Southeastern (2013) :: Jason Isbell :: Album of the Week
A Little History:
Southeastern is Jason Isbell’s fourth studio album, released in June of 2013, from Southeastern Records. The album was produced by David Cobb. The album followed a stint Isball had in rehab. He has stated regarding the album, and the timing of recording,
“This time I want to remember it all.”
This album was recorded without full participation of Isbell’s regular backing band, The 400 Unit, mostly due to the fact that Isbell wanted this to be more of a solo, acoustic album. That said, Chad Gamble and Derry deBorja, of The 400 Unit, do appear on drums and keyboards, respectively, on the album.
Isbell’s producer, Cobb, encouraged him to record his vocals in one take. The album was finished a day or two before Isbell’s wedding to fellow musician Amanda Shires.
The album isn’t named after geography or direction, Isbell explains:
“(geography) wasn’t actually the reason I named the album that. That came from a tool and die shop in Alabama that my dad worked at when I was very young. He came home with terrible stories; I thought of the place as a dungeon. So I wanted to reclaim that for my own purposes.”
The album debuted at # 23 on Billboard 200,and # 7 on Top Rock Albums, selling 18,000 copies in its first week.
Though I was aware of Jason Isbell, it was not until the Fall of 216 that I started to really listen to his music. The opening track from this album, “Cover Me Up”, was gifted to me as part of a significant playlist that meant a lot to me at the time. Though the playlist was full of other amazing songs, it was this one that stood out and stuck itself into me. I listened to it so much that it made the list of most played songs of 2016 (#12).
The song is about hope, about love, about getting clean and grabbing hold of life again. It is one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard, real and raw, emotional, flawed, confessional, hopeful, and what feels like — true.
It is by far my favorite song on the album, but there are many others that I love, as well. “Elephant” was the second song on this album to grab a hold of me. It is heartbreaking, and again, so raw and real, and true feeling. “Flying Over Water” is a newer favorite. It feels like the retrospective, 20/20 vision we all seem to get after a relationship is over, the way we (finally) see things clearer, even if it is too late.
My second favorite track, coming in after “Cover Me Up” is “Songs that She Sang in the Shower”. This one is hard to listen to some days. Music being intertwined in love, and becoming part of the loss and heartbreak when love is lost, hits pretty deep with me. This is a turn it up and sing-a-long, and cry, in the car alone – though, to be fair, “Cover Me Up” is one I now turn up loud, sing-a-long, and it definitely makes me cry now… but once it didn’t.
“Super 8” belongs on my next Road Trip Mix (its in the works, as is a plan for a road trip…SOON). “Yvette” is another hard to listen to song, which hits on a personal level, and makes me cry, too.
Honestly, there is not a song on here that I have not embraced, and fallen musically in love with. Jason’s voice, his songwriting, his lyrics, and the guitar work, weave into me deep and stay there. The album feels like a story, or a string of stories, about love, about relationships – and their life spans, about loss, about hurt, about redemption, about survival, and really just about living.
I am really hoping he tours this year, as I would love to hear him, and all these songs, live.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Cover Me Up
“ So girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leavin’ this room, ’til someone needs medical help, or the magnolias bloom. It’s cold in this house, and I ain’t going out to chop wood, so cover me up, and know you’re enough, to use me for good.”
2. Songs that She Sang in the Shower
“And the songs that she sang in the shower, all ring in my ears, like ‘Wish You Were Here.” How I wish you were here And experience robs me of hope that you’ll ever return, so I breathe, and I burn. I breathe and I burn.”
3. Flying Over Water
“ Take my hand, baby we’re over land. I know flying over water makes you cry.”
“If I’d fucked her before she got sick, I’d never hear the end of it, she don’t have the spirit for that now. We just drink our drinks, and laugh out loud, and bitch about the weekend crowd, and try to ignore the elephant, somehow.”
“I’ve watched you in class, your eyes are cut glass, and you stay covered upstairs head to your toe, so nobody will know it was you.”
Trouble Will Find Me (2013) :: The National :: Album of the Week
A Little History:
“Trouble Will Find Me” is the sixth studio album by The National, released on May 17, 2013, on the 4AD label.
The album was produced by band members Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and the album features appearances by St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, Doveman, Sufjan Stevens, Nona Marie Invie of Dark Dark Dark, and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire.
The album received critical acclaim upon its release. “Trouble Will Find Me” reached #3 on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart. The album was also nominated for “Best Alternative Music Album” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
The National began writing “Trouble Will Find Me” towards the end of the band’s tour in support of their fifth studio album, “High Violet”.
Matt Berninger became inspired by guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s recent demo recordings, and subsequently completed his writing contributions to the album’s opening track, “I Should Live in Salt”, a day after hearing their demo tracks. Bass guitarist Scott Devendorf noted, “Our typical way of working was to send stuff to Matt, then wait a while to get some mumbles back. He seemed really motivated and engaged with the new stuff.”
The band began recording “Trouble Will Find Me” in late September 2012 at Clubhouse Studio, which was modeled after the late 19th century barn-turned-Inn that the band stayed in.
Bass guitarist Scott Devendorf stated that Clubhouse was chosen primarily to establish camaraderie amongst the band, noting: “The impetus to record upstate– cooking, eating, working, hanging out together – was to achieve this music-camp feel.”
The first four days of recording were interrupted by heavy tornado-like winds which subsequently led to a power outage. Guitarist, keyboardist and co-producer Aaron Dessner noted, “That night, by candlelight in the total darkness, we got really drunk and played the songs acoustically. It was the kind of scene that has never happened in the history of our band — and will never happen again.”
