Divad’s Soundtrack #65: November-December 2006

When I look back on the final closing months of 2006, I remember feeling cold on the outside, but warm on the outside. That’s because the two cover images I chose for these mixes were from outdoor activities in the late autumn weather, in places that had both become meaningful to me many years before, but that I was now experiencing with a newer group of friends. 2006 was one of my favorite years all the way through to the end, and I felt a sense of peace about the holidays arriving that year, which isn’t a normal thing for me. The holidays weren’t without their moments of upheaval – my uncle Dean passed away just before Thanksgiving, and it took us over a month to coordinate with folks so that we could hold a memorial service. But there were also happy family memories, as Christine and I got to have her parents and my mom together for Thanksgiving for the first time, and we adopted our cat in early December, who Christine decided to name “Anberlin”, of all things.

In with the New:
Peter Bradley Adams (as a solo artist – appears previously with Eastmountainsouth)
Sean Watkins (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Fiction Family)

Out with the Old:
He Is Legend
Ron Sexsmith
The Violet Burning

It Was Worth a Try:
Chris Thile (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers)

Listen on Spotify:

divads-soundtrack-65aDISC ONE

The Passage, Evergreen’s College Group, held a retreat at Alpine Conference Center, which is up in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead, in November. Christine and I were invited to go since I had been trying to find a way to get more involved with the college ministry, and after ferrying a USC student up to the retreat, I was pleased to discover that it was the very same camp where I had attended my final InterVarsity conference at the end of my senior year at Oxy. Being there during that incredibly cold weekend, watching the students on the ropes course, and just taking a quiet walk when I awoke early on Saturday morning (as I almost always do the first morning of a retreat), made me think of all that had changed in my life since that bittersweet farewell to my college fellowship back in May 1999. The retreat’s theme was “Death/Rebirth”, and I realized how things had come full circle – upon graduating from college, I nervously faced the “death” of my little circle, my social safety net, and a life with pre-planned meetings and most of my schedule already figured out for me, as I ventured out into the “adult” world and had to find a job and all that. Now I was back, in 2006, with a wife, a full-time job that I was very happy about, and an overall sense that God had indeed met me outside of the little bubble where I had expected to find Him during college. But with that came new realizations of areas in my life where I was less trusting and less willing to open up and pray from the heart than I had been in college. Anyway, this picture is a view of the camp’s chapel, where worship meetings had been held during that retreat back in 1999. I loved how the man-made sanctuary blended in so beautifully with the forest sanctuary built by God around it.
Where in the world is this?

2006_Incubus_Light Grenades1) “Anna-Molly”, Incubus (Light Grenades, 2006)

Incubus continued their creative renaissance with Light Grenades, a record that I almost immediately fell in love with and couldn’t stop listening to (which, as much as I like some of their stuff, is kind of a rarity for me as far as full albums of theirs go). This fast-paced jittery song about the mysterious woman of Brandon Boyd’s dreams being a one-of-a-kind “anomaly” (Anna-Molly, GEDDIT??!?!) might have been a little too cutesy and punny for its own good, but my inner hopeless romantic resonated with it, and I certainly believed I’d found and married that unique person, so I could rock the hell out to this song, knowing what the end of that loneliness and longing actually felt like.

2006_HouseofHeroes_SayNoMore2) “The Invisible Hook”, House of Heroes (Say No More, 2006)

Man, I truly did not appreciate how much biting social commentary there was in House of Heroes’ early work until much later. This song – one of the two new tracks written for the re-release of their self-titled album – played fast and hard on the cowbell and the gritty guitar riffs as it basically confessed that we, the American consumers, are all too willing to turn a blind eye to genocide and exploitation and so forth if it means cheap and convenient goods and entertainment for our consumption. It’s a luxury to not have to care about these things – a uniquely American disease that most of us don’t even know we have.

