Live – Throwing Copper (1994)

The last concert I attended before the world shut down was actually several months before, in August of 2019. A trio of 90s alt rock bands—Bush, Live, and Our Lady Peace—under the heading “Altimate Tour.”

I had never really given a whole lot of thought to seeing Bush or Live . . . live, but Our Lady Peace was a longtime fixture on my concert bucket list.* I’ll come back to them, in the future, because I have a lot of thoughts, but this week, my feature is Throwing Copper by Live.

Released April 26, 1994, Throwing Copper was not the band’s only album, it wasn’t even their first, but somehow it was their strongest mainstream success. Even people who have never heard of the band at least know the track “Lightning Crashes.”

For me, the album holds memories of exactly what this blog is about: the soundtrack of a voluntary misfit. I spent the 90s as an outcast but in a lot of ways, it was my choice. I chose my friends. I chose my hobbies and activities. I chose my fate as a misfit, segregating myself from everyone who fit in.

My first real boyfriend was seventeen when I was fourteen, a senior when I was a freshman. He was the estranged son of my cousin’s neighbor who had moved back in with her after spending most of his life with his grandmother. We spent that summer sneaking around, hiding our whole relationship from my family because he was so close to eighteen.

This next part might sound a little familiar. One of our strongest connections was music. This is a running theme throughout my relationship history, which makes enough sense, considering . . . Running theme or not, it started with that first one.

My first ever, “hey, baby, they’re playing our song,” song was “All Over You.” I still think of that summer whenever I hear that track.

I think that’s how that “our song” bit works, though. Even after the relationship is over and the person has left your life, the song remains.

Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Sometimes, it’s difficult and painful at first but grows easier.

Sometimes your perception of the relationship changes, and with it, the emotions connected to the song.

Whatever the case, those “our song” songs stick with us, long after the end.

Her Space Holiday – The Young Machines (2003)

My senior year in college, a friend introduced me to a couple of his high school friends who had driven with him from their home in Texas to where we attended college in Colorado. It was the end of summer, a week before classes started for the fall and we spent most of that week together.

A long crazy story later, I was spending the week before Christmas with them, back in Texas. I had fostered a relationship with one of the friends my friend introduced me to, and he wanted me to meet his family.

One of our strongest connections had been that we were both writers, English majors in our respective colleges. The other was our love of music. I was less discerning in my tastes than he was; he was something of a snob, listening only to independent music with very little from the mainstream. I on the other hand was open to just about anything and loved the new sounds he continuously brought into my world.

And it was a lot.

We spent several hours during that week before Christmas, 2003, driving through the streets of Corpus Christi as he showed me his life, sharing music. He would play something, then I would play something.

One of those somethings, the one that really fits with the mission of this experiment—to re-examine music that has been lost to time and memory, to deep dive into old, forgotten favorites—was Her Space Holiday – The Young Machines.

Digging out this album, running through it top to bottom again with the goal of remembering what it was like to hear it the first time, I am left wondering why we forget about these things. Is it simply that our minds and memories contain only limited space to store things and as more things are piled on top, those new things force what is old and unused out through the bottom? In trying to choose something to write about each week, I am learning that I have forgotten more albums than I am likely to ever remember.

The thing that stands out so clear to me about Her Space Holiday is his juxtaposition of sound. The music is jaunty—soft beats from a drum machine, stringed and synthesized major chords—but the lyrics are dark and deeply, viscerally sad. A perfect example of this is the track “Japanese Gum.” This is the story of a girl seeking approval from boys, with the expectation that her behavior will eventually destroy her, but it is delivered through the sounds of a bright spring day. The music—coupled with the title, I think—brings to mind pastel images of cherry blossoms while the lyrics cut to the quick.

It’s not like I’m a slut
Or that I really like to fuck
I just want every boy I see
To walk away with part of me

Until there’s nothing left to hold
Until there’s nothing left to hate
I appreciate your help
But even you can’t save me from myself.

