June 13th, 2011
(The second of my top ten albums from adolescence.)
Meddle is a relatively obscure slice of psychedelic genius which I first played on my crappy bedside turntable after a particularly eventful evening during my senior year of high school, and revisited 20 years later as post-game music for marital happy hour, which circularity led me to reflect on how even when we change we remain exactly the same, and prompted me to share five musical bites from past and present in this post comprised of one tremendously long sentence, starting with:
(1) the ominous, throbbing bass line of “One of These Days” (holy crap– listen to it live!), a largely instrumental track which unravels one’s awareness in ways that are strangely pleasant when your consciousness is stable but but downright perilous when it’s not — when the bass hit heavy reverb that first night I was gripped by panic, certain that a helicopter was landing on the roof above my bedroom, which was merely a prelude to the complete freak-out induced by what sounded like someone/something monstrous pounding on the door and threatening murder in a diabolically distorted voice (one of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces), which is truly terrifying when you’re alone in the middle of the night but makes for good bonding with friends when you swap stories the day after (in those pre-google days, one of my peeps told me the voice said one of these days, I’m going to dance with the evil [eagle?] king, which might be the better lyric) …
… but that’s not the kind of bonding I wanted for marital happy hour, so I saved that track for solo rides in the car the next day and began the playlist with the profound quietude of “A Pillow of Winds” (2), which, as it turned out, perfectly narrated the closing minutes of that evening (sleepytime when I lie/ with my love by my side/ and she’s breathing low/ and the candle dies), thus ushering in a blessed state of tranquility (the rarest of commodities in a household of nine) …
… seamlessly followed by (3) the transcendent crescendos of “Fearless” spiraling like the florid mandalas that appeared on the blank wall of my high school bedroom way back when, which formed a magical cloudland of existence until (4) the song segued into a chant version of You’ll Never Walk Alone performed by Liverpool lads that nonetheless sounds uncannily like the Bedouin-esque dudes singing the tone sequence in Close Encounters (which, amazingly enough, I can’t find on YouTube), thus returning me to full freak-out mode…
… which immediately dissolved upon the beginning notes of “San Tropez,” a loping beachside tune that, in context, is bewildering at best, so in hopes of avoiding any degree of buzzkill I left the track off the happy hour playlist (although it does feature the line I reach for a peach, which begs mention of “monkey grabs a peach,” which would’ve been appropriate enough) and went straight to “Seamus” (5) which played as I drifted into sweet unconsciousness around midnight, only to be jarred awake seconds later by a barking dog, which I thought was the beagle owned by our back-fence neighbors that tends to howl during romantic interludes in the most infuriating and hilarious ways, but actually turned out to be an unremembered part of the track, thus providing the surreal moment needed to make the past/present circle complete and conclude this tangle of a post — and if such tangling isn’t your cup of tea, I suggest you avoid this album, especially side 2 (which is one long convoluted track featuring a crisp sonar-like ping that exactly echoes Reed’s Blackberry ringtone, but that’s another story).
April 19th, 2011
Considering I’ve only done one of my promised ten posts about fave high school albums, I prolly shouldn’t be skipping ahead to the here and now. But Arcade Fire’s Funeral is possibly my favorite indie album evar, and I’m in a deep state of mourning due to missing the band’s live show last week, so I’m gonna rebel.
I opted out of buying concert tickets for several reasons: they were pricey, and the show was on a very inconvenient date, and I figured the venue in Orem would surely be spilling over with college-age johnny-come-latelys, and that the band would surely go heavy on tracks from their Grammy-winning new album, which is good but not good enough to lure me out from under my rock under such circumstances. So I stayed home, and rode the evening out with only mild reservations — until a few days later, when I was reading reviews online and bumped into the set list. Which included half the tracks from Funeral. Realizing I’d missed a truly transcendent emotional/spiritual/aesthetic experience, I went out, and wept bitterly.
Speaking of bitter weeping: Funeral was written and recorded during a time when band members were mourning the death of several loved ones. Fittingly enough, I found my way into its depths during a protracted season of pain, playing it on continuous loop throughout a particularly bleak winter; I replay it at length each time the snow returns with its blanketing defeat. But it’s not one of those albums I reach for when I want/need to wallow in melancholy (e.g. Unknown Pleasures) — rather than indulging low mood, the music comforts me as it both confirms and challenges the darkness. A rare and delicate balance, like the blend of fledgling hope and resigned wisdom which permeates the lyrics.
