Apart from listening to a lot of The Spice Girls at the age of 9 and 10, my earliest musical memories are from the age of 12 when I entered post-primary and at that time I was pretty mainstream in my musical tastes as is to be expected of a kid at that age. There was Sixpence None The Richer (Kiss Me, There she goes), Cornershop (Brimful of Asha), Alanis Morissette (Jagged little pill), Texas (White on blonde), No Doubt (!!), Oasis, Nickleback, Garbage, The Fugees, Green Day, The Corrs, Hanson, New Radicals, Blur, and Red Hot Chili Peppers (I listened to Californication on cassette non-stop the week before my end of lower-high school exams).
Since the age of 15 or so I started to develop a different taste in music from that of my peers. One of my earliest music loves was Suzanne Vega (of Luka, Tom's Diner fame), the solo-singer-songwriter from Santa Monica. Vega was the only music my dad and I have ever agreed on. I remember at the age of 15 finding a cassette tape (remember those?) in a drawer. It was a pirate version of Vega's second album Solitude Standing. It was amazing, unlike anything I had heard before and I instantly fell in love. My Dad also had a CD of Nine Objects of Desire that I borrowed on a permanent basis and used to play it over and over...I remember the night I waited patiently as I downloaded Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega on dial-up. It was 2003 and I was at the age when I was leaving one stage of life and beginning another. In Liverpool wow, what an amazing track! They were very unhappy and uncertain days and Vega kept me company. I remember I used to quote lines from Caramel and World before Colombus in letters I would write to my ex. I went to see Vega with my dad when she visited Cork in 2005 (I think) and it was just such an amazing night. It remains to this day the best concert I have been to.
At this time, the last few years of school, I was also listening to a lot of Rammstein (Mutter), The Manic Street Preachers (This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and Everything Must Go), the Cardigans (Long Gone Before Daylight) and the Cranberries (To the Faithful Departed, No Need to Argue, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee). I don't know what it is but a lot of the music that defined my upper-highschool years was from the early to mid 90's. I can't forget in all this period Travis (The Man Who - Why does it always rain on me? and Driftwood anyone?) and Coldplay with their influential albums Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. These albums and those of Vega really defined that period of my life. Welsh band Catatonia's album International Velvet wasn't so much defining as just belonging to that time. Songs Mulder and Scully and International Velvet were favourites of mine from the album, especially the latter as it was in Welsh. The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony, Morcheeba's Big Calm album, Faithless' albums Sunday 8PM and Outrospective (Crazy English Summer, awesome), Dido's No Angel and Life for Rent, Irish-African group Afrocelt Sound System's Volume 2: Release and Muse's Origin of Symmetry, and Irish band Clannad's Lore were also very important to me at this time.
Listening to any of the songs on those above albums instantly bring me back to that time. I had a three-CD player in my room and I loaded it up with those CDs and would just play them constantly. Feeling totally cut off from my surroundings and the people in it, totally lost and searching for who I was and pining after my long-distance relationship girlfriend I would put close my door in the evening, turn off the lights and play those albums. The emotions are so raw in some of this music that I haven't listened to Long Gone Before Daylight because it was the soundtrack of the autumn I broke up with the girlfriend and it's just way too painful to listen to any of the tracks on that album. Wake up and Smell the Coffee and A Rush of Blood to the Head are also connected to her, but to the years when we were first together and things were good. Those bring happy memories. LGBD is just an emotional train-wreck.
In my second year of college I was listening to a lot of German language music and I got introduced to Juli and Silbermond by an internet friend of mine, an American lady who was living in Germany at the time and was a big fan of Irish - we met on an Irish language forum (where I would also met my now-wife in 2004). Durch Die Nacht and Symphonie are such beautiful songs. Anyone who says German is an ugly language really needs to listen to those two tracks.