There is a certain catharsis in sad music, in hearing our sadness echoed back to us in someone else’s voice. I have, over the years, amassed quite a collection of sad music for those times when embracing the pain truly is the best option. Looking through these old, forgotten albums, revisiting these forgotten artists leads to the idea that I will not lose them again. I will work these masterful works of exquisite pain into my regular rotation, I will listen to them again and I will not forget.

Except I always do.

Some albums are destined for that fate. To be captivating then forgotten until they are needed again. They are not meant to be experienced casually, instead they are something for us to immerse ourselves into, to sink in and surround ourselves with the chords and the vocals, the heartache, the intensity. We sink into them for forty-five minutes, an hour, an afternoon, and then they are once again lost to the abyss.

There was so much music exchanged between my ex-fiance and I that when our relationship ended in flames, I had to put it all away. It all became so difficult to listen to, so painful, bringing to the surface memories of hours in his car, driving around Texas, Corpus Christi and Austin.

I eventually brought most of that music back into my life, after finding sounds that belonged purely to me, with no memory of him anywhere in the notes. After a while, I was able to ease back into the sounds we had shared. Some took longer than others. Her Space Holiday, with all of its visceral pain and sadness, was one that had to remain buried for a long time before I was able to face it comfortably, to once again enjoy the music for what it was, rather than what it represented to me.

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Simple Plan – No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls (2002)

This week, I take a slightly different approach to this whole “songs that shaped and changed me” blog thing. This week, we’re talking about an album that is important because it was the first. Not because I have a particularly deep connection to it but I do have a deep connection to the band and their catalog as a whole. That said, I present to you No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls, the 2002 debut from Canadian pop punk quintet, Simple Plan.

The year was 2002. I was in my third year of college, I was nursing a new crush (with whom I would later foster a strange relationship, but that’s a different story for a different blog) and in a lot of ways, finding my own way into adulthood.

I’ve talked a lot about the music of the 1990s, specifically 1994, but the music of the 2000s was the second wave. And it was a logical progression, in my mind, even looking back now. I grew from grunge to post punk to alternative to emo and pop punk. In that progression, I found a couple of bands that have stuck with me through the years—Something Corporate, Jimmy Eat World, and the subject of today’s retrospective, Simple Plan.

No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls was the debut from Canadian quintet, Simple Plan, was released on March 19, 2002. I can’t honestly say, for sure, when I first discovered it and them, but it wasn’t long after. I remember talking about them over beers with a friend later that summer.

The thing is, NONHJB wasn’t the most important album, to me, of that time period but it was a catalyst for something bigger, for twenty years of fandom.

I lost Something Corporate after two albums when Andrew McMahon decided to go it alone. Jimmy Eat World has remained consistent but never had quite the impact on my life as the other two. So, Simple Plan has remained a lasting force from that time—my early 20s, college, when everything stretched out before me, faced with endless possibilities, possibilities about what the future held as well as what I could be in that moment.

No Pads was fun, entertaining, even a little goofy (I offer you “My Alien”). It was filled, top to bottom, with songs of teen angst and love, both requited and un-. That crush I mentioned earlier? I still think of him when I hear “Addicted” and “I’d Do Anything,” even though we are two decades removed from that time in our lives. The cheerful tempo and bright cymbals of “Worst Day Ever” cemented it as an ironic pick-me-up at the end of a bad (or even just long) day.  And thanks to TikTok, “I’m Just a Kid” saw a full revival and introduction to a whole new set of fans in 2020-2021, with celebrities using it to compare themselves now to their breakout moments (the first one I saw was Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro throwing back to the early days of the Fresh Prince).

But just like so much of the music of the era, No Pads offered up “Perfect” as a punch to the emotional gut, a song about feeling like no matter how hard you try, you will never live up to the expectations of someone who doesn’t want you to.

I think that’s where Simple Plan truly hit me. In that realization that the most important opinion of who I am, what I am, is my own. That’s what so many teens and twenty-somethings needed to hear, still need to hear every day.

And it didn’t stop with “Perfect,” it just started there.

It was never just a phase.

