These days I tend not to listen to many albums, at least not one track after another on repeat, the way I used to when I had cassette tapes and then CDs.
Now that Spotify is in my life, most of my music is organised into playlists with titles like “Fuck Yeah”, “Mother-Friendly Playlist”, “Leave Me Alone”, “Work Fucking Harder”, and so on.
But from time to time there’s still an album that captures me enough to make me want to listen to it all the way through, and then listen again, and then buy the CD to make sure I definitely have it forever.
Here are some of my favourite albums throughout my life.
Always: The Timeless Music Selection
A compilation album that will forever hold a place in my heart for being the thing that taught me how to sing, Always is full of classics. From Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World to Nat King Cole’s When I Fall In Love and Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me, it’s perfect if you like old croony music, or if you’re about eight and trying to work out how to sing.
I used to slot it into the big grey tape player in the tiny kitchen in our flat, crank up the volume, and blast out my voice at the top of my lungs.
Sometimes I still do.
Neil Diamond: Up On The Roof
You are by now probably getting an idea of how
uncool I am. This was another one I listened to often as a child, and one I learned to sing on, and one I still revisit regularly. Neil Diamond rocks my world.
Also, it has Dolly Parton duetting. Perfection.
Christina Aguilera: Stripped
Because ‘Fighter’ has the best music video, like, ever. And because as a teenager there were so many songs I related to on this album. And again, because blasting it at the top of your lungs is a lot of fun.
Anastacia: Not That Kind
I listened to this religiously for months, and then it sort of dropped off my radar and I forgot about it for years, which means that now when I listen to it, it has the ability to immediately transport me back to a sun-coloured bedroom in Sussex, the smell of my favourite drug store body spray hanging in the air, homework piled on the desk and bright scarves draped all around the room.
Jack Off Jill: Clear Hearts Grey Flowers
By the time I moved to Brighton in my late teens, I’d discovered angsty music. Clear Hearts Grey Flowers pretty much epitomises that. As soon as I hear the crackly opening, I’m transported back into a bedroom which I’d painted purple, magenta, black and white in bold half-wall sections. Lying on the floor, back against the prickly carpet, listening to this with the volume as loud as I could feasibly turn it, Vodka Mudshake open next to me and the gerbils (classily named Bacardi and Breezer) racing around in their cage.
David Bowie: David Bowie
His eponymous second album has always been my favourite, although Blackstar is currently vying for prime position.
Lying in a cabin bed with my headphones on and this album going round and round on my old portable cassette player (which was decorated with stickers of skulls, Ruby Gloom, Emily the Strange and the Spice Girls). Face-down, somehow not suffocating myself in the pillow, realising that stories can be told through music.
Duets: Barbra Streisand
Honestly, what I wouldn’t give to sing with Barbra Streisand.
I’d always been a huge fan, but when I discovered her Duets album as a teenager I became obsessed to a whole new level. More songs! More people singing them! More space to breathe between notes!
She is queen.
Dire Straits: Private Investigations
One of my friends introduced me to Dire Straits when I was about sixteen, and I loved them immediately. Private Investigations was (and remains) my favourite album of theirs, and of course now it has extra pertinence due to my job.
Jillette Johnson: Water In A Whale
More recently, I discovered Jillette Johnson when perusing Janeway fan playlists on Tumblr, and I was immediately hooked. The voice! The lyrics! The arrangements! Yassss.
David Bowie: Blackstar
Because of course Bowie went out with an album at #1 in the charts, and of course it was perfect.
Now, tell me yours.