Day 10: Futures – Jimmy Eat World

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Jimmy Eat World

One of the most divisive things to talk about is politics. I’m not going to add “especially now,” because I don’t think we’re more divisive than we’ve ever been (in the U.S.) I mean, the Civil War was a thing, and we were probably the most divided then. Regardless of what year or time of history, politics are a divisive topic.

There have been times in history when the U.S. was more divided than normal, and you might say that 2018 is one of those times. In my humble opinion, the reason it seems so divided now is because social media has aggregated it in ways it did not in years past, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. (I mean, imagine if we had social media during Watergate. Just imagine. It’s easy to make people into straw men on the Internet and rip them apart.)

Okay, moving along. Every 2-4 years or so, we get the chance to re-elect the people who represent us out there in Washington and in our own communities. That can give us a little bit of hope. Usually it’s the presidential elections that get the most hype. The parties align behind their candidate, and then the big day comes and we’re glued to the news station until the election results are in. There’s always one party that’s not happy. Sometimes very not happy.

So let’s take a look at that, shall we?

Day Ten: Futures – Jimmy Eat World

In an ideal world, we’d elect a candidate that everyone would be happy with. But unfortunately (and against the wishes of George Washington,) we’ve divided into parties. Two, specifically. Which means someone is going to get their panties in a bunch when the election is said and done.

Jimmy Eat World vocalist and lead guitarist Jim Adkins gives us an optimistic look at elections.

I’ve always believed in futures
Hoped for better Novembers

My stupid self had no idea this song was about elections and politics until I researched it. (One of the many reasons I’m glad I’m doing this series.) I just thought “oh, this guy is just really optimistic. Say hello to good times, right?”

But of course Jim’s got another thing up his sleeve. Jimmy Eat World’s music is rarely straightforward. This song comes from their 2004 album of the same name (which was an election year, I might add.) It includes songs about drug addiction, hopelessness, and heartbreak. And it’s kind of dark.

However, like I said before, “Futures” is optimistic. But it’s also challenging.

Say hello to good times, trade up for the fast ride
We close our eyes while the nickel and dime take the streets
Completely 

Adkins is essentially accusing us of ignoring the issues on the table or just ignoring the election altogether, dismissing it as “politics as usual.” But, he argues, the politics as usual (“nickel and dime”) will continue if we continue to close our eyes to it. Money is often what wins elections.

What’s interesting is the second verse.

I’ve always could count on futures, 
that things would look up, and they look up
Why is it so hard to find the balance
between living decent and the cold and real? 

Our optimistic protagonist finds that when he thinks positive, he sees positive. But at the same time he struggles to balance between believing the best in people but also knowing that politicians can be crappy people. It may be hard to find a candidate who’s a perfect balance (it often is.) It almost describes the dichotomy when the country seems divided. When do we shut up at the Thanksgiving table – but when do we say something?

The song’s bridge climaxes with a challenge. What are we going to do to create a better future?

Hey now, the past is taught by those who win
My darling, what matters is what hasn’t been
Hey now, we’re wide awake and we’re thinking
My darling, believe your voice can mean something

I’m not trying to be too preachy with my politics here. There’s a lot going on in the world that I simply don’t understand politically. It’s hard not to get information that’s not biased, so in my opinion, there’s always conflicts of interest involved. It might be cynical, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I voted third party in 2016 because I’m sick of politics as usual and wanted to see if we could change things. (Update: we didn’t. Really.)

But Adkins’ challenge – believe your voice can mean something – is powerful. Believe, no matter what other people say, that your vote is going to count. A few people poo-pooed me for voting third party – saying it was people like me who put that guy in office – but you know what? I don’t care. I didn’t vote based on my party, I voted based on my beliefs and what I believed would be best for all of us. I don’t even care what party you’re a part of. You have a voice and it matters, and if you’re voting based on what you think is best for all of us, then I’m all for it.

