Emery Recommends: “Believe” by Amen Dunes

Here’s the gist.

It starts out kinda pop-y. Almost upbeat. It doesn’t stay that way.

When I was a kid I was afraid to die

But I growed up now

The first minute bleeds nostalgia. The guitar gently weeps along. Lyrics hint at death.

If I’m caught in the hour of dark

But we swerve, not just to his hour of dark; to yours. But he does it for you.

Then, around 2-minutes in, it changes. The tempo alters, the guitar intensifies. That change sends shivers down my entire body every time. Every time. When McMahon’s emotions shift, subtly, it gets to me. I hear grief. I hear loss. Maybe I’m projecting.

I’ll see you next go-round

Around the 4-minute mark, I’m feeling mortality in my chest, a hollow/weighty presence that reminds me of straddling living and dying — the threshold, liminality, betwixt/between.

Do it for you

I’m not down

Do it for you, yeah

Feel it, too

She’d say, she’d say

I’m almost hesitant to recommend this song, because “Believe” (and probably the Freedom album in its entirety) is music I’m fiercely protective of. You know what I mean. Like, I want EVERYONE to listen to it, but I also want everyone to FUCKING LOVE IT as much as I do. My relationship with this song — the memories, the things it evokes, what it and I have been through together — is private, but it also overflows into the public sphere, pressing on me to share it far and wide.

I will fight you if you diss Amen Dunes, but I’ll also be really really sad if you don’t love “Believe” and feel that kaleidoscope of emotions and the ferocity of mortality that accompanies it.

So today I ask you a favor. Listen to this song. Feel this song. Love this song. Just don’t tell me if you hate it, okay? (Because you’d be wrong, anyway.)

(Song recommendation by Emery Ross)

Dan Recommends: “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

You may wake up one morning and wish you hadn’t. You may turn over in bed, check the time, and try to will more minutes into existence between 7:30 and 7:45. You may consider calling in sick, knowing you have the privilege of a job that lets you do so, knowing that a headache and sleep deprivation are perfectly adequate reasons to take the day, never-mind the fact they’ll subside after another two hours’ sleep. You may deem sleeping a little longer and arriving to work late — ten minutes at most — a good compromise.

You may finally get out of bed, finally put on some clothes, and finally brush your teeth. You may finally leave your apartment, forgetting your lunch in the fridge again, and you may finally walk to the train. You may finally put on your headphones and finally hear something other than the blood in your ears.

You may then encounter a song you’ve heard before, but it may now stand out differently; its electronic drums and droning synthesizers now perfectly underscore your every move, as you descend the station steps, swipe through the turnstile, and make it to the train in time to squeeze through the closing doors. You may feel a catch in your throat as the singer moans, “going nowhere, going nowhere.”

You may involuntarily suspend the ironic, self-conscious detachment you’ve constructed between yourself and the song’s refrain, and for once just listen:

I find it kind of funny

I find it kind of sad

The dreams in which I’m dying

Are the best I’ve ever had

You may be startled, remembering you’ve had dreams like this.

You may not be quite as histrionic as the song, yet the images that flash before you remain potent: the way your own birthday can be the most disappointing day of the year; schoolyard ostracization, where not even the teacher seems to see you; seeming to be stuck in an infinite loop.

You may find yourself completely devastated a mere three-and-a-half minutes into your commute, by a song you’d previously written off as kitsch.

You may turn around, go home, go back to bed. You may close your eyes and take a moment to thank the stars you’re not the only person who has felt or will feel like this.

It’s up to you.

(Song recommendation by D.R. Baker)

A Crowdsourced Valentine’s Day Playlist from Memoir Mixtapes

This week we asked you to share your favorite Valentine’s Day songs — the good, the bad, the angry, and the heartbroken — and you delivered. We’re so excited to share this crowdsourced Valentine’s Day Playlist with you all.

For your listening pleasure, here is the big ol’ list of your picks for the best Valentine’s Day songs. Over 150 tracks to cover every imaginable emotion. Over 9 hours of music to heal your achy, breaky heart (sorry, that song’s not on there).

Special shout out to Sarah Nichols, whose recommendation for Los Ageless inspired this undertaking.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

K Recommends: “Machinery” by Jason Loewenstein

I discovered Sebadoh in 1993. I became enthralled while hearing “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)” on a college radio show. I bought their cassettes and CDs. I uncovered records by Lou Barlow. I missed the 1994 Sebadoh show in my hometown.

In 2002, Sebadoh bassist Jason Loewenstein released his solo debut, “At Sixes and Sevens.” He was touring nearby. Finally I’d see a member of my favorite band play! The weather and drive were treacherous. Maybe 15 people showed up. The music was excellent but I left early due to snow. I saw Lou solo a year later but didn’t feel social.