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Madonna – Madonna (1983)

Without really knowing what he was doing, my dad spent most of my childhood instilling in me an intense appreciation for women in rock. He was genuinely a fan of Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, and, yes, Madonna.

Every year, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day come along, and I feel like I am inadequately equipped to share the tremendous contributions women have made to, not just rock and roll, but music in general. So, this is my feeble attempt at addressing that, albeit on a very small scale.

I had a cassette of Madonna’s self-titled debut, released when I was a mere two years old, though this may have been a bit later. I would listen to music while I took a bath (read also: my own private pool party) and that cassette was one of my favorites.

Something happens when you get a cassette tape wet, which unfortunately is inevitable when you are a tiny human switching from Side A to Side B. Today, listening to the Madonna – Madonna album, there are segments of songs—“Borderline,” “Holiday”—that I don’t know because they were warped and warbled on my copy, that copy I listened to probably thousands of times over.

But it didn’t matter that some of the words were garbled. They were still the greatest songs ever.

They were my foray into dancing and singing. It was because of Madonna that three of my friends and I wanted to start our own girl group. I graduated from the self-titled album to the Immaculate Collection in later years, but I still remember the literal hours I spent with that debut album, forming this in-my-bones love and admiration for rock music’s strongest soldiers.

I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but as I grew and adapted to new sounds, I continued to admire Madonna and her evolution. But that love for Madonna led me to the Donnas and Veruca Salt, Natalie Imbruglia and Meredith Brooks in the 90s, to Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams in the 00s, and now Ash Costello, Lzzy Hale . . . even my deep respect for Miley Cyrus is a lot to do with her similarities to Madonna.

Early in Miley’s career, Tegan Quin (Tegan and Sara) said she saw Miley on the same trajectory as Madonna; that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with and she was not wrong. But without Madonna to pave that path . . . Well, we would have had to compare Miley to someone else because that’s what we do.

I may not follow her as closely now as I once did but I could never deny that Madonna was the catalyst for so much of the music I have grown to love throughout my life. She was, if only indirectly, unquestionably an influence on every female rockstar who came after her. There are a few artists I’ve seen over the years who have that kind of impact on the musical landscape and Madonna was absolutely one of them.

And, for me, it all started with ten poppy, synth-heavy tracks on a water-warped cassette tape.

If you like these stories and want to get even deeper into my musical history, Buy Me a Coffee.

Hootie and the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (1994)

Growing up, my cousin, my dad’s oldest nephew, was one of my favorite people in the whole world. I always felt a little cheated, growing up without any siblings, and he was the closest I had to an older brother. He graduated high school when I was in the fourth grade and after a few unsuccessful years of college and odd jobs, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

I was heartbroken and worried constantly in my melodramatic pre-teen way. This all came about in the early years of Saddam Hussein and the first Gulf War and I was certain I would lose my favorite person in a war I only understood through the lens of the adults in my orbit. And at 12, 13, 14 years old, they didn’t tell me much.

He came home on leave about a year into his service. He had been stationed in North Carolina and told me while he was there, he had met Hootie.

One of his new Marine friends had grown up with him/them in Charleston and had introduced my cousin on a weekend leave.

I never pinned down if he meant Darius Rucker or the real Hootie (not the same person, contrary to popular belief—Hootie was the nickname of a childhood friend), but I didn’t care. I had felt so incredibly important that even though I had never talked about enjoying this music, my cousin just knew I’d want to hear about his encounter.

And even though there was a lot of time spent listening to my Cracked Rear View CD, singing along in my room or at school, that is the thing that really sticks with me when I listen to these songs. That one-off, oddball connection to my cousin.

I’m finding through this that as I dig up these old songs and retrace the old steps, I’ve never forgotten the lyrics or the feelings I have listening to them.

I was thirteen years old when “Hold My Hand” hit the radio. I was just over three months removed from the first celebrity death, the impact of which I even kind of grasped. Hootie and the Blowfish fit into the same weird void occupied by Toad the Wet Sprocket, this strange blend of country, folk, and rock. Southern rock didn’t really fit, folk was absolutely wrong. But it was refreshing in that weird period of mourning. The rock world was grieving but these were songs about interpersonal conflicts.

