It would take thousands of words to explain the formative effect music has had on my life. I credit my parents for this, for weaving together a magical childhood for me and my three siblings in which many average evenings were reimagined in and by music, as my parents became DJs and transported us inside records from The Moody Blues, Paul McCartney and Wings, The Alan Parsons Project, 10cc, Simply Red, Barry Manilow, Godley and Cream, Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees, Genesis, Robert Palmer, Billy Joel, Bread, Chicago, Neil Diamond, ELO, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and others and others and others . . .
I am the sort of person who simply prefers to have music playing. Riding in the car, I can’t do the Responsible and Informed Adult Thing and listen to NPR. I want to listen to CDs. At work, I always have an earbud stuffed in my right ear, Spotify going. I assess the depth of my connection with other humans based on how compatible we are in discussions of music–not that we necessarily have to have the same tastes, but I look for people with whom I share a usually-unspoken I-need-this-music-stuff-so-badly-and-I-don’t-want-to-think-of-life-without-it.
That’s me. In the impossible, awful question of, would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?, I would always, always, always choose to save my hearing. I still would.
I’m taking a lifeline for Think Kit, Day 8, because I’ve actually blogged about our main topic–something I’ve made–on Day 1 of the project.
But look, I made you something anyway: a playlist of my 2013 expressed in 10 choice songs.
“Without You My Life Would Be Boring” – The Knife
I have a joke with a friend of mine that 2013 is the year of Shaking the Habitual–of up-ending anything considered the status quo, the majority rule, the commonplace and accepted. (Okay, it’s not really a joke–we’d love to see a few of these normative behaviors upended.) And The Knife is the epitome of habitual-shaking (have you heard about their recent tour?), and “WYMLWBB” is not only a great track but has the kind of unexpected, sorta bizarre but thought provoking lyrics necessary to lead the charge on this year of Shaking the Habitual.
Lyric: A handful of elf pee / that’s my soul / spray it all over / fill the bowl
“How We Land” – P.O.S. feat. Justin Vernon
Confession time: the first (and only) time I saw P.O.S. in concert, I HATED him. This was in Detroit, at a show Minus the Bear was headlining–but I was there for The Velvet Teen (a band I would consider formative for college-Jackie). So I totally blew it; I didn’t appreciate the opportunity–college Jackie couldn’t handle rap/hip hop–and I haven’t been able to see him since. BOO.
I don’t know when I wised up and started to appreciate how intelligent some rap can be, but thanks to the Doomtree crew out of Minneapolis, I’m always on the lookout for smart lyrics, great hooks and catchy beats, emphasis here on smart lyrics. I’d say P.O.S. knows how to Shake the Habitual and his late-2012 album, We Don’t Even Live Here, really stuck to me this year as I tried to remain present in myself and my choices.
Also this song features Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame)–I endlessly admire JV, as he always has a toe or a foot or a leg in a ton of different projects, all in the name of keeping life creative and vibrant. I want that.
Lyric: It’s a thin line between coded and closed / cozy in any mode / long as I’m covered / so long as I’m not exposed
“Wandering Star” – POLICA feat. Mike Noyce
My music bestie, Bree, brought POLICA (po-lee-sa) into my life, and if I ever had a lady-crush, it’s on Channy, lead singer. “Wandering Star” is a mid-2013 jam because that’s how I was this year–going along really well and then derailing unexpectedly in the middle.
I listed to a lot of POLICA in my car, then, thinking about life and complexity and choices and where I wanted to be in all of it.
Lyric: After all, I’m married to the wandering star / I’ve kissed its moon / It was full when I fell in love with thee / but now the world turns without me
“Youth” – Daughter
Daughter makes me remember and re-feel every possible sad feeling I’ve ever felt or heard it’s possible to feel, yet breaks my heart with happiness because of how gorgeous the songs they’ve crafted are.
Seeing Elena et al play a mini set in Luna this fall was a highlight of 2013.
Lyric: And if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones / Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs / Setting fire to our insides for fun
“Help Me Close My Eyes” – Those Dancing Days
Mid- to 2/3 through 2013, I started reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a beautiful book, and it came to me at the perfect time in my life, as it introduced me to a character struggling with her decisions and finding refuge or distraction or guidance in something else: in the sad/beautiful presence of probably-doomed out of place monarch butterflies.
When I was almost done with the book, I discovered the defunct but awesome Swedish indie pop band, Those Dancing Days, and this song seems like it’d be main character Dellarobbia’s theme song.
Lyric: I want to hide but trees are falling down / I want to hide but mountains are melting / I want to hide but every cliff is getting eaten by the sea / Let me sleep without dreaming
“Dancepack” – Volcano Choir
I would probably be an unshakable depression about the probably-never reunion of Bon Iver if Volcano Choir didn’t exist. Justin Vernon and some of his other musician buddies comprise this musical effort, and the result is a magic that rivals, possibly outpaces, Bon Iver. But I won’t fight and I won’t choose–I adore both bands for their unique musical contributions.
What I love about JV projects is his lyrics are odd enough to keep you thinking but emotively delivered enough to let you feel something profound even when you don’t completely understand what the song is telling you.
Lyric: Take note / there’s still a hole in your heart (x400 or so, all in Justin Vernon’s searching, pleading voice)
“Cowboy Boots” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
I turned 30 this year and the transition from 20s to 30s freaked me out a bit. When being thoughtful, I have no reason to hate 30 and I don’t–but it seems a bit like life gets bigger and more significant as it accumulates, because I surely should have DONE SOMETHING by now, right? Something good? Something important?
I hated “Cowboy Boots” the first time around and then realized it’s expressing many of the feelings I was having as my 20s drew to a close. My life is by no means a 1:1 for Macklemore’s, but the ideas about friends and memories and loss and transition–all those are mine.
Lyric: Reminisce on those days, I guess that’s OK / you wonder why some grow up, move on, close the chapter, live separate lives
“Morning Song” – Le Loup
For all of its evils, Spotify has helped me find a crapton–that’s an official measurement–of new artists I love, and Le Loup is one of them (though they sadly must go in my awesome-band-that-broke-up-before-I-even-knew-they-existed category. Womp womp.)
“Morning Song” came into my life as I was contemplating my own whole-ness and offered its own take on that topic.
Lyric: Don’t go / don’t go / our house is whole
“Friends” – Eliza and the Bear
As 2013 has wound its way down, I’ve been able to get my mind off myself and on to the things I’m grateful for, and the people I’m blessed to call friends are never far from my mind, particularly the ones I get to speak to regularly and who do so much to keep me laughing and cognizant of how delightful life can be.
Lyric: When the water’s too deep to swim / we still swim
“World News” – Local Natives
If I had to choose a song to stand on its own and represent my 2013, it would be this one. I can’t remember how I found my way to Local Natives this year, but somehow I got here and attached myself to the non-current album, preferring the 2010 release, Gorilla Manor, over this year’s Hummingbird. Probably because I don’t like birds. Just kidding; that’s not why. But I do hate birds.
Anyway: I love how unfussy storytelling comes together with soaring vocals, all concluding in one profound last line.
Lyric: As you think / the bad feels so bad makes the good so good