No one understands me quite like the Go-Go’s

I can’t quite believe that so much time has passed since my last entry. The last thing I knew April was quietly meandering along, minding its own business. Now July is bearing down on me like a freight train and I find myself blinking in the blinding head lights of summer. Six years of living on the East Coast has not cured me of my reflexive dislike of the warmer months. I spent too many summers sick with the heat in the Sonoran Desert to ever truly be rid of it. No matter how nice summers can sometimes be here in Charm City. But my seemingly year-round struggle with low-level seasonal depression issues are fodder for another entry…

For those just tuning in, the majority of my blog probably sounds more like an apology than a place to vent my music-obsessed mind. But I truly don’t know why I maintained radio silence so long this time. Probably because life is good right now. Furiously, amazingly, surprisingly, insanely busy, but good nonetheless. So what has had me so distracted lately? Well, a large chunk of it is work, which I won’t go into here. The rest of it is that my husband and I kind of fell into a social circle and sank in up to our noses. And we’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

It seems like after nearly four years here, life here in Charm City is finally falling into place. And a city that seemed obstinately foreign–only associated with endless work and endless commuting–has transformed into a wild mess of foody explorations, geeky trivia in an “Irish” bar, and weekly brunches at a charming cafe just down the street. There are people in our lives again. Strange, varied, and wonderful people! And a whole part of my psyche that was constantly restless has unexpectedly calmed. My life is still insane and often stressful. But there is depth and breadth and a whole new level of geeky joy that does both my heart and brain good.

Right now it is especially crazy though, as I prepare myself for a week of work at my employer’s annual convention in Florida. The last three weeks have taken on new levels of madness in the preparations for some major work responsibilities. This has been topped by the now usual round of social engagements, with the addition of throwing a highly successful backyard BBQ, staying up way up past my bedtime for a spectacular concert (more on that later), and hosting my lovely sister-in-law and her husband the last 3 days. All of it great fun, but man am I beat now!

Today is my one and only quiet day, which will involve a lot of last minute packing and if I have anything to say about it (which I do!) this will be accompanied by many episodes of Star Trek (a.k.a. my other obsession).

I am sitting smack dab in the eye of the hurricane right now. The calm before life speeds back up to that break-neck pace again. And in the serendipity that is sometimes shuffle mode, my player dished this one up to me this morning. (I knew the universe had a quirky sense of humor.)

Yes, only Kathy Valentine and Charlotte Caffey really know how I am feeling right now. Who better than two veteran Go-Go’s–infamous for their wild and crazy touring days–would understand the chaos that has become my summer? And thanks to the rest of the gals in this classic New Wave venture, it has the cheery (slightly frenzied) upbeat feel that will hopefully keep me going until I hop on my plane tomorrow morning. If your life is feeling a bit upside down these days, give this one a listen and you’ll know exactly what I mean. From 1984’s album Talk Show, here is the Go-Go’s iconic Head Over Heels.

Your welcome.

Winter malaise

It is time to face the facts. I have been suffering from a major outbreak of writer’s block, the worst case I think I have had since starting this blog. And it is almost comical because I didn’t even realize that I had writer’s block until I mentioned the blog to someone else at lunch today. I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the last several weeks and I wasn’t aware of how bad it was getting. I was starting to think that maybe I had lost interest in writing, but that is clearly not the case. Writing here has been on my mind almost constantly–ideas floating in, ideas floating back out–but every time I started to contemplate even outlining a new post, my mind would veer off in a different direction. Invariably, some small task, the furthest thing on my mind and way at the bottom of my to-do list, would suddenly take on significance of epic proportions and I’d run off to fold the laundry or wash that dish (or re-watch that episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation that I’ve seen 5 times) instead. Then I thought it was because I wasn’t hearing any post-worthy music lately, that maybe I was just bored with the scene. But my list of music to buy is growing by leaps and bounds, while my list of entry ideas is keeping pace. So that couldn’t be it either.

So what could possibly be keeping me in such a state of frustrated suspended animation? And when I said it out loud today without thinking, the answer became so clear: writer’s block. A textbook case to boot, magnified by a resurge in the seasonal blues. And for the last week or so, it has been getting worse. It seems like writing has been all I can think about, a constant dialogue in my head between my creativity and my apathy, the former desperately trying to get something done in the face of the latter’s soul-crushing indifference. I want to write, I need to write, but the thought of actually writing makes me feel panicked and a little helpless. [Would you believe that my New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to work on the blog more? Ha! One month down with barely a peep, only eleven more months to go. Sigh.]