The band later relocated to Dreamland Studios – located within a converted 19th century church, in West Hurley, New York – to record the track, “Fireproof”, entirely live. Inspired by the session, the band returned to Clubhouse and recorded both “Sea of Love” and “Heavenfaced” as one-take live performances. Recording at Clubhouse, however, was once again derailed by Hurricane Sandy.
Matt Berninger has stated that he enjoyed the writing process for Trouble Will Find Me noting, “In the past, it’s been hard to enjoy writing – like getting drops of blood from your forehead – but I loved the process for this record. I think a lot of it was because I wasn’t worried – I didn’t care what the songs were going to be about, or if they were going to seem depressing, or cool, or whatever.”
I fell in love with Matt Berninger’s voice, and The National as a band, back in 2008 when I first heard the song “All the Wine” from their 2005 album, “Alligator”. My love grew when I started to devour other albums, especially “Boxer”, which held three of my all-time favorite songs of the band’s, “Slow Show”, “Mistaken for Strangers” and “Fake Empire”. The album, “High Violet” had me spinning and swooning, too, becoming more and more addicted to the slightly odd lyrics and Matt’s emotionally-blowing voice.
“Trouble Will Find Me” has taken my love for the band and blown it right up, making The National now one of my favorite bands. “I Should Live in Salt” breaks me in the best way and “Fireproof” has recently been doing the same, dismantling my heart and bringing tears along with each line.
Heartbreak and regret live in these songs, to me, as does this just out of reach feeling of hope. I feel cord connected with so many of the songs on this album, and with every new listen I seem to feel something more.
Don’t you just love when an album can do that?
“I Need M Girl” and “This is the Last Time” have found their ways to many a playlist and music mix, delivering mood and memory with every play.
Now I just need to see them play live. I’m pretty damn sure that when I do I will be even more madly in love with Matt and the band.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. I Should Live in Salt
“Don’t make me read your mind, you should know me better than that.”
“You keep a lot of secrets, and I keep none. Wish I could go back, and keep some.”
3. I Need My Girl
“I’m under the gun again, I know I was the 45% of then. I know I was a lot of things.”
“I could walk out, but I won’t.”
5. This is the Last Time
“Oh, but your love is such a swamp, you don’t think before you jump, and I said I wouldn’t get sucked in.”
CD of the Week :: Hard Candy (2002) :: Counting Crows
For the second installment, for the CD of the week feature, I picked Counting Crow’s “Hard Candy”, a new-to-me CD that I got about a week ago at FYE, in Fullerton. I used to have a CD copy of this album back when I lived in Saline, Michigan, that I bought at a local record store in Ann Arbor, but it got lost in the moves and the changes of life. So, now I have a new one, and I’ve been spinning it off-and-on in my care, ever since.
This new version I have does not have the added cover of “Big Yellow Taxi”, featuring Vanessa Carlton.
A Little History:
“Hard Candy” is the fourth studio album by Counting Crows, released in the United Kingdom on June 7, 2002 and the following day in the United States.
Reviews hailed the album as the best release since their debut, with the albums of the mid-1990s being “long, and drawn out”, one reviewer happily announced that, “Hard Candy is crisp and tight, packed with three- and four-minute shots of radio friendly fare”, and that during a time when hard rock is the standard, the band are not afraid of a sound that is in the title track, compared to the Byrds, and with its “Allman-esque” twin guitars, echoes The Band in “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)”.
Another review (Patrick Schabe) name check’s The Band when they wrote, “The heavy debts to The Band and R.E.M. are still present, but Duritz seems to have finally found the courage to explore the whole pop palette and cover a wide range of Americana. Yes, Duritz’s lyrical themes of self-effacing wistfulness are still intact, but they’ve been tempered by a sense of worldliness that keeps them from sounding like adolescent emoting.” (from PopMatters)
Sleep, and lack thereof, love, and lack thereof, California and Spain and Miami, and all those places in-between, and a myriad spin of memories, are all the things, and all the feelings, that come to mind when I think on, and listen to, Counting Crows’ “Hard Candy”.
Listening the album, from start-to-finish, after about 12 years in-between, has brought with it a myriad of emotions, and musically-triggered memories. Though a handful of songs from the album have found their way on many a mix and/or playlist, it had been awhile since I listened to “Hard Candy” in its entirety. I’ve missed the album, as I have missed listening to albums this way (part of why I decided to do this series).
There are a few songs on this album that bring me to tears. There are others that hit in that “yes yes yes, I get that, yes” place in me, especially when anxiety, insomnia and worries about love are tapped on – oh, and also regret, and that heaviness of missing someone.
I spun this CD while my best friend and I drove through Laguna Canyon a few weekends ago, and it was such a beautiful, and emotionally impacting way to take in these songs. Earlier, when I had this CD the first time around, I can remember vividly playing it while driving across country, coming back to California, going back “home”. I remember the endless road ahead, the changing scenery, and that lingering doubt that hung over like rain clouds, just waiting to open up and fall apart.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
“Surprise surprise, I miss your hair, you miss my eyes. And all this solitude, is my confidence eroding.”
2. Holiday in Spain
“Hop on my choo choo, I’ll be your engine driver in a bunny suit.”
3. Black and Blue
“You’ve been waiting a long time, to fall down, on your knees, cut your hands, cut yourself until you bleed. Fall asleep next to me, wait for everyone to go away.”
4. Goodnight L.A.
“It seems like the daylight is coming, and no one is watching but me.”
