Divad’s Soundtrack #67: March-April 2007

Some interesting themes pop up on this mix I made in the spring of 2007. A few are intentional, just due to how well certain songs fit together: Sleeping and dreaming. Travel and transportation. Retreating to quiet, natural places. Other themes might not have been intentional at the time, but are interesting upon looking back at them now: How people deal with loneliness. Wondering if your life has a clear, God-ordained purpose. Gender roles and sexism. What it means to show empathy, and when to cut fake friends loose. Some heavy stuff here, particularly in the back half, which is interesting because I was relatively happy at this point in my life.

In with the New:
The Shins
Lost Ocean
Meg & Dia
Hellogoodbye
Copeland

Out with the Old:
Toby Mac
Peter Bradley Adams

Listen on Spotify:

divads-soundtrack-67aDISC ONE
The Passage’s Spring Retreat took place at Pilgrim Pines, a camp located in the beautiful forested valley of Oak Glen. It marked a weekend that I wanted to be part of not only to see the college students change, but to see real change in myself, after a long period of feeling spiritually dormant. That change came in the form of a new willingness to take the initiative and pray with my wife, which we did sitting by the rock labyrinth (which is barely visible beneath the trees in the middle right of this cover image). That night, there was an amazing sunset as a massive layer of clouds settled in over Yucaipa, and the sun created a firece glow of red and purple behind them, peeking out just before it set to create a brilliant band of orange. It was one of those photo opportunities that I just couldn’t tear myself away from.
Where in the world is this?

2006_Switchfoot_OhGravity1) “Awakening”, Switchfoot (Oh! Gravity, 2006)
One of the many Switchfoot concerts Christine and I attended together was at the Avalon that spring, with Copeland as the opening act. Linda was with us that night as well, and I remember that we played a guessing game concerning which song Switchfoot would open their set with. I figured it would be something predictable like “Oh! Gravity” or an oldie like “Dare You to Move”. I think she had guessed “Awakening”, which is track 4 on the album. She was right. I can’t remember whether I had thought to use this track as an opener myself before they did that, but since I love it when a band opens their show with something other than the album opener, that pretty much clinched its inclusion as track 1 on this soundtrack.

2007_TheShins_WincingtheNightAway2) “Sleeping Lessons”, The Shins (Wincing the Night Away, 2007)
I got into The Shins very cautiously and skeptically. Despite Natalie Portman’s infamous in-character endorsement of their life-changing abilities, their first two albums hadn’t really done much for me – something about their back-to-basics indie pop recipe struck me as a bit bland, even though I could admit that James Mercer’s lyrics were quite imaginative. A few songs on their more experimental third album lured me in, though, particularly this one, with its synth melody approximating a “rockabilly” sort of riff for a few minutes before the song finally burst into full color and became a legitimate rocker. And I loved both the quiet and reserved, and loud and triumphant sides of it. Plus I thought it was clever to put a track called “Sleeping Lessons” after “Awakening”, considering that the next track also fit the theme.

2007_LostOcean_LostOcean3) “Dreams”, Lost Ocean (Lost Ocean, 2007)
Lost Ocean was a piano-driven rock band from Bakersfield, in a sea of similar bands all trying to cash in on the popularity of the style in the wake of bands like Coldplay and Keane. They were labelmates with Future of Forestry at the time, on a label founded by Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman, so I figured I should check ’em out. I enjoyed the way they mixed immediate, catchy rhythms with rolling piano riffs, shimmery guitars, and more of an ethereal vibe. You could probably point out a million indie bands doing something similar in those days, but they were one of the few that really got my attention. This song’s kind of abstract and repetitive, but I liked that in the midst of its cheery celebration of dreams, it was admitting that we’ll never measure up to the perfection we like to imagine we can attain, and therefore it’s silly to put forth any pretense of having it all together.

