I am simply not a good enough writer to put into words the meaning of music in the context of my life. From my lows to my highs, music has been from the background to the foreground. It is my atmosphere. It is the filter that all my light shines through.
So many people will ask each other the questions, “What is your favorite song?”,“What is your favorite band?”, and some might be a little kinder and ask these questions in the context of the present. Our answers will change, fluctuate. Songs that have been played over a thousand times in our lifetime might never be heard for years to come, or ever again. But as the clock strikes what is to be my 24th year on this planet, I have taken time to reflect on this great question and with no further ado, here are 5 songs that changed my life. They were anthems, comforts, pinnacles of wisdom, but above all else, they were catalysts for change. None of them are my favorite song at the moment, but they are sonic photographs, and in the spirit of the great words of Sir Paul McCartney, “For well you know that it’s a fool, who plays it cool, by making his world a little colder,” I’m happy to share these personal experiences.
The year was 2009 and at the time I was a high school dropout, my parents were divorcing, my drug problems were slowly creeping into the center of life. It would be safe to say it was not the best time of my life. Adolescence in the DC area had brought a number of us misfits to punk rock house shows, particularly The Corpse Fortress. In the basement of that run down house, we drank and smoked, we danced and punched, screamed and lived so brightly that we for a moment pushed out the darkness that was ahead of us, the looming questions that we were too young to have an answer for.
One cool night the house swelled to full capacity for the coming of Nana Grizol, a band flooded by members of the revered punk band Defiance, Ohio. I remember as all the many members of horns, guitars, and drums squeezed onto the tiny stage in the basement, kids hung from the stairs trying to get a glimpse. The music blared into our ears and sparked the crowd to move, to yell, to shove, to rebel. But in the midst of all this chaos something special happened- the noise stopped and one lonely guitar could only be heard. As if it had all been rehearsed, the crowd stopped talking, stopped swelling, and just sat still, eyes and ears glued to the microphone, waiting… and then came the song “Cynicism.”
“I once saw a sunset so vivid and warm that I swore it was perfect
I once had a lover, I’m not sure if I’ll recover, but I know it was worth it
Then, last night in the car, the falling raindrops looked like stars of some incalculable speed
Then later, my friends said “Good to see you again, this is a home to me”
So I wrote a song and I called it “The Love of my Life”
Said “don’t be gone long”, it now sings me to sleep every night
And I never learned a lesson looking at my own reflection, but sometimes it seems useful
So I loosen my heart strings in high hopes of starting to find something truthful.
Cynicism isn’t wisdom, it’s a lazy way to say that you’ve been burned
It seems, if anything, you’d be less certain after everything you ever learned.”
When that song ended, the crowd was silent as the horns faded into the reverb of damp wooden frames. We looked around at each other with a look on our faces that acknowledged that we had witnessed something incredible, and then all at once cheered like we had never cheered before.
The song is incredibly well written, almost as if it was a poem with music taped behind it. But what this song means to me is so much more than the words could ever mean alone. I stood there listening, my heart concurring with every line as it applied to who I was. Then I looked around the room and saw that same look in a girl next to me, the kids on the stairs, the man behind me, and I realized that they were feeling that same feeling. It was the first time I saw the power of music in person, it was the first time I felt as if I could understand a stranger by the look in their eyes, and it made me realize that I wasn’t as alone as I felt most of the time.
Nana Grizol Website | Bandcamp | Facebook | Last.fm | Myspace
Similar Artists: Defiance, Ohio, Pretty Hot, Glen Hansard