It took me a week to write this post but I have a confession: I’m an addict, and music is my drug. Always has been.
I was that one kid–intense, straight A’s but dreaming through class while movies played out in my head to “Space Age Love Song” by Flock of Seagulls and Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now.” I related to Duckie in Pretty In Pink though I was a lot girlier, being a chick and all–splayed on my eyelet comforter, ceiling-gazing while Moz crooned. I was that spaced-out girl at the skating rink, sunburned, my hair too wild to hold curling iron curls. I held my friend’s Coke while she skated backwards– her bangs were so perfect, her makeup sparkling in the light-glitter of the big ball and I just I sat there, my heart giddy from OMD’s “If You Leave” shimmering over the loudspeakers. I was the couples-skate voyeur watching the world spin in punchdrunk circles. And I didn’t care… I was lost in music the way others were lost in grasping hands and kisses that smeared away the glitter-gloss. I lived for New Wave, New Romantic–for the poetry of synth and lyrics of love. And I still do. Synthpop, swoony shoegaze, electronic daydreams…all these years later, I’m still in love.
I had two very early crushes I can remember–Han Solo, and Bono’s voice. The mile-wide reverb on Bono’s vocals and those Joshua Tree guitars were my little-girl drug (even better when I daydreamed about Han Solo tearing through the galaxy to U2’s music). Soon, mix tapes were my obsession–guys, I was good at it. Cover art and everything. Cyndi, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure. Depeche Mode if I was feeling darker, Simple Minds and Crowded House, Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Prince, OMD, Cocteau Twins, Echo and the Bunnymen. Music shaped my aesthetic sensibilities and colored my dreams. Day after day, I sat on the bus with my headphones crushed to my ears. I lost myself in those voices…clean, idealized and distant versions the man or woman behind the mic who was now a totemic symbol of slow dances and borrowed jackets scented with cheap musky cologne, of field trips to the harbor when I smelled late May in my hair and all around me, sunblock and ocean-salt on warm skin.
Music made the crappiest school day into a movie and we were all important to the plot. Even when I’d been made fun of for earnest nerdiness, or when I’d had to give my meanest murder-eyes to the jerk that was messing with my friend–it was okay when I could escape into lyrics and hooks. (See Donnie Darko and the right-on use of “Head over Heels” by Tears for Fears). Sometimes, it even made the pain kind of beautiful. And those sounds sunk in. They beat in the blood of my nascent writing, tangled like roots beneath my ideas. Like “Push” by The Cure. I swear, half of my thesis bloomed darkly from a dream that song lodged in my psyche.
Music also helped soothed the violence of my youth. Driving home, listening to The Smiths “There is a Light,” or the Pixies UK Surf cut of “Wave of Mutilation” in my piece of crap car with its temperamental tape deck, racing from one orange puddle of street lamp radiance to the next. . .I could face the discord around me much easier with these songs in my life. I could process the vehemence of my own awkward feels. To this day, “Bizarre Love Triangle” is still like that rollercoaster gut-drop of first-blush crush. When they walk by, smiling, sunlight through the windows gilding them and it’s so perfect–
These past few years, to my delight, there are spiritual successors to the music that gave my writing its glimmer–music with splashes of electropop, dreampop. Synth-heavy, open-reverbed, sounding out layered vocals and daydream-swoon. M83 and their soaring, glorious walls of sound, Chvrches’ perfect candy-necklace hooks, Washed Out and vocals like something from a half-remembered dream. Hooray for Earth–“Sails” is a perfect song and their entire catalogue is awesome. And The Chain Gang of 1974–my god, his voice is cotton candy and spiced rum and forever-summer and I’ve put both albums on every writing playlist in the entire world and will add the third when it comes out.
This music Is Important. I’ve been writing to a soundtrack of synthpop since 5th grade. Poems drenched in Love’s Baby Soft, Bonnie Bell mirror-kisses and tear-smudged mascara. Stories I dreamed up with my friends on merry-go-rounds in weedy parks, the sun-hot metal burning our hands while we held tight and spun, dizzy and giggling about the word ‘love.’Maybe it’s the optimism of this music–or something as simple as vocal treatments. This stuff’s mic’ed differently than a lot of 90’s-00’s garagey music (which I love for different reasons) and the new New Wave is no exception–at least as far as I can tell from talks with my hubby who has some pretty good audio-engineering training. Maybe it’s layering of sound that can somehow splash late summer sun over my senses and wash my world in a 35mm memory-haze of wonder. Whatever it is, it’s my best writing fodder and my truest Muse (I’m imagining him in Dockers and Drakkar Noir).
The other day, I read a forum thread with people whining that so much of ‘music now’ has ‘already been done.’ Whatever–nothing new under the sun is old news. Good new music is a welcome variation on an already awesome theme. New takes, new songs, new styles, new voices–it doesn’t mean that what came before is diminished, or that what has come after is derivative. And people always find ways to mix it up. I love things like the additions of dirtier guitar over clean synth and drum machines, of slinky trip-hop elements that sneak in, of industrial grinding beats with dubstep overlay. I mean, hell yeah. Go on, musicians, mix it up. Make it new. Give me my fix. As long as it’s rad, I don’t care. Maybe it’s that 80’s mall-girl niche of my brain talking, but my Hypercolor heart knows what it wants–more of a good thing. More, more, more…
(If you like any of this music, go buy it. All of it. And buy music like it. It keeps these acts in business, which keeps me in writing music…)
So, dear readers. what music inspires you to do what you are driven most to do? <3