Thursday, January 28, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Moments in Music: WEEK FIVE

Week Five
Music has the magical ability to link with personal experiences and be burned into your psyche forever. Musical deja vu is a beautiful thing and for me, it is something that I always try to explore. What is it about certain songs that make them stick with you through life? How do songs, albums or even snippets of lyrics cling to people, their memories and experiences in life. Through this project, which I will update on a weekly basis, I hope to explore the musical moments that have stuck with me over the years and get to the essence of what makes them memorable. It's a chance to explore my old (and new) favorites and hopefully shed a new light on what makes them so unique. 52 weeks, 52 moments in music that shaped who I am today.

“Sunshine on Leith”
The Proclaimers
Album: Sunshine on Leith
1988
Chrysalis Records


As much as I love discovering songs that remain true to my heart, I get just as much pleasure finding out what music is important to people I encounter. While traveling I am always interested in learning about what music or songs unite people and are universally recognized. Travel stories and memorable encounters, like music, tend to stick with me and instantly become reference points for my time in a foreign place. The following is a retelling of a travel and musical moment in my life that remains dear to me.

At the tail end of a backpacking trip in the Scotland Highlands I found myself in a run of the mill local pub in a borough of Edinburgh, after just having seen a football match at the local stadium.

The pub was full of locals of all age, the majority of whom had just exited the stadium after the Edinburgh team had lost the match. The Sunday afternoon outcome of the game didn’t alter the mood. This was clearly a time for being part of a community.

The pub was alive with the banter of old and young alike, the pints were flowing, the smell of stained bar wood and meat pies lingered in the air and the juke box was spinning traditional Scottish fare and classic rock and roll.

The Stones, The Beatles, U2 all made appearances with cordial indifference from the crowd. I was sitting with my host of the occasion, the local tour bus driver who had taken a group of us around the highlands and had extended the football invitation solely my travel partner and myself.

Suddenly, the first notes of a song came on that silenced the otherwise noisy crowd.

Most people know the band The Proclaimers from its runaway hit from the early 90s, “I Will Walk Five Hundred Miles,” but other than that catchy one-hit-wonder, little else is known of the band outside of Scotland. For the good people of Edinburgh the group, comprised of brothers Charlie and Craig Reid, is a mark of local pride.

The song that began to spin was the title track of the band’s 1988 Album, Sunshine on Leith. As soon as the first lines, “my heart was broken, my heart was broken,” were sung, the entire bar exploded in a massive sing-along that was unlike anything I had ever encountered. Part of the pleasurable surprise of the moment was due in part to the fact that everyone in the bar, from the children to the town elders, were joining in the anthem.

I instantly felt out of place and foreign to the locals who, during this song, could’ve probably cared less about who I was or what I was doing in their local haunt. It was a beautiful moment. It was a jaw-dropping sign of community, the acceptance and passion for local artists who made it big, and an ode to an unofficial town ballad.

Pints were raised high, people were belting out the lyrics and when the song was finished people went back to their banter.

What was striking about the incident was that not even an hour later the same song was selected again, and as if someone pushed rewind, the crowd erupted in the same motions. I asked Mike, the local guide and all around nice guy about why everyone knew this particularly song and he couldn’t give me an answer. Some things just are the way they are.

The Proclaimers’ minor international success in the 90s was clearly a big enough deal back home that people joined in together to recognize the crowning achievement of these local brothers from Edinburgh.

After I had had time to let the incident soak in I began to think about similar moments back home. Surely there must have been some song or moment I could compare this to. In college certain songs were instant crowd-pleasers at keg parties, tailgating events, and bars but these songs generally aim towards a particularly demographic, namely the inebriated, 17-30 year old market.

Sure, an artist like Michael Jackson is recognized by old and young, and a song like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” tends to bring the proletariat together (hell it even tapped into the echelon of society thanks to The Sopranos finale), but that music is too big to be as humble as “Leith’s” moment in the spotlight. What I came to realize is that part of what made this moment seem so foreign to me is that the pub is unlike any other bar or gathering spot back home. These pubs are not merely bars but rather assembly halls for the community to gather.

This football match was on a Sunday afternoon, a day of rest for most. Rather than watch the game from the comforts of a large sofa in front of a big screen TV, the masses went out to the pub. This is not to say Americans don’t follow suit as well. Sports bars back home have jukeboxes too, however, something about this moment made me think that I had just been given a glimpse into a different world.

