What makes us fall in love with a song? In all my years on this planet the closest I have ever come to answering that question is a half-assed understanding that everyone connects with music in their own way. What makes my heart soar may bore others to death. Likewise, the hits people cannot get enough of often make me feel like I’ve lost touch with what is ‘trendy’ at the moment. The best you can hope to do is find something that works for you and support that project or group or album or single in whatever way you can. As I am a writer, it’s through the written word that I profess my love and make my admiration known, which is why this post first came to life.
The past week has taken me hallways across the country and back again. My family reside in the midwest, but I have been a resident of Boston – aka the world’s greatest city – for nearly five years. I take vacations every year, but the majority of my ‘free time’ is spent visiting loved ones over a thousand miles away from my tiny, one bedroom apartment. As a result, I have had a lot of time to dig into new music and the records people have been telling me to check out. I don’t have any hard data on the amount of music that has passed through my headphones over the last seven days, but I can think of at least half a dozen albums and a handful of major promotional singles. Most of it was good, some of it was bad, but only one album kept me coming back for more and more: I Can See Mountains.
Full disclosure: I am helping I Can See Mountains press their latest EP, Gone Beachy, to vinyl. You may think that makes me bias, and I guess in a way it probably does, but the only reason I even spoke to the band in the first place about working together was because I had the opportunity to hear Gone Beachy early and immediately felt a strong type of connection to the material that has been unmatched by every other release of 2014. I had no intentions of putting it out at first. In fact, I thought they would probably say no, but when you are so moved by something that you find yourself scrolling to that record or single every time you go to listen to music then I believe it is the responsibility of every music to promote, support, and otherwise nourish that talent as much as they are able. I believe it’s impossible for anyone to truly explain the connection they have with any one release. It may be due in part to the music or lyrics, maybe even the combination of the two, but there is also something else. Something more, if you will. This intangible, impossible to describe force that makes you feel as if the universe has brought this work of art to life solely to reach you in your time of need. You might not even have known you were looking for an answer or a friend, but then the music begins and the feels come flowing out. It happens to everyone, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably just a little embarrassed by whatever material has grabbed their heart strings. If that applies to you, it’s okay. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. There is only the shame you feel because of how society tells you to feel about a certain type of music.
“I swear / you caught me staring / the lighting was awful / but the moment was perfect for me”
When it came to I Can See Mountains and their Gone Beachy EP, my initial connection with the record was forged when the first few notes of “My Aquatic” poured through my speakers at the tail end of May. It’s a dizzying rush of melodic guitar work that is both hypnotic and catchy. More importantly, the evolution between the band’s 2013 full-length and now was obvious from the get go, and as the song played out I began to fall in love with their unique take on Buffalo, NY influenced indie rock all over again. My heart was happy, but I would not say I was moved. It was more intrigue than anything, and it worked well enough to keep me listening as the first track transitioned into the second.
”I looked up at the sun above the trees / bright lights, big city are over me / I’m beat up but not defeated / I’m half raised like a lower case ’t’”
“Bald” begins with a few unassuming chords that feel pulled from a Sunday morning church service and quickly transition into driving and pulsating drum-filled verse that opens with a vision of a night that seems like it will never end. Everyone is taking everything out on our protagonist, who seems firmly transfixed on the challenges of growing up, who speaks and feels far older than his age would lead you to believe. He ponders if he’s truly his own person, or if he’ll simply fall into line like his elders did, but eventually realizes that he’s already started down his own path and only needs to stay focused in order to become the person he always wanted to be.
Listening to this song takes me back to every night over the last decade I have spent questioning my own life and career choices. Living in a city far away from the small town where I grew up, trips home often make me feel like some things never change, which makes me question whether or not we can actually change our own lives. Are we truly capable to create our own destiny, or has fate predetermined the course I will follow, thus negating any reason for me to try and be something different than what I have always been? That’s a tough question for anyone, and I think it’s something we all find ourselves asking at one point or another in our lives. If you’re smart, you eventually decide that regardless of what is actually true you are better off fighting to be who you want to be than settling for anything less. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to see things in that light. “Bald” focuses mainly on those who do, but as with any kind of art there is plenty of room to read between the lines.
