There is something to be said about being a kid in college. The first time away from home and discovering who you are as a person, and who you want to be. The sky is the limit. One day you could want a career in psychology and the next thing you know you are studying film. Because of this, I had a sense of fear and anxiety that consumed me. I felt like I only had this one chance to figure it all out and that one chance to live right. I didn’t want to miss opportunities and wanted to become this idealistic version of myself. Aside from the fear about the future, which still consumes me to this day, my college years were the best I ever had. I suddenly had the world at my fingertips and wanted to take it all on.
Along the way, and by a stroke of fate, I fell into a group of friends that would forever change my world. My boys were everything that I needed at exactly the right time. I ran into one of them completely by chance and then was introduced to the others. My first night going to their house, we had a rap contest to Gangsta’s Paradise. I won. We watched a movie that I can’t remember and once that was over they went into the dining/band room and started playing a song. “And you broke me like a cigarette, that I busted on the day I quit. But now that I’ve been drinking, I’m out of smokes and I wish that I had it.” It was like their anthem, and it soon became mine. “It’s one thing I never did was smile, missing a case, lacking a lid. My heart bleeds for what you never did until now.” Now while this post isn’t necessarily about Hot Water Music, their song Bleeder was the beginning of this new world I was living. I drove home that night, with my roommate in tow, and said “I never want this feeling to end.” I was alive for the first time, for myself.
My world now consisted of my guys and classes on occasion. I never missed an opportunity to live my life to the fullest with them. At one point I even walked out of my job so that I didn’t miss the chance to go to a party. At that party we met a few others and the result of that became the ultimate trio of Disco, Fox and Hooch… another story for another day. Life was an adventure and each day led to something new entirely. We didn’t have a care in the world and we lived for music. We would stay up all night playing music in the streets, driving around singing at the top of our lungs, breaking onto rooftops so that we could be on top of the world for just a moment. We ran that small town and didn’t have a care in the world.
So tonight as I was listening to music and working on another project, a song came on that instantly transported me to this past life. Sitting on the sidewalk, guitars in hand, and a small number of people surrounding us. Fox started playing and I followed, then we started singing, “well all the apostles they’re sitting in swings saying I’d sell off my Savior for a set of new rings and some sandals with the style of straps that cling best to the era.” As far as we knew and as far as we cared, our voices were perfect and our guitars were completely in sync. We didn’t care who listened, all that mattered was that we sang everything we needed to sing as loud as we could at that moment in time. “Well I’ll go to college and I’ll learn some big words and I’ll talk real loud goddamn right I’ll be heard. You’ll remember all the guy that said all those big words he must’ve learned in college.”
Modest Mouse was certainly not new to me at the time, however, they began to breathe a new life in me. I was introduced to the less “mainstream” albums that the band produced and they gave me a new edge. “Every time you think you’re walking you’re just moving the ground. Every time you think you’re talking, you’re just moving your mouth. Every time you think you’re looking, you’re just looking down.” I became obsessed with their sound, I felt it carry through my bloodstream, the beating of the drums became my heartbeat, the lyrics became my words. This phase of life for me became everything that defined me. I didn’t know what I believed. I didn’t know what I felt. I questioned everything. I was alive with curiosity. Yet, I was as confident in ignorance and the music became my bible. “The universe works on a math equation that never even ever really ends in the end. Infinity spirals out of creation…. Well I know what I have and want but I don’t know what I need.”
We spent countless hours staying up all night listening to and playing music. Our conversations were deep and heavy and light and joking all at the same time. I think I knew that our adventures had a time limit and was secretly heartbroken for it before it even happened. We would pick up hitchhikers and hitchhike ourselves. The fires were endless, even when a few “accidents” happened. We traveled for music and would take a wrong turn on purpose in search of an adventure. For the first time in my life, I loved my life. I had created a world that meant everything to me. “You mean everything to nothing, you mean everything to me.” Writing about my college days wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my love for Manchester Orchestra.