These songs took a different approach to those conversations of mental illness and addiction that were so prominent in the music of the 1990s. Where so much was metaphoric and internalized, the songs of Cracked Rear View looked at the struggles and strife of being a human relating to other humans from the perspective of wanting to help and not knowing how. At the same time, they gave newly teenaged me hope for romance. I wanted more than anything for someone to talk to me using “Hold My Hand” or “Only Wanna Be with You” to express their real feelings.

It probably didn’t help that all of this was unfolding in the same time and space as my first real romance.

That summer, 1994, was a dynamic shift in the musical world. Death gave way to life and experimentation, opened doors that may have never opened, shed light that will never be replicated on darkness that defined a generation. In most cases, I identify more closely with Millennials who were children at this time but this darkness, the music of the 1990s is the one place where I can truly tap the GenX side of our 1978-1985 Xennial micro generation. That darkness is present in Cracked Rear View through the depression of “Let Her Cry,” through the destruction of “Time,” through the abuse and isolation of “Look Away.”

I love today’s music. I am a proud pop punk emo kid with my eyeliner and gauged ears but there will never not be a place in my heart for the music of the 1990s. I don’t believe there will ever be a day when “Alexa, play 90s alternative” is the wrong choice. There’s mood music and there’s 90s alternative. And Hootie and the Blowfish are just as much a part of that as Nirvana.

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AFI – Decemberunderground (2006)

June 6, 2006.

6-6-(0)6

I don’t always remember album release dates but when I do it’s because the artists did something clever, like AFI releasing Decemberunderground on 666.

Decemberunderground was AFI’s seventh studio album, the follow up to what is often touted as the gateway album for a new generation of young fans, Sing the Sorrow.

For me, AFI had been a presence, kind of lurking in the shadows, dating back to the 1990s. While Black Sails in the Sunset was the first album that really got me into their music, it was Decemberunderground that had the biggest impact on my life.

It marked my first AFI concert and my inauguration into the Despair Faction fan group at a time when Despair Faction meant you were devout. Seeing DF merchandising in line at a concert was akin to fraternal letters; you shared something clandestine to which others around you were not privy.

Decemberunderground came on the tail end of a tailspin for me. I had lost my footing and in a lot of ways I was starting my life over after a divorce. We hadn’t married but my future plans had been structured around the idea that we would be, one day. Having that rug pulled out from under me was devastating to say the least and I spent a long time mired in the fallout. It was through music and the help of a good friend, nay, sister, I was able to start assembling something for myself that didn’t include the ill-fated hope that he would return.

He had given me a copy of Sing the Sorrow as a gift slash peace offering after being overwhelmed by guitarist Jade Puget’s talent and technique. Before that, he had been casually aware of the band’s existence, as one of his lifelong friends was an avid fan, but had not given them a fair chance. Giving me that CD to add to my collection had been his way of telling me that he acknowledged their talent.

So there will always be an indelible imprint of his influence on Sing the Sorrow, as well as all that came before it. Decemberunderground was the follow up, not just to the STS album but to that chapter of my life. It was the first album, post engagement break up, that I could truly call mine.

There is some mysticism surrounding this album.

In terms of songwriting, STS was meant to be a lifecycle. There are breath sounds at the beginning of “Bleed Black” and at the end of “the Leaving Song Pt. II” intended to represent a person’s first and last breaths of life. Within that narrative, Decemberunderground becomes that same person’s journey into the afterlife and immortality. That, alone, gives the album a haunted feeling but that is not the end of the story.

Decemberunderground ranks in my favorite albums of all time. Or would . . . if I could remember it exists.

Somehow, despite its poignancy, despite its exquisite beauty, it fades into oblivion almost immediately following the conclusion of the last track. As long as it is playing, it exists. As soon as it stops, it is lost, once again. I even tend to forget that I own a vinyl pressing, despite the unusual nature of that particular version. The twelve-song album was pressed on five records, each in their own sleeve, each featuring a stylized black and white photo of the band members as well as Puget’s brother, Smith who works for the band.

