Soundtrack for Life
I am prepared to say, after much thought and deliberation, that the following three CDs have changed my life.
- Twin Cinema
- Electric Version
- Mass Romantic
All of these CD’s are by a Canadian band named The New Pornographers. It’s hard to explain the why behind my belief that these 39 songs have had such an important impact, but they have. Maybe some history will help…
I usually listen to what I call geek music, bands like the Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants, etc. All excellent bands with good lyrics and clever takes on the world around them. In addition I have a soft spot of excellent vocalists like Sarah McLachlan and Dido. But around the time Lindsay and I broke up I started getting into a darker side of music… well, dark for me. My playlist included songs from The Killers, Snow Patrol, and Green Day. These are all great bands too; in fact, I went to The Killers’ concert not too long ago and really enjoyed it (other than being way older than the average attendee).
The problem with most of this music is that it takes a rather pessimistic view on relationships. A quote from Snow Patrol’s How to Be Dead:
Please take it easy it can’t all be my fault
I haven’t made half the mistakes
That you’ve listed so far
Oh baby let me explain something
It’s all down to drugs
At least I remember taking the and not a lot else
It seems I’ve stepped over lines
You’ve drawn again and again
Now, this song held a lot of meaning for me while I was first internalizing the end of my relationship with Lindsay. But it also reinforced certain bad feelings and assumptions… which means listening to their CD every day on the way to and from Renton over the summer was not exactly the best idea.
Then the New Pornographers walked into my life. At first it was just a CD that Brett picked up ’cause he heard them on NPR. Then I bought their earlier CDs. Then we went to a live concert. Now I listen to them pretty much non-stop when I’m walking around campus (Digital music players are truly a godsend). Their music is a cross between pop, folk, electric, and bubbles (not the music… the soapy stuff). It’s an eight person band with both a male and female lead singer, which gives each of their song a very unique feel. Contrast with the Killers who, as far as I can tell, have two unique songs that are each 15 minutes long.
The lyrics are also mind blowing… consider this verse from These are the Fables off Twin Cinema.
Heaven shook Hell
And down from its pockets
The ring in your bell
It fell through your hands
Hang at your feet
The doors that won’t open
Marking the journey of our friends complete
These are the fables of my street
My street, my street
Lay down in glory, you’re not alone
I know exactly what this means… but I couldn’t even begin to tell you. It’s that way with most of their songs. Something about them just communicates concepts and feelings through emotional expression and mere sentence fragments. Best yet, I would say only 30-40% of their songs are about intimate relationships. Most, at least in my head, are out our other relationships… whether with our friends, our life choices, or the world at large. That being said, one of their best songs is a relationship song entitled All for Swinging You Around that I would proudly sing at the top of my lungs to the next person I fall in love with.
It also helps that they sound great and their music is lively.
I say this music has changed my life because for two reasons. One, it got me out of a nasty rut of listening to the dark music. Two, it gives me a means by which to think about my life in a whole new light. Through the lens of these whimsical words I find new meaning. If you’ve read this far, I strongly suggest you pick up one of their albums. Each one is excellent in their own right, but Twin Cinema is probably the best starter album (although All for Swinging You Around is on Electric Version).
And if you don’t… I just might have to buy you a copy for your birthday.