Daily Dose: Local Natives, “Desert Snow”

Some music triggers recall. And thank goodness, because some memories (the simple ones) don’t always like to surface.

Songs by Local Natives always take me back to my last few years of undergrad at San Francisco State, where I had nothing but time to read and absorb music and stumble forward. Even their new tracks, which do feel fresh but still feature the band’s signature harmonies, are transportive. Here I am again, skin pulling warmth from brutalist concrete benches in the quad, rummaging through my Green Apple Books tote bag for a pencil I’d lost somewhere in the halls of the social sciences building they demolished this year.

There’s so much I wanna tell ya about my time there, more than you could ever know.

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Daily Dose: Jack White, “All Along the Way”

I love Jack White. It is a deep, abiding love that has weathered the test of time–from the White Stripes to his solo career, the Dead Weather and Bond, and his brief foray into film (and Rene Zellweger). I’m here for it!

While researching Disney artist Eyvind Earle for an exhibition I helped curate at The Walt Disney Family Museum in 2017, I “met” his father, Ferdinand Earle, who was an eccentric scoundrel. Whenever he cheated on his wife with a new paramour, he claimed the urges were beyond his control: the result of divine “affinities” he had to heed. My feminist impulse is to dismiss his understanding of “affinities” as a weak man’s excuse to leave a woman behind, but I do think there’s something to this.

Jack White and I have similar affinities beyond the quintessentially American music he makes. Detroit. Baseball. Historic preservation. Buying vintage things you don’t need. Interior decorating. I am drawn to this man. As I age with artists who are aging with me, it’s wonderful to see music makers like White move past the thrashing chaos that is all of our 20s and find a comfortable place of pure purpose. I appreciate that he seems to only become more himself, which is a hard thing to do in this world and not everyone gets to do it. And his latest album, Entering Heaven Alive, speaks to this evolution as an artist.

He’s created an album that feels a little like Pop Pop sitting by the fire, imparting his wisdom and gratitude to the family that surrounds him in the house he built. It’s true to his catalog but not a repetitive rehashing of where he’s been before, and it’s exactly what we all want from Jack White. Maybe, for some artists, evolution is more like an infinity loop wherein all your affinities intertwine and create something so unique it feels like it’s existed forever. Like an acorn that falls from a tree, roots in the ground, and then grows until it’s surrounded by Oakly kin.

We’re all drawn to people for one reason or another. Most of the time, we have to responsibly ignore these affinities. But music is a safe space and I am (platonically) in love with Jack White and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Daily Dose: Punch Brothers, “Pride of Man”

Studying history, I’m constantly amazed how the hubris of humankind brings our species to its knees time and time again. Even if it also makes sense when you think about how often we as individuals muck things up. But people pick themselves out of the dust and drag it, our species, forward: after war, after famine, after depressions recessions and other races we do not win.

I’m not sure sure about this round, though. Ukraine. One/Six Committee. Supreme Court. Inflation. Homelessness. Inevitably, someone in my circle will reference the Fall of Rome in discussions of current events like these. Historians always gotta History and this is our version of someone yelling “Mooooo” in a crowd exiting a concert.

But maybe this is how it felt in 1942 when the world was at war and everything was rationed and nothing made sense. I used to think it was some sort of inherent ability to hope for better that allowed folks to keep calm and carry on, an internal compass that believed things had to improve. But now I think it might just be resignation and an ability to adapt. Today is worse than yesterday but I’m still alive and standing firm on my plot of metaphorical land. And I guess that’s the American way, to defend your property against all odds.

These are a few of my…Breakup Songs

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View over Torrey Pines State Beach, Del Mar, California / 08.19.17 

There are many ways to break a heart. The newest method I’ve learned is when a man you’ve loved for eight years leaves you for the final time (for another woman) one month after your Mom is diagnosed with cancer. You really do learn something new every day.

Life isn’t kind enough to stop and let you heal; you have to do that on the run. Friends, family, work that inspires and distracts you is key, and…slowly…through the pain…you take away the things that made you better, even if, in the pain, you see time and youth wasted. Blame feels good for a moment, but the truth is no one leaves an eight year relationship without blood on their hands. I am certainly no saint. Human beings are tragic mishaps, which is why you can love someone deeply but can’t find a way to make it stick. That’s the crux of the human condition.

But if something is taken from you, replace it. If you can’t fill the void with something new, then stitch yourself together, mend the tear from what you have left. And if there’s power in numbers, then music is the way to reclaim mine–as the notes in each song add up to a rhythm that reminds the heart to beat, the lungs to breathe, and keeps the nervous system in check. The last time I had my heart broken, I remade myself as a music journalist and found my footing.

So in that spirit I’m launching a new feature on Nostos Algos with this post. These are a few of my… will be a regular(ish) series that shares a few of my favorite things by theme, and, if musical, will be tied to Spotify playlists. The playlist that corresponds here is titled “…favorite breakup songs, and is composed of songs previously featured on Nostos Algos because I’m stitching myself together with what’s sustained me for years. One exception to this is an entire album by Daughter, since this indie British outfit is my spirit animal. Content runs the gamut in tone, from angry to sad, nostalgic to uplifting, and the order is mixed because that’s the reality of emotions: they are not linear.

There are many ways to break a heart, but there are just as many ways to mend it. Here’s to starting that process by sharing it with you, since there’s power in numbers, and healing…one song at a time.

 

See & Read: 11/4/2015

(C) Nicole Meldahl, 2015
(C) Nicole Meldahl, 2015

“I adore you as much as the vault of night, / O vessel of sorrow, O deeply silent one, / And I love you even more, my lovely, because you flee me / And because you seem, ornament of my nights, / More ironically, to multiply the miles / That separate my arms from blue immensities.” — Charles Baudelaire

See & Read: 4/23/2015

red balloon

As I turned the corner to get my morning java fix, I saw a well dressed man of a certain age heading in my direction. Pressed jeans, collared shirt, and a clean pair of brown leather shoes–no scuffs. He and I both slowed seeing our shared destination, and I deferred to him as he led us through the door. He scooped up the last remaining table for two, and I strode straight into the small but substantial line, he to follow up behind me in a few.

I ordered my latte strong (to go), and he ordered his with small talk (to stay). It mattered not that the barista was in no mood; This Man of a certain age was here to talk, and talk he would. I stood aside and quietly waited for my morning salvation. He stood square in front of the sullen barista, and continued on with his talk.

“Pretty busy today, huh?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh,” says the man, with a gentle look down at the shuffle of his feet. “I guess I”m later than usual.”

[clears throat] “Did you walk here?”

“Yep. I sure did,” The Man said with eagerness. “I sure did walk here.”

“You on your way to work?”

“Me? Oh, no no. I don’t work. I’m just a caretaker for one cat. Just one cat and a garden. And a car. I take care of a cat, a garden, and a car.”

“Oh, ok.”

Silence and another look to the ground to see what his feet would do, and there was nothing more. The Man took his latte for here and sat by himself over there. No paper, no book. Nothing to distract him from the company that hadn’t come. Just another man who takes care of a cat, a car, and a garden sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco.

Just one person waiting at a table for two.