Sounds memorable, right? Somehow it is not.

Somehow, this album of songs about death and immortality has become a ghost, only present when you need it to be. Even hearing individual tracks—a local radio station would play “Love Like Winter” fairly regularly even years later—does not fully call the album back to the forefront of memory. It’s as if those songs posses their own sovereignty when not immediately connected to their counterparts.

And I think that is the most remarkable aspect of Decemberunderground; the invisibility of it. The strange way in which it disappears when not needed, reappears when it is.

Elliott Smith – Either/Or (1997)

Welcome back to the Soundtrack of a Voluntary Misfit, the series where I take a deep dive into the music that shaped and changed me. This week, we are looking at Elliott Smith’s Either/Or.

Either/Or was released in February, 1997, the third studio album for the singer/songwriter, a side project apart from his Portland punk vehicle, Heatmiser.

One thing I think the casual listener may not know about Elliott Smith is he earned his stripes playing the dives and small clubs of Portland, Ore., alongside Kurt Cobain’s fledgling band of nobodies. While Nirvana found mainstream success and stardom with Nevermind, Smith and Heatmiser never quite reached that point (Nirvana has yet to be nominated for an Oscar, so Smith had that jump on them).

This is not meant to compare Elliott Smith to Nirvana or even Cobain. Simply offering a perspective that we as fans are sometimes surprised to see these kinds of connections between the artists we follow. Especially to listen to someone like Elliott Smith who claimed to have taken heavy influence from both (early) Nirvana and the Beatles but whose solo sound never really reflected those influences.

I chose to deep dive through Either/Or not to honor the album’s 25th anniversary (that was the kind of coincidence I have grown quite accustomed to) but because I recently received the album on vinyl and have yet to listen to it in that format. Which is ultimately maybe a little ridiculous. I’m torn on whether or not I should open it. It’s a limited pressing, only 1000 in existence. So, do I keep it wrapped as a potential collectible? Or do I open it and properly enjoy it, knowing that even if one day it were to be collectible, I likely wouldn’t sell it, anyway?

Plus, I think even unwrapped, a collectible is a collectible.

But I still can’t bring myself to unwrap it.

Instead, I’m listening to it digitally as I write this.

To say I bought this album for one song isn’t wholly fair but also not completely untrue. “Between the Bars” is unequivocally one of the greatest love songs ever written and it is enough to have spent $35 plus shipping to experience it on vinyl. But it is not the only incredible track on Either/Or. A quick perusal of Smith’s catalog suggests “Say Yes” may be his most commonly reproduced track, if not then it is second to “Between the Bars.” Covers of both are plentiful and abundant, ranging from Ben Folds (“Say Yes”) to Benji Madden/Good Charlotte (“Between the Bars”).

I am consistently a fan of unique musical sounds, especially voices, and Elliott Smith definitely qualifies in both categories. Even his more heavily produced tracks, like “Cupid’s Trick,” have a simplistic, under-produced sound, a comforting sound that tells you you could expect to hear the same songs played live, whether in a bar with twenty other people or a full theater of thousands. I think that lo-fi sound is what draws me to own at least a few of his albums on vinyl.

To his credit, it is deceptively easy to get lost in the music. Knowing I still had more of this piece to write, I set the album to repeat but accidentally hit the button too many times and repeated the same track instead of the whole album. But the song was nearing the end the second time through before I realized what had happened. Until I saw track repeat was toggled, I was musing over the length of that particular track. I had gotten so absorbed in the sound, the emotion, the music—and, realistically, what I was writing—I didn’t fully grasp the track had started over, only that it was STILL playing.

Some people may think that is a negative aspect, and that is their prerogative. I think it is a credit. I don’t want to always have to invest 80-90% of my brain in the music playing around me.

But I can. In the case of Elliott Smith, his voice blends so well with the music that you can invest 30% of your brain in the music or you can dive into it until you are submerged completely over your head. Listen passively and love the sounds and the somehow soothing rawness of the vocals or listen actively and mourn with stories of a damaged child who grew into a tormented man gone too soon.

