6: my top ten albums of all time


This one goes out to Eldan who was always the “first” in turning the radio on to get us wallowed.

Originally written in Riyadh, K.S.A.  in 2002

I have a large bunk of CDs and cassettes diffused all over. Living abroad for almost six years I have to say that there’s a huge part of an expatriate’s life that houses music in his daily survival – it being his entire life or vice versa – music being a political deed to retrace roots or simply to recover from the constant battle of boredom. Well, not me because I also have these possessions back in the Philippines; a buccaneer ship being tended by my friend Francis and my sister Kit takes care of the other bunch.

I am addicted to music. Fixation is very much a synonym for music to me. I also came from a musical family. We all grew up singing. We all grew up being forced to stand on tables and chairs to sing even behind tears of mortification. All six children went to piano lessons, singing lessons and eventually sang or played separately to countless benefits my mother used to sponsor (mostly church-oriented), recitals, weary contests in school and all that. I guess I did love the presence of domestic musicology growing up because as a gawking teenager, I got this proclivity of leafing through an album’s lyric book and aped them, thus my early experimentation on poetry. Like I discovered the sound and the sound discovered me through its body of tidings. Then my sisters Kit and Angeline insatiably learned guitar, Kit wrote her own songs soon afterwards. My brother Mark played keyboards in a local band. And I, well I, thrived on buying CDs even it meant not eating for about a week. Call that obsession but really it’s all about love. It’s like getting lost in a labyrinth, except you know which one to fuse in any mood you are in, thus you end up somewhere no matter how delighted or morose you feel at that particular time. Music is a governess. She dusts, she polishes and she definitely knows how to rearrange. I can puke all I can but I am forever grateful to my parents for playing ABBA and Frank Sinatra all throughout my growing years. At least that lead to the rescue of a thousand events in my life when I thought there was nothing more to solitude than those zealous thoughts and myself. She is indeed one fine governess . . .

The idea of a Top Ten album came late last Tuesday when I was listening to Mobys 18, Korn’s Issues and The Blair Witch Project soundtrack, all wedged together in random. I was desperately trying to sleep until I succumbed to restlessness and began feeling homesick. I began thinking about my best friend Eldan and how during our bad days back in Manila, college stumbling blocks and all, all we needed to do was either talk until morning, watch the sitcom Friends or listen to Tori Amos and everything would be OK. Then I began thinking about Tori Amos and how Eldan literally shoved Under The Pink amongst my R & Bs, which was then the flavoring of my euphonious confines, and the rest is history. After eight years, it is still the number one album for me. I guess it did change me in all levels. That’s where this exposition reposes in the hope of coming up with something reflective both musically and cerebrally. And so I went to Excel and started jotting down all the albums that I can think of that has either changed me, albums that I can’t live without and even albums that I listened to during significant times of my life from my long-haired days to days when I was in love, insipid as it is. I categorized them, scored and came up with (you got it) a Top Ten. The result was quite obscure but this is what I came up anyway . . .


BOYS FOR PELE/ Tori Amos

This is San Felipe. Some unforgotten afternoons under my grandma’s mango trees with the typewriter, voraciously writing poems about drugs, sadness and . . . boys. I guess the spirit of rock and roll didn’t really roll in this particular faerie album, it gushed. Songs like Blood Roses and Talula sought mysteries and comic relief in my isolation, deep in my poetry creation, among the homespun chickens and well, grandma’s stew fused together with my slaughtering wails. Wails of love and the dark realm to love and be loved. All was exploding on paper at the time with Boys For Pele as background, exploding just the same.

This is an acoustic album I must say. There’s that raw feel that hangs on in every song, thanks to the eccentric harpsichord and the summertime discernment of Amos’ vocals vapouring at every curve. The sounds and sensations of the songs bring you to a spacious country somewhere between reality and sadomasochism. I know I did. I may have nailed down my boys through words of copulation and greed but I discovered anyhow that pain mixed well with the candybars that any demented love can bring. Pele said it all and it drilled true.



