Saturday, June 04, 2011

Bars Are Dark and Lonely

I don't write about music very often. This is because I love music, probably just as much as I love life itself. And what music does to me is nearly impossible to put into words. It would just sound trite: the right song in the car on the way to work can change my outlook for the entire day. The right song on a road trip can make even the most boring of drives a beautifully hued memory. Like the time a few years ago that we drove straight throught to Florida, and intellectually I know I thought it was horrible at the time, but because of the accompanying soundtrack, I've been tricked into believing that it was fantastic from start to finish, and something to laugh about now. Some songs take me right back to where I was the first time I heard them, or to a time in life when they were in heavy rotation, and can bring me to my knees with nostalgia.

I'll listen to nearly anything. I'm not terribly fond of jazz or country, but give me the right jazz, the right country, and I'll listen to that too. I'll hate a musician with a passion, but then they come out with "Blow" or "What the Hell" and I can't look away. Evil Rob gives me shit about this, because he intellectualizes music too much; in fact, he'd probably make a really good writer for Paste magazine. He thinks good music should be deep. I disagree -- I think good music can be deep, but it doesn't have to be. Not always. Sometimes you don't want deep, you just want "Bad Romance." Also, this from a man who listens unironically to Tenacious D. Right?

But I digress.

We are fans in our house of this new folk-rock sound. I think I described it to my friend Betty last night as "folk-country-jam-band-rock" or something like that. This was specifically to describe My Morning Jacket, but it could also apply to Fleet Foxes. Mumford & Sons are more bluegrass-rock. Seryn, my newest favorite, are folk-bluegrass-magical-rock. Anything with a ton of traditional instruments being used to make what is essentially rock music -- that's the folk-rock sound. With some magicianship thrown in, where the music steals you away for a bit and when you come back, you're sitting in your car at a red light somewhere in the middle of the suburbs and you're not quite sure how the hell you got there.

Or maybe that's just me.

When Evil Rob and I got married, we had a really hard time narrowing down the music for the ceremony and for slow dancing at the reception and stuff like that, because we had what felt like a million songs that meant a lot to us. So we decided to choose a careful selection of songs to be played in the half hour leading up to the ceremony, and then there were a couple of songs during the ceremony, and then there was the one at the end, and then there was our first dance, and we put all these on a cd that we gave to our guests as a party favor -- since little boxes of candy stamped with the bride and groom's faces are dumb. Hell, maybe our cd was dumb too, but I've had a lot of people tell me they really loved it, and they seemed sincere, so I'm just going to continue to take that at face value and believe our cd was cool.

And one of our songs was "Golden" by My Morning Jacket. This is a band I was first introduced to in the (awesome) Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown. They played the cousin's band Ruckus, and whenever I see them on television or someplace now, I shout out, "Ruckussss!" I'm going to do this when we see them at Red Rocks this summer. Just to be an asshole. They had a couple of songs on the (also awesome) soundtracks: "Gideon" and "Same In Any Language." Evil Rob got hooked on them after we got together and he heard these songs for the first time, and that was all she wrote. So this song "Golden" became one of our songs. Basically it's a song about how hard it is to meet someone, and when you do meet someone special, you want to be there for them forever, "if it falls apart or makes us millionaires." For better or worse, basically. It's a beautiful song about commitment, realistic commitment, not this starry-eyed bullshit fairy tale crap that so many people seem to go into their relationships with.

So I was all excited last night when My Morning Jacket were the latest band to be featured on VH-1's Storytellers series. And the second song they played was "Golden," and Jim James, the lead singer, told a really long story about it, about how he got one of the signature lines from his Grandma, which made it all even more perfect somehow. And after he told this somewhat rambling story, they played the song, and OH. MY. GOD.

It was literally one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. And this is a song I've heard hundreds of times in my life. It took my breath away for a minute, and I felt like my heart was going to break, and then it did break a little bit, and then my eyes filled with tears (just as they are right now as I tell you about it), and I realized that this? This feeling? Was IT. The reason I love music. The reason I love the music I love. The songs I go back to over and over and over are the ones that break my heart a little bit.

Not in a bad way, no. In a way that makes me feel alive, and like I'm part of the universe and everything and everyone in it. Yeah, that's cheesy. But it's so easy to forget that, as we go through the routines of our daily existence. I cherish my routines, and knowing where we'll be from one moment to the next. But every now and then, you need a reminder that you're part of something bigger. That it's not just about you.

That's what music does. Not just for me, but for anyone. I feel sorry for these people who never listen to music, or who claim they don't like music. I honestly think they're broken inside. I give people shit all the time for listening to boring music or music I'm not a fan of, but it's lighthearted teasing -- everyone loves what they're going to love. It can't be helped. I myself have an unfortunate soft spot where Britney Spears is concerned.

And this? This is why I don't write about music.

Here's a link to the video of "Golden." I can't promise it will be life-changing, but I can promise it's a really killer song.

2 comments:

robin said...

Hi Shannon! I got here by first reading about finishing your book. YOUR BOOK. Wow! Anyway, I was drawn in by your writing and wanted to read more, so I clicked here to read this, and it is kind of blowing my mind. For a couple reasons: first, in the past week, I have been thinking a lot about music -- the music I love, why I love it, why it affects me so, what it is that it makes me feel, and you have expressed it so eloquently. Feeling alive, the breaking heart (in a good way) -- I completely, totally understand. And I find that it is a hard thing to talk about with others, because it is such a personal thing. When you find someone who is made to feel similarly alive (or heartbroken) over the same song, it feels so important; they have a connection with you that is unique and cosmically significant.

You are kinda brilliant, you know that? So glad I get to be your friend.

Shannon said...

Aww, thanks, Robin! Yeah, it's so hard to express, the music thing, but I just felt like I had to try. I'm glad it made sense to you.

And by the way, I think you're kinda brilliant too.