Track 13: Shut Up, Meat Loaf

Shut Up, Meat Loaf

Jennifer W. Spirko

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any music is improved by being played in a fast-moving car at night with the windows down. When that music is metal ballad, the speed, the darkness and the loudness of highway wind are all but required to fully enjoy it.

That might have summarized my relationship with Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell in college had it not been for a classic Mustang and a good friend.

By the time I was in college, Bat Out of Hell had been in release for a decade or so, its singles soaring through the local rock station of my youth. But, I didn’t really listen to the whole album until a friend copied it on a cassette. Some songs, we insisted, were “car songs,” and these were the obvious examples, since the longest and most fun of the bunch was about having sex in a car. (more…)

Track 12: Gordon

Gordon

Lee Skallerup Bessette

 

Gord Downey, the lead singer from The Tragically Hip, recently announced that he has terminal brain cancer. I’ve been thinking about what The Tragically Hip meant to me.  While writing about how Barenaked Ladies (BNL) album Gordon changed my life, I could have written about Day for Night by The Tragically Hip. I figured this band was too obscure for a primarily American audience, so I went with BNL. But, to me, those two albums and bands are woven together in my head around a highly personal, but also a cultural, moment in time, along with Ashley MacIsaac, Our Lady Peace, Crash Test Dummies, Sarah McLachlan and even Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill. It was a moment when MacIsaac played Letterman, the Hip played SNL, “Superman is Dead” was all over the radio, Lilith Fair was all the rage, and Jagged Little Pill was everything.

It’s a moment I keep experiencing and re-experiencing as I write this piece on Gordon by Barenaked Ladies. Because none of this would have happened for me if I hadn’t been introduced to BNL in the fall of 1992. (more…)

Track 11: Someone to Sing You a Song

Someone to Sing You a Song

Jeremy Neely

 

In Fargo Rock City, writer Chuck Klosterman frames his list of “essential” albums by posing a hypothetical question: how much money would someone have to pay you never to listen to your favorite album again? It’s a silly exercise. Even our favorite music, Klosterman admits, is hardly more essential to physical survival than food or air. Music obsessives, however, recognize an irresistible thrust to this sort of parlor game. Art, after all, is a vital element of our human survival, as it nourishes, delights, and gives meaning to how we understand ourselves and the world in which we live.

Having pondered Klosterman’s question for many years, I suspect that I could be bought off, and sometimes cheaply, for some of the albums that have migrated from old CD sleeves to a scratched click-wheel iPod and now to this computer hard drive. Others would fetch a dear price. Yet there remains one indispensable album, Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky, for which I’m not sure I can name my price.   (more…)

Track 10: Hip-hop Head

Hip-hop Head

Tyrell Baker

 

Music has been as much a part of my life as breathing: the voices of my own mother, grandmother, and women of the church; Parliament Funkadelic on my dad’s record player; Boogie Monsters and Lords of the Underground; Onyx and Flatliners; Pebo, Luther, Whitney and Anita. Aaliyah, Jill, Gerald, and Frankie. Music speaks to the melanin in my skin. It drives the functions of my brain stem. Rhythms catch my ears from down the block. I freeze until I can identify the melody. Music sends chills through my bones, motivates me to run a little farther, or work a little longer. I can’t live without it.

Between the thump of the bass and skeet of the treble, you can find me. (more…)

Track 9: Give Em Enough Rope

Give Em Enough Rope

Robin James

 

I started running in college. I was a resolutely un-athletic nerd in high school. But when I stopped marching and joined band staff, I needed some physical activity in my life…,preferably physical activity that allowed me to have that same embodied connection to music that playing in the marching band did. So, running it was. But what music to run to? Well, I started out with early punk records. Duh, music by angry 19 year olds on tons of speed is gonna be great for running, I thought. And I was right: The Clash’s “White Riot” and the Dead Kennedys “MTV Get Off The Air” come in around 190bpm, which is fast. I copied my Clash, Sex Pistols, and Dead Kennedys CDs onto tape–this is pre shock-free Discman–and took them with me on my runs around Oxford, Ohio.

Of those albums (most of which I bought at the now-closed Oxford record shop, Looney T-Bird’s), my favorite was The Clash’s second album, Give Em Enough Rope. (I know, I know, it’s supposedly overproduced and not punk and whatever…don’t @ me with trite rockist banalities about this album.) I still run to the album, and it evokes specific places for me, places I lived and studied and, above all, ran. And it doesn’t just evoke images, but gestures and ways of being a body in a place. (more…)