I wasn’t planning on writing about politics when I picked this song at the start. My rationale during this journey has been to research each song as I go, so this was a bit of a surprise. But not an unwelcome one. It gives me a chance to speak into the division. And here’s what I’ll say. If someone disagrees with you, let it go. You don’t control them, they don’t control you. If you see a “stupid” comment on Facebook, ignore it. That’s not the place for tactful debate. It’s no use insulting someone because of something they typed into a bubble and hit “enter’ on. It’s no use feeling personally attacked. That’s not how we’re going to find common ground, and that’s not how we’re going to fix what’s wrong.

I’d also encourage you to show up at your local elections. Do your research, find the candidates you can get behind, and vote for them. Real change happens at the grassroots. Truth is, they’ll be making a lot more changes than a guy in a White House. They affect your day-to-day life more than he ever will. You’ll just see his face and hear his voice on the news. But your local officials live in your town, shop at your stores, and support your community. So support them too before you shout doom and gloom because of one person in the White House. He might be an important guy, but we’ve got others out there too who need us. 

That may have been preachier than I meant it to be, but I want to make it clear that if you want something to change, you can do that without being angry and bitter. You can do that without lashing out at people who believe differently than you do.

You can do that by believing in futures.

a. w.

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Day 9: Kings and Queens and Vagabonds – Ellem

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It’s important to have music that reminds you of your passions. For me, I have plenty of songs that remind me how much I love stories. I love songs that tell stories (who doesn’t?) That’s why we love classics like “Piano Man” and “American Pie.” We get mental pictures as we listen because the singer guides us through the story. Just listen to “Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold (or the newer version by The Almost.) You follow a boy through his life and experiences. If you listen to The Dear Hunter (which I’ll make you listen to later,) the band has a set of 5 albums that tell a long narrative (and it’s BRILLIANT. But we’ll get to that later.)

I don’t know when it started, but somewhere in my childhood, I became obsessed with medieval stuff. Not even the high-fantasy swords-and-sorcery stuff, but the legitimate period of England between 800 and 1500 AD. Your girl was having swordfights out in her front yard at the tender age of ten. She built a castle out of cardboard.

And the crowning moment was when she was eleven and got a bow and a set of arrows. You better believe she stalked around the woods in her backyard in the winter, pretending to be some medieval girl somewhere running around shooting stuff. I was all in to the medieval aesthetic. You better believe I was the weird kid in middle school. (I still am. Just not in middle school.)

For ten years, I’ve been writing a story set in the middle ages. Because obviously. So you can imagine that I’m dedicated to that medieval aesthetic. Like I said, I don’t know why I was drawn to that period of history. Some historians turn their nose up at that era – so uncivilized. But if we didn’t have that part of history, we wouldn’t have this part of history. And if we’re honest, people will look back on us 500 years from now and probably think we’re pretty uncivilized too.

Medieval rant over. Writers tend to live in their own heads. They like songs, stories, and parts of history to take them away from reality for awhile. What reading is to a reader is what writing is to a writer.

Which is why I watch Reign.

Reign is a ridiculously historically-inaccurate retelling of the story of Mary Queen of Scots catered to appeal to young audiences. The costumes are shockingly modern. Characters are extremely self-aware of their place in history. Everyone is having sex with everyone (ok, that part is historically accurate.) Audrey watches it for the aesthetic and the mindless fluff (that’s the most millennial thing I’ve ever said.)

Reign also features a number of unique music choices. In true millennial-medieval fashion, they’ll feature dances that are set to Vitamin String Quartet versions of pop songs. The Lumineers, Jon Foreman, and others have all had songs featured on the show.

And so has Ellem, whose music takes me to another world.

Day Nine: Kings and Queens and Vagabonds – Ellem

I’ve picked up on a few of the songs from Reign, but Ellem’s stirring, folk-like music struck me the hardest. Every time I listen to it, I have a perfect picture painted in my head. It could have easily been written five hundred years ago.

