Muse - Origin of Symmetry
I couldn’t not start with this record.
We were living in France, and one morning we were off to school in Mum’s chlorophyll green Polo. Ouï FM was playing and that riff came on the radio. I believe I may have gotten told off for turning the sound up a little too loud at the time. “Plug in Baby” was the first song I’d heard from Muse, and it would set off a series of events that would change my life.
I recall that school day to have been one of the longest ever. What I could remember from my one and only listen of the song was stuck in my head, and all I wanted to do was to go home and try and find that song again. Our internet wasn’t that good back then, so I spent a couple hours that evening listening to the radio with a blank cassette in the deck, finger at the ready to press record whenever it came on again. I very quickly wore that cassette out but thankfully got the full record that Christmas.
We’d grown up in a house full of instruments encouraged to muck about when the fancy tickled us, but that was the moment where I really felt I wanted to pick up the guitar willingly. The album is so well written that it made me want to know, understand and learn all of its parts. And so, I tried to do so, teaching myself the easier bass, piano and drum parts. I was hooked.
Almost a decade later I was fortunate enough to work for Ouï Fm for a couple years, and it was a lovely full-circle experience that I won’t forget.
Eminem - The Real Slim Shady LP
There are few first impressions of artists that I remember as vividly as I do for Eminem. At 11 years old, he was everything a parent would hate their kids listening to. I was first exposed to Marshall Mathers courtesy of a kid called Charles, who made me a rap mixtape; a mixtape he would Ironically enough hand me one day after mass at the American church of Paris.
Not long thereafter, the video for “My Name Is” played on a French music channel. I’m guessing because of where we lived, playing the uncensored version during the daytime wasn’t an issue. My tiny little mind was blown, in a similar way that only “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails and “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson had managed to.
At that age, so much of the subject matter flew right over my head. All I knew was that it was catchy, had funny visuals and an abundance of swear words in it; that was all I needed and I was immediately was a fan of Slim Shady. As an adult, I now know that involvement of Dr.Dre and Bass Brothers played a huge part in how ear-catching the songs were. The record still stands the test of time…if one can overlook certain questionable subject matters in lieu of his lyrical mastery.
Radiohead - Hail to The Thief
A massive platform for the development of my musical tastes was MTV 2’s Gonzo presented by Zane Lowe. As often as I was allowed this was my go-to after school TV program. It opened up my eyes to a scene I didn’t know existed, and ran the gamut from Indie Rock to Metal. “There, There” was the first single I heard from Hail To The Thief, and I was instantly transported. The haunting, nursery rhyme-like music video of Thom Yorke wandering through the woods is still etched into my brain.
Everyone has a different favourite Radiohead record and Hail To The Thief is mine. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that this release coincided with the peak of my musical thirst. But, after a very electronically driven departure with their prior releases, the band seemed to bridge the gap with electronica and rock on this record, and the urgency with which they record album number 6 definitely worked in their favour. It’s brilliant.
Queens Of The Stone Age - Songs For The Deaf
This is hands down my all-time favourite road trip record.
Touring with a band can be exhausting. When budgets are smaller and you’re not yet afforded the luxury of having a tourbus with bunks in it, you’re usually driving a van and trailer through the night in order to get to the next city. You take turns behind the wheel and at that point, coffee and a solid soundtrack are absolute lifesavers. This record without fail would always lift the spirits and energy levels of the baggy-eyed designated driver and shotgunner.
This is another record I originally discovered courtesy of “Gonzo”, with the now iconic song and video for “No One Knows”. But the rest of the album is so solid, and sometimes overlooked. Dave Grohl recorded the drums on this, and he is such a key addition (much like his contribution to Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 effort, “With Teeth”). His trademark hard-hitting style blends effortlessly with the band’s songs. To this day, not seeing him perform with Queens Of The Stone Age on that tour cycle is still one of my biggest regrets.
My highlighted track is “Song For The Dead” as the aforementioned single would have been too easy. Belligerently heavy on the drums, Dave just sets the tone for the rest of the song. It’s a midnight desert drive riff heavy head banger on a game changer of a record.
John Mayer Trio - TRY! (Live)
This one might be my favourite live record.
Over the course of his career John Mayer has definitely had personal and musical ups and downs, but this bluesy live record from before his cocky high-profile dating days is an absolute banger. The fact that throughout this record there are only 3 people playing is testament to just how good he, Pino Palladino (bass) and Steve Jordan (drums) are at what they do.
“Vultures” straight up sounds like there are 2 (or more!) guitarists on the recording, and the guys are just so damn tight throughout the album it’s near flawless and makes for a very enjoyable listen.
Daniel Caesar - Freudian
I have been fortunate enough to work with the Daniel Caesar camp on the road this past year, and it’s been a wonderful experience and discovery.
Hailing from Toronto, Daniel is only 24 and musically wise beyond his years. Humble, soulful and extremely talented, his blend of R&B translates brilliantly on stage where he is accompanied by a stellar band. The track I highlighted won him a Grammy last year for best R&B performance, and I’ve a strong feeling that will not be his last. Keep your eyes peeled for when he’s back on the road, it will definitely be worth checking out.
Billy Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?
In this list, I wanted to include the record I’ve been listening to most recently. It’s a far cry from what I usually listen to, but for some reason I was just drawn to her music after discovering the twisted video for her single “Bury a friend”.
Alongside her brother Finneas who co-writes the songs with her, Billie has built up this dark, vocal centric world with stripped-back production that just stands out. The songs are sometimes twisted but always well written catchy little earworms. Her vocal ability is technically vast and this is only the beginning for her. Here’s hoping the massive wave of success she is currently enjoying at the ripe old age of 17 doesn’t set her down the wrong path like we’ve unfortunately seen before with other talented young artists. Her strong family background suggests she is in good hands though – fingers crossed.
Mitch Hedberg - Mitch All Together
For the last one, I wanted to change it up a bit. For each of my favourite records I can usually pinpoint a time or place linked to the memory of hearing said album for the first time, and few memories are as vivid as that of hearing this stand-up comedy album by Mitch Hedberg.
Now I don’t remember what year this trip was, nor if he was still alive at the time (Mitch passed in 2005 from a drug overdose), but one summer vacation in the states Mum & Dad bought this record, and we listened to it along the way. I have a distinct memory of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and all four of us in the car just laughing so loudly. It is such a recognizably distinct brand of comedy, with off the cuff one liners that seemingly have nothing to do with one another, but they just work. His deadpan stoner demeanour just add to how brilliantly perfect these short jokes are written and delivered. If you are to check out only one of my records from this list, please let it be this one. I guarantee it’s an eye opener that will make your day far far better.
On a side note, my parents recently came to visit me and we enjoyed rediscovering this record on yet another Californian roadtrip, and you better believe the chuckles were just as hearty as they were all those years ago.
Matthew Rigg is 31 and grew up between England and France. After working in the music industry for over a decade, he now lives in Los Angeles and works in TV and Film Production.