Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for...

"Zip-Lock" by Lit

Oh man, this was lifetimes ago.  A friend and I were talking about bands like Lit, Third Eye Blind, Everclear and others, when she told me her first ever concert was Eve 6.  Her mom worked nights so it was easy to sneak out, but she had a pager, and unless she got calls from her kids every so often she knew something was wrong.  This meant that my friend had to keep going to a pay phone to page her mom and keep from her from getting suspicious.  Picture it: Eve 6, payphones, and beepers.  It was a different time.

As I said before, my first concert was Strung Out, but I had the full consent of my parents and my fourteen-year-older brother at my side.  Not so rebellious.

Anyway, I got a this Lit album from one of my friends back in Jr. High, and we thought it was so cool.  Everyone around us in our Christian school was listening to stuff like DC Talk, Newsboys, and this song by a band called Raze (I about lost my mind watching that music video just now.  What the hell is going on there?).  In an interesting parallel to my own life, I'm pretty sure she got this album from her brother, and allowed me to borrow it for a few weeks before burning me a copy.  However, the copy had that weird shattery noise in the background that some bad copies get so I ended up having to buy my own.

The friend who introduced me to Lit was one of my first real friends ever.  Up until that point I had been involved with kids who weren't very nice to me.  I was tall for my age and kind of chubby, so I basically looked like a giant until I was thirteen compared to my classmates (in my eyes, anyway).  Plus I was very shy and had a hard time making friends.  I was never teased very much, but other kids could tell I would do whatever they said in order to be considered their friend.  This meant I got pushed around a fair amount until around Jr. High.

Between the ages of thirteen and fourteen a lot of things happened: a lost a little bit of weight, and what weight I had shifted into more appealing places.  The other kids got bigger, too, so I blended in more, and our class size increased, so I had people to talk to who didn't know me as the plus-sized pushover.  This is when I met the first people I considered real friends, nice ones who didn't threaten to withdraw their friendship every time I disagreed with them or spoke my own opinion.  It was pretty awesome.

I've since lost touch with some of these people, the one who gave me the Lit album being one of them, but a couple of them are still in my life today.  Ten years later.  In any case, I'm glad I had all of them when I did, otherwise I don't know when I would have started trusting people again.

Wow, so this really isn't about Lit much at all, sorry.  But give me a break.  It's the last day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for...

"You're the Inspiration" by Chicago

So, when I was an undergrad this boy I liked who liked my roommate gave me a mix CD with this song on it.  I said something about wanting to find some new music, and he felt the same, so we ended up trading a couple CDs with things we liked.  Mine were mostly punk and ska, and his were indie acoustic such-and-such mixed with older songs like this.

When I went home for winter break, I played his CDs in my car to get to know what was on them.  One night my friends and I hung out I had picked everyone up, and when it came time to drop one of them off, he cautioned the rest of us to be very quiet because his mother would otherwise get annoyed.  Of course, all that did was make us louder.

This song came on right as he was getting out of the car, and as he approached his door, the chorus was playing.  So I did what any good friend would do: I rolled down my windows and cranked that chorus for all it was worth.  I belted out "YOU'RE THE INSPIRATION!" like the total jerk I am.  Then I rolled up my windows and pulled away as quickly as possible.

Later on he said that his mother didn't hear us, either, so really, everybody won.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for...

"X Girlfriend" by Zola

If you don't know what he's saying, no worries, because neither do I.  Zola is a South African Kwaito artist, and I guess he's speaking some combination of Zulu and tsotsi slang?  I really don't know.  I just like it.

I first heard about Zola from the movie Tsotsi.  If you haven't seen it, you should, it's pretty good.  You know, Academy Award-winning.  Whatever.  Anyway, Zola plays a role in Tsotsi (the gang leader, for those who have seen it).  He also performs a great deal of the music in the film.  Throughout the whole movie I just kept thinking "I hope there's a soundtrack I can get my hands on."  And there was.  Once I had the soundtrack and knew who I was listening to, I wanted to have more.

Turns out it's kind of hard to get a hold of South African music, because I couldn't find it anywhere.  I ended up getting a couple albums from this kind of shady looking website, but it turns out they were legit, and went out of their way to make sure I ended up with the product.  It came all the way from South Africa, and I kept the envelope because it had some cool stamps on it, but that was back when I lived in my own place, and now that I'm back home it's buried in a box somewhere so I can't put up a picture.