“Cause my angel, she don’t receive my calls, says I’m too dumb to fuck, too dumb too fight, too dumb to save. Well, maybe, I don’t need no angel at all.”
The first “issue” for the VINYL of the Week just had to be a Duran Duran LP. My first band, my first music-fandom (before “fandom” was a thing), my first band-love, and a whole lot of other firsts, the copy I have of this album is VERY scratched up and more than a lot used, but I love it. It was given to me by my best friend as a birthday present, and though I’ve bought a different copy since (as this one really does not play well anymore), I could never give this one up.
Duran Duran was everything to teenage me. I spent COUNTLESS hours listening to their music, watching their videos, paging through music and teen magazines, tearing out posters and pin-ups, cutting out pictures and articles, filling pages of scrapbooks and photo albums. I haunted record stores and swap meets for imported singles and 12 inches, and those hard-to-find tour and fan books. My friends and I talked about them obsessively, and we all had our favorites.
Mine was Nick Rhodes.
I loved this band so much that my mother still refers to them as “your boys” if she sees them on TV. I’ll get a random text reading “I saw your boys today” and she doesn’t need to explain.
They will always be my boys. Yes, yes, they will.
A Little History:
Rio is the second studio album by Duran Duran, originally released worldwide on May 10, 1982. The album reached # 2 in the UK and # 1 in Australia.
The album was re-released in the United States in November 1982. It earned a Gold disc on March 1, 1983, and went Platinum on April 26, 1983, eventually reaching Double Platinum status. It peaked at # 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US on March 12, 1983, and remained on the chart for 129 weeks.
The first song to be recorded for Rio was “My Own Way”, written and recorded in October 1981, and released as a single in November 1981. The rest of the album was recorded in the early months of 1982 at Air Studios in London, with producer and engineer Colin Thurston. “My Own Way” was re-recorded for the album and the newer version is significantly different from the 1981 single version.
The second single, “Hungry Like the Wolf”, was released in the UK on May 4, 1982. It peaked at # 5 in the charts on June 26, 1982.
The Rio album was first released worldwide on May 10, 1982, peaking at # 2 in the UK in its second week of release. The image on the album’s distinctive purple cover was painted by artist Patrick Nagel. The cover itself was designed by Malcolm Garrett.
John Taylor takes credit for the title. “[It] was something I had thrown into the mix,” he recalled in 2012. He was particularly fascinated with the idea of Brazil, and “Rio, to me, was shorthand for the truly foreign, the exotic, a cornucopia of earthly delights, a party that would never stop.”
The band had their own plans and ambitions for promotion. They reunited with director Russell Mulcahy (who had directed the music video for their first single, “Planet Earth”), and planned the release of a full length video album—eleven videos for the best songs off of the Duran Duran and Rio albums. The band travelled to Sri Lanka and Antigua between tour dates to film the memorable videos for the singles “Rio”, “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Save a Prayer”, as well as the lesser-known “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “Nightboat” — the latter video being a creepy zombiefest set on a deserted island.
While filming the videos, guitarist Andy Taylor contracted a tropical virus and was hospitalized on his return to England.This forced the delay of the band’s European tour, and the record company decided to hold the release of the third single until the band was ready to promote it again.
“Save a Prayer” was finally released on August 9, 1982, and peaked at # 2 on the UK charts in mid September 1982. On November 1, 1982, the “Rio” single was released worldwide. It peaked at # 9 in the UK in December 1982.
Listening this morning I was somewhat amazed at how the music still holds up, and how their sound and style still pops up in current bands (latest album by The Temper Trap anyone? That first album by the Killers? I could go on…). The bass — oh my stars, John Taylor on the bass — and the keyboard — Nick Nick Nick — still is quintessential, unique and amazing. And Simon, his poetic and literary referential lyrics, sigh…
When “New Religion” starts up, that slow build of keyboards, and the bass coming in, still sends all over body chills to me. It is almost orgasmic, and that is not the fangirl in me talking…or maybe it is. All the same, though, it does it for me…big time.
Strong opening song, “Rio” is not just the title track, but a surefire, meant-to-be hit that is catchy and timeless, and even though it is such a song from the 80’s, I do think it transcends the sound trends of the time, while still being of that time.
And the rest, all of the songs really, they hit me on so many levels. This band, they were such an important piece of my coming-of-age, so much a part of my sexuality, and my self-regard, and so much of the girl I am. These songs, some of them make me tear up hearing them, and others make me just scream-sing-a-long.
Something I wrote about Duran Duran awhile back…seems fitting to put it here:
One could blame Duran Duran for the woman I am today, though I am not sure blame is the right word. For me, I am grateful, more so than I often give sufficient thought, nor credit to. The band was this enormous part of my adolescence, in some ways the band was my adolescence, and though I still carry a never-ending love for them, and their music, I will be the first to admit that I take Duran Duran for granted, and I often under-appreciate them to a huge degree.
Let’s start with sexuality. Prior to their music, and images, hitting my day-to-day, I did all I could to keep sexuality buried deep within me. Learning too early on about sex from abuse was not the kind of education that my friends had received, at least not that I knew of. The realization would come years later that more than I knew of my cohorts and companions had been through the nightmares, too. But, at this juncture of my coming of age I thought I was alone in all of it, and I ran from thoughts of sex as fast as I could.
Then along came this band and I had to stop running. I pretty much had no choice, it was like being smacked in the face, and well, everywhere else, with desire. Whether it be the heart thump and vibration of the bass line, the seduction of the poetic lyrical refrains, or that they were quite beautiful to look at, I was helpless to escape. Nearly every fantasy, every lustful feeling, every personal exploration and vibration beneath the bed sheets was either about, or to the soundtrack of, Duran Duran. My first orgasm was with the lights off, in my bedroom alone, with The Chauffer playing (yes, of course I remember).