2006_MegDia_SomethingReal4) “Roses”, Meg & Dia (Something Real, 2006)
Meg & Dia were first described to me as “Eisley plus Gatorade”. I could sort of see that – sister-fronted rock band with a bit of a sugar rush making their sound a little more rocky and aggressive. What set Meg & Dia apart was their love of obscure literature and poetry and their unique background, growing up in a mixed Korean/Caucasian family in a heavily Mormon area of Utah. The first song that really got me into them seemed to be a rejection of an unwanted suitor – someone who didn’t really know the woman he was pursuing or anything about her interests when he showed up with the stereotypical bouquet of flowers, expecting her to swoon. I liked the dissatisfaction with typical gender roles, and the commentary on the expectation that women should always acquiesce to men’s desires, that this song had to offer. “Why are some girls so naive? He didn’t unbutton your blouse to see a better view of your heart.”

2005_HouseofHeroes_HouseofHeroes5) “Mercedes Baby”, House of Heroes (House of Heroes, 2005)
Like a lot of House of Heroes’ poppier songs, this one is deceptively happy. It seems to be a simple song about hitting the road with the top down and the woman you love by your side. Yet there’s a tension between doing what you love and selling out that seems to show up midway through the song, as if to suggest that maybe the superficial dream of having the nice car and the hot babe isn’t really the end goal. There was a lot of commentary on materialism on that album, so that’s my best guess anyway.

2007_ModestMouse_WeWereDeadBeforetheShipEvenSank6) “Dashboard”, Modest Mouse (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, 2007)
I seem to have picked up a theme of car-related songs at this point, though I can’t remember if it was intentional. Modest Mouse added guitarist Johnny Marr, better known as a member of The Smiths, for their new album that year, and some of the songs they came up with were a total blast as a result. People who turned on Modest Mouse for daring to sound more catchy and mainstream on “Float On” probably really hated this, but to me it’s the absolute most addictive thing I’ve ever heard from the band. Isaac Brock has such a beautifully bizarre way with words as he describes an ill-fated road trip that resulted from the total ineptitude of the people who planned it. He seems to like singing about folks getting hoist by their own petards. Also, the pirate-themed music video was a total hoot.

2007_Anberlin_Cities7) “The Unwinding Cable Car”, Anberlin (Cities, 2007)
Sometimes you don’t know that a favorite song is going to become a favorite until you’ve listened to it several times. This one seemed like an outlier among Anberlin’s heavier fare at first – glistening acoustic guitars, simple chords but some lovely fingerpicking going on, nothing much in the way of percussion or contributions from most of the band until the bridge section. It showed us Stephen Christian’s softer, more sensitive side, while still leaving room for some grit and power coming into the final chorus. It was definitely atypical for them at the time, but it became the standard bearer that none of their future ballads ever quite lived up to. It not only became my favorite song in Anberlin’s entire discography (which remained unchallenged through to their final tour in 2014), but one of my absolute favorite songs of the decade, if not all time. That’s a lot to live up to. Strangely enough, I hadn’t even totally worked out what it was about until Stephen Christian explained it on his blog years later. Apparently it was about having an abundance of privilege and opportunity and being so caught up in one’s own problems that you couldn’t even recognize it. First world problems in a nutshell, essentially. “This is the correlation of salvation and love” was such a gorgeous and intriguing turn of phrase that I could have taken it in about ten different directions, interpretation-wise.

2006_Hellogoodbye_ZombiesAliensVampiresDinosaurs8) “Here (In Your Arms)”, Hellogoodbye (Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, 2006)
Our small group had a retreat planned for the summer, and Tim got this interesting idea to record a tribute video to all of the women in the group, in which we would perform parody tributes of songs each of them liked. For some of them, this was easy – I knew Christine liked The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”, for example, and that became “She’s a Zookeeper”, about her fondness for pets. A few of the women we were still getting to know were a little bit trickier. Tim had learned that Mimi was into the band Hellogoodbye, which at the time was this goofy electropop band, very much a result of the MySpace scene in those days, and their music fit her personality pretty well. I don’t even remember what we titled her parody, but Tim had zeroed in on a lot of her personality quirks and it was fun to figure out together how to work them into a song. He ended up marrying her a few years later, so now I understand why he was paying such close attention.