I was the first to leave. Some days I still wonder if I should have. But most days I don’t let my mind go there, I have a big life to live. “I don’t know much but a crutch is a crutch if it’s holding you from moving on.” After I left I talked with a friend who had heard some people telling a story at work, about a group of friends who had done all these crazy things. As my friend listened she started to hear familiar stories and found out they were talking about my boys and me. We had no idea any one was even paying attention. We didn’t really care. We did it for ourselves. “Although you can’t say it yet, it’s never been the same. And it looks to stay that way. It feels like you’re okay. When I was a fire I turned into ice, melting off my last feverish highs. And I leapt through the sunshine and into the night singing songs of my healthiest fears.”
A few years later we all reunited after leaving to fulfill our own needs. For a moment I was consumed with doubt and fear that my life would never be as good as it once was. It’s interesting how life works, like how you don’t really know it’s your last good day until it is already in the past. Maybe if we knew it would be our last good day, we would appreciate it a little more. “What if I was wrong and no one cared to mention. What if it was true and all we thought was right was wrong? Simple math, the truth cannot be fractioned. Either way…. What if I’ve been trying to get to where I’ve always been? What if we’ve been trying to get to where we’ve always been? Simple math, believe me, all is brilliant.” I have a love for my college years that I will always cherish. I learned to love and live and wouldn’t be who I am today without all those scary adventures. “You came to me like a dream, the kind that always leaves. Just as the best part starts, it ends so abruptly.”
It is a rare but harboring experience to wake up after a sleepless night, haunted by the reoccurring nightmare of your past. Consumed by tears and uncertainty on how to approach the remaining day, you slowly get out of bed because what other option do you have? You get in the shower and pray that the water will wash away any residual fragments of the dream from your mind. Hoping that you might be able to separate nightmare from reality and be a normal person the rest of the day. But you see, the worst kind of dreams are the ones that make you want to keep your eyes closed and your alarm off. The ones where you either want to forget entirely, or cling to hopelessly. Trying to remember every thought and feeling. It is this perfect world that consumes your soul and waking up to reality is the complete and utter nightmare.
It is that feeling deep within your soul that makes you feel alive, whether it is it sorrow, grief, joy or love. This burning feeling that starts in your center, pulsating through your veins. Before you know it, the rhythm of your body is beginning to sound like a song. To keep the emotions flowing through your soul you turn on This Feeling by Alabama Shakes. Slowly, everything that is consuming you, makes its way through your center and into your fingertips. Matching the slow guitar and the soft drums, you let Brittany’s voice carry you through a complete serenity. “Please don’t take this feeling. I have found at last. Please don’t take my feeling. I have found at last. Yeah, if I wanted to, I’d be alright.”
The Alabama Shakes have a way of making you feel every song in an intense way. The music maintains a certain soul vibe that is practically non-existent in modern music. It makes me grateful for that day in high school a girl turned to a kid in sociology class and said, “hey, want to start a band?” I can’t think of a more poetic beginning to band that has carried me through so much of my highs and lows. In a short time since that fateful day in high school, they were a complete band and started doing live shows at a pizza joint in Alabama. One night, while on stage, the band started working through some new riffs and Brittany just started singing. Out came, Hold On, an open and honest reflection of her current state of life. “Bless my heart, bless my mind. I got so much to do, I ain’t got much time. So, must be someone up above saying come on girl, you got to get back up. You got to hold on. Yeah you got to hold on.” An artist creates and a true artist can create something so real and pure in the spur of the moment. That is what Brittany Howard is.
