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Filtering by Tag: music

DAY 9: EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS, ALBUM OF THE SAME NAME

Cindy Maddera

I’ve almost been dreading writing about this album for a couple of reasons. My feelings are complicated and hard to put into words. One day, a long time ago, Amy introduced Chris and I to this band and then a few weeks after that, Home started playing on all of the radio stations. Amy is a trendsetter. We’d sing along as we travelled down the road and play the album Up From Below on loop. The band released Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros the year after Chris died. The first song I heard off of it was Better Days.

Try to remember, that you can’t forget
Down with history, up with your head
For sweet tomorrow, she never fell from grace
We might still know sorrow but we got better days

That song along with Life is Hard falls right in place with Chris’s (and mine) life philosophy and because of that, this album became so important to me.

This is also the same year I met Michael.

Life is it, life is it, it's where it's at
It's getting skinny, getting fat
It's falling deep into a love,
It's getting crushed just like about
Life there's no love, its getting beat into the ground

I had already purchased my ticket and camping pass for the Gentlemen of Roads Tour when Michael and I met. I was so excited for this concert because Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros were part of the line up and Talaura was coming down. When I told Michael about it, he wanted to come along too. He bought a ticket and we travelled to Guthrie. On our way to Guthrie I told Michael about this band. I said “I need you to pay attention and really listen to this band. This is important to me.” He said “okay.”

And then he didn’t pay attention or listen to the band.

That was the first time I realized that things that are important to me, won’t always be important to him. That realization was a bit of a blow to my little ego. Sometimes that realization is still a little bit hard to swallow only because sometimes, in a self indulgent way, I think that what I find important he should also find equally important. Because that is what I was used to. This is a different relationship. Michael and I don’t listen to the same kinds of music. We don’t read the same kinds of books. We don’t always agree on what to watch on the television. We find common ground. When I ask Alexa to play music in the mornings, I am sure to pick an artist that I think Michael will also enjoy even if he doesn’t know the artist. We may not read the same kinds of books, but we talk to each other about the stuff we’re reading. We find stuff on the television that we both want to watch. Compromise. That’s how we are making this work.

I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power
It's getting weirder by the hour
The world is fucked up but I want to stay
I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power

This album is the gospel music in my metaphorical church. It is a church that teaches the lessons of loving kindness and dancing in the streets. It is a church that reminds it’s congregation that life is fucking hard as fuck, so celebrate dammit! We all have sorrow and sadness, but there are better days ahead. It is the bitter, wonderful sweetness of living; this mixture of sorrow and joy.

I told you my feelings were complicated.

DAY 8: NATALIE MERCHANT, LEAVE YOUR SUPPER/LEAVE YOUR SLEEP

Cindy Maddera

Just before Natalie Merchant released Leave Your Sleep, she did a TED talk about the making of the album. She took poems about childhood from the 19th and 20th century and adapted them to music. The way Natalie spins these poems into tunes is at time sad and melancholy and silly and joyful. The first song from the album, Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience, moved me to tears and I can clearly see the girl in pink riding the white horse as she sings Equestrienne. I imagine that avocado Brussels sprout ice-cream from Bleezer’s Ice-Cream has the most awful smell. The whole album is like the up and down of a carousel horse. Her Ted Talk on the two disc album is one my favorite Ted Talks. It’s a fascinating tale of how she put music to these poems and why she chose this poem or that poem, but it is all sweet because you can tell Natalie Merchant is nervous. You can hear a slight tremor and breathiness in her voice as she talks. She seems to hesitate ever so slightly as she moves around on the stage. Her voice is clear when she’s singing, but when she starts discussing the poem and the process, her demeanor changes. She seems less sure of herself.

I always had this idea of who Natalie Merchant is as a person because of her music. She left the 10,000 Maniacs because she wanted complete control over her music and she was tired of being the only girl in the band. My impression of her paints a strong, independent force of nature. I have seen Natalie Merchant in concert. I think it was the Ophelia tour. She is everything you’d hope for when going to a concert. She sounds amazing, she’s engaging and joyful to watch on stage. Most people left at the end of the concert before she could come out for the encore. Those of us who stayed, moved up to the front of the stage and when Natalie came back out on stage she made a point to great every one us. She shook hands as she moved through our small crowd and sang four more songs. I thought for a moment she was going to hug each and every one of us. The whole experience was so personal and intimate and beautiful. So years later, when I saw her TED Talk, I was surprised by her nervousness.

That’s the main reason why I chose this album as one of my top ten. Because it made her nervous to talk about it.

