Friday, July 18, 2014


Sometimes I wonder if I'm a product of my music interest, or if my music interest is just a side effect to who I am.

Let me explain.

Young Erica listened to a cassette tape of Kenny Loggins singing children's songs and lullabies. I don't mean this in a The Wiggles kind of way. They were calm, peaceful, almost folk songs.
It's where I met Pooh Corner, unicorns, comets, horses, and the existence of other cultures (as exhibited in To-Ra-Loo-Ra). They gave me this calmness, this widening of the mind. I started making music videos in my head to this music, before knowing music videos were really a thing, that video had ever killed the radio star, before knowing an artist could record songs they hadn't written. I learned the words painted the pictures I would see in my head. And I liked it.

Young Erica found another album in her mother's collection. She'd stolen Kenny Loggins, and returned for more. It's this album that I believe did it, this album that made my above mentioned speculation evident.
I think about this album a lot, especially lately. Because it made me think. And that's the key. Kenny Loggins drove my mind across the sky with St. Judy's comet and through forest glades with the last unicorn, but Sixpence None the Richer made me think. I didn't know what it meant. And it was frustrating. I didn't know what inconsistent angel things were, how a womb could be artistic, who "she" was in 'Sister, Mother.' I didn't get it. I was left to figure it out, and when I learned to read I read through the lyrics printed in the cover. But I still didn't know. This album is heavy on imagery, metaphor; it's poetry. It's an album of poems, and the answers are hidden in subtext and verbiage and unique to the listener. It's words painting pictures.

I have an odd reverence for words. You've probably gleaned as much if you've read this blog before. My favorite thing about Kenny Loggins wasn't his voice or the beautiful album art. It was the words, the story. I was devastated when I read who'd written the songs and saw Leigh Nash was only responsible for one of them; I felt cheated her lips were speaking someone else's words. The thing I loved most, and what still remains the deciding factor, about Jason Mraz was his words.

It had to come to this. He released an album Tuesday. Why else would we be here?
In the past couple of years I've let go of my tight grip on lyrics to hear the themes in the music itself. It started with Jason Mraz. I'd heard his songs so much the words were already ingrained in my subconscious, so I started feeling the beat, started noticing the way the rifts changed, started hearing the layers. Music has become a new journey for me; I've realized it's not just the words, but the way they play with the music. Hearing Mraz for those first months was incredible because each time I heard a song again I'd get new insight into what words he was using, what he was truly saying. When that went away I started having epiphanies about the melodies.

And now back to my musing at the first: am I a product of my music, or do I have this taste because of who I am?

Where's the causation? Is there any?

I've often attributed my prose style to Sixpence None the Richer, claiming the album introduced me to words that masked what they meant, thus giving me the natural knack I have for spewing imagery. I'd been raised on it. But as the last few months have gone on, I've found myself slipping back into my old tastes as far as music goes. I've ventured off to Indie and Alternative Pop, but I'm tucking myself back into acoustic folk pop. I turn a happier ear to the music reminiscent of that first album, the mystique and metaphor on which I was raised. And I'm aware now that it's more than the words I appreciate; I've noticed a distinct similarity between the two. I've always said I like the music I like because the words are usually more akin to what I'm interested in. Which is mostly true. But there's been many a song I've enjoyed for lyrics and felt so-so as far as music goes. (A certain duet between Eminem and Rihanna comes to mind.) And a couple albums with instrumental tracks have taught me that music can speak without words. Willis showed me a Japanese artist whose songs hit me very deeply, but I don't speak Japanese.

Then Wednesday happened. Yes! came in the mail a day late, and after I enjoyed my new t-shirt, notebook, and poster, I popped in the album and leaned back on my bed to let Jason Mraz's latest work envelop me for the first time.

It's a meadow. It's soft clouds lilted by the pink hues of a setting sun breathing through branches accompanied by a faint breeze. It's sand flaking out to sea as the waves roll over it lightly. It's nature. It's peace. It's beauty. I hesitate to say it's my favorite album only because it's so new, and of course his newest endeavor is my favorite. I said this of his last installment, Love is a Four Letter Word.

But it's the difference of this album to every other that makes it hit me in such a unique way. I'm well versed in his music, and I recall lying there, listening to this album for the first time thinking how I love how he has changed. This sound is something I couldn't place in his past. But I could place it in mine.

If I'm a product of my music interest, Yes! is my current Sixpence None the Richer, an album for another decade of life. If my music interest is a side effect of who I am, this is another album I'll be yapping about for months. Because it is me. It is everything my heart wants. It's like coming home. And I try not to say this in the cheesiest ways, and hope I've made a fragment of sense this entire post. I just wonder if this album would speak to me in the way it does if I'd grown up with a different introduction to the realm of music. I wonder if I'd be who I am if it weren't for that first album, and for the albums that have followed. In the way I wonder if I'd be fundamentally the same if I hadn't been raised in the Church, I wonder if music has made me what I've become. Music is a gospel, after all. As Matt Nathanson sings, "I found religion at the record store." I lost myself in the melody and found myself in the words.

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