I remember the moment I first heard Alabama Shakes. I remember where I stood and what I felt. A few years later I was able to see them in concert, up close and personal at The Brooklyn Bowl. Brittany is a woman of few words, she would rather put them into song and pour them into your soul when she is screaming into the microphone. Before the second or third song she greeted the audience and asked how we felt. Her response plays through my mind often as one of the most authentic rock and roll moments of my life, she said “I feel alright” in her southern drawl as the band began the opening chords of Always Alright. My soul was on fire. My heart matched the rhythm of the drums. I was alive. “Well pass me the whiskey, pass me the gin. Pass me whatever there’s drink left in. Well I don’t care if it’s 7 in the morning, for all I care could be the second coming. Well you say you can’t take it anymore ,you can’t live like this, it’s a really big deal…” it is at that moment where you start to feel the power within Brittany’s voice. Up until this point in the song, she has only given you a small sampling of what she is really capable of. The bridge is full of pure blues, soul and rock and roll and at its peak she yells into the microphone, “Ow!” then it comes, “we’re alright, we’re always alright. We’re alright. We’re always alright.” This release of pure rock and roll through such a powerful voice.
My favorite thing about Alabama Shakes is that their music is so authentic that you can’t help but learn every word and sing it out loud as if you, yourself had Brittany’s voice. But more than that, you memorize every chord progression and every beat of the drums. I’m not kidding when I say I practice in the car in preparation for my dream life of making it on stage with the Shakes and also having that actual talent to perform with them. I memorized every part of Heavy Chevy and couldn’t be more proud that I know every single aspect of that song (listen to it and you’ll see that it’s no easy feat.) When they performed Joe at Austin City Limits, it was such a raw and real performance that I felt like I was there and on the verge of tears. The bends on the guitar on Shoegaze pull on my heartstrings and her voice makes those strings snap because it is full of so much rock and roll that my heart can’t take it.
This music is what I turn to when I wake up to a nightmare after living my perfect life in a dream. It helps the tears flow and heal all at the same time. The Alabama Shakes (and Brittany’s side project, Thunderbitch, which is the purest form of rock and roll since Lou Reed) is my sanity when I am losing grip on reality. It is my hope and motivation to keep fighting for a better life. It puts shame to the naysayers, the ones who said it wasn’t possible, the ones who put others down because of their own greed and self benefit. The Shakes assure me, that I am not alone. This is authentic music that pays tribute to the ones that paved the way, without taking anything away from what came before them. The Alabama Shakes are living that perfect dream in an insane world and it all started in a high school sociology class. “God’s given me so many things, fulfilled my many wished and I’ve achieved my many dreams.”
You know that moment when a song starts, and it does something to your heartbeat causing this sudden explosion in your body? It’s this brief moment where you are on the verge of dropping everything that you are doing at that moment, and with no regard to the surrounding world, start dancing and singing from the depths of your soul. Yeah, that’s Tom Petty for me. There isn’t a song of his that doesn’t make me want to stop the world and put on the performance of a lifetime for me, myself and Mr. Petty.
Tom Petty was the boy in the corduroy pants and the rest of the world was the girl at the high school dance. His music has such a sense of familiarity, that within the first few riffs of the guitar on American Girl, you are instantly transformed into a teenage girl (speaking for the ladies here). You find yourself moving to the beat of the steady drums just waiting for the moment that he starts singing “oh yeah, all right, take it easy baby. Make it last all night.” American Girl is, in a way, the anthem to my life. It brought into my life this realization that “there was a little more to life, after all it was a great big world with lots of places to run to.”
American Girl doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture, in fact so many of Tom Petty’s songs speak the truth to life more than we probably realize. “God it’s so painful when someone that’s so close is still so far out of reach.” He brings to the table these heavy realities and transforms them with music that makes you want to dance. In an interview he once said, “I turned anger into ambition, any sort of injustice would outrage me. I couldn’t contain myself.” His words become his confessional, “I’m a bad boy, cause I don’t even miss her. I’m a bad boy for breakin her heart.” Maybe what makes his music so relatable is that he sings our own confessions as well.
On October 2nd 2017, Tom Petty died and left the rest of us broken. It took me time to fully comprehend that he had passed. His music is like a drug and I wasn’t ready to kick the habit yet. “Last dance with Mary Jane, one more time to kill the pain.” Tom saw the world for what it really was, he saw the injustice and the heartache. He channeled that into his music. He is the voice for the rebels without a clue. “But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint. Let’s head on down the road, there’s somewhere I gotta go. You don’t know how it feels. You don’t know how it feels to be me.” Tom Petty was born a rebel and he belongs with the Wildflowers in the great wide open. He will forever be the voice of several generations, making the world stop for brief periods of time when his songs come on the radio. “Buy me a drink, sing me a song. Take me as I come, cause I can’t stay long….”