My year in France in 2005-2006 brought me in contact with Irish band The Frames (Fitzcarraldo, Burn the Maps, Breadcrumb Trail). A house-mate of mine was going to a concert of theirs in an intimate venue in Belgium so I tagged along. I hadn't heard of the band before so I listened to some of their music the week leading up to the concert and I just got so hooked. The night of the concert we got to meet the band afterwards in a pub they had gone to for a few drinks. They weren't very friendly to us for some reason (maybe because some other Irish people in the venue had gotten drink and were very noisy, as is the Irish way of enjoying a big-sized concert but not the Belgium way of behaving in an intimate venue where everyone clapped after every song). Amazing songs like Angel on my shoulder; Star, Star; Suffer in silence and What happens when the heart just stops blew me away. There is a live version of the last song mentioned, WHWTHJS, where Hansard tells the story about a dog he used to know when he was a kid, and how when he died the children buried him on the corner where they used to meet the dog everyday after school that is just so moving.
It was also at this time in France that I got introduced to French singer Camille (Au Port; Les Ex; 1,2,3; Ta douleur), French groups Noir Désir and Les Blaireaux (the latter of whom are from Lile where I was doing my Erasmus year) and an Austrian friend lent me CDs of the German group Wir sind Helden (Die Reklamation and Von hier an blind). My undergraduate years really were a time when I listened to a hell of a lot of German music.
Through an American housemate I got introduced to alternative groups The Moldy Peaches, The Dresden Dolls and Norwegian folk-rock band Lumsk (the first song I heard of theirs was I lytinne två but the 2007 release Om Hundrede Aar er Alting glem is my all time favourite of theirs). It's funny that I had heard Coin-Operated Boy (The Dresden Dolls, on French radio in a car coming from late one night from star-watching) and Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) (Baz Luhrmann at the end of the less-than-well-known 1999 film The Big Kakuna, with Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey, the latter being one of my favourite actors) but had not known who sang them but by accident through housemates in France stumbled across them. An Icelandic housemate introduced me to Sigur Rós (for which I am eternally grateful!). Sigur Rós are well up there with Suzanne Vega in the music I would bring with me to a desert island. The one soundtrack that I would bring along with me would have to be that to Amélie (Comptine d'un autre été: L'après-midi anyone?)
In my last two years in college I listened to a lot of KT Tunstall (Eye to the Telescope), Jacques Brel (Amsterdam, Ne me quitte pas, Madeleine, Le plat pays), Scottish-Gaelic band Capercaillie (Four Stone Wall, Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda, Cànan nan Gàidheal and Tighinn air a' mhuir tha'm fear a phòsas mi), Irish band Snow Patrol, Irish singer Damien Rice (O (Older Chests), remember The Blower's Daughter in film Closer? with Jude Law, another one of my favourite actors) and British singer David Grey (A Century Ends, White Ladder), Norwegian Maria Mena (You're the only one), Silversun Pickups (Lazy Eye, Kissing Families, Rusted Wheel) and introduced to Estonian and Finnish music though my now-wife and a Swedish-speaking Finnish friend I had: Finnish PMMP and Jonna Tervomaa (can't forget the song Rakkauden haudalla) and Estonian Vennaskond, Sõpruse Puiestee, Dagö, Agent M (Kus on minu kodu?, Su Ilus Nina), Metsatöll, Ewert and the Two Dragons (Good Man Down) and Ursula (Ma Ei Kuula Sind) and Tõnis Mägi's Koit. I also was introduced to Placebo (Running Up that Hill, In the Cold Light of Morning, Protect me from what I want/Protège-Moi), Mew (156, Snow Brigade), Norwegian Annie (Chewing Gum) and Swedish groups Melody Club (Baby, Cover Girl) and The Ark by Eva.