As far as songs go “Sunshine on Leith” is a pretty basic ballad, nothing special. If anything it is a little corny or overly sentimental (read: “Your beauty and kindness /

made tears clear my blindness”) It references the district of Leith in Northern Edinburgh that serves as a port to the sea. But even to this day I’ll reach for it to remember that day. It reminds of just how powerful music can be for bringing people together, be it through a communal jukebox selection or a televised musical moment. In our current digital age where music is often solely experienced by the individual, rather than by groups, it’s refreshing to know there are still moments where people unite over song.

There was a time when I wished I had brought a video camera to the pub to document both moments, but the songs’ ability to spark a vivid mental image of that day makes up for it.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Moments in Music: WEEK FOUR

Week Four
Music has the magical ability to link with personal experiences and be burned into your psyche forever. Musical deja vu is a beautiful thing and for me, it is something that I always try to explore. What is it about certain songs that make them stick with you through life? How do songs, albums or even snippets of lyrics cling to people, their memories and experiences in life. Through this project, which I will update on a weekly basis, I hope to explore the musical moments that have stuck with me over the years and get to the essence of what makes them memorable. It's a chance to explore my old (and new) favorites and hopefully shed a new light on what makes them so unique. 52 weeks, 52 moments in music that shaped who I am today.


"Left of the Dial"
The Replacements
Album: Tim
1985
Sire Records

Don’t trust anyone who says the 1980s was a horrible decade for music. They clearly haven’t listened to The Replacements.

In the midst of countless hair bands, MTV airwaves-ready pop hits, and Toto, homespun bands like The Replacements were making great rock and roll, plain and simple. The group is often lumped in with the punk movement of the mid 80s, joining the ranks of Husker Du, Black Flag, et al, but this assessment only really works for the band’s early records. Instead, The Replacements remains one of the best truly American rock bands, making music that spoke to countless generations of regulars.

I wish I could say I grew up with The Replacements. I wish I could say my parents played its records for me at a tender age, schooling me musically like they did with so many other great artists. Sadly though, I didn’t discover The ‘Mats, as their also known as, until my last year at University after a dear friend’s band mate told me bluntly, that both Let It Be and Tim we’re must owns.

I had heard “Favorite Thing” from 1984s Let It Be before, but didn’t really fully appreciate the song until I heard the record as a whole. But what a dose of musical enlightenment discovering The ‘Mats was.

The ‘Mats lead singer and key songwriter Paul Westerberg is one of the truly great everyman American voices to come out of rock and roll. The Minneapolis native writes songs that range from the silly (Let It Be’s “Gary’s Got a Boner”), the tender (Tim’s “Kiss Me on the Bus”), the admiring (Please to Meet Me’s Big Star homage, “Alex Chilton”), the cruel (Tim’s “Waitress in the Sky”) the heartfelt (Let It Be’s magnificent “Unsatisfied”) and epics (Let It Be’s closer “Answering Machine”).

Westerberg’s lyrics are simple enough but carry a lot of weight. He writes about low-life Joes, average souls, salt of the earth folk, the people he grew up with and above all his love of rock and roll music. He doesn’t tell grandiose stories like Springsteen, and doesn’t carry the political muster of say Dylan, but he has a way with words that is unlike any other songwriter out there. Some liken Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (a great songwriter in his own right) to Westerberg, but I tend think that’s wishful thinking for Tweedy.

On Tim’s “Bastards of Young” he laments about sons and daughters of his generation finding their place in mess of things–finding one’s way in an unforgiving world.

The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please
If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them

The summer after I graduated was truly a summer of The ‘Mats. After discovering Let It Be I bought up the two other essential records in its catalogue: 1985s Tim and 1987s Please to Meet Me. All lingered in my car’s CD player for most of that summer as I said goodbye to college and went into the unknown of the real world, without a job and with no clue of what I was supposed to do with myself.

The ‘Mats music is essential driving music and the one song that ultimately ends up on most driving mixes is “Left of the Dial.”

To say this is The ‘Mats best song would be unfair since it’s damn near impossible to pick a favorite. This is, however, the best song to speed along to down a country road in Southern Indiana during the spring with the windows down, while testing the limits car stereo’s speakers.