Well, there is only way to deal with writer’s block and that is to put something (anything) down, save it, walk away, and try not to worry too much about the details. So here goes…

Charm City’s temperature has been all over the map lately, but the last several days have been the most bitterly cold we’ve had all season, and that mean old imp known as Snow and his little toady Sleet have been making less than minor nuisances of themselves. Winter and I never do seem to get along together, dessert rat that I am. Even at the best of times, it seems like we are only able to call an uneasy truce. And despite a period of détente, our current cease-fire is wearing thin.

But there is still a lot of brilliant music associated with this season–much of it stark, cold, and depressing–but beautiful none the less. So in honor of this, here’s my top 5 picks of the best songs for this most frosty (read: dreary) of seasons.

To start things off right is the Pixies and their classic cover of Neil Young’s bittersweet ballad, Winterlong. I first became familiar with this version and was kinda blown away to learn it is actually a Young original. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The Pixies pay this song some serious tribute, but the lyrics feature a sweetness and almost innocent longing that is not usually a characteristic of Black Francis or Kim Deal’s styles–as much as I love them.

Next up is Winter Winds by Mumford & Sons. Gorgeous vocals, layered acoustics, and a sense of the ethereal tempered with a healthy dose of cynicism, this band never fails to deliver. I know that they are hot to the point of being overblown (I hate to admit it, but I’ve been avoiding their new album because of burnout), but they are really talented guys. And in every live performance I have found of them, they are spot on.

Moving on, we come to the deceptively cheerful White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes. I know that I have ragged on these guys before, but their style has grown on me over the last year. What once seemed too avant-garde for comfort, now feels clever and rings of craftsmanship. Beautiful, polished, and harmonious, often with just a touch of the sinister, this band keeps popping up on my radar and despite my initial hesitation, they have earned my praise. This song, in particular, really appeals to me. To the casual listener, and without the visuals of the video, it seems sweet and upbeat, but a closer listen reveals much and the video truly showcases the darker themes of the lyrics.

The fourth entry in my winter list is the Bangles’ rock-out cover of Simon and Garfunkels’ Hazy Shade of Winter. Retaining the bleak cynicism of Paul Simon’s lyrics, while adding some feminine four-part harmony and a searing guitar line, the girls produce the goods. And a little bit of 80’s flamboyance never hurts.

And the last, and perhaps my favorite, entry on this list is the haunting Winter Time by Steve Miller Band. I have loved this song since long before I knew what love, longing, or winter really were. And now that I am a bit older and more knowledgable (if not wiser), I love this song even more. Perhaps the saddest piece I know of from this band, it lacks the pomp and bombast that featured so heavily in the 1970’s classic rock scene. No winter mix can do without this one.

2012 Closeout

It has been a very crazy, stressful, happy, sentimental, geeky, tear-filled, music-crammed year. For many reasons, 2012 really put me through the ringer and for much of the year I was more distracted from this blog than I care to admit. A lot of good and bad things happened this year. Looking back now on the last twelve months, all I can say is that I’m one year older, my joints are a little stiffer, perhaps I am a tiny bit wiser, and I am definitely a tad more cynical. But I’m still here. I’m lucky enough to have a day job that pays the bills, a loving husband who puts up with my moods, dear friends, faithful family, and snuggly cats. And I try to appreciate all of it, and give them their much-deserved credit for keeping me sane.

But enough introspection. The year is coming to an end and I’ve got a backlog a mile long! So let’s cut to the chase and fill you in on a few of the amazing albums I’ve been obsessed with this year, but have been just too darn busy to write about until now. Put on your thinking caps and open up your ears, my dear readers, because we’re going to hit them fast and hard and it is definitely going to get loud.

First on my list is an intriguing little synthpop trio from Brooklyn called Class Actress. This group was brand new to me, but turned out to be oh-so-appealing. Elizabeth Harper’s voice and lyrics bring to mind classic pop princesses like Tiffany and Blümchen (two of the artists on my list of guilty pleasures), but she manages to ditch the teeny bopper innocence and bubblegum in favor of sexy lyrics and a jaded world view. And when paired with Mark Richardson and Scott Rosenthal’s synthpop production, it is not surprising that their 2011 album, Rapproacher, is nothing short of top-notch. The bouncy beats, techno flourishes, and New Wave influences actually mask a lyrical content that is much heavier than is apparent at first. Much of the album is spent dealing with the problems of an almost obsessive love affair that is obviously coming to an end. Starting out strong with the upbeat and endearing Keep You, by the end of the track list all you are left with is the sad, echoing, and introspective plea of Let Me In. There is definitely more than meets the eye here, and the result is an album that is hard to put down for long.