We lay down in the riverbed
Rest in the silhouettes
our fathers and mothers laid before
Restless souls in the desert sand
Dream of another land
that heroes and villians claimed before
We are Kings and Queens and Vagabonds
We are Kings and Queens and Vagabonds

A lot of this song sounds like legacy – continuing something that your forefathers did, reclaiming something that’s yours. We almost get the illusion of a phoenix rising from the ashes.

We came up with the firelight
Raised in the black of night
Falling like angels to the floor 

A common trope in medieval literature is a no-name nobody who rises above his station (I guess that’s not just a medieval literature thing.) After an instrumental break, Ellem cries “Hold me down,” almost as if it’s a challenge to her enemies.

Her consistent refrain – “We are kings and queens and vagabonds” – is interesting. Is she talking about people from the past, or her present? We could still live in an age of kings and queens and vagabonds if you think about it. We’re not too far removed from that heirarchy.

While Ellem’s song seems at first glance like a stirring ballad from the past, it could apply to us to. It may be a call to rise to the occasion, to take a stand on something, after sleeping in the riverbed for so long. Maybe it’s from a fluffy CW network TV show, but it’s got some interesting things to say.

So take back your crown, and rise up.

Day Eight: Sixty Years On – Elton John

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Even the rich and famous have to someday face death and decay. As morbid as that sounds, it’s true. Nothing stops them from aging and slowing down (other than Botox and maybe drugs, but that doesn’t guarantee immortality.) Even the young, vibrant artists we see today will someday become old – and maybe even (gasp) retire.

So while they can, they sing about being young and spontaneous. They sing about living their best life. Their songs can sometimes sound empty and meaningless to people who are older – that kind of lifestyle just doesn’t make sense anymore.

If you’re Elton John, you write a song about being in your sixties while you’re still in your twenties. At well over 60, Elton John is still doing very well for himself. (He’s coming to my town in the fall, and I’m slightly disappointed that I can’t see him live.) But when he was young, he was probably afraid to age like the rest of us. He probably wasn’t sure if he’d still be kicking at 60. Maybe a disease or war or even his own youth would kill him before then. So he expressed his worry and angst over the subject at a very young age.

Let’s take a look at Elton John’s picture of living sixty years on:

Day Eight: Sixty Years On – Elton John

The song, which released on his self-titled 1970 album, is very orchestral in its execution. It begins with the drone of a string section which crescendos into a rich bed of strings with a harp playing overtop. The harp surrenders to a plucked guitar as Elton’s youthful, elfin voice begins to sing.

Walk me down to church when I’m sixty years of age
When the ragged dog they gave me has been ten years in the grave
Senorita play guitar, plays it just for you
My rosary has broken and my beads have all slipped through

When Elton was young, sixty probably seemed like an old age, especially for a celebrity. Celebrities like to kick the bucket early due to their wild living (or, unfortunately, succumb to suicide.) He imagines himself as an old man being walked to church (maybe even being taken to church in his coffin.) The “Senorita” is an endearing term for Mary Magdalene, who may be waiting for him to arrive in Heaven – we’re looking at a man of faith who has turned often to his rosary beads. But maybe his faith has fallen through.

This song has taken on a special meaning to me in recent weeks. I was introduced to this song via a local radio station sometime last summer. On Sundays, our local classic rock station has a segment called Breakfast in the Basement. It used to be hosted by a local favorite who was called “Uncle Buck” by basically everyone. A few weeks ago, Uncle Buck passed away at the age of 69. Sixty years on, and we lost someone dear to our community.

“Sixty Years On” (which was actually not written by John himself, but a contemporary who was also in his twenties) was written during the Vietnam War, and the song smacks of anti-war vibes.

You’ve hung up your great-coat and you lay down your gun
You know the war you fought and it wasn’t too much fun

As the song progresses, it takes on the sound of a funeral dirge. The orchestral backing is slow and solemn, and the third verse is joined by the arpeggios of an organ. We think more and more of a funeral. Ironically, the third verse involves the older John looking back fondly, perhaps with fellow compatriots – or his children and grandchildren.

