Turn It Up
Something I wrote almost a year ago now is this: "As I get older I find myself facing more and more of the emotionally complicated moments of life.
These experiences have led me to believe that, when I do occasionally get a break from complicated concerns, I should spend that time experiencing things I find to be simple, beautiful, and good. With people I find to be beautiful and good. (But never simple.)"
And, man. Time is moving so fast and so slow for me. On the one hand, I feel that the me-of-ten-months-ago had seen NOTHING of "emotionally complicated moments", bah! On the other, I know she had, and this world-weariness in the me-of-today is only its own form of immaturity.
Regardless, I stand by what I said. And ever more so.
To me this song is a neatly wrapped package of sexy coolness, like the highest-end ice cream cake you can imagine.
The song: Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man"; 1968
It was Dusty's last Top 10 hit for nearly twenty years; her next one, "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" I posted on my blog, a long time ago. I also featured her song "What Do You Do When Love Dies?" when someone broke into my apartment and, for a few days, it was the only song I wanted to hear. (And I still don't exactly know why.)
Long story short, I truly love Dusty Springfield and I often find myself turning to her when I want to feel settled in my emotions rather than distressed by them -- when I want, in other words, to be okay with having feelings.
This is a VERY valuable function of music, in my mind. I mean, maybe one of the most valuable.
I also have to say, on the subject of experiencing things that are simple and beautiful and good with people who are beautiful and good:
I miss a friend who used to live in Ann Arbor and has since moved to Ukraine. When she lived here, there were a few late nights when one or both of us felt restless. So she'd pick me up in her car, which I will affectionally call a "jalopy", and we'd make a trip to Meijer.
Like all establishments that are open 24 hours, Meijer has a special character late at night. It also has air-conditioning, a good thing in a Michigan summer. We'd browse the DVD aisle and sometimes I'd buy something impulsively (my vast collection of romantic comedies can attest to this). Or maybe the makeup section. Or maybe the baked goods.
The point was, we were together and we were not where we didn't want to be. One of these nights, driving back, my friend put on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and she skipped it forward to this song. Windows down, very late and very warm, we zipped down Packard Rd turning this song up and singing along -- which is a very hard thing to do if you care about sounding good, which fortunately we did not.
I had already loved this song but now I'll love it even more, because it is inextricably linked to a moment. That's another one of my favorite things that music can do.
I enjoy being able to truly listen to a song that I have heard a billion times, and to hear it for what it is, if it is a great song. It's not something I can always do though, more like a magic-eye puzzle where the picture pops in and out depending on how I angle my head.
Anyway, I enjoy doing this and I also really enjoy, when I can, doing this with other people. Like pop music group therapy. Perhaps this is my mission in life.
This is a song that is highly associated with cheesiness, but I don't think it's in itself a cheesy song.
The song: Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"; 1978
This song was not set up to be a hit, but became one due to the sheer force of its nature. Originally released as the B-side to a cover of a Righteous Brothers song (hello 1978), it was more popular with DJs than the A-side -- a factoid that I cannot help but love. Unusually for a disco song at the time, Gloria Gaynor had no backup singers and her voice was left at its natural register, not pitched up.
These things I learned from reading the Wikipedia article about "I Will Survive". What I know for myself is that this song is a universal anthem of self-respect, an underrated theme in pop music and culture. I also know that this song is one of a very few that is recognizable to the great majority of the population within about 5 seconds of it starting. I think it is, truly, a great song.
And I love this video with the dancer on her skates who just spins and spins. Is that what self-respect is, disco pants and a spotlight on an empty floor? Seems like it could be, to me.
Hello. There seems to be something in the air about Fleetwood Mac today.
I appreciate this because I've been thinking recently about how dearly I love Fleetwood Mac and how this love seems to be -- like my things about Motown and Morrissey and my attraction to the scent of bay rum -- one of those things in myself that is a signpost, a marker of something that I am.
As I am still kind of experiencing a quarter-life crisis, I find these markers valuable because they give me something to hang on to. But because I also eventually want to leave my quarter-life crisis, I am moved to try to understand this in terms beyond myself.
The Motown thing is about the fascination of glamour and style and collaboration, not to mention the endlessly (to me) interesting idea of singing about sad things in a happy way. The Morrissey thing is about productive self-absorption, and about being open with your esoteric sources of inspiration. Bay rum just smells like goodness. And Fleetwood Mac is a group that uses high skill to make interesting, yet accessible, things.
All of these boil down even further to a word I first used on this blog on March 4, 2012 and not often since then, a value I increasingly pursue in pop music and in life: authenticity. I felt afraid to use it the first time around because it seemed, I don't know, maybe self-evident? Maybe taking on something I didn't know if I wanted to or was ready to take on?
