40) Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – Our House

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I finished the letter writing campaign well over a month ago, but I had some curve balls thrown in my life that delayed the writing of the final post. Nothing to worry about, just mentally all consuming. For the final song of ‘The Soundtrack of 35’, I chose Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s ‘Our House’.

It is one of the first songs I can remember and in my brain I remember being a baby when I listened to it. Before we moved to Panama when I was like 1.5/2 years old we lived in a suburban Chicago neighborhood. I think it was a brick, two flat – which is reminiscent of most Chicago homes, and we lived on the top floor. For some reason whenever I hear this song I have a clear picture of what my first home looked like and I can picture cats playing around in the yard. This is somewhat fabricated in the depths of my mind since we never had cats because of allergies and it’s doubtful that I truly remember any time in that home. It may have all been pieced together from early photographs. BUT I have such a strong picture and affinity to this song, and I’ve been remembering the same flashes of memories for over 30 years, that I think there has to be some underlying truth to it.

‘Our house, is a very, very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard, Life used to be so hard, now everything is easy cause of you, and our…..La la la lalalala…’

The last letter for my birthday went to my folks, mostly because they’re awesome, but also without them I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be me. I told my mom about the project right at the beginning and I shared some of the songs with her. She thought it was awesome and had many memories tied to a lot of the songs as well.

She told me that when I was a kid it was very important for them for me to have my own music and develop my own music tastes. Before Fisher Price made tape players, my folks had found a red tape player with big buttons that I could press myself. I started my own tape collection as a toddler and they weren’t all boring nursery songs. When our apartment got robbed in Panama, my red tape player was a casualty, and everyone was crushed. (I have conveniently blocked this from my memory, although it does explain why I loved my red disc-man so much.) My papi went on a trip to New York shortly after and my mom basically sent him on a mission to come back with a new, red tape player for me. We lived halfway across the world, at a time when the world seemed like a much bigger place, there was no internet, and they weren’t exactly making it rain dollar bills. Of all the things that the family could have needed, that was the most important at the time.

Having the freedom to find my own music and being exposed to so many different kinds of music has shaped the soundtrack of my life. Some music I’m not exceptionally proud of or into anymore, but others are blasted without shame at any time of day. I’m glad my parents didn’t sell me to the gypsies, like they used to threaten to when I was bad, because I doubt my musical journey would be as wild and fulfilling as it is today.

And so I end this first mixed media project with the first song I have a “real” memory of.

“Come to me now, and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good. Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the evening sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you…”

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39) Death Cab For Cutie – The New Year

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Death Cab For Cutie was basically my favorite in the early-mid 2000’s. I still like them a lot, especially their ‘Plans’ video album. (It was money.) While this is not my most favorite DCFC song ever, this is the one I associate with my birthday the most. It’s about the actual New Year, January 1, but I see my birthday as more of the birth of my personal New Year. I am not big on my own birthday. There’s a weird stress factor to it that I would prefer to avoid. Plus, I’m not big on getting attention for just being born. That attention should go to my mom. She did ALL the heavy lifting.

I feel with each additional year, its sometimes more a passage of time than a passage of progress, and that’s ok. Progress can take a lot of time to make happen. I also like the thought of ‘there’d be no distance that could hold us back’. Distance or people or ourselves, I want to start each year feeling in charge of my life. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but there are always moments and that’s what I hold on to. There are moments of excellent and success and power throughout every year, but for all my plans and dreams and work that I set forth, at the end/at the beginning, it’s always:

“So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.”

But maybe I am in Mariana’s Trench style denial and have an aging complex, that deep down I can’t stand that I’m getting older and therefore more curmudgeonly.

38) Counting Crows – Round Here

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“Can’t you see my walls are crumbling?”

I’ve been a big Counting Crows fan for most of my life. Especially their early stuff. I was so into them I bought a bootleg Himalayan’s CD off of E-bay in the early 2000’s (once I had my own credit card) and had a ton of live concerts downloaded from Napster. Which, by the way, is the only place I’ve been able to download the ‘August and Everything After’ song – it’s the most wonderfully satisfying Counting Crows song out there and it’s difficult to find.