If I’m being honest, with myself mostly, music has a way of transporting me through all the deep dark heavy stuff that tends to consume life. In a lot of ways, it helps me feel those deep dark feelings stronger. It gives those feelings substance. It produces words that I can’t create and emotions that I don’t know how to feel. It provides something tangible for me to cling to. Without music, I would still be consumed by all that deep dark heavy stuff but it would be trapped inside me like a tornado inside my chest. There would be no way for it to escape and no way for me to know exactly what it is that I am feeling. Once it is dissected through the music, it finds its way outside of my chest, into my mind and then onto paper…. Which is where I finally feel free of my demons.
It is those demons, however, that create the person that I am. In a way I have had the privilege of experiencing the world for what it really is, the good, the bad and the ugly. Just when I think the good is prevailing, the bad and the ugly come out of left field. Staying down with my demons becomes more and more tempting. “Do my crying underwater, I can’t get down any farther. All my drowning friends can see, now there is no running from it. It’s become the crux of me, I wish that I could rise above it.” It becomes part of me, creating an underwater world that welcomes me with open arms of comfort and complacency. “Can I stay here? I can sleep on the floor. Paint the blood and hang the palms on the door. Do not think I’m going places anymore. Wanna see the sun come up above New York, oh, every day I start so great then the sunlight dims. The less I’ve learned the more I see the pythons and the limbs. Do not know what’s wrong with me, sours in the cup. When I walk into a room I do not light it up….”
When you spend a lot of time with the demons, you start to figure out what triggers their appearance. You start to recognize their presence and develop strategies on how to avoid them. Sometimes their presence is imminent. Sometimes I need them in order to see more clearly. “I couldn’t find quiet, I went out in the rain. I was just soaking my head to unrattle my brain. Someone said you disappeared in a crowd, I didn’t understand then, I don’t understand now.” Then there are times when I tend to lose control, “it wasn’t like a rain, it was more like a sea. I didn’t ask for this pain it just came over me. I love a storm, I don’t love the lightening. All the waters coming up so fast, that’s right.” Every day is a challenge, because every day I am fighting for my life. Some days are better than others, but the battle is still there. There are times when I am on a high and feel that I can never be broken down, “I was solid gold, I was in the fight.” Then in an instant I can be falling from that high horse, “I was coming back from what seemed like a ruin. I couldn’t see you coming so far, I just turn around and there you are. I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now, I was just getting used to living life without you around.”
I realize that this all sounds so depressing, but what can you expect when it’s the drug of choice? I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me. The point I am getting at is this, I have had my fair share of drowning. Because I know what the world is like underwater, I know what is worth swimming to the surface for. As I have grown, I now recognize the pang of hitting the freezing water. When just a few years ago I didn’t even realize I was drowning. Music helps me feel things more clearly. It helps me write it down and get it outside of my skin as if there was never even a problem to begin with. “You didn’t see me I was falling apart, I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the dark. You didn’t see me I was falling apart, I was a television version of a person with a broken heart.” Music is that friend that knows exactly what to say and when to say it, and if necessary, when to scream it.
The National screams it into the deep depths of my soul. Matt Berninger is that lyricist whose vagueness is shattered the moment he starts singing. His deep crooning voice has a way of piercing my heart and causes it to bleed. He creates a comfortable environment for the demons to evolve within me, a way for me to feel everything that is necessary, everything that is difficult and sad. The vibrant drums coincide with his heavy voice creating this strange calm within the storm. “I only have two emotions, careful fear and dead devotion. I can’t get the balance right.” He understands the fight. “I’m trying, but I’ve gone through the glass again just come and find me. God loves everybody, don’t remind me.” I can feel myself when listening to their music. I can feel everything that has been building inside me. I can feel the demons escape me with every word he sings. It is not a pretty sight, it is completely graceless. “I am not my rosy self, left my roses on the shelf. Take the wild ones their my favorites, it’s the side effects that save us, grace. Put the flowers you find in a vase. If you’re dead in the mind it will brighten the place. Don’t let them die on the vine it’s a waste. Grace.”
