An Open Letter to Patti Smith

image_pdfimage_print

Dear Patti Smith,

I first must admit I am a fan of your memoir Just Kids.  I think you did justice in telling Robert and your story.  Not only do I have a deeper understanding of who you and Robert are as artists and people, but have felt a universal connection to your story.

As someone who aspires to be a writer and artist, I really connected to many of the scenes and lines from your novel.  I appreciate reading stories about how you and Robert scrapped together money for your first apartment and then put everything into your art, eventually “making it.”  Just Kids gave me inspiration and some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in the line, “And then I met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple.  When you hit a wall, just kick it in” (170).  As I face my own challenges as a broke college kid with frequent periods of writers block, I will carry that simple line of advice with me.

Moreover, I really enjoyed the photos you included.  While your writing is rich and beautiful enough to describe Robert’s work, actually seeing the photographs really brings into focus his skill and aesthetic for beauty.  Maybe its cliché, but they’re definitely worth a thousand words and help complete the story.  For instance I loved seeing photos of you and Robert as children in the first chapter, it really set a personal tone for the story and where you both came from.  Furthermore, the photo on page 251 that was used for your album Horses is really a perfect example of how intertwined his photography and your art was and is.

Finally, I liked how you ended the book, not to say I liked what happened.  It was tragic and I cried because after 278 pages I felt like I knew him too.  The photos and memorial song and poem were beautiful and tied the novel together nicely.  I thought that by ending with writing about Delilah at Robert’s desk really gave the sense that he will live on through his artwork and inspire another generation, like you told him, “Our work was our children” (274) and certainly the legacy he left behind.  If my response to Just Kids is any indicator, you told the story only you could tell, and maybe it can’t wake the dead, but it can keep the memory alive.

Musical MD

image_pdfimage_print

Dear Musical MD,

I have recently been feeling like I am in a perpetual state of identity crisis.  In the past year, I have changed my job as an accountant at a large corporate company to a lobster catcher off the coast of Maine.  I left my husband who was treating my existence like a stubborn flea, I rediscovered by urge to travel, and I want to influence the world.  Recently, I joined a band with other thirty-something-year-old women who are all similarly at a point in our lives demanding change and independence.  My musical ailment stems from the feeling that I won’t be able to fulfill my part as a guitarist in our indie-rock band if I cannot find peace with myself.  I want to rock out and feel rebellious – no kids, no partner, just a freelancer in my life’s journey, but I am hindered by the idea that I haven’t fully moved on.  How can I close certain chapters of my life with music in order to grow?  What bands should I be playing in rotation?  How can I connect my music to my life?  I am not a crazy cat lady or someone who will decide to indulge a lesbian preference simply because I am rediscovering myself, but I am someone with the strong desire to use my guitar skills to reach out to others to share honest snippets of my life’s journey.  How do I start?

Sincerely, A tattooed-lobster-catching-guitar-riffing woman residing on the coast of Maine

*

Dear A tattooed-lobster-catching-guitar-riffing woman residing on the coast of Maine,

First I want to commend you on your brave new outlook on life, such drastic change to rediscover yourself is certainly not easy, so you’ve already accomplished the hardest part!

As for your musical dilemma, I have a few suggestions.  Sometimes it takes time to heal wounds, sometimes it takes fire.  Find that old mixed tape (or CD or DVD) of your wedding soundtrack, build a big bonfire, and throw it in.  Destroy all the tunes that come from your old life with your shitty ex-job and shitty ex-husband.  Bonus points if you toss in non-musical items: photos, clothes, love letters, whatever.  You should turn it into a ceremony of passing into your new life.  Whether you need to be alone or invite your new co-workers, friends, and band mates and turn the festivities into a roaring party is up to you.  Just keep the hose and the fire department on standby.

Now that you’ve burnt bridges with your past, it’s time to fill the space left. Keep an open mind when discovering new music.  If you listen to punk rock, try out some classical, you’d be surprised how inspiring different genres can be.  That being said, I’ve put together a short cross-genre playlist with the theme of empowerment to be yourself.  While these songs in particular are great for your situation, the artists should be listened to on repeat in general.