”I wanna hold you close / for the record I’m an asshole”
This is where the feels train really begins to pull into the metaphorical station. “She’s My Bobby Orr, Pt. 2” was a song I was immediately curious about as I knew it to be a musical sequel to one of my favorite I Can See Mountains’ songs. To my surprise, it not only entertained, but legitimately moved me to tears on a first play through. It’s not the kind of track you would initially classify as a ‘unique love song,’ but as it plays out it becomes clear that is exactly what the guys in ICSM had in mind when they penned the lyrics at the beginning of the year. There is an urgency to each line, as if you’re listening to one hopeless romantic asking another to close their eyes and jump into one of those crazy things we call a relationship. It’s not just a crush, it’s a full blown romance from day one, and our protagonist is focused solely on conveying his emotion to the one who has caught his eye. He doesn’t want a date or a one night stand. He wants a wife and a family, but only if she wants that too. He wants her to be as happy as her very existence makes him and if that doesn’t melt your heart you may need to double check that their is still a muscle beating in your chest.
When I first heard “She’s My Bobby Orr, Pt. 2” I was not reminded of a single relationship I had actually experienced. Instead, I was taken back to all those random moments on subway trains and crowded streets when your eyes fall on someone who makes every bone in your body tingle with excitement. There is a sexual element, sure, but this – again – is something more. You don’t know how you ever lived before this person crossed your path and you’re immediately fighting the knowledge that in a few brief moments you’ll pass one another and move on with existence (or run to your laptop and post a ‘missed connection’ on Craigslist, which later goes viral because you sound more like a crazy person than someone capable of feeling true emotion).
…But what if you didn’t? What if you saw that person and dropped whatever else you were doing to express just how amazing you think they are even though it’s a feeling you cannot explain. You would probably trip over yourself a bit, foolishly downplaying your own good qualities because something inside tells you to cut yourself down so you don’t sound like a crazy person, which is exactly how the verses play out on “She’s My Bobby Orr Pt. 2.” They take a chance on honesty and go for broke. I don’t know if the girl the song was written for was won over with the final product, but I sure as hell was, and the same goes for every person I’ve shared the song with to date. If you haven’t heard it yet, do so below:
By the time I realized my iTunes had played “She’s My Bobby Orr Pt. 2” for the sixth consecutive time I knew I had to do something to make more people aware of the recordings found on Gone Beachy. I knew I Can See Mountains had previously worked with Panic Records, which is a company a bit larger than my own label, so I assumed the most we could ever hope to do is collaborate with the guys in ICSM on a feature or two for UTG. That would have been enough in my book because it would have given me the opportunity to express the impact the music had on my life from the very first spin. Something told me I could do more, however, so I wrote the guys on a whim and asked if they would be interested in working with my label (Antique Records) on Gone Beachy. To my surprise, they said yes, and within a week I was placing an order to United Record Pressing for 300 7” vinyl.
I know not everyone who hears Gone Beachy will feel the same way about it that I do. In fact, I anticipated at least a few people will flat out say it sucks, but that’s part of the give and take that comes with being a passionate music fan. This is one of, if not the most subjective of any art form, and the fact anyone can write a song that connects with more than a handful of people is as an absolute miracle. The fact some have the ability to do more than just connect, even moving people to feel certain ways or making certain changes in their life, is something I am in awe of on a daily basis. Every person is different and every relationship is too, but for whatever random twist of evolutionary fate we have learned that we can relate to one another through metaphor and rhyme. That’s astounding.
There will never be a record label for every person who loves music, and the chances that you will ever be in a position to financially support your favorite artist to a significant degree are slim to none, but believe me when I say that those facts in no way downplay the power your voice has to help artists and groups alike. I created UTG for the sole purpose of using my voice to reach artists, and at that point in my life I barely had friends, let alone an audience. It did not take long for people to recognize my passion for music once I began sharing it, and over time that recognition allowed me to do more to help the artists I love. The same can happen to you, even if you have no interest in ever working in the music business full time. If you love something, be it music, art, film, photography, books, podcasts, or anything in between then you should share that love with the world. You never know who will connect with or the lives that you will help change. There are probably a thousand people who feel the same way you do or are going through similar situations, but you never know until you put yourself out there. Once you do that, your audience will begin to find you, and if you’re lucky they too will take it upon themselves to promote your efforts to the those they know and love. Additional connections will be made, networking opportunities will present themselves, and before you know it you will be well on your way to bettering you ability to help the artists you love. Who knows, you might even make a career for yourself in the process, but always remember that if you’re writing about others with personal gain in mind the likelihood you will succeed pretty much bottoms out.