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Posts Tagged ‘albums’

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…)

Track 19: The Alchemy of R.E.M.

The Alchemy of R.E.M

Chris Hutchison-Jones

 

R.E.M. is my favorite band. I’ve had fits, flings, and flirtations with other artists; some are even recurring long-term affairs. But I always come back to R.E.M. Depending on the day, the weather, my mood, and the phases of the moon, my favorite album by my favorite band shifts. But if I had to pick one to be with me on that mythical desert island, it would be New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I’ll sit up straight in my chair and loudly proclaim it as my favorite album by my favorite band.

That R.E.M. is my favorite band is no great statement. They’ve sold millions of albums and influenced any number of bands and artists that have become integral parts of my own musical life. But NAHF somehow tipped the scales for me. It had virtually no hits. It was a mishmash of live recordings and studio tracks. The first single (“E-bow the Letter”) was a broody, half-spoken folk rock dirge with eerie backing vocals by someone I’d never heard of at the time, Patti Smith. Not the typical makings of a favorite album. (more…)

Track 18: What Fades Away

What Fades Away

Katherine Anderson Howell

 

The baby was 3 months old.

I wasn’t happy.

***

I spin and spin around the living room. My head feels lopsided, like it does when I’m too tired, or when panic leaves me hollow. The baby is in my arms. The baby laughs. I spin. I bounce the baby. I force a smile, which becomes a slightly more real smile, which becomes a little laugh. “Shake It Out” plays on repeat. Florence Welch and I sing the old platitude,  “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The baby doesn’t know darkness. He thinks I am sunlight.

(more…)

Track 17: Compilations

Compilations

Chris Baker

There’s a scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby’s father wakes him from hard slumber by way of a bucket of water. The parental rouse-à-la-douse, despite the trope, is almost certainly threatened more often than it is executed. While I found the stunt humorous as a kid, I never thought to question from where a parent’s motivation would originate for this and other sadistic reveille. I often reconsidered the concept during the summer of 2013 as I sat in my oldest child’s bed for hours every night, waiting for her to fall asleep.

Growing up, my parents never threw water on us to wake us up, but my dad had a penchant for bursting into my room in the morning while singing. You could never predict what he might be singing: Christmas songs, folk music, liturgical hymns, 1960s/1970s pop. But regardless of the genre, it never failed to annoy. Perhaps, it’s childish narcissism to require intentionality of the annoyance. My experience as a parent suggests that my parents spent less time thinking about us than I assumed at the time. My dad might have just been doing what comes naturally to us morning people; namely, enjoy ourselves while unintentionally pissing off everyone around us. But early morning retaliation is what I thought about as I sat in bed with my daughter, who was tired but awake. She was too excited or anxious or who-the-hell-knows to go to sleep on her own like she had for the previous four years of her life. So, I sang. (more…)

Track 16: Brokedown Palace

Brokedown Palace

Katie Sullivan

 

For the past two months, when my thumb tapped its way to a digital copy of American Beauty, it wavered, and then wandered away. I feared it. I feared the warm, twangy intro of “Box of Rain,” the memory of my father singing it guilelessly out of tune, of realizing it is Father’s Day today and how I don’t want to call him but reluctantly will, of knowing that this album is going to hurt. It hurts before I even start listening.   

But let’s move back. It is 2003. My father and I are driving over 2000 miles from our Illinois suburb to San Diego. I have been accepted to a private liberal arts university that served Orange County’s academically undistinguished nouveau riche. In our cramped Honda Civic, my father has brought along  about 100 painstakingly “burned” CDs in individual jewel cases, each with an ink jet printed label in the same nondescript Times New Roman font. There was Joni Mitchell’s Blue in there, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. But the one we listened to nonstop, through the blank spaces of the I-80 corridor, was American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. (more…)