I can remember vividly returning to my alma mater during the spring of my first year out of college, after a year back home and a job that paid well but left me, to quote The ‘Mats, “unsatisfied.”

Indiana University is tucked away in a truly beautiful part of the country, a place that even caught me off guard when I first visited the campus during my senior year of high school. Brown and Monroe Counties are known for their rolling hills, picturesque state parks and lakes. Outside of Bloomington is Lake Monroe, a scenic getaway that is worlds apart from the industrial Northwest Indiana neck of the woods that I grew up knowing.

One particularly nice day, I ventured out with my dear friend Chris and his girlfriend for a drive by the lake. No plan, just a chance to check out the area and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. The trip as a whole, like many visits to Bloomington was an escape from the then heavy weight of the real world resting on my shoulders. As we drove chatting and listening to various tunes, I felt bliss.

We toured the winding hill roads in my 95 Toyota Camry (not quite the ideal Replacement’s chariot–that would probably be a dilapidated relic of the Detroit automotive 1970s decade of excess, maybe a Gremlin–but close enough) with the windows down, the sweet, wholesome southern air rushing through the car. I had a number of mix CDs swapping in and out and a copy of Tim. We chatted, reminisced, shared some laughs, but were instantly silenced when “Left of the Dial” exploded through the stereo.

The song is one of a handful of Westerberg-written love songs. It’s an ode to a female musician that Westerberg either had a relationship with or simply lusted after. It’s also very much an ode to joys of listening to the radio, specifically the hipper college stations that reside “left of the dial” on most tuners around the States

According to Allmusic.com’s write-up of Tim, the song was written about Angie Carlson, the guitarist of Let’s Active, who may or may not have had a fling with Westerberg. Personally I think the song’s muse is best left unknown.

Pretty girl keep growin' up, playin' make-up, wearin' guitar
Growin' old in a bar, ya grow old in a bar
Headed out to San Francisco, definitely not L.A.
Didn't mention your name, didn't mention your name

And if I don't see ya, in a long, long while
I'll try to find you
Left of the dial

There is a level of comfort in the closing line, knowing that wherever she is he can always find her through the airwaves of obscure radio stations. It’s a romantic line but it also speaks volumes about what great music can become.

For me the song is as much a love ballad as it is a passionate ode to finding comfort on the radio through the songs we cherish. No matter where you are or how you are feeling, a classic song can bring you home.

When it comes to the airwaves, good radio is hard to come by these days but there is nothing like discovering a station or program that truly speaks to you–one that you can sync with aimless drives in the car as heard in the lines:

Passin' through and it's late, the station started to fade
Picked another one up in the very next state

Long driving trips alone can be lonely for some but for me I find them the perfect time to think. When tuning into local radio stations, it’s also a great way to soak up the lay of the musical landscape wherever you are. On one long drive from D.C. back to Bloomington, Indiana I did just this. Checking the stations in West Virginia to Ohio.

Musically, “Left of the Dial” is also a hell of a tune and is quite possibly the closest the band ever got to an arena rocker. Chris Mars’ drums are perfectly orchestrated, lacking the sloppy garage rock of some of the band’s earlier tunes. Bobby Stinson’s guitar solo leading up to the aforementioned closing stanza is one of his finest moments.

While I discovered The Replacements late in the game (still, better late than never) the band remains one of my favorites. I can play its records anytime, anywhere and find comfort in the music and Westerberg’s pure and honest lyrics. “Left of the Dial” will always bring to mind those times in the car. It will remind me of a great friend, the end of one memorable chapter in my life (college) and the uncertain start of another. It’s a powerful song that evokes all kinds of memories and is also just a great song to get lost in after a hard day.

NOTE: Sadly this was the only video of the song I could find.
It is not The 'Mats but rather Westerberg solo.
Tim is a must own for anyone interested in great rock and roll.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Moments in Music: WEEK THREE


Week: Three

Music has the magical ability to link with personal experiences and be burned into your psyche forever. Musical deja vu is a beautiful thing and for me, it is something that I always try to explore. What is it about certain songs that make them stick with you through life? How do songs, albums or even snippets of lyrics cling to people, their memories and experiences in life. Through this project, which I will update on a weekly basis, I hope to explore the musical moments that have stuck with me over the years and get to the essence of what makes them memorable. It's a chance to explore my old (and new) favorites and hopefully shed a new light on what makes them so unique. 52 weeks, 52 moments in music that shaped who I am today.

