Damien Rice’s “O” and year-defining music

O was one of the first albums I purchased that was real.  When I moved to Edmonton in 2004, the next phase of my life was just beginning and by December/January, I’d left most of the childish music behind for more mature discriminating musical tastes (though I revisit that “childish music” all the time still — it just means less to me).  And once of the first albums I purchased upon discovering all of this new, great music I’d never heard or seen before, was O.

It is a stunning thing, that album — full of strings and gregorian chants and Lisa Hannigan’s heartbreaking vocals and tragic lyrics and tragic melodies and… it’s an album of utter hopelessness.  And I was obsessed with it.  Actually, who wasn’t?  It was one of those rare albums, that is widely considered legendary and timeless by almost everyone.  But I didn’t know that at the time.  To me, all I heard was something I could oddly relate to — or could REALLY relate to it, in my future failures and heartbreaks. “Tell it like you still believe, that the end of the century brings a change for you and me”; “why’d you sing Hallelujah if it means nothing to you?  Why’d you sing with me at all?”; “Love, it taught me to lie, life, it taught me to die – so it’s not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball”; and of course, “I can’t take my eyes off of you…”

This album reminds me of walking to school on cold mornings thinking about how Damien Rice’s life must have been so well-worn down and beaten up and somehow attaching those feelings to myself, despite being as happy as I’ve ever been at that time.  It’s odd how this album didn’t even come to me at the right time and yet, it is indelibly attached to that year.  There were other albums too,  that really defined that time for me; Teitur’s Poetry and Aeroplanes, Ryan Adams’ Gold and Demolition (I bought Love is Hell at this time too, but it didn’t mean much or define much to me until my second year), and Josh Ritter’s Hello Starling.  Here are some of the albums that defined my later university years.

Second Year
Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Jacksonville City Nights
David Gray – Life in Slow Motion
Ryan Adams – Love is Hell
Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
Ryan Adams – 29
David Gray – A New Day at Midnight
Various Artists – Garden State (soundtrack)

Third Year
Elliott Smith – XO
Elliott Smith – From a Basement on a Hill
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence
Joshua Radin – We Were Here
Various Artists – the Last Kiss soundtrack
Josh Rouse – Nashville
Josh Rouse – 1972
Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts

Fourth Year
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Easy Tiger
Elliott Smith – New Moon
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, it’s Morning
Travis – The Boy with No Name
Matthew Good – Hospital Music

Fifth Year
Leona Naess – Thirteens
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Vetiver – Tight Knit
Wilco – A Ghost is Born
Patrick Watson – Fireweed
Rhett Miller – Rhett Miller
Hotel Lights – Hotel Lights
Neil Young – On the Beach
Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds and a Sound
Joshua Radin – Simple Times
Cat Power – The Greatest
Rachael Yamagata – Elephants/Teeth Sinking into Heart
Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

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