Turn It Up
I just came back from a brief trip to Scotland.
In the summer of 2007 I ran to this song.
I've wondered what the first song to be featured here twice would be.
I knew it would happen, given how much I love to listen to songs repeatedly and how much the meaning of songs can change over time.
So You Used to Shake Em Down but Now You Stop and Think About Your Dignity: "Rock and Roll Never Forgets"
Those who know me these days know that I spend a fair amount of time listening to various flavors of Comcast Music Choice, also known as those weird 400-level channels just after the Mexican wrestling and just before pay-per-view porn.
As I've written about here before, I have what I call (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion) Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome.
David Byrne is really doing it for me right now.
This morning as I did my radio show, I found his album Here Lies Love and experienced a gradual dawning of increasingly exciting revelations:
1. It's a disco/club album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
Although this blog is generally what I would describe as "aggressively UN-topical", I'm going to veer into the current for a second.
You may have heard that Miley Cyrus performed at the VMAs this Sunday. You may have heard this from pretty much every news outlet, mainstream and niche, feminist, socio-cultural, and otherwise.
I too have heard this.
Recently, for a reason that is boring, I was faced with the knowledge of what is the very first song I ever purchased from iTunes.
It's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers.
Things that have happened to me recently:
1. Two viewings in one week of the 2010 future-cult-classic film Burlesque starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.
Do you believe in coincidences?
I sure do. There are a lot of them in this life. Some of them even seem to make patterns. But it's all in the interpretation.
It's a coincidence that this song has come on several times in the last weeks when I've been feeling blue and down.
I like a theory. I'm always working on a few, mostly ridiculous, ones. Like for a long time I had this whole matrix of food choices that was supposed to say something about your personality (Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits, spearmint gum vs. peppermint gum etc), and while I am not willing to abandon this entirely, I'm also open to a few more theories of personality and humanity.
I think I may be a silicon-based organism, because my mind just does not work very well in the heat.
But here's a good song! It's off the album Al Green Explores Your Mind, which held the distinction of "my new favorite album title" for about a week until it was knocked off by Everybody Hertz (by Air.)
I hope we can all agree that Eric Clapton's (or Derek and the Dominos if you want to get pedantic) "Layla" is an amazing song.
It's got all the things: technical complexity and innovation, more than enough emotion to go around, and a backstory encompassing several grand figures of rock history.
Because I've been mulling over American songs this past week, I thought I'd share two more classics of the genre.
Like I said in this post with this Sam Cooke song, some songs are to get the party started and some are to keep an existing party going. Cruising songs, one might say.
Summer is the best time for pop music.
In fact I would even venture to say that it is THE time for pop music, and pop music at all other times of the year is just trying to recreate the feeling of summer.
I should clarify my terms: in this case I mean "pop music" as in the stuff of the current day (and oh what a day it is currently).
Music is a form of communication that is sometimes direct and sometimes ineffable as heck. For instance, this particular song has been for the last few months something I listen to when I want to feel like myself again, after not feeling like myself. (Which is a distressing feeling as I am sure you understand.)
There is a particular topic that I want to start writing about more often.
Want is maybe not the right word. I mean something more along the lines of "don't really want to at all, but feel I should in order to stay true to my own personal values" (but that doesn't condense well).
Get ready, because this song is just ADORABLE.
The song: The Shirelles, "Everybody Loves A Lover"; 1962
Here's a nice summery song that will make you want to participate in a montage of fun activities with a group of attractive people:
The song: Two Door Cinema Club, "Something Good Can Work"; 2011
Usually I would just link to the entry where I said this, but for the first time in my life I am feeling the urge to quote myself and I kind of want to ride this wave into shore.
I can only ever realize in retrospect how much the music I showcase on this blog (and on my radio show, more on that later) reflects my mood.
I recently had the opportunity to speak in front of about 130 people about "any subject related to writing", which as you can imagine was extremely exciting but also extremely intimidating.
I really, viscerally do not get why Tom Jones was as famous as he was.
Am I too young? Cynical? Just squeamish about men who wear their shirts unbuttoned too far?
(Yes, yes, YES.)
Similarly, I really viscerally Do Not Get the song "It's Not Unusual". But I still love it. And here's why.
For those moments when life seems a little bit too close and real, like when I saw hyenas in a zoo in Singapore. It's a modern zoo, so you can't see they're in a cage.
The song: The National, "Slow Show"; 2007
I mentioned a few weeks ago that my house was broken into, and posted a Dusty Springfield song.
One cool thing about having had this blog for over a year: I can now start to see patterns in the way I listen to and enjoy music, which is really interesting because usually when I am in a Phase I pretty much feel like that Phase is the alpha and omega, the way things have always been and the way they always will be.
Girl groups: I recently mentioned them!
This song is notable for being the first song by an all-girl group to reach #1 in the United States. (Just think of the many all-girl groups that have come along since then! And what we would do without them! Our worlds would be so much darker.)