Yes, I’ll sit with you and talk, through your eyes relive again
I know in my vintage prayers they’ll be very much the same
And Magdalena plays the organ, plays it just for you
Your choral lamp that burns so low when you are passing through

The older version of himself seems to be ready to go, once he’s talked to his loved ones. (Ironically, Elton John became a father less than ten years ago.) He’s resigned to his fate, and really doesn’t see much of a future beyond his sixty years.

And the future you’re giving me holds nothing for a gun
I’ve no wish to be living sixty years on

That’s kind of harsh. Elton simply doesn’t want to be alive past sixty. He’s under the mentality that his best years are now (well, not now now, but the 70s.) And he’s somewhat right. He’s imagining a future of wasting away in a retirement home, doing nothing with the last twenty or so years of his life. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. I mean, Elton himself is a prime example of this. He’s making music and performing well into his twilight years. He’ll be remembered as an icon in his youth and into his age.

We tend to know Elton John for his poppy hits like “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting,” and his soulful ballads like “Candle in the Wind” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But I think “Sixty Years On” deserves a place at the table, for listeners young and old. Not only is it a beautifully written, sung, and orchestrated song, it’s a reminder that none of us have that much time.

And even when we’re young, we need to be reminded that we won’t be young forever.

So what will we do when we’re sixty years on?

Day Seven: Only Love – Mumford & Sons

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You might not think of the realm of pop music as a place where theology is discussed or unearthed. “Aren’t they all just about sex?” Well, yes. On Kiss FM they are. You won’t find much of anything there. But look at the broader sphere of pop music, not just the Billboard Hot 100. Many artists are still trying to fill the God-shaped hole in their heart.

It might seem contradictory, but some of the best theology comes from secular music, in my opinion. Oftentimes, Christian songs are basically love songs anyway. Let’s be real. The whole sloppy wet kiss thing.

A song is a song if it helps you uncover what it means to be human, wherever you find yourself in life. Songs “hit” you a certain way because where you’re at in life.

So sometimes “rah rah Jesus” worship music in church isn’t what you need. Sometimes you need something more…introspective.

How you listen to a song determines the meaning to you – that’s fairly obvious. (That’s what we’ve been talking about this whole time.) If you’re not paying attention while listening to a Christian radio station, you’ll wonder why they’re playing so many romantic songs. They just sound worse.

Which is why we have Mumford & Sons.

Mumford has been giving us solid theology ever since Sigh No More (“Awake my Soul,” anyone? They literally played that at my church one time.) Their first album rocket-launched this Irish folk band into banjo-strumming stardom. Who doesn’t love a good barn-raising set to the tune of “I Will Wait?” Their music has been pure genius from the start – not only their unique musicality (which we will get to later,) but also their solid lyrics that do more than just repeat or vamp.

With their latest release in 2015 of Wilder Mind, Mumford found itself in the middle of a divided fanbase. For their new album, they decided on a new sound. They ditched the banjo for a drum machine and synth backings. The lyrics and Mumford-iness remained, but some faithful listeners were a bit…confused. Others embraced the new sound – while it’s poppier than their last two albums, it’s still Mumford. You can’t expect a band to stay the same in the midst of changing times and tastes.

Our song today comes from that controversial album, because hey, why not spice things up a bit?

Day Seven: Only Love – Mumford & Sons 

“Audrey, you sure have been covering a lot of love songs.” Well, yes. I have. But they haven’t been specifically love songs, have they? Like I’ve said, there are straightforward “Ooga-chaka ooga-ooga” love songs, and there are more nuanced ones. Songs where we have to dig to find all the layers. This dig will be a bit shorter, since this song relies more heavily on instrumentation than lyrics. It’s one of the shorter ditties of the album.

