More Butter, please

For the first time in seven years, Counting Crows have released a seven-track album that does not let its fans down at all. Duritz’s voice is as fresh it was when we heard it in 1994. Butter Miracle, Suite One offers trilling melodies, aching lyrics, and the crooning we’ve all come to love; it also offers us a raring trumpet solo. When the brief block of music closes, it leaves you wanting more.

One of my favorite tracks on this collection is the opener, “Tall Grass” and not merely because it was the first track I heard–as that often happens with audiophiles like myself. “Tall Grass” has a movement like a great symphony, shifting time signatures and melodies and keys and growing more urgent before returning to its subdued opening refrain.

“Butter Miracle, Suite One” is a must-listen and the fact that it’s called “Suite One” suggests there will be more brilliance that awaits us. We’ve been patient before.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Top 100

Can you pick only 100 top albums? Better yet, can you do it without repeating an artist? Challenge accepted! I’m up to 27 albums, all the while creating a list of “best songs ever” so I can make a playlist (and/or mix tape). I will share all this information as I go along. Lucky for you, the caveat is that yo don’t have to put them in order from least to greatest or vice versa. They can simply be 100 of your favorite albums of all time. You think it’d be impossible for me to choose a favorite Pearl Jam album, but I easily chose “No Code” because to me, that one has memories and melodies that I always come back to. One cannot forget such treasures as “In My Tree” and “Smile.” Truth be told, it is pretty impossible for me to pick a favorite Pearl Jam album, but this one is just so timeless.

Other artists you’ll read me yammering about will be: Neil Young, Rush, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin (of course), Tool, Mother Love Bone, Jimi Hendrix, and more. Stay tuned as I reveal my Top 100 with you. What are some of your “can’t live withouts?”

Christmas Tunes

If you’re like me, you typically don’t listen to, or like, the Christmas music on the radio this time of year. I will admit, however, I enjoy the Indie Christmas Pandora station on occasion. You probably listen to Pantera while wrapping gifts–now there’s a funny image; you try headbanging without ripping the wrapping paper. Just watch out for the scissors, please.

I tend to enjoy the oldies, even Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.” I love Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” around this time of year. But I have something so “un-rock ‘n roll” to share with you guys. My favorite Christmas pastime…(big deep breath):

Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas album. Yes, it’s true. First, Dolly Parton is a songwriting machine and I will always respect her. Second, I grew up wrapping presents and decorating the tree to this music, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Mom and I could be found decorating the tree, passing lights back and forth and pausing to have a song outburst at the climaxes or whenever we saw fit, which was usually at the same time, knowing us.

There was a time Mom had a very “country” boyfriend. I was around the ages of 7-9 in my CMT country phase. I still do have fondness for some of those songs, and especially for the girl who loved them. Then, I “met” Pearl Jam. I thought I had to renounce all things country to not “stain” my rock ‘n roll heart. But I later realized that we are the sum of all of our parts–even the ones who loved (cough) NKOTB.

So, my Christmas music challenge to you is this: find a new Christmas song you DO like or delve into those old favorites with NO SHAME and SING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS.

Stay Safe and Rock On,

Rachael

P.S. I still have the original cassette of Kenny and Dolly, and later bought the CD. I’d take it on vinyl, too. 🙂

I’m the Girl in the Box…

Today, I was cleaning and organizing and emptying boxes. And when I found them, I screamed in delight. I thought that these treasured mementos had gotten lost in the moves of adulthood. No. There he was–Eddie. There they were: Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden–the pillars of my youth. Posters I hadn’t framed but was careful to put ring protectors around each thumbtack so they wouldn’t rip or fray. Original Rolling Stone magazines with Blind Melon, Pearl Jam, The Red Hot Chili Peppers…and the ones memorializing Jerry Garcia, Layne Stayley, and Kurt Cobain. The originals, in mint condition. I’m so excited, I can barely type.

I can’t tell you how these visages guided me, comforted me, excited me. Yes, I even have the larger-than-life-sized one of Eddie Vedder–one I loved so much, I mentioned in my memoir. The girl inside me danced and screamed and grooved out as I carefully parted the posters fold-outs from various magazines. I found one called Grunge Magazine that I had purchased two copies of, just to be sure I’d never lose it because it had my fab five on it. I’m sure you’ve guess that’s Pearl Jam by now.

