The LP Experience

Who listens to entire music albums anymore?

The other day I was playing Katy Perry’s Prism from start to finish, and my kids asked me what those “non-radio songs” were. I told them it was the whole album and they looked at me like I had two heads.

I remember waiting all day so I could go to the record store and buy Janet’s janet. album, when I would camp out all night so I could be the first one to get the new Sheryl Crow CD. I recall the first album I listened to from start to finish like it was yesterday, and while I sometimes listen to a song here and there I’m largely still about entire albums.

There’s just something about listening to the music in the way the artist intended, and when an entire album flows from song to song, creating an entire masterpiece, it’s simply transformative. Complete albums like Michael Jackson’s Bad, Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, Babyface’s For the Cool in You, and Pearl Jam’s Vs. have been there for me in difficult times of my life. Continue reading “The LP Experience”



“I’m on my way. Driving at ninety down those country lanes, singing to ‘Tiny Dancer.’ And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real. We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill.” ~Ed Sheeran


It’s no surprise that I like to sing. Check out my youTube channel I’m about to take down, and you can hear for yourself how freeform it truly is — kind of like my dancing. More often than not I’ll be singing my song of the moment, whatever song has struck my fancy that day, that week, or that month. Generally it’s a song I play a lot in my car, but sometimes it’s random enough to be maddening even to me.

Currently that song is “Castle on the Hill,” by Ed Sheeran, a soaring anthem that tugs at both the heartstrings and my legendary sense of nostalgia at the same time. I love the whole album (Divide) but something about this one song brings me back to my childhood in a way that few songs not from that era have the ability to achieve. At least for me.

Which is funny because I don’t really have a relationship to look at in the same way as he remembers one of his earliest. I was pretty much strictly friend material to girls back in middle school, even though I would pour my heart out to them in poems I never sent, in songs I never sang, and in words I never said face to face either. It was this dichotomy between the me I wanted to be — strong and determined — and the me I couldn’t help being — fragile and tentative. Like oil and water, they didn’t mix.

So I sang to myself, but my song wasn’t “Tiny Dancer.” It was more often than not “Broken Wings,” or “Get Outta My Dreams,” songs of lost love or unrealized love that resonated with the teenage me much more than anything by Prince or those other guys who sounded like Prince. I was a bit quirkier, preferring “Motown Song” over more sensitive fare.

But that’s always been me, my songs of the moment somehow connected to me in ways only I could ever figure out at the time, then moving on to the next song when my emotions have moved on. I do miss those songs when they fade from my spotlight, though, when they’ve gone back to their regular places on their own albums, when they’ve drifted from my mind like so much snow blowing across the boulevard.

So right now it’s “Castle on the Hill,” and I nearly cry when I hit the chorus. Every single time I hit the chorus. Because it’s SO me right now, and the sun is setting over the hill. I’m just still waiting for my castle.


One Headlight

“There’s got to be something better than in the middle. But me and Cinderella, we put it all together. We can drive it home with one headlight” ~The Wallflowers

b8e3c32a19849bc179350f5129f1a4ceIt was spring, 1997, and I was working hard at the campus library, even though I was on academic probation. None of the other workers knew that because I was pretending to keep a school schedule, even pretending to have study breaks every now and again. It was tedious, all the pretending, but it was necessary because campus jobs were just for students. So I kept showing up for work, getting a paycheck every Friday, and wasting it on things I couldn’t tell you the next day, much less now, over 18 years later.

Every day after work I would get out my tiny radio, plug in my headphones (yes, real headphones), and lose myself in the world of the radio. That spring songs like Semi-Charmed Life, by Third Eye Blind, I Want You, by Savage Garden, and The Freshmen, by The Verve Pipe, arrested my attention because they were new, they were hip, and they allowed me to pretend things were normal.

You see, it was all about illusion with me back then, hoping that people believed the facade I showed them, and one of the biggest parts of the facade was me with those headphones on, casually strolling around campus as if it was just another day. And those songs were so typical, with their catchy hooks and their predictable melodies, I was able to melt into them.

Then 6th Avenue Heartache started playing on Q-102 and it was different. There was just something about The Wallflowers that commanded a different kind of attention. The lead singer’s voice was almost monotone, but it was deep, and it was soulful, and the melodies were more insistent than anything else on the radio at that time outside of maybe BLACKstreet. I became a fan, and like with me and everything musical, I had to have the album.

Screen-Shot-2012-12-20-at-3.17.03-PM-700x457So I went downtown to The Wall and saw the album prominently displayed next to the Spice Girls, which struck me as mildly funny. I grabbed a copy, got out my Discman, and before I was even on the subway again I was awash in the sounds of all the other songs that made up what would turn out to be one of my favorite 90s records when all was said and done.