2006_Snowden_AntiAnti9) “Like Bullets”, Snowden (Anti-Anti, 2006)
This song wormed its way into my brain despite the fact that its rhythm infuriated me at first. I’m a big fan of just about anything with a really catchy syncopated rhythm, but one of my quirks is that my brain gets confused when I can tell where the count starts. Meaning if you were counting out a 4/4 beat, “1, 2, 3, 4”, this problem would occur when I can’t tell where the “1” goes. The bass, drums and vocals in this song all seemed to come in at a different place in the cycle, meaning that if I focused my attention on one, the others seemed slightly out of sync. Once I got the hang of it, I realized my brain was probably overcomplicating things. But I kind of had to respect the song for pulling off such a neat trick and for forcing me to wrestle with what I didn’t like about it, until I realized I actually liked it quite a bit.

2006_Newsboys_Go10) “Your Love Is Better than Life”, Newsboys (Go, 2006)
You wouldn’t guess it from the title (which sets you up to expect a straightforward worship song – and the chorus is simple enough that it may have originally been conceived as such), but this was one of the last great Newsboys songs in the wittier, more idiosyncratic vein of their 90s material. The hyper-driven electro-pop beat, the slightly ska-influenced guitar riffage, and Peter Furler’s spoken word verses were certainly an odd combination, trading off with Phil Joel, who sang the more conventional part of the chorus in contrast to Furler’s rapidfire confession that there was a lot about his faith and the afterlife that he didn’t know, and was OK with not knowing. It was a nice antidote to those songs where Christians pretend to be the expert on stuff. And while “all you need is God’s love” is certainly a message that’s been done to death, I liked hearing it with a healthy dose of self-deprecation and wry humor, particularly from a band who was apparently now expected to be “all worship, all the time” after spending two entire albums doing just that.

2006_RobertRandolphandtheFamilyband_Colorblind11) “Angels”, Robert Randolph & the Family Band (Colorblind, 2006)
This sexy little song was a perfect blend of laid-back R&B and Randolph’s prolific use of the steel guitar. You wouldn’t think those two things could mix, but the guitar added just the right amount of white-hot desire to an otherwise smooth song. As much as I tend to make fun of Randolph’s lyrics for being simplistic and cheesy, his ode to a woman so special and beautiful that she’s got him believing in angels had me believing, too.

2006_TheWreckers_StandStillLookPretty12) “Way Back Home”, The Wreckers (Stand Still, Look Pretty, 2006)
Michelle and Jessica’s vocal harmonies on this country/folk ballad were drop-dead gorgeous. The achingly lovely minor key melody, shifting to major key for the chorus, hit me straight in the heart every time. It made me want to drive out and find that place somewhere in the country they sang of, where no one knows your name. The mandolin and the fiddle, though understated, added the perfect touch of bluegrass to this song, much like something the Dixie Chicks would have done on Home.

2006_ViennaTeng_DreamingThrougtheNoise13) “Blue Caravan”, Vienna Teng (Dreaming Through the Noise, 2006)
The plucked cello notes that open this song are so iconic to me now, but at the time I was quite surprised that Vienna would open an album with such an intimate and tragic song. It turned out to set the mood perfectly for her mellowest and most expertly crafted album thus far, as she sang of a man whose love turned out to be nothing more than a mirage, promising he’d wait for her as she went off to find herself, and apparently reneging on that promise not long after she hit the road. Did this person really exist, or did she imagine the whole thing in her mind’s eye? And honestly, which is worse? I don’t know.

2006_Copeland_EatSleepRepeat14) “Love Affair”, Copeland (Eat, Sleep, Repeat, 2006)
Speaking of intimate music that took me a while to appreciate, Copeland truly took me by surprise with the tones and textures on Eat, Sleep, Repeat, and album which I’d only listened to begrudgingly, wanting to at least see if they had some halfway decent material to play in their opening slot for Switchfoot, after I’d been rather disappointed with them at the festival Mae and Relient K headlined the previous year. Honestly, Copeland doesn’t put their best foot forward as a live band. Aaron Marsh’s voice wavers a lot, and their songs really depend on the nuances heard in a studio recording to truly hold my attention. But their album kept me coming back time and time again once I got used to it. I had first listened to it right around the time I went to the Passage Retreat described above, and the morning after that gorgeous sunset picture was taken, it actually snowed. In April. So I get this peaceful image of snow blanketing a forested landscape whenever I listen to beautiful, fragile songs like this one. The piano and strings are so wonderfully delicate as Aaron sings, “Just let me run where I want to run. Just let me love who I want.” And then it opens up into a much brighter, waltz-like melody at the end, as if the clouds had suddenly cleared and a couple was dancing together in the moonlight. I can’t believe I ever wrote this band off as “Mae without balls.”