I have something tangible in The National’s music. I have something to hold onto and that friend with me the entire time to make sure I come out of it on top. If I didn’t have my low moments, then I would never have learned to appreciate the high. I would never have learned to live life to the fullest and appreciate what I have because we only get to do this once and not for a long time. I have loved deeply and lost devastatingly. I know what is worth swimming for. “I’m not alone, I’ll never be. Into the bone, I’ll never grieve and if you want to see me cry, play Let it Be or Nevermind.”
LCD Soundsystem is not for the faint of heart. Listening to them requires much more than the casual music listener is willing to do. Which tends to really connect you to someone when they say “hey, how about that new LCD album?” You’ll realize in that moment that you have just made a friend for life.
So what does it require of you in order to be a true LCD Soundsystem fan? For starters you need to be committed, because on average, you will be into a song for 3 minutes before the singing actually starts. From there it’s anybody’s guess on how long the song will last. Patience is key. After the first 30 seconds of still being on the same staggering piano key, like on All my Friends, you are either jumping at the bit to change the station, or you are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to be taken away in a complete trance. It is one or the other, there is no in between when it comes to the music of LCD Soundsystem.
Which brings me to my next point, and I pray to the heavens that you lasted past the insanely (but beautifully) long introductions. Once you’re committed you’ll need to make sure you are in a safe, comfortable environment. Everyone could respond differently, so I am speaking just for me here, but I have a tendency to completely shut off the world and become consumed by the music. I try to avoid listening at work (or when I do it’s not as loud so that I can stay focused and keep my job) and I definitely have to be cautious when driving or handling any heavy machinery. With the consistent beats and layers being added constantly, you can’t help but close your eyes to the oblivion and move to whichever beat it is that you are connecting to at that moment.
I would also advise either listening to LCD alone, or with the friend that you made in the beginning paragraph. You will have the urge to belt out the constant and mind blowing words that James Murphy is singing. Even when you don’t know the words. It will also bring complete and involuntary convulsions of your body, which from the outsiders perspective will look like dancing. But to you, the movements will be a necessity to letting go of all heaviness and guide you to complete freedom and liberation. “If you dance out, no one complains. Find the place where you can be boring, where you won’t need to explain”
The point I am getting to is this… listening to LCD Soundsystem requires an investment. An investment of your time, attention and love. That’s all. In return, James Murphy will become the best friend you never knew you needed. He will be honest when no one else is, especially when he sings “you’re getting older. I promise you this, you’re getting older…. And the future’s a nightmare and there’s nothing I can do, nothing anyone can do about this.” In that honesty will also come the admission that together we are “the hobbled veteran of the disk shop inquisition.”
James Murphy has a way of getting raw with you, the way a best friend would. The kind of friend who doesn’t need to hear your words in order to know what you’re feeling. He is able to paint a perfect picture of your worst nightmare while surrounded by perfect surroundings. “And it keeps coming, and it keeps coming, and it keeps coming, till the day it stops.” Suddenly you are alone in your room blasting Someone Great and the tears start streaming. They don’t stop but neither do you. You keep moving to the beat and then he continues, “when someone great is gone. When someone great is gone. When someone great is gone… we’re safe for the moment. Saved for the moment.” It is on that last beat where you exhale and wonder how long you were holding your breath.