Weekend by Class Actress

Next up is the emo-tinged pop-punk outfit known as Motion City Soundtrack. I loved 2005’s Commit This to Memory, but I kinda lost track of these guys until 2012’s release, Go. (Oops!) However, I was downright thrilled when I heard they were releasing a new album this year. Their first single, True Romance, is positively stellar and perfectly evokes all the things I loved about them years ago, yet somehow manages to feel amazingly fresh at the same time. The most likely culprit in this is Justin Pierre’s lyrics, which have changed a lot over the years. What happens to the neurotic emo singer that grows up? They start talking about the mid-life crisis that 30-year-olds across the country seem to be experiencing these days, that’s what. This is probably why I keep coming back to this album. Nostalgia pulled me in, but the way it speaks to my own experiences as an unwilling adult is what keeps me listening. As a whole, the album is a little unbalanced, starting strong but getting darker and more depressing as the track list progresses. The opening songs of Circles and Wires and True Romance start the album out on a high note. But when you hit the contemplative Everyone Will Die at track 5, you start to realize that this is a different kind of album than they would have released eight years ago. And it only gets darker from there, with the second to last song, Happy Anniversary, which is a rather chilling account of a man who believes he is dying. Pretty heavy stuff, I must say, and the mood only partially recovers in the closing track entitled Floating Down the River. Surprisingly, this all feels even more introspective than their previous work and throughout the album there is a keen awareness of the passage of time and the changes caused by it. However, despite the slightly depressing finish, there is some major potential here, which renews my faith in the viability of the post-punk rock alternative genre.

Timelines by Motion City Soundtrack

Moving away from the heavier (read: soul-crushing) stuff, we now come to the amazing riot girl rock of Wild Flag. This indie rock supergroup (if there really is such a thing) is made up of former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, and The Minders. The list of members would be familiar to many a hipster, I’m sure, but I found this straight up rock ‘n’ roll band through NPR’s All Songs Considered–confirming that I still like new music, while simultaneously publicizing my advanced age (listening to cassette tapes when dinosaurs roamed the Earth). Rejecting all traces of bubblegum, Wild Flag’s 2011 eponymous album is nothing short of indie rock bliss with a hard-rocking edge that avoids sounding overly heavy or dirty. Devoid of all the usual synthpop and electronica influences I so often gravitate towards, they feel like a real successor to Siouxie Sioux and the Banshees. Tough and intelligent, empowered and full of bravado, with just a touch of vulnerability, the result is downright brilliant. The album is filled with strong guitars, pounding drums, good bass lines, and the clever use of a Hammond organ that completely sidesteps being cheesy. And on some of the songs you can hear that they are just itching to be a jam band, which I’m willing to bet must be the case with their live performances. Clocking in at only 41 minutes, my only real complaint about this album is that it is always over too soon.

Black Tiles by Wild Flag

And last but not least, my absolute top album of 2012 is Master of My Make-Believe by the fantastic Santigold. This is a juggernaut of an album from start to finish. Well-balanced in both genre and mood, she ranges from boastful, arrogant, and tough as nails, to quiet, introspective, and understated. Throughout the track list there are touches of punk rock, synthpop, industrial, electronica, rock, rap, R&B, reggae, and a whole lot more. Hailing from Philadelphia with the title of A&R representative for the likes of Epic Records on her curriculum vitae, the unsinkable Santi White embraces all genres and bends them to her will. Everything, and I mean everything, is fair game. This is evident in every aspect of the album, from the music, to the lyrics, to the album cover, which features her in some of her many and varied guises, including an oily looking man in a suit lounging in a leather chair, two bikini-clad amazon gatekeepers flanking him, and a grinning country noblewoman posing in a massive portrait painting hanging in the background. She is everything and all. Not afraid to genre bend, she moves around and through them freely, both throughout the album and within each song. Displaying a talented voice, she is not afraid to push to the far reaches of her range, and her use of overdubbed vocals in the background is clever. And I have got to say that her collaboration with Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the opening track,Go!, is one of the more brilliant match-ups I’ve seen in a while. I truly adored her first album, and (if you couldn’t already tell) I can’t say enough good things about this second album. I love that she pushes the boundaries of my musical tastes and encourages me to get out of my rut, as all truly worth while artists should. I am anxiously waiting for her next project and just about ready to kick myself because I have not seen her live yet. So what are you waiting for? Hit play now!

