Hey there, I’m Alex and I play guitar and sing in the band Dogleg. This was really tough to pick from, but here are three important records that changed my life!
Gang of Four – Entertainment!
In high school, 2000s post-punk revivalist bands had a special place in my heart, and I was deeply infatuated with bands like Bloc Party, the Libertines, and the Arctic Monkeys. The jerky rhythms and earworm hooks struck me in such a poignant way that I couldn’t get enough of the sound and style. Browsing last.fm and other music forums, I tried to weave the web of influences for all of those bands, and I found that most of them seemed to heavily draw from Gang of Four in particular. I put on “Ether” and it had such an intense and driving quality from something that was so minimalist and bare bones. The whole band sounded like they were trying to produce this album claustrophobically: the reverb on every instrument was so short and direct. Each tight snare hit, bass throb, and guitar spike was all working in tandem to destroy the box that the band was locked in, acting both melody creators and weapons. It was an incredibly interesting experience to hear just how much of a noise could be made from something that was created this way. And for a guitar that is so harsh, grating, and brash, it serves up some extremely tuneful and memorable riffs that stick with me to this day.
Crash of Rhinos – Distal
This was probably the first ever record that I listened to that made me cry over the sheer intensity and beauty of it all. I probably first heard it when I was about 15 and I was just learning how to find music online outside of iTunes. The only real access that I had to any music was my best friend’s collection which he shared with me, and occasionally we would go shop for cheap CDs together. At the time my definition of emo was based through pop-punk – Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy, MTV stuff – and I didn’t really know much else about emo or punk music outside of that. Trying to find more of that sound, I found Bandcamp.com and noticed that there were bands offering their work for free. I was looking through the “emo” tags on the site and Distal just caught my eye from the very earthy and intricate artwork. I sat down and played it all the way through at my parent’s computer desk and the entire experience felt like a baptism of fire. The album twisted and turned through complex rhythms and soaring melodies, through the highest of emotional highs and lowest of emotional lows. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard in my life – a sound that captured this innate sense of childlike wonder and nascent emotional energy, and fused it together with an ambitious and epic scale. All of the huge guitars and group vocals and heart-tugging melodies were just combined in a way that was so emotionally intense and raw, unlike anything I had ever heard before. It set me on a different path musically and helped me to discover most of my favorite artists, but I always come back to this album as the absolute pinnacle.
A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
When I was younger, I never really understood the complexities, intricacies and the true poetry and power that rap and hip-hop was able to provide. Most of the reference points that I had were delivered to me from the trap-style radio hits of extremely big beats and Eminem (being from Michigan, Eminem was extremely popular here), both of which I didn’t particularly enjoy. We also had some very terrible radio stations that would purposely choose to not play rap, and went as far as to cut out all the rap feature sections from popular songs of the time. I knew there was more than just what the radio was offering and also limiting from me. As I grew older and entered college, I made it a point to try to branch out from what I usually listened to, and my first goal was with rap. One of my friends recommended that I listen to this album first, and I can still remember the multitude of feelings that I had on that initial listen. The double bass leading off “Excursions” and the other jazz elements returning throughout the album immediately took me by surprise. I never knew that something so subtle and almost esoteric sounding could be made into something that held so much power and meaning. This was also one of the first albums where I tried to focus on the lyrics and their meanings – I would usually just focus on the melodies. The stories that they weaved within each song have so much finesse and a very playful quality that I love to this day – “Show Business” and “Jazz (We’ve Got)” were obvious standouts for me. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to be able to tell stories in a captivating way much like they did. This was the gateway for me to get into a ton of other great rap albums and helped me appreciate it, but I still see this album as the peak.
Dogleg is a dancy-poppy-punky-indie-rocky-pocky band from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.