Monday, October 10, 2011

The 14 Day Spiritual Journey

It has become clear to me that just about everyone likes music to a certain extent. Their are people who like music, people who like music a little bit more, and people who absolutely love music. Their are many things that separate people who like music from people who love music. People who like music view it simply as "music" while people who love music view it more as experiences or moments in time, people who like music can name you three mainstream albums while people who love music are constantly editing their albums of the year list, people who like music view music as a hobby while people who love music view it as something that is a critical reflection of the health of an individual and the health of a society. For people who simply like music it never really gets past anything other than catchy choruses and lame music videos, but for people who really love music the music becomes somewhat spiritual. Spiritual because it gives us so many different moments and experiences. And spiritual because it means so damn much.

As human beings we are constantly curious and constantly searching. Our constant search for happiness leaves a huge void in what we assume is still our "hearts." Humans will try to fill this void with high paying jobs, women, fame, glory, and often at their last resort they will try to fill the void with God. But even though humans say the void is filled, it is really always going to be there. But humans often don't look at the most obvious thing that can fill this void: music. For those who love music it can be as secure as a high paying job, as nice as an attractive man/woman, as gratifying as fame, and as spiritual as any passage in the Bible. Music gives the people who love it so much more in return than any one of these shallow material possessions. Music gives us all of these things together. When a human being is in harmony with the music that he or she is creating or listening to it is more beautiful than any Utopia that our minds could possibly conceive.

Every new feeling is a new utopia. People who love music often categorize the music they listen to into "classic albums." Each one of these classic albums (or even just good) albums brings up a memory, a feeling, or a new experience. To most of these people it has become clear that new music is one of the few things they should be searching for. Because while music may depress us, frustrate us, and confuse us, it will always fascinate us and fill the proverbial void in our proverbial hearts. Here are fourteen albums from 2011 for you to listen to over fourteen days to help you fill just about every void possible.


DAY ONE: Destroyer - Kaputt

Makes You: Feel like an American

We often define America by using cliches and constitutions instead of using the truth and actual valid opinions. Destroyer's "Kaputt" is the perfect definition of America for the 21st century. It is cynical when it has to be, happy when it has to be, depressing when it does not really have to be, and never seems to be forced. It does not have the guitars of Springsteen or the vocals of Mellencamp, but "Kaputt" has something that used to be more American than both of those things: originality. Every song on this album is good and the album seems to be a chapter book that defines the 21st century recessionized America.

DAY TWO: Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Makes You: Remember everything from your past

The magical thing about the Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost is not simply another alternative album rather it is so diverse that it is almost like an album on the history of modern music. The opening track gives you a Beach Boys feel, "Alex" sounds like a Nirvana b side, "Die" is the perfect metal song, "Just A Song" is a combination of Radiohead's "Give Up The Ghost" and "Fake Plastic Trees", and "Vomit is a combination of all of these influences. So this album is basically whatever some of the most important albums in history remind you of. This album recalls the best and worst moments of your past.

DAY THREE: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Makes You: Feel open

Helplessness Blues is a classic 1920's folk album made for 2011 listeners. It is an album with lyrical themes of self reliance, hard work, politically correct love (the waiting until marriage to have sex kind,) and religion. This album is not only near perfect but it makes you think of a world without technology, without political correctness, without a depression, and most importantly without misery. The new world that this album presents is not suffocating but is a relief to everyone who lives in the technology driven world of the 21st century.

DAY FOUR: Armistice - Armistice

Makes You: Feel like you are on vacation

ARMISTICE debut EP makes you feel like you are on the beach even when you are just sitting at home on Facebook or the Twitter. Every acoustic riff makes you feel like the tide is coming in, every vocal makes you feel like you are running through the sand, and even though every song sounds different they all make you feel like you are near the ocean. Its sixteen minutes of the beach anytime you want it. Music doesn't get much better than this.

