i kind of want to start blogging again

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, but the note on my phone says “I want to start blogging again – about [name of ex], about music friends, and shyness.”

I’ve got “This Town” by Niall Horan in the background and I’m ready to start.

I started crying in public a few days ago. Not the first time but hopefully the last. It was the culmination of a terrible week. I blamed it on a classmate of mine, how they had been mean to me for so long and how I couldn’t take it anymore.

I have defined myself by anxiety and stress and depression for too long. I wore that like a badge of honor. I lashed out at people and then called it anxiety. I talked too loudly and too long about my anxiety and food allergies and illness.

It was a feeble attempt to make connections, while also pushing people away. I believed that if they couldn’t take it, then it was something wrong with them.

What does this have to do with music, you ask? Well, I had a friend breakup a couple of weeks ago. I called him my music friend. I clung to that because I had been waiting for so long to find someone who gets music the exact same way that I do.

So I closed myself off and turned it into an obsession. And then when I told him that he broke my heart, he ran away. And I blamed it on him, and I blamed it on myself.

I saw The Jesus and Mary Chain live for the second time last week. It hit me again that Jim Reid uses his shyness as power. His stage presence is lanky and awkward, but he makes it work so completely that it’s not awkward anymore. You lose yourself in the music, just like he does.

I told the story about being an introvert long past the point it stopped being true. I’ve slowly learned to define myself in other ways besides just being shy, to use it in the same way Jim Reid uses it: that that’s just who he is, fuck all. Not even aggressively, either, despite the music and the message of his band. I guess his whole aesthetic is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It reminds me that there’s nothing to prove. You don’t have to be aggressive about your demons, just leave them be.

So why can’t I let go?

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My Own Musical Backgrounds

I recently posted about musical backgrounds and why we make the music we do – or listen to the music we choose to listen to.

I’ve talked about who my favorite bands are before. But why are they my favorites? When I examine bands like Translator (a new discovery – post forthcoming), the Replacements, the Chain, even the Who, a few themes emerge:

*80s sound. I seem to like synthesizers and the atmospheric noise of this decade. (This is also why I like bands like The Limousines, who’ve adopted this sound with a modern twist.)

*Introspective lyrics. I’m an introvert so I like bands that think this way, too. Of course, the Chain are the kings of this (and started the shoegaze genre itself, which is all about introspection), but Translator gets in on the action as well: “My heart has a mind of its own.” That lyric gets me every time.

*With introspective lyrics also comes a darker sound. Again, the Chain, but I also listen to Placebo from time to time, and I do like grunge as well. I think the whole “darker sound” of my favorite bands feeds into my, ahem, tendency for self-indulgent angst. Whoops!

What themes do you notice from bands you like to listen to?

Musical Backgrounds

Music will always be a product of where you come from. For example, JAMC yells about “dying by the river of disease,” and Bruce Springsteen sings about “trouble in the heartland.”

So just as the Chain’s music will always be influenced by living in a crappy suburb in Scotland, and Bruce Springsteen’s music will always be influenced by….living in a crappy suburb in New Jersey, our individual backgrounds inform what we listen to. For instance, a lot of straight white nerdy guys listen to Elvis Costello, because that’s who Elvis Costello is. That’s also who tends to listen to the Smiths – those guys, and the women who love them.

And then there are musicians who transcend demographics: your Michael Jacksons, your Aretha Franklins, your Adeles. (Interestingly, Michael Jackson was singing white pop, and Adele is singing “blue-eyed soul.” When does cross-demographic appeal become appropriation, and when is it just good music?)

I don’t have a good answer for that. What I’m thinking about right now is why we listen to the music we choose to listen to. Surely it’s a combination of emotion and marketing, but I think that there may be something deeper at work. Identification, perhaps. We choose music because it resonates with us. Either it describes what we’re feeling, better than we ever could, or we use music to set the tone for our world.

So that’s why I put on “Pure Morning” when I’m feeling angsty, or “Roar” when I’m feeling stereotypically girly and on top of things. Listening to those songs, I think, yeah, that’s exactly right.

On College & Classic Rock

I’ve gone through many musical phases: years of my life where I’ve been singularly obsessed with one artist or artists, a single genre.

In college – specifically sophomore year – that phase was classic rock. Fall semester I was really into The Who. If you asked me how I was feeling, I was often tempted to answer, “a little like a dyin’ clown with a streak of Rin Tin Tin.”

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On David Bowie

While I am the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest David Bowie fan (I like his music, I’m just not obsessive about it the way I am about other artists), I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this cultural moment. What follows is a small roundup of links about the man, his music, and his impact. Overall this is just bizarre to me: Bowie always fashioned himself as a transcendent alien, so I never thought of him as someone who would be able to die.

David Bowie Dies at 69; Star Transcended Music, Art, and Fashion

David Bowie’s Fashion Legacy

David Bowie Allowed His Art to Deliver a Final Message

And because this is a female-focused blog, I would also like to include the following link as well. I don’t want to start a firestorm on the internet, but I feel that this aspect of David Bowie’s life is important to point out.

“So that’s what I’m going to try to do: try to get comfortable with the discomfort of the grey area. To understand that a glorious oddball can also be someone protected from consequence by his position in the world. To see genius and abuse not as reflections of monsters or angels, but simply things that people do. Real, complicated, screwed up things and people. To try to understand more about the why of it all, since all of it is part of our common humanity whether we like it or not. To acknowledge that I love and am inspired by so much music this man created, and that I’m going to be as saddened by his loss and transported by his music as I’m furious at what he did. And in that discomfort, working towards a culture where rich, white, extraordinarily talented men don’t get a licence to abuse with impunity.” (sic) (From “David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that?”)

Favorite Bands: The Replacements

An occasional series where I talk about my favorite bands & why I love them!

I discovered The Replacements in Fall 2013. I can’t remember how I discovered them, so there’s no good story there, unlike for two of my other favorite bands (JAMC and Brakesbrakesbrakes – I’ve shared those stories of discovery elsewhere on the blog).

So I didn’t find them through a random Google search or through a cover-of-a-cover. The Replacements just came into my life and it instantly felt like an inevitability. They’ve got a very similar sound to bands that I like: solid guitar lines that support clever and introspective lyrics.

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Discovering New Music As Self-Care

So a blog I follow recently posted a list of “Ideas for Self-Care.” One of them was “Discover new music.” Since it’s New Year’s Eve Day, I thought that would be a fitting idea to unpack!

What does new music do? Simply put, it expands your world! Listening to music exposes you to new ideas through lyrics that either celebrate or criticize current events. It can also expose you to new cultures or subcultures by listening to the genres that are associated with them, such as metal or metalcore. This can make you a more compassionate person: you now understand why people strongly identify with a certain genre and style themselves that way.

That’s what self-care is, and what it does: it gets you in touch with yourself and also connects you more deeply to other people. Music is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do that.

What genres or artists are you hoping to explore in the new year? Personally, I’d like to discover more international artists. I also want to listen to more funk music and dive into jazz.