A few years later, the boy who I would later share my virginity with, would also share a Duran Duran related “meet-cute” with me. It went something like this: I saw him at a movie theater before the lights went down, he was wearing a John Taylor style of hat that along with one hell of a smile, got my attention. After the movie we ran into each other again at a late night diner and when he asked my friends and I to join he and his friends I made mention of his hat and he smiled that smile again, adding a wink to the mix, and said “John Taylor approved.”
I have been known to say that that boy knew something that a lot of the boys I went to high school did not. They all made fun of the band, mocked the music, the looks, throwing sexuality accusations and dismissing any talent or merit they had because of their predominate female fan-base. These same teenage boys would grow up to be men who would later admit to liking their music in secret, a confession I have heard from many men I have come in contact with, and each time I end up laughing and shaking my head at them. When asked why it amuses me so I always say that if they had been that exception, and if they were interested in girls, they could have had it all over the other boys, a space next to us at concerts and an invitation into the conversation, and the strung up and out desire we were all pulsing with.
It was more than what the music did to our sexy bits though, much more actually. As I consumed their music, and every article and interview I could get my hands on, I started to learn about their musical influences. Without a doubt, I can directly credit the members of Duran Duran for introducing me to Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground, Chic, Joy Division, early David Bowie, Japan and T-Rex. I was also moved and inspired to write more. Lyrically, the majority of their music reads like poetry intermixed with passionate proclamations and a little bit of wonder. These were not the simple pop infused love song trope of so much of the other music that hit the radio stations, this was something more, and it had me writing up a storm. Sometimes what I wrote was about them (yes, this was my first venture into fan fiction), but most of the time it was creations all of my own, written with their music blaring in the background.
They gave me big dreams, too. Their videos, all shot in far off and exotic locations, made the world seem so much bigger than my tiny life was. When things were horrible at home and I found myself questioning my existence, and at more than a few low moments, questioning my life, it was their big lives, or the perception of their big lives, that kept me going. I thought there was so much more to see, to do, to be that I just had to hang on longer. I could not help but believe in the mystery. I wanted to believe. And, well, I thought I might just someday run off and marry Nick Rhodes. A teenage girl can dream, can’t she?
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Save a Prayer
“Some people call it a one-night stand, but we can call it paradise.”
2. New Religion
“‘Cause sometimes people stare, coming down, electric chair, and steaming crowds they gather and they shout.”
3. Hold Back the Rain
“We’re miles away from nowhere, and the wind doesn’t have a name, so call it what you want to call it – it still blows down the lane.”
4. Lonely in Your Nightmare
“Because there’s heat beneath your winter, let me in.”
5. The Chauffer
“And the sun drips down, bedding heavy behind, the front of your dress, all shadowy lined, and the droning engine throbs in time, with your beating heart.”
Quintessential Albums :: More Adventurous (2004) :: Rilo Kiley
A Little History:
More Adventurous is the third full-length album released by Los Angeles based band Rilo Kiley. The album, released on August 17, 2004, marks a significant change in the band’s sound with the goal of being “more adventurous” than their previous music. The effort paid off by increasing the group’s audience and garnering critical praise.
Two versions of the album were released: the regular store-sold version in a normal jewel case and a limited edition digipak version (1,000 copies) sold at the album’s release party and concert.
The song Accidntel Deth was produced by Jimmy Tamborello, known for his work in The Postal Service and as Dntel (which explains the unusual spelling of the title).
Lead singer Jenny Lewis would tour with The Postal Service this same year.
The songs Ripchord and It Just Is were written in response to the death of Elliott Smith.
The song More Adventurous alludes to a line from Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, “Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.”
Mike Mogis, who was essentially the Saddle Creed house produced at the time, working most notably with Bright Eyes, helped bring this album to life. He is credited as playing banjo, glockenspiel, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, synthesizer, vibraphone, and wurlitzer on the album.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
Where do I begin with this one, when so many of these songs hold so much significance to me? I think it was It’s a Hit, the opening track, that I heard first. I recall playing it on a drive to and from airport when a close friend was coming for an Autumn visit, back when she used to do that every year, or so. There was something about the song we both loved, maybe the wit and edge to the lyrics, or the sentiment of “writer’s block” that we both could relate to, or maybe it was just the fact that we were discovering the song, and the band, at the same time, together.
It would be a bit of time later that Does He Love You? would come into my life and hit me hard. I had found myself in the midst of a complicated, long-distance “something” with a married man that was full of “what if’s” and “when I leave her and come out to California“, that latter one something I never believed, but still stuck around to hear more than a few times. Nothing ever came out of any of it really except for some passionate emails, and some brilliant mix CD’s. We never met in-person, we never broke anyone’s vows, though I think both of our hearts were left with some slow to heal bruises. This song, during that time, felt ripped from my insides, and even though it hurt to hear, I played it over and over again.
The title song, More Adventurous, along with Portions for Foxes, both felt like anthems for the first year after I left a broken relationship, and was trying to make it on my own again. I Never found itself on music mix love letters sent off to a poet I would have two passionate stops and starts with, each time believing no stops were up ahead. And then there was A Man/Me/Then Jim that I wouldn’t pay much attention to for years, and then one night the song would start playing in my car, part of a mix that a friend had made, and I would find myself mesmerized by it. I love storytelling in songs, and this one ended up becoming a favorite of mine. The characters in the song tragic and vivid, leaving me wanting to know more.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Does He Love You?