DAY FIVE: The Weeknd - House of Balloons

Makes You: Feel like a badass

If you are like me you don't feel like a badass that often. If you are like me the most badass thing you do is feel your water cup up with Coke at McDonalds. But this album will make you feel like a badass with just about every song. Every song on this album is about drugs, sex, love, and alcohol. And the vocals on this album are so warm that you never doubt that the album is genuine. The album also has a cryptic feel that makes it seem like you are the one getting laid and doing tons of drugs. The cryptic feel and warm vocals on House of Balloons make it one of the most powerful albums of the year.

DAY SIX: Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Makes You: Feel new

The genius of For Emma, Forever Ago was even though it was a very simple album musically it was still a very powerful album. Even if we were in love FEFA broke our hearts, even if we had never been in the woods FEFA made us feel like we were cavemen, even if we had never love folk we simply fell in love with the story that Justin Vernon created. Vernon created an album that was essentially the definition of being heartbroken, being self reliant, and even wanting to fill the void that I wrote about earlier.

The magical thing about Bon Iver, Bon Iver is that it sounds like Vernon is starting to fill that void. Even though he is "not magnificent," Vernon seems a lot happier than he was on FEFA. Instead of leaving us heartbroken and isolated, Bon Iver, Bon Iver leaves us feeling warm and open to new experiences. Which is how someone should feel at the end of a journey as epic as Vernon's.

DAY SEVEN: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Makes you: Feel like an outsider

The King of Limbs is not a normal Radiohead album. Radiohead essentially stripped themselves of everything that made them Radiohead on this album. They stripped themselves of the social commentary present on Ok Computer and Hail to The Thief, the gigantic vocals presented on In Rainbows, and the catchiness of even their least catchy albums. The King of Limbs is a Radiohead album that sounds like it is made by someone else entirely. Even though we had become eerily familiar with every nuance of Radiohead's previous albums, TKOL shows a Radiohead that is desperately trying not to be Radiohead anymore. In a way it is disappointing but in a lot of other ways it shows us why Radiohead is one of the greatest bands of all time.

DAY EIGHT: Lydia - Paint It Golden

Makes you: Feel Young

Paint It Golden shows us a different side of Lydia's genius. While Illuminate was a dark piano driven closed chapter book that flowed together majestically, Paint It Golden is an optimistic guitar driven album that flows together just as beautifully but just in a different way. Paint It Golden will make you feel young again no matter how old you are. Just about every song has a giant hook and every song is either about falling in love or falling out of love. And those are really the only things that matter when you are young.

DAY NINE: Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man
Makes you: Feel Rebellious

I honestly thought punk was dead. Pop punk peaked in the early 2000's, blink-182 was old and washed up, the skating generation had become the I-Pad generation, and music as a whole was becoming more and more politically correct with every passing day. Was a great punk album in 2011 simply just illogical?

Andrew Jackson Jihad made punk logical again with their 2011 album Knife Man. The album serves as a sarcastic social commentary for just about every aspect of the 21st century American's life: mental illness and struggle, race, loneliness, love, technology, death, politics, and religion. The album is one of the most funny yet serious punk albums I have heard in my lifetime and this in itself makes it one of the most effective punk albums I have ever listened to.

DAY TEN: St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Makes you: Feel sexy

For years we have had these stupid advertising campaigns that are supposed to make people feel a little bit more happy and a little less ugly. The only thing these commercials and seminars do is really make us want to hide in our rooms forever. They make us want to cry because we know we will never be as beautiful as the 87 pound females or the six pack males in their catalogs and we cannot afford the makeovers that they offer to one person in the damn world.

But Strange Mercy isn't just a sexy album, but an album that is so sexual that it can make you feel sexy. The lyrics are empowering and beautiful, the vocals are warm and magnificent, the choruses are gigantic and catchy, and the music on every song makes you want to take off your shirt and dance all around your empty room. The album is basically a 41 minute "you're beautiful!" campaign that actually works. Every beat is a makeover, every song is a face lift, every chorus is a night out with your favorite celebrity, and the album itself is just sex. Oh mercy.

