching tattoos with the “Journey to the End of the East Bay” lyrics “To the end, to the end, I’ll journey to the end.” That pretty much sums up how important this album is. —Stephanie

Say I Am You
The Weepies
2006, Nettwerk

The Weepies, husband and wife Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, play dreamy, mellow pop with a folk feel and more than a hint of melancholy. The song “Nobody Knows Me At All” features the lyrics “I know how you feel, no secrets to reveal / Very late at night and in the morning light, nobody knows me at all.” As a teen who knows what it’s like to be confused and misunderstood, I find the sadness they describe to be totally relatable. “World Spins Madly On” is a beautiful depiction of losing someone you care about and how painful that can be, but “Not Your Year” urges us not to give up. The Weepies don’t try to pretend everything is perfect, and this album gives you the freedom to let go, and tells you it is OK to make mistakes. —Tara

American Teenage Rock ’n’ Roll Machine
The Donnas
1998, Lookout!

This record is about being young and awesome and FREE. When Donna A. sings, “Rock ’n’ roll machine / I’m an American teenager raider,” you’ll pump your fist and say, “HELL YES!,” and then go crazy dancing around your room. In the great tradition of the Ramones and the Runaways and other rad punk bands of the ’70s and ’80s, the Donnas’ songs are short and pack all manners of punch. The fact that they were teenagers when this record came out, and they all named themselves Donna, only makes the whole thing that much cooler. The songs are about going to shows, doing whatever you want, not going to school, being uninterested in boys when you’re trying to rock, but also wanting to touch dudes who make you hot, and kicking ass (“I’m not trying to be a bully baby / But you don’t give me a choice”). These 10 songs (in 24 minutes!) will probably make you wanna pick up an instrument and start a band with your friends, because you love fun and aren’t lame. Also, this record has one of my favorite covers of ALL TIME. I remember just staring at it and wishing that I had a cool girl gang to get into trouble with. They put out a bunch of records after this and even showed up as the prom band in the super awesome movie Jawbreaker, but American Teenage Rock ’n’ Roll Machine remains the best little gem. —Laia

Like I Said: Songs 1990-1991
Ani DiFranco
1993, Righteous Babe

“Get a firm grip, girl, before you let go,” Ani advises you/herself on “Anticipate,” the opening track of this compilation of her first two albums. Ani DiFranco = liberation in my mind, partially because I was introduced to her via this album by my roommate when I first left home, but mainly because it’s all here: beginnings, endings, letting go, making sense of yourself. She leaves parts of herself places, but sings her way through the solitude on “Rockabye,” assuring you in her beautiful Ani way that you can do it, too. On “Not So Soft,” which made me appreciate spoken word in a way I never had before, she envisions herself as commander-in-chief of a one-woman army and gives you the strength to know you can be one too. And then there’s “Both Hands.” Oh god, “Both Hands,” the most beautiful breakup song ever written. Listen to it over and over again and set yourself free. —Stephanie

The Suburbs
Arcade Fire
2010, Merge

Twilight and porch lamps and peeling away for the night in a friend’s car—I think of all these things when I listen to The Suburbs, and I’m supposed to. This whole album seems to be written with the clearest memory of a summer dusk, when the day might be drawing to an end, or a nighttime adventure might have only just begun. And what’s the secret? That there is something deeply romantic about cul-de-sacs and quiet streets, games of Ghost in the Graveyard, and the stifling boredom that “the suburbs” (that undefined but specific place) gifts to us so that we have something to rebel against later. “Kids wanna be so hard / But in my dreams we’re still screamin’ and runnin’ through the yard,” sings Win Butler on the title track, being nostalgic while sounding like Bruce. There are so many good songs here, but my absolute favorite is “Half Light II (No Celebration),” which is equal parts anthem and feverish Sunday sermon, a reverie that seems unique to Arcade Fire at this point. (Plus, it makes for an oddly complicated song request: “Could you please play ‘Half Light,’ part two, parentheses ‘No Celebration’?”) The closing line—“Though we knew this day would come, still it took us by surprise / In this town where I was born, I now see through a dead man’s eyes”—depresses the hell out of me, and again, it’s supposed to. If you haven’t watched The Wilderness Downtown, which is essentially the video for “We Used to Wait,” do that now and be prepared to tear up, because it’s about your hometown. —Phoebe