The Keepers by Santigold

You always remember your first…

First album, that is. We all do. Come on, admit it! You still remember it, the very first one you brought home, cracked open, and proceeded to listen to for the next month solid. Even if you can’t stand the music now or perhaps bashfully grin at the very idea, you never forget your first. And (let’s be honest now) that very first time you listened to it, it kind of blew your mind. Am I right? I know mine did.

To find out what my very first album was, we have to go all the way back to Christmas 1989. I was 9 years old and it was the first year that I asked for music. Sure, I’d been listening to Motown and psychedelic ’60s rock in the back of my mom’s car since I was literally an infant. And it is true that I technically didn’t buy this one myself, which is probably the main criteria most would expect in an official first album. But this was the first time I was picking something on my own, based on what sounded good to me, which is something I value much more than the ability to save a few pennies and dimes.

And what was that momentous first album, dutifully requested in the lap of a shopping mall St. Nick? Tiffany. Yes, that Tiffany. The 80’s pop queen who once wowed her fans with those often sugary-sweet lyrics sung in malls across the country and who now stars in a growing line of monster B-movies on the SyFy network. Yes, I realize this admission automatically makes me a hipster reject. But what can I say? I saw her on The Mickey Mouse Club when I was a sprout and thought that she was fun. Hell, I also liked The New Kids on the Block when I was 10, which is far more embarrassing to admit to as an adult. Everyone has, shall we say, interesting taste as children. And evolving musical tastes are a big part of growing up (thankfully).

But what will really bar me from joining the ranks of the disinterested music hipster is that, well… I actually still like this album. Despite my sheepishness, 1988’s Hold An Old Friend’s Hand will always reside in a soft part of my heart–no matter how uncool that makes me. I loved this album from the moment I unwrapped the plastic and popped the cassette into my tiny little boombox and I dutifully set to work memorizing every single song–a pattern that would last for many years and for many, many albums.

Sadly, my old cassette went the way of the world a few years back. I believe it lived too long on a shelf in my old room at my parents’ house and was sold off to a used bookstore by my enterprising youngest sister. (By the way, thanks again for telling me about your little money-making scheme after the fact, Kid.) But despite not listening to this album since long before losing the means to actually play it, I still remember the names and partial lyrics of several of the songs. Even now, the title track would probably show up on my list of all-time favorite guilty pleasures. And yes, while doing my research for this post I listened to much of the album for the first time in many, many moons, and I caught myself singing along and bouncing a bit in my chair. Although I have to say there was a good deal more chuckling this time around.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a decent video for Hold An Old Friend’s Hand (by far my favorite), even though I was pleasantly surprised to find a sweet nostalgia cover from a guy who also loved the song as a child. Instead you get the amazingly hokey video for one of her catchier songs, a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ 1967 classic, I Think We’re Alone Now. It’s so campy, but it perfectly captures the scene–complete with the big 80’s hair and jerky dance moves performed in the middle of crowded shopping malls. But I will spare you and leave out her absolutely blasphemous rendition of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There. I’m not that cruel!

And for those of you who are fans of How I Met Your Mother, here’s the famous Robin Sparkles doing a hilarious parody/tribute/mash-up of both Tiffany and her former pop chart rival and current B-movie co-star, Debbie Gibson.

So who was your first?

Why don’t you make like a tree and leave (NSFW)

Tonight’s title probably sounds a little cryptic, but it will all make sense soon (plus, it made me chuckle). Honestly, I had to really stretch for a title this time, but thankfully Biff from the Back to the Future trilogy saved the day again (you’d be surprised how often that happens). I promise that this is not another one of my crackpot theories about music. (Really! I mean it!) What I wish to speak to you about in this week’s little lecture is well… how can I put this delicately? My subject is songs that lyrically tell someone to take a long walk off a short pier, but with a great beat you can dance to. In short, the cheerful fuck-off song (well… so much for putting it delicately). There is a real plethora of songs out there that fit this bill. Death metal has by no means cornered the pissed-off music market. Pop, rock, and even punk are chock full of amazing songs that can inspire bouncing around in your socks in the living room or dancing in your chair at work (I, of course, would never ever do anything so undignified). Sometimes when listening to this type of song you can be having such a great time that you forget how serious or angry or jaded the lyrics really are. The joyful energy of the music can have a masking effect, shielding the listener from the sometimes blunt anguish of the singer. But I find that the combination of lyrics and music often intensifies the experience and can be a great way to work off the negative vibes that accumulate throughout the day. And I’ve assembled a short list of examples here. Feeling stressed? Want to tell someone to go suck on a lemon? Well then let’s get started!

