Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Well, this looks to be an interesting installment of Top 5 Tuesday. I have long since wished to write a music-based list-if you’ll recall, my very first Top 5 was devoted to my musical obsession inclination for Coldplay. I was puttering away in my yard today, admiring the rainbow made by the sparkling shower of water that I generously bestowed upon a dry patch under the chestnut tree, all the while contemplating my list for the week, when I quickly realized that I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. At that very moment, I was listening to a playlist that I cleverly gave the original title “Jessica Four”-yes, that would be the fourth playlist that I have created to pass along to my best friend, Pretty Cheap Dress. Now, you should know that she is absolutely NO SLOUCH when it comes to music; in fact, she is a veritable oracle, with a remarkable and uncanny ability to discern the promise and quality of new and old artists. It’s just one of her many talents, actually.

Over the years, Pretty Cheap Dress has taught me a lot. When I first met her, I was almost four years her senior, but you would never have known it. She exuded wisdom and wit, and she wasn’t like anyone I had ever met. Almost ten years later, that’s still true. We have endured trials and tribulations of our separate lives together, laughed and cried at things both ridiculous and real, and managed to remain close in spite of what feels like (and most of the time, actually IS) thousands of miles between us. She is truly my kindred spirit.

Music has always been a vital part of Pretty Cheap Dress’s life, and she most willingly and exuberantly proclaims that to anyone that will listen. When I met her, I had a typical Top 40 attitude towards music-it’s not that I didn’t love it, but I usually listened to the same thing, and easily got swept up in romantic ballads or catchy summer tunes. Of course, there is NOTHING wrong with that, and I still confess to loving sweet songs and summer anthems. It was just revolutionary to thing about the song I listened to in a different way, or to embrace the notion of sifting through a pile of albums in search of something great. This kind of behavior is what Pretty Cheap Dress admonished.

I met all sorts of artists for the first time through Pretty Cheap Dress. On our road trip to New York, she played Sublime, who believe it or not, I had never heard before. I still remember the sun beating down on us as we cruised through Georgia, Pretty Cheap Dress belting out “…on lock down like a penetentiarrrryyyyy…” Of course, I loved it. Just a few months before that, when I visited both Pretty Cheap Dress and my beloved sister at Texas Tech, a certain unknown guy (he was TOTALLY unknown at the time) named Jack Johnson was singing “Flake” in her stereo on repeat. She dragged me up to sing karaoke with her once, and to my shock and terror, instead of selecting a comfortable, familiar favorite, like “I Will Survive”, she gave a fabulous, theatrical performance of “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, by Cake. “What IS this???” I thought to myself at the time, but now, every time I hear that song on my Ipod, I get totally into it.

I found out about the new artists gracing the Grey’s Anatomy soundtracks because of Pretty Cheap Dress, who called and insisted that I immediately purchase Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack: Volume One, because there was this “great” song on it by a little band called Go Set Go. My love for Sheryl Crow branched out beyond “If It Makes You Happy” to include “The Difficult Kind” and “My Favorite Mistake.” When I would jump into Bessie, Pretty Cheap Dress’s second car (after the untimely death of Betsy, her first car), I would find it was just as likely that we might jam out to Missy Elliott as it was that we might enjoy a few Radiohead tunes. We might breathlessly sing, word for word “You Can’t Hurry Love” or turn up Pat Green as loud as he’d go. Pretty Cheap Dress always employs a makeshift microphone, and she likes to toss in choreography, pretending to do tae bo when we listened to “Drops of Jupiter” or demonstrating the length of the aforementioned “loooooooong jacket.

It’s because of Pretty Cheap Dress that I ever even discovered a Coldplay song beyond “Yellow”, or that I paid closer attention to they lyrics of “In Your Eyes.” She is why my favorite Feist song is “I Feel it All”, not “1-2-3-4.” I can talk with her about the likes of Taylor Swift and The Decemberists, and she’ll happily share what she loves about both. She appreciates my less-than-stellar playlists, which can only aspire to the greatness of her own, and we have made a habit of using music lyrics as subject lines for our e-mails. I love music more, and have experienced so much more from its benefits, because of her.

Thus, this week’s list will be a concise little gathering of five artists (and one accompanying song) that I am now acquainted with and love, because of the influence of Pretty Cheap Dress. Perhaps you’ll check one of them out, or maybe you’ve heard it all before. Either way, I think it does us all a bit of good to dwell on music for a while.

5. Jenny Lewis, "Rise Up with Fists." For our second Coldplay concert at Madison Square Garden, circa 2005, a great little band called Rilo Kiley was the opening act. What I remember the most about them, besides the immensely appealing tune “Portions for Foxes”, which would later feature prominently in the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy, was the feisty lead singer, wearing a bright red vintage dress and throwing herself into the music with wild abandon. That was my first introduction to Jenny Lewis, and she made a strong impression. “Rise Up with Fists” comes from her solo debut, a soulful, quirky album.

4. MGMT, "Time to Pretend." While I don’t necessarily endorse the notions set forth in the lyrics of the song, I was totally enraptured the first time I heard it. I'm now inclined to put it on repeat for hours.

3. My Morning Jacket, "Knot Comes Loose." The first time I heard this album (“Z”), I couldn’t believe that the same band recorded every song. They’re all unique, with a different sound, almost as if you can’t really pin down the genre. This particular song is my favorite, so heartbreaking and sweet at the same time.

2. Kings of Leon, "Revelry." Hmmmm, Kings of Leon. Love these guys. I feel that the best way to describe them is “sensual southern rock.” I think they might be my new addiction.

1. Jack Johnson, "Cocoon." It’s been a long time since we cruised the highways in Lubbock, rich, chocolate brown plains on either side, becoming quickly enamored with Jack’s quiet soul. He’s now a tremendous success, selling millions of records, going on sold-out tours, and headlining popular music festivals. While I love all his albums, and in fact, take comfort in their familiarity and common themes, I think I’m most attached to “On and On”, the second album. During my first summer teaching in New York, I listened to it regularly on the interminable, exhausting daily commute between Connecticut and the Bronx, and on many, MANY hot summer evenings, my SH and I could hear the album streaming through an open window of the apartment building across the street. We’d relax at the dinner table, and I would scoot my chair over close to his every time “Cocoon” finally came on. “I don’t want to be your regret, I’d rather be your cocoon.” Swoon. That Jack Johnson can be a romantic-he hasn’t spent all his time strumming his guitar on a beach by a roaring bonfire. Though I do like to think of him that way…

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*You should also take a moment to actually visit Pretty Cheap Dress. There's no excuse! I've included so many links I'm practically dizzy from highlighting them!

**UPDATE: This very day, look at what arrived in the mail!

Straight from Pretty Cheap Dress herself.


J & Co. said...

Ah, I see you rec'd my Swine Flu mask! Ha, YOUUU are too sweet to me :) That was absolutely beautiful! I was smiling ear-ta-ear with each and every word (my captcha says "glowe"!!). I love you so which is REALLY why we have and can share kindred spirits. I don't know what I would do without you...love you!


J & Co. said...

p.s.--MUCH approve the list! It's like I completely forgot about "Rise Up"!