psa: episode 5 of the ’77 music club podcast is now live

By 1972, British music had fully renewed itself on the American scene in the form of glam rock. David Bowie, Slade, and Roxy Music were all part of this musical landscape that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex expanded and exemplified. Glitter, platform boots, sci-fi imagery, and ’50s rock n’ roll roots made this sub-genre exciting, fresh, and new to kids of the ’70s who may not have realized that this was the rock n’ roll of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Richard — just amped up and fuzzed out for the new generation.

T. Rex’s album The Slider made full use of all of these elements to create a vibe that spoke to a new generation of rock fans. The album was the pinnacle of the dreamworld that Marc Bolan created, and it leaves us spellbound more than 40 years later. In this episode, we theorize over some extremely poetic lyrics, attempt to decode Bolan, introduce a new hashtag (#RespectTheSequence), and somehow, somehow connect T. Rex to DJ Khaled.

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Introducing the ’77 Music Club podcast

Last Halloween, my best friend, Carly Jordan, had an idea: what if we turned all the time we spent analyzing every little thing about albums for fun and turn it into a podcast? Every other week, we’d discuss a different album and share our unconventional love of older music; we’d try to bridge a generation gap; we’d try to carry the torch.

After a few months of questioning if it was an appropriate time to release a music podcast, it’s here. In the coming months you’ll hear us talk about a variety of albums, from Betty Davis to Talking Heads to Big Star. But to start, we kicked off with our favorite (obviously) — this little known nugget from Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham from their days before Fleetwood Mac — because how could we not? Sneak a peak of each post below and be sure to follow (details below) for more.

77-music-club-buckingham-nicksTwo years before joining Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had no idea what lay ahead of them. They were just two kids who wanted to make great music — and they just happened to be in love.

A cult favorite of Fleetwood Mac fans, this album is curiously still only available on vinyl. While bootlegs of the album can be streamed on YouTube, it has never been (officially) released on cassette, CD, or to streaming services like Spotify. This is perhaps part of the attraction to the album — this is music that doesn’t outright present itself; it must be found.

In this episode, we discuss why we both call this album our favorite of all time, what makes it unique, and why it still takes our breath away hundreds of listens later.

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Carly Simon Brings Passionate Memoir to Life at New York Discussion

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer

If you couldn’t guess from her lyrics, you would immediately be able to tell from the eloquence, candor, and unabashed honesty of Carly Simon’s speech that, if you hadn’t yet read her memoir “Boys in the Trees,” you were in for a ride.

Simon brought her new book to life Wednesday night in discussion with author and journalist Sheila Weller, who had previously written about Simon in her 2008 biography “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation.”

“Few women writers in any genre write as passionately about love as you do,” Weller noted. Simon is part of a small group of female rock stars who have paved the way for women today, spending the past forty years writing, singing, and talking publicly about love — and sex — openly, freely, and with a refusal to let society shame them. “Boys in the Trees” is an extension of that, picking up where her lyrics left off.

“I am not a person who lets go of the past easily,” Simon said. But there’s no bitterness or regret when she reflects on it, from a childhood marred by a debilitating stammer and family secrets to a storybook marriage dreamed of with ex-husband James Taylor crumbling under the strain of his drug addiction.

Nor was there any salaciousness when Simon spoke at length about the famous men in her life, including Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger, as well as Taylor, leaving the audience hanging onto every velvety smooth word. Rather, Simon’s seduction of an audience lies in her ability to speak and write from a sensitive, vulnerable, and deeply caring woman’s perspective.

Every word, every description drips with poetic romanticism. Chemistry with Mick Jagger while recording “You’re So Vain” was like “trying to stay within a pink gravity that was starting to loosen its silky grip on me.” She likens her relationship with Taylor to music, like they were a perfect fourth, the reedy tone of his voice piercing through her husk. Even after the end of their marriage, he still has a place in her heart, she said, as if her body contains a part of his DNA. Her biggest revelation: “I’ve stopped trying to stop loving. The parts that were loving are still in me. They’re still there.”