The release of LCD Soundsystem’s new album American Dream was one of the highlights of 2017. They suddenly painted a clear picture of what my life has become in the years since their last release. This odd combination of nightmare and reality, where you aren’t quite sure if you should laugh, cry or just live for tonight. “One step forward and six steps back.” The more I think about this album and listen to it in it’s entirety. The more I grasp onto phrases like, “my love life stumbles on” and “you suck at self preservation.” I have been clinging to these songs as if they are my lifeline and assist my breathing. There is so much I can say about all the songs on this album, too much. So I will focus on the one that quite literally, takes my breath away.
Black Screen is a love song about loss. It is a description of fear, and the reality of having a person in your life who is the inspiration and motivation for everything you have become. “You fell between a mentor and a father.” That feeling of owing them the world and the fear that consumes when you don’t live up to their expectations. “I’m bad with people things, but I should have tried more.” The knowledge of knowing they are no longer with you. It is going back through the past to remember everything they taught you and telling yourself that it is all over. All of these emotions are magnified by the pulsating beat that limits your breath and the calming piano that gives you hope. Everything that LCD Soundsystem was when they started 15 years ago, until now… is encompassed on the last song of this album. At the final beat of the piano, you can finally breathe.
"Look up here, I'm in Heaven." That phrase could quite possibly be the most iconic famous last words ever spoken. David Bowie knew of his illness and the potential of an immintent death. I wonder what he thought. I wonder what he felt. Surely at times, he must have been overcome by grief, despair and a lack of hope. Feelings that are so commonly associated with such an illness. The news reports say that he had been fighting cancer for the past 18 months and that not many people had known. Considering he spent a majority of his life in the spotlight, it is nice to know that there was a life that he kept for himself.
Throughout his final 18 months, Bowie continued to work and focus on his art. He created an album that would ultimately describe his inner thoughts and feelings as he is fighting an incurable demon. It brings his co-written song, Under Pressure, into a completely different light as the tables are turned and he is approached with a new sense of pressure. "Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man ask for." It becomes far more threatening than burning buildings down, splitting families in two, or putting people on streets. Perhaps, this kind of pressure is the one that will truly destroy the soul of a man. In Bowie's case, or any other going through something similar for that matter, he had every right to admit defeat. To call it a day and be done until his last dying breath. No one would have blamed him, and if they had they would define themselves as fools. However, he went to work. He channeled the inner most love that he has and that is what he did. Art. He created something so beautiful out of such darkness and confusion. "It's the terror of knowing what this world is about, watching some good friends screaming, let me out!" As he continued on, he did what has defined his whole life...he re-defined expectations. He focused on love. The only true source of change in the world. "Cause love's such an old fashioned word, and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night. And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves. This is our last dance. This is ourselves. Under pressure."
There are times in my life that I feel as if it is me against the world. As if I have to outrun the expectations, standards and criticism that consumes life as we know it. The simple beginning to Heroes is just enough to propel me forward away from the world. "I, I will be King and you, you will be Queen. Though nothing, will drive them away, we can beat them just for one day. We can be heroes, just for one day." Bowie had the ability to take a young insecure little girl and make her feel like she is not running alone, that she is running toward something far greater than anyone can imagine... even if for just one day. There has not been a time that I have heard this song where I didn't want to stand and scream along with him, "I, I can remember standing by the wall, and the guns shot above our heads and we kissed as though nothing could fall. And the shame, was on the other side. Oh we can beat them, forever and ever. Then we could be heroes, just for one day." It is the passion that continues to build in that song that suddenly explodes into the realization that there is so much potential in one single moment. It is in that moment where you realize that we are infinite.
David Bowie is far greater than a musician, artist, actor, or human being. He is David Freaking Bowie! Everything he touched turned to magic. His influence is widespread, his words were real and his music was felt. There is none other who can measure up to the standard that he set. He is Ziggy Stardust, and The Thin White Duke. He changed with us, and asked about Mars. He danced with us. He is our hero and a Goblin King who gave us sound and vision. Major Tom came alive as did the ultimate Queen Bitch. Bowie is a Blackstar, and on January 10th, 2016 he became a Starman, waiting in the sky. Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust, David Bowie is an icon who will truly be missed.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.
Post coming soon.