The other day I was listening to my (perfectly) curated “Fall Fall Fall” seasonal playlist made by yours truly on Spotify and as one of my favourite tunes came on I had this unexpected epiphany about the song that sent me into a spiral of random and interconnected thoughts about repetition. Herein is my attempt to summarize those thoughts in a (hopefully) coherent and eloquent manner for no reason other than getting it out of my brain and onto (virtual) paper. Let me repeat: This is random, but it is interconnected. Or if anything, it feels interconnected. Let’s start by playing this song on repeat:
This lovely track by The Morning Benders has been a favourite of mine for a few months – it inevitably makes it onto most of the playlists that I put together and whenever I hear it I always get all sorts of feels. It’s got all the good things you want to hear in a great song: A slow build up at the beginning, a rolling drum that prevails through the course of the 5 minutes of song, a bridge that sucks you in by dropping most of the instruments and focusing mainly on layered vocals before building back up with all the sounds… It’s a goodie. I’ve listened to it countless times (often on repeat) and love love love it. But something clicked for me the other day when it came on that I had never noticed before. Right around the 40 second mark, after that awesome introductory build up at the beginning of the song, the music swells with strings and a very familiar melody comes into play… Do you hear it?
Did I imagine it, or is there something resonating in those strings that sounds just a little like the strings in this endlessly classic love song? It isn’t exactly the same but there’s this slight familiarity that suddenly became very apparent to me in that moment and I haven’t been able to shake it since. This isn’t to say that I think “Excuses” is copying “At Last” – it’s been years since I’ve read sheet music but I’m sure if you put these two songs side by side they would differ – and it’s quite possible that nobody else will hear this the same way that I do. But to me, the connection is there and it only made me love the song even more.
This newly born enhanced admiration is fascinating. Why is it that I love something even more now that it reminds me of something else that I’ve loved for ages? Is it the familiarity? Is it like the comfort of an old and trusted friend? Is it the fact that repetition is something that I love and embrace whenever possible? I’m certainly guilty of incorporating repetition into my life on a regular basis – songs are repeated multiple times across the playlists that I create on Spotify, I’ve re-read books that I adore countless times (can I get an amen from other HP fans out there?), I will happily watch my favourite TV shows or movies multiple times to the point that I can throw out obscure quotes without any prompting, and I even feel the act of writing this blog to be one of the most feel-good repetitive activities in my life. And now, as I write these words, it is starting to occur to me that it’s not really surprising at all that I love repetition, because it allows me to fill my life with things that I know I adore with complete certainty.
If we apply this idea universally, I think it explains why we see (and more importantly, accept) repetition in so many areas of our lives. We all love the chorus of a song because it’s same words repeated over and over, allowing us to recognize, appreciate, and sing along. It seems like every other song on the radio these days includes a sample from an older song that we all know and love… And because these new artists are drawing from classics that are timeless, they are sure to pull in a wider audience – even the kids who don’t know the original may feel a nostalgic familiarity when they hear the music, perhaps from that one time on the radio when they were quite young or at a distance from an older sibling’s bedroom. Reboots of old movies and sequels seem to achieve the same thing – it’s like all of Hollywood collectively had a realization that remakes and extensions of stories = box office gold. What’s not to love? A classic story is timeless, so retelling it with a slightly new spin is just another way to relive it again and again.
In my English Literature days at university, one of my graduating seminar courses was all about those epic stories that we retell over and over thematically with only minor changes in the plot. The fight of good against evil. The flawed hero. The journey to a distant land and triumphant (or sometimes bittersweet) return home. The evolution of a character from naive youth to wise (or disillusioned) adulthood. Do we tell the same stories and love them unconditionally because their formulaic beginning, middle, and end are predictable but still surprising in their minor variances? What’s that saying? “We are creatures of habit.” We embrace the repetition because we know what to expect and are delighted when what we thought would happen transpires exactly as we predicted.
It’s such a funny concept, because we love that predictable and comfortable feeling of repetition but we are equally thrilled when we are presented with something completely new. Every album by Radiohead is drastically different than the last and nothing ever sounds like anything they’ve done before… And while that consistency of newness is an act of repetition in itself, that novelty produces a feeling unlike anything I can get out of listening to a favourite old song on repeat. The same goes for a film or any type of story that shocks us with a surprise ending or twist along the way that goes against the conventional story-telling that we’ve come to expect in our repeat-saturated society. I love a movie that ends with the main characters not reuniting after a ridiculously romantic grand gesture. I adore stories that end abruptly with no clear indication as to the resolution or aftermath of the climax. I like it when we abandon the repetition every now and then.