Although “Boys in the Trees” is largely about her relationships with men, there’s more to it than that.

“Pay attention to who you like. You can imitate them — you’ll get your own voice,” Simon advised young women. No, “Boys in the Trees” isn’t a story just about the boys. It’s a story about how one woman stopped emulating other voices and eventually found her own.

Boys in the Trees is available in hardcover or paperback from Flatiron Books.
Keep up with Carly Simon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, and More Bring Refugee Benefit to New York’s Town Hall

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer.

It wasn’t lost on many during Tuesday night’s Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees benefit that a series of concerts to raise awareness and funds for the current refugee crisis was in full swing just as the presidential election drew increasingly nearer.

In an election season where refugees have become such politicized figures, where they’ve been distilled down to talking points and memes and likened to a bowl of Skittles, the Emmylou Harris-helmed benefit was a humbling reminder that, above everything else, refugees are just people.

They’re just people. Men, women, and children, and in the current refugee crisis, 65 million of them around the world have been displaced from their homes. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a humanitarian one.

“You can start from a place of fear and suspicion, or you can start from a place of love and compassion,” Joey Ryan, one half of indie-folk duo the Milk Carton Kids said. “We’re all doing this to hopefully promote the latter.”

People behind the slew of Facebook comments that litter the event’s posts might want to question their decisions to boycott the concert series for political reasons. It wasn’t a political event. It was a momentary relief from the negativity and ugliness that has flooded the news cycle. There was no mention of either candidate, save for a brief comedic song from Nancy and Beth (actresses Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt’s musical alter egos). There were no accusations of who’s right and wrong in a political war over immigration, no damning critiques of anyone involved in either political party.

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The musicians held back from proselytizing; any remarks about the refugee crisis were brief and told in personal anecdotes. The Milk Carton Kids shared that their family histories are marked with immigration stories, that there were stark differences between the lives of distant relatives who made it in America and those who were turned away. Harris told a short story about meeting a former child refugee who came to America on the back of a train and is now a college graduate working with refugee services to give others the same kind of help he received.

It wasn’t a night about politics. It was a night about music, and the way it can unite people, especially when it’s for a good cause.

The evening began unassuming and intimate, with each musician sitting and playing in-the-round style, taking turns singing lead while others occasionally joined in, at times performing songs as an ensemble. They referred to it as a good old-fashioned guitar pull, as if they were just friends jamming together and not some of the most seminal names in rock and roll. But casual as they tried to be, each musician gave performances that were met with thunderous applause, reminders of just how much they could do with such sparse fanfare.

Harris hushed the crowd with a soft performance of “Making Believe,” joking afterwards that she was just beginning to realize how many sad songs fill her library. Buddy Miller lightened the mood with fiery guitar work and an electrifying rendition of “Gasoline and Matches” with Harris. Steve Earle reminded the audience that everyone, especially New Yorkers, came from somewhere else with “City of Immigrants,” and the Milk Carton Kids stunned the crowd with a Simon and Garfunkel-esque cover of Harris’s “Michelangelo.” Robert Plant’s take on the ancient folk song “Little Maggie” began simply and quickly crescendoed into a lush roar of sound from all of the musicians on stage.

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While the night’s political points had existed mainly in quiet undertones, in the subtle, yet pointed set list choices, its purpose was well made towards the end of the evening when special guest Joan Baez took the stage. Baez taught an entire generation of musicians that music could not just sound good, but it could do good, Harris explained. That work was, in a way, part of the reason why they were all gathered together on stage, part of the reason why Baez was nominated for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that morning.

Before a passionate, poignant performance of “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” the First Lady of activist songwriting mused that maybe people were looking at the refugee crisis the wrong way.

“My father was an immigrant from Mexico and ended up becoming the co-inventor of the x-ray microscope,” she explained. “We shouldn’t be thinking about what immigrants are taking from us, but what gifts they can bring.”

Upcoming Tour Dates:
October 19 — Philadelphia, PA — Merriam Theater
October 21 — Washington, DC — Lisner Auditorium

To learn more about the Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative, visithttp://jrsusa.org.

