Remember being fourteen years old? Emotions ran through us like boiling lava, whether it was a crush at school or drama with a best friend. Your parents didn't understand you, and frankly no one did. You started reading Rolling Stone and Spin, and rummaging through your older sibling's CD collection. The thing you identified with most was the album of that band you cherished obsessively, cranked in your Discman at full blast (conveniently ignoring those around us).
It has been said that the music we discover at that crucial age will resonate with us forever. In a New York Times article, Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University said, “Pubertal growth hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.” Indeed, whether that album represents flooded memories of rejection or bratty rebellion, there is no doubt it brings us back. Here, five formerly-confused-teens-turned-adults share their albums.
By Meagan Albrechtson
Growing up in a rural town meant I didn’t have too much access to mainstream music, but I will never forget the time I discovered Nirvana. I was at my best friend Jane Bradley’s birthday party. We were listening to the MTV Unplugged album that her dad had got her as a gift. I remember asking “who is this?” and one of my friend’s replying “Nirvana. The singer killed himself.” It was probably the first time I heard about suicide not to mention someone in a band doing it. For the rest of the party we listened to the album over and over, memorizing the banter that Kurt Cobain and his band members mumbled in between songs.
Months later, I was in Vancouver visiting my friend Ivy Nicole. We only saw each other once a year (our dads are longtime friends) and I thought she was the coolest, probably partly because she lived in the city and I was from a town barely anyone had heard of. She had bleached her hair blonde and was wearing black eyeliner. She told me Nirvana and Hole were her favourite bands ever, and led me to her room which was painted black with glow in the dark stars hanging from the ceiling, the walls swathed in grunge band posters. From then on I worshipped her and she had affirmed the awesomeness that was Nirvana.
That Christmas, I asked for the Nevermind CD and a t-shirt that said “Girls Kick Ass.‘ I would fall asleep to the album with big puffy headphones plugged into my dad’s Discman, feeling melancholic every single night. I remember the lyrics, ‘Polly wants a cracker, think I should get off her first,’ and picturing a parrot and a man in the same song and being so confused but not really caring. I can’t remember what made me so sad or how I could relate to the music so fittingly, but I can say without a doubt that Nirvana changed my life. I still love to blast Nevermind super loud and feel like the (non) rebellious, hormonally-charged teen I once was.
COUNTING CROWS - AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER
By Caitlin McConkey-Pirie
When I was 14, I wanted to be Maria, the girl Adam Duritz couldn't stop writing about. ‘She parks her car outside my house, takes her clothes off. She says she's close to understanding Jesus.’ Oh, to be ethnic and wild and free! Instead, I was a flat-chested white girl growing up in Ottawa (the most boring city in Canada's west end).
Loving the Counting Crows wasn't cool. August And Everything After wasn't The Offspring's Smash or Silverchair's Frogstomp, or Our Lady Peace's Clumsy. One time, in grade eight, my very good friend Andrew Grosvenor, who I was possibly in love with, dissed me hard by impersonating Adam Duritz soulfully pounding away on the ivories, wooing Courtney Cox like in the music video.
I didn’t care. I spent Friday nights singing along to Alanis Morrisette and eating sour cream and onion chips in my basement. I don't think I learned about angst until high school, but that's what I was feeling. And Adam Duritz got me. The man had white-boy dreads and a spare tire and I still felt like he'd been put on earth to sing my feelings. ‘If it's love, she said, then we're gonna have to think about the consequences. She can't stop shaking and I can't stop touching her.’
Being fourteen is amazing because you hear a man say, 'I can't stop touching her', and you could almost cry with the tenderness, in a way that you simply cannot after boys have touched you, and you have been Maria and Anna and actually understand what the hell is going on in the song.
I remember seeing the Counting Crows play with my best friend Leah. We sat in the audience of the National Arts Centre, watching opening band Cake perform, feeling like grown-ups, or at least like teenagers. There were lots of dudes from university in the crowd, and I remember feeling, if not seeing them, see us. It was the beginning.
OASIS - WHAT’S THE STORY MORNING GLORY
By Cindy Galvao
In 8th grade, I would spend my winter recesses staying inside listening to music and getting ‘guitar lessons’ from the guys. The must-have album, always played on repeat, was Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? I’d love to say I learned the guitar chords to “Wonderwall” from a skater named Jeff, but mostly I just watched him play and fell in love with the music. Here was a love song that wasn’t marketed to teen girls or sung by a pop princess, but instead came from the hearts and minds of potentially disgusting, sometimes uni-browed men from Manchester, and boys actually thought their songs were cool.
