For when you're in the middle of it

For when you're in the middle of it

My playlist for Metalbot Mixtape

I just recently joined Equinix Metal and one of the ways the folks there get to know eachother is by having someone sharing a Mixtape/playlist with team on Fridays. So they asked me for this week and I figured, sure, I'll throw together some songs I like and it'll be great, easy enough. But then ADHD. As I tweeted, sometimes having hyperfocus means spending FAR too much energy putting 5 songs together for a fun office playlist because you got inspired partway through and just HAVE to  get it done right even if that means typing up over 600 words just to get it out of your brain.

Fair warning, the whole concept is a bit overwrought, but once I got on the idea I had to see it through to the end. And so finally, here it is. (for effect imagine a cassette labeled "For when you're in the middle of it".)

Photo by Idin Ebrahimi / Unsplash

Tracklist

  1. "Getting Ready to Get Down" - honeyhoney
  2. "In Hell I'll Be in Good Company" - The Dead South
  3. "The Queer Gospel" - Erin McKeown
  4. "A Better Son/Daughter" - Rilo Kiley
  5. "This Year" - The Mountain Goats

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Liner Notes

I listen to a lot of different styles of music, but this one ended up in the singer/songwriter and americana end of the dial. Five tracks for when it feels like the world is against you and you're just not good enough, but you're determined to make it through or go down fighting.

"Getting Ready to Get Down" - honeyhoney

We start off high energy with honeyhoney’s rendition of Josh Ritter’s “Getting Ready to Get Down” off The Guest Book, Season One (2018) soundtrack. It’s a song all about not living up to other’s expectations of you, about being a different person than that and despite it all, getting ready to get down! I think honeyhoney inject a lot of fun here with excellent high/low harmonies and a bit of a more energetic pace than the renditions I’ve heard from Ritter.

"In Hell I'll Be In Good Company" - The Dead South

Following the Americana vibes and carrying some of the religious tones from the first track, we get Canadian bluegrass band The Dead South singing the eponymous “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” off of Good Company (2014). This one maybe fits the least in literal song translation, but the stripped bare accompaniment and overall message here gives the song its place. Abandonded by everyone else and headed for Hell, at least I'll be in good company.

"The Queer Gospel" - Erin McKeown

Midway through we start our redemption arc with Erin McKeown’s “The Queer Gospel” from Mirrors Break Back / According to Us (2017). It’s one thing to be true to yourself and consequences be damned, but leaving home, family and community is hard. We all need and deserve love for just being who we are and where we are. This is a bit about learning to give that to ourselves and acknowledging we all need love and family, blood or found. “In this shall we shall ever be wholly ourselves…glorious and free”.

"A Better Son/Daughter" - Rilo Kiley

This one takes a break from the religious imagery of the first few tracks, but leans hard on the family angle. Jenny Lewis & Blake Sennett’s “A Better Son/Daughter” from Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things (2002) is just an exquisite picture of struggling through the darkness. Aimed at mental health and generational trauma specifically, but resonant for everyone, I think. The prominent snare marching rhythm gives this song the feeling of a march, encouraging us into battle against our demons, to push through or go down fighting all of them.

"This Year" - The Mountain Goats

And we’ll conclude with a song that I’ll admit to having sung/wailed/sobbed through tears and snot and cracking vocals on some of my worst days. John Darnielle’s “This Year” is one of my most played Mountain Goat’s songs off The Sunset Tree (2005). A song about dark times and a determination to make it through the next year. The religious imagery for us here returns for just a single line at the end promising “feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year” and the anthemic chorus determined as ever “to make it through this year if it kills me”.

And here is where our journey ends — still in darkness, with just a glimmer of hope on the horizon — because so often that’s where we find ourselves in life and indeed where it can feel like we are at year 2 into a global pandemic. There’s no guarantees, we’re not preordained to make it through, we need to find the determination in ourselves to not give up, to make it through this year to find or build something better or go down fighting.

To all the grief, and to all of you wherever you are, I love you, you don't have to fight alone, let's fight together.

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