And now, for something not so different…

Last post was about an accidental soundtrack of sorts. This one, not so much.

For better or for worse, music has always been a driving force in my life. It’s cheered me up and put me to sleep and calmed me down and inspired me to create when nobody else could. It’s been a caretaker of sorts.

Some of my earliest memories are of music. Singing in the car, watching Beauty and the Beast (and loving the music was about the only reason I’d watch, because the beast was scary as hell), my mom putting on music when she was cleaning or cooking, my dad conducting a symphony in the kitchen with a carving knife (I swear my childhood was completely normal!)… Not much takes me that far back that fondly.

Some of the most moving pieces of music I’ve come across are parts of (or even whole) soundtracks. Obviously, there’s Fantasia, but I’m talking about pieces and composers that aren’t necessarily instantly recognized. Alan Menken, for instance. Anyone know his name? Chances are, unless you’re a Disney-phile, you probably don’t. He wrote the scores for both Beauty and the Beast and Tangled, which are not entirely coincidentally my all-time favorite Disney movies. Listen to the prologue (also titled “The Enchantress”) of Beauty and the Beast. That little motif is what ties the story together for me, as you’ll note it is also used in “Transformation” near the end. As haunting and high and uncertain as it begins the movie, it returns a million times stronger and more brilliant, and I love both pieces equally. Though they’re musically similar, you cannot compare them and come out with one better than the other.

Menken’s work in Tangled was a bit less strong, I think, but “Kingdom Dance” is just so much fun, and the beginning of “The Tear Heals” is just perfect. I mean, the guy’s music is brilliant all around, and the songs you can sing along to are very catchy. There are days I wish I was a booming… whatever range Richard White (the voice of Gaston) is. Baritone? I dunno, and my more musically inclined brother will probably kill me if he ever sees this, but honestly, I can read music and sing, and I know the difference between a bass clef and a treble clef, and that’s all she wrote.

Several Miyazakai movies, most composed by Joe Hisaishi, make their way in here, too. Perhaps surprisingly, they’re the movies I tend to like less. Spirited Away had some pretty cool music, as did Howl’s Moving Castle, but my favorite pieces actually come from “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” (“Nausicaa’s Requiem”, also called “Lalala” earlier on) and “Castle In the Sky” (“Confessions in the Moonlight”).

And now, a sampling of a few more soundtracks that I just can’t seem to get away from: Despicable Me (especially the titular track by Pharell Williams), Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (and Commentary: The Musical), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (yes, the late-80’s B-movie—judge all you want), the soundtracks of the first two Shrek movies, Pokémon: the First Movie, Star Wars (the boyfriend proceeded to introduce me to this gem. I have not gotten over it since.), and, from Warehouse 13, “Running Up That Hill” as covered by Track and Field. I might have cried. Again, judge all you want.

Of course, there’s about a bajillion and two-thrids (possibly three-fourths) animes I’m not naming, and a few live action ones. (Okay, I’ll plug for a few more Disney movies: Parent Trap—the newer one, again, with no shame—and, from The Big Green, “I Believe in You” and “Sunny Side Up”. Holes had a good one going, too.) A few shows have given me lots of good music—Haven, Warehouse 13, Pretty Little Liars… Yes, I know. I know. I also recently picked up Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who, and each has a fairly good selection.

There’s also game soundtracks. Jazz Jackrabbit has an amazing one. I love most of the Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks, too. I particularly like DeDeDe’s theme in the Kirby games, as well as the Fountain of Dreams theme. Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary game-within-a-game had some pretty rockin’ music. And, of course, can’t forget Legend of Zelda.

As I’ve doubtless mentioned in at least one post, I’ve usually got a song or two that I’m just feeling at the moment—it sort of becomes my day’s (or week’s) soundtrack. Three Days Grace and Story of the Year are both good for attacking a very dirty bathroom. B*Witched is good for a happily creative day. Willa Ford and City High are for when I’m feeling particularly sassy. Nanne Grönvall (Yup, pullin’ out the Swedish, here.) is also a sassy one. P!nk for rebelliousness. Nightwish for sadness. Enya for meditation. And my whole “Before 2000” YouTube playlist for nostalgia.

Music: my drug (I would say my anti-drug, but I’ve never had the want to experiment in the first place), my life.

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First 5: an accidental soundtrack

So, the first 5 songs on my YouTube favorites playlist seem to knit together (albeit a little awkwardly at times) to tell a story. Not sure what story–I mostly see it as the beginning of Fantasia with just shapes and lines moving around. Nothing immediately springs to mind, but it’s a good creative playlist if one feels like creating something more dark and edgy, or just meditative, perhaps.

So, here they are, in order from first to fifth (and a bonus at the end):

1) “Radioactive” cover by Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix. I would write more to this, but the video is captivating.

2) “Berlin” by the Piano Guys. Really cool and, in my opinion, meditative.

3) “Skin” by Zola Jesus. You always think she’s going to burst into some full on rock, but no. And it works.

4) “Little Red Riding Hood” (cover?) by Laura Gibson. This is one of those songs where you know it’s dangerous, but you can’t help loving the story.

5) “Invisible” by Plumb. Not gonna lie–Pretty Little Liars is kind of a train wreck of a show, but it has definitely given me some really awesome music to listen to. (“Crush” by Aiden Hawken is a favorite.)

Confessions of a 90s child

Some days, I miss the 90’s.

