8 musicians on the most influential albums of their youth

In part one of this double-feature, our favorite musical artists, from Mabel to The Garden, reminisce about Janet Jackson, The Fall, Destiny’s Child, and the albums that first blew their teenage minds.

by Zio Baritaux
23 February 2016, 2:55pm

Photography Olivia Rose

There's nothing more nostalgic than music — a song can remind us of where we were, what we wore or how we felt when we first heard it, even if it happened decades ago. TLC's "Creep" might remind us of dancing in silk pajamas in our childhood bedroom, or K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life" might make us think about our misguided middle-school crush. Regardless of what song does it for each of us, certain sounds evoke memories and transport us. So we decided to ask 17 of our favorite solo artists and bands — including Sevdaliza, Nicole Dollanganger, Okay Kaya, The Garden, SWMRS, and Camella Lobo — about the albums that influenced them the most. Their answers describe the music that has shaped who they are as artists today, offer insights into their personal lives, and tell tales about coming of age. Stay tuned for part two (featuring Sunflower Bean and GIRLI).

Mabel — The Writing's on the Wall by Destiny's Child
"The Writing's on the Wall, the first Destiny's Child album, is the first album that I was properly moved by. I really connect it to my big sister Tyson. It was a big album for both of us but she was the one that introduced me to it. We would make up dance routines to the tracks and pretend that we were in Destiny's Child. It was also when I fell in love with harmonies and that's something that I incorporate in my music to this day."

Photography Zahra Reijs

SevdalizaThe Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson
"At the end of my sixth-grade semester, I entered a talent show in my neighborhood. I showed up in a black catsuit and performed Janet Jackson's 'I Get So Lonely.' The jury was in shock and found the choice quite inappropriate. But when I think about it now, that particular choice of energy, the introspection I was drawn to so early on, makes complete sense.For two years, I was hooked on The Velvet Rope. During those initial listens, I was unable to fully appreciate it. I knew everything there was major, but couldn't draw parallels to my own life. Now, approaching the age of 28, I have lived many of these songs, in ways unforeseeable 16 years ago. Iʼve been alone and lonely. There's been defeat, resurrection, devotion, and deviance. These songs have something for anyone who's hurt, been hurt, or ever felt like damaged goods. A manifesto for the imbalanced, if you will. The Velvet Rope feels like a gift that I could slowly unwrap with time."

Photography Alex Aristei

Fletcher Shears of The Garden — Killing Joke by Killing Joke
"The first album that I can remember actually moving me was the album Killing Joke by Killing Joke. I remember hearing it and being really overwhelmed as a young kid. The song 'Total Invasion' had a huge impact on me. It scared me a bit, but gave me a huge rush of adrenaline every time it came on. It was pretty inspiring for my brother and I. That song was in a lot of ways 'different' for Killing Joke, and it was something along the way that kind of inspired me to do what I want and how I want. It sort of showed me that music has no boundaries or walls — people just create them over time."

Image courtesy Aurora

AuroraTemporary Dive by Ane Brun
"I remember listening a lot to Best of Leonard Cohen, but also Temporary Dive by Ane Brun. That album has dragged me away, pulled me up from dark holes and saved me many, many times. Temporary Dive made sense to me, even though at the time it was released I didn't fully understand every single word. I think I was eight years old then. It's a beautiful album, filled with magical moments and beautiful lyrics and production."

Image courtesy Peaking Lights

Indra Dunis of Peaking Lights — The Madcap Laughs by Syd Barrett
"When I was 15, I was good friends with a girl who lived with her 20-something older sister; no parents. Her sister was a drummer in an art punk band, and to me, was the coolest person ever. Between the two of them they had a huge vinyl record collection, and I spent many days there hanging out listening to records after school. I was exposed to a lot of crucial stuff for the first time at her house, but one day my friend made me a tape of Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs. I took it home and listened to it on my walkman. It was unlike anything I had heard before, so raw, imperfect, with great songs that were beautiful and melancholic. His singing is sometimes off key, his lyrics so unpolished, weird, and heartfelt. I think as a teenage girl, it was comforting to hear someone's imperfect beauty expressed… I wasn't in a band yet, and it really opened my mind to a vibe I hadn't heard before, and it gave me the feeling that music really has no limitations, it is for everyone."

Image courtesy Laura Mvula

Laura MvulaKind of Blue by Miles Davis
"Kind of Blue by Miles Davis was the first album to really influence the way I thought about and listened to music. I was amazed I could be captivated for long periods of time by this album and listen to it over and over and not be exhausted with it. This music is so spacious and full of restraint, a true example of the concept 'less is more.' For me, this music is timeless, limitless in innovation, as well as faithfully nodding to the past. Miles has uniqueness in abundance; his truly individual sound makes him special. I'm endlessly inspired by this record."

Photography Vivian Fu

Cole Becker of SWMRS — Is Dead by De La Soul
"I don't really know why I picked up a used tape of De La Soul's sophomore album Is Dead when I was in eighth grade — I guess I liked the cover and the way their name rolled off my tongue — but I immediately fell in love with the quirky lyrics and hyper-layered sampling. When I started to get bored with just about everything else I listened to at that point, I could listen to that record for hours on end and hear something different with every spin. I was trying desperately to be a punk a week before, but as I slowly tugged at this snag in the alt-rap universe, I found it harder and harder to wear the Black Flag patch on my size-small Gap jean jacket."

Image courtesy Peluché

Rhapsody Gonzalez of PeluchéMiddle Class Revolt by The Fall
"Listening to 'The Reckoning,' the album's second track, on my iPod on the way to work — at Krispy Kreme, Waterloo station [in London] — at 20 years old and waiting to get into university, just made me feel, 'Yeah, whatever, I don't care anyway,' in a good way. It's the way Mr. Mark E. Smith delivers his lyrics. The rhythm section is so tight with that slumpy groove. I guess you also get that invincible feeling when listening to the hippity hop.I was at a crossroads in my life, what can I say. I got into uni second time round, left Krispy Kreme and then I left uni after two terms. I left for music; I just thought; 'I don't care anyway, I'll do what I really want.' Mr. Mark E. Smith, you got in my head man."


Text Zio Baritaux

Peaking Lights
The Garden
Fletcher Shears
cole becker
laura mvula
indra dunis
rhapsody gonzalez