December 13, 2009

Hatin' on the Decade

Like my better half, I too, am guilty of missing some of the more supposed important bench marks that have marked the past decade. At the awkward age of 15 and living in the suburbs, I wasn't as privvy to the extremely outlandish and definitive moments, but...I also, was sadly somewhat apathetic. At 15 it was more important to me who else was listening to the music I should've been listening to, which meant Blink 182. And for me, Blink 182's gig was up by the time I hit 15-16 and the whole naked wannabe frat boy pop punk just wasn't cutting it for me anymore.

A local independent record store had opened up not too far away from me and the thought of trading in CD's I didn't want anymore for newer CD's that I might not have been able to afford on my allowance alone was appealing to me. I gathered up my finest pop-punk and old boy band (and to me there was only one boy band, and that was N'Sync) CD's and took them to the record store. While perusing the selections, both new and used, I remembered what one of my local "musical heroes" had said about a few different "indie" albums. I was intrigued and, lucky for me, there was an indie section for me to choose from. While somewhat limited, my puny CD trade-in store credit allowed me to purchase 3 CD's. I remembered hearing Radiohead and thinking it was a bit "weird", so I, again, kept thinking of what my musical hero was talking about and walked out with 'The Moon and Antarctica' by Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie's 'We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes', and...

Domestica - Cursive
I wasn't really aware of the term "concept album" and now, 10 years later, I pretty much loathe the idea of concept albums. But, at 15...I also wasn't fully aware of how much this album would shape my musical tastes and change the way I listened to music.

Initially the album in general was a bit too abrasive for me, but a few tracks (specifically "Shallow Means, Deep Ends", "A Red So Deep" and "The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst") were easy for me to wrap my ears around. Because of those songs I kept the album on repeat almost constantly. I felt as though with every listen I picked up something I hadn't before, I caught a telling lyric I'd missed the last time or I'd find a piece to the story and put the puzzle together bit by bit.

Say what you will about Tim Kasher's voice or the simplistic drumming on the album, but this concept album didn't need it; this album was done with style and grace. While in 2000, I couldn't personally grasp what it was like to go through an ugly divorce, but I was old enough to know what heartbreak was and how it felt. As a child I could listen to a song two or three times and have the lyrics memorized, but it didn't really mean much because I just knew the words; I never really put much thought into the meaning of the words. This album practically forced me to put thought into what I was singing along to. Kasher's downright sincerity brought music (and lyrics) to a new peak for me, not to mention the seizing emotion and inflection with which he sang.

As I continued to reserve this album in my rotation, I learned that music was more than just liking the way the vocals sound, or a catchy little hook here or there. The album attuned my ears to how things fit together and flow, which, may be in part to the record being a concept album or because it was a "story" for an adult (even a kind of young adult). The crunchy guitars and resonating bass that went along with the angst-ridden wails and whispers were music, not just sounds and words. The dynamics of this album cultivated my ears and my brain.

This album not only fostered my love for this type of music and aided in my personal musical education, but I have many vivid memories related with this album. The album eventually became my anthem for the year and I constantly felt like I could relate to every word spoken on the album. Emo? Maybe, but this album, to be ever-so cliche, got me through some rough times. I went through some physical abuse and general crappy ol' days and while this may not be the most inspriational and uplifiting album it certainly helped make me feel like I was human and had a place in the world.

Honorable Mentions:
The Moon and Antarctica - Modest Mouse
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes - Death Cab for Cutie
Fevers and Mirrors - Bright Eyes
No Kill No Beep Beep - Q and Not U
The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of - Starlight Mints
False Cathedrals - Elliott
Trying to Figure Each Other Out - Brandtson

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