In 2012 I saw Sebadoh, reunited. I was 20 years deep in fandom but too shy to meet them. I’m just not into meeting bands. I’ve been to hundreds of shows and talked to maybe 5 artists!

I added Jason (Jake) on Facebook. He responded to comments, posted often, and added me/left comments. Those simple gestures to fans meant tons! It was on FB that I learned he designed the t-shirt logo I had tattooed on my leg in 2003. He even blogged about it: click to see!

Jake seemed very approachable. In late 2012 he was doing sound for Om, who was playing one state away. It was an opportunity to hear music and say hi/thanks. This show was mind-blowing with all the instrumentation. Genres complimented one another yet ranged from light to droning. I didn’t interrupt but wanted to say something. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to meet someone who was super cool to his fans.

I said hey when he wasn’t busy. He recognized me and we went out back for some air. No photos, no fangirl weirdness… music talk, nonsense on his FB, sound duties during Sebadoh hiatus. It was better than I envisioned a rocker meet-up being. No pretense, no awkward silences. We chatted for 15 minutes.

Observed: Jake is a musician’s musician with talents in playing, recording, and supporting music. I was jazzed when he released another solo LP in 2017!

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

Kimberly Recommends: “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot

My husband and I have pretty similar tastes in music across many decades of tunes. It is very rare that we will be listening to the music in the car or at home and come across a song on the radio which neither of us have heard — usually at least one of us knows every song. And most of the time when we come across an unknown song, it doesn’t really click with us within the first few measures and it’s onto the next song.

That wasn’t the case with “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot. We were driving home from dinner, taking the scenic backroads for a change of scenery. We were listening to a classic rock station and “Sundown” came on. Neither of us had heard the song, and we were about to switch to a different station because of that, but the song caught our attention. We just sat there, listening to the acoustic guitar and Gordon’s deep voice. Then the third line came in with a beautiful harmony, and we were both hooked.

I knew Gordon Lightfoot from “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I was born and raised in Michigan, and the tragic story of the ship’s sinking in one of our Great Lakes is memorialized in this song. That song has a beautifully haunting melody with a bit of a sea chanty feel and had been the only Gordon Lightfoot song I could recall. After I heard “Sundown” I went through a phase of researching more songs by Gordon and then adding in other artists whose music evoked similar feels: America, Looking Glass, Seals & Croft, Cat Stevens.

A song has to capture my attention very quickly from its start, or I will likely never listen to it. It may not be the “right” way to listen to music, but that is my habit anyway. “Sundown” captured me in the beginning because the acoustic guitar was simple but had what I call a nice, round sound to it. Then Gordon starts to sing and I think the melody is catchy, and I absolutely love multi-part harmony. Two-part, five-part, I love them all. I think I hear a three-part harmony in this song, but I could be mistaken.

I am the type of person who likes a song first for the music, and lastly for the lyrics. I will like a song for the type of mood it evokes and only later ponder about the song’s meaning and what the musician was thinking about when writing lyrics. I couldn’t tell you what exactly Gordon was singing about in “Sundown.” When I hear the song, I picture a man talking to or about a woman who tries to make him stray from his current partner. He’s reminding her (or maybe even himself) that no good can come from spending time with this woman who’s creeping ‘round his back stairs.

My favorite lyric is, “Sometimes I think it’s a sin, when I feel like I’m winning but I’m losing again.” It makes me think about times in my life where I think everything’s going right and then I start feeling like something bad will happen soon, since everything in life can’t be right all the time. Which then makes me think of Alanis Morisette’s song “Ironic”…

In any case, if you like folksy, classical music from the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, America, etc. give this song a listen, and its beautiful melody and lyrics just may captivate you like it has me.

(Song recommendation by Kimberly Wolkens)

Seigar Recommends: ¿De qué me culpas? By Fangoria.

Juan Gatti (video Director) inspired by Hitchcock, Alaska being attacked!

Seigar, the photographer, is back.

The punk attitude of Fangoria has been present in the Spanish and Latin America music scene since 1989. Their initial acid house influence has changed into pop and rock electronic sounds. Their catchy songs have made it into the Spanish speaking countries music lists since that year. These days, their style is quite easily identified by their pop producer touch: Guille Milkyway (La Casa Azul).

In this gothic and emo video filmed by the prestigious photographer Juan Gatti, we can find some iconic images of the lead singer Alaska dancing with a sword. The beautifully-produced edition of the black and white images helps to enrich the track. The video presents the remix on Spotify that is even funnier than the original song with the featuring of Ms Nina and King Jedet, two reggaeton urban music celebrities, because Fangoria has never had prejudices against any music genre, and they want to live in 2019, not in the past.

