Thursday, February 17, 2011

Today's fortune: February 17, 2011

Today's fortune: An interesting musical opportunity is in your near future.

All of us have had the experience of being moved by a piece of music. A few years ago, I had a fight with my wife. I don't remember the fight, but I remember the setting: I was dropping her off at work. During the drive, we fought, and we never really got around to an apology before we arrived at her office. As I was driving home, the song "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie came on the radio. I'd never heard the song before:

I was weeping by the time the song was finished. Even though we had had a fight, I love Jamie more than anything else in this world. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. And if there is such a thing as an afterlife, I wanna spend that with her, too. This song made me realize that. I still tear up when I hear it to this day.

The band I've been obsessed with most recently is a British group called Mumford & Sons. I love their folksy, bluegrassy, alternative sound. The group is a modern-day Simon & Garfunkel, except in some ways they're even better (blasphemy!)

The first time I heard my favorite Mumford & Sons song, I had no idea what it was called "Timshel." If you're a fan of John Steinbeck, you know the word: it's a key element in the book "East of Eden," a word that means "Thou mayest." The book uses it beautifully, and this song makes the concept three-dimensional:

Music can have a surprising influence as well. One of my favorite new songs is "Sail" by the band AWOLNATION. On paper I shouldn't like this song. It's a little too techno for my tastes. There's too much screaming. And the lead singer kinda looks like a Nazi with a combover. But I freakin' love it:

This morning, on my way to work, I did not listen to my usual radio station. I hit the "scan" button, looking for a song to inspire me in a similar way. First, I landed on a hip-hop station. The song playing was "Fall For Your Type" by Jamie Foxx, featuring Drake. Jamie Foxx is a damn good actor whom I loved in "The Kingdom." All I know about Drake is he's the guy in that Sprite commercial they play at the movie theater. The song wasn't bad, but it's not my taste.

Then I found a country station. The song playing was an oldie (which is good, because modern country music blows) - Conway Twitty's "We're Not Exactly Strangers." Your typical mid '70s country standard. Ultimately, uninspiring.

Finally, as I approached the office, I stumbled upon a brand-new radio station which plays "gold-based adult album alternative," whatever the hell that means. The tune was about halfway finished, but the lyrics were instantly recognizable: 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up."

Listen to that song before you go to work tomorrow and just try to have a bad day.

That's the power of music. It guides our lives. I don't know if I'll have an "interesting musical opportunity" in the near future. But really, I have one every time I I turn on the radio.


  1. Matt, your writing keeps spurring my own common thoughts and memories, like yesterday’s comments on An interesting musical opportunity is in your near future.
    When I first heard Airborne Toxic Event’s rough ballad of lost love, “Sometime after Midnight,” I am wrenched back to a long-ago college night at the Draught House in Lawrence, Kansas. Did they write this song specifically for me? Whenever I hear it – I bought the CD – I crank it up loud and sing in the anguished voice of a 19 year-old male jilted, knowing that his life would never be the same. And in some ways it wasn’t. Anyway, the song inspired me to write this poem. Please keep in mind that I am inspired to write poetry about once or twice a decade and if you read any further you will understand that my infrequent inspirational cycle is a good thing.
    Forty Years After
    After forty years you still remember.
    So much from then fades away,
    lost forever,
    but not her.

    Are you the only one who carries
    the weight of your first love,
    drags it along with you,
    at times a burden,
    at times as light as a snowflake,
    at times a sweet ache that feels
    almost as if you just dropped her off
    minutes before dorm curfew?

    Do others still feel the flash of memory
    that comes unbidden,
    that brings with it a faint smile
    or a near tears quivery chin?
    How could something so long ago
    still touch places meant for here and now?

    You touch the memory
    of your love that would never end,
    and the gut-grabbing end of hers for you
    as if it were yesterday.

    You still think of her,
    where she may be,
    what she does
    and how she lives.
    Does she still remember
    like you do?
    Can she still feel
    the pain
    and the joy
    like you do?

  2. Thank you for turning me onto Mumford & Sons ... awesome! I am drawn heavily to that genre, and sometimes despite any particular relativity of words. For Example "The Wild Goose" by Kate Rusby. I worked in broadcast radio for a time and stole an idea from the TV show Northern Exposure, and used "Our Town" Iris DeMent to close my last shift on KRNO. Although a bit more polished, Alison Krauss' "If I Didn't Know Any Better" also presses buttons for me.
    But I've been told I have odd taste in music ... I like to think broad tastes, but ... semantics. ;) Pretty much I pass on gangster rap, and German Opera, otherwise anything is worthy of at least a listen.