Saturday, September 22, 2012

David's Albums

Eric Clapton: Unplugged, 1992

I must have been about 13. My mother and I had just finished running some errands. She was just about to take the key out of the ignition when I frantically stopped her. I turned up the radio and told her I'd bring the keys in when the song was over.

There are a few songs that stand out in my mind as game changers. Something, by The Beatles, Kodachrome, by Paul Simon and Layla, by Eric Clapton all dramatically opened my mind to what music could be. 

After I graduated from my "John Denver Anthology for Easy Guitar," I went straight to the blues. I listened to this album on repeat for hours working out every note of every slide and solo. I admit I didn't really understand what he was singing about, but the blues spoke to me anyway. The piano solos from Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out and Alberta, along with the guitar work from Lonely Stranger and Tears in Heaven, were inspirational. My favorite song currently from this album is Lonely Stranger because it captures the satisfaction I get every time I feel like I don't fit in with the other law students. I love this album. 

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs, 2010

When I listen to this album I have flashbacks that involve spending my last summer before law school with the Howes. Excellent memories of music, food (thanks Ansley!) and a trip to the farm. I guess I did some work as well. It also reminds me of my first year of law school.

Before I started law school I made up my mind that I was going to defy whatever was expected of me and do it my own way. The entire goal of law school is to take perfectly good people, break them, and rebuild them into lawyers. This album was the soundtrack to my resistance. It's my tradition to blast Modern Man in the car on the way to finals. I try to take the pressure off by reminding myself that people who let law school determine their value are missing the point.

In line for a number but you don't understand
Like a modern man

For me, the track that hits hardest is Suburban War. When Win Butler cries, "All my old friends / they don't know me now / all my old friends / are staring through me now," I get choked up. These lyrics reflect how it felt to go through an experience that no one else understood and my intense desire to come out on the other side as someone my closest friends still recognized.

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues, 2011

This album is immense. Helplessness Blues is the post-Nirvana soundtrack of the Pacific Northwest. It speaks to me through beautiful harmonies, existential questions and gritty defiance. On the title track Robin Pecknold takes the words out of my mouth regarding my future when he says:

And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me...
I don't need to be kind... 
Or bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

The Shrine / An Argument, is an absolute masterpiece. Pecknold tells the story of a failed relationship in three parts. Anyone who has experienced the deterioration of a relationship knows exactly what he's talking about. 

He launches into the second movement of the song with a drum beat and strum pattern that evokes an image of someone, eyes closed, trying to get up the courage to end a relationship he knows has run its course. He describes the frustration as the relationship breaks down and the inevitable period immediately after it ends where each person works to rid themselves of the influence of the other and become their own person again. Then he resolves the chord progression, signifying the release and peace of being free. 

When you talk you hardly even look in my eyes...
In the doorway holding every letter that I wrote...
in the ocean washing off my name from your throat
in the morning, in the morning

Seriously, just listen to it... 

Beach House: Teen Dream, 2010

When I share this album (or the ones above) with others, I always say, "It's ok if you don't like it. I won't judge you." But I do. "Meh... it was ok," is not an acceptable answer. Save your uninformed apathy for a dry cupcake or a subpar taco! *... Gees David... that was harsh. Do you think maybe you went too far on that one?* Of course not.

Alban introduced me to Beach House my last year in The Estate and then I saw them the following summer in Montreal with Phil. (Alban and Evan were scoping out their spots for Arcade Fire). The experience was magical. If you close your eyes during 10 Mile Stereo or Take Care you can literally feel music fairies sprinkle pixie dust on your soul. Victoria Legrand's voice is translucent and powerful all at once. Beach House are on a short list of bands who are able to harness restraint and silence to make their music even more powerful. (See also, The XX).

I have tickets to see Beach House for the third time on October 4. I'm stoked.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: Cold Roses, 2005

There is a special place in my heart for the alt-country genre. I've often thought that if I wrote my own songs they would sound like this. If I am a Stranger perfectly describes what it felt like to reach a point in a serious relationship and realize that if you can't fully share yourself with them at that point, it's not going to happen.

If all this love is real, how will we know?
And if we're only scared of losing it, how will it last?...

To tell the truth it's hard enough to find a lover
Who you want to hide your darkness from
So they won't let you down

If I am a stranger now to you
I will always be, I will always be...

Let It Ride captures the desire that everyone feels sometimes to drop all your relationships and responsibilities and run. I know a rolling cadence and slide guitar don't work for everyone, but I love it.

Coldplay: Parachutes, 2000

This album is solid all the way through and feels like the last album Coldplay wrote that wasn't specifically meant to blast in a sold-out arena. That being said, many of the tracks are quite blast worthy. My itunes play count tells me that the songs on this album have been played an average of 112 times. The lowest, High Speed, at 74 and the highest, Don't Panic, at 138. This album doesn't ever unsettle your nerves or make you question life. Instead it projects an atmosphere of calm and hope.

My favorite memory associated with this album involves jamming Everything's Not Lost / Life is For Living, with Alban at The Estate. When I recall the memory I imagine the scene from the perspective of someone on the sidewalk looking through the living room window at night, drawn in by the sound of music. Five guys in the living room, I'm on drum or guitar, Alban is playing the old piano. Tommy has his black Nike hat on and is reading a book about pastoring while Cody tempts him to drop it and play MKart. Phil is talking to Jax about bread.

I'm sure I have combined a few different memories into one, but I'm ok with it. The next time we get together we need to jam this.

Honorable Mention

Ben Folds Five: Ben Folds Five, 1995: I'm a major sucker for bluesy piano, tight harmonies and crunchy bass lines.

Dirty Projectors: Swing Low Magellan, 2012: This was incredible live. About to Die is one of my favorites. It's hard to go wrong with lyrics like, "If you squint trying to recollect the bosom of your hoodlum love."

Bon Iver: Bon Iver, 2011: Gorgeous. All of it.

Santigold: Master of My Make-Believe, 2012: This album has some serious beats that even a white boy can get down to. Sort of...


  1. If you haven't listened to the RadioLab - Crossroads, I think you would enjoy it. Here it is:

  2. Beach House makes me think of pixie dust, too. Love it.

  3. I've always been impressed with how much attention you pay to the lyrics. Nice.

    The scene at The Estate is perfect. We need to recreate that now. Thanksgiving anyone?

    Also, we recognize you; no trouble there.

  4. I am loving this series. By the way.

    1. Yes!!! Thanks, Jenny! You are/were one of the favorite ladies of The Estate. As evidenced by the fact that Alban and Tommy both tried to take you on a date at the same time... :)

  5. I think I am going to need more Beach House in my life, stat. And I have been waiting for Bon Iver to make an appearance in this series: perfect and beautiful music. I second Alban's admiration of your appreciation for lyrics; thanks for breaking them down. Great choices, David! And, happy belated birthday! :)

  6. David, when I think of you and music, the first image that comes to mind is UCA senior year. I think of Clapton and yourwindow that looked out toward the girls dorm.