“A married man, he visits me. I receive his letters in the mail twice a week. I think he loves me, and when he leaves her, he’s coming out to California.”
2. A Man/Me/Then Jim
“We sat quietly in the corner,
whispering close about loss.
And I remembered why I loved her,
and I asked her why I drove her off.”
3. Portions for Foxes
“And the talking leads to touching, and the touching leads to sex, and then there is no mystery left.”
4. It’s a Hit
“But it’s a sin when success complains, and your writers block, it don’t mean shit; just throw it against the wall and see what sticks.”
5. More Adventurous
“I’ve felt the wind on my cheek coming down from the East, and thought about how we are all as numerous as leaves on trees, and maybe ours is the cause of all mankind: Get loved, make more, try to stay alive.”
Quintessential Albums :: Got No Shadow (1998) :: Mary Lou Lord
A Little History:
Got No Shadow is an album by Mary Lou Lord, released in early 1998 on Work Records.
The first track on the album, His Lamest Flame is a reference to the Elvis Presley song “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame“.
The song She Had You became a hit in the Philippines, it was played in a FM radio NU 107 midnight count down.
The song Lights Are Changing is a cover song, the original done by British band The Bevis Frond, It appeared on their 1988 album, Triptych.
The song Some Jingle Jangle Morning is a re-recording of the same song which appeared on Mary Lou Lord’s debut 7″ EP for Kill Rock Stars in 1993. The song is said to be about Kurt Cobain, as Mary Lou was briefly involved with Kurt in the early 1990’s at the beginning of Nirvana’s rise to fame.
The song Shake Sugaree is a cover of an old folk and blues song written by Elizabeth Cotten.
On the album’s release, Rollilng Stone described it as “…a seamless collection of folk-rock that offers more than a glimpse of Lord’s roots playing for passersby in London and Boston subway stations. Largely a collaborative effort with her mentor and songwriting idol Nick Saloman of the British psychedelic outfit the Bevis Frond, ‘Got No Shadow’ comes two years after Lord’s self-titled indie EP, a subsequent record label bidding war for her services and a spate of publicity she probably could have lived without.”
In the same interview with Rolling Stone, Mary Lou Lord was asked what she hoped people’s reaction to the album would be. She answered with the following response:
“The best thing that could happen is if some young woman or person came up to me and said ‘You inspired me to write music’ and gave me a tape of their stuff. If you can jolt someone into writing a song, if they feel they have no choice but to do it, I think that’s just great. Because there’s a point when you’ve listened enough to other people’s music.”
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
The late 90’s found me standing at a crossroads in my life which would lead to many changes, and paths that would lead me to life-altering decisions and moving out of state for the first time. My heart was pulled in so many directions, and I was desperately searching for meaning and self-identification and direction. I’d learn eventually that there are no clear answers, and I would learn eventually to be okay with that, but in 1998 I was determined and curious, and oh so in need of something to hang on to.
Music was what I found. It is what I always find, really. Music ever my religion and my spirituality and my soul mate and forever love. I identified mostly with female artists, grrrl rock and indie folk and all that would be so quintessentially “90’s“. I happened upon Mary Lou Lord’s album at a small record store by the beach and I fell hard and fast for it, listening to it on repeat days at a time. So many of the songs on this album found their way on countless mix tapes I made. I remember wanting everyone I knew to hear the songs, especially Western Union Desperate and Some Jingle Jangle Morning.
This morning I was listening to Bob Dylan sing Mr. Tambourine Man and the lyric came up that sings “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, in the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you” and I was immediately reminded of this album. I pulled my car over and found Got No Shadow on Spotify, and played it in its entirety for the rest of my morning commute, singing-a-long to all the songs and feeling very nostalgic for me at 29. I knew then that it was the album to write about today. This time around some of the songs hit me differently, new perspectives and new lines that got my attention, I love how that happens with music and books and film. I still love the album so much.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Western Union Desperate
“So hey, California here I come,
I’ve got a backpack and a sunburnt thumb.
I hope my compass is tried and true,
cause when I need a friend it’s still you.”
2. She Had You
“I have respect now, I always knew I would, ’cause I had a passport out of the neighborhood. And when I go back, I always see her there, I ask how she’s doing, not that I really care. She’s still on the corner, she’s still going nowhere, but she had you.”
3. Some Jingle Jangle Morning
“Somewhere it all got crazy,
and now it’s like a dream,
and I knew that I blew it from the start.
I was too freaked out to deal with it all,
and too fucked up to care;
I stood right there and watched it fall apart.”
4. Lights are Changing
“All that summertime I revolved around your eye, in accelerating spirals in an asymmetric sky.”
5. Shake Sugaree
“Oh, Lordy me, didn’t I shake sugaree? Everything I got is down in pawn.”
Azure Ray is Azure Ray’s self-titled debut. It was released January 16, 2001 on WARM.
The album features songs that were used on various television shows/episodes and films, including Sleep, used in a season 1 Cold Case episode and in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, Displaced which was featured in a season 6 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the song Rise which was featured in the film Winter Passing.
Azure Ray consisted of musicians Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink. The pair met at the age of 15 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. They fronted a band called Little Red Rocket, often compared to Veruca Salt, in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama in the mid and late 1990’s.
Azure Ray started in Athens, Georgia, but relocated to Omaha, Nebraska and joined the music scene there. Taylor and Fink are also in another Saddle Creek band called Now It’s Overhead, with Andy LeMaster.
Azure Ray disbanded in 2004, leaving Fink and Taylor to work on solo and other collaborative projects, including working in Now It’s Overhead and Maria Taylor’s solo recordings.
