The Letter

This post is all about songs that involve the mention of something near and dear to me, in this time of rampant technology. Please note: the author of this post is aware of the irony of using technology to rave about old-fashioned communication.

Who doesn’t love getting personal “snail mail?” Handwritten expressions carry more weight because they mean that you took the time to sit down, relax and invest thought in someone you care about.

My friend, Cathy, writes at least seven of her friends one and sometimes two cards each every week, even when she is under the weather. We’ve decided to celebrate National Letter Writing Day (Monday, November 28, 2011) with a program about postal mail at our work place.

Thinking of mail, of course, I’ve been singing the Box Tops “The Letter” for a matter of days now, when it occurred to me to ask for feedback from my readers. I will leave a few examples here but please feel free to post your own. It is my hope that, before the program, Cathy and I will create a mixed CD of songs relating to the value of postal communication.

Here are a few of my favorites, followed by a list of suggestions. I’d like to see yours.

And off we go:

The Box Tops “The Letter.” This was Alex Chilton’s (God rest his spirit) first debut with his rough and rich vocals.

“Please Read the Letter” Robert Plant and Alison Kraus,

“Letter to Elise” The Cure

“The Letter” Natalie Merchant

Take a Letter Maria R. B. Greaves

Love Letters in the Sand (Patsy Cline or Pat Boone or Gene Austin.)

Sealed with a Kiss The Four Voices

Just a Song Before I Go Crosby Still and Nash

Rock and write on!

“Postally” yours,

Rachael

P.S. By the way, I really, really love The Cure.

Counting Down in Sunny Day…Real Estate

Sunny Day Real Estate Diary

Yes, they’re a band from Seattle at a time when “grunge” and “alternative” were terms as widely spread as the flannel shirts in your closet…well, maybe not your closet, but most people’s.  Sunny Day Real Estate, however, doesn’t seem to adhere to any genre of music I’ve heard of other than AMAZING.  I understand that I write this, knowing that they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea–but if you drink of the same mug as me then you should give them a listen.

One time, an eleven-year-old aspiring musician said to her mother, “I’m a musician without a band.  I’m just a poet.  How is this ever going to work?”

This girl’s mom replied, “Isn’t a song poetry put to music?”

This is exactly how I feel about Diary.  This album reads like a chapbook in your favorite advanced poetry class in high school.  But I don’t understand what he’s saying when I just listen.  That’s fine.  My mom often teases me about Eddie’s lack of annunciation in his singing…and, truth be told, Enigk’s melodic professions aren’t always that clear–but if you understand the words below the vocal emissions, you will get goosebumps, guaranteed.

To this day, “In Circles” is one of my favorite tracks, musically…especially when driving, “Well I go in circles…RUNNING DOWN!”  or in “Seven”‘s “You’ll taste it!  You’ll taste it!  In time…”  you will find me parked at a railroad stoplight, pounding on the steering wheel to the bassist’s beat.  I know, I don’t do it justice.  You’re going to have to listen to the entire album.  And after that, listen to The Rising Tide.  Both of these selections were listened to as I walked to my advanced poetry class in 2005–mind you, listened to in my 1985 cassette Walkman.

Both were enigk-matic.  So, if you aren’t friends with SDRE yet, you’ll thank me for the introduction later.

Rock and roll on,

Rachael

“Today” it’s the 7th of the Top Ten Albums from 90s Alternative Rock

2003, Zwan show.

Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

Contary to the Halloween prank, the band chose their name in a more F. Scott Fitzgerald way:

adjective
1.

impressive or wonderful:

a smashing display.
Many people think this was their debut, but they forget about Gish and Lull, which are equally brilliant in their own ways.  “Today” is what broke them into the mainline of 90s Alternative Rock.  For people like me, this means “really amazing, meaningful music.”  Many mistake the happy guitar tones and seemingly cheerful lyrics for a tribute to joy–yet Billy admitted he was sampling thoughts of suicide and that the song was supposed to be a paradoxical play, with biting, sardonic sentiments below.

While I like to keep songs and videos as separate art forms, I can’t help but adore the marriage of musical, artistic concepts that this video brings.  Billy acts as a frustrated, youthful ice cream truck driver who abadons his route to find—what?  Freedom?  Escape?  What he finds is wayward artists in a field which grows into an artistic painting fest outside a barn on a gorgeously sunny day.  Though the song is about jaded thoughts of suicide, the viewer/listener cannot help but feel the warm sun and light from the artistic expression this track brings.