Counting Crows always had a song for how I was feeling. As a Cancer, I feel a lot of things. Their lyrics cut to my core and gave me words to understand the most difficult times of teenage angst, and later, young adult angst, and now, everyday adult life.  If I was sad, they comforted me in my sadness, without feeling better or worse. Sometimes you just need to be heard, without being consoled or given advice and that’s what the Counting Crows have done for me. It’s not often a bands music helps you understand yourself, and I probably would have gotten there on my own, but it was nice to have a soundtrack.

Also, I’d “like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis.” (Not entirely serious.)

I could have picked any number of their songs, but I picked ‘Round Here’. If you know me, you know I have trouble sleeping. I’m not a deep or restful sleeper and I have a hard time actually falling asleep and go through insomnia cycles. I also have incredibly crazy, vivid dreams. I’ve tried drugs, homeopathic drugs, meditation, aromatherapy, counting sheep. In my early 20’s, I decided to try to lullabies. Not kids songs or ‘Tura Lura Lura’ and not actually singing them out loud, or even listening to them, but singing them in my head. It gives me something to focus on, helps stop other thoughts, and becomes a mental pattern that relaxes me and usually helps me fall asleep in a reasonable time. I have two songs I sing to myself, one in Spanish, one in English. I know all the words, and they’re long enough that as I get tired I mix the verses up. They’re also songs I could sing to myself on repeat, since I do them in loop until I fall asleep. I’ve tried to add a new song here or there, but it never really sticks. My two personal lullabies are ‘Antologia’ – Shakira (Spanish lullaby) and ‘Round Here’ – Counting Crows (English lullaby). When I started my lullaby experiment, I went with ‘Round Here’ because in one of their acoustic versions they start the song with ‘Go to sleep little angel. Go to sleep little one.’ This always helped me mentally prep to actually go to sleep and made it seem more like a true lullaby.

“Well everybody’s tired of something.”

PS – The best live version of ‘Round Here’ in Paris in 1994. It’s amazing. Look it up. Also, I was able to find a YouTube version of the ‘August and Everything After’ song. It’s below. It’s even more amazing.

37) Eric Clapton – San Francisco Bay Blues

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Top four reasons I love this song: 1) Beach Music. 2) Harmonica. 3) Washboard. 4) KAZOOS!!!!

Most people may not equate Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged concert with beach music. I’m fairly certain it’s just my family and our close group of family friends who we hung out with all the time in the early 90’s. This album had something for everyone in the family – a little blues, some classic Derek And The Domino’s, fun instrumentations for the kids (I mentioned the kazoos right?). It was like Nouveau Beach – Beach House, not Beach Party music. It was a staple in every day life as well, and I think everyone in my family knows the album from front to back. A lot of great things came out of the 90’s! (Not just Ace of Base.)

When I was in high school I had my heart set on going to school in San Francisco. There was something about the San Francisco fog that put a spell on me and I was convinced in order to be happy, successful, and a contributing adult to society I had to breathe in that fog daily. I HAD to go to San Francisco for college. Eric Clapton’s version of ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ became my mantra song during college application time. It was a way for me to wish it into reality. Naturally, my parents being good parents, they made me apply to other schools, so not all my eggs were in one basket. I did get in, and I played ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ once I opened that giant envelope with all the school literature. Sadly, my scholarly San Francisco dreams didn’t come to fruition due to several other colleges giving me considerably more money. I had to do the very adult thing of adjusting my expectations, but in the end it turned out for the best and I don’t regret the college choice I made. However, whenever I listen to this song, I feel like a teenager again, and it makes me smile.

But it might just be the KAZOOS!

 

36) Coconut Records – West Coast

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I first heard this song on The O.C. I hadn’t really watched the show much, but I became invested because it was my roommate’s favorite show. My wonderful, male roommate opened my eyes to a lot of things that year we lived together, but The O.C. was probably the most entertaining. We also watched a lot of R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped In The Closet’ and ate a lot of Taco Bell when we were drunk. It was 2005/2006 – and it was AWESOME!

