As a freelance writer near Portland, Oregon, I appreciate songs that are powerful and meaningful.   Portland is a music-loving city.  And, of all the content in the world, nothing brings people together or tears them apart more than a song.   Many of my friends, past and present, would happily classify themselves as music elitists.   I’m firmly in the “I like what I like” category, and that includes songs (or bands) my friends despise.

I grew up listening to The Beatles, and the first song I really listened to for its lyrics was Don McLean‘s “American Pie,” which is one of my Mom‘s favorite songs.   When I entered adolescence, I went through a long phase where I only listened to classical music and soundtracks.  The first CD I ever bought was Gustav Holst‘s The Planets.

I wrote better to word-less music, and the music my peers listened to (alternative, hair metal, rap, and country) didn’t appeal to me at all.  There were certainly songs (particularly rock tunes) that I appreciated, but I definitely preferred Vivaldi to Vedder.  (Hmm, and that’s actually still the case …)

It wasn’t really until I discovered the band Garbage in the late ’90s that I found “my band.”  I saw them play a quick live set while I was in college, but when I heard their song, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” on an episode of Homicide:  Life On the Street, I was hooked.   The intensity of Shirley Manson’s vocals, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson’s guitars/bass, and Butch Vig’s drums and technical wizardry creates music that speaks to me.  Their songs range from synth-pop to heavy metal, and the tone varies just as wildly, from love ballads to rock anthems.   I’m singling them out for this post because they’ve been on hiatus for seven years, but in 2012, they’re releasing a new album, on their own label, and they’ve set up several concert dates.

The wonderful thing about songs and lyrics is that you feel like the band or singer/songwriter is speaking about you and your experiences.  When you meet a fellow fan, then you feel an almost instant bond:  “s/he gets it, too.”  It is powerful stuff, and I speak from experience.  Garbage is also my wife Sara‘s favorite band, and when we both discovered this fact, it’s one of the reasons we eventually ended up together. 🙂

 What is your favorite band or musician?  What makes you love them?

7 thoughts on “Your Favorite Music”

  1. I could talk for years about the importance of music in my young life. I grew up in a sleepy, modestly-sized southern California town that was just close enough to Los Angeles for me to know what I was missing, but not close enough to instill any culture in most of my peers. As you might imagine, I didn't exactly fit in any of the circles I floated in and out of as a teenager. Though I had friends, most people I knew were content with Mariah Carey or whatever limited Alternative music was still being played on MTV.

    For my sixteenth birthday, a friend made me a Bikini Kill tape. Popping that tape into my stereo was like waking up for the first time. Kathleen Hanna screamed and raged out of my tiny speakers like a tiny beacon of hope in my dark desert life. With this tape as my armor, I completely stopped caring what anybody else thought of me. I decided to head for the record store, Kill Rock Stars catalog in hand, and see if I could find anything else from the label.

    Wandering the rows, I happened upon a copy of Sleater-Kinney's "Dig Me Out" gathering dust in one of the bins. I hadn't heard any of their music, but I knew I had to have it. I bought the album and went home to listen. If the Bikini Kill listening experience was profound, "Dig Me Out" was like an instant PhD in Riot Grrrl ideology. From that day forward, Sleater-Kinney became my favorite band of all time.

    I saw them in concert eight or nine times, from outdoor festivals in Los Angeles to the Tenderloin of San Francisco, until they finally broke my heart by announcing their indefinite hiatus in 2006. By some miracle, while driving to Seattle for a roller derby bout, I was able to secure tickets to their final show. Standing in the crowd after years of being fortified by their increasingly brilliant songs, I sang my little heart out one last time. Six years later, I still don't know who or where I'd be without them.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story and favorite bands, Caitlin. It's amazing how a musician can provide comfort and even revelation when you're surrounded by music and people who are so alien! And it is such poetry that you saw the final Sleater-Kinney show. Here's to our favorite bands!

  3. Oh wow…my music tastes are all over the place. When I was in high school I was really into Tori Amos & Ani Difranco, and I still love their music, though not necessarily their more recent stuff. I think that some music serves a purpose for where and who you are in life, and once you grow out of that, the artist either does or doesn't grow with you. But the music that stayed with me from them, it's like I could never grow out of it. It resonates with me both because of the part of history it represents for me and for how it affects me now. Similar things have happened to me with the Spanish band Mana, or with Jude (who's more of a folsky indie singer). I also wonder sometimes if I'll ever fall in love with a musician like I did in my youth, when I literally had hours to just lock myself in my room and digest their lyrics and get lost in their compositions. I still love music, and I've discovered some great artists lately, but none have really come close to my mixture of Ani, Tori, and I can't forget Shakira (before she crossed over. Her English stuff is not bad, and I'm a fan because it's still fun to listen to…but her Spanish music had so much more heart.)

    1. Thanks for your answer, Natalia!

      "I think that some music serves a purpose for where and who you are in life, and once you grow out of that, the artist either does or doesn't grow with you."

      Absolutely. My CD collection is filled with one-off bands like that. I used to love Rusted Root, but it was more a "time and place" thing similar to what you mentioned about Ani and Tori. I think there must be something universal about that period of music, with Ani, Tori, and Sleater-Kinney … it really spoke to people, esp. when they could spend hours in their bedrooms listening.

      And that's awesome about Shakira; I didn't realize her Spanish music was different than her English songs, but that def. makes sense.

  4. Melissa Crytzer Fry

    I am slightly embarrassed to say it, but though I was JUST born in the early '70s (1972), I am a big fan of anything 70s. I suspect that my parents played disco in my crib, hence my affection for it (I know … don't cringe) … and hence my ability to begin singing song lyrics that I honestly have no idea "how" I know them… But you're right – when a song is done right (just like a novel), we feel that the creator has tailored those words to OUR situation. The beauty of the creative arts, I think!

    1. Thanks, Melissa, and totally agreed! And I'm not cringing at all … when I was 3-5 (late 70s/early 80s), I used to dance in the kitchen with my Mom to lots and lots of disco tunes on our reel-to-reel, 😉 A 5th of Beethoven was my favorite tune for ages and ages! The 70s rocked for music!

  5. Pingback: Music, Part Two » Portland Freelance Writer

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