Point of View: Progressive tunes: Four albums define college experience

By James Byers
News Editor

College is a pretty magical time for a lot of reasons, most of them obvious and well documented.

One of the most underrated, though, is the ample opportunity and free time that students have to discover and consume music.

Music makes everything more fun, whether you’re studying in Moody Library, running the Bear Trail or exercising at the McLane SLC.

As I prepare to graduate, I can’t help but fondly remember some of the wonderful musical discoveries that became the soundtrack to my time as an undergraduate.

I’ve listened to a lot of music over the last four years, probably too much, but below are four albums, one for each school year, which helped define my musical development. Thanks to the magic of iTunes statistics I’ve also determined the approximate date these albums first hooked my ears.

Freshman year

Band: Pavement
Album: “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”
Year released: 1994
Discovered: 11/24/2007

I was barely a freshman when I discovered Pavement, a band of lovable alternative slackers who defined underground rock in the ’90s. “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain,” the band’s second album, is generally regarded as a classic but I didn’t know that when I started listening. Led by frontman Stephen Malkmus, this album is an exhibition in smart songwriting coupled with witty lyrics, catchy guitar hooks and a fair amount of youthful angst, all tossed off with effortless cool. I would quickly pick up Pavement’s other four albums and devour them. My dream was fulfilled last July when I watched the reunited band perform live in Chicago.

Sophomore year

Band: Galaxie 500
Album: “On Fire”
Year released: 1989
Discovered: 12/8/2008

I remember when I first cued up Galaxie 500’s album “On Fire” on my iPod.

I was sitting in the basement of Moody Library studying for a final exam that was surely inconsequential compared to the discovery I was about to make.

“On Fire” is a slow-burning stunner of an album, the kind of album you get lost in.

It’s an album that’s greater than the sum of its minimal parts: singer Dean Wareham’s otherworldly wail paired with dreamy guitar textures, all swathed in a wall of reverb that makes the album sound absolutely huge.

I may have discovered “On Fire” in 2008, nearly 20 years after it was released, but it still sounds both soothing and exciting every time I revisit it.

Junior year

Band: Beach House
Album: “Teen Dream”
Year released: 2010
Discovered: 1/10/2010

Here’s an album I didn’t so much discover as anticipate.

I was already a fan of Beach House when the band released its third album last year. Thankfully the band, which consists of vocalist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, delivered on its immense promise.

“Teen Dream” is an example of a contemporary band at the height of its powers. The lush dream pop that Beach House perfected on the album was like a breath of spring air when it was released in the gloom of January.

Scally’s delicate guitar lines are the perfect complement to Legrand’s earnest, emotive vocals.

“Teen Dream” is more than just my favorite album released in 2010; it’s also one of the defining albums of my college years.

Senior year

Band: The Modern Lovers
Album: “The Modern Lovers”
Year released: 1976
Discovered: 10/20/2010

The first and only studio album released by The Modern Lovers is a tour de force of ’70s rock and roll swagger.

Labeled “proto-punk” for the influence it would have on punk rock, The Modern Lovers’ self-titled debut is a blast. Frontman Jonathan Richman captures the awkwardness, paranoia and thrill of being young with a keen eye for detail.

Some of Richman’s best songs are downright creepy, like the stalker anthem and album highlight “Hospital,” while other cuts like album opener “Roadrunner” bounce with an infectious energy.

Perfect for exercising, or just walking through campus with some time to kill, “The Modern Lovers” is a classic by any measure.

James Byers is a senior business journalism major from Indianapolis and the news editor for the Lariat.