Anyway, Zola is an interesting person.  On one hand, he's a Kwaito superstar and humanitarian, but on the other hand, there's all these allegations swirling around that he abused some of his former girlfriends.  Since it's all so far away, I don't really have my own frame of reference.  All I can do is Google him and let the Internet barf up what it can.  I hope he's an ok guy, because he has some of my money.

And that's it, really.  X was a hard letter to pick a song for.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for...

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" by Strung Out

I'm not trying to be dramatic here, but this song pretty much changed my life.  My brother (the Mr. Miyagi of my musical world, as shown through these blog posts) let me borrow the Strung Out album Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues one weekend he was visiting from his place in Pittsburgh.  I don't remember exactly how old I was when this happened, but up until that point I only had my family's country music and my school's "contemporary" Christian fare to listen to.  Then my brother just randomly asked if I might like this sort of thing instead.  And I did.

Seriously, I listened to this album over, and over, and over until he had to take it back and go home.  Within two weeks I had my own copy.  From there I got into Bad Religion, Against Me!, and lots of other bands on this list.  This album started the whole thing.  It was perfect, really.  What summarizes the feelings of an angry kid growing up in the Rust Belt better than the phrase Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues?

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" is the last track on the album, and by far my favorite.  I didn't understand some of the content at first, but that idea of "I can do better, I can pick myself up and try again" was something I clung to then.  It's something I still cling to now.  This song is definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Strung Out was also my first concert.  I went with, you guessed it, my brother.  There were belligerent drunks and mosh pits and girls making out for the big screen and man, I wasn't in JesusLand anymore.  My brother bought me a t-shirt that was way too big, but it's awesome and I'm wearing it right now.  Don't believe me?  Here's the laziest proof ever:

My webcam added the date in cheesy font.  I don't know why.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for...

"The Veggie Tales Theme Song" by... whoever made it

Yes, more flashbacks from my days as a Christian.  Also, I had hardly any songs on my iPod that started with V, and I'm trying to pick songs that hold memories, not just songs I happen to like.

If you don't know what Veggie Tales is, you can read this, but there's not much to the concept.  It was a show that used vegetables to tell Bible stories and teach Christian principles, and I loved it a whole bunch when I was a kid.  To this day I still have a Junior Asparagus (the little one with the sideways hat) eraser that's never been used I bought at one of my school's book fairs way back when.

From what I recall it was a good show for kids, the kind that didn't forget there were adults watching as well.  It wasn't particularly edgy, obviously, but they had enough sarcastic side comments and pop culture references to keep everyone entertained.  Even so, anyone who saw this stuff growing up will tell you the best part of any episode was the silly song.  Silly Songs with Larry was a segment in the middle of each episode where Larry (the cucumber), and occasionally one of the other regular characters, would sing an absurd song completely unrelated to the subject at hand.  They ranged from songs about Water Buffalo, Cheeseburgers, an obsession with one's own lips, lost hairbrushes, and my personal favorite, a soap opera involving a manatee named Barbara.

It's weird watching shows as an adult that you loved as a kid.  On one hand you still love it (don't think I don't still know all the words to those silly songs), but there's also a touch of embarrassment that you used to like it so much, and maybe even a little confusion over just what it was you enjoyed about it in the first place.  Ah well.  I guess it's still pretty cute.

Also, my elementary school math teacher (who was also my Jr. High and high school math teacher, because I went to such a small school) could do a pretty spot on impression of Archibald Asparagus, the one with the monocle that narrates everything, and I recall my whole class enjoying that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for...

"U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer

Really quick story here: if you had the chance to play an American song for someone from another country, to give them a little piece of our culture, what would you pick?  Would it be "U Can't Touch This"?  It would be if you were me and my friends in Jr. High.  We had an exchange student from Korea in our class one year, a very nice, quiet, sweet girl who sadly believed pretty anything people told her.  More than one kid had some fun with that, but by the end of the year most of our class was genuinely sad to see her go.

Me and my friends had a study hall with her in the computer lab, and while the network control settings were pretty high, we still found ways to get where we wanted.  Remember that "I'm Feeling Lucky!" button Google used to have?  That was our best friend.  If the network was blocking a website, you could put the address in Google, hit "I'm Feeling Lucky!", which would take you right to the address you entered, but since it was going through Google it went under the network control's radar.