2006_Snowden_AntiAnti3) “Black Eyes”, Snowden (Anti-Anti, 2006)
I loved how effortlessly Snowden seemed to mix sad, shoegazing indie rock lyrics with danceable beats and electronic sounds. This was pretty much their “club song” – not just due to the buzzing bass, skittering electronics and the fast-paced drum beat, but also the lyrics that described meeting a mysterious, dark-eyed woman on the dance floor (dancing to Joy Division, no less), wondering if there was something beautiful hidden deep inside her, and finding out that in the end she was actually rather hollow. So sad. And so darn catchy.

2006_Switchfoot_OhGravity4) “Dirty Second Hands”, Switchfoot (Oh! Gravity, 2006)
Every now and then Switchfoot kicks against the mainstream and comes up with a song that genuinely surprises me. This one was their biggest surprise yet – and it remains my favorite Switchfoot song of all time. Its very rhythm seems restless, with the guitar licks and heavy drums feeling like they’re jumping ahead a beat or two just to throw off the listener. The chorus is a roaring maelstrom of aggressive melody, and then there’s that spoken word bit in the bridge that somehow manages to fit the unorthodox rhythm. And the twangy steel guitar riff – who could ever forget that? Releasing this one in advance of Oh! Gravity might have made most of the rest of that album feel like less of a surprise by comparison, but they were trying to do something messy and fun like their early days, but with the benefit of a five-piece band and a bigger budget. Though it remains one of Switchfoot’s less popular albums, I still really love it for being such an outlier.

2006_JarsofClay_GoodMonsters5) “Good Monsters”, Jars of Clay (Good Monsters, 2006)
Also brimming over with nervous energy was the title track to one of Jars of Clay’s best albums. Man, that was such a good year for rock band renaissances! We saw Jars in concert at Pepperdine University in Malibu on one of those chilly autumn evenings (with the In-N-Out truck giving free burgers to ticketholders!), and they played through nearly every track on the album, including this ode to well-meaning people who shy away from making good, lasting changes to the world because they’re afraid of rocking the boat. I believe the inspiration for this one was the Edmund Burke quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”.

2006_U2_U218Singles6) “The Saints Are Coming”, U2 feat. Green Day (U218, 2006)
This cover of a punk rock classic by The Skids ended up being one of my favorite tracks by both of the bands who collaborated on it. That’s a rare feat – usually there are too many cooks in the mix on an a project like this, and the result doesn’t do either of them any favors. U2 and Green Day just had the right energy to make this one work, probably because it was the kind of song that influenced the early sound of both bands. The cover version’s origin as a charity performance to benefit the city of New Orleans (devastated by Hurricane Katrina the previous year) was admirable.

2006_WeirdAlYankovic_StraightOuttaLynwood7) “Canadian Idiot”, Weird Al Yankovic (Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
It’s become quite rare these days that I actually like both a Weird Al parody and the original song it’s making fun of. Al’s version of Green Day’s “American Idiot” felt like a no-brainer as a follow-up to the U2/Green Day collaboration. I liked how, even though it appeared to be dredging up every Canadian stereotype in the book, there was actually a bit of subversive commentary here about how the U.S. might have actually been secretly jealous of Canada for a few of the ways they seemed better off as a society. “Sure they got their national health care/Cheaper meds, low crime rates, and clean air/Then again, well they got Celine Dion.” OK, so not everything’s perfect up there.

2006_BarenakedLadies_BarenakedLadiesAreMe8) “Wind It Up”, Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked Ladies Are Me, 2006)
“I was a baby when I learned to suck/But you have raised it to an art form.” I figured I should give some Canadians a chance to make a rebuttal. Not specifically to Weird Al, but just to whoever had wronged them in general. This oddly lighthearted song about the collapse of a relationship was certainly a weird way to close out Barenaked Ladies Are me, but it may be the last and best example of how chock full of clever earworms that record is. The crowd-sourced music videos – which I believe was one of the first to be entirely comprised of fan video clips submitted via YouTube – was hysterical, and perfectly fit the mood of the song even though the band themselves contributed nothing to it aside from editing it all together.

