random music fridays : morning nightcap

I didn’t know that this was the sort of thing you should defensively hide from people until Stephen Colbert made a flippant aside a few years ago — “How am I even supposed to tell if it’s good?” — and then a quick google and I had everyone from historical instrument builders to pagan tumblr making it abundantly clear that it was wrong in so many ways to like, well, this. This Definitively Not Authentic (why are we still worshiping authenticity as an a.) concrete or b.) attainable characteristic?) New Age-y Celtic Crap. And I could go on and on carefully extricating myself from any trumped-up claims of blood kinship to the music, or “fake Irish”-ness, couching my enjoyment of these sounds within the safe, narrow confines of childhood familiarity or a happenstance Riverdance ticket gifted by a school friend in the 90s.

But I don’t have to do any of that, and I’m not going to. That warm tone A Morning Nightcap opens with is fantastic. It’s like the perfect part of your run where you have endorphins but also air in your lungs, when the road is clear of people and you could go on forever. It sounds the way smiling feels on your face. I don’t care if people 200 years ago weren’t playing this — because the instruments were different or the arrangement was or whatever. I don’t care if my ancestors ever listened to this. It’s great. Haters gonna hate, but it’s great.

Enjoy it.

random music fridays : seve

This song samples from “O Sifuni Mungu,” by African Children’s Choir. It’s upbeat, and it’s in Swahili, which my mom knew. She learned it as part of her job, rehabilitating people’s hands in Kenya after they were shredded or crushed, usually by construction or farming equipment.

I’m an upbeat person. I don’t walk around staring at my feet. I wish strangers good days and good weekends and mean it. For months after Mom died, though, I wasn’t. And now I am again.

It’s hard to recognize the clouds that hang over your head when you’re under them.

random music fridays : i’m not calling you a liar

Ahem, one moment please.

*cough*HOW DID I MISS THIS OMGWTFBBQQQQQQ!!!11otherearlyaughtsexpressionsofshock*cough*

Yes, now. Where were we?

Florence and the Machine’s I’m Not Calling You a Liar, reworked with the zithers(?) that work their way through Inon Zur’s soundtrack for Dragon Age II, plays during the end credits. A fact I learned by accident five minutes ago, when YouTube’s auto-play moved me right on through the DA2 soundtrack to this last song which completely escaped my notice until now:

If I am honest with myself I know why I missed it, despite being a fan of Florence + the Machine and Dragon Age. The year DA2 came out, I was trying to do too much, and there are frighteningly huge gaps in my memories. Juggling a new job, a resumed relationship, and finishing a two-year degree program double-time in one year, there were days I worked from 5AM to 11PM, day after day after day, and while somehow in there I managed to play DA2, the fact that I missed out on, or blanked out on, the credits sequence does not surprise me. I burnt out that year.

But still! Oh my god, listen! I love this version even more than the original. The meandering piano and bouncy claps are too much at odds, too cutely endearing, with how I want to be cut up by a song. And this version does that. Is part of that due to the context it gains from playing at the end of DA2? Sure, maybe. But I’ll take it!

random music fridays : angela

At work, I’m one of the first people in, and I head to the gym before actually clocking in. I’m already tired from the four mile bike ride in, and I’ve had no coffee yet, and I’m bowed under the huge sack that clips onto the back of my bike. I’m bleary and slow-moving across a silent courtyard, is what I’m saying. But the radio connected to the coffeeshops clicks on at about the time I arrive, and when this belted out across the dark, muggy morning earlier this week a smile split my face.

the whitecaps of memory

It takes me several listens to add a song to my circuit. Listening to the lyrics requires more attention than I have give; typically if it crops up on a Spotify or Amazon or Pandora playlist or radio, I bother to note down the name of the song when the form of it snaps my attention back to that tab — typically repetitive, building arpeggios or marching drums.

So then, as here, I’ll add the song to a playlist, and meander back to it later, probably weeks later, again leaning into the musical formation that attracted me in the first place. Not really paying attention.

But only on the third or fourth listen do I _hear_ the lyrics. I have to feel like I’m being rocked by the sound first. Such was the case with Josh Ritter’s “Change of Time.” And then a phrase, not even a whole verse but just a phrase — in this case, “the whitecaps of memory” — will tear me out of whatever sore-eyed screen tunnel I’d been staring down and I’ll replay it over and over to hear that one phrase.

The whitecaps of memory, man. Goddamn.

random music fridays : bard guilds


Yes I know this is Kelethin. I spent a lot of time there too, okay?

Someone at work recently asked if anyone used to play EverQuest, back in the day.


I immediately leapt to the music, in my feverish response to affirm that yes, I had indeed played EQ1 in its heyday. But what I remembered–what I could hum–was more the Faydark theme and the Ak’anon theme (itself a specific version of themes carried throughout Freeport and the loading screen, I know, but that was the one I remembered, wedged into the mountains in gnomish territority, hoping nothing would kill me so I could continue enjoying the midi music).

That led me, though, to a full gathering of all the EQ music, much of which I didn’t know I remembered until I heard it. I kind of wonder, given the spazzing, fuming or just absent nature of the full gamut of my music teachers throughout elementary school, just how much of my musical familiarity — how you expect a pentatonic scale to hit that last note, for example, and you expect it through exposure, not through some biological need to hear the full scale — came to me through games.

Anyway, I played bards whenever I could (I know, I know), and EQ was no exception. The Bard Guilds, in Freeport and Qeynos, respectively, had THE. BEST. Music.


So there you go then. Linked in the city names above. Enjoy. While you are there, may I recommend the Freeport gate theme (where I’d often try to avoid being eaten by lions long enough to admire the sunset, or which would start playing and would herald a joyful end to a long, harrowing journey across the continent from Qeynos) or the Warm Fire cottage theme, which starts out so homely and then, poof, you’ve got a waltz on your hands. If I could play a stringed instrument, I’d learn to play that.

