by Eric Ginsburg
1. Deloused in the Comatorium by the Mars Volta
A lot of the music I listened to in high school (2002-2006) was questionable and doesn’t stand the test of time, including a lot of weird pop punk and ska. There’s a certain nostalgia to Anti-Flag or the Aquabats, but I can’t listen to it in earnest. Yet the Mars Volta, who put on one of the most fantastic live performances I’ve ever seen, is a different story. This album builds masterfully to the final (and best) track, “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt.” My bandmate and I listened to it religiously, naming the band (along with Nirvana and Fugazi) as one of our primary influences.
I discovered emo giants Saves the Day by accident, when they opened for Weezer at the first concert I ever attended. I was in 8th grade at the time, and my dad made me wear earplugs. A year or two later, I fully embraced Saves the Day. I still find it impossible not to sing along with tracks like “Freakish,” particularly the chorus: “Well here I am/ Don’t know how to say this/ Only thing I know/ is awkward silence/ Your eyelids close/ when you’re around me/ to shut me out.” Tell me you don’t love the opening riff on “Jukebox Breakdown” or absolutely every part of “At Your Funeral.”
Admittedly, this album came out in 1999 before I hit high school, but I didn’t submerge myself in it until Rage released a companion live DVD around the time I entered 9th grade. I quickly seized on the first two tracks, “Testify” and “Guerrilla Radio,” but “Sleep Now in the Fire” and “War Within a Breath” may be my favorites. Rage deserves much credit for my early politicization, especially the parts of that DVD where lead singer Zach de la Rocha talks about the Zapatistas.
There’s nothing quite like love and heartbreak in high school, something Brand New captures adeptly. To this day I still haven’t listened to any of the other releases from these sub-cultural giants, but I can vividly remember listening to the haunting beauty of the entire album on repeat (and occasionally interspersed with Thursday’s War All the Time). Screamed lyrics like “Die young and save yourself” may have resonated better at age 15, but the proclamation “I would kill for the Atlantic/ but I am paid to make girls panic while I sing,” on the following track is just as glorious today.