2006_OliviatheBand_BacktoFriendsWhereSummerNeverEndsEP9) “Something Greater”, Olivia the Band (Back to Friends Where Summer Never Ends EP, 2006)
There’s probably some sort of a message about strength in numbers that was intended by this song. Being surrounded by familiar faces, being encouraged to find your voice and know that you are not alone… but mostly when I listen to it, I just think of crowds pogoing and having a good time, because it’s just that irresistibly bouncy.

2006_FutureofForestry_FutureofForestryEP10) “All I Want”, Future of Forestry (Future of Forestry EP, 2006)
This, to me, is Future of Forestry’s signature song. Initially, its appeal was a simply matter of its glowing keyboards, driving rock rhythm, and its confident chorus belted out against the mystique of a compelling minor chord progression. it’s easy to simply take this song as meaning that God is all the singer wants. But look deeper and there’s a desire to find God in the places that are not necessarily the most spiritual or beautiful or extraordinary ones – instead, in the ordinary, and run-down, and broken places where God’s love is needed most. Back when I had a Xanga blog, “Where magic meets mundane” was my tagline, since I was really struck by that notion of God showing up in the places where we humans least expect it. Every few years I seem to come back to this song and find some sort of new meaning in its simple words, that wasn’t apparent to me before, as I’ve seen God’s heart change people in places that I would have cynically believed to be beyond hope just a few years prior.

2006_MichelleTumes_MichelleTumes11) “Yearning”, Michelle Tumes (Michelle Tumes, 2006)
It’s fun to hear an artist who is mostly known for being mellow and ethereal change things up and do something fast-paced and even a bit breathless. And yet it’s still super-classy. Thanks to the strings setting the pace of the song as if it were some sort of a chase scene, Michelle kind of struck me as a “mad composer” as she sang her way through this one – I could almost picture her frantically waving her arms to keep that string section on task. A very fun song about a very deep longing to know your creator’s love more deeply.

2006_SufjanStevens_TheAvalanche12) “Adlai Stevenson”, Sufjan Stevens (The Avalanche, 2006)
This song concludes an unbroken two-and-a-half-year streak in which Sufjan Stevens appeared on every single soundtrack I compiled. It started in 2004 when I first listened to Seven Swans and almost instantly fell in love with his music. The massive volume of tracks to choose from between Illinois and its companion B-sides record ensured that it would take me this long to run out of highlights. This song might be a bit too vague in its wording to really teach us all that much about Adlai Stevenson, the former governor of Illinois who famously ran for President several times and lost. Stevens seemed to love unsung, or at least lesser-sung heroes. The peppy horns and rolling drums and cymbals in this track, much like a lot of Stevens’ work at the time, felt like it could have been the music for an inaugural parade. Consider it an ode to what could have been in this case.

2006_PeterBradleyAdams_GatherUp13) “Chant”, Peter Bradley Adams (Gather Up, 2006)
I really, really missed Eastmountainsouth when they split up after recording only one album together. So I was pretty excited to hear that Peter Bradley Adams, the male half of the duo, was pursuing a solo career. There was a smoothness to his voice that I found really comforting, and I loved how he could take a song like this one and build it up from gentle acoustics to a delicately textured, rhythmic climax. I didn’t know for years that the chorus of this song, “Ramana Hare”, was actually a Hare Krishna chant. But I always loved the confident atmosphere of this song, finding comfort in that simple chant to step forward into harsh weather and unknown circumstances.

2006_LeighNash_BlueonBlue14) “My Idea of Heaven”, Leigh Nash (Blue on Blue, 2006)
This light-hearted country-pop song is just adorable. A simple celebration of the comfort of spending one-on-one time with that special person you can’t live without. Now that I think about it, its mention of her having been “The Lone Star’s loneliest girl” is one of the few hints of her Texas roots to show up in her music before she went full-on country for The State I’m In nearly a decade later. Her pop sound is still a little more my speed, but either way, I wouldn’t have expected any of this given the dark, brooding sound of Sixpence None the Richer that first acquainted me with her voice in the 90s.