She had made this album that is different and unique. It is an album of vulnerability. She made herself vulnerable and in doing so, I saw this woman differently. She was proof that you can have all this talent and creativity, but still be a little fearful of what others might think of your art. As she talks, there is something in her voice that says “please like this.” which is something we all want. When you put your heart and soul into your work and then set it out there for all to see, we all want it to be met with admiration. The talk and the album moved Natalie Merchant from status of another musician I wanted to stalk as a groupie to an artist that I whole heartedly admire.

Because we’re the same.

MODERN LOVE

Cindy Maddera

My music selection has been all over the place lately. I go from a Kesha station in the mornings to Morrissey in the afternoons. Some times I toss in some Pomplamoose or broadway show tunes. Last week, it was David Bowie. Hours and hours of everything Bowie. Modern Love started playing and for the first time I noticed that David Bowie speaks at the beginning of that song. His speaking voice caught me off guard. I was suddenly struck by the sound of it and immediately regretted not having a chance to have a intimate conversation with David Bowie.

David Bowie died from the same thing Chris died from. Cancer of the liver. I know what Mr. Bowie’s last few days looked like. I think of his wife who had to witness his last few days. I think of a few other women who have had to witness those last few days of their own spouses. I want to squeeze all of them tight and just whisper “I know. I get it.” The image of how they looked in the last few days are never going to leave your brain. It will float to the surface of your memories at random. Michael’s drunk face does it for me. I guess, at least I know what he’s going to look like in his final days. Also the smell of Jason’s Organic henna shampoo does it. It’s a shame because I really liked that shampoo.

The scientist in me finds it fascinating how the soul of a person sort fills the organic spaces like balloons. As the soul shrinks, the body doesn’t get smaller. It gets more hollow. Sunken. The body gets more and more unrecognizable as the person you knew. There are machines that photograph the entire insides of the human body, but there’s yet to be an image of what one could interpret as a soul. Everything has a name and (mostly) a function. The large intestine, small intestine. Heart. Liver. Kidneys. I would be tempted to say the appendix could be the organ that holds the thing that makes you, you. I’ve never known a person who has had that removed to know if they’re different afterwards, but considering that the removal of an appendix is pretty standard procedure would have me ruling out particular organ. I don’t have my tonsils and I’m pretty sure I still have my soul.

Pretty sure.

There’s something there that doctors haven’t seen that keeps us inflated and whole. Something more than air. It is the thing that makes you who you are. I know exactly the moment when Chris was no longer Chris. The same thing with Dad. There’s a part of me that wishes I didn’t witness those moments when the balloons filling up the their organic spaces, started popping. Those popping balloons didn’t even make a sound. No warning, yet I knew it was coming.

I know when to go out and when to stay in. Get things done.

Is that what’s holding our souls steady and in place? Knowing when to stay in so we can get things done?

It’s time to change the station.

INTRO

Cindy Maddera

I was introduced to Chris in the summer of '95. In turn, Chris would eventually introduce me to Thai food, Black Adder, sex and a band called Belly. I still love sticky rice and papaya salad. I have a deep appreciation for British comedy. You know how I feel about sex and I have physically absorbed every song performed by Belly. I would listen to them over and over. I have all of the songs memorized. I have the order the songs are listed on the CD memorized. I fell hard for this band. They were my long flowy Gypsy skirt, my oversized flannel. This was my '90s band and after I fully carved the songs from Star into a layer of skin, I went hunting for more. I scrounged every used CD store for every single album I could get my hands on, which were only three. Three albums. I clearly remember asking "but why aren't there any more albums." Chris and Traci, who probably introduced Chris to Belly, looked at me and shook their heads. Traci placed a hand on my shoulder and replied "because they don't exist anymore." 

The band broke up in the Fall of '95, right after the release of King. 

This is the second time I've discovered a band and fallen in love only to have that band break up months after my discovery. The first band was the Police. Though they have not released new music together, I have at least been able to see them live twice in reunion tours. Belly reunited in 2016, but they have yet to make it KCMO or any where close. I am okay with that. I'm just happy they decided to get back together because it inspired a new album, Dove, that was released this year. They have the same swirly sound and cryptic lyrics with the exception that now those lyrics refer to more grown up issues like settled relationships and raising children. I am now in the process of absorbing and adding this album to my other carvings in that same layer of skin. My first listening round made me feel like I was creeping into my twenties again. 

