Weekend Listening: A Song That Changed My Life
Every week, as I finish writing this column and beg sj to read it at 11:30 PM, I begin writing the one for next week. If you know me in person, then it is probably easy to track how what I feature correlates with the beauty and with the horseshit of my life. Inevitable, I think, for someone who loves music, who uses her words to speak out all the feels but also finds comfort sometimes (all the time) in letting the words and sounds of others do the talking, lift up spirits, or dance shit out. Every get-together that happens at my house ends up in front of the record player as my friends take turns playing DJ, putting on everything from some obscure dreampop song we all need to hear to 90s jams we all sing through knowing, nostalgic smiles. Recently, the playlist turned to singular songs, rather than albums, that significantly moved us throughout our lives. As we took turns at the hifi, playing the songs quietly to reminisce aloud the impact for a few close friends gathered on the back porch, I knew I needed to bring some of that to you all.
“Our Anniversary” by Smog
Hands folded across my swollen belly, knuckles puffed from 39 weeks of pregnancy, I looked out across Cazenovia Lake. Sailboats glide a bright white path across the choppy navy blue underscoring a brilliant sky; the hills we just drove over hump beyond the lake, our winding path cut out in thin relief from the dark leaves of trees that grow taller and thicker than you would imagine, nurtured by all the snow that melts into their roots for months each year. Ithaca was behind us, all the slow touring of the square and farmer’s market there that my condition would allow in celebration of our first anniversary. Our home was just an hour away, but I needed to get out of the car and walk, move my hips around while our first daughter squirmed her way into my ribs. My new husband, ever accommodating, stopped in the park, walked with me in the August heat inescapable even as far north as New York. As we sat there in the car, little strands of my hair dancing in the air conditioner breeze and interrupting my view of the boats and their tiny crews, tears came to my eyes at the certainty that he and I would never spend a night thwarting the other’s morning escape, knowing hours before that the other will want to go. While the brush stroked the cymbals and the guitar played a soft grasshopper melody, I wept a little at the absolute surety of knowing I would never decide to leave a marriage four years and two children in, never feel so unseen that I thought I could disappear as easily in the night as an apparition seen out of the corner of an eye. He started the car, pointed us toward home, and my heart ached for the story of this song, the one I was so convinced could never mimic our own.
– Laura, the Slut who is always talking about shit in this column
“One” by Metallica
Metalheads, and their music, seemed so frightening. I listed to Top 40 stuff; MTV was always on in the background. Then Metallica made a music video, and I couldn’t stop watching. I recorded it and watched it at least seven times the day it first aired. For the first time, I felt like music understood me. Everything about it – the frustration, the lead solo in the middle, James Hetfield’s shadowy glare – spoke to me in a way no song had before. I spent the weekend at my friend’s house, listening to music that would later get me through the crappy parts of adulthood.
– Karalea, Booksluts contributing writer
“Step” by Vampire Weekend
The first time the lyrics “The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out / What you on about? / I feel it in my bones, I feel it in my bones” came through my headphones at work, it made me want something more. Those lyrics, to me, have always hit on the sweet, intangible, but so solidly sure feeling of knowing you’re with the right person. Sitting at my desk, I remember thinking that’s what I’m waiting for – to feel it in my bones. The trouble was that I had been dating someone for a few months at this point; those lyrics stung because they hit on something I didn’t have, even though I had someone. To this day, when I hear the lyric “I’m stronger now / I’m ready for the house,” I think of the times when commitment has been easy, effortless, and almost unavoidable. I know this level of certainty exists, that it punches you right in the heart box, and that it is an unsurpassable to feel invincible about someone. When I listen to this song, I’m teleported back to the times I’ve felt love as a fact, while in a grocery store aisle or sitting on a kitchen floor with someone whose weird matches mine. I’m reminded that when it’s genuine, I’ll feel it in my bones.