My first example is a no-brainer: 1982’s Goodbye to You by Scandal, a New York-based pop and rock band fronted by Patty Smyth in the early 1980s. ’80s pop is one of my biggest guilty pleasures (I’ll admit it) and this song makes me incredibly giddy whenever it comes on. With its great guitar riffs, manic electric keyboard solo, and Smyth’s smoldering delivery about a love that has sickened, it easily earns it’s place on this list. I’ll warn you though that the video is a little odd. Either someone didn’t quite master their lip-syncing skills or the video producer didn’t bother to match up the recording with the performance. It’s so close, but just enough off that there is almost an uncanny valley effect. Also, whoever thought random freeze-frame close-ups of the band members’ faces was a good idea probably had been smoking something that day. Oh well, here it is in all its slightly unsettling glory:

Next on the list is a song that might seem a little far-fetched at first, but bear with me. I speak of none other than Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic Go Your Own Way. True, it lacks the pure pop joy of Scandal, but this song more than earns its place here. The driving beat, the vocal harmonies on the chorus, the amazing bass lines of John McVie, and the plaintive voice of Lindsay Buckingham all add to the energy of the song and build something greater than the sum of its parts. Need to work off some steam really quickly? Take a power walk with this one in your headphones and you’ll be beat by the time the last guitar wail fades. I guarantee it! The lyrics are almost shocking when you stop and analyze them–essentially calling Stevie Nicks out on the carpet and branding her as an ungrateful slut! But the rocking tenor of the song softens the blow to the point that you walk away thinking only, “Wow. That relationship was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it?” It took me years (and a Fleetwood Mac Behind the Music special) to finally catch the true meaning of what he was saying. This time I’ve procured for you a video clip from their 1997 MTV televised reunion, responsible for generating a whole new chapter in the band’s lengthy collective career. As a bonus, you get to chuckle at the antics of drummer Mic Fleetwood. (By the way, I love Nicks and think that Buckingham probably could have handled the break-up better… certainly, he could have done it more discreetly.)

The third example in my little presentation is going to be really obvious. If you are compiling a non-soul crushing soundtrack for telling someone to drop dead, you would be horribly remiss to leave out Cee Lo Green. Let’s face it, his 2010 hit would make this list on the title alone. With a name like Fuck You he’s not exactly beating around the bush, now is he? And this song (and the accompanying video) have so much going on that they could easily merit their very own blog entry. Green is an amazing artist in his own right, but he has this great talent for imitating other singers. And in this song he is channeling Stevie Wonder like you would not believe. He even has a bunch of back-up singers who immediately put me in mind of The Pips (as in Gladys and). In the video we follow the growing pains of young Green, played by actors who do a kick-ass job lip-syncing, as he tries and ultimately fails in his attempts to win the girl of his dreams. It’s highly entertaining and is one of those videos that will give you a major case of the warm fuzzies–at least that’s what happens to me. I don’t know how you could have avoided seeing this video some time in the last year or so, but just in case here’s the uncensored version (NSFW!):

My last offering tonight is a song called Lemonade by Tsunami Bomb, a lesser know punk band from the Bay Area who broke up in 2005. The song was released in 2001, but I first discovered this band around 2002 or 2003 through a now infamous file sharing program called KaZaA (yes the spelling is accurate). Around that time I was seriously craving harder rocking bands that actually featured a female singer, but in those days your choices were either Christina Aguilera or Sarah McLachlan. Nothing particularly wrong with either choice or the genres they represent, but being a huge punk-rock fan I wanted something edgier. And the beauty of music sharing, although obviously illegal, was that you could expose yourself to music you often couldn’t find elsewhere. Tsunami Bomb didn’t always stick to strictly punk, often ranging along both the softer and heavier ends of the spectrum. But this song runs right down the middle. It is raucous and raw with exaggerated drums, the best bass line ever, and lead singer Emily Whitehurst’s surprisingly potty mouth lyrics. Even after all these years–and a couple cart loads of baggage connecting the song to someone I used to know–this song still hits a satisfying chord inside me. My list could never be complete if I left it out. (Sorry for the Powerpoint slide show for a video, but they never made an official video for this one and good live performances on YouTube are apparently in short supply.)