Fink and Taylor reformed the band for a one-off show in Los Angeles on November 30, 2008.I n 2009, Taylor announced on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic that the band would reform on a semi-permanent basis.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
This album is Michigan to me, part of my life soundtrack when I lived in a suburb of Ann Arbor, experiencing Midwest Winters and falling hard for hand-written letters and journaling online. I saw Azure Ray at a small venue in Ann Arbor during this album, and era, which was an amazing experience, causing me to fall even harder for the album.
Songs like Displaced are a unique kind of love song, one that celebrates friendship and its complexities, which at times are more impactful and intense than love affairs. Rise is a song full of longing and loneliness, feelings I was overfull of back when this album filled my ears. My heart belonged somewhere far off and away, existing in an impossible phase, though I still believed we would eventually “rise” and connect, and be together.
The album itself is lush and dreamy, heartbreaking at times, intimate and personal and chill-inducing gorgeous.
“You said you’d take me nowhere, I said that suits me just fine.”
I felt a universe away from everything, yet I felt more grounded in my surroundings than I had ever felt in my life. The juxtaposition of loneliness and home were hard to take, and I sought solutions in dreams, letters, and wishes. Maybe I needed to pick up and go again, anywhere, nowhere, somewhere.
“I knew somehow when you looked up and over me, that you could look up these words, but you still won’t understand. They mean nothing to you. So, write them in the sand, and watch the water wash them away.”
Stark and haunting, this one always reminded me of my favorite goth music, the likes of This Mortal Coil, Shriekback and Cocteau Twins. It reminds me, too, of the time I sat at the water’s edge, tracing a name in the sand that I needed to let go of, waiting there until the tide came in and washed it away. That was the only kind of closure I knew I would ever be able to get.
“And in the meantime, I have nothing to say, I’m here in vain.”
A “coming-of-age” kind of song about growing up and sorting yourself out. It is also about loneliness, about waiting, and about trying to find your place in the world. It is a sadder song than it sounds at first blush.
I love the old-time feeling to this song, the traditional country sensibility, and the storytelling aspects. The vocals are so beautiful, stripped down, raw and vulnerable. I wrote a poem once to this song about the characters I imagined in my mind – I love how music inspires.
Touch is the third studio album by the British new wave duo Eurythmics, released on November 14, 1983. The album was the duo’s first UK number-one album, and also reached the top 10 in the US. It has since been certified Platinum in both the UK and the US. The album was listed in Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, and again in a revised list in 2012.
By the time Touch was released, Eurythmics had achieved international success with their hit single Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and their album of the same name. Preceded by the hit single Who’s That Girl?, Touch was recorded and mixed in only about three weeks at Eurythmics’ own London studio facility, The Church.
A remix album, Touch Dance, was released in 1984.
Touch was also the first album to be released simultaneously on record and on the then-new CD format in the United States.
All songs on Touch were written and composed by Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, except Fame by David Bowie, Carlos Alomar and John Lennon and ABC (Freeform) by David A. Stewart, Timothy Wheater, Nadine Masseron.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
A trip to the record store was my visit to church, my sanctuary, my holiest of holy, the place where I found understanding, life lessons, and the emotional map to navigate both heartbreak and falling in love. I can remember vividly the afternoon I bought Touch on vinyl (I still have the copy), it was the Record Trading Center, one of the first record stores I knew of that sold new and used albums.
They had just about everything, only Tower Records carried more of a selection. They even had bands play in the back room. I was a sophomore in High School, and was there with two of my best friends. Touch was spinning on the “behind the counter” turntable when we walked in, Who’s That Girl was playing and I stood there enthralled, taking in the song, breathing it in, then frantically looking for the album itself.
I had Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) at home in my collection, and had nearly wore it out playing it so much. I was ecstatic for a second release, and would play this album as much as the first, especially the songs Who’s That Girl, Paint a Rumour and Regrets.
I scrawled “I’m an electric wire and I’m stuck inside your head” on my binder, where I penned so many of my favorite lyrics and band names. Every weekend and evening I sat watching MTV, Here Comes the Rain Again and Who’s That Girl both video favorites that I would look forward to when they graced my small bedroom TV screen.
I contemplated dying my hair Annie Lennox red, but wasn’t brave enough to do so until a few years later. I was so in love with her style and her out of this world voice.
“The language of love, slips from my lover’s tongue, cooler than ice cream, and warmer than the sun.
Dumb hearts get broken, just like china cups. The language of love, has left me broken on the rocks.”
Unrequited crushes disguised as love was the stuff of my adolescence. I sat in the back with my shyness wrapped around me like a blanket, or a hooded sweatshirt, and watched as other girls acted boldly, holding hands and tangling tongues in the hallways with the object of my desires. It never even mattered who they were, just that they were never me.
“I’m an electric wire, and I’m stuck inside your head.”
I had coils of unresolved anger and sorrow snaked inside my skin. Sometimes the fuse lit without provocation, without my permission or control, and all that madness would simmer to the surface. Most days, though, I was able to keep it all in check, smiling softly, burying all my regrets deep, deep in my insides.
“Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory, falling on my head like a new emotion.”
I’ve always loved the rain. I’m the one splashing in puddles, throwing her head back and opening her mouth to taste the water on her tongue, dancing around in the water, and wishing for a partner who longed to join in. Every kiss in the rain that has ever touched my lips I can still remember as if they happened yesterday.
