Ghost Stories

I’m listening to another fantastic album that holds so many memories for me. This one is Ghost Stories by Coldplay.

The word “disappointed” doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt when Ghost Stories first came out. After all of the happiness and downright wonder of Mylo Xyloto (their previous album) I almost couldn’t bear to listen to this one. It was slow. It was quiet. It lacked the magic that their other albums overflow with. I heard it once and sadly wrote it off. “Maybe Coldplay’s losing their touch,” I thought sadly. And there it sat, gathering dust at the back of my symbolic music drawer for a good couple months.

Then last summer I was talking with my good friend Dara about the album. Dara and I have been close since freshman year of college, and she’s one of the biggest Coldplay fans I know. (I’ve posted about this wonderful girl before – read it here) And she was telling me how she was just completely blown away by Ghost Stories and how she couldn’t get enough. I looked at her skeptically, not really wanting to believe her, while she deconstructed the whole thing: the beauty in the lyrics, the simplicity of the songs that have the power to wreck your heart, the genuineness and sincerity in every note. I remember her specifically lingering on the last song, “O”, and how it might be even more powerful to her than her then-current favorite Coldplay song “Clocks”. After such a compelling argument, I thought I should give it another go.

And holy poop, the album leveled me. And I haven’t been able to get enough of it ever since.

Its beauty is in its subtlety. It is soft but so powerful. The listener can tell that true love and meaning went into the creation of every note. I find that the perfect time to listen to it is early in the morning or late at night, during a long and foggy drive. It reminds me of the Saturday mornings I’d wake up early and head to marathon practice with my Team In Training friends last year while the rest of the world slept. Or of driving on the freeways of Seattle coming home from friends’ houses or dinner with Davis’ family. It would be the perfect album to listen to while watching snow fall.

I especially like the song “Midnight”. Again, this is one that I completely wrote off when I first heard it. It was one of the album’s early releases, and when I listened to it the first time and watched the music video, I thought Coldplay had lost its collective mind. I was expecting a build, a Mylo Xyloto explosion of sound and emotion, a high as a result of watching it. And instead… just confusion. But after falling in love with the whole album, I can see that it fits so perfectly, and it somehow resonates with me deeply.

So give Ghost Stories a chance. Actually, give it a couple. I think you’ll find you too can fall in love with it if you keep an open mind.


The Glass Passenger

I love how songs hold memories.

This one CD I’m listening to now is full of early, early college. And because those memories have lasted this long, I feel pretty confident that they will always continue to be that way.

I bought Jack’s Mannequin’s The Glass Passenger as soon as it was released. I remember it rather distinctly: it was a Tuesday morning in late September 2008, and I woke up early for class just to download the album. It was bright outside; I was so excited to buy it. I walked to my 9am Calculus 1 with my headphones in, giving it the first listen. I’d already heard a couple of the songs on there – “The Resolution” and “Bloodshot” had been previously released – but the rest of them – there was such a wonder. One that cannot adequately be described. During the rest of the quarter, I listened to it over and over and over again. I couldn’t walk home from my welding lab (which went til 9pm once a week) without hearing it. I listened to it the night President Obama got elected.

I knew this CD before I knew Davis. Every line means something to me. Each song links to something – baking cookies in my kitchen, walking through one particular parking lot, my very first apartment. It reeks of autumn and youth and discovery and wonder. Later I got to see them perform most of the songs live when Davis took me to their concert in April 2009. I have their t-shirt, and I still love the sweatshirt that I got from their concert (despite its Sharpie marks and rattiness).

I love a lot of CDs. Viva La Vida and Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay, Fractions by Decoder Ring, Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons, even Jack’s Mannequin’s previous album Everything in Transit.  But no CD hits me as hard as this one does.

Andrew McMahon (the lead singer of Jack’s Mannequin) recently decided to do his own thing and start a solo project. So one of my favorite bands is no more. But I have to say, his new stuff is good. I’m really grateful that I have this gem, this glass passenger to keep me company for life and remind me of the early days of college.

The Country Music Bug has bitten me.

Have I posted about this before? I feel like I have… anyway… This past year country music has slowly but surely seized my heart. It started as almost an annoyance. My hometown’s (and family’s favorite) classical radio station jumped ship a few years ago and was picked up by a country station. My family never got around to changing the radio presets in our car; for a while we just ignored it – I knew not to press “6” and when I did, I’d scroll through to another alternative rock station. But slowly over time my mom started listening to it and got hooked. Around a year ago she asked me to download all the songs she enjoyed, which she had so diligently written down on a scrap of paper she kept in the car, and make her a “tape” (as she affectionately and intentionally calls CDs). I rolled my eyes and put it off for a while, then decided – finally – to make her this stupid CD so I’d stop hearing about it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I gave her the CDs when she and my dad drove up to pick me up for spring break last year, and we listened to them all the way home. On first listen, they gave me a headache, but once I looked past the twang and images of cowboys they’d bring to mind, I saw what my mom saw in them: wonderful, well-written lyrics. Some are sweet, some are hilarious, some will seriously make you cry. But all of the songs my mom had me download had a story to them, and (prepare for the sap, dear readers) those stories touched my heart.

And now it’s all I listen to.

I can’t get these songs out of my head. I listen to Toby Keith describe his ever-patriotic dad and Blake Shelton thank God for his wife. I hear Martina McBride tell the story of a husband whose love would pull his wife through her cancer treatment. I listen to Taylor Swift describe her childhood and how much she loves her mom, oddly similar to the way I grew up and my own feelings. These songs are so full of life that sometimes I don’t know what to do about it. Seriously, it’s very difficult to turn them off, or even to hear one in passing and not say, “Oh, I really like this song.”

I do miss my “other” music, and it still captures me. Though now I have to admit that I have to work at listening to it: my go-to music is country. My playlist is always open on iTunes, and I feel like I’m always itching to hear one of its songs. I especially missed country while I was over in Europe, of all places – I couldn’t stop listening to The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” and Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice” (an absolutely hysterical song, by the way – such great memories are associated with it).

Now I really want to visit the South, eat its food, drink its mint juleps, and sit on the front porch listening to country music.