It's a slippery thing, but I think it may be the most important thing. The last time I wrote about Fleetwood Mac I said, "This blog is about relationships." I still think that's true, but I also think deeper down this blog is about authenticity: not only songs that exemplify it, but my own search for it -- stumblingly, and over time.
The song: Fleetwood Mac, "Never Forget"; 1979
"Never Forget" is interesting to me because it is off the 1979 album Tusk, their majorly ballsy follow-up to mega-hit Rumours. Nobody really liked Tusk at the time but now I think everyone probably loves it, just because it is very hard not to love. As an album, it's a little strange and off-kilter. The songs don't seem to be in the right order. And you're not really quite sure what it's about, thematically, at least not in the same way you are sure that Rumours is about love and its dissolution. (Maybe Tusk is about the dissolved pieces.)
And it ends with this song, written and sung by Christine McVie who may be the least appreciated member of the band (including by me). At her best, her contribution to Fleetwood Mac is this fatal sweetness, a sweetness that seems too much to be real. In this song, "the stars must be my friends to shine for me" and "just remember that love is gold" sometimes stick in my throat because, like it or not, I am still a product of my time and my time just does NOT get down with that kind of un-self-conscious dreaminess. (I wish it did, though. I read recently on some strange person's Internet blog [no, not this one] that soon we'll all become more comfortable with mysticism and move away from the obsession with logic, science, and reason. He offered no evidence for this naturally, but I believe it wholeheartedly because I want to.)
But whenever this song comes on, a little burble comes up in my heart and I feel like I should look up at the sky just to see what's going on out there. This is a decision I never regret.
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm a little sad that I didn't have more time to focus on Christmas music here when it was seasonally appropriate. There's so much to say! I don't know what any of it is yet, but I guess now I have most of a year to figure it out.
HOWEVER: I do have one more seasonal card up my sleeve. And oh, it's a good one. Get ready.
The song: Carla Thomas and Otis Redding, "New Year's Resolution"; 1967
From King and Queen, Otis Redding's last studio album, and one of my current (and recurrent) favorites. A song like this could easily be cheesy or gimmick-y, but this one really does it for me. Maybe because in my interpretation, it's not actually New Year's at all. It's March or something, and they're just wanting to start over somehow. I like that. I do that sometimes. And why not? A new year can start any time you want it to.
Here's to this one.
I still feel a bit remiss about not having written more about Christmas music this year, as this is one holiday to which music -- and particularly pop music! -- is closely tied.
However, time marches on and, as is always the case in my life, I have to swoop directly from Christmas-thoughts to birthday-thoughts. My birthday is today. December 26. And it always has been!
Last year on this date I posted a Morrissey song, and my half-baked thoughts about the nature of aging (as seen through the lens of my continuing interest/obsession in modern monarchies).
Incidentally that Morrissey song, "That's How People Grow Up", is an amazing song and also holds the personal distinction of being the very first song I ever played on air at WCBN. Not unintentionally.
I think it would be a fun tradition to, as long as I have this blog, do the Morrissey thing on my birthday. Not least because a birthday should be a day of self-indulgence (in this case intellectually AND aesthetically, whee hee) but also because it should also be a day of self-honesty. And when I am truly being honest with myself, I see that my Morrissey "thing", my "thing" about Morrissey, is pretty revealing.
I have now been 26 for approximately 26 minutes. I can already sense it will be an interesting age. Old enough to know how young I actually am, and young enough to worry that I am getting old. But one thing I am (thankfully) realizing as I get older, at the rate of approximately one day per day, is that once you've been through enough environments and iterations as a person you start to get a sense of what about you is the environment and what about you is you.
When I was a twenty-year-old creative writing major, it made sense for me to love Morrissey -- albeit, even then, in a somewhat self-consciously nostalgic, wet-behind-the-ears sort of way. (It was, after all, not that long ago objectively speaking.) But it was always me who loved him, and that knowledge is the kind of thing I now think is precious. Which knowledge? That this, is just, who I am.
If you know anything about Morrissey you know that this is maybe his chief quality: being exactly who he is, this being a melodramatic individual who teeters between pitiable and completely insufferable. But also! Also, well-read. Great with wordplay. With a totally unique voice. A presence. Some pretty snazzy dance moves. And -- and THIS is the kicker -- an actual sense of humor about himself.
I just love him, and love can forgive so many things. I don't mean any of this to say that now that I have reached the venerable age of 26 that I've decided to indulge all my flaws henceforth in service of Being Myself. That idea is pretty horrifying to me. What I do mean to say however, is that in the grand slalom race that is life, it is an excellent feeling to know at least what shape my skis are.
