There’s so much joy and beauty that comes rushing back when I listen to this one. I finally had my own car, and could explore all I wanted in my free time, which led to a lot of peaceful afternoons spent hiking and impromptu visits with friends. Despite my fears that the summer ahead would be lonely without Sharon around, it turned out to feel like my first real summer of freedom. I also get strong memories of my wide-eyed wonder as I got to visit places I’d never seen before.
In with the New:
All Together Separate
Out with the Old:
It Was Worth a Try:
Listen on Spotify:
This picture was taken on the outskirts of the city of Los Alamos, looking out across the mesas to the east. I visited New Mexico for the first time in May 2000, when Sharon moved there for the summer to do an internship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was a quiet, but beautiful town – I had a very positive impression of it despite the fact that parts of the town had just been ravaged by a wildfire. I thought it was going to be extremely difficult for me, being away from my girlfriend for the entire summer (because it been difficult the year before when she stayed in L.A. and I went away), but as it turned out, I was learning a good deal of independence, and I was finally able to learn to enjoy being on my own. Still, I would make a few trips back out there to visit her before the summer was through.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Happy Dispatch”, Beanbag (freesignal, 1999)
I’ve always been a bit sensitive to song lyrics, maybe less so over the past few years since I got more into mainstream music and stopped assuming that every lyric in a song was a statement that the songwriter agreed with. At the same time, maybe it’s not a wholly bad thing that I have a bit of sensitivity to violence in song lyrics. This hard, funky song by Beanbag (complete with a rap in 6/4 time!) deals with that topic, mentioning how we hear so much talk of shooting and killing in popular entertainment that we just kind of numb ourselves to it. It gets stylized and glamorized; we come to find it amusing. We forget that these things don’t look soo cool when they happen to real people, and we blind ourselves to the suffering and injustice. Maybe it’s a good thing for me that I haven’t completely developed an iron stomach when it comes to that sort of thing.
2) “The Phantom Mullet”, Five Iron Frenzy (All the Hype that Money Can Buy, 2000)
A silly song glorifying the hideous haircut worn by refugees from the 1980’s. You know what’s funny? I didn’t even know what a “mullet” was until I played this song for Heather, and she cleared it up for me. This is one of FIF’s best silly songs – a great hybrid send-up of ska and hair metal.
3) “Spirit in the Sky”, dc Talk (Jesus Miniseries Soundtrack, 2000)
OK, so it was pretty gimmicky that they bothered to put out a CCM soundtrack for a TV miniseries about the life of Jesus. But I remember enjoying the miniseries somewhat, and Tim downloaded a few songs from the soundtrack that resulted in my being introduced to Norman Greenbaum’s classic rock hit, as redone by dc Talk. Just about anything new from dc Talk was enough to get us excited in those days when the wait for their new album was becoming increasingly long (of course, with all of the solo careers in full swing, it later became apparent that such an album would never materialize). I normally don’t approve of CCM singers “Christianizing” lyrics when they redo mainstream hits, but Kevin Max changing the bridge to “You know that I’m a sinner, we all sin” was a good call from a theological standpoint.
4) “Our Finest Hour”, Philmore (Philmore, 2000)
Another fun hair metal send-up (as filtered through modern pop-punk) that I discovered thanks to 7Ball. They were able to take the apocalyptic “beat the snot out of the Devil” type stuff that I normally deplored and make it fun. I never got into any of Philmore’s other stuff, though I had a passing admiration for their cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
5) “Play the Game”, The W’s (Trouble with X, 1999)
Another in-joke song for me, Tim, and Krista – I first heard it while we were listening to the W’s as we played a ridiculously long game of Monopoly, and Krista was trying to get Tim to stop goofing around and just play the game. Not much depth here, since this one’s just about playing video games, but the fun part lies in the hidden track on some versions of the W’s album, where a guy is caught on tape singing along to the song – not just the words, but the horns, bass lines, and whatever else he feels like. I do that sometimes, so I found it humorous and I included the “normal” version of the song here to facilitate my own goofy sing-alongs.
6) “Heartbeat”, Bleach (Bleach, 1999)
Before I got around to installing a tape deck in my new Neon (it just came with a regular old radio), I had to settle for whatever stations I could get, so I was listening to Air1 Radio a lot, and this was a popular single at the time which really struck a chord with me. I loved the driving, victorious guitar riffs, the slicing ending, and the happy declaration of getting back to a place where one could spend some quality alone time with God. That was the year that I discovered Napster, thanks to my brother, and this was one of the first songs I downloaded (which was tricky; just searching for “Bleach” resulted in Nirvana’s debut album showing up several times in the results).
7) “Round and Round”, Fono (Goesaroundcomesaround, 1999)
Fun song about a girl who just can’t make up her mind. Now she likes you; now she doesn’t. This mix was front-loaded with fun rock songs that just ran slam-bang right into each other, because once I finally got that tape deck installed, I wanted my latest mix to be extra fun and packed with good momentum for driving.
8) “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)”, Nine Days (The Madding Crowd, 2000)
I have a theory that songs which start off immediately with a recognizable vocal hook are easier to remember than songs which just start with typical instrumental intros. They also have the tendency to annoy more people if that chorus hook just jumps right in. This song fit both categories, depending on who you were. I first heard it on a radio station in Los Alamos when I made the initial trip out there with Sharon, and it was pretty much all over the place by the middle of that summer, but every time I heard it, I’d remember the quaint little shops and restaurants that we explored in what Los Alamos called “downtown”.
9) “One Time”, Earthsuit (Kaleidoscope Superior, 2000)
I’ve always been intrigued by hybrid genres, and I took to the rap/rock thing fairly easily as long as there wasn’t a lot of screaming involved (I couldn’t stand P.O.D. at the time, though Beanbag was a notable exception). Adding reggae and electronica to the mix just sweetened the deal, so Earthsuit’s album was a must-have from the first time I heard this insanely catchy song. It turned out to be one of the absolute best albums of that year – I loved pretty much every song, and it’s a bummer that the band didn’t survive to put out a second album (though that ultimately led to the formation of Mute Math, now one of my favorite bands). It’s one of the few albums that I loved enough to buy twice – I mistakenly left my portable CD player on a bench while waiting for an airport shuttle at a local hotel, and the Earthsuit CD was in the player when it was taken, so I went out and got another copy, downloading the album from Napster in the meantime to tide myself over.
10) “Heaven”, Luna Halo (Shimmer, 2000)
Luna Halo’s album proved to be an excellent road trip disc that Sharon and I mutually agreed on when making the long drive from Los Angeles to Los Alamos in May. Something magical struck me about this song as we were making our way through the desert and the sun began to set. I had gone from feeling timid and static earlier that year to embarking on an adventurous journey to a state I’d never gone to, and feeling confident that I’d be OK without my girlfriend that summer even if I dreaded actually saying goodbye. It felt like Heaven was shining bright on me due to that sense of newfound confidence.
11) “Sorry”, Five O’Clock People (The Nothing Venture, 1999)
This song rapidly became my favorite break-up song of all time, and it’s remained in that spot despite heavy competition as I got more into mainstream music. Having an awesome fiddle solo weaving through the middle of it didn’t hurt – whenever I was visiting Heather that summer and she had Five O’Clock People playing in the background, she’d shush me during the middle of this song so that we could bask in the glory of that great solo. Sharon and I weren’t yet on the verge of a breakup, but we had our fights that year when it seemed like our lives and interests were beginning to diverge, so part of me did worry about what would happen if she got scared and called it quits and I was just left with what would feel like a lot of wasted time. The way I had things worked out in my mind, she had no choice but to stick with it and marry me, because this was my first love and I wasn’t giving up on it. It really wasn’t fair that I expected that of her just because I wanted to never experience the breakup of a long-term relationship. It’s rare that people find their soulmates on the first try; I assumed prematurely that she was mine simply because I’d never had such experiences before, and that locked her into a certain expectation that made it very difficult for her to do the right thing and end it when it did become necessary to do so the following year.
12) “I’m So Scared”, Aleixa (Disfigured, 1999)
An extension of the fear of rejection and wasted time expressed in the previous song. Aleixa was an unusual and extremely un-trendy band that became a misfit favorite for me and Heather after I rescued it from a bargain bin at Lighthouse. They were old-school industrial electronica with chipper but haunting female vocals – as the Phantom Tollbooth described them, “Britney Spears in a blender”. This long, incisive song about the fear of unrequited love totally hit the nail on the head. Strangely, being separated from Sharon that summer made it easier for us to get along and not have our usual fights as much. I felt a lot more confident about our relationship than I had earlier in the year when she had been dealing with a heavy course load and I had been going through a depression.
13) “You Answer Me”, Jennifer Knapp (Lay It Down, 2000)
A peaceful answer from God floating in after a dark night of praying and wrestling. I had a lot of time that summer to be by myself, either in my bedroom at night when my brother was working the late shift at a local movie theater, or when I’d drive around and find various local trailheads and just head off into the hills with a walkman and a lot of pent-up energy. Jennifer Knapp’s music was perfect for those meditative times, and an album that I was once disappointed with due to its skimpy length turned out to be one that I couldn’t get enough of that summer.
14) “Are You Ready?”, Creed (Human Clay, 1999)
Cheesy as it may have been, I loved that I had finally discovered a “heavy” mainstream rock band that just exuded a sense of confidence and happiness on songs like this one. I felt like there was a change in life coming, and I relished that. I loved that stations like KROQ were playing a song that acknowledged one of my favorite principles of Christianity (however vaguely stated it may have been) – “If you keep seeking, you will find.”
15) “Tonight and the Rest of My Life”, Nina Gordon (Tonight and the Rest of My Life, 1999)
In late June, I flew out to New Mexico to visit Sharon for a weekend that extended until the fourth of July. During our exploration of the local woods this weekend, we heard this song on the local Top 40 station, and Sharon mentioned that she had heard it several times before, and that it reminded her of a cross between Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, and Enya. It was a beautiful song. I still hear it every now and then in the supermarket or some random place like that, and get vivid flashbacks to a windy road through a burned-out forest that suddenly opened up into the green expanse of an old volcano caldera.
16) “Wave After Wave”, Iona (Open Sky, 2000)
At long last, a new studio album from Iona came out that summer! In the UK, at least. It wasn’t yet available here, and I was hesitant to order something from overseas that I hadn’t heard a note of yet, so I was quite vigilant about searching Napster until I finally found a lone user from the UK who had it. This beautiful song with its odd time signature, about the crashing of waves and the ways that nature constantly renews itself, was an immediate standout due to the gorgeous violin at the beginning and the lyrical celebration of imagination – “Music in every sound, light beyond each cloud, hope in every dream.” Dawningstar had spent her spring semester in England, at a school in York, and with the help of our mutual friend Claire, we managed to call over to a UK ticket outlet and get her two Iona concert tickets (to a show in nearby Leeds) as a birthday gift in May. She later said that this song had been a highlight of the new material that they played. I’ll likely never get to see this awesome band live, so at least I got to live vicariously through her by buying her those concert tickets.
This is the New York, New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. After the road trip to Los Alamos with Sharon, I hopped on a plane from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, to meet Tim and some of his high school buddies for his bachelor party. I hadn’t been to Vegas since I was a kid, and it was interesting walking along the Strip and taking in all of the gratuitous sights. Tim and Krista got married two weeks later – I’ve perhaps never been so happy for another couple as I was for them.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Cobalt”, Massivivid (Brightblur, 1999)
Dark, kickin’, energetic, grungy electronic song to start off the second half. The best part of this one was the wicked cool breakdown in 7/8 time during the bridge.
2) “In My Shoes”, Polarboy (Back from Nowhere, 1998)
A friend from college and I had a confrontation mere weeks before his graduation from Oxy that put our friendship on hiatus for several years. I was talking about Sharon and some the uncertainties in our relationship, and how she wasn’t accepted by some of my other Christian friends because her theology was a little different, and he cornered me with the question “What is her theology?” This was during a ride that he was giving me back to my Mom’s house, and I was about to get out of the car later, so I tried to tell him that it would take a much longer conversation to explain this, but he basically suggested that she didn’t really have the core beliefs that were necessary to be a Christian, to be “saved”. I was furious about this, and I basically just stopped talking to him for a while. But his question kind of shook me – was I in denial regarding what was really an “unequally yoked” relationship? That’s what this song was about, a guy telling a girl not to make him choose between him and Jesus. And it’s beautifully written for a song on that subject. One day during Sharon’s last few days in California before going to New Mexico for the summer, we had a fairly difficult conflict about something wholly unrelated to the religious issue, and in desperation for a sign from God after driving in silence for a while, I turned on the radio. I said, “Alright God, tell me something through the song that’s going to be playing when I turn this radio on.” And I feared that it would be “In My Shoes”, which was getting heavy rotation at the time. But it turned out to be dc Talk’s “Godsend”. That was encouraging. Kind of a silly and arbitrary thing on which to base a decision to stay in a relationship, but looking back, it made sense. Sharon had some beliefs that my conservative Christian friends may have considered unorthodox, possibly even apostate, but she never sought to separate me from my own beliefs. She merely intended to challenge me to think about why I believed what I believed, and I was the foolish one who conformed just for the sake of conforming, instead of challenging her back on certain things. Still, “Godsend” was a much more fitting song, because it was through that relationship that I came to appreciate seeking and questioning as a means of getting closer to God. She wasn’t intended to be my “soulmate”, but I do believe that God intended for her to be in my life during that time.
3) “Regret”, Mukala (Fiction, 1998)
A fun, goofy song about the things you want to be when you grow up, and realizing that they’re harder to achieve than you initially thought. This one stood out to me because someone posted on the band’s own guestbook that the song stunk, which I thought was funny.
4) “Solidarity”, Five Iron Frenzy feat. Randy Stonehill (All the Hype that Money Can Buy, 2000)
Another song that was popular on Air1 at the time. I loved hearing Five Iron Frenzy in Latin horn-blasting mode, complete with whoops and hollers, and a guest vocal from a Christian rock legend from another time. This one helped to cheer up those sleepy early morning drives to work (this was when I still got up at like 7 AM even though I didn’t really have to – my work hours were, and still are, highly flexible).
5) “Pacify Me”, Aleixa (Disfigured, 1999)
This song was downright scary the first time I heard it – I can safely say that I’ve never heard harsh female screams in any other song by a Christian artist. But the anger here was justified – it was directed at a person trying to make someone fit into to their exact mold of how Christians should behave and what they should think and say. This one was harsh enough that snippets of the lyrics such as “stop and suck” weren’t printed in the booklet, perhaps due to fears of some easily offended soccer mom getting a hold of the lyric booklet or something. I liked that they were eagerly scribbling outside of the CCM lines with this one. I actually encountered a user on Napster who turned out to be Kevin 131 from this band, and ironically enough he contacted me because he noticed that I had Aleixa songs available for download, and was glad that someone was helping to spread their music. That’s how I learned some of the special tidbits about this extremely bizarre song.
6) “Pretty You”, Fono (Goesaroundcomesaround, 1999)
The sound of this song always reminded me of race cars or dirtbikes getting revved up, and the chorus vocals always gave me sort of a Toby Mac vibe (think “Since I Met You”). Another fun summer song, I guess.
7) “The Fire Breathes”, Skillet (Invincible, 2000)
One of the better heavy tracks on a Skillet album that had one too many syrupy pop ballads. Tim was astute enough to noticed that Kevin Haaland’s little heavy power-chord romp during the bridge actually resulted in a key change down for the final chorus, which is an unusual thing that you don’t normally hear in rock music.
8) “Lay It Down”, Jennifer Knapp (Lay It Down, 2000)
While decidedly country-influenced, Sharon was convinced that Jennifer’s vocal for this song had a few “Alanis moments” where Jennifer would belt out “Yeah!” I could kind of see the resemblance, but at the time, she was an Alanis fan and I was not, and I didn’t dare mention this to Tim, who considered Alanis to be the queen of a group of “whiny women” who got way too much radio play, along with cohorts such as Jewel and Meredith Brooks. That would have started an argument that I would not have wanted to be in the middle of.
9) “Wherever God Shines His Light”, Waterdeep (Everyone’s Beautiful, 1999)
This was another random song that first popped up on KDUV, probably during our Spring Break trip to Fresno, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on a recording of the song until I discovered Napster. I didn’t find out until a little later on that it was originally a Van Morrison song. Waterdeep definitely spiced it up with their infectious “Doo doo doo”s and their free-wheeling hippy attitude.
10) “Sad Clown”, Jars of Clay (If I Left the Zoo, 1999)
Tim didn’t normally gravitate toward Jars’ slow songs, but this was one that he thought was really interesting when he paid closer attention to it. I agreed. The jazzy chords and the toy piano slowly worked their way into my mind, and I could relate to the sense of darkness and depression expressed in the song – here I was, a guy who thrived on being able to make people laugh, but it seemed incongruous to be able to pull off the clown act and still go through depressions and stuff. As I stabilized a little more during that summer, I began to realize that I was just a person who felt his emotions – whether good or bad – very strongly. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing – I was just endowed with an extra sensitivity to certain things that not everyone had.
11) “Complacent”, Luna Halo (Shimmer, 2000)
This song dazzled me with its complex time signatures the first time around, creating loops of 11/8 or 23/16 or whatever on earth it was as it circled around. This one was a good follow-up to “Sad Clown” – it looked in from outside, saw the person’s desperation under their facade, but ultimately lamented a failure to help the person, because they kept pretending to need no help. The biggest threat to Christian faith, I was learning, wasn’t depression – it was complacency. Just being so used to where you are that you assume it’s normal and no longer care to make the effort to change it.
12) “Touch”, Delirious? (Roaring Lambs, 2000)
It’s funny how many times this song has resurfaced, going from a little known B-side to a heavily revamped rocker that appeared on the Roaring Lambs disc, to a similarly-charged title track on an album that surfaced a few years later in a market that was too weirded out by the Audio:Lessonover? album to deal with it in full. I remember the day I bought and first listened to Roaring Lambs – it was two days after Tim and Krista’s wedding, and we had all gone through the elation of celebrating, and Sharon, who had flown in just for that weekend, was leaving, and we had left off on rather ugly terms due to a fight about when she’d let me come visit her later that summer. As I sat in my office late that evening (making up for not getting there until after lunch), watching the sun go down and listening to the victorious, healing sound of the guitar solo, it was like an unspoken sentiment that said “It’s all gonna be OK, just you wait and see.”
13) “Deep Love”, Michelle Tumes (Center of My Universe, 2000)
Dawningstar returned from her semester abroad in late June, and we had much catching up to do. She spent the summer on campus in Stearns, and heather and I hung out around campus quite a bit, so I introduced the two ladies and they turned out to have a similar appreciation for good literature and good music. It was great having D* around that summer – I helped her shop for an outfit for a wedding that we were both invited to (oh alright, I provided transportation and was completely useless at the shopping part of it), and I remember her having the radio on in her tiny dorm room while I waited outside as she tried on her dress, and this song came on and she asked me who it was. She misheard me and thought I had said “Michelle Tunes“, which she figured was an appropriate name, and I thought she was making a pun on “Tombs”, so we had this moment where we both just looked at each other, kind of confused.
14) “Break”, Newsboys (Love Liberty Disco, 1999)
“Don’t go thinking I’m crazy”, Peter Furler urged us in falsetto, “but I feel like I could break”. Interesting sentiments for such a peaceful, string-laden song, but I had been through those days of feeling like I was on the verge of losing my sanity, and emerged from the other side, and I knew that part of what got me through was just being able to admit to God how close I felt to losing control. Maybe that was the point. It was all too overwhelming and I couldn’t make all of the problems in my little world just vanished. At some point I just had to fall silent, just like the lyrics in this song do, trailing off mid-phrase at the end, and find a return to sanity by way of accepting surrender.
15) “Paradigm”, All Together Separate (All Together Separate, 1999)
The Effect Radio, a Christian station in New Mexico (likely syndicated; I’ve heard similarly-named Christian stations elsewhere) which was a lot more edgy than any of the stations here in L.A., was my introduction to this song, which in and of itself wasn’t that edgy, but it’s definitely a passionate song. (Air1 was playing an edited version that left out the second verse – boo hiss!) I heard it as Sharon was driving me back to the Albuquerque airport after my trip out there with her in May. “I stay silent while the paradigm is shifting”. My worldview, my understanding of what it meant to be alone, was changing. I was scared to say goodbye, but something told me that good would come out of the time that I would have to be by myself that summer.
16) “Lunar”, Five O’Clock People (The Nothing Venture, 1999)
This thoughtful song, first track on a CD that Heather and I just couldn’t get enough of, really summed up the 20/20 vision that I was beginning to experience in hindsight, looking back at the depression that had hung over me from September until about April. “The quest for faith is a lunar endeavor, not warmer and brighter, but darker and wetter.” You have to face darker places in the soul, and own up to all that you are and all that you aren’t, as you grow older and pursue God more deeply. To expect it to be one big bed of roses is an extreme fallacy. I knew at this point that, as unsavory as those dark periods could be, there was beauty to be found in them. God taught me stuff during those times, perhaps more so than during the times when I was really happy and seemingly getting everything I wanted. This song represents a bold admission that I made to myself, a sense of peaceful clarity that what had once felt like the wrong path was in fact exactly where God wanted me. The summer that I had once dreaded now seemed so full of life because of this rebirth of sorts that I was experiencing.