This tension between the conventional and unconventional has been on my mind for a few days. I know without question that I love repeat offenders. But I know that I have an equal passion for that which is brand new and unfamiliar – I’ve even written about embracing that type of discomfort on this very blog in the last year. And while the focus of this post has been purely around stories and music, my line of thinking extends to how we live our lives and interact with each other. So much has changed in my life in the last year and while I’ve settled into new routines (thereby grounding myself in repeating familiar daily and weekly activities), I’ve also found myself venturing into unknown territory that’s far from the standard mould of life that I (or society) believed was the only way of living. I followed one template for life (and lived it well) for many years and then it fell apart… Leading me to question if that template is the right one for me, or if there is a different template that exists that I ought to follow, or if I just need to live life without any template at all… Which would be a life of zero repetition in the act of doing things differently and embracing the new or unknown. (Scary! Maybe Exciting!)
As I run through the list of things that repeat in my life that I love passionately, #1 on the list has to be the changing of the seasons. The consistency of observing one season melt into the next is probably one of the most beautiful markers of the passage of time in my life. Spring will always follow Winter. The leaves will always change colour as Summer transitions to Fall. The sun will set in a different spot in the sky throughout the course of a year. In this corner of the world, I know with certainty that the seasons at their very core will always be a constant in my life and that’s incredibly comforting. But, at the same time, I know that every season will be a little bit different than the last… We can know without question that it will eventually snow here, but when and how much is unknown.
So maybe that’s the trick to finding a balance between repeat offenders and new inventors. We can embrace repetition by acknowledging and nodding to things that occurred in the past while simultaneously valuing and striving for something just a little bit different and somewhat new within the act of repeating. For all I know, “Excuses” is an intentional riff on “At Last” (I think that they are both hopelessly romantic in their own way within their respective eras). This blog is often an unintentional source of repetition – whenever I write a post, I question if I’ve used the same words too many times or if I’ve repeated certain phrases or ideas in older posts, but even in that doubt I know that there’s a unique story in every post, even when it refers back to something I’ve already spoken about. And anyway, I think I’ve decided that repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing… In fact, I actively embraced it today. (Did you notice the repeated use of brackets? Didn’t I already have a blog post title that refers to repeat offenders? Did I use the word repetition a lot? Did I ask several open-ended questions?) Let me repeat: This is random, but it is interconnected.
Does anyone else remember this Apple commercial?
It popped into my head yesterday on my drive home from work as I was dancing in my car in traffic (you’re welcome by the way, fellow commuters, for those entertaining moves) and I had this pretty huge revelation that music is in fact my boyfriend. To be clear, this isn’t because I am now single – even when I was with my ex I was essentially cheating on him every day with music, my true and unwavering lover. Thank you, CSS, for creating Music Is My Hot Hot Sex, because this song literally describes a reality that I think many of us feel, which is that music can be someone’s life, their escape, their release, their passion, their religion, their everything.
Is this a universal truth? Maybe not. I know some people who aren’t bothered by silence and feel no need to fill their lives with music. But for me, my life isn’t really complete without a soundtrack and I can’t imagine a world without the incredible compositions and words that fill my ears on a daily basis.
Before I go any further though… can we talk about that Apple commercial? It is almost unbearably dated, so much so that I had to watch it three times and found myself laughing harder and harder with each viewing. iPods! The size and shape of the device! That keyboard! Those app icons! The blue bar at the bottom of Safari! iTunes!!! They all look archaic! And I’m pretty sure this only dates back to the late 2000’s… yikes. I feel old.
But about my boyfriend. He’s the greatest. He always knows exactly how to change my mood when I need it, or complement it when I just want to embrace the emotion I happen to be feeling in a given moment. He takes me dancing, he helps me fall asleep, he keeps me company when I’m cooking dinner, he makes cleaning the house waaaaaay more fun, he helps me stay sane when I’m stuck in traffic, he keeps me calm and happy when I’m at work, and he fills my life with love.
It’s sort of challenging to write about something auditory – how can I really explain my love of music when all I have is words? The only option is to embrace the medium and share some lyrics from a very small sampling of some of the songs that I love. Disclaimer: This is probably the most random collection of quotes you will come across in your lifetime… Some are happy. Some are sad. Some are deep. Some are silly. Some are weird. Some are really special to me. I present these with no commentary – just the words are enough, at least for me. I hope you enjoy them.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” Bob Marley, Trenchtown Rock.