It makes me respect somebody to learn they love the music of what we call "girl groups".
Last Friday night an unknown person kicked down the door to my apartment, rifled through my possessions, and stole some of them.
I've been thinking a lot recently about country music.
I keep thinking I'll write one post where I just break it all down, country music and why I love it and what's unique and special about it, and these ideas always seem within my grasp when they're inside my head but completely ineffective when I try to put them outside.
One of the greatest things about the time I spend at WCBN is how often I get to read liner notes.
I think these are generally an underappreciated art form.
Back in the summer I read the liner notes to Paul Simon's latest album, which were written by Elvis Costello, and I've not forgotten this line:
I briefly mentioned this once but not in very much depth: I don't think of myself as an "albums" person.
I just respond to the song for the song. And think of songs for themselves.
I started my blog with a post about the Mature Break-Up Song.
In the almost-year since then I've wrestled a lot with the question of what my blog is about and for.
Editor's Note: The following post is presented in the form of a conversation between myself and my dear friend Emma Claire Foley, who recently revived her own blogging efforts with Having An Empty Mind. When I asked her to describe her blog, she said, "Uh. .
it's been a while since I wrote here, although I have been thinking about it every day, because that's what you do with something you love.
My mind has been occupied with a million other things, most notably and tangibly a very large upcoming international trip,
but more ineffably, the question of happiness.
One thing I am completely willing to admit about myself is that, where it comes to matters of media and culture, I am so stubbornly conservative as to be, like, one of those mountain trolls post-turning-into-stone.
And I don't mean like drive like drive in a car, I mean like drive like be driven.
Earlier today I was in a situation that does not hit me where I am strongest: a large dark room filled with mostly-strangers having emotions.
(Cigarette smoke used to crowd away some of the overwhelming emotion-ness of bars but now there is just no respite!)
By the time you read this, it will be my 25th birthday.
Also the first birthday LITERALLY IN MY ENTIRE MEMORY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE that I have not felt some angst about being a year older.
Here's a Christmas carol you don't hear too often, based on an 1864 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lamenting the state of the country during the Civil War.
The modern Christmas song is a tough thing to pull off.
For years my dad and I have joked that all we need to do to strike it rich in this life is somehow write the next hit Christmas carol, one that will be covered by generations to come, and then live easy forevermore on the royalties.
By night I am deeply embroiled in an intensive cultural-criticism training program (eating microwave popcorn by myself and watching cable television) but my day job is about children.
It will most likely come as no surprise that I'm a person who can get really melancholy and self-pitying and just terrible. (Have I ever hidden how much I truly love Morrissey?)
As I've mentioned before, I often have to force myself to turn outward.
When it comes to romance, the older I get the more I find myself turning into a fascist.
I used to not like this song. The implication that One True Love should somehow supersede a person's entire previous life ruffled my feathers, although I appreciated the beautifully simple and distinctive drum line and the sweetness of those notes at the beginning.
"Tainted Love" is by FAR my favorite song to sing in the shower, so I was delighted to come across this lesser-known original version of it. Before clicking, I thought to myself,
"Great! I will do a Version v. Version of this because what's better than listening to 'Tainted Love'? Listening to 'Tainted Love' five times in a row!!!!!!!"
A few months ago, around when I moved into my new place, I got on a real kick for self-improvement. Now I drink water with lemon in it (according to the highly reputable text Alkalize or Die! by Dr. Theodore Baroody, this is all I need to become immortal) and I try not to talk unless I have something interesting to say.
What I think a lot of people don't realize about being American is that part of being American is feeling kind of weird about it.
Okay so there's a lot of pretending that goes on in my life. I think it's a natural consequence of a) living alone and b) an overactive brain.
I usually steer clear of posting songs or theme-ing posts to holidays just because I feel that's establishing what could only be called a dangerous precedent,
but this song struck me as something good for Halloween and I'm trying to put my finger on why.
There's two kinds of hobbies in this life: the ones that exist outside your head, and the ones that don't.
One of my personal favorites of the latter genre is "pretending my life is a movie and I am the music director".
This is a really great song and I recommend that you listen to it ASAP.
The song: Erasure, "All Through The Years"; 1994
The moment: 1:25
If you've turned on a TV or the radio in the past three months, you've heard these songs.
My argument is essentially, not to put too fine a point on it, that these two songs represent Everything That Is Wrong With Everything in the Year 2012.
(in a metaphysical sense.)
Here we go.
I really love October (who doesn't) but I find that it can sometimes really exacerbate what I'll call my Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome.
Like most chronic things, it's low level most of the time and then occasionally flares up, usually in the form of thoughts like so:
The things you love most are the things you return to again and again.
Hence the concept of the dog-eared page. Or buying DVDs in an age when it's just as easy not to. The desire to own and mark what you know you will want to see again.