Have you ever loved something more than the air that goes into your lungs? Well of course, because a lot of us take that simple act for granted. One thing that has been missing in life during this global pandemic is live music. That feeling of aspirating with tens of thousands of people–singing in unison, swaying like a big wave in an ocean, being a part of a larger collective. For us music lovers, it’s almost painful to be away from live music for so long. When I opened that box, I found the girl I was–the girl I still am–and it brought me all the joy that it did when I would gaze upon those images as I listened to their music over and over.

What’s your musical joy? Share in the comments and go enjoy it right now!

Rock on,

Rachael

How Could I Have Forgotten?

The pandemic has been hard for all of us. I fell into a dangerous habit of NOT LISTENING TO MUSIC ENOUGH. What? you might ask. But you write about it; we know you live for it. Yes, I’d reply, but for some reason, I just didn’t put it on enough, or let myself enjoy it (depression is hard.) (Depression is hard but music is the salve.) To be fair, all my records and tapes and CDs have been in storage since 2018. Ghastly, I know. And I prefer those mediums to the overwhelming world of digital music. For Christmas, my husband even got me wireless ear buds, but they just sat on my shelf. Until today. I knew I had to start a schedule of housecleaning and get my act together. There were too many listless days in the last year. It was time to be productive. So, I put them in, chose Madonna’s album “Like a Prayer” and rocked the hell out. I don’t even know how long it took me to completely clean the kitchen, but it felt so good I didn’t care.

Admission: when I was seven, I used to listen to this album almost non-stop. I even made up an interpretive dance to “Like a Prayer” and made my mom watch. It included a dramatic “fall” off the coffee table, even. Needless to say, when those familiar sounds graced my ears this morning, I was off and running (or dusting, rather.) Then, when the album is over on Spotify, they usually play similar tracks. I got hit with Blondie and Roxette. How amazing. So, there are definitely upsides to digital music, don’t get me wrong. My spirit is light. My husband just came in to tell me his students, via Zoom, could hear me singing in my office. I suppose, while he teaches, I should tamp it down just a bit. Oops.

Don’t ever forget to cherish your tunes. They are what keeps us alive and well after all.

Peace, Love, and Music,

Rachael

By Far…One of the Best Albums of All-Time

Recently, a friend of mine was (sniff) giving away her CDs. She let me go through them all first. As we looked through them, documenting them or discussing them, R.E.M.’s Monster came up. My eyes got wide. “THIS,” I began, as she began to smile, “is one of THE. BEST. ALBUMS. OF. ALL. TIME.” She couldn’t disagree. If you don’t own this one, go get it. Give it an old-school spin on the record player, CD player, or, if you must, on a digital device somehow. You’ve read my past rants on R.E.M. genius. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, they are one of my favorite bands of all time. I owned Out of Time when I was ten. It was the cassette, which shows my age a little, but hey, it was 1991.

This album is definitely included in my Top 100 albums of all time. What is it that we admire about R.E.M. so much? Is it that they got their name with a random finger-point to the dictionary? Is it the sugary croon of Stipe’s voice? The unique riffs? Maybe we won’t know, no matter how we ponder, but one this is for sure: this is one of the albums that really illustrates the band’s greatness. No offense to the other amazing albums. I have yet to uncover an R.E.M. track, or record, for that matter, that I don’t NOT like.

But enough of my obfuscating. Let’s get down to it. If you were a “radio listener” (gold star for that reference origin), then you probably heard and adored “Crush (with eyeliner).” Of course, the most played track from this album was undoubtedly, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” But little known to most, “Let Me In” was a song written in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and dedicated to his memory. When I learned of this and really gave it a new listen, I wept. Such raw emotion in the lilting “heyyyyyy yeah yeah…let me in” of Stipe’s voice. Distorted guitar and organ music keyboard bliss. Give it a listen when you’re alone and have an undistracted moment to yourself. What are those? Find them again. Let them in.

While the entire album reigns brilliance, my high point tracks are, in no particular order:
“Crush (with eyeliner)”
“Let Me In”
“Strange Currencies”
“I Don’t Sleep, I Dream.”

But the entire album is genius. Go on and take a listen.

