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Albums 21: Jesus Freak

Jesus Freak

Richard Newton

 

I wanted this essay to be about a different album, Pearl Jam’s superior sophomore effort, Vs. (1993), Zach Braff’s masterful Garden State soundtrack (2004), or Metallica’s beautifully risky S&M (1999). The playlist in my head shuffled through all of these, but none of them stuck with me long enough to write this essay.

The problem wasn’t the music. For a decade those albums have had a secure place in my rotation. Their lyrics always inspire. I’ve talked about all of them with complete strangers.  Simply put, I don’t need a reason to listen to them.

But this essay needed to be about an album I’ve struggled to listen to. This essay is about the songs I can’t stand  because they know too much about me. This essay is for the record that saw me through the times I could never forget and thus, choose not to return.

This essay’s for DC Talk’s Jesus Freak (1995). (more…)

Albums 20: So Open the Door

So Open the Door

Liana M. Silva

 

I looked through the small cloth cassette case full of cassettes I had saved over the years. I saw it, in the left row, a few tapes up from the bottom: a clear Sony HF 90. I hadn’t finished listening to one of the sides, judging by how the ribbon was split among the two spools.

On the A side, Moya had written the tracks from Nirvana’s Nevermind, and on the B side she listed Beck’s Mellow Gold. My friend’s handwriting, which I was always jealous of for its neatness and its angles, greeted me from the past, like a postcard. The white label had turned yellow and felt stiff. When I pulled out the cassette from its narrow place in the case, the label for Nevermind floated off. I’m not sure if I want to apply glue to put it back on the tape.

When I think of grunge I think of my friendship with Moya. Our friendship grew out of music. Moya and I met in the 3rd grade. That’s when I first remember spending time with her outside of class, on play dates at either my house or hers. I don’t remember a lot of hanging out with Moya in 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade. But in 7th grade, she and I became closer. We participated together in a talent show, and I spent more time with her on weekends working on homework or going to the movies. (more…)

Long Day: An Introduction to Albums

Long Day

Kelly J. Baker

 

It was a Saturday in mid-April. The kids were off to Grandma’s house. Chris was working in his office upstairs, listening to music with his headphones on. The rhythmic thump of his foot on the floor above me suggested that he was probably listening to Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves, the current favorite artists of all four Bakers. And I was waiting on him to finish work, so the two of us could spend the day together.

I picked up a broom to sweep and kill time.

My half-hearted attempt at cleaning required a soundtrack, so I pulled up the Amazon Music app on our television and scrolled through the library of music we’ve accumulated in fourteen years of marriage. I passed by Jimmy Eat World, P!nk, the Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 soundtracks, Musgraves, Miranda, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Maroon 5, Kansas, Rachel Platten, Reba, Fall Out Boy, and Journey. None of these artists or albums interested me. I didn’t want to listen to any of them. I searched on. (more…)

Albums: A Call for Submissions

Certain songs conjure strong emotions: love, hate, joy, despair, comfort, envy, sadness, frustration, hope, or grief. You hear the first notes of a familiar melody, and the music transports you to a moment long gone but still overwhelmingly present. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” makes you remember the awkward rhythms and furtive glances of a middle school dance. Any song by Creedence Clearwater Revival evokes riding in a black Toyota truck with your stepdad behind the wheel smoking stoically as you talked about your day. Missy Higgins’ “Where I Stood” became an unintentional lullaby that soothed your collicky infant who refused to sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” was your anthem for quitting a shitty job. “Carry on My Wayward Son” makes you think of the Winchester brothers of Supernatural. Matchbox 20’s “Hang” punches you in gut even now, 20 years later.

An album reminds you of a breakup, a first concert, a funeral, a road trip, a wedding, a divorce, or one of those ordinary moments that make up our days that we seem to forget until a song lodges their memory free.

This first essay series at Cold Takes is about albums and our feelings about them. How exactly do albums transport us through time and space to the moments long gone but never quite forgotten? What album becomes significant (or maybe even insignificant) in your life? What album forces you to stop and pay attention? Which one makes your days better and gives you hope? Which one do you rely on even now? What album do you find yourself listening to over and over again? What albums do you avoid listening to?

I want to read and publish your essays about the albums that changed your lives in ways, big and small. I want to know how music guides you through life’s transitions, successes, attempts, and failures. I want to find out what music you react to and why. I want to uncover whether that album was on record, tape, CD, 8-track, or mp3. Tell me what album impacted you, but more importantly, show me how. Narrate what the album makes you feel and what particular time it evokes. Bring me your best story about a particular album.

Submissions:
Please send a pitch rather than a full essay to kellyjbaker (at) gmail (dot) com. Give me a paragraph or two about an album and why you want/need to write about it. Include a short bio and a clip or two that shows your writing style. There’s no requirement on genre of music or time period, but you can’t write about Matchbox 20 because I’m going to.

The full essay should be between 500 and 2000 words.

Pitches are due by April 30. If your pitch is accepted, we’ll set a deadline for the essay together. The completed essay will appear on Cold Takes. Unfortunately, this is not a paid opportunity, but I offer my time and editing to make your essay the best it can be.

My Favorite Essays of 2016

Last year, I pulled together my favorite essays that I wrote in 2015. This year I thought I would do the same.

While some writers like to direct readers to their most popular essays of the year, I like to remind you of the essays that proved to be my favorites. Some of the essays listed are essays that I still can’t believe that I wrote. I read them and wonder how those sentences landed in that particular paragraph in that particular essay. They make me proud because they show how far I’ve come as a writer. Other essays are the ones that I’m proud to have written because they felt impossible to write. They required me to step outside of my comfort zone, required new skills, or were hard to write because of the vulnerability and emotion that they required.

What’s striking to me is how much things have changed for me in 2016, this dumpster fire of a year. I thought 2015 was bad, but 2016 proved to be both worst and better. Last year, I had applied to an MFA program. Hannah, our 15-year-old dog, died in March. She missed 16 by a little more than a month. She witnessed my life, so I witnessed the end of hers. Some day, I’ll write about what she meant to me, to us, but not yet, I can’t.

By mid-year, I received a rejection. Over the summer, I curated a series of essays on albums and our feelings, which was pretty damn amazing. By fall, I became editor of Women in Higher Education.  In November, Tr*mp became president, and suddenly, my work on white supremacists seemed relevant. After Thanksgiving, I even had an op-ed published in The New York Times, which led to white supremacist trolls calling me a race traitor (and much worse) on Twitter and in email. (more…)