The things I return to are usually things I hardly realize I am returning to, because they never feel old, they just feel good.
Friends, it's that time again.
For that unanswerable question: who sung it best?
THIS TIME, a special twist because all of the artists featured here have ALSO been previously featured on In Bed With Amy Wilson. Because I love them all. A conundrum is before us.
The song? Only the one everybody should have in the back pocket of their emotional register:
As I've hopefully made clear, I'm really into things that seem kind of bright and upbeat but in fact are DARK and TWISTED and MORBID. The contrast is just really zesty to me.
I really like doing radio, as evidenced by the fact that for the last four months I have been willing to drag my carcass out of my burrow between the hours of 3am and 6am to do it.
There are a lot of things that are addictive and magical and wonderful about the radio, and I've done a lot of thinking about them recently. Here are two:
I recently submitted to the McSweeney's Internet Tendency Column Contest, which I did not win (evidently) but which required me to write one full example column for the submission.
I have been occasionally known to say I am in a relationship with my blog, which is only about 25% a joke.
Please excuse the recent radio silence. I have been moving, an endeavor which takes relatively little time in the physical world but which has CONSUMED MY BRAIN with a potent mix of dread and excitement and a catlike desire to pee everywhere in my new place (but the pee is colors and music).
Several (many) months ago I made this statement, which has periodically resurfaced to haunt me ever since: Neutral Milk Hotel's "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" is the greatest folk song of our time.
Gonna talk about something I don't really talk about: I was on Jeopardy! and I won.
I was 22 years old and it was not College Jeopardy!, it was regular.
There are two kinds of people - people who get crushes, and another kind of person I don't want to contemplate.
I have a crush on this song, which I have played on Turn It Up with Amy Wilson each of the last three weeks, for some reason always between 5AM and 5:30.
The song: The Four Tops, "Ask the Lonely (a cappella)"; 1965
By all accounts Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Four Tops, was a well-adjusted and contentedly-married person despite having a voice that can get into your soul and stay there.
In this world fun is where you find it.
And if it's murderously hot and a once-a-year festival has descended upon your town and everyone is united by a shared feeling of irritation and rage (not a bad way to be united frankly),
The song: Trails and Ways, "Nunca"; 2012
I want to let this song speak for itself, because I think it can.
If I were in charge of the music for a Wes Anderson movie,
I'd put this song on the soundtrack.
The song: The Beatles, "Anna (Go With Him)"; 1963
I'm not asking you to like her music; that's a matter of personal preference.
But I just can't help but want to throw my hat in the ring of first-flush reactions and comments to Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D which hit theaters near you on Thursday.
One of the most wonderful and also difficult things about music is how closely it can be associated with certain people, times, and places.
I started my blog with a Grocery Store Song.
This is another, of a slightly different genre: perhaps I could call it the Department Store Song.
OH HELL YES.
Version v. Version (v. Version v. Version) RETURNS with a track that -- just like "The Tracks Of My Tears" -- is just, essentially, such an amazingly good song that it can sustain the interpretations of many different artists.
When I tell this story I never feel that people believe me, but deep down inside I really think this actually happened:
When I was in third grade, I had this grand epiphany that writers could just SAY THINGS. And that writing could be just that, the art of just saying things. "She had green eyes." Etc.
What is art?
But here's what I think:
It's what is beautiful and meaningful and universal and yet also very specific.
you find yourself on an inner tube on a series of man-made cascades and you have flipped over several times and lost and found the same helpful stick several times and you are paddling furiously to put yourself back in the current but not moving a single inch and you have just seen a dog in a shirt in a kayak and you just feel the urge to just open your mouth and just SING wha
Since everyone (including myself) seems to be interested in songs that remind us to Do Crazy Things because Who Knows What Could Happen (this one is probably my personal favorite of the genre, because the image of grabbing somebody sexy and telling them 'hey!' never fails to produce a quiet internal chuckle, which is a pleasant feeling)
In continuing my recent efforts to turn outward, I have found myself attracted to the Story Song.
(you know, those with a defined setting and characters and a plot arc and [usually] an AWESOME narrator)
(Given the subject matter of this song and given that my parents just left from a weekend visit to my town, this might be taken as some kind of commentary on our relationship. But FEAR NOT, PARENTS. It is not.)
Here's why my parents shouldn't worry: I like this song because it doesn't reflect on my life in the slightest.
You Cry And Moan And Say It Will Work Out But Honey Child I've Got My Doubts: Sentimental Reminiscence
I wrote a thesis.
I don't talk about it much.
It was a collection of short stories told from the alternating points of view of two women living in a town in Central Washington called Wenatchee.
you just want to feel alive and thankful for the existence of good slow jams.
The song: John Legend, "Live It Up"; 2004
I am finally at an age and state of mental clarity wherein I feel like I am not living my life by blindly stumbling around in some kind of very large, very dark, very cluttered room.