Read about (and listen to) the music that’s helping get us through this crazy time! The next post in our series of staff blogs at Main Street Arts provides you with the current Main Street Arts mix tape. We hope that this series will give a little insight into who we are, our backgrounds, and our interests. This will be an ongoing feature that will continue throughout the duration of our closure due to COVID-19.
Listen to the MSA Mix Tape (April 2020) playlist on Spotify:
Music has been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember and I have developed a sprawling taste for a wide variety of music over the years.
In 1997 I found my favorite radio station, 90.5FM WBER. Over the next 2+ decades I became a dedicated listener and in the summer of 2005 I competed in the “Be the next BER DJ competition” and was the runner up. I came on as a DJ in early 2006 and had a weekly show on and off for a few years. My DJ handle was Brad the Mailman.
It was difficult to narrow down my list to just three songs but here they are:
1. Wilco—Why Would you Wanna Live
I’ve been listening to Wilco’s album, Being There on an off throughout the past month and love the range on this album. This song isn’t one that normally sticks out to me but I found I was singing the chorus to myself for a few days in a row last week and laughed when I realized how fitting it was!
I saw Wilco in 2009 at Artpark in Lewiston, NY. Connor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band opened for them—I am excited for the new Bright Eyes album!—and it was a great show, although we left before the end of Wilco’s second encore because I fall asleep at the wheel when I drive at night… Last year, I read Jeff Tweedy’s book Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.—actually I listened to the audio book, which is cool because Jeff Tweedy narrates it and does a great job. The book was awesome and it gave me a new appreciation for Wilco, who I liked a lot before but love now.
2. Portishead—We Carry On
This song reminds me of a party Sarah and I had at our apartment in 2008. I had gotten this album from WBER—a perk of being a DJ!—and I distinctly remember how intense the song felt as it played. This isn’t an album I am currently listening to but its one that I want to hear on repeat for a few days.
3. The Stone Roses—I Wanna Be Adored
This is a song I have heard on WBER for years. For a long time I thought that he was saying “I wanna be a dog” and that it was an homage to Iggy Pop. It came on in the car a few weeks ago and I have listened to their self-titled debut album several times since. I love the way this song builds from near silence over the first minute and from there, the great bass line and repetitive lyrics.
When I hear specific songs or albums, I am transported back to certain moments in time — sitting on the roof of my best friend’s house watching the stars; sitting in the passenger seat of Brad’s car with my feet up on the dashboard and the window rolled down; the packed dance floor at our wedding. I can instantly name songs or albums connected with each of these memories.
Right now I am finding myself drawn to listening to songs, albums, and bands that transport me back to what felt like a simpler time in my life but I don’t think I would be able to associate those songs with THIS specific moment in time. They have other memories and I think that’s why I find myself listening to them—for a brief escape from the current situation.
Here are few of the songs that I will hear in the future and associate with this time in my life:
1. Meg Myers, “Numb“
As far as the actual radio goes, we listen exclusively to 90.5 FM WBER in our house. The past few years they have been playing Meg Myers which is how I found out about her music. The whole album Take Me To The Disco is really great, as is her NPR Tiny Desk concert and her 2019 cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”
2. Vampire Weekend, “Sympathy“
Another WBER song/band. This one makes just makes me want to run or bike or drive a car for long distances. I’ve never heard a Vampire Weekend song I didn’t like.
3. Broken Bells, Good Luck
As a big fan of The Shins, I am also a fan of Broken Bells, a band comprised of The Shins lead singer James Mercer and Danger Mouse (Brian Burton).
It snowed this week. In mid-April. So, between the snow and the extra time that I have to read and work on personal writing projects, I wanted to suggest a moody writing playlist.
First is Agnes Obel. I discovered her from the Big Little Lies soundtrack. The album I’d been listening to, “Aventine,” is one that I was playing in the speakers at the time we were renovating Sulfur Books. I think Brad and Sarah would recognize it. From that album, “Dorian” is the one I would recommend to get anyone’s pen moving. Its low notes, impressionistic piano, and Obel’s voice (which isn’t on every track––a lot of the album is instrumental). “As the devil spoke, we spilled out on the floor” is a line I love. It’s a rainy day song, and it brings down the mood for sure. The songs are made up of Obel’s vocals, Obel on piano, a woman playing cello, and a woman playing violin. It’s witchy, impish, and full of strange folklore.
Ever-present in Obel’s music is the violin played pizzicato––a technique where the strings are plucked instead of using the bow. It’s a from of impressionism, often used to imitate the sound of rain. (And that’s why “The Curse” is a close, second favorite for me on the album. A lovely folk tale, excellent songwriting. The violin is in a sort of conversation with the cello the whole time and the two tell their own story.)
Violin played pizzicato is also my justification for loving Julia Kent, who was recommended to me by my friend Chad. I may be wrong about whether or not the track “Overlook” is played pizzicato, but if not, the opening sounds close. (Edit: my son, who plays violin, says it’s actually staccato, which sounds close enough to be confused.) It’s very dreamy and sad. Great for writing. I would definitely download “Green and Grey” if you’re looking for something melancholy to vibe with.
Another friend, Brad, who used to live here in Rochester, got me hooked on Deaf Center. For aesthetically similar reasons, the song “Fog Animal” from “Pale Ravine” is maybe less sad but doesn’t break from the dreamy theme of the rest of the music. It also includes the sounds of plucked strings. I’ve added that song to my playlist but the album as a whole is enough to get a few some pages out of you.
Lately I have taken quite the liking to The Lumineers. Until recently, I enjoyed listening to them in passing but never paid too much attention to them. I stumbled upon The Lumineers Tiny Desk Concert and their performance really lit a fire in my heart for their music. So, I’ve been obsessively listening to them and watching and re-watching their Tiny Desk Concert. My kids also enjoy watching this and listening to (most of) their songs which is a big plus, so I can blare it in the house!
The Lumineers recently released a new album called III, (listen to the first song Donna here) which is much heavier in sound and content than previous albums, and when coupled with the music video narrative packs a pretty good punch.
I have also been a bit obsessed with Cage the Elephant, and really love “Come a Little Closer” and others.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Get To Know Us blog post, when we’ll let you know what we’re watching.