We slept in each others bedrooms, in each others bedsheets, in each others beds. In the middle of the night we would lie there next to each other swapping secrets and heavy breaths. Looking back, it was probably love we were not quite sharing, the secret between us that we silently promised not to tell.
“And, when the sun comes up, It’s like a new commotion. You say nobody told you it would feel like this.”
This song felt like some kind of space age love song, or an anthem of love, of strength and of a dangerous kind of desire. I was on the far side of dangerous, mistaken for the grades I got on papers, and not for the girl tucked inside. Sometimes, though, being this side of invisible kept me from being significantly hurt.
Whatever is the first solo album by the American singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, released in 1993.
I’ve Had It is one of the songs featured in Nick Hornby’s book 31 Songs. The album with special note for the song 4th of July was included by Elvis Costello in his “Costello’s 500” list for Vanity Fair.
Whatever received mostly positive reviews from the critics. Most praised her sense of melody and the wordplay of her lyrics, exemplified by Entertainment Weekly in “hooky songs” and “evocative lyrics“.
The Los Angeles Times reflected this by saying she “mixes words like a master, catching lifetimes of ache and Angst” in her songs while the Chicago Tribune compared her to Elvis Costello.
Rolling Stone cited her music as “sunny, surreal melodies” with “razor-sharp lyrics“.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
This is my first, and most played, Aimee Mann album I own. It is one of those albums that has followed along with me, and been a soundtrack to my life, during many chapters and incarnations. The songs have traded off being my favorites, my most relevent, and sometimes my most painful during those times, as well. I’ve listened to this album on two cross-country moves, three break-ups, and while writing a few chapters of a novel I will (hopefully) someday finish.
I’ve been lucky to see Aimee Mann play live four times, and three of those four she sang a few of my favorites off this album. The most memorable was the acoustic set she performed for the show I caught in Chicago while visiting a lover at the time during Valentine’s Day. She sang stripped down versions of both Fourth of July (my absolute favorite off of this album) and I’ve Had It.
Fourth of July reminds me of past relationships that collapsed in on themselves, and the regrets and bittersweet memories that linger afterwards, like the cloying smell and smoke that stick around after the fireworks are set-off on Independence Day. There is this sense of freedom that explodes when we finally leave something broken apart, but there are pieces of things, of feelings, and photographs that stay beneath our skin, like shrapnel after a war, that still sting years later.
I’ve Had It is one of those still painful songs to listen to. There are too many images that play like a slideshow on the inside of each eyelid when I close my eyes and listen. It isn’t the story being sung exactly. I don’t have a band break-up to recall from my past, but I’ve had break-ups that felt bigger than a one-on-one relationship. The kind that costs you a community of friends, or a place that feels like home. As you walk away it is a different sort of moving on, with bigger things you will have to try to remember, or learn to forget. I think everyone experiences a loss like that at least once in their lives – their own version of a band breaking-up, or the end of an era.
The opening song, I Should’ve Known, reminds me of the mid-90’s and the re-defining times that I found myself in then. It reminds me of a patchwork dress I used to wear over crushed velvet tights, the taste of Marlboro lights, and the way the salty sea air felt like in the wee hours of night, or would it have been morning then, where we’d sit by the shore just past Newport Beach. I made a series of mistakes then, and just as many successes, I’d like to think.
“So that’s today’s memory lane, with all the pathos and pain, another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless, and they’re always the same; a verse, and a verse, and refrain.”
It was never my favorite holiday, but somehow it became us and ours, for reasons I still could not explain. Now the holiday brings the weight of loss and sadness to me, a shadow I can never seem to completely shake off. They all get on with it, they all expect that I have, too, especially me, but the past is still there, with me, and it still hurts like hell.
“Oh, experience is cheap, if that’s the company you keep, but I’ll never get that disease, cause I’ve had it. I’ve had it.”
The boxes felt heavier on the way back down the rickety back stairs than they ever did on the way in. This had been a place of dreams shared, of plans plotted on the bare floors, that night we snuck in before our lease really began and made love in the kitchen; I suppose back then we really had it. I could hear the back up sound of the moving truck and I looked at you then, hardly recognizing the eyes in front of me that I had once sworn were forever mine.
“And honestly I might be stupid to think, love is love, but I do.”
Though I have no older man love to relate to, this song still resonates deeply with me. I think we all have that one love from our lives that no one understood/understands, except of us, and that love, that together between make all the sense in the world. I think that is what I connect to.
“And I don’t know what else you hear, but it’s not me weeping.”
Sometimes my writing is misconstrued as my heart being tied somewhere, and to someone, from the past, but most of the time it is where the muse has taken me, where a song has led in my box of memories, or something I feel like writing out of me. Funny how often ex-lovers, or ex-somethings, will mistake it as me crying my eyes out over them still when it couldn’t be any farther from the truth – my past is right where it belongs, I may wave at it, or write about it, but I do not want to ever go back.
“Maybe that’s just how I am, to fall where I stand, or I’m weak for that kind of man; one who looks helpless and brave. But you turned into a coward, I don’t care for the parts you saved.”
I never wanted a savior, I was never looking to be saved, but the weakness you gave to me, the lack of spine and honesty, they were not what you claimed to be. You could never seem to stand next to me with any kind of strength, not in front of the people who mattered to you, not when I needed you most – instead you lied about me and left me to fall when the world came close to closing in. I could never trust you after that, the lies and cowardice took it all away.
Tidal is the debut studio album by Fiona Apple. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1996, by Work Records and Columbia Records (Sony Music). Tidal peaked at # 15 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and up to October 2005 had sold 2.7 million copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album was certified gold by the RIAA in December 1996, platinum in July 1997, two times platinum the following October and three times platinum in April 1999.
