all posts tagged 'music'

WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 12: Crystal Castles - Untrust Us

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Many a term paper was written to Untrust Us.

Many lines of code were generated to Vanished.

Many long walks from home to class were accompanied by Magic Spells.

The first Crystal Castles album is a prime example of how I've consumed music for the majority of my life.

The indiscernible lyrics, the rhythmic blips and bloops, and the strong repetition provide a great outlet to keep my spiraling thoughts distracted long enough for me to get something else done.

I think distraction is a perfectly reasonable purpose for music to serve.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 11: B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes – Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)

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Space Jam was my favorite movie growing up.

I didn’t own it on VHS, so it was one of those movies where I would watch it whenever an opportunity presented itself.

My oldest cousin got me the Space Jam poster for my birthday one year. It was one of the best birthday presents I ever got.

I took that poster with me into every place I moved. My dad had a thing where I wasn’t allowed to use nails or push pins to hang things on the walls (“Think of the resale value!”), so pretty much everything in my room was held up by that two-sided tacky tape which, ironically, left huge grease stains on the wall.

This soundtrack was the very first CD I ever purchased1. I didn’t even own a CD player at the time I purchased it, so I had to wait until the house was empty so I could put it into the 5 disc changer we had in the living room.

At the time, I skipped the vast majority of songs on this album. Most of the songs on this album are hip hop and R&B, both being genres that my white, suburban self had exceptionally low exposure to.

I mostly skipped around to the same songs I’d hear on Radio AAHS: Fly Like An Eagle, I Believe I Can Fly, Space Jam, and Buggin’.

Over time, I found myself gravitating toward the non-kid radio songs. The most compelling of those is Hit ‘em High (The Monstars Anthem).

Here, you’ve got five of the biggest names in hip hop collaborating on a song for the heels of the movie, and it goes hard.

To this day, this song is what I play when I’m driving my kids up to their track meets.2

(If this song isn’t your jam, might I recommend Coolio’s The Winner? I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics to this song before, but given all my mental health struggles in the past few months, I think it appeared at the perfect moment for me. The song is impressively positive and reaffirming.)

  1. I know I’ve mentioned that on here before, but I wanna be crystal clear in case someone is trying to steal my identity down the road. 

  2. I’m writing this post at my desk in the kitchen and playing this song to help spark memories. My daughter just walked in the house, heard the song, and started rapping along with Coolio’s part. I think I’m nailing this parenting thing. 

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 10: Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror

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I’m working through a blog post right now that discusses the properties of the perfect karaoke song.

Man in the Mirror is my go-to choice for karaoke night. I love singing Michael Jackson, but MJ is a risky karaoke choice. I’ve tried nearly all of his songs, and most of them are extremely conditional bangers.

A song like Earth Song can bring the house down if you are able to throw your entire voice into it, but it can also fall completely flat if you don’t have a crowd that’ll interact with a ballad1.

A song like Will You Be There suffers from a recognizibility problem. Part of a good karaoke song is getting the crowd to sing along. People might recognize a song like Will You Be There if they grew up watching Free Willy, but almost nobody knows the lyrics or melody well enough to join in.

A song like Billie Jean has the recognizability, but it contains a lot of repetition towards the end. Repetition is a surefire characteristic of a bad karaoke song. Nobody wants to hear someone sing the same thing over and over again for two straight minutes. It’s a crowd killer.

Man In The Mirror, though?

Here’s a song that starts out with a lot of classic MJ “chee hee” action, then gives you a chance to warm up with something in a good range, then continues to build with more of those MJ vocal fillers, a killer key change, and ample opportunity for crowd participation.

It took years of weekly karaoke sessions to figure out what songs fit me best. Man in the Mirror offers plenty of fun Michael Jackson vocal action, the song is catchy and instantly recognizable, it’s in a pretty high range so it takes a little skill and practice to make it sound good, and most importantly, it makes me happy every time I sing it.

  1. These crowds are some of the rarest, and are usually packed with karaoke regulars who are engaged and encouraging of others. If you’re in one of these crowds, you’re well on your way to experiencing the perfect karaoke night. 

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 9: EKKSTACY - im so happy

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Editor’s note: This post contains discussion of suicide. Take care of yourselves, y’all.

Alright, so I guess some of these WeblogPoMo posts are going to be albums instead of songs, because sometimes the collective is more meaningful than any one individual song.

That’s certainly the case for this EKKSTACY album.

I first learned of EKKSTACY from the When We Were Young festival. I didn’t catch them live because they were on at the same time as the headliners, but I did give their Misery album a couple of spins leading up to the festival.