I could write all day about the gems on Dream but I will tell you that, if for some reason your ears have never been graced with the following bits of genius, grace them today:
“Hummer”
“Mayonaise”
“Sweet, Sweet.”
I profess being an “old skool” Pumpkins fan.  I did buy all the albums after Machina but I wasn’t so crazy about any newer Pumpkins until lately.  I just picked up their latest Monuments to an Elegy and I’ll have to report back on my thoughts and feelings on it.  There were gems on the over-the-top double disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness but my heart remains in a Lull for Dream.
Be well and rock on,
Rachael

Break out the Tool box for Day 6 of Ten of the Best Albums of the 90s…

Tool

And now, for something completely different:

Tool Aenima

I first have to say yes, it is, just say it with me, people: enema.  That is the way you say it.  I’ve heard some Tool fans try to dispute this, but, please, listen to the lyrics to my favorite title track.  It’s about flushing it all away.  He’s talking about a renewal.  Flushing out all the crap in the world and starting anew.  Tool has an interesting fan base.  They’re heavy; they have in-your-face messages that some people find too blatant or profane; oh, and they’re absolutely PHENOMENAL.  I have always called Tool “the thinker’s band.”  Each musician is so insanely talented that when you put them all together it’s like a musical coma.  I mean nothing bad by this–it’s simply that they are so inebriating to the mind that all else tends to dissappear and you, yourself, get lost in sound and emotion. At least, that is what Tool has always been for me.  This album, their sophomore to Undertow (another insanely amazing first), is what hooked me.  Though you might be in a Tool-induced coma, that doesn’t mean that you won’t move–in fact, I’ve often proclaimed you must be without a pulse if some part of your body doesn’t girate to this power-packed, bass-heavy beat.  Add to that, Maynard’s incredibly dynamic voice and Adam’s angry riffs–and you’ve got bliss.  Put in the oven at 350…sorry…sounded like a recipe forming.  So what tracks inflame me with Toolopia?  “46 & 2″ because I’m a bassist, and because of all the aforementioned reasons.  “Stinkfist” because of the spitting anger that helps emotional management.  On the surface, one might be repelled by the verbal images this illicits, however, it is about Maynard’s frustration with the military (he served.)  It’s a good one, either way, for a bad day.  “Eulogy” and, of course, “Aenima.”  There’s something incredible about the musicality of “Aemina” that astounds me.  The build, the lyrics, the dynamics in the climax–it can’t really be fully appreciated in words, so do yourself a favor:  get some headphones, eliminate distraction–and go listen.  One final thing (though I could rant about a billion more) I’d like to say about this album is that so many people mistake “Die Eier von Satan” as being anti-semitic.  No.  It’s a Jewish recipe recited like an anti-semitic speech, as in, to make the point of hatred being wrong.  Tool: 1,000,000 squared, the universe, well, we don’t lose, do we, because we have the former.

Counting…Day Five

August...2012

(1993) Counting Crows August and Everything After

I’ve long-since been a fan of this band.  There’s another blog about where I talk about how I hiked a mountain with knee injury just to see them–only to find out they cancelled the show…so I can tell you I’ve been a fan since day one.  I have every studio album they recorded.  I do have other favorites (Hard Candy and This Desert Life), but again, the beginning brillance of a band outshines the rest.  As a writer, I appreciated the hand-scrawled lyrics and bright, sunny background of the CD jacket.  We all know hits like “Round Here” and “Rain King.”  I love them, I do.  There is, much like Mother Love Bone, a manic-depressive quality to this collection of crooning as well.  “Sullivan Street,” “Raining in Baltimore,” and “Perfect Blue Buildings” draw the listener into a depressive sort of coma–in a good way, if you appreciate the sad spectrum of things.  Yet these sad tracks are evened out with the glorious “Rain King” that makes you want to fly back and forth in circles in your room instead of paying your bills or doing your homework.  The revolutionary “Anna Begins” will also lift the spirits. Just when you’re feeling melancholy, the band hits you with “A Murder of One.”  While, on the surface, that sounds dreadful, you must be aware that a group of crows is referred to as “A Murder of Crows.”  Ah!  The light bulb goes ON.  He’s talking about loneliness.  Word play is my best friend.  This is a track that has always been my favorite.  I have an interpretive dance to the beautiful poetry of lyrics that this song is.  After a steady build up of repeated lyrics, the song explodes into a joyful noise of “Change, change, change!” accompanied by Duritz’s welcome crooning.  By the time the CD ends, you cherish the humming silence with a smile on your face.  Their other albums do that, too, but not to this magnitude.