And so, without further ado, five sublime bites (four of which played onstage last week, thus clinching my everlasting regret):
The first track, and perhaps my favorite. Captures the ineffable loneliness and longing of adolescence (does it ever go away?) so keenly that I ache with each listen. I especially love the shivery xylophone-driven emotion (as the day grows dim/I hear you sing a golden hymn), and the heady second verse/first chorus (then our skin gets thicker/from living out in the snow – the video has an awesome shot of Regine Chassagne pounding away). But my favorite spot, the one I have to close my eyes for every time, comes at 2:47, as Win’s reverie intensifies and his voice ascends and the backup vocal descends in a moment of transcendent sadness.
A measured, melodic eruption of adolescent rage (does it ever go away?), so earnest it hurts. Highly therapeutic when played in an enclosed area at high volume. Hard to pick one bite to highlight, but I’m gonna go with the ripping chord change at 2:02 (kids are dying out in the snow/look at ‘em go, look at ‘em go). Judging from YouTube evidence, the live track is nothing short of explosive, even to the point of inducing seizures in one of the percussionists. Recent performances have featured altered lyrics (ice is covering up my parents’ eyes) and a truly mind-blowing segue, usually into Rebellion/Lies, although at last week’s show they paired this track with ‘Tunnels.’ Self-pity abounds.
A swelling, cresting wave of tender-aged romance and regret (does it ever go away?). Strings you up between transience and permanence (They say it fades if you let it/Love was made to forget it) and socks you with tortuous devotion (I carved your name/across my eyelids). Although more sophisticated than the daydream love of “Tunnels,” the earnest romantic yearning here makes otherwise bombastic lyrics (your name is the only word that I can say!) ring absolutely true. Fave moment: the final, wrenching “please forgive me” (3:15), which kills me every time.
4. Wake Up
A bona fide rock anthem (a la David Bowie, who, on occasion, sings along) lamenting how the heart calcifies with age. First heard it in the car, driving to my psychiatrist’s office in East Millcreek on a very dreary January afternoon. I wasn’t feeling much of anything those days — the major depressive episode had moved past despair into near-catatonia — but as this track hit its climax I had the sudden, blessed realization that I was still alive, and in good company. We’re just a million little gods causing rainstorms/turning every good thing to rust/I guess we’ll just have to adjust… The energy is palpable even in sanitized digital form; I can only imagine what filled the room during this amazing impromptu set.
5. And finally: Rebellion (Lies)
The penultimate track, played early in the Orem set, which seems odd– maybe I’m just used to hearing it as a near-finale? With a sensual edge rare for Arcade Fire, it’s easily the sexiest song on the album — not just the lyrics (Come on baby, in our dreams/we can live our misbehavior) but the whole pulsing vibe. Without even trying, the song simultaneously evokes both childhood and adulthood (come and find your lovers underneath the covers/hiding from your brothers underneath the covers) through ageless themes of trust and betrayal. Favorite part: the last verse’s but we know it’s just a lie, a coming-of-age declaration which rolls off Win’s tongue with no uncertain triumph.
In fact, “no uncertain triumph” is the perfect three-word summary for Funeral. “We should all count ourselves very very lucky to be alive at this very specific point in time to be able to hear it,” said one fan in a YouTube thread. Lucky, indeed.
(Originally posted on December 21, 2009)
“Where’d Jesus go?” My six-year-old son, Sam, pointed at the bare wall behind the couch, where a framed print of Del Parson’s Christ in Red Robe used to hang.
“I put the picture away to keep it safe,” I explained. “When I was painting the walls I had to take all the pictures down, remember?”
“But that was a long time ago,” Sam reminded me. “You’re done painting. You should put it back up.”