2007_FutureofForestry_Twilight15) “Speak to Me Gently”, Future of Forestry (Twilight, 2007)
Keeping that gentle, wintry, outdoorsy vibe going, this song of course reminds me of trees, due to the band’s name and its mention of ancient redwoods. The gentle acoustic fingerpicking seemed like a perfect compliment to the piano waltz in the previous song. While there’s an air of loneliness to this song, it also depicts a place of peace and prayerful solitude, a sanctuary not built by mankind where God speaks as time seems to stand still. Not a “worship song” in the strict sense, but definitely one that inspires a meditative pause amidst the chaos of life.

2006_Starfield_BeautyintheBroken16) “Obsession”, Starfield (Beauty in the Broken, 2006)
I felt like a lot of things had been distracting me leading up to that weekend at Pilgrim Pines. Not anything all that big, really; just hollow pursuits that weren’t really fulfilling. I wanted to serve some sort of a purpose instead of just existing. I had been sort of tagging along with the church’s college ministry despite being well out of college myself, which is why Christine and I went to that retreat, but I wanted some aspect of that retreat to change me in addition to whatever it changed for the college students who attended. I had such fond memories of retreats like this playing a huge role in pivotal changes to my faith and my worldview when I was in college, and I suppose it’s such a transitory period of life that it’s easier for us to be open to change during that time. I can’t necessarily look back on that beautiful weekend and say that I learned some earth-shattering lesson that completely altered everything from that point on. But it was when Pastor Sharon asked me if I wanted to be part of the core leadership group the following year, which felt like an affirmation of my desire to help out with college ministry and be a friend and a sounding board for some of those students, which was something I’d wished that I had as I transitioned out of college to help me plug into a church community that would continue to be there for me afterwards. It was a way to pay forward my gratitude for belatedly discovering that community at Evergreen that helped me to complete the transition beyond college and be truly at peace about that period of my life ending, I guess. I’ve never considered myself much of a leader of a teacher or anything like that. But I think that weekend planted some seeds of wanting to give of myself in the same way that I appreciated leaders and mentors during my college years giving to me. I had been listening to this Starfield song in the weeks leading up to the retreat, and it just seemed like a good theme song for the kind of devotion to whatever God had planned for me, and willingness to be changed, that I wished I had. (Side note: I remember Pastor Sharon being a real trooper that weekend. She had chipped her tooth, gone all the way back home to get have a dentist fix it on Saturday, then driven back up the mountain that afternoon, and had to deal with the residual pain from the chipped tooth while preaching outdoors in the cold weather that evening. Her love for those students was certainly never in question.)

divads-soundtrack-67bDISC TWO
Winnie, Dawn, and Mark, all longtime friends from Evergreen, organized a camping trip in the Ojai area in late April. Christine and I were a bit too exhausted from the retreat the weekend before, so instead of camping out with them, we decided to drive out just for one day, and have some fun with the group out at Lake Casitas. I had been in that exact spot five years prior, still in the preliminary relationship phase with Christine and wishing I could show her this beautiful place, and now, here she was with me, on a motorboat taking in the beauty of the cloud-covered sky and the deep blue (well, bluish grey) water. We later went on a hike around part of the lake, which was lined with yellow wildflowers most of the way, and that provided the cover photo seen here.
Where in the world is this?

