1. Yellow Brick Road (live) :: Angus & Julia Stone
“Lost my heart in California,
lost my mind.”
I’m writing a story set in Los Angeles, a story about four friends, about love and loss, and about music and family. I’ve been building playlists for each of the four as part of their character development, and this song fits so well with one of them, and the way they feel about love, about their past, and how they hold a very bittersweet affection for California. For me, the song fits into the way I feel about California, Los Angeles specifically, the love and hate I carry in often equal parts, the scars and the bursting heart affections, and the weight that the place I am from attaches to my thoughts, and my art, sneaking into so many of the stories I tell.
I hear this song and I want to drive on those long stretches of highway, up the coast, from the beaches I grew up around all the way to Big Sur, where the cliffs overhang the ocean, and poetry seems to permeate off the rocks. Sometimes the sea is is my muse, sometimes my secret keeper, and sometimes the place where I can breathe deeply, inhaling truth and exhaling loss. This song feels like early morning by the water, the waves ebb and flowing, shock of cold on my bare feet, salt residue left as a souvenir on my skin.
2. Very Loud :: Shout Out Louds
“And I wanna change,
change the way we always have,
and to make different plans,
and try not to make this sad.
But I always choose another way,
and this is why this love can’t stay.”
Impossible love, oh how desirous it can be, how addictive, how divine, and yet, it always turns out the same, it always ends the same, yes, it always ends. Distance is part of it, perhaps the biggest part of all, because proximity can sometimes be a solution, or maybe just the consequence we both are afraid to face. They say that you can’t help who you love, that you don’t choose. Who are these “they” anyway, and what do they know of love? Because in the end I may have not chosen to fall, but I chose to persist, to hang on, to keep hope held tightly inside even if I knew in the end it would all fall apart.
If we always come back to it does that make it better? Does it make it all real? If we play every song we love VERY LOUD will it be enough to shake down the barrier walls between us? Will consequence become choice become the light at the end of the tunnel that we never can see? Or is it just the impossibility that we cling to, forever wishing for what we know we can never have?
3. Anthems for Doomed Youth :: The Libertines
“We’re going nowhere,
nowhere’s on our way.”
This album has been obsessively played lately, songs repeated again and again, in the early morning while watching the sun rise, late at night when my eyes ache and beg to close, in the afternoons while I read pages of poetry, or psychological theories, and in those times of days that are not so easily categorized, when I am writing lines of my own, poetic, prosaic, or otherwise. This song especially, I just can’t get enough of. It represents everything about the album that I need to hear right now, that I need to feel, over and over, and again.
Sometimes it makes me cry. The sense of hope seems tinged with heartache, and it is all too lovely for me to take, the beauty in it aches and tears at my insides, breaking my heart before the final refrain. Other times it makes me feel redeemed, my heart lighter and all my aches and sorrows momentarily soothed. That sense of hope gets under my skin and I can’t help but believe in it, that everything is going to be okay. Maybe going nowhere is the best place to arrive at, the only place to go to, maybe nowhere is everywhere.
4. Wait :: Alexi Murdoch
“Feel I’m on the verge of some great truth,
where I’m finally in my place.
But, I’m fumbling still for proof,
and it’s cluttering my space,
casting shadows on my face.”
I’m going through a kind of shift in myself that I struggle to articulate. It is a change that has been coming for years really, but that is just now taking shape. Some of it is painful, the realization that I need to let certain things, and people, go from my life. Shedding bits and pieces of ourselves, and our existence, is painful, even when necessary, and every day I seem to cut more of the layers off, peeling them back, sopping up the blood that drips from stinging tender skin. But I’m healing, too. It takes time, but time is not always the enemy.
I find solace in dreams when I can finally fall asleep. I find peace in the pages of books, in the rhythm of poetry, in the emotional resonance of my favorite songs. Some days I can’t stop crying, other days I laugh and sing at the top of my lungs, shaking off the day before’s sorrows. These growing pains are real, and there are days when I want to hide from them, drown them, numb them, crawl under the safety of a soft to the touch blanket and disappear. But I don’t hide, I don’t shut down my feelings, I don’t silence the words in my head, I just let it all come and I get up and face the day. What else can I really do?
Out of the Woods :: Ryan Adams
“We were built to fall apart,
then fall back together.”
I want to say first that I loved this song since I first heard Taylor Swift perform it live at a charity show I took my daughter to, and it was the song I couldn’t stop playing from her album, 1989, when I first bought it. I want to make that clear because I do not like the tone of so many reviews of Ryan’s cover album of 1989 that try to say that he validated these songs, made them better, gave them depth that wasn’t there before – because the depth was always there, the interpretation is the only thing changed.
The song was always heart breaking to me, but I will say that Ryan’s rendition, the way he slowed it down and the way his voice breaks while he sings it, makes it break even more for me when I hear it. The hope we all have when we first fall for someone, even if it is tentative, even if we are afraid to acknowledge it, afraid to believe in it, it is beautiful all the same, and oh so very human. That desire to hold on, to feel a sense of certainty and safety, to think that this love might stay, even if it never does, is fucking beautiful. That wanting to be “in the clear”, it hurts to think on sometimes, that innocence that can be shattered so easily, but can be realized, too.