The album came across shuffle once again shortly after getting laid off at the beginning of this year, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.

First of all, this style of music just sounds cool to me. The guitar and bass sound so ethereal, the vocals are haunting and brooding. There’s a simplicity to the melodies that makes it feel approachable1.

But maybe what I love the most about this album is how striking the lyrics are.

Back in February, these lyrics from the song “Christian Death” specifically were stuck in my head for days:

I just wanna die, I just wanna kill myself
I don’t give a fuck about anyone else
I never leave my house
When I die, I hope there’s a pistol in my mouth
I just wanna die, I just wanna kill myself

This past February and March were quite difficult for me. I constantly felt the worst mental pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Not only was I dealing with burnout and stress, but I also had this asshole voice called depression in my head with me nonstop.

At first, this guy would show up and whisper stuff in my ear, much like you’d see a drug dealer sneak up to someone in a 90s anti-drug PSA.

“Hey, an easy fix to all this would be to kill yourself. I wonder what that might look like.”

Just like how I’d imagine if someone snuck up to me and offered drugs in the 90s, I replied to these thoughts with genuine bewilderment and confusion.

Why would you be offering me free drugs? Your drug dealing business would be way more profitable by selling that product to your existing customers. I also do not have an income, so what would you gain by getting me addicted?

Why would I kill myself? What benefit would that actually give me? How would that solve any problem and not create way more problems for everyone around me?

The bewildered response was how I often responded to this guy because I frankly don’t have much experience interacting with those thoughts.

My usual response to bad feelings (like guilt, embarrassment, shame) is to completely shut down. Just nope out of whatever situation I am in and sit alone doing everything I can to push the thoughts away.

But there was no nope-ing out of these thoughts. And since shutting down is not an ideal response to those other feelings, I started working on how to cope with these thoughts.

One day, I was out on a walk, and that depression guy showed up and started being a jabroni again. This time, I happened to be listening to this album and those lyrics came on.

A smile appeared on my face. I felt a true feeling of relief, and I’m not quite sure why.

In some warped way, it felt a little silly hearing someone talk about killing themselves in such a brazen way.

It felt good to know other people have spent time shacked up with this depression voice and found ways to keep them from completely taking over.

Maybe the juxtaposition of endorphins from the walk, a more neutral observation of the suicidal thoughts, and actually speaking them out loud was all it took to realize how absurd it is to take those thoughts too seriously.

I’m feeling a lot better here in May, by the way. I still find myself avoiding uncomfortable and difficult feelings because, well, they suck.

But at least I now have tools to handle them. One of them is throwing on this album, sitting with the feelings for a bit, and telling them that it’ll be okay.

And I wish I could forget
That everything will end
And everyone I love has said at least one time
That when wе die, everything will be fine

  1. Alright, so maybe this is just what all emo music is and I’m just describing everyone’s experience with it. But I’ve spent a lot of my life deriding emo and actively avoiding it, so I suppose this is a footnote to pat myself on the back for being more open-minded. If you can’t be self-congratulatory on your own blog, where else can you be? 

WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 8: Bullion - Rare (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

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My friend Scott has a newsletter called Sweep Frequency where he shares five new songs every week.

The top section of this week’s newsletter mentioned Bullion. I had never heard of them prior to today, but they recently released one of Scott’s favorite records of the year.

I put it on in the background of my evening tonight, and it fit like a glove.

This week was a bit of a challenging week for my wife, who is in charge of running exams at her school. I’ve been trying to help out as much as I can, but tough weeks are tough no matter what.

As I was driving to pick up some celebratory Dairy Queen tonight, I was working my way through the album for the fourth time, and it struck me that I was going to need to pick a song for the challenge here soon.

My theme for this year’s WeblogPoMo was music that is meaningful to me.

I don’t need to pressure myself to pick the 30ish songs that are the most meaningful to me. That’s an unreachable bar. There are way more than 30 songs which mean something to me.

Music is one of the best tools I have to help process the world. It’s there for me for every feeling I could have. Sick. Lovestruck. Mourning. Belly laughing.

So maybe it’s okay to share some times where new music made an impression on me.

I know that this song, in particular, will bring me back to the week where my wife busted her butt at work while I held things together with the kids at home.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 7: Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

It was really hard to just pick one Rilo Kiley song to share in this series.

It would be hard to pinpoint even a single album to share, because all of them made a meaningful impact on me in high school and college.

One of my least favorite questions to answer is “what is your favorite [x]?”

It doesn’t even matter what X is. Color. Desert. TV show. Vacation spot.