DAY ELEVEN: TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
Makes you: Feel alive

Nine Types of Light is composed of ten different songs that will ironically shine ten different types of light into your life. If you are feeling depressed listening to "Keep Your Heart" will make you feel like dancing, if you are angry "You" will make you feel like you are not alone while making you smile at the same time, if you are hopeless "No Future Shock" will give you hope for the future by repeatedly saying their is no future, if you are lonely "Killer Crane" will give you something to cry with and smile with at the same time, if you feel ugly "Will Do" will summon your inner St. Vincent and make you feel sexy again, and if you feel tired "Caffeinated Consciousnesses" will be your musical ten cups of coffee. These are a few examples of the light that Nine Types of Light will bring into your song. And the brilliance of this album is that no matter how depressing of a topic they are singing about, no matter how depressing the lyrics are, and no matter how heartbroken you personally are each song on here still manages to bring some light into your life. Nine Types of Light is an album composed of ten songs that will make you feel alive again. And that in itself is a light that absolutely no one wants to go out.

DAY TWELVE: Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones

Makes you: Feel content

Even though I believe in God and believe in an afterlife, I have to admit that I often get disgusted at how many religious people use the afterlife as a cop out (they are just washed up and they are tired.) They say that it is OK to be miserable on earth because they will be happy in the afterlife, they say that it is OK to make other people miserable on earth because everyone will be happy in the afterlife, they say it is OK to underachieve on earth because we will on be golden stars in paradise, and they say that it is OK to let others suffer because if they believe in whatever God they will have whatever beautiful fate.

What England Keep My Bones teaches its listeners is that heaven is anytime we want it. We can be happy and satisfied on earth, we can make each other happy with just a simple smile or a simpler joke, we can lift the poor up with a few dollars, and we have to try our hardest to be who and what we are supposed to be on earth. I may not question God and the afterlife to the extent that Turner does, but his music and his message in just about every song is liberating. Every chorus makes you feel free, just about every song gives you hope, and the album in itself is a weird sort of atheistic spiritual experience. That in itself is enough to "ring that victory bell."

DAY THIRTEEN: The Antlers - Burst Apart

Makes you: Feel like you have recovered

Hospice was so powerful that when the patient died at the end of the story we felt like we had lost one of our closest family members. The album was so heartbreaking yet beautiful, so gracious yet aggressive, so mundane yet deep, and so open yet closed at the end that it was almost impossible not to be effected by it in some positive or negative way. The concept behind Hospice was so bold and emotional that it would be nearly impossible to come up with a sequel.

But in a way the Antlers made a sequel to Hospice without really trying to make a sequel to Hospice. Burst Apart sounds a lot different than Hospice and is not a concept album like Hospice. But in a way that makes it the sequel. Because it shows us that the Antlers have moved on lyrically, have moved on musically, and have recovered emotionally from Hospice. It seems like Burst Apart is the next chapter in the Antlers discography and is the logical hope filled sequel to Hospice. The Antlers have recovered from Hospice and so have their listeners. But that doesn't mean they will ever forget such a meaningful experience

DAY FOURTEEN: Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

Makes you: Feel fulfilled

Its not the best album of the last five years like some critics have said, but it is one of the best rock albums of 2011. Its not as deep or meaningful as Mean Everything to Nothing, but is more mature and a logical step forward for Manchester Orchestra. Its does not come off as a story about a man finding God, rather a story about a man finding himself.

Even though Simple Math is not quite what its cracked up to be it can be said that it really was never supposed to be. This was not supposed to be a classic for millions of people because it was one man's unique story put to complex music. This was never supposed to be Mean Everything to Nothing because that album seemed like it meant everything to just about everyone that listened to it. Simple Math was simply supposed to be a great rock album with a few great songs. And when you realize that you feel fulfilled and are finally able to enjoy this great album.

Music has always been able to accomplish the impossible. This is because music has always been more of a journey and a experience than any other journey or experience we could possibly go on. Fourteen albums from just this year left you feeling fourteen distinct emotions. That is beyond cool, unique, or even original. That is the spiritual journey that you have always been longing for.

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