“If there was a better way to go then it would find me, I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me, Be kind to me, or treat me mean, I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine.” Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine.
“It’s the terror of knowing, What this world is about…” Queen + David Bowie, Under Pressure.
“Love is the answer, At least for most of the questions in my heart, Like: Why are we here, and Where do we go, and How come it’s so hard?” Jack Johnson, Better Together.
“Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life, Try to make ends meet, You’re a slave to money then you die.” The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony.
“When food is gone you are my daily meal.” Florence and the Machine, You’ve Got The Love.
“No one will be watching us, Why don’t we do it in the road?” The Beatles, Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.
“I’ll write you a song and it won’t be hard to sing, It will be a natural anthem, familiar it will seem.” The Postal Service, Natural Anthem.
“Now how can he have her heart, When it got stole, So he tries to pacify her, Cause what’s inside her never dies.” Amy Winehouse, He Can Only Hold Her.
“When I was young, I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate.” Father John Misty, Bored In The USA.
“You were sorta punk rock, I grew up on hip hop, But you fit me better than my favourite sweater, and I know, That love is mean, and love hurts…” Lana Del Rey, Blue Jeans.
“I can’t tell you how I feel, My heart is like a wheel, Let me roll it.” Paul McCartney, Let Me Roll It.
“All my life I’ve stepped to the rhythm of the drums inside my head.” MØ, Walk This Way.
“Don’t get any big ideas, They’re not gonna happen.” Radiohead, Nude.
“Home is wherever I’m with you.” Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Home.
“I wish that I knew what I know now, When I was younger.” Faces, Ooh La La.
“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all, The opposite of love’s indifference.” The Lumineers, Stubborn Love.
“It’s not him who’d come across, The sea to surprise you, Not him who would know, Where in London to find you.” Feist, The Park.
“Stand beside it, we can’t hide the way it makes us glow, It’s no good unless it grows, feel this burning, love of mine.” Beach House, Take Care.
“We could slow dance to rock music, Kiss while we do it, Talk til we both turn blue…” Lana Del Rey, Freak.
Honestly, I could go on for hours and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. So many of the artists and genres I adore aren’t represented here – what can I say, it’s just impossible to really capture all of my boyfriend’s nuances and special traits! And this doesn’t even come close to covering songs without words (or songs with words that I can’t quite make out). Those wordless songs hit me just as hard as the poets I’ve quoted above. Is is possible for me to describe this feeling? When I hear certain chords or a sequence of notes that are so beautiful, or even the simple ooh-ing and ahh-ing of an amazing artist, it’s like this swelling emotion that starts in my heart and expands through my entire body. It fills me up and makes that intangible concept of one’s spirit feel real… because that energy and magic I feel when I listen to really good music can’t really be attributed to anything else but my spirit. Music. Are you my spirit animal?
I know, I’m gushing. I sound like someone who’s newly in love but the funny thing is, this boyfriend has been around forever and my love for him only grows. I love him. I will always love him. He is mine and I am his.
Dear Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin, Philip,
Let me start by saying thank you, for supplying the soundtrack to my life. I have enjoyed your music for many years, and I think this must really be true love. You are with me through it all. When I am feeling blue, I listen to you. When I am feeling anxious, I listen to you. When I am feeling happy, I listen to you. When I am feeling introspective, I listen to you. When I am feeling like I need to dance, I rock out with you.
Your music is beyond powerful. It takes only a few bars of your songs to instantly change my entire state of mind. I become more alert and I just can’t help but start to move along to the tunes. You calm me down, and make me feel more at peace by confirming that I am not alone when I think the world is a crazy place. I am so glad I found you, and that I have you to keep close to my heart (and ears).
I’ll be honest. I didn’t always feel this way. My older sister found you long before I did, and when she used to blast your songs from her bedroom in the basement, I wondered what that noise was and turned up my pop music in response. How I regret those early days of our relationship! If only I had stopped to appreciate the musical arrangements, and Thom’s hypnotic voice! But, we cannot dwell on the past. I am just grateful to have you now, and to share you with my other loved ones.