Tidal produced six singles: Shadowboxer, Slow Like Honey, Sleep to Dream, The First Taste, Criminal and Never Is a Promise. Criminal, the album’s most popular single, won a 1998 Grammy Award for “Best Female Rock Vocal Performance” and was named the single of 1997 in a poll of Rolling Stone readers.
For the song Sleep to Dream, Apple won Best New Artist at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. Then in 1998 she won her first Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, as well as the MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography, for the song Criminal.
The music video for The First Taste never aired in the United States.
The 2005 album I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise by Bettye Lavette is titled after a lyric in Sleep to Dream,and includes a cover of that song.
In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named Tidal the 20th Best Album of the last 25 years (1983–2008). In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it among the greatest albums of the 1990’s, at # 83. A year later, Slant Magazine placed it at # 74.
The title of Tidal comes from the thought that Apple felt life, and in particular her music career, was a tidal wave with crests and low points. However, she also wanted to go against the notion of having to have a title to her album. As noted from an interview by Apple in 2010, she thought using ‘tidal‘ in place of ‘title‘ was a way to rebel against the powers of the music industry that required a title be given for the album. No matter the name of the album, it went on to be certified three times platinum.
Apple revealed that when she was 12 years old, she had been raped, which had been the motivation and meaning for the song Sullen Girl from Tidal. As a young adult, she grew increasingly depressed from the incident, which fed into her need to control her body and physical presence.
Her award-winning music video for the song Criminal featured Apple semi-nude and wearing undergarments. This put her super skinny body in the public eye; the New Yorker stated that Apple “looked like an underfed Calvin Klein model” in the video. Apple stated that even though she “definitely had an eating disorder, what was really frustrating for me was that everyone thought I was anorexic, and I wasn’t. I was just really depressed and self-loathing. For me it wasn’t about getting thin, it was about getting rid of the bait attached to my body.”
Apple wrote Criminal when she was only 18 years old, and it was released when she was 19. The video got a lot of attention because the scantily clad Apple looked like she was underage, which was the point of the clip. It was directed by Mark Romanek, whose credits include Closer by Nine Inch Nails and Rain by Madonna. “We wanted something blatantly erotic,” he told Entertainment Weekly. The lighting look was achieved by attaching a regular light bulb to the camera, which gave it the look of a flash that had just gone off.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
The 90’s were so quintessential to my life, each year full of life-changing moments, emotionally-heavy memories, and personal milestones. 1996 marked my real introduction to the internet, and the communities that resided within where I would find a sense of belonging, connection and a “found family”. It was the year that I fell hard and fast for someone, and ran the other way, settling instead for a safe bet. The toll that decision took on me was unexpected, my self-loathing kickstarting in the spiral of bad decisions, and I punished myself, over and over. It wasn’t just the wrong turn in love though, but the manifestation of years of denied hurt and unresolved issues, all suddenly bubbling to the surface. It was the year that my demons came to my door, and the year my eating disorder almost stole my life from me.
It was definitely the year I needed this album.
Fiona’s pain resonated, as did her dark heart ways of looking at the world. There was more though, some hope in all of it, a soul that still believed in love and life, even if it was buried by emotional bruises and let downs. There was a strength, especially in songs like Sleep to Dream and Criminal, that I needed to summon, and I kept returning to the album, over and over again, taking it all in.
The album stayed with me well past its year of release. It became one of my personal go-to’s when I needed comfort and camaraderie, when I needed to mourn or to gather an arsenal of strength, and when I needed to feel like I belonged.
Do you have any memories of this album? Any favorite tracks?
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Sullen Girl
“Is that why they call me a sullen girl, a sullen girl. They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea. But he washed me ashore, and he took my pearl, and left an empty shell of me.”
I walked on, breathing in shallow, quick intakes of air, pretending that none of it defined me. Denial is the strongest traditions that my family ever passed on. But in the still of the night it all came rushing back, gutting me, leaving me as shallow as my breathing.
2. Sleep to Dream
“I tell you how I feel, but you don’t care. I say tell me the truth, but you don’t dare. You say love is a hell you cannot bear, and I say gimme mine back, and then go there, for all I care.”
I was past dreaming, past wishing, past caring. Numbness settled around me like a warm blanket, or the supportive arms that never quite found their way to me. I tried not to think about the way it all could have been, it was too late for that now, I had my own secrets to keep, my own battles to fight, my own runaway reality to face.
3. Never is a Promise
“You’ll say you understand, but you don’t understand. You’ll say you’d never give up seeing eye-to-eye. But never is a promise, and you can’t afford to lie.”
I saw promises dancing in your blue eyes, wide open like your arms you held open to me. Tears still sting my eyes when I think back, when I remember how it felt to be held close, when the recollection of all of it hits. I could not afford to believe your promises, I did not believe I could live through being wrong.
“My feel for you, boy, is decaying in front of me like the carrion of a murdered prey. And, all I want is to save you, honey, or the strength, to walk away.”
The truth is, I was the one needing saving, but instead I kept casting my net wide, in search of the next soul in need of a rescue. The enabling quieted the cacophony of screaming in my insides, and temporarily stopped all my internal bleeding. But when I could not save you, and you could not save me, I just wanted the strength to run, not just walk, away.
“I’ve done wrong and I want to suffer for my sins.”
No one could ever punish me the way I did. My tactics were near fatal, pinpoint trigger finger on each and every delicate part of me. I felt a failure and to blame in nearly every part of me, and it burned like a fire inside, a fire I kept trying to put out, for good.