This week's "Albums That Changed My Life" contributor is Kevin Devine!
Kevin will be spending this summer on his first coast-to-coast solo tour since 2006, supporting mewithoutYou. Check out the full routing here.
Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
For the record, I was one of those 13 year olds who converted to indie rock via "Nevermind" and that was that, and furthermore I currently think Axl Rose is a sick, sad, massively uncool guy. That said, this album was MINE before any other music was. I was obsessed from first hearing "Sweet Child O' Mine" in my cousin's bedroom in 1987 in Charlottesville, Virginia. I stayed obsessed a while, and if they're all links on a chain, this was the first step towards the music I eventually fell into.
I bought this on cassette from Tape World in the Staten Island Mall in 1994 after reading a glowing review in Rolling Stone. I unwrapped it and listened to it on my walkman outside the store. It was the next evolutionary step for me from Nirvana into indie rock, sloppy, smart, opaque, oddly sweet in spaces, funny...it wasn't muscular like grunge and metal and that mercury thinness was really exciting and appealing to me. I loved his voice too, it felt amateurish in a way I misunderstood at the time as lacking skill, which made it relatable, even though I was wrong.
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
I always liked less aggressive music, a lot of the 60s and 70s songwriters my mom played a lot growing up, REM's folkier moments, that first Counting Crows record, "Nirvana Unplugged" etc. Elliott's music really collected and elevated that interest within me - it floored me, and still does. It felt like he came from punk rock, which made it appealing and safe to a sorta hardcore kid in freshman year of college. It also was very emotionally communicative and evocative music that never felt cheap or manipulative, and was executed with ridiculous skill. This record is just perfect, beautiful, piercing. I saw him at Tramps in New York on this tour, spring 1998, solo acoustic, and it just totally blew my mind. I couldn't believe how satisfying and complete it felt with him alone up there. Literally perspective changing.
Beautiful, unflinching, challenging, thoughtful, smart, cool sounds, great structural songwriting. A relatable record about change and identity and disillusionment for grownups. My favorite new record of the past few years; like all good art, made me think and ask myself tough questions.