We hear the familiar voice of Marcus Mumford singing about loneliness. We find him in this place a lot.

Loneliness again
I was stuck to the spot without a friend
Alone again

These opening lines seem to point to more than a heartbreak over a girl. This guy feels totally marooned. He hungers and thirsts for human connection. Or perhaps it’s a divine connection?

I didn’t fool you but I failed you
In short, made a fool out of you
And a younger heart

And again, it smacks of a heartbreak. But it smacks of something deeper as well. Some interpret this song as a conversation between Marcus and God. Marcus wasn’t able to fool God (no one can,) but he feels that he’s let Him down.

And you saw me low
Alone again
Didn’t they say
that only love would win in the end?

The person or thing that “sees” Mumford might be God. The refrain is almost a direct reference to the love chapter of the Bible. The book of Corinthians says “Love never fails.” But in this circumstance, Marcus isn’t feeling that. He’s being real and raw about his situation.

Mumford & Sons is good at not mincing their words – I remember being afraid to listen to “Little Lion Man” when I was younger because it drops a few f-bombs. Their songs have layers to them. Marcus has gone on the record and stated that he is a Christian, but just because you’re a Christian doesn’t make you exempt from the struggle – or the doubt.

How many times have you found yourself wondering if love really will win in the end? Not just in the context of relationships, either. This world can be a pretty crappy place all around. There are good days and bad days. There are trials and triumphs. And when you’re at your lowest low, it’s hard to worship God through “rah rah Jesus” music. Sometimes that’s the best time to worship by contemplating, praying, and advocating at the throne of God.

That’s why I think this song is pretty strong from a religious standpoint, even if Marcus didn’t intend for it to be. To me it’s an expression of struggling faith. To someone else, it might be a heartbroken plea to a lover.

It’s all in how you listen to it.

 

Day Six: Safe – The Airborne Toxic Event

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It’s a question songwriters have been asking for centuries: “What is Love?” Shakespeare toyed with the idea in his sonnets. Benatar taught us that love is a battlefield. Others have promised that they’ll never leave their partner. Is love all that? Is love a song, a warzone, or a lifelong vow? Or is it all three?

The question may never be answered, but it sure makes for some great music. Every band, musician, singer, songwriter has their own spin on love. Sometimes its poppy and cute, sometimes we’re down in the dumps with Adele. But we can’t deny that love songs hit a vein with most of us. At least, our favorite ones do. That’s why they’re our favorites. And that’s why a majority of songs are love songs, whether they focus on romance, infatuation, sex, or lifelong commitment. Cue a slew of other 80s music videos.

At almost a week into this adventure, the five songs we’ve covered so far could all be considered love songs, to a degree (or breakup songs, which are kind of the same, just on the opposite side of the spectrum.) Two of them explicitly are love songs, but for the other three you’d have to dig a bit to find the lovey-dovey (or achey-breaky?)

Our next song is slightly more straightforward. Essentially it’s a question: “What is love?”

Day Six: Safe – The Airborne Toxic Event

The song begins beautiful and sweet, with a violin and piano sharing the stage for awhile, until a persistent bass vamp sneaks in. And the lead singer Mikel Jollett paints us a scene:

It was early for a summer
All the people and the noise from the bar
You in your grey dress with your arm on the window
Saying, “What’s the difference? What’s the difference?”

We find a couple in some sort of conflict. Jollett is pleading for his lover to say it to him. As both the music and lyrics progress and quicken, Jollett’s plead gets more maddening. He manically repeats “Everything, everything, it’s everything” over the building instrumentation. We don’t find such a pretty picture anymore. What does he want her to say?

The 5-piece band’s violinist, Anna Bolbrook, comes in with a retort:

Do you really want to hear that?
Why is everyone staring?
Where you happy? Were you honest?
Did you ever believe that any of this was real? 

We’re getting a better picture of what this conversation is about. He wants her to talk about love. It’s almost like we’re listening in on a slightly heated “define-the-relationship” conversation. She seems to think this is casual, but he’s looking deeper.