2007_Anberlin_Cities1) “Dismantle. Repair.”, Anberlin (Cities, 2007)
“If life had background music, they’re playing your song.” I always loved that line, and for that matter pretty much every lyric in this song. There’s a palpable sense of loss to it, as if someone saying goodbye pretty much tore Stephen Christian apart, and this song seems to be about the therapeutic process of doing what musicians do and writing about their pain, which was how he begin to put himself back together again. This one builds up to such a monstrous conclusion, with so much momentum as its chorus loops back on itself several times that I don’t mind the repetition and almost wish the song didn’t have to end. As big of a rocking highlight as this track was on the album, I was surprised to learn that Stephen had composed it on the piano. It came full circle when he performed it on that instrument for their live acoustic album several years later. Turns out the song’s equally powerful stripped down to one simple instrument. I think that’s the mark of a really well-written song.

2007_RelientK_FiveScoreandSevenYearsAgo2) “I Need You”, Relient K (Five Score and Seven Years Ago, 2007)
Such ferocious energy in this song. Those who accused Relient K of going “pop” due to their mainstream success on Mmhmm, and especially due to the genre-hopping exercises on this album, hopefully found some solace in the rugged guitars, thunderous rolling drums, and the massive group vocals in this song’s chorus. All in all, a pretty good way to capture the desperation of a person realizing they can’t go it alone and have a desperate need for companionship. If I had to commit the sacreligious act (to Anberlin fans, anyway) of breaking up the one-two punch of “Dismantle. Repair.” and its companion piece “(*Fin)”, then I think this was a thematically appropriate consolation prize.

2007_ModestMouse_WeWereDeadBeforetheShipEvenSank3) “We’ve Got Everything”, Modest Mouse feat. James Mercer (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, 2007)
The vast gulf between theory and practice seems to be the theme of yet another work of catchy, twisted genius from Modest Mouse. The energy of this one almost made the song feel like it had ADD, and of course the manic yelps of Isaac Brock and the cool falsetto of James Mercer’s backup vocals contributed a great deal to the frenzied mood. (This is where I started to realize I kinda liked Mercer even more when he wasn’t singing for The Shins.) Basically some wise guys wanted to build a ship, they worked out all the science, then got too self-satisfied and too lazy to really put the hard work into the actual physical labor. And it sadly, predictably, capsized.

2007_Tobymac_PortableSounds4) “Boomin'”, Toby Mac (Portable Sounds, 2007)
File this noisy ode to a traveling freak show proclaiming its love of Jesus and diversity loud and proud under “Stuff I was getting too old for at that point, but still kinda had a soft spot for.” This is the last time that would hold true for Toby Mac. I kept giving him a chance for a few albums after this point, but as the popularity of rap/rock continued to wane and he reverted more to auto-tuned praise & worship type songs (which is weird because Toby was more of a rapper than a singer in his dc Talk days), there just wasn’t enough of a fun factor any more to tip the balance when weighed against the cringe factor of the cheesy lyrics and the musical trends with short shelf lives that he kept trying to get out in front of.

2007_AndrewBird_ArmchairApocrypha5) “Imitosis”, Andrew Bird (Armchair Apocrypha, 2007)
Bird’s trademark violin plucking and rhythmic looping was in fine form here, as he repurposed his old song “I” while musing about the process of cell division and how imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery. And how having DNA in common with someone doesn’t always guarantee closeness and kinship. Or something like that. This one was a bit jarring when sandwiched between Christian rappers, to be honest, but then Bird’s music is often so singularly strange that it’s hard to find a logical place to put him on any of these mixes.

2007_JohnReuben_WordofMouth6) “Focus”, John Reuben (Word of Mouth, 2007)
OK, now that I remember the backdrop of plucked strings and a dark, ominous beat that kicked this one off, it does make a little more sense to me why I put these songs next to each other. Reuben, while he raps from a Christian perspective, isn’t afraid to confront the feelings of despair and futility one can experience when asking if all of their pursuits in life are really worth it, or just hollow distractions. This song has a very ecclesiastical tone to it, and I guess I related to it a lot that year because I was asking myself as I grew older, more pragmatic, and in some ways more cynical, if I still believed in such wide-eyed and optimistic notions as romance, as having a singular purpose and calling that I could readily identify, that sort of thing. Ultimately I came to answer those questions with a resounding “yes”, but realizing that I even had to honestly ask them was a bit like staring into an abyss. And this song, with its eerie children’s chorus in the background and its mournful melody, hit me pretty hard as I stared down those questions. I still think it’s one of the finest tracks Reuben ever came up with.

