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My Life in Music: Dashboard Confessional

Run-D.M.C. Jacko. Counting Crows? These are a few of Chris Carrabba’s favorite things

Lots of twentysomething punks will tell you their lives were changed by early-’90s Gilman Street legends Operation Ivy and Green Day, but how many have the guts to admit to loving Counting Crows as well? The reigning king of emo, for one. Not that Chris “Dashboard Confessional” Carrabba has always been a sucker for all things adult contemporary. “I remember liking Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man as a kid,” he says, “but I can’t say I’ve found myself affected by it years later.” Calling from a tour stop in Atlanta (“I think it’s Atlanta”) a few weeks before the release of his new album, A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, Carrabba took a few moments to recall the albums that saved his weary soul.

A. THE BEACH BOYS PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL, 1966) “My mom was a big Beach Boys fan. I must have been about eight when I heard this. I just remember thinking it was really beautiful.”

B. MICHAEL JACKSON THRILLER (EPIC, 1982) “As a kid, I never liked dumb music. I don’t have any memories of listening to candy music. Michael Jackson was hugely popular at the time, but I didn’t think it was candy. It was fun, but it wasn’t dumb.”

C. RUN-D.M.C. RUN-D.M.C. (PROFILE, 1984) “I had a cousin who had a good record collection, which is how I heard this. I didn’t think it was rap; I thought it was just rock.”

D. R.E.M. GREEN (WARNER BROS., 1988) “I was living in West Hartford, Connecticut–not exactly a mecca of new music–so I got into R.E.M. kind of late. This was the first R.E.M. album I heard. I must’ve been in middle school at the time. All my friends were listening to hair metal and stuff, and this sounded so straightforward, but laden with memory and rich without being frilly.”

E. OPERATION IVY ENERGY (LOOKOUT!, 1989) “After middle school, I moved down to Florida and started hanging out with the skateboard kids, so I started listening to music in skate videos. I was over-the-moon in love with Op Ivy. I still think they’re one of the greatest bands ever.”

F. GREEN DAY KERPLUNK (LOOKOUT!, 1992) “First of all, they could sing. I loved that their harmonies were reminiscent of the Beach Boys. It was powerful guitar rock, but not flashy like metal.”

G. JAWBOX FOR YOUR OWN SPECIAL SWEETHEART (ATLANTIC, 1994); JAWBREAKER 24 HOUR REVENGE THERAPY (TUPELO/COMMUNION, 1994) “In high school, I got really into Jawbox and Jawbreaker, but for different reasons. I was mesmerized by the technical quality of Jawbox. [Guitarist/vocalist] J. Robbins can do so much and still be so melodic–it’s not like math rock. Jawbreaker were just straight-up with very few frills, but they told the greatest stories ever. They weren’t trying to be complicated. They were just telling you how they felt.”

H. COUNTING CROWS RECOVERING THE SATELLITES (GEFFEN, 1996) “I listened to this record religiously, and I still do. The storytelling is amazing, and it’s so well recorded. Gil Norton became my dream producer-he worked on our last record. At the time, I got a lot of heat from my friends for liking this, but they’ve come around.”

I. SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE DIARY (SUB POP, 1994) “This is when I started playing guitar instead of skateboarding. The songs I was writing were an infantile version of what Sunny Day did so well. Diary really caught my ear and got me thinking, ‘This is what I want to do.'”

J. JIMMY EAT WORLD STATIC PREVAILS (CAPITOL, 1996) “The guitar, the rhythm section, the thoughtful harmonies–it just screamed at me, ‘Go out and do something!’ Then Clarity was released, and I listened to nothing but that for two months. It was like a Beach Boys record. It took you on a ride.”

K. PIXIES DEATH TO THE PIXIES (4AD/ELEKTRA, 1997) “I don’t know how to mention the Pixies without listing their whole catalog, so I’ll go with this one [sort of a greatest-hits compilation]. It was the first time I had heard such frantic songwriting–that fire-in-the-pants sort of thing.”

L. NO KNIFE FIRE IN THE CITY OF AUTOMATONS (TIME BOMB, 1999) “It’s like everything that Jawbox, Jawbreaker, and Sunny Day Real Estate did, all rolled into one. I was playing in bands at this point, and I realized it would be difficult for me to make a record this good. You know that feeling when you listen to a record and you think, ‘Not only are these guys great, they’re also excited to be in a band’? I hope I never lose that feeling.”