I met Chris when I was nineteen and a little shocked to discover that he was five years older than me. "Is that a problem?" he asked as we sat at a table crowded with our friends. I tried to sound confident as I replied "no" but there was something about Chris that was intimidating. I was not old enough to drink or even get into a bar. Meanwhile, he had lived a whole life while I was still in high school, serving in the national guard (proudly, unsuccessfully) as a medic and working a security gig at the Habana Inn. He knew things. He was experienced. The next few years felt like I was in some accelerated course for life experience just trying to catch up. But I would catch up. Then I would be the one introducing him to new music, dragging him into new experiences. Listening to Belly's new album makes me think that I never finished that accelerated course. Or at least it turned out to be not so accelerated. There's not any real perceived graduation day unless I can predict the day of my own death. 

There's one song on the new album that reminds me of dating after Chris. Suffer the Fools. The song is more about settled relationships than dating. It's about what happens as we age into a relationship, how we put up with things. "I'd rather suffer you, than suffer the fools." I put up with things with Chris. I won't deny it or sugarcoat it. Same way I put up with various things with Michael. I'm sure I'm not all rainbows and lollipops to live with at times either. I suffered a number of fools during the online dating years. Eventually there comes along someone you'd rather suffer through life with than suffering with fools. There's something romantic about it in a Daria at age fourty kind of way. 

THINGS THAT SURPRISE ME

Cindy Maddera

Every morning, after Michael leaves, I ask Alexa to play some music. She will come up with some playlist that she thinks I might like and often I will say "Alexa, play something else." Some times I just tell her what to play. Monday morning, I asked for the usual and Alexa said "Okay, how about Kesha's popular songs." I shrugged, thinking "why not?" A minute later I'm dancing in the kitchen and singing into a spatula while making pancakes. I like Kesha. 

This surprises me. I tend to be the kind of girl that likes her music more obscure and angsty. I could cocoon myself up on a gray day with the National or croon along with Morrissey. I could spend all day rollerskating with Arcade Fire. I'd love to have dinner with Neko Case. Even though I am disappointed in Wayne Coyne as a human being, I could still soak in a bathtub of tangerines. When asked what kind of music I listen too, I usually answer 'alternative'. I like to listen to bands you've never heard of. I have always been this way. I will hear one bit of a song from an obscure artist and then totally and completely devote the next two months of my life listening to every single song from that artist. Though I recognize their importance in American music, I have never been drawn to the Pop artist. Which is how I would have categorized Kesha.

Someone recommended listening to Kesha's Rainbow album and I've been hooked ever since. I downloaded the explicit version of the album and I think it's her vulgar swearing that I love the most. It reminds me of being a teenager. Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville was the first explicit album I ever purchased. Even then, I was too young to buy it. I had to have Katrina get it from Starship Records for me. It was not the type of album I could just pick up from the Walmart music section. I would pop that tape into my walkman, put the headphones on and lay on my bed listening to Liz sing about fucking guys and pleading to Mary for help. Each word was a golden nugget and listening to that album made me feel slightly rebellious. Maybe it was my rebellion. Kesha doesn't inspire the dark rebellion in me the way Liz did, but she does make me want to high five someone and yell out "YEAH!" Also, when she sings Praying, I want to weep for her and hug her and tell her that she is the most brave and that guy is going to rot from the inside out. By the way, Praying is not a song of worship. 

Sometimes a girl just needs to shake her ass and have some boogie feet.

Something else that surprises me? I did 108 yoga pushups in yoga class on Saturday. 

HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!

WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY

Cindy Maddera

When we got Alexa, we also signed up for Amazon Music. I spent a couple of days creating a playlist of artists I like to listen to. It is pretty Neko Case and Josh Ritter heavy right now. I am really terrible at remembering band names and who sang what. I have thrown in old favorites like Sting and Morrissey, as well as newer favorites like Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket (Jim James has made my list of guys who have hair that I want to run my fingers through. I can see a whole photographic series of my fingers tangled in famous hair). My playlist is odd. Just the way I like it.

I remember being very disappointed in my musical choices on the radio during my teenage years because I didn't listen to mainstream music. I wasn't a snob about it. I just preferred bands that didn't get a lot of radio time because they were different and obscure. There was a college station I could barely pick up on the radio. They had an alternative music show that aired on Friday nights at midnight. I would set my double tape deck to record the show and then play the tapes over and over. As an adult, I just listened to NPR all the time with the exception of the brief years of The Spy, an alternative radio station out of Stillwater. It always made me wonder how it was that a band like the Flaming Lips could be born (and reside) in a state that doesn't listen to them. Internet radio came along and changed everything. I now have access to the artists of my youth as well as new sounds in alternative music. 