We can’t just slow down now
This road’s not safe for driving
All this time I’ve wanted 
Just one thing from you

The only time the word “safe” is used in the song is in the metaphor of driving down the road too fast. He’s thinking it’s not safe that they’re going so fast without committing. She thinks the opposite. They both have different definitions of a safe love. They both want something different.

It’s difficult to be in a relationship where you want something different from your partner. Most of those relationships end up falling through. However, most people stay for as long as they can for a number of reasons – fear of being alone, the investment they’ve put into the person, etc. Casual, undefined relationships often lead to heartbreak, as we see in this song. When someone doesn’t think the relationship is committed, they come and go without another thought. But they end up abandoning the other person.

We hear Jollett’s desperation through the dizzying guitar riffs as he continues to scream “Everything” but Bolbrook remains silent. And finally, he sings us out solo:

So you got out of the car
Left your bag in the backseat
And walked inside
And that was love

“And that was love.” I chose this song mostly because of that last, punch-in-the-gut line. That’s how he sums up the relationship, the heartbreak, the “everything.” Earlier in the song he says “that was love when we were sober.” They were in punch-drunk love, but now they’re dry and need to come to terms with what they’ve started.

I knew this song was going to be harder to write about, but I picked it anyway. Most of these songs have been with me for awhile, but this one is still a bit new to me. It’s not one I absolutely do not skip over on shuffle. It sneaks through the cracks often. But I wanted to write about this one because I knew it would be a challenge to dive into the meaning – and what it means to me. This song was my first exposure to The Airborne Toxic Event. I learned later that Such Hot Blood is probably the most atmospheric and ambient of their albums, almost a restating of their sound. Jollett founded the band within a week of a breakup and a devastating diagnosis. Jollett expressed in an interview what the album meant to him. It was all about “scoring his thoughts and presenting the struggle.” The feeling of confused love is fairly universal – do I feel the same way? Do they? Are we supposed to be together? Jollett gives us both sides of the conflict because there are two sides. Sometimes we’re not the heartbroken. Sometimes we’re the heartbreaker.

“And that was love.” Watching someone walk away was love for Jollett. At least, it was that love. Every relationship is different, and hopefully better than the last (depending on how many you’ve had.) Your “And that was love” might be said with a sigh instead of a sneer. That statement could be said differently for every partner you’ve ever had. Romantic love is fluid and based on our perception.

Sometimes singing about love can seem contrived or cliche, but it’s valuable. Almost everyone who goes through life falls in love at least once. And for those of us who need a few tries before we get it right, we have our songs. We have our Benatars and violins and Jolletts.

And that is love.

Day Five: Song of the Human Heart – Ramin Karimloo

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It’s hard to forget your first concert. Maybe the ones you were forced to go to (your parents dragging you to see Bruce Springsteen because the babysitter wasn’t available; chaperoning your younger sibling to some teeny-bopper show,) but not the ones you count down the days for, listening to the album over and over again and hoping and praying they’ll play your song. As the day gets closer, you realize you’ll see the person who’s singing those lyrics that are so meaningful to you in the flesh. 

It helps if they’re attractive.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the hugest crush on Ramin Karimloo, a Broadway and West End actor and performer, when I was sixteen. I was and will always be a musical theatre girl, so you can keep your Biebers and Directioners. I was in love with a real man, who was also British (technically Canadian, but he spent most of his time in Britain, so same thing.) He also has pipes like none other. My first exposure to this wonderful man (did that sound bad the way I put it?) was his performance of Enjolras in the 25th Anniversary recording of Les Miserables (live at the frickin O2 arena.) My second encounter was through the much debated sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. Karimloo sang the part of the Phantom in the original cast of Love Never DiesHis vocals had me on the ground, Tina-from-Bob’s-Burgers-style.