I miss the overalls, the pogs, the crazy food and drink stuffs, books on tape and Little Golden Books, pretty much everything on these two Buzzfeed lists… The list goes on. I miss watching Gargoyles, The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, ReBoot, Recess, the first few seasons of Pokémon (ditto about Digimon), Monster Rancher, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, The Big Comfy Couch, The Magic Schoolbus, Darkwing Duck, Carebears (I still have a Wish Bear plush that I will not give up for anything), Pound Puppies, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Billy Nye the Science Guy, X-Men, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Looney Toons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pinky and the Brain, ZOOM, Wishbone, and so many more. (Seriously, don’t get me started on Disney movies…)

Thankfully, with the advent of YouTube, I don’t have to miss the music.

The first song I remember hearing on the radio was Sophie B. Hawkins’ “As I Lay Me Down to Sleep”—I’m about 3, and my uncle and aunt are driving me to their house, and I’m trying to sing along. Thus began my love affair with music I’d hear once and then never again for 13 or 14 years until YouTube and CLICK 98.9 came along. There was the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight”, Desree’s “You Gotta Be”, Fastball’s “The Way” and “Out of My Head”.  There was White Town’s “Your Woman”, “I2I” and “Stand Out” from A Goofy Movie, “Big Bad Wolf” by LL Cool J, “Romeo and Juliet” by S.O.A.P., and “Over My Shoulder” by Mike and the Mechanics.

I loved the Goo Goo Dolls, Heart, Backstreet Boys AND ‘NSync (complete heresy, but I didn’t care), Destiny’s Child, B*Witched, Nickelback (I refuse to be ashamed), Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, M2M, S Club 7, the music of pretty much every single damn Disney movie (this still holds true today, actually), Dave Matthews Band, Phil Collins, Van Morrison, CAKE, Savage Garden, Sheryl Crow, Enya… This list, too, could go on for quite a while.

Okay, yeah, I know some of those groups have definitely been around much longer than I have, but they were artists I heard often in the 90’s. I’m one of the youngest in my family, so I had little control over the radio for the longest time.

This is not all to say that I wish I could permanently live in the 90s. Computers half the size of my desk (and with much smaller screens for the area they took up) and cellphones the size of bricks weren’t exactly convenient. I was just born into an interesting world, on the cusp of two centuries, and while I just barely remember a lot of the things that used to be really different (and I probably remember only the good parts), it’s interesting to see how people not terribly older than me have trouble adapting, and kids who were just born in the last decade picking up things I totally would have known how to use and not even knowing their purpose.

It’s also not to say that I don’t like some of the music today, but the stuff played in my formative years will always hold a special spot in my heart, and even now, I tend to gravitate to songs that have a feel to them much like the songs I know from the 60’s to the 90’s. As for TV… I’m of the opinion that kids’ programming is less and less unique than it used to be, and far more inane. I mean, I’m all for PBS (Our cable was spotty growing up, so this was really my bread and butter), but I just can’t understand SpongeBob (and it scares me that Microsoft word recognizes that as a legit word) and Adventure Time. I guess what I miss most about the 90’s is that we weren’t delicate snowflakes. Kids’ programming actually tackled some pretty tough issues, and the bad guy sometimes won. There was a lot of political incorrectness (which wasn’t always great, I’ll grant) and sneaking crap past the radar. (Animaniacs and “fingerprints”, anyone?)

When it comes down to it, nostalgia is a powerful thing. A lot of us will think back to our formative years and say that those were the good old days, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s like how memories of a place we could call home and people we could call family make us feel safe and secure. Our upbringing is ingrained into us, but, at the same time, we do have to move with the changing tides.

I still hope that when I have kids, there are parts of my childhood I can share with them. Mostly the TV shows, though—not gonna lie. I feel like I actually did learn a lot from what I watched, and I had fun doing it, too. As my brother will forever quote me as saying, “Animaniacs taught me how not to be a douche” by example. As much as we should model good behavior for our kids, they should know what bad behavior looks like, too, lest they parrot everything they see because they’ve only ever had reinforcement to parrot.

And it doesn’t hurt that they’re all hilarious.

Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week

Since this week hasn’t been the best, I’m surprised these songs aren’t as sad as I’ve sometimes felt. I guess it’s the stubborn fighter in me that won’t give up.

Each of these songs is linked by their title to a YouTube video. I chose the videos for their sound quality, and yes, 3) is an Ouran High School Host Club AMV. No, I am not sorry.

1) “Into the Dark” — Melissa Etheridge

In the face of uncertainty, sometimes, it’s all I can do to cling to the past, even when “the dark” is a bright future. Right now, I’m almost done with college, and even though I know what I’ll be doing after, there’s a lot I don’t know, and, at times, that terrifies me.

2) “One Headlight” — The Wallflowers

An oldie-but-goodie, sometimes, I just limp along until I’m where I should be.

3) “Did Ya Understand That” — Willa Ford

I feel like I should be embarrassed for liking this song in the first place. And no, this is not aimed at the boyfriend. It’s just catchy and helps me keep pace while walking.

4) “Rise” — the Frames

I have two modes when I’m upset: shutting the world out and wallowing, and getting angry at myself for doing so. “One Headlight” was the former; this is the latter. I’ve gone through both phases this week. It wasn’t pretty.

5) “Hajimari No Kaze” — Ayaka Hirahara

I’m going through anime withdrawl. Don’t judge me. It also sort of (well, through the first half of the song, anyway) fits the theme of the week, if you can find a lyric translation somewhere. It really is a beautiful, relaxing song any way you slice it, though.