The song that stuck out the most to me during that first listen was One Headlight, for some reason I couldn’t fathom at the time. Now, looking back, I think it was the fragility of the story that it told, the tightrope between contrasting emotions of the narrator and what he left behind, the hollow tone juxtaposed with an aching sadness that drove itself deep into the recess between my ears.

And it still hits me the exact same way every single time I listen to it even now. Because even though I’m not still at the library pretending to be something I’m not, life tends to offer similar scenarios where I worry that all I’m operating on is one headlight in the dark, that I’m still trying to hide from the harsh world that could expose me at any turn. Maybe that’s just something I’ll have to keep working to try and get over, or maybe that’s just the way I’m meant to be, that this battle inside of me will eventually lead me to the light.

“Hey, come on try a little. Nothing lasts forever…”


Dear Journal: Stuck

carly-rae-jepsen-call-me-maybe-coverDear Journal,

“Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s my number, so call me maybe…” I got this song stuck in my head this morning and it just wouldn’t leave me alone. I mean, what is this? The summer of 2012? But I guess there’s no accounting for good taste, or for retro songs that are so catchy they always leave me wanting more. Maybe that’s why I was singing “Come On Eileen” for hours yesterday. Out loud. At high volume.

“Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad. I missed you so bad. I missed you so, so bad…” I remember the summer of 2012 clearly, too. It was the summer that Michael Phelps retired (for a while) and all those U.S. swimmers made that absolutely hilarious video of them singing the ubiquitous song. Oh, and it was a leap year too. I never seem to remember when leap years are due, but when they do come around I am in awe of them. I mean, a whole extra day in February is the gift that keeps on giving.

“I’d trade my soul for a wish. Pennies and dimes for a kiss. I wasn’t looking for this, but now you’re in my way…” Why is it that the good songs hardly ever get stuck in my head? Maybe it’s because of the magic of Shuffle, that glorious invention that makes it easy to move from one song to the next, and that always surprises me with its juxtapositions. So a song just comes up and hits me now, but it’s fleeting and slides into the next before it can get stuck in my head.

So where did “Call Me Maybe”come from? I have absolutely no idea, but I finally got it out of my head before the day ended. Of course, though, it was replaced by “Who Can It Be Now?” from the ’80s. I don’t even know what band sings it, but at this rate I’ll probably be singing Paula Abdul anthems all day tomorrow. I just hope I don’t end up singing them out loud. At high volume.


The Painter With His Pots

Flower Pots and Stairs 2011
Painting by Arlon Rosenoff

“The delicious singing of the mother — or of the young wife at work — or of the girl sewing or washing — Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else.”I Hear America Singing; Walt Whitman

I like taking pictures, but I know I’m not a photographer. I’m a huge fan of music, but I’ll never be a musician. I appreciate code, but I don’t plan on a career setting up complex website structures. In fact, most people have one strong talent or love, and they hone that until it’s as sharp as a two-edged sword. They are defined by it as surely as if they were born with that ability. A select few are even especially talented at two individual pursuits, but if asked to choose they would still tell you that one is more important to them than the other. It is the nature of selection, of preference, and of design.

If you asked me right now where my talent lies I would tell you it’s in writing. It was my first love, and it continues to give me the most pleasure of anything I’ve ever done in my life. The fun in writing, for me, is the ability to create and live in other worlds, in other people’s minds. Shannon A. Thompson, a fellow author, asked a question on Twitter last night that intrigued me. She said, “Has a reader ever thought you were your characters?” And that’s precisely it. As a writer, just creating characters that resonate with others, that inspire these thoughts and questions, that’s validation.

When I hear most popular rappers try to actually sing, I laugh out loud, not because they sound horrible (although sometimes they honestly do), but because of the shock to the system of seeing them outside of their natural environment. Singing is not their talent area, but they try, and they are uninhibited because they’ve already conquered one area. The same is true of anyone from another walk of life trying their hand at acting, as if anyone can be a good actor, but that’s not true. There’s something to be said for putting all of your focus on one thing and doing that well.

Walt Whitman had a point in his poem above, that every single person has a talent and is important to the overall fabric of his/her country. Everyone is needed to make the larger song flow, like members of a chorus. We need altos, tenors, sopranos, and bass singers to create a melody, just like singers, writers, construction workers, chefs, and every other walk of life are necessary to keep the country going. That makes every occupation important, even the ones we haven’t traditionally counted as occupations, also like in the poem excerpt above. Women (and some men these days too) who dedicate themselves solely to being at home to raise the children and “homemake” are just as important as anyone in any other job.

Do I sometimes wish I could carry a tune better? Sure. Do I dream of being a professional football player on occasion? Definitely. But I know where my focus is greatest, and what I will work toward to continue making that a reality. I know my place in the scheme of things, my individual contribution to society, and that makes me appreciate not only myself but everyone else who is also doing their part to keep the fabric sewn together.


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