2006_ViennaTeng_DreamingThrougtheNoise15) “Nothing Without You”, Vienna Teng (Dreaming Through the Noise, 2006)
This was the one song from Dreaming Through the Noise that I actually had to wait for the album to hear, having heard the other ten at a live show in 2005. It’s one of the more low-key songs on the album that doesn’t necessarily have a high concept or some unusual instrumentation to draw attention to it. It’s a simple, but incredibly compelling piano ballad in the vein of her older material. And I think it might be the most personal and vulnerable track on the entire record, though I didn’t totally appreciate that fact at first. That sense of feeling alone in a crowded room is something a lot of performers have alluded to, but Vienna adds a layer to it by singing, “No one here can say a word of my native tongue”. Being a Taiwanese-American, a touring musician, and a bit of a geek, she probably feels like she’s at the very small center of a Venn diagram where several cultures meet at times, making it that much harder to find that special someone who’s exactly on her wavelength. I’ve always gravitated to songs about a single person longing to be known, loved and understood, at least when they’re written as astoundingly well as this. Being happily married now, I didn’t want to lose that connection to the yearning I once felt, or my ability to understand what it was like for those still struggling to find a mate.

2006_SleepingatLast_KeepNoScore16) “Hold Still”, Sleeping at Last (Keep No Score, 2006)
I often forget nowadays that Sleeping at Last had a bit of a different identity when they were still a full-fledged band. Ryan O’Neal’s poetic lyrics have always been at the forefront, and this song about trying desperately to capture a precious memory in a photograph or really any tangible medium we can before it dissipates, is one of his absolute finest. But his brother, Chad O’Neal, really sets the stage here with a drum intro that sounds downright majestic. It brought to mind the image of walking into a massive throne room and trembling with gratitude before a benevolent king. I don’t know if there’s a song that has ever, in my mind at least, done a better job of capturing that yearning for time to stop so that a beautiful experience never has to end.

divads-soundtrack-65bDISC TWO
Jeff is a good friend who I’ve kept in touch with sporadically since college. I went on a hike with him and his wife Clara, and several of their friends from a church called Epicenter, for his birthday party in early December. He had chosen the Dawn Mine Trail, which is one of my favorites in the local mountains, and though we didn’t get too far before having to turn back due to the waning sunlight, it was kind of a new way to experience the hike, since we had a blind woman with a Seeing Eye Dog in our group, and watching Jeff help guide her through the difficult terrain (which confused the dog a bit) reminded me of the selfless person that I’ve known him to be for many years, always making sure others are accommodated, seemingly without a second thought. As we came back down the paved road, we could hear the drums from the USC/UCLA game at the Rose Bowl nearby, and looking back up at the “Sunset Canyon” area we had just emerged from, we could see how it had been given its name due to the reddish glow of the landscape on that late autumn afternoon.
Where in the world is this?

2006_HeIsLegend_SuckOutthePoison1) “Suck Out the Poison”, He Is Legend (Suck Out the Poison, 2006)
This was another one of those cases of intentional dissonance – pretty cover photo, sudden blast of screamy hard rock energy at the front of the playlist. What can you do? This was the last time I really got into a He Is Legend song; they got a lot of backlash on this album due to the change in Schuyler Croom’s vocals, making them much harsher and raspier. The feel of the album was a lot sludgier overall, not really my thing, but then my getting into their previous album I Am Hollywood was kind of a fluke to begin, with since I’m not normally into the screamy bands. The title track on this album was a suitably scary performance with some epic guitar riffing, though, more in the vein (pun intended) of their old stuff.