Be well and Rock on,

Rachael

Unsung Hero

I always think of Helmet when I write the word “unsung” and my blog is all about those things unsaid that burn inside me–mostly about my life’s favorite elixir–music. That being said, I never thought I’d love a radio station like I love SiriusXM’s Pearl Jam radio. There is a man I spend less time with than Eddie and the boys–and interestingly even more time with than my husband–and that is the host and diehard fan, Rob Bleetstein. So today’s post goes out to him.

I try to listen to other favorites. I love 90s alternative, and everything from Johnny Cash to the Grateful Dead to Moonsorrow and Tool and back again–but I always end up back on Channel 22 because Pearl Jam is “my blood” and I “walk the long road” with them everyday. Consequently, I travel this road with millions of other Pearl Jam fans–a family I have stood singing my lungs out with but never really convened with–and Rob makes that all possible. He’s my co-pilot on bad days or good days or melancholy days in-between. His voice has become a familiar groove in my life and I get into my car expecting to hear the welcoming baritone pendulum swing me into and back out of my days.

Myself, I worked in radio in college and I miss it. One of my happiest moments lately was being a guest DJ for Pearl Jam radio-something I look forward to doing again…and again. Maybe I can apply if Rob ever retires. But knowing the intent and passion of a Pearl Jam fan, something tells me that will likely never happen. It’s okay; we’ll walk the long road faithfully together.

Thanks, Rob, for being so awesome. Learn more about Rob here: https://artistwaves.com/rob-bleetstein-my-journey-and-career-in-radio/

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

It’s not enough

There’s a reason I called this blog “unsung throes.” There’s a reason that my handle is “kindalikeapoet.” I’ve recently been reading Maynard’s bio–a very well-written account of his life by a close friend–and good writer. It came up in therapy today that I want to be a lyricist. That I’ve always been a songwriter. It comes very naturally to me, just like Maynard’s talents did to him–only he didn’t realize it until way later on because no one ever gave him the positive reinforcement about them. He knew he was talented, sure–but he didn’t realize the extent to which he was talented, nor the power that it held for both him and his audiences.

I chose “kinda like a poet” for my handle because of The Replacements’ “Achin’ to Be.” I’ve always seemed to be achin’ to be. Even in this blog. I started it so people would reach out and understand me musically. At the time, I was single and hoped to get that guy who understood me musically. The subject of the song is a girl who wishes she could be all that she wants to be creatively–so much so she aches for it–and doesn’t realize she’s already doing it. I’ve always wanted to be a successful music writer. I’m a writer and a damn good one. I’ve always wanted to be in the music field. I’m a songwriter, but, like the girl in the song, I’ve never really “unleashed” per se, like Maynard finally did. I’ve never given myself the seriousness needed for the writing.

Further, I chose “unsung throes” for a number of reasons. It’s for all the things I’ve said but never shared about music and my passion for it. For the song “unsung” by Helmet, because, well, Helmet kicks ass, and “unsung” is a totally bitchin’ name and idea for a song and thought. To be unsung is like being unseen, unheard, “un” validated. And that’s how I’ve felt most of my creative life.

But for as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing songs, re-writing songs, and singing them, if for no one else, myself. And now’s the time to make it really happen. What came up in therapy today is that–I knew I wasn’t going to get into Berklee School of Music by way of electric bass. I made the mistake of trying to major in Music at a teaching school over and over again. And when I said it today, it made today sense. “I should have been going to Berklee College of Music for SONGWRITING.” I’d still do it. But I don’t need an expensive degree (another one) to do this thing I do so well anyway. I just need a band and a connection to people who need songwriters.

So, hey, if you’re out there, and you’re down, let me know. But this is for you, all of you who have dreams that are unsung. The time is now to sing them.

Sing on. Sing loud.

Rachael

When you know it, you know it…

I have one of those little marquis boards I got in the dollar section of Michael’s. It tends to lend itself to Led Zeppelin lyrics. One of the first I put down was Robert Plant’s “Shine it all around.” Then, “Over the Hills and Far Away.” After a long period (probably all of this quarantine) I had Tool’s “Bless this Immunity” up. Until one day I needed some hope and change.

What better lyrics to put up (and I had enough letters): It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.

My husband looked at it. “Where’s that from?”

“Stairway, duh.”

“Well, yeah, but where did they get it from? Didn’t it come from a book or something?”

“While a lot of Zep’s lyrics are inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien, this was uniquely theirs.”