Featured image: Ben Stas for the Boston Globe

Pat Benatar: ‘I’m Proud, So Secure and Even a Little Arrogant When It Comes to Being a Woman’

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer
by Desarae Gabrielle and Carrie Courogen

New York native soprano Pat Benatar came crashing onto the rock and roll scene ready to change the landscape of the male dominated music industry. Four time Grammy award winning Benatar kick-started her lengthy list of accomplishments by being the first female artist to be played on MTV — performing her hit “You Better Run” on August 1, 1981 — later becoming one of the most heavily featured artists on the network. Benatar was among the wave of female pioneers who took the Top 40 singles chart by storm – 15 of her songs were featured on the chart which included popular singles “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “We Belong,” and “Love is a Battlefield.” Benatar’s first single “Heartbreaker” propelled the rock star to platinum status with her debut album In The Heat of the Night.

After a tour date at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, co-headlining with Melissa Etheridge, we spoke to Benatar about her history in rock music as a feminist, her memoir Between a Heart and a Rock Place, her inspirations and more.

What was it like to be the first woman played on MTV?

Thrilling, odd, crazy and fun. We had no idea what was about to happen — we thought we were just doing another performance video that would be shown on TV. The idea that the video would be played 24 hours a day — was unfathomable. In one week, our lives were forever changed.

Did you feel any sort of pressure to play to the changing landscape of the music industry or play to that video star persona?

Absolutely not, we were part of that emerging landscape. We were creating the video star persona organically, we were just being ourselves.

Getting control of your career and fighting the over­-sexualization of your image wasn’t an easy thing to do. What was that battle like?

The struggle to take control of the image was difficult. When it was my idea, it worked, but it was very limiting and became tedious. But of course, by that time, the record company had a winning combination and fought hard to keep it, we fought constantly and bitterly for the rest of our time there.

Catch A Rising Star was a place where a lot of comics got their breaks. What attracted you to it as a singer?

I was living in Richmond, VA playing in a local band and going to school. I had read an article in the New York times about Catch, it mentioned that up and coming singers could audition there as well. I missed New York so much and wanted to go home, it was the perfect excuse.

How did The Zinger shape your transition into rock and roll from a more lounge ­inspired style?

The Zinger was such a campy production, it really was more musical theater than rock and roll. It didn’t really have much of an influence on my future career. Working with young songwriters at Catch, helped me find my voice. And of course, meeting my muse, Neil Giraldo, putting the band together and working side by side was the most important factor — the catalyst that propelled everything forward.

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How do you think your career has influenced your daughters’ endeavors?

As for our youngest, Hana, who is the singer songwriter, she was born feisty! I’m sure some of it’s genetic, but she is a highly motivated, talented, tornado. Her genre of music is vastly different from ours. Our oldest daughter, Haley is a designer. I think — I hope– both of our daughters witnessed the power of hard work and commitment from both parents. They certainly saw first hand what can be accomplished as a female. They are both very smart, confident, kind and talented young women.

You were nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance eight times are tied for most wins in the category. The category merge in 2005 came with a lot of scrutiny on both sides of the argument. On one side, there’s the idea that distinguishing male and female vocals is sexist and they should be judged together. But the other side is that, since the merge, only six women have been nominated, even though there’s certainly not a lack of outstanding female performances each
year. What are your thoughts?

This is always such a difficult topic. I have mixed feelings — I hate the idea of being singled out as a “Female Rocker.” It defeats the entire argument that we are all the equal. At the same time, the sheer number of males versus females will always tip the scale. Because of the era grew up in, it’s hard to shake that nagging rub, that being separated, labeled as “female” in some way is a slight, a way to subliminally suggest inferiority. It’s interesting, because personally, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m proud, so secure, and even a little arrogant when it comes to being a woman. I wait for the day when that feeling permeates everything!

How has your self­-identification as a feminist influenced your career and the ways you’ve given back to the music community?

Yes, definitely. Mentoring young women is where my heart is. Having two daughters has made it my mission.

