Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A writer's philosophy

Driving home late on a Sunday evening, Ray LaMontagne’s album Trouble is keeping me company. The song Burn comes on and I find myself unable to let it blend into the sounds of the road and the engine and the world passing by at 73 mph.

Ain't it clear when I'm near you
I'm just dying to hear you
Calling my name one more time
Oh so don't pay no mind
To my watering eyes
Must be something in the air
That I'm breathing
Yes'n I try to ignore
All this blood on the floor
It's just this heart on my sleeve that's a bleeding

A conversation that I had with a friend a few days earlier comes to mind. She said it was part of the curse of my compassion that I wear my heart on my sleeve and it sometimes gets trampled on. I love Ray LaMontagne’s voice, it is like melted chocolate or edible velvet. I have no idea where those comparisons come from, but his voice just feels like something you can taste.

There is so much passion and emotion in each song. I love it when you can hear soul of the artist in the songs they write and perform. LaMontagne has said “I always, always end up recording the songs that I feel are important for me to work through.” To me that sounds more like the philosophy of a writer than that of a performer. This is a philosophy I appreciate much more than the artist who writes a catchy hook and meaningless lyrics and performs a song to death for pure commercial exploit. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the performers and catchy hooks, but there just seems to be so much more substance to something that speaks to the soul.

Burn - Ray LaMontagne

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Waiting for the next marker

I’ve discovered over the years that I have used music as markers to map out moments and phases in my life. Some albums, artists, or songs will be tied forever to memories of places and events as well as change and growth. I suppose this is a common practice really, but I’d like to think that with the abundance of music out in the world now, choosing these markers is much more of a personal experience that it was in the day of my parents. I mean, Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, they were giants and could be tied to an exponentially larger audience than most of my music collection (I would like to assume). Just by the sheer availability of music as a product to be consumed, it is so much easier for our generation to soundtrack our lives: carrying iPods to and from class, CD players in cars, burning CDs to exchange with friends, downloading, cell phone ring tones. Music can now be virtually everywhere and anywhere we choose to take it.

Of the artists that I have chosen for my personal soundtrack, few have been around through multiple phases as a constant in my auditory biography. One of these very few is Tori Amos. In Jr. High it was Little Earthquakes. The controlled anger that seems to drive “Precious Things,” the severity of “Me and a Gun,” the epic never-ending feeling of Little Earthquakes governed those tumultuous years as I went to my first funeral and realized I had more goals than the average 13 year old. In High School it was Under the Pink and From the Choirgirl Hotel. “Pretty Good Year” was the soundtrack to my 2 mile drive to school and “Cornflake Girl” with the

windows down and a sly eyebrow up on the drive home. “Jackie’s Strength” became my favorite song for break-ups and break downs while “Iieee” and “Spark” absorbed my discomfort in my home and the little rebellion I could muster. Venus made the occasional appearance in High School as well and provided the opportunity for my first Tori concert. Scarlet’s Walk and The Beekeeper inhabited the years of College. Scarlet channeled my journey of 3000 miles to New England and Beekeeper saw me restlessly returning to California.

With the announcement of her new album I can only expect the perfect soundtrack to another chapter. I have no idea why it is that her albums seem to coordinate so well with the path of my life. All I can say is it’s nice to have company along the way.