I tend to get caught up with one artist at a time. I remember buying a new album from someone and listening to it over and over. At that time, in this moment, it was the only music I wanted to hear. I am known to do the same thing with food. Ask my mother about poached eggs every day for a month. I fixate. Recently, I was fixated on the National and Michael hated them. Hated them. If we were in the car and one of their songs would come on, he'd turn it or make fun of it. Michael and I don't share the same taste in music. His playlist is old country and folk and 1980. I pulled the National from our joint playlist and soak them up when I'm on my own. Matt Berninger's deep voice hits me somewhere near my breast bone and I am reminded of sulky teenage moments. If I had heard his voice as a teenager, I would have spent my days imagining that his voice was indicative to his love making skills. Matt Berninger is the guy I would have followed around from gig to gig in hopes that he would notice me. Really notice me. 

I switch back and forth between stations recommended to me because of my recent music choices and the playlist I am creating on my own. The recommended stations are a nice because they introduce me to something new or remind me of artists forgotten. Just the other day I remembered to add some R.E.M. to my playlist. I remember having my first fairly grown up conversation with my brother over the song Losing My Religion. R.E.M.'s music always made me feel like I should be trying harder for something good like the environment and human rights. Beautiful and at time haunting, their music made me feel all things. I added them to my playlist and then started to wonder why they're not still around. What ever happened to Michael Stipe? He's got a really long beard now, does sculpture art, and still dabbles in music.

If you're curious.  

The Cabbage is all the time asking me what kind of music I listen to and I am always at a loss for words. She doesn't understand what alternative means. Occasionally I will point out a song and an artist and tell her "this? this is important. pay attention." I'll turn up the radio and start car dancing and singing, to which she rolls her eyes. If she learns anything from me, hopefully she learns that the unconventional is cool and that sometimes you have to listen outside the radio. 

OKLAHOMA IN KANSAS CITY

Cindy Maddera

Misti sent me a message last week that a band they know was going to be playing in KCMO on Friday and that we should go see them. I had heard Misti talk about the band before, but I didn't really know their music. My first thought was to blow it off. Lately, as in the past year or so, I finish a week exhausted. Really, by Thursday I am already thinking about naps and wondering why moving my body is so difficult. When Friday rolls around, I just want to go home and not move from the couch. So the idea of going to a concert on a Friday or doing anything on a Friday sounds totally unappealing. It is also really really hot here. We've been seeing a hundred degree temps with 60% humidity. It's like walking around in a steam bath. I love it but I don't want to move around in it. I just want to sit naked, but wrapped in a towel, with a drink in my hand. No sudden movements.

So I totally surprised myself when I suggested to Michael that he meet me at work on Friday so we could scooter over to the Brick for dinner and a concert. It helped that this band, Annie Oakley, was playing an early show and that the Brick has vegetarian chili dogs. With Fritos on it. And tater-tots. Any way, the food was good and music was nice, which made it all worth tolerating the heat. Annie Oakley are so young, but they have a beautiful sweet and mature sound. Their mom is their manager. I introduced myself to her while the girls were setting up and talked about how small the world really is and how we knew Misti. After the show, Michael and I bought a couple of stickers from them to put on out scooters.  Michael and I rarely have an opportunity to have dinner and see a show. I have gotten choosey about going to concerts partly because of the price of tickets these days, but also because I know I would be going alone. Michael and I don't really listen to the same kinds of music. He's never even heard of most of the bands I listen to. We both can agree on alternative folk (sort of). 

I had forgotten how enjoyable it is to listen to a band in a small intimate setting. It was nice to go to a local bar and hear some sounds from my Oklahoma home.

THANKFUL FRIDAYS

Cindy Maddera

I'm sitting here today asking myself "what am I thankful for today?'. And I'm not really sure. I suppose I'm thankful that I came to my senses and didn't wear that sweater with the ginormous turtle neck that I had started to wear this morning. That thing would have driven me crazy all day. It's the simple things really. Last night, on the drive out to the lake studio to teach my class, I looked a bit mopey. Chris asked me what was wrong, and I replied that I was just tired. We finally reached that area of the city were we can pick up the Spy and Cousins from Vampire Weekend was playing. Suddenly, I was on. That song always makes me want to dance like a fool. So I danced. In the car. Like a crazy person. And I was happy. I got to work this morning to hear John grumbling about Max's poor attitude and I thought about the salt cleanse. I remembered that song from yesterday and plugged the earphones into the iPod. While I looked at mice prostate samples on the microscope, I danced. I sang. I found peace and joy in my present moment. So today, I am thankful for the music in my life that brings me joy, that moves me to dance and that can even bring me to tears. I am thankful for all the years that music has been an influence in my life and being able to associate a certain memory to a certain song. I am thankful for the smile those songs bring to my face.

Be thankful for the music and dance like a fool.