2006_Evanescence_TheOpenDoor7) “Cloud Nine”, Evanescence (The Open Door, 2006)
This one’s probably just about blaming someone else for the problems that undid a relationship and wallowing in loneliness. Evanescence did a fair amount of that, usually with maximum melodrama. This isn’t really one of their more memorable songs, looking back on it now, but I guess at the time I was really taken in by the creepy “Oh-whoa-oh-whoa” vocal hook at the beginning and felt that the theme of loneliness fit in well with the dark, isolated corners of the mind explored in songs like “Dismantle. Repair.” and “Imitosis”.

2007_BarenakedLadies_BarenakedLadiesAreMen8) “Beautiful”, Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked Ladies Are Men, 2007)
“Beauty disappears. Boredom perseveres.” The piano-based, easy-listening vibe of this song was a nice misdirect, considering its sharp commentary on the male gender’s obsession with female beauty and the excuses we were willing to make because of it when a woman didn’t really have much going on personality-wise. Ed Robertson kind of hints that we get what we deserve when we prioritize the superficial – especially when it’s a fleeting sort of beauty that fades with time. I can’t deny as a man that I wanted to be with someone I would continue to enjoy looking at over the years. But beauty without brains, or personality quirks, or desires, or ambitions would make a boring companion indeed. So I’m glad I found someone who had all of those things going on. As BNL songs go, this may be the best example of the vocal interplay between its members, with Ed and Steve constantly throwing back and forth to each other during the chorus, and then either Kevin or Jim popping up with a third overlapping vocal bit near the end. So much complexity in such a short, subversively pretty little song.

2006_TheWreckers_StandStillLookPretty9) “One More Girl”, The Wreckers (Stand Still, Look Pretty, 2006)
Beauty can be a burden. It can actually be quite ugly if you’re treated as nothing more than a beautiful prop by people who don’t take kindly to the notion of women thinking and speaking up for themselves. The Wreckers were dark, brooding, and downright harsh in this song as they illustrated what it felt like to be “Just one more ass that got stuffed in some jeans”. I was still a bit squeamish at the time about including songs with even moderate swearing in them on these mixes, but in this case, the rough language that reduces women to mere pieces of meat needed to be heard coming from the mouths of the people receiving that treatment, to jolt us into remembering that these were, in fact, people with actual feelings. “Someone’s sister, someone’s wife… or just some bitch who’s probably got no life.” OUCH. I almost felt bad for considering their performance “beautiful”, as that would be missing the point, but they certainly made it as sadly and bitterly compelling as they possibly could.

2006_JarsofClay_GoodMonsters10) “Even Angels Cry”, Jars of Clay (Good Monsters, 2006)
This song was emphatically not one of my favorites when I first listened to Good Monsters. I figured it had good intentions, but something about it seemed oddly Hallmark-card-ish, as if knowing angels cried was supposed to help a human being feel better about the tears they shed. (Do we actually know that angels cry? This seemed like a wild theological guess for the sake of poetic license.) Still, I think there’s a genuine, delicate dose of compassion being offered through these lyrics, which if you look at them more deeply, are less about offering platitudes and quick fixes than they are about just sitting with someone in their pain and trying to understand it instead of being a problem solver. As a man, I am very bad at this. Not to stereotype all men and all woman, but typically this is where men make mistakes in relationships with women – trying to fix problems when what the woman really needs is a listener, a shoulder to cry on. After all the pain and mistreatment that the last several songs on this mix had been describing, it seemed like what was needed was a voice of comfort and empathy. Someone to say, they’ll do their best to get it when you’re feeling beaten down by everyone else’s failure to do so. And so this apparent misfit of a song by my all-time favorite band found itself a belated home.