Miles Davis
Album: Sketches of Spain
1960
Columbia Records


M
iles Davis’ Kind of Blue will always be his most accessible record to date, and easily the one quintessential jazz album that even non-jazz enthusiasts own or are at the very least familiar with. Around the same time that Davis was getting blue, he and composer Gil Evans worked out the arrangements that would make up Sketches of Spain, which I’m happy to say was my first foray into Miles’ canon.

Sketches of Spain is a record that is just soaked in cool sounds. Castanets and other light percussion notes wisp through the five arrangements, Davis carries the music along with his signature, restrained muted trumpet and Evans’ classical instrumentation gives the album a sound that could be best described as jazz meets legendary silver screen composer Ennio Morricone.

The album opens with a mesmerizing rendition of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” a song I have sought out in many various renditions. It’s one of those rare and beautiful compositions that is taken to new heights with Davis’ weeping trumpet. There is something about the delicate use of harp and the song’s crescendo at the end that gets me every time.

Sketches of Spain is not the ideal gateway to jazz as it steers clear of the improvisational language of the art form. The album is more of a fusion side project that arose from the Columbia Records/Gil Evans sessions that resulted in this album along with Miles Ahead and Davis’ Porgy and Bess.

On Spain, Davis is the only musician seemingly attempting to stray away from the compositions at hand, making the album an interesting bridge between the classical and the jazz world.

Side B of Sketches of Spain features the record’s three original compositions, culminating with the incredibly moving “Solea,” a cut that instantly brings to mind visions of my time in Iberia.

Even before I finally made it to Spain this album (and this cut in particular) fashioned an imaginary Spain in my head, a place drenched in mystery and exoticism. The real Spain, while not as enthralling as the utopia in my head is still the perfect backdrop for this album.

Part of this association must be attributed to the fact that while living and studying in Salamanca, Spain I often deliberately walked the streets at night on my way home listening to Sketches of Spain through my ear buds. A later marriage of music and celluloid would further the link between "Solea" and this exotic place.

An entire column could be written on what the films of Pedro Almodóvar mean to me. Besides being one of the greatest storytellers working today in cinema, his films are windows into life in Spain, even if his film’s stories tend to depend on the melodramatic. His use of colors, emphasis on regional Spanish dialects, love of Spanish culinary traditions and a truly unique sense of how details can shape a scene, make his films time capsules of life in Spain. In 1995s The Flower of My Secret, a weaker installment in Almodóvar’s gamut, there is a scene in a ballet theater (a popular locale in Almodóvar’s cinematic world) that is set to Evans/Davis’ “Solea.” It’s the perfect fusion of two art forms and one that left me speechless when I first saw the film, recognizing the tune instantly. To this day I still keep the video clip below in my web browsers’ favorites folder.

Sketches of Spain, like so many of Miles Davis’ records. is the perfect capper to a long and tiring day. It’s an album best paired with a nice red wine, preferably from the Rioja region. I’ve found that it goes well with most novels. During college it spiced up even the most mundane of homework and study sessions. It’s atmospheric, often appearing more as a soundtrack to a David Leanesque film epic that was never filmed, with its soaring orchestration and Davis’ high marks. It’s an album that remains an essential in my jazz collection. Hell, even the cover art is memorable, with Davis’ now infamous trumpeter silhouetted behind a mock-up of the Spanish flag, with a raging torro and classic Old English typeface. As I write this I’m about to play the record again before, as its sounds bring up visions and memories from the past of a truly wonderful and one of a kind place.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Moments in Music: WEEK TWO

Week: Two

Music has the magical ability to link with personal experiences and be burned into your psyche forever. Musical deja vu is a beautiful thing and for me, it is something that I always try to explore. What is it about certain songs that make them stick with you through life? How do songs, albums or even snippets of lyrics cling to people, their memories and experiences in life. Through this project, which I will update on a weekly basis, I hope to explore the musical moments that have stuck with me over the years and get to the essence of what makes them memorable. It's a chance to explore my old (and new) favorites and hopefully shed a new light on what makes them so unique. 52 weeks, 52 moments in music that shaped who I am today.