I haven’t been able to answer this question in years because I instantly become paralyzed by the question’s parameters.

Favorite musical artist?! In what context?

My favorite artist to work out to is Eminem.

My favorite artist when working through depression is EKKSTACY.

My favorite artist when I’m hanging out with my kids is Bluey.

My favorite artist when I’m in the zone at work is Daft Punk.

But if you are asking me to have to pick a that felt the most constant in my life, part of nearly every day since high school?

For me, that’s Rilo Kiley.

More Adventurous was among the first CDs I bought online. I still have a 128kbps rip in my iTunes library. It has a little skip during A Man / Me / Then Jim which now feels weird to not hear when I listen to the album on iTunes or vinyl.

More Adventurous was the soundtrack to the road trip Rob and I took sophomore year of college to Iowa and Madison. We got lost using the iPhone 3Gs’s GPS technology, ending up in the town of University, Iowa instead of the University of Iowa. Portions of Foxes kept us laughing as we whipped the U-turn to head back in the right direction.

The Execution of All Things was a constant during my freshman year of college, a comforting soundtrack during a rather lonely and scary time in my life. The Good That Won’t Come Out puts me right back in the tattered light rail seat that carried me to my early morning lectures for a rather challenging math class. With Arms Outstretched was one of the first songs I learned on the guitar.

The self-titled EP ends with a song called Gravity, sung with a bit of a country twang. Rob and I imagined it being sung by an 1840s prospector. It would occasionally come on shuffle when we’d be carpooling back from a sales meeting in the early days.

Under the Blacklight disappointed me when it first came out. I bought it on release day after a Tuesday shift at Best Buy. I threw it on in the car and couldn’t believe how processed and over-produced it sounded. In hindsight, I rather enjoy Silver Lining, which is about the most accessible entry point I can recommend for the band.

I saw Rilo Kiley for the first time during the tour for that album. The songs from the album were way better live.

I saw Jenny Lewis again a couple months ago when she came into town. She didn’t play any Rilo Kiley songs, which feels right for her. Her solo stuff is pretty good, I really enjoy songs like She’s Not Me and Red Bull & Hennessy and Just One Of The Guys.

But I would love to hear those other songs live again someday with the whole gang.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 6: Pokemon Blue/Red - Bicycle Theme

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The University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus is massive.

When I went there, I was told it was the third largest university in the country based off square footage.

The Minneapolis campus alone has an east bank and a west bank, connected by a bridge with a top that is for pedestrian use only.

I used to live in the Como neighborhood. It was a 30 minute walk from my house to the classes I had on the west bank. I could also take the 3, which made it more like a 5 minute bus ride.

My preferred method of transportation, which I would use up until the snow made it infeasible, was my bike.

When I moved down to campus for the first time, my dad wouldn’t let me bring my Specialized bike that he got for me in seventh grade.

Instead, he insisted on buying me a $99 Schwinn bike from Target. It weighed a ton and the brakes weren’t great, but it certainly got me from A to B.

I recently got rid of that bike, and it felt like getting rid of a car. In both cases, I usually get overcome with emotions such as grief from nostalgia, guilt from abandoning something I knew so intimately, and gratitude for being able to get so much life out of it.

One of the first times I put that bike to use was to attend a class on the west bank.

When I arrived at the beginning of the Washington Avenue Bridge, I was greeted by a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline.

The combination of that skyline, the breeze, and the views of the river below forced this song in my head.

I started singing it out loud, unable to place where I knew it from.

After having the same moment play out over the course of a semester, it finally dawned on me that I knew that song from hours of riding my bike in Pokémon.

Pure joy. That’s what this song reminds me of.

Even this evening, when I rode bikes with my family up to try the new ice cream shop in town, I got this song stuck in my head.

It truly is the perfect song for a bike trip.

WeblogPoMo 2024: Song 5: Plini - Kind

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My buddy Lucas (the same one who told me about POTUSA) is always sending me heavier stuff to listen to.

This song in particular caught my attention right away, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs to rock out to. The rhythms are so complex that every subsequent listen is an opportunity to hear something new.

What makes me identify with music like this is the precision and order.

Plini, to me, is the epitome of coordination and process. The riffs are so intricate and detailed that it must require a ton of effort to ensure the musicians are playing the same piece.

Music like this is comforting to me because it feels like some order can be achieved even in the midst of complete chaos.

All this talk of precision gave me a realization: I’ve never been good at improvising with music. I don’t understand it.

If you want someone to sight read a piece and play it exactly as it’s written on page, I’m your man.

If you want to ask someone to solo in the key of G major, you’d be best sniffing elsewhere.