This is how we watched videos on YouTube.  We had to search the video on Google, find the exact address for it, put it in "I'm Feeling Lucky!" and boom!  Video.  Now, I'm not sure if our exchange student asked us to show her some American music, or if we just took it upon ourselves for some reason, but we ended up showing her "U Can't Touch This".  She thought it was pretty funny, so we felt good with our decision.

I couldn't find the exact video we showed her.  It wasn't the official video, it was some weird thing with different colored stick figures dancing with a boom box, and I'm not sure if that was better or worse for her to see than the eighties girls and Hammer Pants.  Oh well.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for...

"Take the Reigns" by Tsunami Bomb

The first female-fronted band on the list.  It takes some effort to find female voices in punk rock, and I wasn't always terribly interested in going out of my way to seek them out.  This group in particular no longer exists, though Emily Whitehurst (the lead singer) heads another project called The Action Design.  There's TAT, Dance Hall Crashers, Save Ferris, and HorrorPops, but Tsunami Bomb was the first lady voice I heard in the genre I liked most.

This song serves as a reminder about how not awesome being an adult is, and how wrong I was to think things would somehow work out into a magically fully-functioning grown up life.  There's no Certificate of Adulthood that arrives one day and then you're good to go, you just suddenly have to deal with more and more crap while still feeling like that dorky kid who struggled through Jr. High math.  "No fair!" I want to cry out, but to who?  There aren't any counselors or recess monitors anymore.  If someone shoves me into the dirt, I have to get up on my own.

No fun.

Back to Tsunami Bomb.  This band seems to have always been hands on with their fans and their merchandise.  I couldn't find any of their albums in our local record stores, so I ordered one off their website back when they were still a band in 2004 or so.  When the package showed up, it was hand-addressed in a manila envelope, meaning that someone had taken to the post office themselves.  It also came with one of those Fortune Teller Fish, and a letter thanking me for buying the CD.  I still have that fish today.  It felt like the band really cared that I liked their music, and I appreciated their appreciation.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for...

"Shadow Stabbing" by CAKE

You get into interesting territory with people when you try to decide what something means, be that something a poem, the grand finale of a television show, or a song.  This song in particular has some interesting theories to go with it.  To me this song is about writing, but maybe that's just because writing is what I do.

CAKE as a band is also interesting to me because the people I meet who like them are never the ones I expect.  One of my classmates from high school was always blasting heavy metal in his headphones, but guess who was playing on his MySpace page (back when that was a thing)?  CAKE.  My elbow patch coat-wearing English professor who literally spoke in metaphor?  Huge CAKE fan.  They appeal to everyone, I guess.

That's all I've got for this one, really.  Sorry it's short.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for...

"River of Dreams" by Billy Joel

This song sticks out for two reasons: one, because I'm pretty sure it used to be on my sleepy time playlist back when I wore headphones to sleep every night, which was during my first and last year of college.  The middle year was by far my most relaxing, so I didn't need it so much then.  My first and last years, though, were so stress inducing that winding down for sleep was close to impossible, so I sought out soothing music to try and reach some sort of calm place.  This is a gentle-sounding song, plus it has "dream" right in the title.  What could be better.

The other reason I remember this song is because it was one of only two or three songs that played over the loudspeakers where I worked in high school that I didn't hate.  If you haven't worked in a store before, you may not realize that there are only about twenty or so songs that play overhead, and those twenty or so songs play over, and over, and over again.  Employees learn to hate these songs, since we hear them so much, and they are often the soundtrack to all the strange and unpleasant things that go on in the service industry.  Back in high school the big song was "Hey There Delilah", and I heard that song so many times at work that I seriously almost lost my mind.

But Billy Joel played, too, though not quite as often as some of the more current songs on the playlist.  When it did come on, it was like a little oasis of not-completely-annoying in a desert of oh-my-god-not-this-song-again-please-kill-me-please.  I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite songs or anything, and honestly I'm not entirely sure why I liked this song more than some of the others, but it did resurface later on when I was trying to think of calming sounds, so maybe it was for the best.

On the topic of R songs, once in a great while at that old job, "Red Red Wine" would play.  It was like a rare gem that came along about once every month or so, and I couldn't help but laugh whenever it did.  Imagine being chewed out by a customer for the lack of variety in the store's infant onesies and hearing that ridiculous voice saying "red red wine you make me feel so fine" in the background.  It's the type of thing that makes you reassess your entire life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for...

"Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" by Backstreet Boys

Yeah, I was one of these girls.  Upon looking it up, I guess I was seven when this CD came out, but I feel like I was older.  I know my love for them lasted into the double digits, so maybe that's what I'm thinking of?  No idea.

Anyway, the story here is about my brother.  He is fourteen years older than me, making him around twenty-one at the time the Backstreet Boys hit the scene (for those not awesome with math).  Technically my first CD was the Space Jam soundtrack, but my brother bought me my first "real" CD, which was the first Backstreet Boys album.  For the longest time I didn't think too much of it, other than that I have a nice brother who loves me.  He got me my first CD, my first PG-13 movie, plus he taught me how to tie my shoes.  What a guy!

But I found a new respect for it one evening at college.  All the girls in my dorm hallway loved music, so there was always some playing somewhere.  One night someone decided it was time to reminisce and play Backstreet Boys.  I mentioned that my brother bought their CD for me, and then it occurred to me that he was about the age I was when he did it.  Then I thought about the guys I knew who were my age, and tried to picture any of them walking into a music store and picking up a boy band album.

I suddenly felt a whole new appreciation for all the nice things my brother did for me growing up.  Going to college really did a lot for my relationship with him in general, since up till then he had always been an adult dealing with a child, but then I started becoming an adult.  I thanked him for sacrificing some pride back in the day to get me the BSB album, and he just laughed a little.  Either because he completely forgot about it, or it was more embarrassing than I realized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for...

Two songs by The Weakerthans, both off the album Reconstruction Site.
"Plea From A Cat Named Virtute"

"Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call"

I don't have too much to say about these.  This album is what I listen to when I need to be quiet and alone, and both of these songs have a particular effect on me.  Maybe this seems a little like a cop out today, but I'd rather just let these songs speak for themselves this time, since this time is more about feeling than thinking.

I love these songs.  That's all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for...

"O Sole Mio" as covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

From the album Ruin Johnny's Bar Mitzvah, which is actually a live recording of these guys performing at some kid named Johnny's Bar Mitzvah.  Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a cover band made up of members from NOFX, Swingin' Utters, Foo Fighters, and Lagwagon.  They do this stuff for funsies, and often perform in bizarre matching outfits.  Like this:
Or this:
Overall great times.  One thing these guys have done for me, other than be entertaining, is bridge some of the gap that stands between me and my parents music interests.  Lots of the songs the Gimmes cover are older songs, many of which my parents recognize or listened to when they were young.  Hearing them in this format has both opened them up to my style of music and opened me up to theirs.  And once you're talking about music, you're also talking about your life and what that music means to you.  We all listened to country when I was younger, but now I know more about their lives before that time, and they know more about what I'm doing now.

So I'm sure they didn't mean to, but Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have helped me, in some small way, in my relationship with my parents.  Thanks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

M/N Combo Platter

So this weekend was a little rough in terms of my busyness level, so I missed M day.  Today is N day, but I'm going put two slightly smaller than normal entries into one, one for M and one for N.  Enjoy.
M is for... "Minimum Wage" by They Might Be Giants

So far in my life, I've only worked for minimum wage.  Right now my minimum wage job is in a department store at the mall.  As I've said before, this job is kind of awful, because people don't always see fit to treat you like a human being when you stand between them and their acquiring of new stuff.  You also get to see things you never thought you'd ever see.
Dirty diapers in the fitting room?  Check.  Grown men stuffing their pants with rolled up t-shirts?  Check.  Eighty-year-old cougars asking to "take home" your male coworkers?  Check.
Sexual harassment is also something of an issue.  I've had men back me into corners, or come up behind me and air thrust until I notice and turn around.  Luckily things like this don't happen very often, but there's a sense of powerless that comes over me when they do, and I hate that someone can make me feel that way.  In case I hadn't figured this out in high school, boys are stupid.
More often than not, though, things are pretty funny.  My coworkers and I laugh a lot.  Mostly at our customers, but what can we do?  You people are funny.

N is for... "Now" by Eyedea & Abilities

For a long time I didn't like rap music.  I'm not a huge fan of people making money off of telling everyone how much money they have and how awesome they are, and for a while that's all I knew of the rap industry.  Of course, I'm a lot more open about music in general now, but the first rap song I heard and liked was this one.  It was on one of the Epitaph label's yearly compilation albums, Punk-O-Rama Vol. 9.  What's weird is that this song, and many of the song on the E&A album, are about how cool these guys are.