– Megan Price, whimsical space-obsessed designer / total babe
“I’m Going Home,” Sacred Harp style
After watching the film Cold Mountain in high school, I was sure of two things: I hated the film, but the music was some of the most stirring I’d ever heard, particularly this one, “I’m Going Home.” I couldn’t quite understand why everyone was waving their arms and singing so loud, but I couldn’t stop listening to it. And then I found out the songs were part of a centuries-old music style called Sacred Harp. I listened to a lot of old recordings over the years, but I thought it was essentially a dead art. It wasn’t until after college that I discovered that Sacred Harp is very much alive. Now I sing with small groups a couple times a month, and head to “big sings” (100+ singers) a few times a year. I sang in traditional choirs all the way through college, and never thought I would find another group of people so passionate about what they love. Singing this music has changed my life in so many ways, but it all boils down to giving me the chance to sing loudly, and sing often, while having fun doing it. Learn more about Sacred Harp right here.
– Amy, Booksluts contributing writer
“This Year” by Mountain Goats
I try not to talk about it much anymore when things are awful. Like, I’ve been told before that being my friend can be a fucking drag, or that I’m too needy and so I just…don’t. I just don’t anymore. And it’s hard because I know that the people I have in my life now are amazing and not the sorts of assholes who will decide to drop me because sometimes everything falls apart, but I still have a hard time letting myself give in and accepting love and just…friendship. So anyway. When this album came out, it was during a not so terrible time and I liked it a whole lot, but didn’t give it much thought other than “Yay, new Mountain Goats is pretty legit.” And then I put it on one time I was feeling particularly down (cos that’s what Mountain Goats are best for, yeah?) and “This Year” started playing and it got to the chorus “I am gonna make it through this year/if it kills me.” Yes. I am gonna make it. If it fucking kills me. I listen to it every New Year. I listen to it every time things are just too much. I put it on when I have all of these things that are dragging me down that I can’t bring myself to tell anyone because I can’t stand the thought of losing anyone else for being too…me. But I am gonna make it. If it kills me.
-sj, who writes stuff and edits things
“My Favorite Chords” by The Weakerthans
In 2003, I was lying down in Naples, Florida listening to this song.
Now, it’s 2016. And I’m still continuing to find new things to adore about “My Favorite Chords.”
The Weakerthans are a mystery of a rock band. John K. Samson is an anarchist poet that spins rhetoric and romance into whimsical tales that anyone can identify with. In this particular gem, he watches his home destroyed by gentrification and greedy politicians. The one saving grace is the companion by his side. A fellow fighter in the protests and his closest confidant. A lover and a best friend.
It’s 2003 and I decided to travel to Florida on a whim. Richmond hadn’t settled as a place that I could call “home.” I thought that perhaps I had made a mistake moving here. Inspired by romantic folly, I spent time with a girl in Naples. Florida summers are unforgiving and you find yourself sequestered indoors until the nighttime sky arrives. While all of her friends would drop hallucinogens, drink light beer and smoke cigarettes, we’d just listen to records. I had heard a few songs by The Weakerthans and ended up buying Left & Leaving from the only indie record store in Naples.
Records are like relationships. You can wear them out, but the first time something just hits you is what might last forever. This song comes on and with each flowing line, it felt like time had stopped. That is until the line arrives of “I’d like to fall asleep to the beat of you breathing” and everything changes. This might have been the moment I thought that maybe I could live in Florida. I looked over at her and she looked over at me and we were nineteen year olds that thought we had everything figured out.
As these tales go, I’d return to Richmond with modest plans of returning to Florida in hopes of pursuing an education. Even as far as our delusions stretched, parts of us thought that maybe this could happen. After a few months pass, she would meet someone new and I would meet someone new and the world would continue to spin in every direction imaginable.
Yet, this song still belongs to us in this tiny fragment of the universe. I figure that’s enough when it comes to songs that change your life.
What songs changed your life? Tell us about it in the comments!