2005_Thrice_Vheissu2) “Hold Fast Hope”, Thrice (Vheissu, 2005)
Now Thrice was a sometimes-screamy band that I would end up sticking with for years to come. Most of my favorites on Vheissu were chosen for more melodic reasons; this one was just a pure rush of adrenaline in 5/8 time. Riley Breckenridge’s drum rolls on this one were a total aural assault, and yet so precise, like a well-oiled machine. I had heard my fair share of Christian rock that managed to sound incredibly goofy by screamingly harshly about upbeat and positive things – it never seemed to fit. Here, Thrice managed to give hope and faith a ringing endorsement by making clear that the circumstances in which these things needed to be held to were dire, and if you pay attention amidst the screaming, you’ll find that the lyrics are some of their most poetic and vivid. Of course the chorus here is still very melodic, and I remain impressed at how effortlessly Dustin Kensrue can switch between the two modes without the song feeling awkwardly patched together as a result.

2006_Evanescence_TheOpenDoor3) “Snow White Queen”, Evanescence (The Open Door, 2006)
This song might be to Evanescence what “Possession” was to Sarah MacLachlan – a depiction of what it feels like for a female celebrity to be objectified and even stalked by a so-called fan. of course Amy Lee had a tendency to sprinkle fairy tale language into some of her dark tales, so her message board name “Snow White Queen” became the inspiration for the song, as if she was being hunted down by an evil queen and her huntsman, who only wanted to see her dreams destroyed. Nowadays, this song makes me think of Regina, the Evil Queen from the series Once Upon a Time – it would be the perfect theme song for her character in the early seasons of the show.

2006_Skillet_Comatose4) “Comatose”, Skillet (Comatose, 2006)
This song about needing God to wake up a coma patient from a never-ending nightmare seemed like a good segue from all the dark and heavy stuff to the lighter, mellower stuff later in the playlist. It’s probably one of Skillet’s best executed blends of straight-up pop with their heavier rock and more symphonic/electronic elements. I love how the (probably fake) strings are the main driving force at the beginning of the song. I can remember listening to this record to get myself pumped on a morning hike from Chantry Flats up to Sturtevant Camp one Saturday in December, that I was supposed to have done with Mark and some friends from Evergreen, but I didn’t get up on time so I had to drive up there on my own and scramble to catch up with them. Upon returning from the hike and checking my text messages (after hours of not having a signal), I discovered that Christine had settled on the name “Anberlin” for our cat, which we’d had for several days at that point without thinking of a name for her. I guess she had been going through my music collection and decided that was a pretty name. Skillet of course has nothing to do with any of that, but I always get visual memories of the scenery from that hike whenever I hear a song from Comatose.

2006_Incubus_Light Grenades5) “Dig”, Incubus (Light Grenades, 2006)
Did you ever have a close friend who knew you so well, it was like they were digging around inside your brain? It’s a special gift to be on that sort of wavelength with someone. It doesn’t necessarily happen only with romantic lovers, though it’s certainly a good sign when they can “get” you on such a level. But a lot of fire-forged platonic friendships have that attribute, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean seeing everything the way you see it, but being able to understand why you think the way you do, and knowing when they have the grounds to call you out on bad behavior or even just getting a little too full of yourself. Those friendships weather the conflicts well; they forgive each other but don’t forget the valuable lessons learned. Incubus made a move that was a bit brave for them at the time, putting a much mellower, R&B-inflected pop tune up front amidst some of their heavier rockers, but it was an important piece to the puzzle in what remains one of their most diverse and satisfying records.

2006_BarenakedLadies_BarenakedLadiesAreMe6) “Easy”, Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked Ladies Are Me, 2006)
This incredibly catchy acoustic pop tune is probably the most recognizable tune from the band’s “independent years”. Everything about it seems to go down so easy, including the simplistic chorus and soothing backing vocals, until you take a closer look and find that it’s actually one of the BNL’s tradmeark “messed-up relationship songs” in disguise. You might consider it one of those “I wish I knew how to quit you” situations, where a man is constantly infuriated by his lover’s ability to manipulate him, yet so smitten that he finds it easy to just cave and give her what she wants, in spite of himself. It turns into a bit of a passive-aggressive “two can play at this game” sort of contest, where the line between love and petty spite seems to get blurred as time goes on. So in other words, not the kind of mutually respectful relationship described in “Dig”.

