I don’t really do lists. I find all that ranking and quantifying to be a) generally something men seem concerned with and b) impossible. I mean, to say that I adored x song over y by z amount isn’t how I consume anything, let alone art. So, instead of a bumper End O’ Year list, here’s the collection of songs; maybe I put them on mixes for my friends, maybe I yelled them loud over the sound of the freeway, maybe I felt them hard.
Maybe you will too.
1. Okkervil River - Unless it’s Kicks
“What gives this mess some grace unless it's kicks, man? Unless it’s fictions, unless it's sweat or it's songs?
I could simply reprint the lyrics to this very song to describe it, the way that heavenly song punches right through my mind and just hums through my blood
; but as somebody who strives for nothing more than to scratch my words into another’s mind for just a few brief moments, that wouldn’t do it justice. See, I spent this year writing, which makes it no difference to most other years, but what happened this time around was that I got to be a Writer. It shouldn’t matter, but the external validation getting paid provides is something real, something that lets me keep my posture a little straighter when asked, inevitably, ‘So are you published?’ This song is not just meta in the outside-in way we know so well—detached, observational—but meta in the way it delves into the murky world of what it means to create for somebody else’s consumption; the delicate line between your heart on the page (or verse, or canvas) and those lines spilling from somebody’s lips. I’ll always remember the first time I heard my own words quoted back to me: a strange burn of satisfaction edged with the metallic discomfort of knowing I was no longer in a vacuum, that those words didn’t belong to me anymore.
Will Scheff nails a lot of things here, from the relentless drive to create, to the uneasy reality that exists one step past that creation, and he does it all with a melody that takes flight behind my ribcage, every damn time. It’s easy to say that something soars, but even that word doesn’t quite cage the lift and flutter as drums and riff and voice weave higher and wind into something perfect. We always have that safety net, you see, time and again. “At least it’s material” we say, and wait for the next thing to become real, but this song manages to craft reality out of the mere act of creation, and that, my friends, is what this year was to me.
Labels: fandom, meta, okkervil river, the Killigrew, western Mass