I spend a great deal of time in my silver Honda Civic. When I am at the above intersection, turning left onto Shore Drive, I’m blocks from home, just past Bancroft School, up the hilly neighborhood and into my driveway. Whether it was a 30 minute drive from work in Hudson, or returning from my gym at the Greendale Mall, I’m almost there: Home sweet home. I get to put the day to bed and be done with it moments after turning here.
It’s odd to start a year-long blog in November, while the calendar year’s end is approaching. This photo tour of Worcester through my ramblings is in its infancy…yet I still want to wrap up the year without wrapping up the blog.
I look back at 2012 as a thrilling year in many regards, emotionally trying in others. One thing this year was not, was boring. Instead of rehashing the memories (Facebook can do that automatically) in arbitrary order, I’m going to reflect on this year through the songs that got me through this year, made me cry, laugh, think and smile as I listened to them in my car. In my car, I don’t have to explain, act a certain way or even rationalize my thoughts. I can just be the crazy freak I am.
If my car is my safe haven for processing my wandering musings, than music is my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety pill. My love for show tunes, jazz and pop is well-known, but sometimes I need good, honest, folk/indie rock to pinpoint the words I can’t come up with. I’ve joked that I’m going to avoid a mid-life crisis some day because I’ve had more quarter-life crises than I can count…aren’t I’m supposed to be self-assured at 30 and not a cluster-f#&@ of emotions?? (Woe is me that I have the luxury to even contemplate my existence!)
In no particular order, here are the songs, heard in Worcester this past year that left more than an impression. Click on the Band/Song title to listen to each song.
Black Keys– “Little Black Submarine”– “You know me I had plans, but they just disappear to the back of my mind.” First Heard- Driving to work after the New Year, merging onto 290. This rock band from Akron, OH plays over the hum of the defroster in the cold brisk light of day, beginning like a soft acoustic folk song, perfect for easing into the school day…then 2:01minutes into the song, the amps are turned on, and hello; I’m up and ready to take on the classroom of sixth graders. Entertainment Weekly said that it was the album’s “best surprise”, calling it an “edge-of-sanity epic” and “a crate-digger thriller that starts as a quiet acoustic hymn, then explodes. They don’t make vintage folk-rock heavy metal like they used to—if they ever used to. And that’s a very good thing.” No need for caffeine with this number.
Of Monsters and Men- “Little Talks”- “Don’t listen to a word I say. The screams all sound the same.” First Heard: Last spring on Emerson’s 88.9 after an incredibly difficult school day and having to keep it together till I pulled out of the parking lot. The above lyrics could not have been more spot on. Not since Bjork’s “Post” have I loved an export from Iceland such as this Indie folk pop band. The lit nerd in me squeals for joy that their name alludes to Steinbeck’s Great Depression themed Of Mice and Men. Their catchy tunes are balanced with thoughtful lyrics, which makes their music so appealing; I cannot play an instrument and doubt I have the ability to write a song…but what I do notice are lyrics and the ability of those lyrics to develop character around the band. Of Monsters and Men have been compared to Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros with their male and female lead singers, and anthemly-epic backing instruments, such as trumpet, accordion and keys. They’re poppy but full of substance.
Florence and the Machine “Never Let Me Go”– “In the crushes of heaven, for a sinner like me, but in the arms of the ocean, delivered me.” First Heard- My kitchen on my laptop listening to Pandora Radio…almost cut my finger while cooking after becoming possessed by the piano, lyrics and Florence’s haunting voice. Very few songs can make me cry seconds into them, yet upon first listen this rocked me to my core. This English Indie Rock song’s lyrics reference the bible frequently, yet are so painfully simple and honest. There is a chanting, almost church-like grandeur to the arrangement. In a previous post, I touched upon my feelings with religion; being raised Catholic, it’s almost impossible to not notice these references and relate to them. Interviewed by Digital Spy about the song, Florence Welch reflected,”The gospel thing comes from my obsession with hymns. I’m drawn to anything that has a hymnal quality, be it Spiritualized or dusty old albums by Georgian choirs.” Though not knowing her exact motivation for the ocean analogy, this song hits close to home as the ocean is one of the few places on earth I’ve felt like myself and at peace. My mind stops for moments at a time and I can just “be”.
Passion Pit- “Take a Walk”– “I think I borrowed just too much. We had taxes, we had bills, we had a lifestyle to front….You see I am no criminal, I’m down on both bad knees. I’m just too much a coward to admit when I’m in need.” First Heard– Driving down West Boylston Street at sunset in late May…dreading my impending 30th birthday, pondering the world around me. In the aftermath of “Occupy Wall Street”, I noticed the 99% were bonded by the fall of the 1% of the upper echelon of executives. That if you made money, not just enough, but an ubsurdly successful amount, you were intrinsically greedy, and over this ideal, the nation and people would unite. It became an “us” vs. “them” culture war, with no collective “Us” to work together. The capitalist pig needed to be roasted. Yet, this Cambridge based Indie Rock group took the idea of the capitilist man not as an evil villan but a tragic character, showing the humane in even those we are “supposed” to despise. I’m not saying that all CEO’s fit this characterization, and in fact some are corrupt individuals…but if anything pisses off an English teacher more, it’s generaliztions in ideas and writing. I hate the terms 99% and 1% now…not because I don’t identify with either, but it’s just a non descript vague label on an issue, not a plan to fix the inequity…if that was the point? So, I found it refreshing to hear a band reflect on a not so trendy archetype of the conservative white male and their relationship with money. Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos wrote it about his own family members, yet the song earned the reputation as political anthem. In an interview with MTV, Angelakos stated, “It’s about very specific family members and how the men in my family have always dealt with money. I’ve always been really fond of a lot of my family members and not so fond of others,” he laughed. “All these men were very conservative; socially very liberal but for some reason, they all came here for capitalism, and they all ended up kind of being prey to capitalism. And I’m not making any political statements or anything, but it’s ironic and it’s sad. I didn’t want to make it into a greater political issue…I was more or less interested in analyzing my own family, and that was my way of talking about myself, because I’m a product of these men; I’m their blood. And that was a new way for me to express something.”
Metric-“Breathing Underwater”- “I’m the weight, you’re the kite. They were right when they said we were breathing underwater out of place all the time in a world that wasn’t mine to take; I’ll wait.” First Heard-Three weeks ago when my brother came home, he was listening to this song. The lyric “They were right, when they said, we should never meet out heros” was playing. I thought it was so sad, but mind blowing…the idea of the ideal vs. the reality. Sean gave me this CD for Christmas the following weekend. It hasn’t left my car since. According to this Canadian Indie Rock/New Wave band, Metric’s frontwoman Emily Haines, reported that this song is “about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection.” The synth beats are so pop driven with hooks to reel in the most elusive fish…yet it’s a sign that GOOD pop music can have authentic lyrics.
And for this neurotic, crazy, quarter-life-crisis-prone gal, songs like these are just what the doctor ordered. Don’t need to bathe in them daily, but it’s good to know I’ve got some tunes to reach for, when the going gets tough. This tough cookie can’t sit still…I’ve gotta keep on going.