“Release”
Pearl Jam
Album: Ten
1991
Epic Records

I am a child of the grunge generation; if that’s the label we’re sticking with twenty years later. While music enthusiasts will argue about the true pioneers of the alternative rock wave–for the record looking back on the progression of music at the time, it’s hard not to side with the “Pixies were the true forefathers of the movement” argument, over the more universally recognized credit to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana–my gateway to the genre was through Pearl Jam.

I was too young to fully appreciate The Pixies during its heyday (though my dad’s friend’s offering to me of Doolittle at the tender age of eight always intrigued me, what with lead singer Black Francis’ screeching vocals and obscure choice of terrifying lyrics). While I wish I could say I discovered Nirvana’s Nevermind instantly upon its release along with the masses, it was Pearl Jam’s debut Ten that was my first real musical obsession.

I remember one summer in particular listening to the song’s on Ten over and over again through a pitch black Sony boombox by day, and through a matching black Sony Walkman from a audio cassette ripped from said boombox by night–those were the days, weren’t they? The liner notes on my original CD copy of the album have been unfolded and refolded countless times (those in the loop will remember the notes unfolding to form a poster of the band members standing in a circle, hands raised high and joined in a badass high-five of sorts). And I can clearly remember looping the opening moments of “Porch,” since it was one of the few songs with cool sounding curse words–the opening line verbatim, “What the fuck is this world”–that I had managed to slip by my somewhat censoring parents.

Pearl Jam is one of the few groups from the era that has survived and is still relevant in modern times (hell, its latest album Backspacer was a breath of fresh air in the band’s canon). Part of its success is based on its loyal fans like me who were mesmerized by Ten.

The album remains the band’s masterpiece. It’s a flawless execution of a budding sound that was, with all respect to the band members, all due to Eddie Vedder’s soaring vocals, which somehow meld gritty and epic into a style that remains unrivaled.

It’s also one of the few albums out there with a flawless flow that begins and ends on two perfect notes. Even for this project entry I was torn between going with the album’s slow-burning opener, “Once,” a completely unassailable way to kick off the album, or its more restrained, dare I say beautiful closer, “Release.” Ultimately I had to go with the latter.

I don’t know how many mix tapes and CDs I’ve capped off with this song. It’s an epic. Like “Once” it takes it time to build, allowing Vedder to test his deep vocal tones in front of a wall of rising guitar crescendos. Of all the songs on Ten this is where Vedder really shows he’s a musical force to be reckoned with.

His vocal range alone is enough to send chills down the spine especially towards the song’s magnificent closing moments when he carries the line, “release me” through an onslaught of distortion and commanding use of the ride cymbal from drummer Dave Krusen.

Even the song's instrumental outro that is linked to the song (a continuation of the intro to "Once") is worth the time on the record, adding an eerie finish to the already perfect closer.

Lyrically this song is very much akin to John Lennon’s shockingly personal, “Mother” off Plastic Ono Band LP. Both songs are heartbreaking laments about a lack of strong or loving parental figures. In the case of Vedder, it refers to the two father figures during his childhood and coming to the grips with the passing of his true father. He was apparently raised by a cruel stepfather and never got to know his real dad on a personal level before his passing. He realizes that he carries a piece of his real father but he’ll never know how or which part of his makeup. It’s this realization that makes the songs truly heartbreaking.

Oh, dear dad, can you see me now
I am myself, like you somehow

Casual interpretations of the song can be linked to the lines,

I'll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I'll hold the pain
Release me

which could reference escapism through drugs or simply, the release of stress in life. Letting go and living how you want to live is very much the unofficial manifesto of the grungers (it’s also the message I take away from the song since it’s difficult for me to relate to Vedder's personal story). Hell, even surfers could relate to this song since the lyrics remain intriguing in their simplicity no matter how you perceive them. When matched with the song’s grandiose music, it’s also easy to just focus on the elevating line, “release me.”

Mention must be made of the rumor that this song was written during the studio time in about 20-minutes while the band was doodling through possible riffs. If this legend holds true, then this backs the theory that some songs are just meant to be written and can arise in an almost spooky fashion. Artists have often commented on moments of brilliance coming out of nowhere during unexpected moments.

“Release” is a song that I can remember falling asleep to as a child and as an adult, one that I remember imagining in my head during daydreams. It’s a staple cut from a one of the greatest debut records out there and one that instantly made me a lifelong devoted fan of Pearl Jam. During the 2003 tour for Pearl Jam’s Riot Act the band opened its masterful set at Chicago’s United Center with “Release,” catching most of the audience off guard and cementing the song’s importance for me as I was carried away by its strength.