What about the music industry would you like to see change, from a feminist perspective? Why were you reluctant to write your memoir Between a Heart and a Rock Place?

There has been so much progress in the music industry, but the old prejudices and ideas still exist. Old habits die hard! Thankfully, we now have laws and legislation to protect us, for the most part. There is still much to be done. I do feel confident that women today, are very aware and take a strong, passionate stance about their rights. I thoroughly enjoyed writing Between a Heart and a Rock Place. I was a little reluctant to write it because of the time necessary to get it done properly. I only said yes because they promised I’d have help. The co-writer, Patsi Bale Cox, came to me and said, ”You can do this. You should do this. It needs to be in your own voice.” So I did. She helped me organize the stories and all my thoughts and then she pushed me “out of the nest.” In the end, she was right and I loved every moment of the process.

You were on the We Live For Love Tour with your husband Neil and singer Melissa Etheridge through the summer. You chose to continue to play in states where anti-­LGBTQ laws were passed, such as Mississippi and North Carolina. Why is that?

Neil (Spyder) and I have been staunch advocates for LGBTQ rights for 37 years. We felt that we could better serve the community by continuing to support them the way we always have, by standing in defiance, to those who seek to squash their rights. We discussed this with Melissa and she agreed.

What social issues inspire you to try to make change in the world?

Hunger, children’s rights, the elderly’s rights, women’s rights, animal rights, racial and sexual equality — we don’t have enough time. We all have the ability to make changes in the world, everyone has the power to do good.

If you could give your 25­-year­-old self advice, what would it be?

My 25-year-old self? You are about to begin an amazing adventure, do not be afraid! Listen to your gut, it’s always right. Be kind, be loving, be smart. All you have at the end of the day is the people you love and who love you, and your integrity. Lighten up and try to have a little fun along the way.

To read our full interview with Pat Benatar, order Inspirer’s fall issue here!

43 years later, the significance of Buckingham Nicks belies its obscurity

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I was 21 years old when I heard Buckingham Nicks for the first time. I was home from school for a weekend, looking through my father’s vast record collection, when he pulled out an old, faded LP from 1973. The corners were tattered, the inner sleeve torn, but the record itself was in perfect form. “I think you’ll like this one,” he said. “It’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham before they were in Fleetwood Mac.”

Of course, I had known of the album, but it seemed almost like a myth, with its cult-like vinyl-only status. For my father to just hand it over nonchalantly seemed almost too easy, almost unreal. Just holding it in my hands, looking at the cover — a young, beautiful couple not much older than me, with their long, flowing hair and naked bodies the epitome of the free-spirited Laurel Canyon era California I had become obsessed with as a child — I immediately fell in love.

I think my dad maybe had an ulterior motive. I think he knew that I would go down the rabbit hole, as I am prone to do, and devour everything I could about the album and all of the people behind it. I think he knew how badly I needed to hear its story, maybe more than I needed to hear the music.

I was about to graduate college with a journalism degree. I had made four years of sacrifices so I could write as much as possible, and suddenly it all seemed like it was for nothing. I realized I couldn’t afford to take the entry level, $25K salary gigs my peers were scooping up if I wanted to stay in New York. I hated anyone who told me that I was a good writer, that I was a talented, desirable graduate, because in my mind, I had failed.

The more I listened to Buckingham Nicks, and the more I learned about it, the more I felt like I had crawled inside its world. I felt a kindred spirit with them. I felt hope. They were good. And they failed. They made sacrifices and worked and struggled and poured their lives into creating 37 beautiful minutes of music, and in the end, they were dropped like it was nothing. It would be a couple of years until they found success. I needed that album, and I needed its story.

In the preface to his book “Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis,” Warren Zanes writes:

“Records that last, those special few that refuse dust and return to the player again and again even as the world around them changes, finally become, in some odd way, collaborations between the listener and the listened to. […] The recordings that go beyond that level of correspondence become emblems of more than just one passage in our lives, they become — and I hate to make it all too lofty, but here it can’t be helped — emblems of us, artifacts of self-definition. Such special albums rattle our cages again and again (and sometimes we use them, with limited success, to rattle the cages of others). It’s hard to say why. But that’s what they do.”