The different between Eyedea and the rappers I was hearing on the radio was the complexity of the lyrics.  Sure it was bragging, but Eyedea was so much better at it than anyone I'd heard before.  He was smart and funny, and DJ Abilities just kicks ass no matter which way you look at it.  I found out later that most of Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen's work, both with Eyedea & Abilities and his other projects, is more heavy-hitting and introspective, while this one album was about cutting loose and having fun with what he does.  Which made me like it even more.

My interest in all non-punk genres of music started out with these guys, and from there pretty much just spiraled out of control.  Now I've got a whole month dedicated to all the different music I like.

Good times.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for...

"Land of 1000 Dances" by Wilson Pickett

Or, as that album cover calls him, "The Exciting Wilson Pickett."  He sure does look excited, though, doesn't he?
I've loved this song since I was very small, because it was in the movie FernGully: The Last Rainforest.  The version in the movie is by a band called Guy, but I liked it a lot, so I ended up finding the originally version later on.  You know how every kid has a favorite movie, one that they force their family to sit through over and over again, and seem somehow incapable of setting tired of it no matter how many times they see it?  For me, FernGully was that movie.  I watched it all the time.  I loved it.  It was awesome.

Unfortunately, I don't remember a whole lot of it now, since we had it VHS and I haven't seen the thing since the advent of DVDs.  What I do remember are the crazy bat character, a vague outline of the major plot points, and the pollution monster.  My god, the pollution monster.  You know how kids are scared of things like the boogieman?  That pollution monster was my boogieman.
I'm not sure I'm able to convey how deep and pure my fear of this thing was.  Here's what it looks like:

It's name is Hexxus.  As far as I was concerned, that guy was lurking in every dark corner of every room, ever, just waiting to chase me down and swallow me whole.  When I turned off the basement light (conveniently located at the bottom of the staircase) I ran to the top of those stairs like my life depended on it.  Because it did.  Hexxus wanted me dead, and I had to RUN.

Is it weird that I continually watched a movie with my worst nightmare in it?  Well, I suppose he is technically defeated in the end (though he's only trapped and don't think I wasn't aware he could be freed again at any time), but maybe the other characters were enough to keep me coming back?  I have no idea.  It was a complicated time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for...

"King Without a Crown" by Matisyahu

Last part of the "religion" saga, I promise.  I knew about Matisyahu when I was still in high school, but I didn't get into it until my freshman year of college, in part thanks to the movie Call + Response.

That movie, about the human trafficking industry, features lots of musical acts to bring money and awareness to the issue.  One of those acts is Matisyahu.  His sound and appearance were both so striking (it's a reggae-singing Hasid, come on) that I got drawn in.  From there I ended up really liking him.  I'm pretty sure I didn't get into him earlier was because his content is very religious, and I just wasn't ready to listen to it yet.  Re-finding Matisyahu also coincided with my getting into 311, Sublime, and the like.

There was many a stress-filled night of paper writing with this album as the soundtrack.  At this time in my life I knew I had an anxiety disorder, and was working on ways to deal with it.  Music once again became part of my coping process, and I had several go-to "calm down" albums, Youth (the Matusyahu album this track is on) being one of them.  I did pretty good for a while, too.  That is, until I had to graduate and think of something else to do with my time.  Some errors in judgement occurred there, but I think I've talked about that enough by now.

Matisyahu=relax.  The end.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for...

"Jesus Freak" by DC Talk

It's technically J day, so here we go.  I went out of my way to put this right next to the previous entry, to be like two sides of the same coin.  Before all the things that happened in that last entry, back when my problems were small and withdrawn, I had a brief period where I listened to CCM.  That's Contemporary Christian Music, for those not in the know.  When I was thirteen or so this stuff was the coolest.  It was like real music, but we were allowed to play it in our Christian school and at home without out parents getting mad at us.  One of my teachers even printed off some chart from the Internet that listed secular groups and their more godly counterparts like this one.

What's funny about that list is they have a Christian counterpart for Bad Religion.  Bad Religion, if you were unaware, has an explicitly atheistic message, so if you like them you probably wouldn't even want to find a Christian equivalent.

My involvement with this genre was short lived, since I got into punk rock around high school.  However, there were a couple groups I really, genuinely liked.  There was Relient K, which I actually still listen to, and DC Talk, which I don't.  DC Talk was a big deal because they wrote songs like "Jesus Freak" that made Christianity seem kind of cool and rebellious.  And teenagers love nothing more than being cool and rebellious.