I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN’T GOT/Sinead O’Connor

They bulldozed this album and rest of her albums in the streets from Dublin to New York when she tore the Pope’s picture on national television. After a fierce run of proselytes to her name, Sinead O’Connor became one of the most hated figures of her time. I could care less. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is a classic and with its tremendous wrath beneath all the realm of sorts. She has succeeded in playing the wretched soul with clear perfection. Her voice, that cigarette-abused alcohol induced voice, made me cry once. I really forgot about the whole story of it but I remembered the song being Jump In The River and that the hurt was real and so is the album’s satiric language; Margaret Thatcher on teevee, shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing. It seems strange that she should be offended. The same orders are given by her. It holds true what her husband said. This is the album that you can listen to from the very beginning to the very last without skipping any song. It’s Cimmerian, it’s picturesque, and it’s Sinead.

TONGUES AND TAILS/Sophie B. Hawkins

Music has places to tell. This is New York City. Of course the entire freshness of this album doesn’t tell about the city itself but the vibration of Hawkins’ music is so New York you can feel the beggars, the rats and the delightful kicks of her mighty New York vivacity. Songs like Before I Walk On Fire and Don’t Stop Swaying, irascible as it is, defines the contour of getting lost in a trance. Her drums are incensed and her ever-irascible vocals will wake up the dead and it sure did mesmerise my vampiric affectations. Her version of Bob Dylan’s I Want You is no exception. Welcome to the Big Apple. The experience of this album is like wolfing a hot caramel sundae ice cream – smudges all over your face and all – it’s a fucking fix. Try it whenever you feel clumsy or stupid. It works for me. This baby is a waterfall and it is an angry one. Full of love at its biggest.


STORM FRONT/Billy Joel

My sister Kit was crazy about this album. I was not. Until I realised that it meant a lot to me for the simple reason that I never got tired of listening to it. Story begins when male vocalists ranked last in my list of tastes. I have this notion that if Axl Rose goes solo, the magic will be completely gone. What can I say I guess I am a band freak? Anyway I thrived on with this tiny album by Billy Joel for a song called I Go To Extremes believing the song to be groovy if not happy in my then lyric-obsessed technique in choosing music. In short, this album paved way for more Billy Joel listenings. Also, I took it like a vaccine. It was a painful experience getting it into my nerves especially hearing my sister Kit whooping the groovier tunes like State Of Grace and That’s Not Her Style. I guess I stopped and secretly applauded the lamenting Leningrad and the freebird The Downeaster Alexa as my soul was (still is) interconnected with the reckless and the poignant. I guess I learned to admire the raucousness of this album because it pictured the dread I felt liking something with somebody, selfish as I was but more so because the songs in this assemblage talks about being alive and living leisurely through its eternal pits. Yes I believe in S and M.


INGENUE/K.D. Lang

I was in college and I wanted to steal this guy from his boyfriend because I knew I was meant for him. At the time my favourite album was The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dreams. In my journal, I named this guy Spaceboy. Of course I didn’t win the guy, a big snake that I was, but I stopped listening to the Pumpkins and hated myself for months.

Second story goes, poet /ex-boyfriend Francis formed a group we fluidly called Antipolo Midnite Society. We had parties every Fridays, got helplessly drunk and got stoned until sun-up. We listened to Gloria Gaynor, Bach and soundtrack after soundtrack and we wore blue ribbons being proud homosexuals all throughout these groundless celebrations. We were happy, we hated each other silently, we read James Baldwin a lot and I was the only one in the group who didn’t wear signature apparel.

And so this album by KD Lang pushed its way during the silence, after the maze, its dolefulness edging in and out of those tired muscles and the buzz of hangover when I’m back to my little chamber back in Sampaloc after a day feeling weary, insecure to the bone and being the charlatan that I was to the world. I have to say that this is one album stuffed with sadness. The world is a lesbian. And the agony that spells in it. In her storytelling, thrilling vocals, Miss Lang can soothe even the blackest heart available. Pain is the vital portrait and she drew it very well thanks to the blues, by-the-bar styling of her music as she dribbled with colonial melancholy dabbed with her heritage of country music. I’m very sure a lot of people have slept through her music at night but in my case, I surrendered to the experience of it. Enveloping the words and oscillating through the tarmac of her love unrequited. Redundant it may seem but there is such indescribable beauty in pain.

APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION/Guns ‘n Roses

There is a song in this album called Mr Brownstone and it mainly speaks about getting high all day long and caring not about what other people think about you. When you’re in high school and the rest of them are either volleyball varsity players or active members of the dance troupe, you become the private school geek. In Physical Education, they are all basking in the hot afternoon sun trying to be any of the two mentioned above and you are left in your vocabularies, fisting against fellow geeks in a priggish game of Scrabble. You become the reject and you know it. Only then will you realise after you hear Slash’s riffs and Axl Rose’s outcries that you are special and that being divergent in high school traps can be, well, cool. Of course I metamorphosed musically after this stint of rock and roll but even after I burped from the hedges of Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails a couple of years later, I consider AFD as the object that started it all. Beyond reasonable doubt, it is the best Fuck The World album in my musical history.


AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE/R.E.M.

This is one album that rotted in my shelf for a few months until one rainy-I-can’t-listen-to-the-radio day, I plugged it in and started gyrating to its physical microgroove and it became one album I can’t live without. I had to say physical because almost all songs in this album remind me of bodily strokes. Songs like Man In The Moon, Try Not Breathe and Everybody Hurts highlights the need for compassion. Michael Stipe could’ve been really leading in his beseeching vocals and the band’s saturnine sound altogether but behind all the footlights, the music in this album strikes you that the need to give is still a virtue. The prescription for anthropology. I have other albums by REM but this is my favourite because the message is massive and the inner voice behind it all is compassionate.

When I was leaving for Saudi Arabia, my sister Kit played the song Find The River and dedicated it to me. I guess I fell in love with the album even more soon after that.



UNDER THE PINK/Tori Amos

As I have disclosed back there, this is my favourite album of all time. In one of her websites, this album is described as the impressionist album. I agree if you’d place the work as a painting. In literature, I would say this is a faerie booklet. It is. Amid the ticklish themes on lesbianism, religion, prostitution and the usual weep carnival, the characters in this album has the ultimate power to either crumble beyond crumbling or shoot up to the parallel universe and reclaim rebirth. The language surpasses mental illness if one is too edgy on lyrics but the magic of Tori’s piano playing is so precise that it polishes the impressions, thus it becomes a faerie ground. The intactness resumes charm and each offering drip into your soul like acid burning pensively and will not leave your head in weeks. Songs like Space Dog and Past The Mission (a great collaboration with the mighty Trent Reznor) is a dose of musical witchcraft. The haunting Icicle and the swirling Cornflake Girl will make you travel into the innards of your yearnings. This is rock and roll at its finest by mere fact that mutation revolves around the songs. Not one number sounds like the other and like a storybook, it recounts. It entertains. It makes you want to run naked, pour gasoline all over you and just detonate. OK I am getting gruesome here but one thing is certain; UTP will turn you into a faerie and it will allow you to play in its grounds. It did for me but the real kick here is that you become her subject and that’s where the magic really lies.

RUNAWAY HORSES/Belinda Carlisle

Ex Go-Go girl Belinda Carlisle’s voice is unique. Primarily that’s why I enjoy listening to her. Her singing voice is natural, from the heart and it is beyond passion, it is the act of passion. Fine. Her music is considered by many as pop (that tiny obnoxious musical word!) but listen again. In Runaway Horses, an epic album on the big love itself where she worked with pop geniuses Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley, she does not only delineates the vocal chords, she made sure you get the message to set yourself free. It is easy to write something about that subject but (again) Carlisle’s voice has something to say about reassuring you that it is OK however asinine your choices are. This album is so powerful and it only took a voice like hers to flow the beef out. Songs like Valentine, Deep Deep Ocean and Runaway Horses will make you celebrate you. And you will dance to it too. Alone in your room, candles all over the place and that heartened messenger telling you to let go. To let loose.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC/Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Hah, Julie Andrews! Barely in Kindergarten, I am convinced that I know every line from this soundtrack. I remember my sisters and I singing The Lonely Goatherd in Chipmunks chords in those early years, especially during siesta when as Uncle Morrie watch us over with wondrous eyes. I guess, in distant dimensions, that this is the Genesis of my musical Bible. I remember the tattered album cover, the flying Julie Andrews and the unforgettable movie that even in college I still enjoyed watching. But more than anything else, the multitude encompasses my bantam convictions. In those days when the center of the world was my mother and problems were something that adults fix, The Sound Of Music initiated the sleeping wonder that was music to kick in. I may not define its weight at this time but in those days when I Have Confidence and Edelweiss didn’t mean shit to me, I knew that I have stumbled on something precious. I knew my heart did dance from there. It didn’t necessarily mean I got high on the poetry of it but I unknowingly got myself nailed gladly. Like the song goes, “The hills are alive with the sound of music . . . my heart will be blessed with the sound of music and I’ll sing once more . . .”

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