5 Albums That Shaped Musician / Indie Entrepreneur Sierra Haager

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Sierra Haager

 

by Sierra Haager

 

I play music and work in music and that’s my deal. I’ve been lucky to get to work doing music almost exclusively for about 10 years in different roles, and with varying levels of success. The world of music is where I’ve enjoyed some of my greatest accomplishments and suffered through my most epic fails. As is the case with many music lovers, the chapters of my life can be easily linked to the most important albums that accompanied me through them. So here are some of the most important ones.

 

Sierra HaagerSonic Youth – “Dirty”

When I was 14 or 15 I picked up Sonic Youth’s Dirty at Amoeba in Berkeley. While I could never choose an ultimate favorite among my top five Sonic Youth albums, Dirty was the one I got first and, therefore, the one that blew my mind the hardest. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore express anger and idealism without the mollifying comfort of 1-4-5 punk, calling out Bush Sr. as a war pig fuck and the culture of passively accepted sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry.

And then there are the guitars. While Dirty has fewer of the full-blown guitar noise insanity interludes that are found on other Sonic Youth albums, it provides the untrained ear just the right amount of chaos to get you truly hooked. I often think that I’d love it if Sonic Youth’s discography were also available without vocals so I could listen and focus on the guitars.

Hearing Kim Gordon sing for the first time changed my life. She uses her voice to sound more naked than naked. More real than real. It almost makes the listener feel embarrassed to be listening. For years I’ve gone back and forth between loving and being irritated by her songs, probably because she projects such unhinged intensity. As I get older, I feel like I understand her differently. I feel grateful for her power and her rage, which I see as one of the only truly sane reactions to a world in which the role of a woman is one of shame, frustration and debasement.

Listen on Spotify

 

Sierra HaagerGrandaddy – “Sumday”

Sumday is pretty far on the opposite end of the spectrum for me. It’s probably one of the most cheerful sounding albums that I love. Jason Lytle, the king of earnest, uses mundane imagery as the backdrop for lots of whimsical melodies and tender sentiments.

I have two specific memories with this album.

One takes place in San Francisco during the summer of 2009 when I was 19 and it felt like my life was falling apart. I had just broken up with a live-in boyfriend and was spending most of my non-working hours with my bandmates getting wasted and playing music. Even though I was basically homeless (bouncing around and couch surfing), I had a great job teaching music and I had, for the first time ever (or since, to be honest), a band that was really good live.

On a warm afternoon, I remember driving down 18th in the Mission sitting in the passenger seat of my guitarists’ car blasting “Now It’s On” with the windows down and feeling the sun on my face. This scene has some thin background static of having my life fall out from under me, but I also felt happy and like anything was possible.

The second memory is from that winter after I had moved in with my grandparents in New York. I felt paralyzed and tired. I wanted to be full of energy and ready to start a new life on the east coast, but I was rapidly falling into the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. I would ride the subway home late at night after seeing friends and listen to “El Caminos In The West” and think about the sweet, cool air of the Bay Area. There is an age at which it seems plausible that moving to a new city will fix your life. I think Chuck Klosterman wrote something about that, but I don’t remember what.

Listen on Spotify 

 

Sierra HaagerThe Delgados – “The Great Eastern”

When I first met Alex in the summer of 2013, before we’d been on a date or anything, he tagged along with me in the car one day when I was out running errands. We had an immediate magnetic friendship and were tickled to find out that we had a few favorite obscure records in common. We played each other songs and marveled silently at how well we got along. I played him The Past That Suits You Best on my phone (a song and album he knew well) and mentioned that I’d lost my physical copy of the record. A couple of days later he met me in Dolores Park and brought along a copy of the record he’d picked up for me that day at Amoeba. Our lives and record collections are now completely merged and we’ve since added a bunch of other records from The Delgados and the individual members’ various other projects. Our son is due on New Year’s Day.

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Sierra HaagerWilco – “A Ghost is Born”

While Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the Wilco album, A Ghost Is Born has always been the Wilco album for me. I don’t have quite as much to say about this record as some of the other ones, but it helped me put together an important understanding about life. Basically, that it’s possible to find moments of meaning and even beauty even when your days and nights are full of anxiety and/or depression. My favorite songs are Hell is Chrome and Wishful Thinking.

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Sierra HaagerJimmy Eat World – “Bleed American”

I’ve heard from people older than me that this is not the correct Jimmy Eat World record to make one’s favorite. Based on this list, it seems like loving a band’s second-best record is kind of my thing. Now, allow me to defend my opinion.

Bleed American came out the summer before I started 6th grade, and a few months before 9/11, which was basically the first time I remember being aware of global events. It also marked for me the beginning of puberty, of playing guitar, and of having music taste at all. In a lot of ways, Bleed American has everything a perfect middle school album should; intensity, hooks, sing along moments, light cultural critique, and beginner-level melancholy.

I loved and still love this album. My favorite tracks are Bleed American, Sweetness, and Authority Song, but really, there isn’t a song on this record I don’t love.

Listen on Spotify

 
 
 

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