That’s what Buckingham Nicks does to me. I still get lost in the building, frenzied guitar solo in “Frozen Love.” I still get sucked into the hypnotic ‘60s slow burn that is “Races Are Run,” and I still find myself falling in love again and again with the simplicity of “Stephanie.” But for me, this album has become about so much more than just the music. It’s stuck with me. It’s rattled my cage.

I turned 25 a few months ago and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m now the same age Stevie was when Buckingham Nicks was released. I realized how many times I’ve inadvertently used her timeline as a barometer of my own success. It’s okay that I’m not exactly where I want to be just yet — Stevie didn’t join Fleetwood Mac until she was 27. I have a friend who says 2016 is her 1973. I’m sure we’re not alone in thinking that way. That’s because Buckingham Nicks is an album that has that rare ability to both reflect the time period in which it was made and transcend it.

Because it’s about life — life at a very specific, tumultuous time — and all of the passion and fear and frustration that comes with it. It’s about that feeling that every 22 or 23 or 24-year-old gets and they think that they’re the first to have ever felt it: Like you’re very old and very young at the same time. Like life is both euphoric and terrifying. Like your brain is moving a million miles a minute and everything is happening and there’s so much to do, but you don’t have the time to do it all. Like you just can’t stop thinking about time. Time is of the essence. I’ve got nothing but time, no time for living. There’s too much time. There’s not enough.

It’s about being that age where you realize that everything you’ve been told as a kid — that you are good, that you are talented, that you can do anything you want if you just work hard — might not be true. You get out in the real world and realize you’ve got competition. All of the sudden, life is this giant race and you’re looking around at everyone else trying to do what you’re doing — so many different kinds of people trying to be the same — and you question if you’re good enough, question if you can keep up. Races are run; some people win, some people always have to lose — and you’re praying you’re not the latter.

It’s about making decisions that will affect the rest of your life. Do you always trust your first initial feeling? Special knowledge holds true, bears believing. It’s about the uncertainty of it all, about wanting independence, but wishing for a little bit of guidance once you suddenly get it. It’s about the overwhelming love you have for those rare people you find who stick by your side in the trenches — I turned around, and the water was closing all around me like a glove, like the love that finally found me.

I know this because I am in this period of life right now. It’s a funny feeling — feeling like two icons are your peers. But when I listen to this album, that’s how I feel. We’re just some kids masquerading as grown-ups while we try to figure out how to exactly be grown-ups, as we try to figure out how to be heard in this world, looking at others doing what we want to be doing with a mixture of admiration, envy, determination, and fear.

I wonder if I will forever love this album partly because of that, because it came into my world at such a distinct time in my life that lines up with theirs. I have a feeling that years from now, when I listen to it, I’ll hear memories. I’ll be able to immediately remember this very specific feeling tied to this very specific age that we are right now. I’ll probably find it romantic in hindsight. I’ll probably find it a little bit funny. I’ll probably think “God, was anyone ever so young?” This is where part of me wonders what it’s like to be them right now, what it will be like to look back on the things I’m writing at this age with more than 40 years of perspective.

I’ve said before that a great thing about some music’s ability to transcend time is that part of an artist will forever be preserved as the same age they were in the original recording. But there’s something to be said about the benefit of live performances or re-recordings or re-releases. They allow songs to change and evolve as time goes on (like how the “Landslide” of today has a different meaning and poignancy than the “Landslide” of 1975). They give new life to music, introduce it to new audiences.

That’s not the case with Buckingham Nicks. That may never be the case. Buckingham Nicks likes to talk about Buckingham Nicks, but they never really seem to do anything about Buckingham Nicks. Of the 10 songs, only three* have seen life after 1976, and those performances have been rare. Its elusive vinyl-only status, romantic as it is, is incredibly limiting; it makes it so much harder for people to discover organically. I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve talked about a re-release only to see nothing materialize.