Oh! And don’t forget the Docks theme! Man, that game didn’t give you any safe waters. You could be boarded and murdered by pirates or island ghosts, just taking basic transportation across the map. Harrowing, and memorable.

Edit: Here is a guy talking about EQ1 music. The links aren’t there anymore, but you can find all the songs in that compilation I linked to different timestamps above. And I’d like to point out that it’s no accident I like a theme “so pumped full of Prozac that it’s shooting rainbows out of every note. Triple rainbows, even.” Damn right. I have the real world to be sad in. If I’m going to be paying to be in some other world, I am going to mainline the rainbows.

reapplying breakup songs as songs of loss

This is not a new thing. Remember Stepmom?


Spoilers, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough isn’t about losing your mom. I’m looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy.

This should be a creepier transposition than it is, though. Especially in an age where the most powerful people in the world obsess over their daughters’ fuckability, I would expect us to balk at so many songs of romantic loss repurposed for…I guess it’s, what, platonic loss? Familial loss? You have to retreat from the word “love,” even, it seems like, if you want to discuss loss of a family member. We’ve reserved that word for a narrower and narrower space, as you grow older and don’t say “I love you” as much or as freely anymore; or write it in red crayon on lopsided heart cards. I think of the studied disdain of Kevin Kline’s Cole Porter, reflecting on the insipidity of the latest chart-topping hit: “an actual song called ‘I Love You.'” His distaste is that of the artist, sure, but also of the cultural critic. People, for wanting such things, are kind of dumb, is the implication. We should, I guess, want more. Or want it more colorfully.

Obviously the right lyrics — or at least the absence of the wrong ones — helps enable the transposition from romantic loss to non-. But maybe we also lend ourselves to this lyrical reapplication through a desire, both to see loss we could have fixed as inevitable, and of loss we couldn’t fix as something we could have fought, staved off, or avoided through calling back, or being more patient, or picking up.

Take Said and Done, by Nervous but Excited, which cropped up on an old playlist I’d retreated to at work and which, instead, had me desperately undoing my ponytail to hide my crying:

Bases covered:

1.) Come back home (not going to happen)

2.) We can get back to the way we were (we can’t)

3.) Try to forgive the rights that I made wrong (I’m sure everyone has lists of such things…continuing to Skype my mom regularly when I returned from abroad, as she apparently expected when she’d stay logged in all morning hoping for a call, is kind of at the top of my list)

4.) Still close my eyes to the sight of you laughing in sunlight (this verges on too decidedly romantic to be comfortable listening to but again, like with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, the idea that memories held or promises made are concepts relegated entirely to romantic situations is a little short-sighted — and anyway, you obviously want to remember the person who knew you, laughing maybe, rather than the glassy-eyed husk with concave cheeks who didn’t know you anymore)

Again, I’ve written about people dealing with death a lot, and everything I say is salted with the knowledge that it’s very much the wrong thing, for someone. It’s either too crass (I keep saying she died, rather than that she “passed away,” because I hate the fakery of that phrase, the gentleness it implies, when there was nothing gentle or graceful or noble about this), or too narrow-minded (the President is imploding and taking the country down with him; there are bigger problems than one mother who is no longer here), or simply too much (most of the people caught in the bullet-spray of my sorrow don’t really know me that well, and certainly don’t know what to do other than take cover and wait for me to stop posting sad shit).

I am, though, among the people I do know my age, the first to have to do this. Everyone else has the luxury of parents they can still argue with, or of celebrating Mother’s Days their mothers haven’t died on. They can pose in stupid family photos still, and puzzle over bizarre combinations of emojis texted to them at 10PM, and scream and cry and clutch their mom’s hand as they give birth to their first child.

Let me help you then, all you millennials who will get to have your mothers for decades longer than I did. Let me help you do this years from now. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts for losing your mother, in no particular order:

DO Tell your boss. Even if you aren’t really that close or you were just hired like a month ago. There is probably some company provision that allows you to stay home and cry all day. This is important. It is better to do this at home than on your keyboard. Especially if your work has nice keyboards.

DO listen to sad songs, or songs that are sad to you in the context of your loss. That’s how this post came to be, after all. More importantly, even if you possess a steely reserve necessarily built up over almost a decade’s worth of dementia-driven misery, you should probably cry at some point. Music may be necessary to crack your adamantium shell. Grab those headphones.

DO eat. I mean, duh. I’ve never been moved not to eat by feelings, but I hear it’s a thing that can happen. Nutrients are kind of a big deal, guys. Get them.

DON’T become annoyed by people stepping gingerly around you. They literally don’t know what the fuck to do. This is not their fault.

DON’T snap at other people who text you happy pictures, from better days, of the person you’re both mourning. If you can’t deal with it, just ignore the texts. Your phone isn’t going to fill up, and you don’t know what psychology is driving the other person to fling these images of the lost person out there. You can’t yell (or…text-yell?) at someone loud enough to bring your mom back, so please don’t try.

DON’T expect people to say the right thing. They won’t. They can’t. There is no right thing. The right thing would be for your mom to still be alive, and she’s not. So whether you find yourself surrounded by people who pretend everything is fine, or by people who ooze religious platitudes, or who go on about karma or childhood or funeral prices or lame internet jokes, don’t expect a magic bullet. Not from a mentor, not from a friend, not from the old guy who walks his dog at 6AM every day. Literally no one will get it right. Not because they suck but because your mom is dead. It’s not their fault.

Oh, but if it is? Punch them. Just, you know. Because it would probably feel good.