2006_Incubus_Light Grenades11) “Paper Shoes”, Incubus (Light Grenades, 2006)
I thought the acoustic groove and the inventive percussion in this song (which was basically the guys putting mikes on their bodies and thumping their chests or something like that) made it one of the most intriguing things Incubus had done in a while. Thematically, I’m kind of surprised that I put this song right after one that tried to express some empathy and shine a few rays of light into a dark situation. Because this one seems like it’s a total diss track to a flaky friend who has so much drama that you just get sick and tired of it. You want to be there for them, but you just get so dragged down by their constant falling apart that you reach a point where you just can’t deal any more. I can’t remember now if I was dealing with a friendship like that at the time. The scary thing is, I know I’ve been that friend to some people and I’ve warn out my welcome. Maybe this was more of a warning to myself to never go down that rabbit hole again.

2007_NorahJones_NotTooLate12) “Not My Friend”, Norah Jones (Not Too Late, 2007)
Whoa, when I listen to some of these songs back to back, it’s almost like they’re having an argument with each other. Norah Jones certainly shook things up on this quiet, hazy tune, which had an intriguing melody and which also revealed a vicious, vindictive underside that wouldn’t be explored more fully until her breakup album Little Broken Hearts a few years later. The gist of it was basically that someone had no empathy whatsoever, and even seemed to rejoice in her sadness, and she was basically lashing out at them and saying “Some friend you are!” The warning she gives at the end where she’s basically going to grab the person’s gun when they’re not looking and turn the tables on them is probably metaphorical. Probably.

2006_PeterBradleyAdams_GatherUp13) “Upside Down”, Peter Bradley Adams (Gather Up, 2006)
“Another day, another down, another shot to hell”. The opening line of this song is especially eerie in light of how “Not My Friend” ended, and I probably intended that at the time. A total lack of empathy can lead to the point where humans are violent against one another… or at least to the point where they don’t care about the violence happening to other humans, so long as they’re far enough removed from it. Though vaguely worded, I kind of figured that was the point Adams was trying to make with this song – our priorities are topsy-turvy. We make excuses to not care about what’s not directly happening to us, until it happens to us.

2006_SleepingatLast_KeepNoScore14) “Needle & Thread”, Sleeping at Last (Keep No Score, 2006)
Well, at this point in what had become a pile-up of largely depressing songs, I needed to let a little more light in. Enter Sleeping at Last with this soft-spoken acoustic song, so delicately performed that at times the gaps of near-silence are a bit glaring. Its aim is no less grand than to reinforce the notion that we were knitted together by God for a purpose, even if the pieces may not fall into place for us to fully understand what that purpose was until after we take that final breath. I don’t know how Ryan O’Neal manages to continually take aim at such big concepts and express them so well in such humble musical packages. It’s a gift that often takes me several listens to fully admire.

2006_Iona_TheCirclingHour15) “Wind Off the Lake”, Iona (The Circling Hour, 2006)
My previous soundtrack to use Lake Casitas as the cover image, five years prior, had a lovely instrumental song by The Echoing Green called “Iona” on it. This time around, my memory of a good day at that lake was represented by the band Iona, fittingly with a song about sailing. Troy Donockley actually took the lead vocal here, though there were actually only a few lines of lyrics repeated in the middle section of this guitar-driven epic – “Heart sails out from you/See it go, watch it go, let it go/All sails grow from you/In your soul, in your soul.” That’s literally the entire song, on paper. But the music depicts an epic adventure on the high seas, eventually coming into port with a reflective vocal solo by the band’s usual lead singer Joanne Hogg, which has no words but which quite effectively brings back the tranquil mood of some of my favorite moments from Beyond These Shores.

2006_SeanWatkins_BlindersOn16) “They Sail Away”, Sean Watkins (Blinders On, 2006)
I was trying to avoid always putting the epic-length Iona songs at the very last track, so I made a conscious effort to end with something else this time around, and Sean Watkins’ brief but effective bit of musing about watching precious, meaningful moments in his life sail away into the void of his memories seemed like an appropriate, bittersweet note to end on. The whole purpose of making these mixes is to capture some of those fleeting moments, by way of musical cues that trigger memories that could be life-changing ones or could just be odd and obscure ones that I would otherwise forget. Sometimes just the right sequence of notes or the right instrumental texture will bring one floating right back to the shore, as if it had happened only yesterday.

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