Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ma'am I ammm tonight.

I feel like lots of things have happened and I’ve thought seriously several times about updating the blog, but I’ve never felt like I had anything amazing worthwhile to say. So…I’ll start with some pictures and then maybe move onto a few thoughts from the car ride home tonight.

Halloween Party Slash El Schwab's Bday 2010
The Winners
(The costumes were sooo impressive this year!)

The birthday boy.

The hostesses.

Then my brother came to visit and it was fantabulous. We ate froyo. He ate more frozen pizzas than I can count on one hand. We went into the city and were silly. We (FINALLY – after a year of trying) saw Needtobreathe in concert and it was stinkin amazing. He learned how to play Trains. He’s gonna move to Boston. I just know it.

Sweet smiley guy from Green River Ordinance
and sweet action shot of Bear

He's way too cute.
We're friends.

So for some actual thoughts, and not just picture updates – we were driving home Fri night from seeing Elisa’s mom’s band play at a place in Georgetown. The soundtrack for the car ride happened to be Sara Bareilles’ new album.

Now, I love Sara. I’ve seen her in concert. Girls got pipes. Even on tour, her voice was crystal clear. She’s adorable and hilarious and her music is, for the most part, pretty solid. Some cheese here and there, some elements added/adjusted to make things a little more playable for the radio - but often some pretty crucial, cut-to-the-core lyrics. However, after an abbreviated scan of the new album, we realized that about 8 or 9ish out of 12ish songs on the CD are about heartbreak, loneliness, emotions associated with breakups or being alone, etc. Not bad music – in fact, there are some beautifully written ballads and a few great toe-tappers.

Something, or multiple difficult things must have happened since her first album. I’m not knocking that – life throws all kinds of stuff at us – and if we’re lucky, we get to use both the good and the bad for art. We get to learn from it all and create from what it creates in us. I’m all for using crummy stuff in life to make good art. But I started to think of the impression I now have of Sara Bareilles after this album – what the album says about her, and what I would want an album of mine to say about me. I know there’s more to it, and I want to listen more closely to give her more of a chance, but on first and second listen, all I get from Sara this time is heartache. I hear “Hey, it’s me, Sara, again, but this time around my heart is super broken and I’m trying to get over it.”  Or with Derek Webb recently – I used to be crazy about his solo stuff. Now all I hear is, “Hey, I’m Derek and this CD will serve to express my political opinions and push people’s buttons.”

I’m all about evolving as an artist. It’s a little bit of a bummer to know that an artist you used to love has transitioned into a season of music or art that you don’t relate to as well – but that’s the nature of being human. And in good cases, it’s the nature of an artist and the nature of their art.
However, I think that I’ve been struck lately by a handful of musicians that seem to move into a narrower season. It might be a season of something new and different for them, personally – which can be exciting and birth wonderful music - but in the process of trying to recreate themselves within this new realm of thought or idea, they become stuck in nothing but that one thing.

Hypothetical, metaphorical example – My doctor tells me that I need to eat more vegetables, and while trying to discipline myself to do so, I am mystified by so many vegetables I never knew I loved. Suddenly I’m lost in a rainbow of bell peppers, a plateful of grilled asparagus and summer squash, and a 3-ring-circus of broccoli florets with mushrooms and onions. Vegetables begin to rock my socks so much that I practically leave fruit in the dust. I avoid eye contact with chicken and other proteins. I cross the road to walk as far from bread and whole grains as I can. Besides the fact that I am suddenly more flatulent than usual (not in real life, folks – this is what we like to call a metaphor), I have been so wooed by the world of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato (or are they fruits?) that my balanced diet and therefore my own health and wellbeing is floundering because of my tunnel vision of the leafy greens.

I want to give Sara and Derek and the others that aren’t currently at the top of my favorites list the benefit of the doubt – but I can’t shake the feeling that they’re overdoing it a little. I never want someone to listen to an album of mine and be able to say or to feel like there was one topic that almost all of my songs were written about. There may be a time and season for that. But that’s what I use iTunes for. If I want to create a playlist of breakup songs, I can create my own with endless resources at my fingertips. But I find myself a little sad when I purchase an album that is mostly all on the same topic.

What kind of representation and expression of life is that? It breaks my heart that her album is all about heartbreak, but life is too complex and too complicated and too beautiful for me to write an entire CD’s worth of songs about sad things, even if they are toe-tappers. And I’m after much more than a CD that is so politically charged it’s hard to hear past that to anything else. I’m not convinced that an entire album entirely about falling in love will bring anyone a lot of connection, comfort, or growth for any extended amount of time. I don’t think I’m sold that creating a playlist for an album should represent a single slice of a season in your life. I don’t want to create something that will only relate to someone for a brief season. Call me selfish, but when I buy or create an album, I want a feast. I want vegetables piled high, but I also want a thick slab of meat, fresh baked rolls from the oven, heaps of mashed potatoes, and a deliciously fruity pie to round things out.

I’m still trying to formulate what I DO want an album of mine to say about me, and I may wrestle with that ‘til I die.  But for now, I’m pretty sure I’m not ok with such a heavy unbalance of topic/theme. I’m pretty sure I’d want a smorgasbord. A few toe-tappers to get you hooked, a love song or two to sweeten things up a bit, some struggles, some heartache, some lessons learned, and a little bit of sass. But I DO have to hand it to Sara for sticking to her guns about not writing us a love song. 


  1. your halloween pics are adorable!
    I like your posts :)

  2. i've often had this relationship with artists over the years- though many of my favorites also only have one album....
    i do like thematic albums for sure! but after i've heard about the same personal/intimate/relationship/political stuff over and over again, it gets annoying. like reading authors in chunks, and seeing that in every book they put a crazy dad in a bomber helmut and barber chair- (Oe, japanese). but worrying too much about content can inhibit honesty and creativity- so good luck finding that balance!