When I was in 10th grade, Karimloo released his first solo album. Some of the tracks were singer-songwriter-y versions of Broadway tunes (i.e., Music of the Night, because he slays that song in the best way) but most are original works by Karimloo himself. As soon as I got my teenage paws on it, it was all I listened to. And it was the absolute best thing I’d ever listened to.

When I listen to it now, I find it charming but slightly gimmicky. Karimloo was definitely still finding his voice, literally and figuratively, as a solo artist. But 16-year-old Audrey was all about that album.

As fate would have it, I was able to see him in Chicago in the fall following his album release. My brother had just started school there, so my family made a trip to “see him,” but for me it was actually to see Ramin. Your girl was so stoked. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that night because I was in complete euphoria, and I took some awful pictures on my flip phone (so I don’t have any photo evidence, unfortunately) but at the end of the night, when Ramin was making his way backstage at the end of the set –

He looked right at me. 

I’ve been blessed ever since.

In all honesty, I have a lot to thank Ramin for. First off, my ridiculous expectations for a potential husband. But more importantly, my taste in music. Before Ramin’s album, teenage Audrey listened almost exclusively to Broadway recordings and film scores. Those aren’t the worst things to listen to, but at sixteen Audrey really should have been more cultured than that. Ramin’s first album got me into probably 80% of what I listen to today (don’t worry, I still have playlists devoted to showtunes and cinema scores.) I think of Karimloo’s album as a bridge between my old tastes and my newer, more refined ones.

Which brings me to my favorite song on the album (excuse me while I fangirl):

Day Five: Song of the Human Heart – Ramin Karimloo

The sixth track on Ramin’s album was the most infectious to me. I could call it somewhat serendipitous, but that’s probably just because I loved it from the first time I listened to it. I had no idea what the words meant, but the aural quality and ethereal aesthetic captured me instantly.

The party’s begun
But your heart is all numb tonight
The music it won’t sing to you
The thoughts won’t leave your mind
But there is a sound
A sound somewhere singing
There it’s in the willows
There it’s where the wind blows
On the river, in the open
It sings of all we are
In the song of the human heart

Something in the song evokes a lullaby – the chill drum backbeat, the lingering keys and strings. The more I’ve listened to this song over the years (I’ve realized it’s been six years since I turned sixteen. Yikes) the more I realize it could be about depression – and maybe that’s why I loved it so much as a teen. Not simply because I loved the musical quality, but I also resonated with the words. Summer of 2012 was also the summer I was diagnosed with a clinical form of depression.

The dark enfolds and
Ferries you over
Buries your sorrows
Within its song
The throng emotion
With no rest to follow
All they know is
Something’s gone

The chorus seems to evoke the chaos in someone’s mind (and around them) during a depressive episode. Even though there might be a “party” going on, they can’t focus on that. Their thoughts are far away. But the song of the human heart is much more complex than that. Maybe they’re not sad, maybe they’re just longing. Longing for something beyond a “throng emotion.” You can only be fake happy for so long before it exhausts you.

Toward the end of the song, Karimloo starts singing about harvest, in the most lullaby-esque portion of the song. It’s rhythmic and enchanting, like it’s meant to lull you to sleep:

Harvest done
Frost on the bloom tonight
Hardly a star
Just half a moon tonight

I’m not sure what this part of the song means. And maybe it doesn’t have to mean anything. It may just serve to ease a troubled mind.

Sixteen year old Audrey understood but didn’t quite appreciate the power of music, even when she was seeing her idol perform it onstage. But looking back, I can see how much that album (and more specifically, song) changed me – after all, it did essentially change my entire taste in music. After delving into indie folk, I found friends in Mumford and Sons, Glen Hansard, and the Head and the Heart (you’ll hear from them before this 30-day journey is over.) And somewhere in those vague lyrics and infectious tune, I think I found a little part of myself too.

Even if it was just because the singer was really hot.