Why pamper life's complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?
The song: The Smiths, "This Charming Man"; 1983
It has been a long since I have written to you, which I could explain but the explanation doesn't matter.
What matters is that over the past few weeks, I have had much cause to feel that a) I may be having a quarter-life crisis and b) I am experiencing a lot of personal growth. As anyone who has been through a personal growth spurt will know, it is often unpleasant and often makes one sort of an unpleasant person. Like the teething of the soul.
I don't think I'm fully teethed at this moment, and maybe won't be for a long time. But I do feel a lot better than I did at this time last week.
As always, music is a valuable tool for this sort of thing and the music I've been focusing on is the extremely recent EP Fade Away by Best Coast. If you asked me to sum up the moment of mid-twenties uncertainty in which I currently find myself, the instability and the low-level angst and the problems that I objectively know are not THAT bad but that feel bad, I'd say, "listen to this."
The song: Best Coast, "Who Have I Become?"; 2013
Because when I listen to it, I realize that this is just a passing moment, and I can see the beauty in that.
The above is my best attempt at representing in words that line that we all know how to hum, which came to me out of the blue when I was in the shower today, which is Thanksgiving.
It took me a few times through to remember what it was, as it was just one of those things that occasionally comes through on the radio receiver in my head. Although I am working on my skills to appreciate classical music, they are not very good -- and so I think it appropriate that, of all the classical pieces that could come to me as an idea for a blog post, it would be this one. It IS a pop song, after all. Interpreted and re-interpreted many times, too commonly heard to be really listened to, but one of the musical themes that shapes our lives.
Like many people, all I really know of this song is that main line. It might be because of the name that this song comes to me in moments of idle happiness -- of THANKSGIVING, one might say -- but I also think there is something special captured there.
All I want to say here is, good job Beethoven. And good job to the people behind this very cool video featuring visual accompaniment. And Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
The song: Ludwig van Beethoven, "Symphony No. 9 (Fourth Movement)"; 1824. Performed by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
This song I would put in the category of, things you've probably heard too many times to actually hear.
But it's SO GOOD.
(For a long time, it was in that category for me too.)
Interesting things about this song:
1. It's Motown, but really does not sound like it at all. Mostly due to that squeaking, soulful vocal line (which is SO great).
2. Not only is it Motown, it's one of the few Motown hits actually written by Berry Gordy himself!
3. Not only was it written by Berry Gordy, in his frenzy of writing he became convinced that this song had to be recorded immediately if not sooner (it seems like he did this a lot). It was supposed to go to the Temptations, but he actually literally could not FIND the Temptations, so grabbed another group and had them do it instead.
Which is a very charming story and only feeds my Martha-Reeves fantasies of being some unassuming office-type in the corridors of Hitsville USA and being called in to pinch-hit as a backup singer on what turns out to be a mega-hit and then having a whole fabulous life filled with sparkly dresses and doing for a living what I currently do only in the privacy of my own home, ie perfecting my snapping-along technique to the music of the Four Tops.
AHEM. In any case, I love this song. If only because it reminds me to remember that life goes a lot better if you can dance about it. Incidentally these dance moves look a lot like mine although I can only hope to one day be this stylish.
But isn't there something just so endearing about these relatively unpolished moves, particularly with the distance of time and our current culture of HD hyper-quality? I think so. This is so much of what I love about watching Motown artists: they truly are having fun, and it shows.
The song: The Contours, "Do You Love Me"; 1962
(After all, she may not love him any better now that he's got a rockin' Twist, but you gotta know that'll serve him well.)
PS Important research for this post came from the excellent blog Motown Junkies, which is a must-read for any fan of Motown or of intelligent, unpretentious, serious writing about pop music. Thank you, Motown Junkies!
I am very interested in fame.
Not so much for myself, although I do fantasize several times a week about being on Dancing with the Stars, but certainly as a concept and one that affects all of our lives regardless of what we think our level of buy-in to mainstream culture is.
Without a doubt one of the most interesting commentators on the subject of fame these days is Lady Gaga, not least because she has always made it explicit that she IS interested in commenting on fame through her image and music. (Some of my other favorite mega-famous women, like Katy Perry and Rihanna, are less obvious about it.)
Although in this day and age, it seems that everything is a comment on itself. I think that's why I appreciate when it's made explicit, because there's got to be a straight line to something in order for me to feel motivated to navigate the maze of meta-commentary.
There was a time (roughly 2009) when Lady Gaga was mega-famous the first time around and it was au courant to discuss which was your favorite Lady Gaga song. (Either it was au courant or I have some very indulgent friends. Or both.) Sometimes I would say "Alejandro" (which IS a really good song) but in my heart of hearts I always felt that this song was the alpha and omega of Lady Gaga, the one that would endure to show people what she was all about.