“Black Sheep” – Gin Wigmore

“A Tribe Called Red” – Angel Haze

“Raise Hell” – Brandi Carlile

“Daughters of Darkness” – Halestorm

My final advice to you is to write your own songs.  No matter what you consider your skill level to be, if you want to share those honest snippets of your life’s journey and reach out to other people, you can’t be playing covers all night.  There is no better way to connect your life and your music than by letting your life inspire your song writing and then preforming original tunes for an audience.

I wish you the best of luck in all your life and musical endeavors.  Now get out there and rock!

Sincerely,

Musical MD

Life Soundtrack

image_pdfimage_print

Everyone at one point or another hears a song and thinks, “If my life was a movie, this would play on the soundtrack right now.”  And while I often think about what songs fit with which moments, I’ve never compiled a list of songs until now.

Alison Uralli has been so kind as to provide me with the following prompt:

“Everyone has songs they listen to when they’re going through something, or what you would imagine playing at certain moments in your life if you were in a movie.  Since last week we talked about music in film, it would be interesting to see what you would choose to be your life movie soundtrack.  You can make your own “soundtrack to your life” of different scenes or moments and what songs you imagine playing.”

My Birth

“O Fortuna” – Carmina Burana

Listen to the song, enough said.

 

Early Childhood Montage

“The Goofy Goober Song” – Spongebob Squarepants

I tried as a child, really hard, to not like Spongebob.  I’m not sure why, if my older brothers made fun of it or if I just thought it was uncool, either way, I eventually caved and spent many of my lazy childhood days watching Spongebob, and “The Goofy Goober Song” certainly fit a childhood of blowing bubbles, petting puppies, and talking to my imaginary unicorn friends.

 

Nailing that Test

“The Best There Ever Was” – Sleeping with Sirens

In a drastic change of genre, I’m choosing “The Best There Ever  Was” by Sleeping with Sirens for all those sleepless nights I pulled studying to ace a test.  And there were many.  Despite how ill-prepared, hungover, sleep-deprived, etc. etc. I seemed to be, tests always seemed to turn out okay.  It’s a bad cosmic joke the universe plays on me to indulge my procrastination.  That said, this song is great for that moment when you feel a little badass.

 

First Love

“Decembers” Hawthorne Heights

Ahh, young love.  I won’t bore you with the gory details, same as every other naïve, hormone-driven teen making out in the car before sheepishly returning home to Mom and Pop.  This song in particular was our favorite to listen to on long car rides, and him, being the obnoxious self-satisfied budding musician would sing along off key.  I still cringe listening to this one.

 

First Breakup

“Hush” Automatic Loveletter

In case you couldn’t tell, that relationship did not end well, like so many high school sweethearts.  So the devastating first breakup song is a necessity.  The raw, screechy vocals really jive with the broken-hearted tone of “Hush.”  Honestly, it’s really addicting if you’re an angst-ridden single teen.  Enjoy the equally dramatic music video.

 

Change of Scenery

“Demons” – Imagine Dragons

My freshman year of college I attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.  Despite it being an overall fun year, I was still plagued with pangs of homesickness.  Imagine Dragons were hitting a peak of success at the time, and I had some time to listen to all their albums my best friend burned to my iPod before I left for school.  For whatever reason, “Demons” was on repeat as I walked to class in the pouring rain every day.

 

Current

“Brainstew” – Green Day

I’m going back to my roots here to a song that was true in middle school, true in high school, more true in college.  Brainstew is self-explanatory in its application to school and studying.

 

And there you have it! My life soundtrack in 7 songs!

 

 

 

Where Is My Mind?

image_pdfimage_print

 

I cannot think of a powerful movie soundtrack without first thinking of the ending scene for Fight Club.

Ah, Fight Club, the go-to cult classic and maybe it’s become a cliché now, I mean, number one rule is we don’t talk about Fight Club…for a reason right?  Too bad.

