Growing up, music is such an important part of all of our lives. As kids, most of us were forced to listen to our parents’ music (fortunately, mine weren’t into ABBA) – yet often it was the repeated tapes of a youth before ours that has come to influence much of what we listen to now.
As someone who grew up in the late 1990s and early-mid 2000s, my generation’s music taste is a melting pot largely influenced by the rise of the Internet. It is hard to say what music exactly defines my, and perhaps, your youth – no longer are we confined to set genres – no longer are we stereotyped to different sub-cultures. However, music has the power of transcending time and place, make us cry, make us laugh, and perhaps most importantly, it has the power to unite us (in the least cheesiest way possible).
So sit back, relax, and hopefully enjoy as I attempt to navigate through some of the most rule-breaking, influential, and standout records of our youth.
- Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
Oasis’s massive 1995 effort is an album I personally adored at an age where I hated authority and had a terrible side fringe. Angst-ridden 15-year-old me was a horrid person but had good music taste (especially considering I had just made it out of the Justin Bieber phase at the point when I ‘discovered’ Oasis). It was the likes of Oasis (and Blur) that brought Britpop to the brink of the world’s attention – from twanging guitars to melancholy lyrics. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? is such a pivotal album not only in the realms of adolescence, but it also serves as the record that laid the foundations for Oasis’ legacy. The 1995 album sounds like messy youth – sneaking out with your mates or having a solo boogie in your bedroom to the latest release.
- Aqua – Aquarium (1997)
It would be safe to say that Aqua were part of every child’s life in the 1990s. While the ‘Barbie Girl’ music video was amazing, Aqua’s trademark was not just their elaborate visual production (apparently the ‘Cartoon Heroes’ music video cost several million dollars), but rather it was their infectious pop sound. The Danish quartet could do no wrong upon the release of their debut, Aquarium (that is until their second album didn’t do that great and they disbanded for a while). Nonetheless, Aqua is a reminder of a childhood filled with friendship bracelets and sleepover parties.
- Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)
It’s impossible to avoid Daft Punk when it comes to discussing important albums of the new millennium. While their 1997 debut Homework spawned megahit ‘Around The World,’ it was their sophomore LP, Discovery that blew the French House duo in the music stratosphere. Tracks such as ‘One More Time’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ sound like leaving your cares are the door and having a party from dusk ‘til dawn.
- OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
Aside from winning three Grammies and selling millions of copies, OutKast’s fifth studio album was pivotal in the way that it revolutionised the music game: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was essentially two albums with two distinct styles merged into one. With Andre 3000’s pop, funk and jazz influences, and Big Boi’s Southern Hip Hop – OutKast’s 2003 effort is a reminder of a whole six months singing ‘Heeeeeeeyyyyy Yaaaaa!’ like no tomorrow.
- The Killers – Hot Fuss (2004)
With tracks like ‘Mr. Brightside’ still achieving a degree of stop-what-you-are-doing-right-now-and-sing-along whenever they play (I am still guilty of this), The Killer’s 2004 huge debut sounds like a post-punk revival, not for the faint hearted. ‘Somebody Told Me,’ the second single to be released sounds like much of the trivial aspects of the teen years. Lyrics such as “Breakin’ my back just to know your name” scream loud and clear a reminder of trying to get to first base.
- Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
Arctic Monkeys’ stellar debut doesn’t need much of an introduction. The music does the talking with this one. Arctic Monkeys sound like a very 2006 revival of our beloved Britpop. As with a lot of Arctic Monkeys’ earlier works; after one listen you’ll already feel like one of the lads. I don’t know whether it’s Alex Turner’s northern accent (he gives Sean Bean a run for his money if you ask me), or the loud, unapologetic nature of their approach – Arctic Monkeys will always make you feel like you’re home. For instance, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,’ is like that one song you sing on the way back from a night out – kebab in one hand, pride in the other. Good times.
- Kate Nash – Made of Bricks (2007)
As a pre-teen, Kate Nash’s quirky and brutally honest lyrics spoke to me in a way no other artist could. Made of Bricks is the type of album you can howl with laughter to, and maybe even sob to (perhaps at the same time). What sets Nash a part is her ability to cut the bullshit and just write something raw and relatable – kind of like Lily Allen. Kate Nash made it okay to feel confused and dorky and unpopular – and young girls (including awkward, teen me) will forever love her for that.
- Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
While Phoenix’s earlier works drew much of an underground following, it was the release of the fourth studio album in 2009 that drew a mainstream attention to the French indie-pop band. Much of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix feels like the soundtrack to a well-spent youth: going on adventures, planning road trips with your friends, dreaming of the future, and having a good time.
- Friendly Fires – Pala (2011)
Pala is the type of feel-good album that lifts your mood instantly. An intense fusion of extravagant percussion, pop-like synths, and lush harmonies – any track from Pala is a perfect soundscape made just for singing along to in the shower, or laying over your Facebook video when you want to show-off about your European Contiki tour.
- Lorde – Pure Heroine (2013)
Lorde KILLED 2013 so much that it propelled her to international super-stardom. However, teenage, pre-Taylor Swift, Lorde and her debut, Pure Heroine, is the perfect send off to the teenage years. Lorde leaves no topic off limits in Pure Heroine – discussing her teen trials and tribulations in a language meant only for youth. Lorde sings on top of a minimalist production about fears of becoming an adult, giving shiners to your best friends, and being young and broke in boring suburbia. Perfection.
Disclaimer: This is, not to say, that these are the greatest records of all time – but rather ones that speak loud and clear, reminding us of youth and rebellion and fun during the late 1990s and 2000s. Obviously there are loads more albums that perfectly describe a youth lived throughout this time.
Got any other suggestions? What records 10 shaped YOUR youth? We would love to know what you think!