When I left for California I listened to this song a lot. There were many people I wanted to put in my suitcase and take with me. It was a song I associated with excitement and new beginnings. When I left California, ALL I wanted to do was go back and take even more of the people I loved with me. It became a melancholic song, about missing the coast. Over time it has lost it’s melancholic connotation for me. It’s a friendly reminder of when the West Coast was my home and how I loved it there. I think there are less people I would want to take with me now, than I did back then. Also, some of the people I would have wanted to take may not have been cut out for it.

Maybe one day I’ll make it back, maybe I wont. Either way it’s ok. Uprooting yourself can be a difficult process, especially when you’re not terribly young anymore. You change, you evolve, you develop, you take risks, you make mistakes, you put yourself out there, you feel uncomfortable, you feel untethered. But I’ve found that no matter how difficult the change or the move, you carry pieces of every place you’ve been with you, and you’re usually right where you’re meant to be at the exact time you need to be. Years on, any of my friends are welcome to come home with me in my suitcase, any time.

PS – Let’s talk about how Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzman’s pet project. It isn’t enough that he gets to act in all these Wes Anderson movies, but he also he write all his music and performs the instruments. I just need one talent, and he has so many…

35) Lauryn Hill – Ex-Factor

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‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ was an iconic soundtrack to the end of my high school career. It was a lot of ‘Doo-Wop (That Thing)’, but once you got past the “cool”/radio song, the album was amazing. I had really liked The Fugees, but found Lauryn’s solo career much more satisfying musically. She managed to blend old and new sounds and genres together, with an interesting point of view.

I was a huge VH1 Pop Up Video fan at the tail end of high school. I could watch segment after segment and take in all the weird, interesting tid bits of information and go down these weird rabbit holes that the VH1 people took you on. I remember watching VH1’s Pop-Up Video for ‘Ex-Factor’ and just being amazed by all the fun facts. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that version on YouTube.) What stands out, and what I remember, was that Lauryn had just given birth to one of her kids right before the video was shot and she was incredibly self conscious as a result. Plus it’s supposedly about her old band mate Wyclef Jean. So much telenovela style drama. I loved it. I still do. So maybe her career didn’t exactly go the way I would have liked for it to go for her. She’s still a bad ass. And almost 20 years later, it’s still a great song to jam out to.

 

34) Elton John – Bennie and the Jets

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My parents were both Elton John fans. They loved his music. It’s too bad they weren’t into imitating his style or dress up would have been a lot more fun when we were younger. (It was still fun, but we could have had wild glasses and sequins.)

We originally listened to Elton John on vinyl. A lot of his vinyl albums that we had, the jacket folded out like a book. When we were little and learning how to play Gin Rummy, and other card games, our hands were too small to hold the cards without showing the other player. (My hands still may be too small for this.) We had tried books, as a visual barrier, they stood up great, but the pages got in the way. So we found the perfect solution with vinyl albums. We would open the album jackets and use it as an impromptu cover so we could lay our hand on floor and sort it out that way. I believe this caused some undue wear on the album jackets, but they were a perfect solution to stop the other sibling from cheating. (We were highly competitive with games. A couple dinosaur checkers matches ended in tears.)

The opening of the song is so playful and exciting, especially as a kid, you knew exactly what to expect once you heard those notes. I always loved the electric boots. I imagined them as a sort of light up go-go boot. I only knew about go-go boots because of my mom and Nancy Sinatra. I also imagined the mohair suit as a sort of fringe suit, 70’s style, which is not accurate of what mohair is, but that’s how my awesome imagination pictured it. I’m sure ‘I read it in a magazine’.

33) Ace of Base – All That She Wants

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My first CD ever was New Kids On The Block. My second CD ever was Ace of Base – The Sign. Ace of Base is my guilty pleasure to this day. It’s so bad, it’s so good. I love those Swedes. Plus this is one of my favorite – What do the lyrics really mean? – songs.