2006_SeanWatkins_BlindersOn7) “Starve Them to Death”, Sean Watkins (Blinders On, 2006)
Up until this point, I hadn’t really dug into any of the Nickel Creek members’ solo projects. I gave Sean Watkins’ latest a try, figuring I’d be in for some acoustic guitar goodness. I didn’t quite know what to make of the more experimental sound collage stuff on a few tracks, but I did enjoy the way he blended summery, programmed pop with his bluegrassy guitar style on tracks like this one. (And his sister Sara’s contribution on violin – those two are pretty much inseparable.) Sean seemed to be dealing with some personal demons here, figuring out that his constant fretting and second-guessing himself was only feeding them, and that confidence would essentially starve them until they wasted away. It was a neat concept in a compact little pop song.

2006_ChrisThile_HowtoGrowaWomanFromtheGround8) “Wayside (Back in Time)”, Chris Thile (How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, 2006)
Chris Thile is probably the most prolific of the three Nickel Creek members in terms of the kinds of music he’s explored on his own. This record in particular was a bit of a precursor to Punch Brothers, the band that he would record with under that name after working with them here. It was a bit too all over the place for my tastes, but I loved his frantic cover of this Gillian Welch song, which felt like the sort of thing you’d hear at a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard to liven up an otherwise chilly autumn day as the last of the red and orange leaves fell to the ground.

2006_Iona_TheCirclingHour9) “Children of Time”, Iona (The Circling Hour, 2006)
I only had a vague sense of what a lot of the songs on The Circling Hour was about. If they referenced history or literature in some way, it was a little more opaque to me than it was on their old records. So I connected to the songs more because I liked the overall mood or the imagery I got from them. This song had a nice, slow yet forceful drum groove to it, that opened up into a celebratory Celtic dance on the chorus. I liked to imagine that it was about finding some sense of communion with past generations who had fought and died for the land we now stand on, since a lot of Iona’s past work was about holding these sorts of people in high regard.

2006_RonSexsmith_TimeBeing10) “Hands of Time”, Ron Sexsmith (Time Being, 2006)
As fantastical as the ideas of time travel expressed in the previous songs were, I needed a realist’s point of view. You can’t live in the past and nothing lasts forever. We’re all subject to the whims of time’s inexorable march forward. Ron Sexsmith had a habit of balancing the realist with the hopeless romantic in songs like these, where you could tell he was wistful over someone he cared deeply about and wanted to promise her the world and eternity, but knew his capacity was limited and so was their time together. Celebrating every moment you’ve got to enjoy each other was the take-away here.

2006_JohnMayer_Continuum11) “Stop This Train”, John Mayer (Continuum, 2006)
This song is the perfect example of why it bummed me out that John Mayer claimed to be “closing up shop on acoustic sensitivity” as he transitioned to more of a bluesy, electric-guitar driven sound. Songs like this were now the exception rather than the rule. But this one was by far the best written song on Continuum, confronting the super-uncomfortable issue of aging and having to say goodbye to your parents and other loved ones in their generation, and feeling like you’re barely old enough to have adult life figured out and be in charge of yourself, let alone the head of the family. I was still in my late 20s at the time, so I couldn’t say I’d done a ton of reflecting on my own mortality yet. But my uncle Dean had passed away from cancer that November, and I knew it was a tough thing for my mom to deal with, that being the second of her three brothers that she had lost, and with the death of my paternal grandmother the previous year, there was now no one left in my grandparents’ generation that we had any contact with. It’s a sobering subject to deal with around the holidays, but it helps you to remember not to take those older generations for granted.