The lyrics may be understood as a response to a press that takes too seriously their interventions on the media. And I say too seriously because to understand their words you must first know they are close to John Waters’ ironic philosophy about life, entertainment and society, or at least they have always talked about him as one of their icons. ¿De qué me culpas? means What are are you blaming me for? Alaska is everywhere on the radio and TV commenting on everything, so recently, some of her views have not been received as politically correct statements. However, apart from this theory, everybody will enjoy the song.

Alaska has said the question used as the title of the song may be asked to the world or to your couple on a love affair when you just want to say, “Stop, I had enough.” This would turn the song into a global or a feminist anthem.

Click and enjoy the catchy tunes.

(Song recommendation by Seigar)

Sarah Recommends: “Los Ageless,” by St. Vincent

How could anybody have you
How could anybody have you and lose you
How could anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds, too ?

We’re about a month away from Valentine’s Day and I hate it like some people hate Christmas. Ignoring it is easier now, but all of that pink on red hits me, loud, garish, and demanding that I remember that I’m alone.

On Valentine’s Day, 2010, the relationship that I was in ended by email. It wasn’t healthy, but I sometimes wonder if we hadn’t been who we were at that time if things could have worked. Probably not, but god, it was devastating. Technology makes cruelty easier; we can erase people from our lives with a swipe left, or dumping contact information into a fathomless cyber-hole.

I heard this song in November, driving through the early evening in Los Angeles, and it captured me. I was listening to it today and missed California, and missed being in love, and for me it’s got this vibe of a Joan Didion essay, if Didion was making music in the 21st century, observant and cool and full of loss.

I still hate Valentine’s Day. But I fucking love this song.

(Song recommendation by Sarah Nichols)

k Recommends: “Paper Moon” by Our Lady Peace

Sometimes you don’t like a song until someone else really does. They show you the way inside some aspect of music you might have missed otherwise.

One of my friend Matt’s favorite bands was Our Lady Peace. We had divergent music tastes. I DJ’d on the online station where he co-hosted a music and comedy podcast. He interviewed musicians and was excited to chat with Raine Maida, OLP’s lead singer. Tuning in, I could hear Matt’s genuine respect for the artist.

I did episodes where DJ/radio peers, friends, family and other listeners chose songs. Matt’s selection was “Paper Moon” by OLP. I assumed I wouldn’t like it. Besides “Starseed,” their songs seemed derivative and the singer’s voice overpowered the music. Surprisingly, I took a liking to “Paper Moon.” The song is thoughtful, the vocals aren’t overwhelming and I could relate to the lyrics.

Matt was one of my radio mentors between 2011–2013. We had easy conversation, shared jokes. He was sarcastic, music-knowledgeable, loved radio, had unstoppable wit and adored his family. He sold me on that song!

He also had a recurrence of cancer after beating the crap out of it in his youth. In what seemed like no time, he passed away at 41 in 2013. He died on April 1st; pretty clever if you knew Matt’s humor.

Matt’s wife shared a video he once made in California traffic. He sang along to “Paper Moon” and made the best of a frustrating situation by enjoying the moment with this treasured song. This was Matt: a person with spirit even when facing difficulty.

I embrace this song with wonder now. Matt left this life before I could meet him in person. I became acquainted with his friends and family through live shows and social media.

There aren’t enough words to highlight the best people and moments of our lifetime. This is why music’s vital: “Paper Moon” says even more about Matt than I could express.

(Matt Cooper’s heartwarming obituary says more about his dynamic life, too!)

(Song recommendation by k weber)

René Recommends: “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog

I did not have a happy end to 2018 or a promising start to 2019.

On New Year’s Eve day, I found a feral kitten in a window well behind my parents’ house. It was struggling to get out, so I gave it a little help by lifting it out and setting it back down on its feet. Only it couldn’t stand up on all fours anymore. Instead it frantically pulled itself away from me into my parents’ shed by its two front paws, trailing its two hind ones as if they were broken. I told my mother, who’d been feeding it and a few other ferals, and we began calling around to find someplace open on this last day of the year that could fix the kitten’s broken leg(s).

Though we found an emergency veterinary hospital willing to take the kitten, we couldn’t catch it. Every time, it would panic and scoot away out of reach, under or behind some heavy equipment. New Year’s Day was much easier, only because the kitten wasn’t moving much anymore — only badly shaking, from the time I placed it in a carrier with a blanket all the way to the hospital. From the cold, or fear, or shock, we weren’t sure.

At the hospital we got bad news. The kitten had far worse than a broken hind leg or two. The doctor said it had a fresh bite on its back from another, larger animal — probably a coyote, maybe a raccoon. Its spinal cord was severed and the kitten was in worse pain than we’d thought with no good chance at all. My mom cried and consented to the kitten’s euthanasia, but didn’t think she could be present when it died. So I went back with the doctors to be with the kitten for its last minutes of life, wishing the whole time I could hold it just hold it against my heart a moment and make it all okay.

When it was all over, we brought it back to my parents’ yard, where my brother made a grave for it, near the remains of our collie Tansy, our cocker spaniel Jasper, and several other unfortunate feral kittens and broken-winged birds we’ve buried in the 40 years our family has been there.

I’m a sentimental and superstitious person. When things like this happen, I get sad same as anyone else. But when they happen on holidays, on certain anniversaries, in an especially vivid dream, or in a cluster of other sad or strange events, I look for meaning. For some kind of reason for the pain, or some kind of pattern whose devastation I can start to predict so that I might better prepare for further sadness and strangeness. Other people might call my thinking senseless.

But the whole rest of New Year’s Day, I couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t get the picture of the shaking kitten out of my mind. And I couldn’t stop wondering how fresh the bite on its back was. When I’d walked up to my parents’ back door, had I just missed the coyote, had the sound of my footsteps interrupted it mid-kill? What if I had arrived just a couple minutes earlier, or a couple minutes later? I also kept thinking about a woodpecker I had seen on my balcony New Year’s Day, before the kitten died, and how naïve I had been to think that was some kind of good sign for 2019. The next morning, on the way into work, I saw a coyote from the train window. Was that the sign I’d been looking for, or only as incidental as the woodpecker sighting? How about the kitten’s life and its suffering? Also incidental and insignificant? Or meaningful, like I and my mother and brother want it to be — worthy of sorrow and reflection.

Because these things have to mean something, don’t they? Sudden woodpeckers and coyotes, suffering kittens, unexpected sorrow and moments of wonder. If they don’t mean anything, if they’re all just incidental, then what’s all the feeling and wondering about? Why believe in the significance of anything then, whether the loss of a little being’s life or the changing over of day into a new year? Why let anything touch you?

One of my favorite childhood songs is “Rainbow Connection,” sung by Kermit the Frog. It came out when I was about 8 years old on the soundtrack for The Muppet Movie. I didn’t get to see the movie back then, but Kermit sang it on the Muppets TV show a few times (once even with Debbie Harry!) and I had the 45 record. I loved the song because it was gentle and open-hearted and searching for meaning, and at that age, I unquestioningly believed everything was supposed to mean something. Everything mattered — songs, stories, dreams, holidays, the feelings I felt listening to certain songs or anticipating certain holidays, and the love I felt for my family and pets, and the love I was sure they all (pets included) felt for me. The song is a gentle strike against cynicism and emotional hardness, and the fact that it’s sung by a puppet frog playing a banjo isn’t a punchline, but a nod to whimsy to go along with the lyrics’ wonder, a “why not” punctuating a song that starts with the word “why.” It’s a perfect comfort song, at any age.

The bad news I witnessed New Year’s Day unfortunately wasn’t isolated. It’s been a painful holiday season and I’m already having difficulty staying positive for 2019. I feel kind of low and anxious. But I think the lesson of “Rainbow Connection” — if not the significance of woodpeckers and coyotes and kittens — is that if you’re feeling and questioning something, well at least you’re feeling and questioning something. At least you’re not numb. At least your heart is still open for the moment when the rain brings out a rainbow.

(Song recommendation by René Ostberg)

Nicole Recommends: “A Little Death” by Anthony Green

If ever you’ve thought a song about an orgasm can’t be beautiful, Anthony Green is here to prove you wrong.

My first encounter with the phrase a little death was in a poetry class I took in college. I can’t remember the poem or the poet — this was apparently a common phrase — though I’m pretty sure it from the 18- or 1900s and written by a woman. What I do remember is reading it and thinking, “Hmm. So that clearly means an orgasm, right?”

When I saw this phrase was the title of a song on Anthony Green’s latest album, Would You Still Be in Love, I was like “Okay, so this song is definitely going to be about sex, right?”

And it is!

In case there’s any question, here is a line from the song: “Hands like a leash try to make me come quick / I already came once trying to keep up with it.” Or how about: “Bite down on my knuckle just letting me know / you want more.”

This song is about sex, people!

And it’s gorgeous. From the acoustic guitar—which is the dominant instrument in every song on the album — to the gentle crescendos of Anthony’s voice, this song is a perfect little ode to the kind of sex that might change your life, the kind that makes you “beg for death” (in a good way).

(Song recommendation by N. Alysha Lewis)