It was a weird time.  Looking back on it is kind of like watching a kitten bat around a mouse toy.  From my vantage point now it's silly and cute, but that kitten seriously thinks it's a badass.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for...

"I Want to Conquer the World" by Bad Religion

Before I said that Against Me! was my favorite band, but that wasn't always the case.  In high school, I was in a much different mental space than I am now, and Bad Religion was my favorite band.  The album No Control came out the year I was born, and "I Want to Conquer the World" was by far my favorite track.

I was raised in a Christian household, and attended a small Christian school K-12.  Belief was a given.  However, as I got older, my anxiety problems really started to show themselves, and my environment didn't give much of a way to talk about them or deal with them.  "Have some kind of pain in you life?  Pray it out.  God has a plan for you, and every bad thing that happens has a reason behind it that we aren't able to understand."  Psychological problems were largely ignored or attributed to your own bad attitude.  "If you feel depressed, you just need to get back into the Word.  Get back into God."

But what I am supposed to do when I've prayed as hard as I can and I still feel horrible?  What if I just can't be happy like everyone else and there's no reason why or anything I can do about it?  What if everyone's "help" just makes me feel even more alone and afraid and all this anger and fear are building up so much that sometimes I just want to...

I couldn't finish that sentence.  I didn't know how, and honestly, I'm not sure I wanted to.  Those years were spent feeling like some kind of defect, and it made me angry.  Music became my outlet, specifically punk music, and specifically Bad Religion.  I was mad at God for making me this way and not doing anything to fix it.  Growing up in a conservative environment, I never heard much questioning or challenging of Christianity, but then I found these guys.  They were saying all kinds of subversive things, and I really needed the chance to ask those difficult questions.  Is God even real?  Does anyone around me know what they're talking about?  It was time to find answers for myself, and stop letting other people tell me what my problems were and how to handle them.

I eventually outgrew that anger, and Bad Religion fell further down on the list of bands I love.  Religion is still a big gray area for me.  In college I studied religion from a secular perspective for the first time, and I think that did a lot to cool down my distaste for the whole operation.  It gave me distance.  I wouldn't consider myself a Christian, or a follower of any organized faith, but I'm not an atheist either.  The fact of the matter is that no outside force is going to help me cope with my problems, and I no longer expect it to.  I do what I can.  The rest doesn't matter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for...

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails

In retrospect, I was probably too young to own this album when I did.  It's one of the first CDs I ever bought with my own money.  That money came from something of a scam, since my parents had agreed to pay me one dollar for every A I earned in school, possibly not realizing how easy school was for me at the time.  I brought home every assignment I could to them so I could earn my dollar, and it didn't take long for those dollars to add up.

I was thirteen, maybe, and we were on vacation.  Nine Inch Nails was a band I'd heard of, but never one I'd listened to.  Although I don't remember what trip we were on or anything like that, I know my parents and I were at a mall in an f.y.e., and The Downward Spiral was only $9.99.  I bought it mostly because I wanted to try something new.  The music my parents listened to wasn't really doing it for me anymore, and going to a small Christian school didn't give me much of a music scene.  So I grabbed this knowing next to nothing about it.  The cashier seemed to think I was making a good decision, so I wasn't worried about it.

Honestly, though, I pretty much hated this album the first time I listened to it.  I didn't get it.  After a couple listen-throughs I just gave up and the CD settled to the bottom of my ever-growing stack of punk albums.  Then in high school I went through a phase where I decimated my CD collection, selling everything I didn't listen to regularly enough back to our local f.y.e. (this store is playing a more prominent role in this entry than I anticipated).  When I got to Nine Inch Nails, it had been so long since I heard it that I couldn't remember it at all, so I listened to it again.  And what do you know, I liked it.  It stayed.
Then something else happened.

Growing up with country music, I have a soft spot for Johnny Cash anyway, but there's no way you can listen to this version of "Hurt" without feeling something twist up in your gut.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for...

"Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill

This song has some sad memories attached to it, but they aren't mine, and I'm not going to spend much time on them.  My uncle died when I was very young, and maybe this song came out around the same time or something because it somehow became associated with his passing.  But this isn't about that.