It's still too soon to make that call but at least in my opinion, this song holds up.
The song: Lady Gaga, "Paparazzi"; 2008
First off, ooh this song is still REALLY catchy is it not?
Secondly: "Paparazzi" links romantic obsession to cultural obsession by blurring the lines in the figure of the amateur paparazzo/fan who only knows she wants to possess, somehow, the object of her attention. It doesn't seem to really matter how. In this song, the song itself, Gaga plays the obsessor. In her life at the time, she was the obsess-ee.
Which is I find her latest single such an interesting follow-up to "Paparazzi".
The song: Lady Gaga ft. R Kelly, "Do What U Want"; 2013
Like "Paparazzi", this song compares the public (fame) with the private (sex). As such, like "Paparazzi", it works both as a pop song and a statement, depending on how deep you're in the mood to think when you hear it.
She pushed this song to greater heights in three ways:
- By collaborating with R Kelly, an artist whose image currently epitomizes (fairly or not) the washed-up. This is why I really believe and respect him when he says "we're laying the cut like we don't give a fuck", because I think not-giving-a-fuck is precisely what R Kelly needs to do right now. That's the only way back.
- By referencing Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate touchstone of poisoned fame. (For more on that, see this somewhat crazy post I wrote forever ago about Marilyn, Rihanna, Tupac, Kanye, and "Candle in the Wind".)
- By, in the opening lines, providing at least the illusion of a glimpse into her personal life. Lady Gaga has always been, for better or worse, a highly constructed celebrity. What she says about herself rarely has the ring of truth. But Lady Gaga has always been out to shock, and to engage in meta-commentary, and to provoke conversation. I believe she's reached a point of fame -- and what's more, that the culture has shifted such between 2009 and 2013 -- that the most shocking and provocative and au courant possible move to make is. . .simple honesty.
To me this song feels like mega-hit. I'm interested to see if it is.
(Writing this post reminded me of a relatively similar, although less cultural and more personal, entry about Eminem's songs "Lose Yourself" and "Till I Collapse". Read it here if you like.)
It seems that I always turn to Cher when I want to brush on the topics of feminism or humanism. The reason for this is two-fold: for one thing, Cher is one of my favorite women/humans of all time, and secondly, she represents something that is important to me.
Given that she has been mega-famous continuously since 1965, it seems to me there's no denying that Cher is a living legend and a force of nature. What's truly remarkable about this in my eyes is that her chief talent seems to be "being herself".
I don't mean that in a derogatory way. This is what makes her singing and songs resonant -- they seem to be reflective of something true, something she has lived. And if you've seen her acting in Moonstruck (which I hope you have), you'll know that she brings unforgettable transparency to that character. (The incredible writing of John Patrick Shanley is also a factor in what makes that movie SO GREAT, it must be said. "I ain't no monument to justice! I lost my hand! I lost my bride!")
Cher is always willing to be herself, but what's more, she has a sense of humor about that self. For instance, do you know that she once starred in a mini-production of West Side Story. . .playing all the characters? It's completely insane and brilliant. Watch it here.
And I have complete confidence that Cher will be Cher until the day she disappears from this planet in a cloud of purple glitter (I'm pretty sure she won't "die" like the rest of us). A confidence that is reinforced by her most recent single:
The song: Cher, "Woman's World"; 2013
The song may not be your taste, but please give it up for a 67-year-old woman who wears a gigantic headdress made of cut-up newspapers in the video for her ENTIRELY CREDIBLE club song.
The amazing thing about "Woman's World" is that it sounds so like a Cher song, but it also sounds like a 2013 song. This tells me Cher can adapt to the world as it is, which is something that I admire in everybody but particularly in people who are on the older side.
That feels like a controversial statement to make, although I am not quite sure why. Perhaps because it carries a huge weight of implication: that it's hard to be woman because men make it that way, or that it shouldn't be hard to be a woman any more because of the 1960s, or that (the old chestnut) the feelings that give rise to the idea that it's hard to be a woman are because of an individual woman's personal failings instead of something universal or systematic.
I don't know that I'm trying to make a political statement, and I certainly don't want to make a statement of victimhood. I know it is also hard to be a man; I have read novels. My theory is, and it's not exactly groundbreaking but okay, but my theory is that it's just hard to be a person and the way in which it is hard is determined by what kind of person you are.
This is why I respond so much to Cher's music, which contains not only her trademark message of self-actualization but also the exhortation to join together instead of working apart. Speaking personally, that's the only thing I've ever found to make it easier.
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.