I wonder if time will forever be frozen on this album, only allowing the songs to live in their original form, forever performed by two 20-somethings. Part of that seems poetic to me, but a lot of it makes me sad. I wonder what will happen once the finite (and relatively small) number of physical copies are gone, what will happen when the few digital bootlegs get slapped with copyright claims and disappear. My father gave me his copy of the record. What will I give my daughter?

I find myself thinking about legacy a lot lately; I’ve been listening to the finale of Hamilton on repeat for a week. Legacy is a key theme of the show, something Alexander Hamilton was obsessed with, something that Lin-Manuel Miranda has made a lot of people reconsider. What is the narrative, and what is our role in it? Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how millions of people know who Fleetwood Mac is, how Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are household names, yet only a small fraction of those people know about this album. They were a rags-to-riches success story that is so rare these days, one of the last few to really fulfill the American Dream. This album was the beginning. It was the catalyst for everything that was to come. It’s important. It’s more than just a footnote; it’s a story in and of itself that’s so often ignored. Years from now, what will it become of it? I don’t really know. All I know is that it’s a story I care too much about to let die.

*“Stephanie” was included in Lindsey’s last solo tour in 2012. “Don’t Let Me Down Again” was played sans Lindsey on Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 Tango In The Night tour; it popped up once on the 2004 Say You Will tour only to disappear again. “Crystal” was re-recorded by Stevie in 1998.

“The Dealer,” the first single from Stevie Nicks’s first album in three years, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, a collection of old demos and one-offs revisited years later, was released on this day in 2014. I typically save my essays or short thoughts for bigger things and more significant anniversaries, but this song holds a special spot in my heart that I had to share a little something.

I cannot listen to “The Dealer” without thinking about my first real year in New York, without remembering those terrifying months after graduation — the ones that bled into each other so much that I lost track of time and hadn’t even realized a year had passed and I was in the city not as a student, but as an adult. I cannot listen to it without thinking about living in my first real apartment, suddenly feeling like I’m right back in that overpriced closet-sized room without a closet where I could touch both walls while sitting on my bed. I cannot listen to it without thinking about all those evenings walking through Soho at golden hour with it on repeat on my way home from work, all those mornings running to it on repeat by the East River at 6:30 a.m. while most of the city slept. My feet still remember those steps, the exact buildings I would pass at exact points in the song.

“The Dealer” made me feel electrified and excited and magical. It made me feel so alive and free and so young, but in the best possible way. I was the mistress of my fate. It made me feel like New York was my own enchanted, charmed playground, like some golden-hued, filtered alternate reality full of infinite possibilities — it was 2014 and I was listening to new Stevie Nicks, new Stevie Nicks that sounded like old Stevie Nicks, so what year was it, really?

I can’t listen to “The Dealer” without remembering that serendipitous time when I started writing my best pieces, when those pieces led me to finding my best friend, the girl whose first message to me told me, without being cheesy, to “Rock on, ancient queen.”

I can’t listen to it without thinking of the accompanying 24 Karat Gold Polaroid gallery, how I thought I was going to throw up when I got a press invite to opening night — Me? I thought. Little me? Won’t people ask where my parents are? I can’t listen to it without remembering how long I shopped for the perfect dress, how my hands shook the whole day in anticipation, how the crisp air felt on my bare shoulders as I walked from the train to the gallery, how I felt like I was floating the whole evening. I didn’t touch the open bar, but I was drunk — drunk on that feeling when you know you’re in the presence of magic. I can’t listen to it without thinking about how I started to type out my review on my phone about five minutes after I left, how the words just poured out effortlessly because I was so inspired. I can’t listen to it without thinking about how I let it repeat again and again and again on the way home, feeling exhausted but too wired to sleep, feeling a little bit like I had finally found the closest thing possible to a time machine.

This is why I love music. Yes, I love the technical aspects — the melodies and harmonies, the chords, the guitar solos; yes, I love excellent songwriting. But the feel, and the way music can be so closely tied to memories — like a soundtrack to your life — is what really gets me.