Instead I'm going to talk about cassette tapes.  When I was younger my parents listened to a lot of country and "easy listening" music, and since I was too little to find my own music, so did I.  My mother had two Vince Gill tapes because she really liked the sound of his voice.  She let me borrow these tapes sometimes to listen to on my little boom box, which I liked to take outside so I could hear the radio or Vince Gill while I was playing on my swing set or pretending to be a wolf pack.

Yeah, I wasn't just a wolf.  I was the whole pack.

I also really liked to play in the rain.  One day it was raining, but not very hard, so I thought my little boom box would be okay outside.  Vince Gill was crooning in the background while I swung, then something weird happened.  Vince's voice started to... warble a little.  I don't know how else to explain it, but it was clear that something was wrong.  Immediately I panicked.  Didn't I know better than to have electronics outside?  Now the tape's ruined and it's all my fault!  Mom's going to be so mad at me!

So I did what any quick-thinking seven-year-old would do: I put the tapes back in my mother's car and went inside like nothing happened.  The next day I overheard her talking to my father about how her cassettes had suddenly warped.  She figured maybe sitting in a hot car all day had ruined them, and that was fine by me.  Fast forward sixteen years or so.  Somehow Vince Gill came up in passing conversation, and my mother brought up how she had some old tapes that melted in the sun.  It was only then, a few months ago, that I finally told her what really happened.  I played them out in the rain and destroyed them.

She laughed.  Hard.  Had I been holding that in since I was seven?  Well yes.  Then she laughed some more.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for...

"From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)" by Against Me!

Believe it or not, this entry is going to be something of a happy one.

Against Me! (yes, the exclamation point is part of their name) is my favorite band, and this album in particular, Searching for a Former Clarity, means a great deal to me.  If I had to pick only one album I could listen to for the rest of my life, it would be this one.  I could have picked an Against Me! song for at least ten letters for this challenge, but I ended up deciding not to use a band more than once, so I settled on this song.

This album came out around the same time my friends and I started to understand politics.  We were particularly drawn in by Condoleezza Rice, since she was a prominent female in the political sphere, not that we agreed with everything she said or did.  She was a point of interest.  Then a song came out that was all about her?  A song that was upbeat and punky and had the f-word in it?  Our teenage selves were hooked.

We didn't know all the words at first, so we invented our own.  "There's a rat in North Korea" is the made-up line I remember most.  It was in that time period when you're over the nervousness of entering high school, but haven't yet gotten around to worrying about graduation.  Most of our time was happily wasted on inside jokes and trips to Wal-Mart.  When this song came on the radio, we sang our fake lyrics and laughed at how ridiculous everything was.

It was nice.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for...

"Every Goliath Has Its David" by The Boy Least Likely To

Here's another story about what I listen to in my car.  In 2010 I was in graduate school for Religious Studies, and by the time Thanksgiving came around I was pretty sure it was a bad idea.  I didn't love it the way I thought I would, and the rapidly approaching reality of failing, quitting, leaving something undone for the first time ever, was sending my panic levels into overdrive.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving I had to drive four hours from my parent's house back to my apartment near campus, and I just couldn't muster up the nerve to go back until early evening.

Driving at night can be rough under normal conditions, let alone when every nerve in your body is screaming at you to turn around.  My body knew I was going to drop out about a month before the rest of me.  It was around eleven and I was within an hour of my apartment when I drove through a wooded area and a deer lept out in front of my car.  I slammed on my brakes, completely forgetting there was a car behind me.  Luckily they stopped as well, and the deer got past me, but a car coming the other way caught its backside.  That sound still sits in the bottom of my mind.  It was the sound of coming against what can't be overcome, and I knew the same thing was happening to me.  I pulled the car over right there on the side of the road and cried.

The car that hit the deer didn't stop.  In fact, neither did the deer, so I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who had any lasting ramifications from the event.  Once I got back on the road, I was so frayed I wasn't sure what, if anything, I could get up and do the next day.  Then something good happened.  My iPod was hooked up to my radio on shuffle, and "Every Goliath Has Its David" came on.  Something about the unassumingly perky and almost childlike tune, along with the fumbling, self-deprecating lyrics got me just the right way at just the right time.  I started to feel better.  It didn't save me from dropping out of grad school, because what I really want to do is write poetry, but it did help lift my spirits for a few days, and it still does whenever I listen to it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for...