It will always be a headphone song, or the kind of tune that must be played through a car stereo at full blast while driving alone, preferably at night, with the windows closed to create the perfect sonic environment to ride the wave.


Friday, January 1, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Moments in Music: WEEK ONE

Week: One

Music has the magical ability to link with personal experiences and be burned into your psyche forever. Musical deja vu is a beautiful thing and for me, it is something that I always try to explore. What is it about certain songs that make them stick with you through life? How do songs, albums or even snippets of lyrics cling to people, their memories and experiences in life. Through this project, which I will update on a weekly basis, I hope to explore the musical moments that have stuck with me over the years and get to the essence of what makes them memorable. It's a chance to explore my old (and new) favorites and hopefully shed a new light on what makes them so unique. 52 weeks, 52 moments in music that shaped who I am today.

“Graceland”
Paul Simon
Album: Graceland
1986
Warner Bros. Records

Graceland was released two years after I was born but was a critical part of my musical upbringing. Early memories of car trips through Northern Michigan are filled with the lyrics and sounds of this eclectic record. A full comprehension of the album’s cultural importance during Apartheid-plagued South Africa would come later, of course, not to mention its feat at bridging the gap between mainstream pop and what was perplexingly called, “world music,”–a truly Westernized label that ignores the obvious fact that all music is worldly since the language of music is universal.

The music of Graceland is diverse in its instrumentation, with Simon drawing from influences from all over the globe, but for a boy at four or five years old, it simply sounded great. As kids I can distinctly remember joining my sister and cousins in trading vintage-style tennis rackets, which we fashioned in our minds as the funky guitars and the slap bass that we heard blaring through the stereo speakers. There were countless hours of dancing to “You Can Call Me Al,” the album’s breakaway hit, and the soothing A cappella words from Ladysmith Black Mambazo was enough to lay our tired heads to rest after a long day of innocent play.

My naïve age made the lyrics of Graceland hard to comprehend. Lines like, “the bomb in the baby carriage,” “the automatic earth,” or “staccato signals of constant information” off the album’s triumphant opener, “The Boy in the Bubble” meant nothing to me in a social manner but were nevertheless intriguing sounding. The manner in which Simon delivered words like staccato, or combinations like cinematographer's party curled off my tongue with ease that first summer and for many years to follow.

If I had to pick one song off Graceland that truly sums up what this album means to me in turns how I appreciate and listen to music today it would be the record’s title track. I knew that "Graceland" was referencing Elvis, who was an artist who, even if I wasn’t entirely familiar with, I understood was important, much like how I understood the importance of The Beatles long before I ever seriously listened to its music.

There is a level of sadness to “Graceland” that even the youngest of minds can pick up on. Sure lines like, “there is a girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline,” sounded silly to a boy with a primitive understanding of vocabulary and wordplay, but the way Simon sings on “Graceland” is full of sorrow.

Listening to the song then I can recall thinking that Graceland was this mysterious and foreign place, almost biblical. “Pilgrims with families / and we are going to Graceland” is a line that particularly stood out.

Many years later I often come back to Graceland. I make it a habit of listening to it at least once a month in its entirety. During my sophomore year of high school one of my favorite history teachers, Owen Hein, would start each day off with a song from his collection of music from around the world (he also introduced me to the french duo, Deep Forest). On one particular morning he launched into his lesson with Graceland. I remember feeling proud that I knew all the words by heart and instantly gained a new appreciation for the record when we discussed South Africa's rocky past.

A single listening of Gracelenad is usually followed by several repeats of its title track. It’s probably the album’s most restrained and atmospheric sounding offering. With its ghost like echoes of background singers, tender electric guitar riffs and thunderous percussion and drum interludes, there is soul to the sound. “Graceland” is also easily one of Simon’s greatest songwriting achievements and clearly one of his most personal explorations of love and loss thereafter. It’s a song that will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life. It’s a heart song, a song to take to a desert island, one that can comfort a soul and also make a soul weary of the highs and lows of true love. It’s a masterpiece in every definition of the word.

And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart,
Everybody sees you're blown apart,
Everybody feels the wind blow