Day 4: The Precipice – The Classic Crime

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One of my biggest fears is getting to the end of my life and realizing I didn’t do anything with it. I think that’s a big fear – and regret – for a lot of people. We feel like we need to do big things with our life in order for it to count – grandiose acts of kindness, multi-million dollar startups, the biggest house/boat/car you can imagine. But in my 22 years I’ve begun to learn that that’s not always the way. Some people are destined to stand out from the rest, but most of us go through our lives quietly influencing the world around us.

I’ve heard that the key to success is habit. If you want to lose weight, you don’t run marathons and eat only salad on day one. You’re setting yourself up for failure that way. You have to start small – taking the stairs instead of the elevator, replacing a sugary drink with water – and as the days and years go by, you’ll see that it gets easier to make these choices.

I’ve always wanted to do big things. In high school, I desperately wanted to go to Broadway and be an actress. I wanted it so bad. I looked at theatre schools on both coasts. But the more I thought about it, the more overwhelming it seemed – to move far away from home in search of fame? Why would I do that when I have everything I need right here?

That spawned my interest in community theatre. I realized I wanted to make an impact in my hometown, where my roots are. I have a passion for the arts, and I can exercise that passion where I’m at. I now work at a nonprofit arts organization and audition frequently for community shows. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It doesn’t lessen your impact if you do small things instead of big things. Which brings me to today’s song:

Day Four: The Precipice – The Classic Crime

Matt McDonald and his four-piece band The Classic Crime released the album Phoenix in 2012, after a two year hiatus. Their next album wouldn’t be released until 2017. Phoenix was funded totally through Kickstarter – the album is aptly named. The Classic Crime’s sound has often been equated to equal parts folk, alternative, and punk rock. McDonald wanted Phoenix to be a rebirth of their sound, image, and mission (the first time I heard this song, I didn’t even think it was TCC until I looked at the album information.) The Precipice is the sixth track in an album of self-reflective and occasionally self-destructive music. This album isn’t for easy listening. Once you hear the lyrics, you can’t ignore them.

I wish I could play the violin
I’d play til tears roll down your cheek and chin
And if you sang along
We could write the saddest song
Sometimes I indulge my every whim
And piece by piece I build the cell I’m in
But I only stay here long
Enough to write the saddest song

McDonald sounds as if he’s singing about a love he knows is doomed. Their story will always be sad – and maybe it’s because he can’t escape himself. McDonald himself said that the entire album is indicative of what he went through in the interim between the band’s 2008 and 2012 album. Doomed relationship aside, he sings about how he feels he hasn’t accomplished much so far in his life.

I dreamt I stood on a hill
That I wished was a mountain
To look back on all my accomplishments
Well they must have been small
Because I couldn’t seem to find them
So I took a leap off of the precipice

The chorus describes a feeling of worthlessness. What has my life been for thus far? Leaping off the precipice might make you think he’s ending his life. It’s been for naught, so why should he keep living? But the bridge makes it sound like he’s not entirely hopeless. Maybe he’s taking a leap of faith.

Whatever the cost
Whether it works out or not
Whatever the cost
Whether it works out or not
I’ll follow you, I’ll follow you, I’ll follow you
With my heart

He may be singing to his doomed love again. Since reading about the background of this album, I also think of this bridge as a vow McDonald is making to his fans (and Kickstarter supporters) – whether the band is successful or not, he’ll be forever indebted to them. He took a leap of faith by trusting his fans, and they delivered. Now he never wants to let them down.

Most of us probably don’t have an army of fans waiting at our beck and call to fund a Kickstarter campaign. But if you’re like any normal human being, you probably have people you trust, people who have seen you through your successes and failures. Those are the people you don’t want to let down. 

Whether you do big things or small things in life, be all in with them. Don’t be afraid to rely on the people who love you to get you there – “whatever the cost.” McDonald is looking back on his life and not seeing much there. But he realizes that when he jumps, the people who believe in him will be there to catch him. Look for those people in your life too.

I promise you they’re there.

So take a leap.