The best improv musicians I am aware from operate on a completely different plane than me. What they make doesn’t necessarily get pulled from their brains; rather, the music comes from their hearts.

That’s not to say that playing with precision is soulless. I take so much joy from being able to master a particularly challenging musical riff.

I just wish I could also get good at letting my heart take the lead from time to time.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 4: The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)

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I just met this girl a couple hours ago, and she’s clearly the coolest girl I’ve ever met.

One of the very first things she asked me after we met was if I wanted to see a magic trick.

She presents a deck of cards and asks me to pick a card.

Yes, she ultimately revealed my card.

Yes, it blew me away.

We start talking about Four Loko, which had recently been banned across the country. After doing a favor for a friend who paid me with a cardboard box filled with various malt liquors, I mentioned to her that I have some of the real stuff in my trunk.

I did have to warn her, though, that it was expired and had been sitting in the trunk for at least a couple days.

She didn’t care. We each grabbed one and slammed them.

After a couple more drinks, we decide to walk to Blarney’s, a bar that’s not too far from the Dinkytown home of our mutual friend whose sidewalk is now covered in shotgunned Four Loko runoff.

This was a random Thursday night in December. We both had stuff to do early the next morning. I had to film something for my internship. She needed to drive back to Wisconsin for a job interview.

But Blarney’s had exceptionally cheap Long Island Iced Teas.

And there was karaoke.

I don’t recall what she sang that night. I was too infatuated by her “who would win in an animal fight” discussion, of which you could tell she clearly had deeply considered these outcomes already.

I do remember trying to decide what I was going to sing. I was clearly confident, fueled by a potent combination of Four Loko, Long Islands, and love.

But I needed something I knew I could nail in front of a crowd.

So I chose I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

For this girl, for this moment, it just felt right.

I did end up making it to my shoot the next morning. I couldn’t get the eye liner off my face that the girl talked me into applying later that evening, so you can clearly see it in the B-roll footage that I acted in.

She slept through that job interview. She seemed to not mind it too much, though, since she ended up marrying me.

This reminds me, I really aught to sing it to her again sometime soon.

It’s just hard to find date night opportunities with your wife when you’ve got two rambunctious kids running around.

That, and the karaoke scene here south of the river is sus. Find me a place nearby where I can do Rap God without censorship, you cowards.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 3: The Presidents of the United States of America - Dune Buggy

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I used to take a trip to the north shore with my extended family every summer.

When we’d arrive, my dad would hand me and my siblings a bunch of cash when we arrived accompanied by some variation of this speech: “This is it for the weekend. Spend it wisely.”

One year, my dad performed this ritual in front of the gas station which shared a parking lot with our hotel.

We went in to pick out some snacks, and behind the counter, I saw a cassette tape with a familiar sounding name:

”The Presidents of the United States of America”

A few weeks prior to our trip, back when school was in session, I recalled standing at the bus stop and hearing my friend Lucas telling everyone all about this band.

He said his older brother was into them. They sang about things like cats and peaches, and they totally rocked.

I had looked up to Lucas since preschool. He was effortlessly charismatic. Absolutely hysterical, too. He has this infectious laugh, often deployed after he cracks a joke.

Since I had the recommendation of the coolest kid I knew floating around somewhere in my head 1, I figured I could parcel out a fifth of my weekend allowance to give it a shot.

I immediately fell in love with the record. I listened to it endlessly for months.

None of the lyrics really made sense to me as a kid. Lyrics have never been something I’ve considered much when it comes to music.2

But as an adult, I get so much joy from rediscovering music from my youth and enjoying the artistry with a renewed perspective that comes with age.

It was tough to only pick one song from this album. So many memories are intertwined with these songs as their accompaniment.

I used to sing Peaches every night to my daughter. Both Lump and Weird Al’s Forrest Gump-inspired cover of Lump often get stuck in my head, my thoughts seamlessly bouncing between lyric versions.

I picked Dune Buggy because it’s the second song from this band that I regularly make my kids listen to.

We have a family playlist filled with songs that each person gets to select, and Dune Buggy is the first song of mine which appears in order.

We will often go through the playlist in that order when we are in the car.

At first, the kids groaned every time the first guitar lick came on.

These days, you’ll occasionally catch my daughter singing loudly along.

And come on, what’s not to love about a blind spider barreling around the sand in a spider-sized dune buggy?

  1. This is no small feat, considering school had been out of session for at least a couple months by this point. An eternity when you’re a kid.  

  2. It’s kind of like when it comes to fashion, the last thing I notice in an outfit is the shoes.  

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