They were the harbingers of Brit-pop/rock, the second invasion. Elastica, Pulp, Blur, not to mention the gorgeous face and voice of Gavin Rossdale and Bush (X) took over my Discman, but Oasis was always the first and in my opinion the most credible. They had the talent, the attitude and the style. I credit them for introducing me to army jackets, adidas zip ups, trainers and beginning my never ending love affair with British youth culture.
I will forever want to hang out in Camden and Brick Lane, wear McQueen and Chloe when Stella McCartney and Pheobe Philo reigned, and go vintage shopping in Portobello Market with Kate Moss and Sienna Miller. I still devour everything and anything that comes out of the UK: Topshop, Misfits, Skins, Dr. Martens, Alexa Chung and Mulberry. Now maybe I’d love all of these things if I’d never heard “Don’t Look Back in Anger” sitting on a desk in Mr. McDonald’s classroom during recess, but I’d like to believe Oasis was the spark.
The album connects with everyone who hears it, it’s magical. Anyone who thinks otherwise should walk into Paradise Park in Nashville, Tennessee on a Friday night and listen to a room packed with collage kids, drunken locals and tourists in town for some honkytonkin’ sing every word of “Champagne Supernova” at the top of their lungs. It will give you goosebumps, even in a southern accent.
NINE INCH NAILS - DOWNWARD SPIRAL
By Robin Hercia
n 1994 I was exactly 14 years old, attending a school in northern Ontario - heavily wooded and notably colder than the life I had known in the city: the usual sense of doom and gloom associated with the chill and darkness of autumn was heightened. It was a new school and the joys and stresses of throwing myself into a whole new fire were wearing on me – a hundred new exciting friendships didn’t deliver the comfort of home. I started smoking cigarettes to form new relationships with types of interesting and creative kids I’d never had access to before. Getting away with it required long and involved hikes through forest trails beyond the school’s perimeter, all the while being wary that we were being hunted by school staff. It was a badass bonding expedition.
As autumn turned into winter the air got colder, the stars grew brighter and my existence got just as dark as those f-ing northern Ontario days. I was going on late night forest excursions by myself, freezing (and not dressed properly because I was a stupid kid), DiscMan loaded with Downward Spiral and, since I was a displaced teenage girl suffering the perils of a heartbreak, crying.
The album provided quiet moments that nourished my sadness, loud intensity which nourished the anger, and weird, beautiful industrial shit I’d never heard before, which made me feel elated between all the confused teenage hormonal stuff. I went through this under moons so bright the dark forest trails and rugby fields were illuminated with magical cool blue light reflecting off the snow. I cried for the boy who rejected me, my parents whom of course I hated and for all the people who didn’t understand me. It was the first album that really made me feel, as I faced raw brutal honesty – the perfect soundtrack.
That was the year that I dug into pursuing studies in art. Incidentally I have since re-dated said heartbreak and now live near the famous house where this album was recorded in L.A., where I work as a designer. Things sort of came full circle…or rather full spiral.
NOFX - SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE SHOES
y Nicole Dinardo
The year is 2000, I’m fourteen years old. My favourite t-shirt is a blue Metallica one that I made my mom buy me from a store in Wasaga Beach, not because I loved the band, but because Beavis wore the exact same shirt. My is hair long, curly and bleached blonde.
My ‘cool’ older sister always inspired my musical tastes. She introduced me to Nirvana and Silverchair when everyone else was listening to Spice Girls and The Backstreet Boys. But later, she turned to bands that had a darker edge, like Tool, Marilyn Manson, and Hole. I liked the tempo but the teenage depression wasn’t doing it for me. Plus, I wasn't into dog collars.
Instead, liked to wear candy necklaces and carried a lunchbox with pictures from Hit Parader pasted onto it. My sister and I were going in different directions, and I ventured out on my own. I went to HMV and bought So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes by NOFX. I was motivated by the cute, older skater boys who had the letters scrawled on their raggedy t-shirts peering out from under their schoolboy uniforms. With sheer excitement I closed my bedroom door, peeled away the clear plastic wrap, placed the CD into my 5-disc boom box, lay on my bed, feet in the air, and played the album from end to end. It was love at first listen.
The music was fast, the voices screaming, they had the right amount of anti-authoritative rebellion, and best of all, they were funny! I put my parents through agony as I insisted on playing it in the car.
The singer Fat Mike became a witty, sarcastic hero to me. In “Eat the Meek,” he sings, “The factory mass-producing fear, bottled, capped, distributed near and far, sold for a reasonable price. The people they love it, they feed it.” His interpretation of pop-culture led me to develop a discernible eye on media and every establishment trying to sell to me at such a vulnerable, marketable age. It still inspires me today and is evident in my subversive artwork.
Although I haven’t listened to NOFX in years, it still reminds me of a time when no one understood me except for Fat Mike.