The rest of the score and soundtrack for the movie is arguably okay, but the very last scene is what cements it as my top movie music combination pick.

Art forms can often complement one another and make each other stronger.  Film and music are no exception.  Have you ever watched a movie on mute?  It’s not the same.  After riding the dark, twisted roller coaster that is Fight Club, we end up with the Narrator realizing he is Tyler Durden.  (I would say spoiler alert, but if you haven’t seen Fight Club by now, well…)  He subsequently stuffs a gun in his mouth and blows a hole in his jaw to get rid of Tyler.  As Marla Singer cradles his bruised, bloody face he assures her, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine.  You met me at a very strange time in my life.”  As he begins his line, the rough opening chords to “Where is my Mind?” by the Pixies begin.

 

 

The pants-less narrator and Marla stand hand in hand in the blue-green light, staring out the windows as the surrounding skyscrapers blow up and tumble to the rim shot of the snare.   Black Francis’s yowling lyrics echo the bittersweet, eccentric atmosphere.  As the credits roll the lyrics, “Where is my mind?  Where is my mind?” play.  The last scene and the song mesh so well together that they’ve almost become synonymous.  Every time I hear “Where is my mind?” I automatically think of Fight Club.  Honestly, is there a better ending to a film about an aggressive insomniac with multiple personality disorder?

What’s my taste in music? Can the internet guess?

image_pdfimage_print

Since the recipient of my totally awesome (not really) 20 Questions quiz did not get back to me, I took it upon myself to scour the internet for a music quiz to take myself and report back to you all.  Luckily, with All Mighty Google it took only two seconds, maybe five, to find a lot of really cheesy, awful quizzes.  Clicking one of the first links, I found one on BuzzFeed that didn’t sound like it was written by an overzealous thirteen year old.

For your convenience I’ll type up the questions and my answers to them, and then you can go take the test for yourself, because hey, we all need the internet to tell us what we like.

1>  What’s the best place to listen to music?

My answer: On my car stereo

2> What is most disappointing to you?

My answer: When people ignore the REAL problems

3> Choose an off-brand breakfast cereal?

My answer: Apple Dapples (points for lame rhymes)

4> What is totally underrated?

My answer: Buying physical copies of albums

5> What is totally overrated?

My answer: e-readers and smart phones

6> Which animal is the most “you”?

My answer: sloth

7> What do you most want from music?

My answer: Something that reflects how life really is

Drum roll please, BuzzFeed guessed my taste in music is….

” You got: Classic Rocker: You appreciate bands that take themselves seriously and know how to craft true rock and roll. Sometimes you wonder why anyone isn’t making music these days like Led Zeppelin did.”

Okay, let’s be honest, I definitely took the quiz a couple times until I got a result that I liked…which leads me to believe BuzzFeed could not correctly guess my musical tastes…or that I don’t want to admit to my musical tastes.  Either way.

Take the quiz here! Let me know which result you get…and if you cheated like me, what the initial result was.

 

 Songs as Absurd as Valentine’s Day

image_pdfimage_print

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which for me mostly means the Italian restaurant I work at will be flooded with couples, ranging from shitty-tipping high schoolers on an awkward first date to married-long-enough-to-spend-this-obligatory-evening-out-staring-at-their-phones.

I think it’s safe to say Valentine’s is a shitty Hallmark holiday hell-bent on selling you something, no matter your age or relationship status: cards to bribe popularity amongst children, cheap chocolate to soothe your single soul and diamonds, because if expensive jewelry can’t save your relationship, nothing can.

And yet, people buy into it, every damn year.  As far as I’m concerned, if you want a day to celebrate your love for someone, it’s better with a non-perishable (ahem, those roses will be dead on the kitchen table by tomorrow) and non-purchasable gift (homemade dinner? A walk along the river? Sex?) on a random day in May because you feel like it, not because some dumbass day in February mandates it.