Viva Last Blues
Palace Music
1995, Drag City

Will Oldham, who also goes by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, is the pulsing heart of Palace Music, and by extension, this beautiful album. To say I’m obsessed with it is an understatement. Oldham’s lyrics on Viva Last Blues make love sound so casual, so basic, but also world-defining at the same time. It’s probably because of the sweet, easy way he sings about it, and how his vocals are matched with these exploratory blues riffs that just stick with me. When I first heard “The Mountain Low,” I didn’t listen to anything else for a month until I realized that the rest of the record was just as awesome. Please get this album, for that track especially, and also the heart-shredding “New Partner.” —Amy Rose

Dig Me Out
Sleater-Kinney
1997, Kill Rock Stars

That twitchy, nervous, pent-up energy you have? Sleater-Kinney gets it. You can tell from the first few lines that Corin Tucker sings on this album: “Dig me out, dig me in, out of this mess, baby, out of my head.” You can feel it in the incredible riffs on “Words and Guitar.” But the best part is that you can dance your way out of it, especially to songs like “Turn It On,” “Little Babies,” and the appropriately titled “Dance Song ’97.” I’d be hard-pressed to pick my favorite Sleater-Kinney album, but this one has always been there to bust me out of a rut. —Stephanie

Is This It
The Strokes
2001, RCA

I don’t even know how to talk about this record without just going DUHHHRRRR, because it is one of my favorite records EVER. All the songs are short, killer jams that will leave you wanting more, and there is more if you find the British version that has “New York City Cops,” which was removed from the record for the post-9/11 American release. Everyone here is working at 110%: the guitars are jangly and beautiful, the bass lines intricate and weird, the drums where you want them to be, and the singing, which is really just disaffected CROONING, will fill your heart with joy. There’s the super mellow title track where Julian Casablancas sings, “I can’t think ’cause I’m just way too tired,” and it makes you want to cradle his head on your lap so he can rest, even though in the end you know he’s gonna break your heart. From then on, it’s the best half hour of your life. I can’t think of a better time to listen to it than summer, especially if you have a convertible (LOL) and are singing the entire thing with a friend (or 10). “Alone Together” is my favorite song because it has a sick guitar solo that makes you wanna do the twist, and because “Life seems unreal / Can we go back to your place?” is the best pick-up line ever. I wish someone—OK, Julian—used it on me. Apart from the music, the lyrics are SUCH a big part of why I love this album so much, because it’s like a look into the mind of that hot loner kid (which is who I imagine all the dudes in this band to be). When this record came out, my best friend and I listened to it on repeat for an ENTIRE WEEKEND, and possibly all semester. —Laia

45 Comments

  • Fortune_Goddess July 5th, 2012 11:07 PM

    When I read the Ani DiFranco bit, I thought “Isn’t that the name of the character in the BSC books who was Stacey’s friend when she was a Bad Girl and who was a baby model and who Robert ultimately picked over Stacey in Stacey’s Broken Heart”? NO. That’s ANDI DiFranco, duh. Though they did say Sabrina DiBoviour was both a young child competitor who ultimately won the child beauty pageant, beating out Mariah, Gabby’s Annie-singing, tap-dancing older sis, and a prissy stuck-up 8th grade girl who was dating Jason something-I’m-a-high-school-boy before they broke up and Jason was interested in Stacey…

  • Alex S. July 5th, 2012 11:12 PM

    yes yes yes YES I listen to Is This It for these kind of moments! Well, really, any moments I guess.

  • Brit July 5th, 2012 11:17 PM

    This is so perfect.
    Arcade fire and the strokes.
    Holy moly.
    ugh.

    http://russianmonopoly.blogspot.com.au/

  • caro nation July 5th, 2012 11:26 PM

    YO LA TENGO!
    LEEANN I LOVE YOU.
    And I saw Arcade Fire on that tour, and despite an excitable night filled with ladies with profuse heads of dreads and drunk suburban baroque pop sing-alongs, I was so dehydrated by the end of the night that I cried and attempted to lick my own cheek. That’s the real reason you don’t go to outdoor concerts with floor tickets.

  • Jacklyn July 5th, 2012 11:40 PM

    The Suburbs and Is This It = Everything I’ve ever felt ever.

  • Moxx July 5th, 2012 11:43 PM

    Aaaaaaaaa The Suburbs! Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) made me wish that I were a lost suburban kid or something (I’ve never lived in the suburbs, so I guess that’s why I have this whole fantasy of the sun-faded-hazy-lonely-suburbs). The music together with the lyrics… “These days my life I feel it has no purpose
    When late at night the feelings swim to the surface
    ‘Cause on the surface the city lights shine
    They’re calling at me, come and find your kind”
    “We shield our eyes from the falling stars
    We run away, but we don’t know why”
    Actually, just the whole thing.
    It just almost embodied that feeling for me, this whole night thing of I never want to sleep and I’m going to stay up and walk around and collect things and I wish I were able to express things clearly ajajsjashdghsajakksdj.