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by lots of different people, but this version is The Charlie Daniels Band:

This isn't about the specific song so much as about the people who made me aware that this type of music exists.  Most of my father's side of the family is from southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia.  When I was younger we would go down to these places a lot to see old family, and in my grandfather's case, to teach me about where I came from.  He drug me out to rotting churches and single-room school houses, graveyards overrun with moss and tree roots, and some old covered bridge that I'm lucky enough to own a memento of.  See below.

Yeah, that's some kind of screen print cloth patch thing.  I don't get it, but there it is.

Another thing my paternal grandfather used to do is play old country and gospel music on a little boom box that lived next to His Chair.  If you don't know why His Chair is capitalized, then you somehow grew up in a family without that special recliner the head of the family sat in (and no one else).  He had me listen to the music he loved, and got me to love it a little bit myself, if only because it reminds me of him.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for...

"Church" by T-Pain

This is the dubbed version, used for one of those dance movies, but if you don't mind a ridiculous amount of swearing, the un-cut version is pretty hilarious.

I've said before that I have a soft spot for outlandish hip-hop music, but never about how I got into it in the first place.  Here's how: my senior year as an undergrad, I studied abroad in the UK.  It was fantastic.  However, when I got back, most of my friends had moved on, and I found myself having to start from scratch socially in my last months at the school.  Luckily my randomly assigned roommate (since I was gone part of the year I didn't get to choose my own) turned out to be really cool.

She was all about having fun, and I needed all the fun I could get.  All but one of my old friends had ditched me, I had capstone classes and grad school application, not to mention my honor's thesis, and my grades from the UK were very late in coming so I wasn't sure I would even graduate.  Essentially, I was a mess.  But this new roommate of mine new just how to pull me out of it.  Thanks to her, I did a lot more laughing than I ever could have otherwise.  One of the things she would do is play hip-hop and rap music, preferably with the silliest lyrics possible, and I would laugh and forget my problems for a little while.

That's how I first heard this song.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is For...

"Bro Hymn" by Pennywise

This song deserves a little history.  It was originally written by Pennywise bassist Jason Thirsk in memory of several of his friends who had died in a car accident.  Thirsk struggled with alcohol and depression, and lost that fight at the age of twenty eight, dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The rest of the band was devastated, as Thirsk has been a close friend to all of them.  However, they decided to keep making music, and Full Circle was the next album they made, in honor of him.  "Bro Hymn" was re-recorded as the final track to the album, using Thirsk's name instead of the names that had been in the original recording.

I didn't know any of that when I first heard the song.  My first car had a CD player and a tape player, but the CD one was broken (it broke in my new car, too, so I'm just doomed to not have one, I guess).  Since my brother grew up in the eighties, he had lots of old cassette tapes, and he dug them up for me to listen to until I could save up to replace my CD player.  He also made me a mix tape of newer music, and this song was on it.  I didn't know the pain behind the song, but I could feel it.  Everyone had someone who's gone that they miss, and I definitely pushed those feelings through the roof of my car every time I sang along with this song.

My brother's going to make a couple appearances during this challenge.  He's the one who first facilitated my love for music, and exposed me to styles I wouldn't necessarily hear on the radio.  All in all a great guy.


The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  Don't know what it is?  Click on it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is For...

"Anchors Aweigh" by The Bouncing Souls

This song was pretty much my life at one point.  I was in high school when the album, of which this is the title track, came out.  Can you imagine how much a song like this meant to me my senior year while I was packing up to leave home for the first time?  Answer: lots.

I went to a small private school from kindergarten through high school.  My graduating class was less than forty, and I had known most of those kids since I was six years old.  Going away to college wasn't just a big deal, it was monumental, and I was all but desperate to get out of town.  It had been the same old stuff every day, and I was sure my life would be so much better once I got to Somewhere Else.

But you know what?  I still feel that way.  I've been all over the place, to different states, different countries, and I'm still looking for the magical Somewhere Else that will make everything awesome.  Of course I know it doesn't exist, but the pattern is set now.  So much of my time is spent trying to sit still.  Trying not to fidget, or rock back and forth.  Trying to convince myself it's okay to be back in the same city I was so determined to put behind me five years ago.

I still love this song.  So much.  And the whole idea of Somewhere Else is just another thing to leave in the past, along with high school and all the other places I've been.  Which is easier said than done.


As far as these challenge posts go, I think this is pretty much the standard.  The songs are mostly a jumping off point for me to tell a story or talk about what a specific song has meant to me.  Hopefully I can keep it interesting.