It was never planned for me to write a post about music. When I first started this, I was going to keep it to books and writing and nothing else. Over the course of the past two years, I began bringing family matters into posts. I suppose it makes perfect sense: I am who I am as a direct result of my family and vice-versa. I also found other influences to bring in which, in total, makes me…me. And so, here I am talking about music. Again.
A previous post of mine talks specifically about music, as does this one, but I’ve never done an actual album review. But, after completing a full listen to Alanis Morissette’s album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, I felt compelled to talk about it.
Released in 1998, it was the long-awaited follow-up to her pop/angst album, Jagged Little Pill. In a lot of ways, “Junkie” had a lot to live up to. “Jagged” won Grammy’s Album of the Year in 1996. Alanis pulled in three more Grammys that night, so there was a whole lot riding on her next album. And, when Junkie started circulating, people really didn’t know what to make of it. I did, however, come to a decisive conclusion:
Now, I don’t mean awesome in the way that someone would also say, “badass” or “totally”. I mean awesome in the sense of its power and intensity. Jagged has its “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know”, both rife with anger and both subtle and obvious. Junkie, on the other hand, blasts you with emotion as soon as the opening song “Front Row” opens with Alanis’ harmonized emotional push. And that’s the theme of the album: emotion. About 30 seconds into “Front Row”, you have two choices: bail out or dig in. The album doesn’t–won’t–let up or let go of you. And I love it.
Wading through each song, there is an obvious (some would say over-) produced feel about it. Glen Ballard, hands down one of the industry’s best producers, has worked with Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, and Dave Matthews. Working with Alanis, the two created a rich and thick collection of 17 songs. The number of songs is also a little intimidating upon first glance. Plus, they’re not short songs either. Junkie has a running length of 72 minutes, which is massive for a single album. She could have easily thrown in one or more songs and turned it into a 2-disc album, but that, I feel, would have taken away from its presence. Looking at song titles like the incredibly haunting fourth song “Are You Still Mad” (by far my favorite track) and the simply young-yet-wisened “Unsent”, I could tell it was going to be intense and incredibly personal.
So here I am, listening to it for a second go-around tonight, and I think it’s the weight of the album that I love so much. And by weight, I don’t mean heavy. Perhaps…dense…is a better explanation. There’s very little acoustic guitar and just hints of her signature harmonica play. Even with her acquired-taste fully open-mouthed vocals, she spends a lot of time in the back of a small mouth. Her voice is often quiet and, at many times hanging in the lower register, which adds to the density of her songs. Being a singer myself, I love it when a performer’s voice truly becomes another instrument and adds to the fullness of each song.
I’m not sure if I’ve done the album any true justice. This is my first review and it’s subject to wandering. Perhaps it’s after listening to Junkie (twice) that I’m exhausted and ready to climb under some heavy blankets so I can continue to feel the same weight as I just experienced.
If you haven’t yet, give Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie a go. If you already have, give it another go. Just remember to hold your breath and give in. It’s safer if you do.
At times I feel like Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Especially during the part right before the mild-mannered scientist turns into the Hulk and punches the Massive Flying Metal Dinosaur Robot-thing in the face, he says, “I’m always angry”.
Sometimes I can relate.
Not that I’m going to turn into a monstrous green indestructible guy and rampage the city, but there are times I get frustrated and want to do nothing but yell and say potty words (for the PG audience). In order to work through it, I vent my frustration through music. I have a love of Nine Inch Nails and other “angry” music. On that “artist” side of me, I let myself get lost in the dark, primitive nature of my mind. It’s amazing what the imagination can conjure when in the right (or wrong) frame of mind. I try to channel most of it through me writing a very creepy adult novel and letting the frustration go. I suppose I could exercise and physically drain myself but…y’know, whatever.
But I embrace the balance.
Just as much as I love the angry stuff, I love happy pop bands and traditional world musicians. I will sing along or, just like when I’m frustrated, I fall into the music. There is a certain freedom which comes by opening yourself up and truly taking it all in. I really enjoy listening to “old world” musicians such as Loreena McKennitt and Dead Can Dance and, I have to admit it, Enya’s self-titled first album. While it’s modern and electronic, it has an old Celtic feel to it and it’s great when I’m writing.
So, in finding a balance to my senses of light and dark, I’ve come to enjoy listening to film scores, especially those from the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes films. Part three of my book takes place in an alternate Victorian London and they all fit perfectly. I can use them for the fun moments with Jac and the other spookier parts with the antagonist and his shadows and machines. Great stuff, but I might be biased.
So, there you go. Not sure if it’s the best way to deal with the black and white that makes up my mind and imagination, but it works for me. I’m sure there are those that say I shouldn’t feed the anger, and I really don’t. I just focus it towards something productive with my art. I have to say, I couldn’t imagine living that way all the time. You need to let it go before it swallows you whole.
Find your balance.
While I’ve always been a fan of 42, the idea of 41 freaks me out. And why the isolated fear of a prime number?
It’ll be my age not before long. While I will only have to endure the title for 365 days, it signifies more than just a number. Not only does 41 signify the beginning of my 4th decade spinning around the sun, it shows me where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m headed.
I’ve spent many years dwelling on the past, a poor past time for certain. It does nothing for me but focus on what I coulda’/shoulda’/woulda’ done differently, and that isn’t productive at all. That is not to say I shouldn’t learn from my mistakes (which I have yet to master), but I fixate on my poor choices and do nothing but stagnate in my own quagmire.
What I need to do is see what today holds for me. I could complain about the state of things, but all that does is look to the negative and that just lands me back into the quagmire. So, I must make a choice and look to that which is good and whole around me. And I have much to be thankful for: an amazing family both immediate and extended, a wonderful network of friends and colleagues (yes, I’m talking about you), and the promise that today brings. Throughout the day, celebrate all your victories, no matter how small. Even if I write one word in my book, I call it a win. Spending precious moments watching my children discover the world is a win. Sitting on the sofa with my wife, cuddling and watching a movie together, is a win. Even ruining dinner is a celebration of what not to do next time (or what to never try to cook again). And then, at days end, I look back on that day and celebrate my victories: helping make (and devour) a great homemade meal, watching the underdogs win, finding patience while my toddler throws an epic-sized tantrum, seeing the warm morning smile of my other kiddo, and every other moment where I grew and became a better version of myself.
Live your life today. Once the day’s over, you’ll never get it back, so live it well.
So that’s what I do now. Even if it’s a tiny win, it’s still a win. I’ve written far more than one word today, along with a hundred other wins today. Today was a good day. It was a great day.
I look forward to tomorrow so I can live for today.
1. A small introductory book on a subject.
2. A short informative piece of writing.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen! Salutations pupils and experts! My name is Stasey Norstrom and I am the Managing Editor for Professor Dobb’s Literary Primer For The Extraordinary. I have graciously accepted the task of tending to the professor’s ever-expanding library and sharing them in monthly installments. Each issue is dedicated to those new to these exciting realms and to those experts in the field looking to broaden their horizons and continue their education.
With each issue of what I commonly call Primer, you will find a wonderful collection of stories, essays, and reviews pertaining to the gritty and delicate world of Steampunk, as well as historical fiction and alternate historical fiction. You’ll find everything from sky pirates and debutantes to civil war automatons and roman pneumatics. It’s what I call science fiction of futures’ past.
Pull up a chair with your ladies’ group or sit back in your reading room with a snifter of brandy and enjoy our words of other-worldly wisdom.