The issue of Rolling Stone that I just threw out because it had been sitting on my toilet for 3 months has a feature listing songs that famous musicians’ felt most influenced them and their work. Since I can’t sing* and will never be famous enough to be saddled between a five star review of the most recent U2 album and advertisement for sex-cushions and thus have little to no chance of gracing the pages of a mediocre publication in a dying media format, I decided to do what any young** scribe should do in the year of our Lord 2015: take to the internet and announce my opinions to an unsolicited audience that’s barely paying attention.
Outside of food and oxygen, I’ve long since felt that music has kept me alive. Sometimes I wonder slash kick my past self in the face for not seriously pursing an instrument when I was younger. Film school made sense at the time, and while I always enjoy a good flick or series, I find myself less inclined in recent years to deconstruct what I like about a particular show or analyze WHY it works; music has never lost that appeal, partly because it’s so easy to consume a four minute song compared to a two hour film. Why didn’t I get a guitar when I was 13? I was in choir in elementary school, singing all sorts of bullshit at recitals and practicing harmonies and pitches and other such musical terms I’ve long since forgotten the definitions of. I don’t remember why I quit, or why I never became one of those kids*** who brought an acoustic guitar to every social gathering. Maybe I could have been the next Jason Mraz. Think of the money! Think of the hats!
Anyway, below are five songs by five artists I deeply admire and I guess in some way shaped who I am- if you discount all my experiences, friends, family, morals, values and education. There’s also some words I put together. Share yours in the comments, all six people who will read this post.
1. Against Me! – Walking is Still Honest
Dear shithead, this isn’t happening/
The sky is really falling, the paint’s all made of lead,
There’s asbestos in the walls,
Hell’s coming to rip off the doors to your privileged heaven.
Do you want to love and feel it?
You can look but you can’t taste it.
You can reach but you’ll never have it.
We are untouchable; untouchable is something to be.
Who the fuck needs rhyming couplets? Laura Jane Grace has always written incredibly deep, poetic, catchy-as-fuck punk songs that cut right through all the nonsense of a metaphor and slap you in the mouth. If anything, she writes relatable tunes whether you’re 13 and drawing anarchy symbols on your backpack or 30 and going to your nothing office job every day. I first heard this tune in 2006, right out of film school, very broke and very unsure of what the hell was going on in the world (both mine and the). I walked everywhere and nowhere; sometimes when I couldn’t sleep, I’d leave my apartment in New West and walk west for hours until the trains started and the sun came up. This tune was an anthem for a lot of reasons. I felt like the “iron-willed fuck up”.
Try to watch that video and not start pogo dancing in your living room. It’s impossible!
2. Matthew Good- Avalanche
It’s hard to pick one Matt Good song. I think he’s a vastly underrated songwriter that in an alternate timeline, is as famous and revered as Bob Dylan or at least Dave Matthews. Those familiar with his music either adore everything he’s done, or write him off because his poppy-melodies are laced with acetone lyrics that are often criticized as nonsense. The latter are so goddamn wrong: I think he’s a poet, clever and sardonic from day one in a way that most musicians work their whole careers to master.
This key is to your kingdom
This key is to your heart
Neither one is a doorway
But both of them a part
So one foot in front of the other
I remember seeing the video to Everything is Automatic on MuchMusic while on vacation at my grandma’s place in Vancouver when I was 12 or 13 and managed to convince my mom to give me money to buy the CD when we visited Metrotown. It was my first real memory of the big city, and it turned me on to a musician I’ve listened to ever since.
3. Frank Turner – Photosynthesis
Oh maturity’s a wrapped up package deal so it seems
And ditching teenage fantasy means ditching all your dreams
All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will
Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled
Oh when no ones yet explained to me exactly what’s so great
About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate.
It’s an anthem we could all use once and awhile.
4. Metallica – Enter Sandman
I heard this on the radio recently. I don’t think I like it anymore. There are at least ten Metallica songs with better riffs and more thoughtful lyrics**** than their biggest, most renowned tune, but this one will always have a special place in my musical upbringing.
Growing up, we lived a few doors down from another family whose parents were friends with my parents. My sister and their daughter were the same age so they eventually became pals, but her older brother had about five years on me; aside from the odd road hockey game, we weren’t exactly on the same level at 10 and 15 years old. One day, he gave me a few cassette tapes and told me to listen to them. The first song on the first tape with Enter Sandman- the whole Black album was there- but I was so fucking hooked after the first thirty seconds of Enter Sandman. I wore that tape out in my blue Sony Walkman. It was just so heavy and different than anything I’d ever heard my dad play in the car on road trips*****. It felt evil, like I shouldn’t have that tape at ten years old.
5. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
ShowTime was a Canadian TV station that aired pre-X-Files David Duchovny softcore along with unedited films around 1am every Friday night. As teenager, I’d hunker down in my bedroom with the 13 inch television I got for Christmas and watch Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks… all of these incredibly different, irreverent and interesting films I had no idea existed until I got cable in my bedroom. And then I found Trainspotting. And Iggy Pop. That moment was absolutely a life-changer, because I discovered my favorite film and (one of) my favorite musicians all within two hours.
I also learned what heroin was and that you should never ever fucking do it.
* Five beers deep and on a scale of one to ten, my karaoke skills sit at a comfortable 6. It’s all about the showmanship, baby.
** I’m 30 now. Is that still considered young? Someone please placate my recent terror of coming to terms with mortality and growing up.
*** Also known as: an asshole.
**** If that’s possible in a Metallica song
***** Zeppelin IV, CCR, Supertramp, Marc Bolan, The Stones, and Clapton