    I can’t even describe it. It’s the best feeling in the whole world. During this feeling, my thoughts explode and spill everywhere while my mouth and hands and body move and are frantic but are unable to communicate any of these thoughts correctly. It’s like a half shutdown or something. Frustrating! But the best feeling. I wish I could describe it I wish I could bottle it up I wish everyone could know it I wish there was a name for it I wish I could explain it or even understand it.

    Also, The Donnas sound cool. A lot of the albums on here sound awesome. I think I’ll listen to them tonight, I think it’s going to be a manic night. The feeling is crawling up my throat already.

    • LuxOrBust July 6th, 2012 6:10 PM

      I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN, about Sprawl, about exploding from That Amazing Feeling when anything is possible and alll is beautiful. you are right its a disconnect cause youre like transcending yourself and IN IT. if you havent yet you should read On The Road by Jack Kerouac, he describes this manic feeling spot on ans travels the country trying to chase it

    • Chimdi July 27th, 2012 12:48 AM

      Have you read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the book the they based “Sprawl II” on? It is LITERALLY (Rob Lowe moment) life-changing!

  • katrinaexplainsitall July 6th, 2012 12:05 AM

    Flawless list of albums ~ YO LA TENGOOOO. And I’ll have to listen to the Talk Talk album!

    http://www.katrinaspice.blogspot.com

  • PZ July 6th, 2012 12:18 AM

    the donnas were also the prom band in drive me crazy! and looked and sounded amazing, like always. their keep on loving you cover makes me melt everyyyy time (and also adrian grenier’s pre-entourage babyface). agh this whole list is great.

  • PZ July 6th, 2012 12:19 AM

    blah and yo la tengo! and the weepies. my little heart can’t take all the amazing.

  • Isabellla July 6th, 2012 12:35 AM

    The Strokes!! Ohhh Julian. Is This It is probably my favourite album, but they are all so good so it’s impossible to choose. I would have LOVED to have seen them in 2001…alas, until time travel exists I will just dream….

    http://bell–shire.blogspot.com.au/

    • reckless-serenade July 6th, 2012 2:28 PM

      oh my gosh I could never choose my favourite of theirs, all slices of perfection. I’d give ANYTHING to see them!

    • Whatsername July 6th, 2012 3:23 PM

      They’re still around & still touring, I almost saw them in NYC last year but they were sold out… No need for time travel!

  • Sssophiabh July 6th, 2012 12:42 AM

    Oh my god THE STROKES!I was completely obsessed with them last summer and Laia, you couldn’t have chosen a more perfect album. Seriously, anyone who hasn’t listened to them, this album will break your heart and then sew it back together again (cheesy but the strokes totally deserve it…)

    • reckless-serenade July 6th, 2012 2:28 PM

      the strokes totally deserve it

  • Blythe July 6th, 2012 1:07 AM

    I officially declared Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) one of my themesongs as soon as I heard it. Yes, I’m one of THOSE types. I think I got the album for Christmas from my dad, because he likes Arcade Fire too and wanted to nick it as soon as I was done listening.

  • Miss Erin July 6th, 2012 2:17 AM

    Arcade Fire! Ani Difranco! The Strokes!

    Ahh<3

    (Although from the post title, I thought you were going to mention Tom Petty, too…)

  • Daze July 6th, 2012 2:39 AM

    That Rancid album! YES. Soundtrack to my youth right there. The Strokes are pretty awesome, too.

  • Olivia July 6th, 2012 4:46 AM

    thank you laia…is this it is my favorite album OF ALL TIME 4 ALL ETERNITY 4EVR N EVR

    • reckless-serenade July 6th, 2012 2:29 PM

      Ahhhhhh! so glad other people the same way!!! thank you laia

  • saltwater July 6th, 2012 5:47 AM

    Leann, you referenced Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House and now i have to hug you!

  • HollinsCollins July 6th, 2012 8:48 AM

    Ohmygosh! I love the Weepies! My favorite song is Painting by Chagall. It’s magic ^^
    And I like the Rancid song Up To No Good, but I think it’s on Let the Dominoes fall, not Out Come the Wolves.

  • alix July 6th, 2012 12:14 PM

    Oh my god! Laia, marry me!! I’m in love this the strokes! Oh shit is this it is the best album I’ve ever listened to, i’m so glad your spreading the love to all the rookies! And obviously the suburbs, who couldn’t love that?