I don’t know why he kept on, but we ended up doing some research and found some pretty interesting things. The gist of it is that “if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now; it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen” meaning this time of year, people are busy “bustling” and cleaning to bring in the spring wonders. At least, that’s my writer’s take on it. We found some other pretty funny interpretations (gotta love http://www.urbandictionary.com) that, no surprise, turned things sexual, but I’ll let you look that up.

The deal is this: you can always question my musical knowledge. I don’t claim to always be right. But I’m right about this. I know my Zeppelin. Thanks to my Robert-Plant-loving sister-in-spirit, Stephanie.

Be well and rock on as you go over the hills and onto your couch. Or whatever you might be doing in our quarantine. And as always, thanks for reading!

Rachael

Pass the Mayonaise…

Yesterday, I wrote about an album that helped redeem me. Today, I was feeling listless, frustrated, and blocked in my writing. Later in the day, after my calming tea and CBD supplement (magic to those of us with anxiety), I was singing “LET ME OUT!” from “Cherub Rock” by Smashing Pumpkins. (I’ve heard they don’t want the “The”). I got to thinking about how EPIC that album still is.

Then, it occurred to me that Billy wrote the entire album while going through a rough period of suicidal ideations and general melancholy. To me, track 9, “Mayonaise” with one n, yes, not like the food, is my saving grace, too.  I can’t tell you why he named the song as such, though I’m very good with backstory and music trivia that no one else cares about. Well, not “no one.” You do. Thank you.

The sounding refrain for this one is “I just want to be ME; and when I can, I will.” But I’m also drawn to the other lyrics as well. “Cool enough to almost be it; fool enough to not quite see it.” Sounds like my plight my whole life. I know that I can be an extremely successful music writer/songwriter/creative writer of almost anything…but I’ve always felt “stuck.” And I’m probably the one “sticking” myself. Wow. Okay, that sentence was terrific. Take it as you will.

Back to the song. What an amazingly slow opener that makes the electric guitar hum into every crevice of your synapses. Do synapses even have crevices? Mine are rocking out so hard right now, they probably made their own. “Mayonaise” on headphones, cat in lap, Rachael writing. There could be almost NO other joy like this. “All our time can’t be given back.” enJOY it.

And when I can, I will, as soon as I “SHUT MY MOUTH and STRIKE THE DEMONS!” I’ve been thinking sometimes that “words defy the plans.” Okay, I’ll stop.

“NO MORE PROMISE NO MORE SORROW NO LONGER WILL I FOLLOW Can anybody hear me? I just want to beeeeeee ME. And try to understand that when I can, I will.”

I didn’t realize I’d get so personal here, but music has a way of doing that to us. And I want to be personal with you, because you’re my readers, and undoubtedly, you saw some merit in my writing, or you enjoyed the same bands as I do, and you thought you’d give me a chance. Well, thanks again.

I think the reason I love this entire song is because of how raw and real it is for me. Depression says that. “When I can, I will.” And sometimes we never do. And then we beat ourselves up about it. Even if it was something we really didn’t want to do anyway. Or we’re really hard on ourselves for not doing something we love, or punish ourselves with the dance of regret over and over again. “I shouldn’t have left France so early,” I often say. People have asked me why I did. Why ON EARTH would you LEAVE FRANCE????? That’s what I ask. But my answer, after all these years, is a regret-singed, “Because I had untreated clinical depression and I felt lost and alone and inadequate even though I was the most fluent one there in my group, save the professor and his son.” FOOL ENOUGH TO NOT QUITE SEE IT.

BUT BUT BUT. Billy instructs to “SHUT (MY) MOUTH AND STRIKE THE DEMONS!” And we constantly do that when we confront the doubt that cripples us. Sometimes, I write a blog and proof it and change it and wonder if I should have added more or less or more or less or…

I’m getting better at letting it be a natural first draft. I just now critiqued that I should have organized the blog by the lyrics as subheaders. And then I said, “No. Stop. They’ve read this far, so it’s okay.”

Whatever your doubts are, strike ’em. Be yourself. That burn in your soul that can’t be ignored? Stop ignoring it. Stop pulling up the blanket of depression to smother the embers. Let it roar.

Because “life’s a bummer, when you’re a hummer. Life’s a draaaaag…” but that’s another song for another blog.

Be well, be safe, and rock the fuck out.

Rachael