Keep Counting,

Rachael

Day Four: Ten of the Best 90s Alternative Rock Albums of All-Time

Temple of the Dog

I feel to go from Pearl Jam to Mother Love Bone to Temple of the Dog is best, especially since I started these posts with Soundgarden.  For those of you who do not know, Temple of the Dog was a tribute album to Andy Wood, and also the marriage of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden together.  I can’t think of a more amazing duo, and my Bucket List includes somehow seeing the two groups together in concert.  I have often said I’d wager my life’s savings (I don’t have one) if I could obtain tickets to such a happening.  But I digress…newly formed Pearl Jam (members from Mother Love Bone) and Soundgarden collaborated with two songs Cornell wrote in memory of his friend and former roommate.  Everyone knows “Hunger Strike.”  Though it still is played on the radio, I can admit that I get chills every time I hear it.  What is so amazing?  Cornell’s deep, soulful emissions mixed with Eddie’s honey-coated crooning.  The interplay of these lyrics is positively explosive.  But the album itself is so much more.  For example, the first two tracks, “Say Hello to Heaven” and “Reach Down” mourn Andy’s passing with bluesy, soulful guitar and Cornell’s sadden wailing.  This whole album is driven by an intense underlying emotion–it’s only salve is rock blues at its best.

Fun Fact:  When I first got my first CD player Christmas of 1992, my first three CDs were:  Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Mother Love Bone’s Apple, and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood

Random fact:  My husband and I often speak to each other in musical illusions.  He often says, “I’m like Temple of the Dog.”  If you get the reference, like the post.  If you don’t, look it up! :)

Rock on,

Rachael

Day 3: Ten of the Best Alternative Rock Albums of All-Time

Mother Love Bone Apple

This was the first and only full-length album released.  Pearl Jam fans will know it’s bittersweet because Pearl Jam rose up from the tombside soil and bloomed like an Easter lily, though it was due to the too early passing of its singer, Andy Wood.  Yet in it’s 17 tracks, Apple is an amazing “love rock” phenomenon from the 90s.  It starts with a rocking, driving “This is Shangrila” and takes you on an almost manic depressive journey for the rest of the ride.

My eleven-year-old eyes remember seeing, and only once, the “Stardog Champion” video on MTV (when MTV could be called Music Television, and was, amazing.)  https://youtu.be/k7CPIXnaeeQ  At the time I was watching this, Andy had been desceased (though I prefer the word “ascended”) for nearly two years.  The video’s images are striking, but what struck me more as I watched it, was a sense of communal mourning for Andy. I felt connected to his friends and bandmates.

Some soft songs are introspective, giving you a time to breathe between the raucous ones.  My favorite tracks are:  “Gentle Groove” “Man of Golden Words” “Capricorn Sister” “Stargazer” and “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.”  Wood proclaimed that this was “love rock.”  There are tracks that will make you testify along with him to the life-changing power of rock ‘n roll.  The album art will make you smile; the hand-scrawled sentiments may make you tear up.  But if you are a fan of 90s alternative rock, do yourself a favorite and add this to your collection.  I’m just awaiting it’s affordable arrival to vinyl.

Peace and love rock,

Rachael

Another from “One of the Ten Best Alternative Rock Albums of the 90s”, segment deux…ou dix?

fifth grade

Pearl Jam Ten

Oh no.  She’s the biggest Pearl Jam fan on the East Coast.  What can she possibly tell us about Ten, you wonder?  I love that Ten has 11 tracks, and I can’t even tell you if that was intentional.  What I can tell you is the following will not (no matter how brilliant they are) mention ANY of the releases.  This album was the genesis of my all-time favorite band EVER, so yeah, I’m biased.  But excluding the title tracks that grew their fandom, let’s take a look at ones only true fans would know, and ones, if you aren’t yet a fan, you should check out.  “Release.”  Beautiful lyrics, as though you are watching the miracle of a life coming into existence.  “I see the words on a rocking horse of time…I see the birds and the rain…” Low, humming like vocals carry this song along, finishing out the album.  It is a must-listen.  “Why Go” is another, totally different track that will make you want to dust your living room at light speed or jump up and down on your bed and pound on the walls.  I recommend it for a pissed off day or a track on your gym playlist.  “Oceans” only has two verses and was the first Pearl Jam song I ever memorized.  It felt like those eager, early days when I would learn to recite poems in elementary school.  Eddie’s near falsetto lilting vocalizations make you feel like you are a seagull soaring above those oceans to a long-awaited land.  I could go on and on about this one, but if you haven’t been inspired yet, I don’t think I can convince you otherwise.  I’ll keep trying in other posts, though.

Thanks for listening,

Rachael