When this song first came out, I was around ten. I thought Ace of Base was looking for a literal baby child. Like, oh she has one baby at home, and she needs another one so that the first baby has a little brother or sister. I’m not quite sure why I thought it was natural to look for a baby on the beach while you’re catching a tan, but she just seemed to really want to get pregnant and was hopeful it would happen. Maybe it was a Swedish thing? ‘She’s the hunter, you’re the fox’ went right over my head. Seriously, didn’t even think about it not being a baby, baby until I was in my 20’s. Today, I have a better understanding of where babies come from than I did back then. It does sound more like she’s got a ‘Man Eater’, by Hall and Oates, outlook on life. As a 35 year old, I am now ready to admit there’s a high probability she’s looking for a bae, not a baby baby. I’m only 95% sure, since I was so convinced as a kid of the baby thing and who knows what is lost in translation. My childhood narrative, while naive, is how I’d prefer to remember ‘All That She Wants’. It’s been well over 20 years since this song came out, I hope Ace of Base have found both kinds of babies they were looking for. ‘She’s going to get you.’

32) Aimee Mann – The Moth

IMG_7120I didn’t know how to draw moths, so I drew bees for this card.

I really got into Aimee Mann in college and the early years after college. If you can’t tell, I love a good Indie lady rocker with soulful lyrics. I always have. Maybe it was because I wanted to go to Lilith Fair as a kid and never got to. I have also been known to get drunk, blast some Aimee Mann songs and end up in tears dancing in my living room. Hazard of the job…

I’ve always liked ‘The Moth’ because it’s symbolism is so powerful, yet so simple. It was also so reflective of my relationships and choices during my early 20’s period. You know that people or choices are not ideal for you, but you think either it’s going to be different, or you don’t care, or it’s going to be fine. Usually it is fine, but you still hurt yourself in getting there.

In those days, I loved the lyrics ‘And nothing fuels a good flirtation like need and anger and desperation’, which thinking back is kind of messed up. But it was indicative of all those feelings during that time – uncertainty, figuring out your place in the world, what your value is as a human, what to do with your overwhelming college loans, what being an adult means and how all your relationships transition. It’s not like I was out of control or collecting bad habits, but I did go back to a couple relationship wells too many times, and I didn’t always prioritize the right people over other things. It’s part of growing up and making those mistakes and figuring out on your own terms what’s important and what isn’t. It takes time to see your big picture, for some of us it takes longer than other, and it’s hard because ‘all you really need is a love of heat’ sometimes unknowingly, trumps everything.

31) The Pretenders – Don’t Get Me Wrong

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In the late 80’s and early 90’s I LOVED The Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde was this bad ass rocker chick from Ohio, even though for most of my life I thought she was British. There’s something I’ve always like about her. She’s got spunk, style, and a total cool factor. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ and ‘Brass in Pocket’ are two of my favorite Pretender’s songs. ‘Brass in Pocket’ was young me, dancing around to ‘Gonna use my arms, gonna use my legs, gonna use my style, gonna use my side step’. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ is more adult me, dancing around to ‘Don’t get me wrong, if I come and go like fashion. I might be great tomorrow, but hopeless yesterday’ (Story of my life). The fashion bit has always resonated with me. I’m far from a popular trendsetter. For me, personally, I like what I like and I stick to it. BUT I love following trends and fashion and see things cycle through life and popularity. Sometimes for the good (90’s grunge style) and sometimes for the bad (mullets) and I think if you’re patient and level headed you life cycles through that way too. Good time, bad times, one day you’re a super cool jelly shoe, the next day you’re a has been bolo tie. You adjust, re-invent yourself, find your new north or normal and tuck that fanny pack away in the back of the closet for a time when it’s hip again.

But in all seriousness, this is a super love song. Who doesn’t want to ‘see neon lights‘ whenever someone walks by or think ‘about the fireworks, that go off when you smile’? These all sound awesome. Potentially a little far fetched and overly romanticized for real life, but in theory it’s amazing.

And who doesn’t want to be Chrissie Hynde driving around in a horseback riding helmet? It’s a perfectly fashionable accessory.