That concludes my Valentine’s Day rant.  I’m sure I’m not alone in my sentiments.  I will now leave you with my Top 5 silly, stupid, vulgar love songs.  Just as a reminder that maybe you shouldn’t take the 14th this month too seriously.

5) “Love Is…”(Live) – Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham is one of my favorite comedians.  Who doesn’t love awkward, self-made YouTube stars?  I particularly enjoy the way he combines his comedy routines with music.  His comparisons perfectly dismantle the archetype of love songs.   Love is hilarious.

4) “He’s A Tramp” – Lady and the Tramp

Let’s face it, my first experience thinking about love was with Disney movies.  The price saves the princess.  Enemies become friends become lovers.  A jail of stray dogs sings about the woes of loving a bad boy.  And boy, can’t we all understand that one.

3)  “Stacy’s Mom” – Fountains of Wayne

Speaking of first experiences with love songs, I suppose it’s time to divulge my secret passion as a 10-year-old…dancing with my friends in their bedroom singing this dumb anthem of pubescent longing.  There is nothing serious about this song.

2) “One Week” – Barenaked Ladies

At some point everyone experiences one of those fights (or multiple fights) that are ridiculous to the point of the Carnivalesque, and this song embodies that to a T.  With lyrics like “You’ll think you’re looking at Aquaman/I summon fish to the dish, although I like the Chalet Swiss/I like the sushi/’cause it’s never touched a frying pan/Hot like wasabi when I bust rhymes” it deserves to be included in the top five absurd love songs.

1) “Loose Lips” Kimya Dawson

I’m including this Juno soundtrack starlet mostly because I honestly like this song and it’s kind of goofy.  However, I will say for the sake of this list it’s a nice reminder friendship is an equally (more) important kind of love.

So when you’re drowning your love (or lack thereof) in wine and chocolate and cheesy, tacky cards, just remember that A) Valentine’s Day is stupid and B) don’t take things too seriously.

Looking Back: Metal of the 70’s & 80’s

image_pdfimage_print

When most people mention their love for the early heavy metal bands they attribute their sources as fathers, uncles and brothers who introduced them into the cult at a young age.  This is not the music I’ve grown up with, but the music I’ve grown to love, and I did not start loving it until my first year of college.

I want to make clear that I’m not talking about 80’s hair metal bands; there may be a time for Nothin’ but a Good Time, but the frivolous spectacle of glamour and partying undermine the music for me.  I like my rock stars to at least pretend they’re in it for something more than fame, women, and drugs.

I prefer the metal bands of the 70’s, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc.  as well as the 80’s thrash bands in opposition to hair metal, like Metallica and Slayer.

Perhaps it was just the natural progression for me personally as a music listener that brought me to these bands.  I listened to the popular music of my time first, because that’s what was accessible and palatable to my young, impressionable ears.  Of course I heard the classic songs in movies and radios and referenced everywhere, you can’t really escape hearing “Iron Man” or “Smoke on the Water” but I wasn’t at a point to really care to delve in further.  I had the bands that I was obsessed with, who were alive and functioning and touring and releasing new music and that’s all I needed.  However, eventually I wanted a deeper understanding of where my bands came from and trace back the roots. If you like rock and metal and follow the line of influence, you will eventually end up on bands like Sabbath and Zeppelin.  They’ve become cultural staples and icons, and their influence can be found in all the contemporary rock and metal groups that’ve sprouted from their innovations like branches on a tree.

Maybe it is a little cliché to glorify these bands that’ve already been so worshipped throughout the decades, but what can I say, what can anyone say, about the music that draws them in? I like the melodic lead guitar lines, the intense chunking rhythm guitar. I like the heavy drums, the dark, taboo, socially poignant lyrics. I like it loud.

Guest DJ: Vanessa Sirois

image_pdfimage_print

Vanessa Sirois hales from Atlanta, Georgia.  Her musical tastes have come in movements throughout middle school, high school, and after. In middle school she was obsessed with Limp Bizkit and Sublime, and collaged her bedroom walls with song lyrics and Billy Idol posters.  In high school she started listening to electronic music.  Vanessa has reflected on pivotal moments and nostalgia to drive her top five picks.