I nodded and smiled uneasily, glad Sam missed the familiar face on the wall, yet all too aware that I did not. The gold-framed print waited at the back of my closet, where I’d stowed it a few months before. At the time I called it a practical decision—there are few places in my house where anything breakable is safe—but I couldn’t deny that picking such a dark, cramped storage location carried metaphorical weight. Read more »
I’ve been meaning to follow up on Reed’s post for a while now, but I keep avoiding it out of sheer laziness. There’s just too much to say about the top ten albums from my high school years. So I figure I’ll tackle it one album at a time, limiting myself to a brief intro and five especially meaningful and/or memorable snippets of each. Five juicy bites. First album up:
I bought this album in 10th grade, 1986. It was an import, so it came in a thick clear poly sleeve rather than the typical crinkly shrink-wrap. The sleeve had one perforated edge, allowing you to remove the record while preserving the protective layer. It was, I think, the first imported album I owned, and the slightly elevated edge of the slipcover made it stand out in the growing stack of records leaning against my crappy turntable/receiver/tape deck combo cube. I could easily find it in the dark. And fittingly enough, the music is particularly well suited for darkness, both literal and figurative. Read more »
December 1st, 2010
Is it possible to be a feminist and a faithful Mormon? Absolutely. There is considerable overlap between the two belief systems, which might surprise the many Mormons who are suspicious of the feminist movement. Yet irreconcilable differences lie at the heart of Mormon feminism, which applies feminist philosophy and practice not to secular government and social issues, but to Mormonism itself.
Explore the complexities from a variety of Mormon and feminist perspectives, including my own, in this unprecedented symposium at Patheos.com.
November 30th, 2010
His hands are mirrors which recreate my body, showing me myself. Yes, I’ve seen versions of that body in flat, hard, silver-dead mirrors countless times—clothed and naked, young and not, filled and emptied—but fleshy reality cannot exist in two cold dimensions. And yes, I’ve touched that reality countless times as well, with grips and scratches and strokes from my own hands, but self-touch only muddies the mind, bringing a duality of perception that obscures itself. As I sense my body from without, I must also sense it from within, and there cannot be purity in truth that’s both subject and object. But his hands bring clarity of vision, revealing what my own cannot, graphing my landscape with each tracing motion. The slight curve of the jaw. The steep rise of a shoulder. The smooth dip of the sacrum, which John Updike calls the arabesque of the spine. “It is here,” he says, “that Grace sits and rides a woman’s body.” I feel that grace in the notches of my lowest vertebrae, latent, waiting for that release which only comes through the touch of another. And when it comes, every time is the first time.
October 31st, 2010
Because I am a bad mother, I brought my ipod along for our trick-or-treating journey. There’s something ineffable about loud music through earbuds on a foggy night: the closed circuit of sound in such a sensory-rich setting creates a vivid world-within-a-world. And while the impact of just about every song is heightened in such a context, some tracks are completely transformed, and transforming. Here are the night’s top three: Read more »
October 28th, 2010
I’ll be participating in two panel discussions at the Mormon Media Studies Symposium on Thursday, November 11 at 10 am and 1 pm. Abstracts for my gigs are below. Check out other awesome possibilities in the symposium schedule. See you there!
Panel: “Mormon Media Studies: Across Web Time, Cyberspace, and Blogging Disciplines”
Panel Moderator: Emily W.Jensen: MormonTimes.com Bloggernacle columnist
Abstract: Mormon bloggers will discuss why blogging is a valuable media outlet and illustrate how it promotes conversation. Discussion topics include sharing Church resources, breaking global boundaries, balancing life as blogger/mother, tracking a 25-year-online journey, and encouraging literary talent.
Panel: “I Am A Mormon Woman: Female Latter-day Saint Identity On The Internet”
Panel Moderator: Catherine Matthews Pavia: Ph.D., Faculty Associate, English Department, Arizona State University
Abstract: The founders of three LDS women’s online destinations will discuss how personal stories and discussion enhance the sense of community among women in the world-wide church, balanced with a celebration of the diversity of personal choices, background, ethnicity, and age. This panel will also discuss how women’s voices online contribute to the management of the church’s image on social networking and new media sites.
Okay, so, my high school friend Pat K. tagged me in a Facebook meme about record albums that defined you as a teenager. Reed and I started talking about our top 10 albums from high school — not the ones we think are cool now, but the ones that meant the most to us then. He finished his list first, so here it is. And it starts with zero instead of 1 because he actually picked 11 albums, not 10, (plus an honorable mention), and I numbered them from the bottom up, and by the time I got to the top and realized there were 11 I didn’t want to go back and change the numbers. I added some of my own commentary in italics, which contains multiple references to inside jokes that we’ll share with you if you ask nicely.
Without further ado: