Summer turned into fall, and with my girlfriend back on campus, so was I, living out what seemed like the best of both worlds at the time – working a steady job that paid well, but still reaping the benefits of campus life and fooling people into thinking I hadn’t graduated yet.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
It Was Worth a Try:
Listen on Spotify:
This is Newcomb Hall, where Sharon was a Resident Advisor during her senior year at Oxy. I initially worried that her taking on this job, which would require a lot of nights spent “on duty” where she had to stay in the dorm, in addition to her increased workload as a senior, might hamper our relationship, and while it was true that she was often very busy, I came to enjoy the time that I would spend in this dorm with her and some of her residents and fellow staff.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Everything”, Delirious? (Glo, 2000)
“It’s a beautiful day, and the world is bright…” This song struck me one Friday morning when, for no discernible reason, I woke up at like 6 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I just got up and went to work at like 6:45. Those early mornings are such a rare thing that when I’m awake for one, it’s refreshing to just see then sun slowly creeping in and bringing light to a new day. Plus when I come in to work that early, I can get off at like 3 PM! A contrast to that peaceful early morning, though, was seeing a few students in the Newcomb lobby on my way out the door (I was kind of an honorary resident that year) who were clearly still awake from studying that had commenced the night before.
2) “Escape from Reason”, Supertones (Loud and Clear, 2000)
I probably should have been more annoyed by a song that just relentlessly spits out doctrine than I was at the time, but I liked the hard-hitting approach, and the fact that it did pose a challenging issue to the Christians who listened to us: “Tell me, who will listen to uneducated congregants? And why should they, when all we ever say is bumper sticker doctrine and cute catch phrases?” I saw this problem in action at times. I knew at least one girl, who lived down the hall from Sharon, who was convinced that InterVarsity was “a f***ing cult”. I wouldn’t have gone to that extreme since I’d seen a lot of good come out of that fellowship, and some of my best friends were still involved in that group, and it was being run by good people. But what was their approach to the non-Christians on campus? Try too aggressively to just get the message out there as quickly as possible, and sometimes you run the risk of distilling it down to a pithy and annoying cliché, despite the best of intentions.
3) “Poparazzi”, Switchfoot (Learning to Breathe, 2000)
You can’t go wrong with a loud, thrashing earworm of an ode to annoyingly catchy pop songs. In protesting the frustratingly memorable stuff that permeates radio, you end up replacing it in the listener’s mind with your own big obnoxious hook. More amusing than the fact that this song – one of Switchfoot’s finest “silly songs” – was ever written is the fact that their ticket to mainstream fame came about due to pop star Mandy Moore being a fan – they later dedicated this song to her in concert as a result of that.
4) “I Want It That Way”, Fanmail (2000, 2000)
Here’s a happy medium. Just do a pop-punk cover of what was once an annoying boy band song. Hey, it worked for me!
5) “Ultradramatic”, Aleixa (Disfigured, 1999)
Another track from Aleixa’s CD that Sharon liked. It was actually the song that briefly got me into the group. Interestingly, it was one of their more preachy songs, but it was balanced with enough edge and melancholy to make the clichés easy enough to overlook.
6) “Wheel”, Earthsuit (Kaleidoscope Superior, 2000)
Heather was the one who unlocked the meaning of this song for me, explaining that it was a reference to the “wheel within a wheel” described in the book of Isaiah. She thought that the sheer energy of the song made it sound like the band was about to run off the stage, directly at you.
7) “For the Love of God”, Rebecca St. James (Transform, 2000)
I had gotten Tim into Rebecca St. James a few years prior after convincing him she was doing the rock thing instead of the tame pop found on her debut. We continued to correspond regarding music and various other subjects after he and Krista got married and moved off to North Carolina. When RSJ put out her next album that year, it was very much influenced by techno and modern pop trends, and this was the point where Tim and I diverged. He called her “Rebecca St. Spears” and couldn’t get into it. I thought it was a pretty tasty wall of sound. This one was an early favorite, due to the contrast of furious electronic rock with the “Disney strings” (I think it might have been Sharon who described them that way) that tied things up neatly at the end. Generally when RSJ does a big wall of sound like this, it’s more dramatic than it is cheesy – or at least, that’s how I regarded it at the time.
8) “Hello McFly”, Relient K (Relient K, 2000)
I loved the Back to the Future trilogy when I was younger (I seem to recall rewatching parts of it with Sharon on her new Mac G4, but I could be mistaken – we had friends over to watch other classics like Spaceballs on it at different times), so it was natural that I’d be amused by this song, which name-checks Michael J. Fox and expresses regret over sins that can’t be changed. Since I had a few friends who knew and enjoyed the song, I started to use “Hello McFly” as a catch phrase for a while, to indicate when someone wasn’t paying attention. Especially with Tim and Krista, we had many such catchphrases that we’d throw back and forth. One of Krista’s favorites was “You’re fired”, which she’d jokingly say to Tim when he goofed up some insignificant thing – and keep in mind that this was a few years before the advent of The Apprentice.
9) “Hello Ego”, John Reuben (Are We There Yet?, 2000)
I just had to put the two “Hello” songs together. There are far, far too many egocentric rap songs in the world, so this one, where John tells off his own ego in the form of a phone call to “The Kleeze”, was an instant classic in my book. I thought the little kids going “Blah blah blah!” was a nice touch; it turned out to be another sure-fire way to annoy Sharon.
10) “Day of Freedom”, Rachael Lampa (Live for You, 2000)
Here’s another one that Sharon enjoyed. For a CCM song, it was surprisingly ecumenical in its tone. I think it was the vaguely Middle Eastern strings that grabbed her attention. For a teenybopper sort of pop album, that first disc of Rachael’s actually had a few exotic, musically satisfying moments on it. I think anything that vaguely sounded like it might be from the Mediterranean part of the world intrigued Sharon; she was into anthropology and archeology, specifically as it regarded that region. She actually ended up going on a three-week trip to Greece the following year due to her profound interest in the subject. That doesn’t have much to do with this song, but that’s where the free association took me today, I guess.
11) “Supernova”, The Echoing Green (Supernova, 2000)
All I had to do was sample bits and pieces of the new Echoing Green album (which I had already heard some advance demos of, thanks to trolling Napster for EG songs), and I declared it to be one of the best techno albums I’d ever heard. I later recanted that statement, realizing that the “band” lineup featured on this album made for a bit of a muddled, too-thick sound, as opposed to the precision (however cheesy-sounding it may have been at the time) of their self-titled album. Anyway, this song rocked, and I always had an affinity for electronic/dance songs that could also rock. Early on at my job, I became webmaster for the Deep Space Network website, and I remember looking at the artwork for this album and wondering if they had borrowed silhouette images of some of the DSN dishes for their layout.
12) “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, Five Iron Frenzy (All the Hype that Money Can Buy, 2000)
I loved the dichotomy expressed in this bouncy little song. Everything in your life sucks, and yet it’s gonna be the greatest story ever told. It goes back to that theme I was dealing with the previous year, of losing the things that made me feel secure, and how that ultimately turned out to be a good story that God was telling, due to how I grew as a result of that. Little did I know what still lay ahead of me, in terms of what I stood to lose – and in fact, what I needed to lose.
13) “So Far Gone”, Five O’Clock People (The Nothing Venture, 1999)
Heather and I were fortunate enough to catch Five O’Clock People in what turned out to be one of our last chances to see them live, that September. It cost us $2 apiece, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. This cemented my love for solid performances by small-time bands – often the more intimate setting makes such a show more enjoyable than the “big rock shows” that I had previously been used to. We got to stick around and talk to the band’s drummer, guitar/fiddle/accordion/harmonica player, and bass player afterwards, and when I asked the bass player about this song, she commented that the title was actually the name of a band she had previously been in, but the song itself was about the band’s lead singer, written during a time when he was really bummed over a relationship that didn’t work out, and couldn’t get past it despite his friends’ best attempts to talk him down from his isolated little ledge. Within the next year, I would end up finding out exactly how much a breakup like that could sting, and how I could become a twisted reflection of myself if I let it get to me.
14) “Stay (Wasting Time)”, Dave Matthews Band (Before These Crowded Streets, 1998)
Some four years after I had first heard Crash coming out of Chris’s stereo back in good old Bell-Young, I was downloading tunes from Napster one afternoon, and I remembered what a catchy tune “Drive In Drive Out” had been. So I snagged the entire Crash album, and quickly became a fan. Then I decided to check out the band’s latest work, and I found a much more difficult beast to tame. I just didn’t get it. It was all dark and growly and long and rambling. I thought I was on the verge of insanity after the first time I made it all the way through the album. And yet something about it – wanting to conquer and understand it, most likely – drew me back. Eventually, this sexy little romantic jam track got the best of me, and when I went back to remake my mixes from this time period later on, I realized that I had made a huge mistake in leaving the DMB out. So here’s my first attempt to remedy that problem, and it serves to brighten the mood well enough after “So Far Gone”.
15) “The Only One”, Caedmon’s Call (Long Line of Leavers, 2000)
Electronic drum programming? No acoustic guitars for an entire song? Horns? What on Earth was Caedmon’s Call doing? I didn’t know, but I was easily won over by their latest, somewhat experimental album. Looking back, this isn’t even one of my favorite CC songs, but I think it grabbed me at the time due to how it forced me to accept their shift in sound (many fans weren’t so forgiving). I also related to the “leavers” theme, since I am one of those people who often worries that I’ll mess up and that everyone who I thought loved me will say “See you later”. It was a big worry when Sharon and I fought about various things that year, or when we talked about what she might do after graduation (the possibility of her going off to grad school and all that).
16) “Something Electric”, All Together Separate (All Together Separate, 1999)
The subtle, looping dance of the electric guitar in 9/8 time just enchanted me when I listened to this song. Much like “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, but in a more delicate way, this song reflected that theme of a beautiful work of God’s glory being made out of detestable circumstances. Why, even in my happiest times, was I so unsure and critical of myself? Good to acknowledge that I’m not perfect and still a work in progress, I guess, but why I couldn’t I see myself with the love and attention to detail that God did? If I wanted God to work on me, how come it was so difficult for me to acknowledge that God was capable of transforming me and that God had clearly done this already? It’s always been easy for me to get down on myself over stupid stuff that I wish I didn’t do. It’s only when I look back – an act of self-examination often prompted by these music mixes – that the change becomes much more evident. I may miss things about my younger self that I wish I had held onto, but for the most part, I can see that I’ve grown up a lot. And I have to give God the credit for that transformation, when I so often kicked and screamed and tried to fight it.
This picture shows part of the remains of a burned-down resort and trolley system that sat atop Echo Mountain, above the city of Altadena, California, in the early 1900’s. A hiking trail from the top of Lake Ave., which leads to these modern ruins, became one of my most frequent routes when I rediscovered my love for hiking after getting my own car earlier that year.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Against the Grain”, Earthsuit (Kaleidoscope Superior, 2000)
This mean, spitfire rap/punk song eventually beat out “One Time” for the honor of being my favorite Earthsuit song, though it served to only annoy both Heather and Sharon. Pity. When I really sat down and listened to the words more carefully, there were some fairly sharp-tongued criticisms of churchy types who favored strict rule-following to the point where they were pushing out anyone starving for real truth, and basically creating God in their own image.
2) “Taste Test”, Beanbag (freesignal, 1999)
I had no idea what the heck this song was about, but it was great for shouting along to at the top of my lungs when I was driving (hopefully not through an open shop window) and stressed out as… well… a weasel.\
3) “The Way You’re Calling”, Christine Glass (Love and Poverty, 1999)
Christine Glass’s first album had been such an underrated little buried treasure that I was glad to finally get my hands on her second one. And then I listened to it, and thus began my hatred of the mushy production skills of her husband, Marc Byrd. This was one of the few tracks on it that didn’t bore me to death – I liked how the electric violin added a bit of mystique to the song. Listening to it gave me an image of being called off into a deep, lush forest, in search of solitude.
4) “What If”, Creed (Human Clay, 1999)
My brother and I (and his girlfriend at the time) went to see Creed, Collective Soul, and Full Devil Jacket at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine that September. It was my first “mainstream” concert, even though ironically, Creed and Collective Soul had both been hounded by the “Christian band” tag at the height of their careers, and FDJ later broke up when their lead singer became a Christian and started Day of Fire. This show was my first taste of being next to concertgoers who were drunk and stoned off of their asses, and on the way in, someone was handing out free condoms (I kid you not!), which people were blowing up and tossing around the arena like balloons. None of this particularly bothered me – it was actually quite amusing to be surrounded by drunk, caterwauling fans singing at the top of their lungs to songs about God (as some of Creed’s tunes clearly were). This song, while it had been one that my brother and I found to be a bit silly, turned out to be a highlight of the concert just due to the energy level of it and the pyrotechnics that went along with it.
5) “Heavy”, Collective Soul (Dosage, 1998)
One of Collective Soul’s few highlights from the concert (really, they weren’t that great) follows Creed on this mix instead of Creed following them (which would have been more chronologically appropriate), simply because the sharp ending of this electrified riff-rocker wouldn’t have segued into “What If” very well. Instead, I decided that heavy things should be pulled down by gravity.
6) “9 Point 8”, Riley Armstrong (Riley Armstrong, 2000)
And of course, dating a physics major, I knew that the force of gravity was roughly equal to 9.8 meters per second squared. I’ve heard about a billion songs comparing gravity to one’s worries or sins, but this one was fun simply because it mixed up acoustic guitars and banjos with sort of a hip-hop drum loop.
7) “I Dare You to Move”, Switchfoot (Learning to Breathe, 2000)
And of course, after falling, you’ve got to pick yourself up off the floor, so that’s where this belated hit from Switchfoot (it wasn’t one of their more popular songs, or part of most of their live setlists, until nearly two years after its release) comes in. I was quite thrown off by their decision to open Learning to Breathe with back-to-back mid-tempo songs, but this one was an instant favorite despite that, just due to how they could challenge me so boldly while still being very fun-loving about it. I still prefer this version to the slightly different remake that they did in 2003.
8) “My Glorious”, Delirious? (Glo, 2000)
This was the big show-stopper, the tour-de-force that I always wanted to bang my head to when it came crashing on after a quiet, reflective moment on the Glo album. Esther liked it a lot, too, mostly for the powerful chorus, and I seem to remember going back and forth with her on various puns themed around this song and words which ended “-rious” (one example being a song about how my puns weren’t hilarious). It was a definite highlight of their show at the Greek Theater that month, a show where I was highly impressed with how loud Michael Tait’s new band was, and amused by how terrible Raze was in concert.
9) “God of Wonders”, Third Day & Caedmon’s Call feat. Leigh Nash (City on a Hill, 2000)
This is the one song I have to give Marc Byrd credit for – he and Steve Hindalong wrote a classic, and nothing that they wrote for the redundant City on a Hill sequels and spinoffs and blatant repackagings in the following years has come close. No version has ever surpassed this definitive version, either. It would be a few years before it became a church standard (these days I’m borderline sick of it), but it easily became a concert highlight for both Caedmon’s Call and Third Day, who would perform it respectively at shows I attended in 2001 and 2002.
10) “Wide Eyed”, Nichole Nordeman (Wide Eyed, 1998)
My discovery of Nichole Nordeman’s probing lyrical talent was quite belated, which is why a song from her first disc shows up here two years after the fact. I thought it was bold of her to create these caricatures of seemingly looney people who are so often written off as pagan know-nothings in a lot of CCM songs, and then turn around and say that all of her own knowledge amounts to just as much nonsense because she herself probably would have called Jesus a heretic and a fool if she had lived in His time. Obviously that doesn’t mean I should buy into it when someone claims that crystals have healing powers and whatnot, but how do I treat these people? Like they’re just worthless nutcases, or like they’re people who Jesus loves and who He’d take the time to stop and converse with?
11) “Drift Away”, Fono (Goesaroundcomesaround, 1999)
I’ve been noticing that I got hooked on Fono songs (no, not hooked on phonics, silly!) mostly due to the tunes and the riffs, rather than due to anything substantial in the lyrics department. This was a fairly simple quasi-worship song with a melody that just gave off a sense of liberation, and that’s about it.
12) “Fragile”, Phil Joel (Watching Over You, 2000)
I remember Heather complaining that Phil Joel’s album just felt like a less aggressive Newsboys album that was all about him being nice. And it’s true that a lot of those songs didn’t run very deep. But I thought this one was a bit more personal, a song about dealing with a loved one’s terminal illness that promised to stick with them through the night. I tend to shy away when people have really complicated medical problems or anything else that I think is going to make them “high maintenance” in terms of interacting with them, which I think I’m doing to avoid saying something dumb in their presence and offending them, but really it’s a bit discriminatory on my part. On an emotional level, I’ve been very “high maintenance” throughout much of my life, and obviously I haven’t wanted people to shy away from me. So I’ve had to rethink whether I can really stick it out and be there for someone who has more of a visible handicap, or a limited amount of time left to live.
13) “Crystal Clear”, Jaci Velasquez (Crystal Clear, 2000)
Crystals are kind of fragile, so that was my logic in putting these two songs together. OK, that’s not much of a connection at all, but the transition worked out neatly. Can you believe that Tiffany Arbuckle (a.k.a. Plumb) actually wrote a song for Jaci? It’s a very subtle, but pretty song, actually. I was quite taken with Jaci’s move towards a more artistic expression of herself on this album, until I realized that only two or three of the songs really stuck with me.
14) “The Way to Your Heart”, Luna Halo (Shimmer, 2000)
A gorgeous song that explores the dilemma of head vs. heart when one is deciding whether to take a leap of faith – and it later erupts into a thrilling fiasco of warped guitar playing. I cut out the Japanese poem at the end (the part that I later found out mimicked the fade from “Karma Police” into “Fitter Happier” on Radiohead’s OK Computer) because it created too much lagtime between songs, even though I do like that poem as an ending to Luna Halo’s album.
15) “Crush”, Dave Matthews Band (Before These Crowded Streets, 1998)
I had heard this song on the radio back when it was a single, and thought it to be rather clumsy and boring, but once I heard the album version, I realized that I had been missing out on some of the best parts of it. Now it’s my favorite DMB song – well, on the days when I’m feeling more mellow and romantic, anyway. Dave was and will always be a big horndog, but I have to respect him for writing a song about sex that is actually quite sexy, rather than some of the slobbering hedonistic stuff he gets away with at other times. Boyd’s violin and Leroi’s sax and flute are a big part of the aural bliss that fills the eight minutes of space taken up by this meandering love ballad.
16) “Fly Farther”, Jars of Clay feat. Allison Krauss (The White Elephant Sessions, 2000)
I figured it’d be best to finish this mix on a romantic note. Jars of Clay put out a rarities album that year, and I actually went out and bought another copy of If I Left the Zoo (which I promptly gave away as a gift) just so that I could get my hands on the bonus disc, and a legal copy of a rare non-album track that I had wanted to hear again ever since they played it live back in 1996 (it had been kicked off of Much Afraid due to an abundance of slow songs making the cut for that album). It was worth the wait. To this day I still regard it as one of their best songs – a delicate acoustic number with a rich but unusual melody, that chronicles the story of a couple getting married and growing older, and one of them eventually having to say goodbye to the other 50 years later. It’s a real tear-jerker, but it ends on the hopeful realization that the bond which was formed in those long years of marriage will stay with the widowed lover for the rest of his life, despite her physical absence. Sharon and I celebrated two years as a couple near the end of October, and I was still chomping at the bit to get married – in my mind I figured we’d broach the subject not long after she finished school. It wasn’t until after my relationship with her ended that I realized that just the state of being married, in and of itself, would not be enough to sustain a person’s happiness and make them “automatically” remain true and tender for the better part of their entire life. You had to be with someone you could genuinely see yourself spending all that time with, despite all the growing and changing you’d do as you both got older. She had started to think about this, even last year when we had started having difficulties after I graduated. I just assumed that as long as we could get along and enjoy each other’s company long enough to get married, everything after that would work out. I was wrong; I wouldn’t have been happy and neither would she. There’s something in my earlier, starry-eyed self who would just long to be married ASAP that I look back on fondly when I hear songs like this one – I wasn’t so afraid of commitment back then. But at the same time, I think the fear that I developed as my relationship with Sharon began to deteriorate was a healthy one, because it made sure that I didn’t enter into the marriage covenant lightly, with just any woman who would put up with me – I knew that I meant it when I was ready to do it, because I was afraid of settling for anything less than the match God had in mind for me, and that kept me from taking the plunge sooner than I was really ready to do it. So many people long for the companionship and the fun aspects of marriage, but eventually it dawned on me – what about the hard stuff that never gets glamorized? Who are you gonna find that you’re ready, willing, and able to go through that with, knowing you’ll still love them on the other side of it all?