    • reckless-serenade July 6th, 2012 2:30 PM

      no marry me Laia! the strokes are my favourite beings in the world

  • DElle July 6th, 2012 12:38 PM

    Amy Rose YES. Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock is one of the most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard, and I’ve never known a single person who’s listened to it. But it’s one of those albums that sounds like you’re listening to a secret, so maybe that somehow makes sense. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t go a day without listening to Taphead.

    • Amy Rose July 6th, 2012 3:16 PM

      Ugh, you get it like I got it.

  • reckless-serenade July 6th, 2012 2:33 PM

    ZE STROKESSSSSS! can’t even describe my love for them. laia describes my emotions for is this it pretty damn well though (although someday is my favourite song actually). i’m so glad other people here love them too, some of you sound as crazily obsessed as i am, this is great :)

    • Whatsername July 6th, 2012 2:46 PM

      The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys are my favorite bands of all time therefore this post and the reference in your username make me think we’re actually definitely twins separated at birth.

      • Sssophiabh July 8th, 2012 12:11 AM

        OMG and Arctic Monkeys! <3 musical soul mates!!

  • Whatsername July 6th, 2012 2:41 PM

    OHMYGODDDOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD

    When I saw Is This It on there I literally gasped and had like a miniature spaz attack
    that’s legit my FAVORITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME I think I’ve played it on repeat like seven thousand billion times

  • neenah July 6th, 2012 2:53 PM

    Both Hands is my favorite song of all time. My first love bought me “Living In Clip” and the live version of that song blew my mind and exploded my heart.

  • SarahCat July 6th, 2012 4:35 PM

    I was at an Arcade Fire concert last summer and it was actually The. Best. Day. Of. My. Life. I love all the songs on The Suburbs, but I must say my favourite is Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). <3 <3 <3

  • Jesss July 6th, 2012 4:54 PM

    Is This It the honestly the best album to exist, laia your description is perfect!

  • brynntheredonethat July 6th, 2012 5:13 PM

    Since you guys mentioned Arcade Fire, have you ever heard of Wolf Gang? Their songs make me think of walking at night and watching the stars come out, occasionally in front of some midwestern U.S. rock formation or something. I feel like if you combined Arcade Fire, David Bowie, and the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack, you’d get Wolf Gang.

  • half-jack July 6th, 2012 6:43 PM

    is this it and the suburbs are some of my favorite albums ever <3 thank you guys for sharing it with everybody.

  • rhymeswithorange July 7th, 2012 2:17 AM

    ARCADE FIRE!!! I love The Suburbs. It’s one of my favorite albums. I really love music that your brain can chew on, that I can listen to over and over again and still love it to pieces and The Suburbs personifies it.
    Also, I had have had impromptu dance parties in my room to Half Light II, per Tavi’s suggestion, and it was glorious.
    Last thing- my favorite line is one of the last, from The Suburbs (cont’d): “If I could have it back / All the time that we wasted / I’d only waste it again / If I could have it back / I’d love to waste it again / Waste it again and again and again”

  • Laia July 8th, 2012 12:21 AM

    i’m so glad there’s so many is this it fanatics out there!! it is THE BEST. <3

  • nicholo94 July 9th, 2012 5:24 PM

    Arcade fire is da bomb, they reqlly do have magical songs. I would also reccommend anything by the lovin’ spoonful or maroon 5

  • pamplamousse July 10th, 2012 10:12 PM

    Suburbs came out shortly before I moved to suburbia for the first (and hopefully last) time. Living there for a year was awful, but walking down the streets blasting this album made it more endurable, not to mention the perfect sound track for eerily quiet night time suburb bike rides.

  • John July 10th, 2012 11:03 PM

    I would say Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden are more post-rock than post-punk, but anyways, a very nice list!

  • yellowdocs July 11th, 2012 12:46 PM

    Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers? I mean, we’re having the headline free falling. He is a God! Saw him on a show in Germany. he is a badass and has freedom all over!

  • chelsear July 11th, 2012 2:27 PM

    The Suburbs is honestly the most nostalgic album, on multiple levels. I can’t even describe the immense impact it has on me.

    Also, Nevermind by Nirvana should definitely be on this list as it is the quintessential album of teenage rebellion.

    xo
    http://couturecultureblog.blogspot.com

  • yougoglencoco July 24th, 2012 6:04 AM

    So glad you featured Yo La Tengo. They’re such a talented group of musicians who perform because they just love making music. So underrated.

  • gnarlyelixir October 16th, 2012 10:43 AM

    ZEEEEEEE STROKESSSSSSSSS <33