Let me add that I would not be able to stand the traffic without you. I count myself lucky that I have you to accompany me as I crawl along the highway, gripping my steering wheel, trying not to curse the people around me for being part of the hell that is rush hour. You’ve been particularly helpful at the end of those extra rough days at work – when everything seems to go wrong and I feel as though nobody is on my side, you’re always there to fill my soul with your beautiful music. Somehow, your angst calms my angst – it doesn’t go away, but it feels less consuming when it is shared.
I also wanted to specifically thank you for this amazing gift. I know I’m about 5 years late in sending my thanks, but my discovery of Scotch Mist was the highlight of my winter holidays at the start of 2008:
How close I felt to you after watching you together in your studio! What a beautiful treat for me, and the millions of others who adore you as I do! And, as intimate and captivating as it was, I was equally floored when I saw you on tour last year. You filled that stadium so completely with your sound, it was hard to believe you were this far away:
Please accept my apologies for only getting face time with you twice in my life. The stadium show was really something, but our first date was one I’ll never forget. A show outdoors, in the middle of the summer, what more could a girl ask for? I didn’t even mind the cold rain, or the very real stampede of people when the show ended. It was a night that I will hold close to my heart forever. Plus, it was a bonus that there happened to be fireworks too, although I’m not sure you enjoyed them as much as I did.
If I could be a rockstar and be chums with you, well, I think that would be just awesome. While writing this letter, I’ve also gotten lost in your website, just browsing around and falling into sections I’ve never seen before. You are amazing artists, and never stop surprising me.
Thank you for The King of Limbs, In Rainbows, Hail to the Thief, Amnesiac, Kid A, OK Computer, The Bends, Pablo Honey…for everything. Here’s to many more years together – I hope you know how much I love you, and how much your albums have meant to me.
With much love and deep appreciation, Andrea
Today I will share some thoughts on why I love (and secretly want to work for) Wes Anderson. This man is a genius. His films are beautiful; both heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time, he really captures that duality in a way that hits me straight in the gut. Watching his movies, I often find myself laughing and crying at the same time – and if that isn’t an accurate representation of life, what is?
The first time I saw a Wes Anderson movie, I was in my graduating year of High School. The Royal Tenenbaums came out and as I sat in the theatre watching that film, I knew I was seeing something special. I don’t think my life has been the same since that day – I had always loved how powerful movies can be in telling a story, but this was different. This was a highly stylized world that I needed to be part of. And so began my love affair with Wes Anderson (little does he know).
The following is an overview, in no particular order, of all the elements that make his work so amazing and endearing.
- The Dialogue. Sharp, witty, to the point, and always perfect – the dialogue in Anderson’s movies is hilarious and honest. He has collaborated with Roman Coppola, Noah Baumbach, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman on some serious gems that I have been known to quote at random. A few of my many favorites:
“If what I think is happening is happening, it better not be.” –Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) in Fantastic Mr. Fox
“This is an adventure.” –Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (100% the inspiration for my blog’s name.)
“Royal O’Reilly Tenenbaum 1932-2001 Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship” -The inscription on Royal Tenenbaum’s grave in The Royal Tenenbaums (Not a quote but an example of how much I love the writing.)
- The Letters. On a related note (pun intended?), the use of letters or drawings or other is pure genius. It feels so personal, and adds this extra layer to the character that would otherwise be missed. Sometimes the camera cuts away so quickly, you don’t even know what was said – but doesn’t that make it all the better?
- The Slow Motion. There seems to be at least one (if not many) in each of his films and, man, are they great.
- The Narrators. These films are so centered on story telling, it makes sense that most have narrators keeping us informed along the way. The last clip covered this but, hey, here’s another one for fun.
- The Family Dynamic. Aren’t all families a little dysfunctional, in one way or another? Anderson captures that dynamic in a really poignant way and I just love it.
- The Music. It is obvious that every song is carefully selected (probably long before anything else) for specific scenes. The original scores are also really fantastic; Alexandre Desplat has worked on Anderson’s last few movies and I find myself humming his tunes to myself every now and then. I recommend you check out the Music from Wes Anderson Movies playlist on Songza! It was a good day when I found that one. Music on film is so essential to setting the mood, and Anderson’s choices consistently enhance all of the other elements that make his work so great. Here’s a clip that really shows it all – the slow motion, the design, the music, the hilarious characters and circumstances…
I could probably write an entire series of posts about how much I admire these films. Really, the above list could have been 10 times longer and I still wouldn’t be able to capture what it is about Anderson that gets me. All I can say is, thank you Wes, for these beautiful stories.