#1) “Teardrop” Massive Attack 

The first time I heard it, it was like a lightning bolt to my head.  And then I knew I was obsessed.  And then it just opened up a whole door to UK garage music, really underground stuff at the time over there.  Then I started going to raves and listening to breakbeats and jungle and eventually happy hardcore.

Did you wear all the rave stuff?

Oh yeah, I had frikken bracelets and UFO skirts and pants and everything.  I would tell my mom I was spending the night at my friend’s house and she would put her portable phone in the bushes outside. So we would drive by and I would get the phone and be like “Okay, we’re in for the night.”  It’s like nine-thirty or whatever and then we’d go into town.  And it worked every time.

Where did you grow up that had all the raves around?

Atlanta. It was like the end of the rave era, this was like in 2000 I guess.

I will always remember that song and that whole album I could listen to a hundred million times.

#2) “Wide Open Spaces” Dixie Chicks 

The second one, I’m going to go with “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks, I mean, who can’t relate to that. I remember being obsessed with them in middle school too.  My best friend at the time and I would play Mario Kart and we would either watch CMT and watch the music videos or play it on repeat, the whole album, none stop.  And we felt like we just really knew what they were saying but we had never been married or all these problems they sing about, but still, it was one of those things were you really feel like you connect to it even though it’s just teenage angst.

It has a lot of literal meaning too, because I did move out west and stuff like that eventually. But yeah, that’s total teenage girl anthem right there for sure.

Would you say your relationship to the song has changed over time?

Oh yeah, it’s weird, in the beginning when you think you connected to it and you really didn’t and you get older and you laugh about it and you’re like “oh yeah I can relate to it” and then even more and more.

#3) “Me and God” The Avett Brothers 

It’s about how you can have your own relationship with whatever higher power it is, and the actual lyric is “me and god don’t need a middle man” so it’s kind of rejecting religion, organized religion.  But I’ve just always loved that song because of the message and he just talks about other things that are beautiful like there’s god, or whatever it is you want to call it.  I can’t remember some of the other lines right now, but it’s about finding beauty in your own life in your own way.  It’s a good song. It’s catchy.

Would it be too personal to ask if you feel particularly religious?

No, it’s always pissed me off. Especially when I was younger, and I felt like I needed to be angry about it for no reason, even though it wasn’t doing anything.  Also, my ex-boyfriend, he played guitar and learned all the Avett Brothers songs so he’d play that and it meant something to both of us I guess. So I always think of him too, we dated for four and a half years and it was one of those…reminiscent things.

#4) “Rainbow” Oh Land, remix by An-Ten-Nae 

This reminds me of a very specific time when I first moved here, when my best friend moved here and we were partying.  That day we did the Battle of the Animas with my ex-boyfriend and we were dressed as tourists and we got shitfaced on the river and as we were driving home after that (well, I wasn’t driving) and we were in the back of my ex-boyfriends 4-Runner with the back window down with our legs sticking out, and we had this song on repeat and we were just being drunk, carefree idiots, having the best time, living in the moment.  It also reminds me of being in the desert a lot too, just being super carefree.

Sounds like a good memory.

At the time, the song felt and sounded good because we were living in the moment. But it was also the beginning of the end of some of the relationships in my life and so when I hear that song now, it actually sounds sad or a little bittersweet anyway.

#5) “Mtn. Tune” Trails and Ways

They’re like an Indie, folky kind of band but there also bilingual, so a lot of their other stuff is in Spanish, or sort of Spanglish.

So the song is about climbing, which my husband and I do a lot of. The symbolic relationship of a climber and a belayer is all a huge metaphor for a relationship.  My husband and I have dated twice. The first time was five years ago, the second time was a few years ago, and obviously now we’re married, but when we first started dating again we got back into climbing together and then I heard this song and thought, “oh my god it’s so perfect.”  So, I love that one, makes me think of my husband.