Since leaving Ireland, doing my masters and moving to Estonia I have been listening to a lot of single tracks and not so much to bands. The L Word gave me Liz Phair (Flower, Why Can't I?), Juno gave me Tire Swing by Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor's Blue Lips, I wrote my masters thesis to Gemma Hayes' Oliver and from watching House M.D. I heard Massive Attack's Teardrop and Mazzy Star's Into Dust. Hansard's Falling Slowly from Once is such a great song as is the Quebec band Mes Aïeux's track Dégénération. Other French-language songs I listened over and over again were Narcy's Toi T'en Rêve, Bensé's Quand je marche, Tri Yann's La Découverte ou l'Ignorance, Yelle's Je veux te voir and Grand Corps Malade's Les voyages en train. Then there is Latvian band Brainstorm's Maybe, Datarock's Computer Camp Love, Lily Allen's Fuck You and Estonian performers Chalice's Minu Inimesed and Hannaliisa Uusma's Absoluutselt. Who could forget Carla Bruni's Quelqu'un m'a dit? Irish language songs include: An raibh tú ar an gCarraig? (Liam Ó Maonlaí), Amhrán Mhaínse (Áine Ní Dhroighneáin) and Teangaidh na nGael (Cór Thaobh a' Leithid).
Exceptions to the trend of listening to singles include Breton-language band Kohann (Friantiz, Nakr), Ladytron which has such great songs like Ghost, International Dateline, Black Cat and Destroy Everything You Touch; Tatu, whom I liked to listen to more in Russian than English (Novaya Model, 30 Minut), Scottish singer Julie Fowlis who sings in Gaelic (Tha mo ghaol air àird a' chuain) and Welsh-language artist Meinir Gwilym (Fi fi fi, Dim ond yn fam) and I went through a phrase of listening to France's Diam's (La France à Moi). Also important was Louis De Paor and John Spillane's collaboration on The Gaelic Hits Factory (Sorcha Rua, Rugadh orm i gCorcaigh), the Seachtain na Gaeilge compilations Ceol '06-'08 (how I found out about Wallis Bird (Comhaireamh chun Codladh/ Couting to Sleep)), and Spillane's Irish Songs We Learned at School. In 2008 Eva and I went to see John Spillane in concert and he played some amazing songs including (Johnny Don't Go To Ballincollig, Lovers Leap, Passage West and The Dance of the Cherry Trees).
In the last year or two I have discovered Sámi singers Sofia Jannok's Irene and Mari Boine's Goaskinviellja and It Sat Duolmma Mu, Estonian bands Greip's Vihma loits, Vägilased's Kulla kutse and Vanaemamäng, Kago's Vari, Orelipoiss' See alles jääb and Zetod's Kergotamine; and Kats sõsard kargasõ. I haven't discovered any bands in the last few years that I have fallen in love with. I should do more discovering to find some. I need to find the band that will define this coming period of my life.
I leave you with a cute short song from the 24 year old Lithuanian Alina Orlova and a song I was introduced to in Lithuanian class this week. The title of the song is Mėnulis 'moon' and the lyrics can be found below.
O mėnulyje nėra mokyklų
Ir mėnulyje nevyksta karas,
O mėnuly - daug valgyklų,
Kur nemokamos bandelės.
O mėnulyje gyvena elniai,
Jų nenumuša mašinos,
Kai jie žiūri šitaip švelniai,
Net vaikams nėra anginos.
Oh on the moon there ain't no schools.
And on the moon there's no war.
Oh on the moon - a lot of canteens,
Where bread-rolls are free of charge.
Oh on the moon live deer,
They don't get hit by cars,
While looking so tender-eyed.
Children even don't have angina.
O mėnulyje nešlampa kojos
Ir mėnulyje nemiršta tėčiai,
Ten kiekvienas pats sau Nojus,
Ten visai nereikia skėčių.
O mėnulyje yra drakonų,
Juos paglostyti gali,
Bet kodėl, kodėl gi, broli,
Tas mėnulis taip toli?
Oh on the moon feet don't get wet.
And on the moon dads don't die.
There everyone is Noah for himself.
No need there for umbrellas at all.
Oh on the moon there are dragons,
You can stroke them.
But why, why, brother?
Why is that moon is so far away?
So far, So far, So far...