Pitchfork has a series of interviews called 5 – 10 – 15 – 20, in which favorite artists share the music they were listening to throughout their lives, in five-year intervals.
It got me thinking about the music that shaped me over the years.
5: Debbie Gibson – Lost In Your Eyes
My mother and I lived in an apartment building that looks over Ypao Beach Park. The building is still there, but it’s been converted into office buildings. My mom loves to work, she loves putting her mind to things she’s passionate about, so I remember taking to my room the hours she’d be typing away at her computer, writing her newest play.
I remember sitting in front of a three-story Barbie Mansion, one with a pink elevator and a jacuzzi, listening to Lost In Your Eyes like a devout Christian listening to the gospel. It was the gospel of teenage romance.
10: Olomana – Me Kealoha Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u
More and more music was making its way to me, including, but not limited to Informer by Snow, Whoomp, There It Is, by Tag Team (back again), and Emotion by Mariah Carey. But Olomana always stayed with me.
My mom tried to enroll me in hula classes, but I stopped taking them once the group started performing. My mom tried once again to get me to dance with her. Upon her insistence and in spite of my reluctance, we joined a mass performance with hundreds of other dancers in an effort to make the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of people to hula together.
I feel lots of ways about this time. Nostalgia isn’t something you can control.
15: Fiona Apple – Shadowboxer
I listened to Fiona Apple’s Tidal at least once a week from beginning to end throughout my sophomore year of high school. I’d found a spirit animal in Fiona Apple, her lyrics seemed to tap into my deepest, most sincere feelings.
The mid-90s were a good time for girl musicians. My playlist was full of Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Luscious Jackson, Tori Amos and other regulars of the Lilith Fair rotation. And thanks to a high school boyfriend, I was starting to venture into the world of punk, dabbling here and there in NOFX and Bad Religion.
Of course, that would all be ruined by Britney Spears, N’Sync, Blink 182, Avril Lavigne, Limp Bizkit and Hoobastank by the time I graduated high school. I had someone to blame for the sadness of getting older: soulless corporate-backed rock stars.
20. The Mars Volta – Cicatriz ESP
When I was 20, I met one of my dearest friends, Kate. I still have the mixed CD she made me shortly after we discovered that not only were we neighbors, we were classmates.
One of my favorite bands she introduced me to with that CD was The Mars Volta. Was it the drums? Was it the androgynous voice of Cedric Bixler-Zavala? I had no idea, but I was sold.
This was the year I almost dropped out of college to get married to a surfer I met working at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company over the summer. I chose to date this guy over a cool LA kid who had a tattoo of the band X on his forearm. I’m not sure I chose wisely, now that I look back on it. I didn’t drop out, and I didn’t get married. I did change my major from Theater to English, fell in love with John Keats and decided to study abroad in London the next year.
25: Michigan – Sufjan Stevens
I also learned about Sufjan Stevens through Kate. I listened to this album constantly when I was 25. That was the year I was a personal assistant, and for several months, I housesat for my boss, fed his cats, took his ailing dog to the vet, while he was shooting a movie on the other side of the country.
It was a glamorous time, as I went to sleep every night in a poolhouse that overlooked the glittering Los Angeles city lights stretching as far as the eye could see.
I had all of these quiet hours staying in a house far-removed from my friends and I spent them with my own thoughts. It could drive a person crazy. And I went a little crazy living in a place that wasn’t mine, pretending to occupy a house that was so much house, so much more house than I ever could afford.
I wanted to build something of my own, so I wrote, and drew, and listened Sufjan Stevens as I tried to figure out how I would be able to do that.
30. Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill
When I turned 30, I was a reporter at a daily newspaper on a tropical island as the news industry was dry heaving over its place in a brand, new, interconnected world.
I felt angry at such a terrible world in which things like child pornography, secret dog fighting rings, and corrupt politicians exist. I felt confident enough to ask the island’s highest elected official questions that seemed to ruffle his feathers. I felt disconnected from everything that ever made me feel comfortable and excited. I felt so in love with a dog I’d adopted and a new boyfriend I’d welcomed into my family.
I’d missed out on the Riot Grrrls of the 90s, but the music was making a lot more sense to me as a grown-ass woman. I wanted to jump around and scream and dance with my girl friends and bang on things and make a big mess.