2006_PearlJam_PearlJam12) “Gone”, Pearl Jam (Pearl Jam, 2006)
In a sea of economic and political woes being expressed on Pearl Jam’s self-titled record, along came this song which might have served as the typical escapist “I wanna get away from it all” type rock ballad, except for the depressing realization that gas costs so freakin’ much, even a nice long road trip to clear one’s mind feels like it could break the bank. The thing is, Pearl Jam does “depressing” really well on songs like this – even the melody itself seems to be rather downtrodden, yet there’s still some room to let in a little light and fury as it morphs from mopey acoustic into “power ballad” mode. It’s the kind of depressing music that doesn’t personally depress me, because even though it’s about desperately wanting to get away from a bummer of a reality, I feel some solidarity in listening to a song like this, and I figure maybe it helps someone who can’t afford or otherwise achieve a physical escape from their surroundings a bit of hope that they’re not alone.

2006_TheListening_TheRockNRollWorshipCircusBecomesTheListening13) “The Factory”, The Listening (The Listening LP, 2006)
This has to be the eeriest and most bizarrely off-topic song I’ve ever heard from a “worship band” trying to stretch its wings into other genres. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Everything The Listening did had an aura of mystique to it, so this exploratory and mostly mellow electronic tune about a man making a one-way trip to sabotage some sort of a factory really fascinated me, though the non-linear narrative and the implication that he dies to see his mission through might have been disturbing to me if I’d heard it just a few years prior. I liked to imagine that this was the trip that the protagonist in “Gone” had taken when he found himself at the end of his rope, and he was making some sort of a statement by sabotaging an oil refinery or something. Not that I think that’s the right way for a frustrated citizen to send a message. It’s just the sort of tragic narrative that came to mind after I decided that these two songs made logical sense next to each other.

2006_RockKillsKid_AreYouNervous14) “Back to Life”, Rock Kills Kid (Are You Nervous?, 2006)
Sometimes a simplistic lyric can work in a band’s favor, especially if it comes with the heavy nostalgia that an 80s-styled pop ballad like this one brings to the table. This song felt like it was about a man realizing he had come within inches of death and was now grateful, and a bit in disbelief, that he’d been given a second chance at life. Maybe those last few songs had just been a bad dream, or a suicidal plan that he ultimately decided not to go through with. What brought him back becomes more clear in the bridge: “And now there’s time to think of someone else, besides myself”. In times when I’ve been super-depressed, being able to genuinely help someone else out has actually lifted me up a great deal, because it put me outside the frame of reference of my own problems for a while and made me feel like I could actually do some sort of good in the world, however small. There’s no perfect antidote to depression, but moments like that sure have been a big help.

2006_Leeland_SoundofMelodies15) “Sound of Melodies”, Leeland (Sound of Melodies, 2006)
This upbeat anthem in 6/8 time, which was the first song I ever heard from Leeland, wasn’t written to be a holiday tune, but I always associate it with the holidays in my mind, probably because its rhythm and tempo made it really easy for me to play as an acoustic medley with “O Holy Night” at one of the Bible studies we used to host in our apartment. Realizing that we “struggling sinners and thieves” have the redemptive love of God to celebrate, and have done nothing ourselves to earn it – seemed to be the sort of theme that meshed well with an all-time favorite Christmas carol about God’s plan for our freedom from sin, bondage, and the injustices we’ve committed towards one another, that was set into motion on the night Christ was born.

2006_TheVioletBurning_DropDead16) “The Ends Begin”, The Violet Burning (Drop-Dead, 2006)
It’s funny how my experience with a song after listening to it many times, or hearing it again under different circumstances, can be radically different from my first impressions of it. I was pretty bored with this one when I was still brand new to the Violet Burning’s style. It was slow, the drum beat and chord progression didn’t seem to change much, and the lyrics seemed to come creaking out of Michael Pritzl’s mouth at a glacial pace. When I saw them play it in concert, I was like, “When is this thing going to be over already?” Somewhere in those last weeks of 2016, as the hours of sunlight diminished and I made peace with a season of the year that is normally my least favorite, I fell in love with this song. It was a swooning slow dance, an unhurried moment alone for two people deeply in love, and the perfect sort of thought to end 2006 on – a year that I will always treasure as “the honeymoon year” of our marriage. “Hold me like you did back then. Those days would never end.”


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