This is just 4 songs and I’m willing to bet that it is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s your favorite cheerful fuck-off song?

Why I don’t listen to the Counting Crows anymore

I have a very clear memory of my first impression of popular music. I was still mainly listening to the oldies station in the back of my mother’s car in those days and was just starting to listen to music on my own. It would be years before I would seriously evaluate the music I was listening to, let alone figure out my own tastes. Being only a child of seven or eight flipping through stations on my tiny little boom box, I summed up main stream radio in very simple terms: Music is about love and longing. Either you’re wishing you were with someone new or wishing you could get back with someone old. I had no idea what longing was in those days, but everyone sounded so earnest that I figured it must be something important. And when you think about it, 8-year-old me stumbled on a grain of truth in there. Most music, popular music in particular, revolves around this one concept. Obviously there are many exceptions to this, but we’ll be exploring that sort of thing on another day.

It has been a very strange week around here. I was recently contacted by my one-and-only ex-boyfriend. We hadn’t had any contact for about 10 years and our history is really starting to get a bit ancient. I won’t go into all the gory details, but he was seeking some closure and hoping to grant me some as well. We’re both now happily married to other people and agree that things turned out for the best. But for a bit there, my mind was boiling. Our parting was as tragic and angst-filled as any emo teenager could ever hope for. And I thought my memories of that relationship had faded away, that the past had lost its sting. But it turned out I was wrong. I don’t want to go back and I wouldn’t change anything now. I’m in a loving long-term relationship with the man of my dreams. And the lessons I learned in my failed relationship all played a part in making me the person I am today. But my reaction to this whole experience has truly caught me by surprise. Things I hadn’t thought about in years started floating to the surface and I was amazed by the strong emotions they still sparked in me.

What really got me was the music that kept creeping into my head. I spent a lot of time lost in thought when I should have been doing other things, and there was always a song running in the background of my inner-monologue. Every now and then I’d kind of come to and finally listen to what was running through my head. Every time the song turned out to be strangely appropriate. Most of them were songs from those days, but some were new songs that suddenly took on new meanings. The list grew so fast that I had to start writing the songs down. There are many more than I want or need to go into. But to give you an idea of what was happening in my head earlier this week, here are three of the most appropriate ones: one bitter, one wistful, and one chaotic. All three were around when I was originally dealing with the break-up, and all three represent aspects of what I was going through then.

You’re So Vain by Carly Simon (specifically the 2nd verse)

Name by the Goo-Goo Dolls

Medication by Garbage

So now you’ve been reading for quite some time and you’re probably wondering what this has to do with The Counting Crows. Well, let me explain. When the relationship ended, I didn’t listen to music for several days. It seemed like every song I heard reminded me of what I had lost or literally said things I wasn’t ready to acknowledge. But this didn’t last and after acquiring several CDs from my sister and a dear friend, I started listening to music again in like it was water in a desert. It was around this time I picked up The Counting Crows first major album August & Everything After. Already seven years old when I bought it, it was new to me. And every song mirrored the turmoil I was experiencing inside. I listened to it constantly for a month or more and found some kind of respite with it. Like most of us have experienced at some point in our lives, I realized that what I was going through wasn’t new. I wasn’t the first to be hurt and I took a little bit of comfort in knowing that someone else had felt the same way. I loved that album. But I listened to it so much that it is now inextricably linked to that time in my life and to my memories of that relationship. I can’t listen to it, even after all these years. It’s not because I dislike the band and it isn’t because the music is bad. It doesn’t matter that I have/am/will make peace with my past. I just don’t have the heart to listen to it. It’s a bit like visiting a grave.

Despite my constant repetitive listening to this album, there was one song I always skipped. It hit home in ways none of the others ever did and I could never get past the first few lines without crying. I guess time does heal a lot of things because (thankfully) that is no longer a problem.

I want to end this entry with some amazing philosophical statement that summed up the importance of music and dealing with the things that life throws at us. But whatever I say will probably be trite and inadequate. The interplay between music and memory can sometimes be a painful experience, but in the end I know that it is useful. The Counting Crows played a big part in helping me to sort out my emotions and to move on with my life, but in the process they became a play list casualty.

The radio program This American Life has a wonderful exploration of the importance of the break-up song, which is definitely worth a listen to. Sorry for the link, but I can’t get WordPress and their embed code to play nicely together. Just trust me and follow the link. It is a great story and probably says somethings more eloquently than I can.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/339/break-up?act=1