Toad the Wet Sprocket – Dulcinea (1994)

“Our musical experiences imprint on us [. . .] no music ever impacts us as much as that we listen to at age fourteen.” – Dr. Spencer Reid as played by Matthew Gray Gubler, Criminal Minds

Welcome back to the Soundtrack of a Voluntary Misfit, a weekly series where I deep dive into the music that has shaped my life in my forty years on this great blue hurtling rock. Each week, I will pick an album and give it a concentrated listen, offering my thoughts and reactions. In some cases, it will be an album I listened to just last week. In other cases, it may be the first time in twenty years I’ve heard some of the songs. If you want to know more about what I’m doing and why, go back to the beginning. If you enjoy what I’m doing here, consider buying me a coffee.

This week’s selection is Dulcinea by Toad the Wet Sprocket (May, 1994). One thing of note, before we get started is that Dulcinea, while obviously written before, was one of a weird class of albums released on the collective exhale following the death of Kurt Cobain. There was a shift, in those months, from the heavy darkness of grunge to a more sinisterly sunny darkness that would pervade the second half of the 1990s, the kind of darkness that can only occur in contrast to the brilliant light of day.

Though not the first album from Toad the Wet Sprocket (TWS), Dulcinea was the one that put them in the mainstream. It wasn’t grunge and it wasn’t folk, it was something in between, as was a considerable amount of music of that time. There were folk elements (“Nanci”) and Top 40 pop elements (“Fly From Heaven”), all mingled with the angst and desolation of grunge.

While there was no iconic, defining sound of the 1990s, the argument can be made that everything was heavy. Country, grunge, hip hop, even the radio hits were a three-ton elephant in every room. There was a darkness and heaviness permeating throughout the musical atmosphere of the 90s that had never been heard before, except in small doses (Edwin Starr’s War, Lou Reed’s Wild Side), and will likely never be replicated in our lifetimes.

Dulcinea, as the name suggests, is a sweeter side of that darkness. Dulcet guitar tones and bright, crisp percussion perfectly counterbalance lyrics like “She hates her life she hates her skin she even hates her friends/Tries to hold on to all the reputations she can’t mend/And there’s some chance we could fail/But the last time someone was always there for bail/When will we fall down” (“Fall Down”). Like so much of the music of the time, we were lulled into a false sense of security, of peace, but were forced to slow down and really listen.

The words, the tones in the singer’s voice, all painted a very different picture to that of the major chords and light tempo.

I spent a lot of hours with Dulcinea in those years. Pulling it back out, giving it a deep dive, was like talking with an old friend.

But not the old friend who wants you to join their multi-level marketing cult. This is the old friend you meet for coffee and pick up like you never left off. Whether Dulcinea or another album, I highly recommend diving back into something you loved in your teens but have put aside for newer, “better” options. You may be amazed at music’s propensity for teleportation.

Kill Hannah – Wake Up the Sleepers (2009)

I reviewed this album originally when it was first released. If you would like to read the original review, Buy Me a Coffee

In May of 2009, Chicago rock quintet, Kill Hannah, were given the keys to the kingdom. Or at the very least, the recording studio. After signing to now-defunkt Original Signal records, the demand for a new album became intense and pressing, urging the group to produce twelve, release-ready tracks in a matter of weeks instead of the months they were used to. What came of that break-neck recording session was the band’s most ambitious offering to date.

Featuring guest vocals from Amanda Palmer, Benji Madden of Good Charlotte, Sara “Chibi” Taylor of the Birthday Massacre, and the Chicago Children’s Choir as well as a guitar solo that was originally intended for Smashing Pumpkin’s Billy Corgan (the change in schedule resulted in a change of plan and Powerspace’s Tom Schleiter guesting in Corgan’s stead–Schleiter later filled in for guitarist Jonny Radtke on a tour to support the album), Kill Hannah definitely tapped the resources at their disposal, more so than they ever had before.

In addition to the all-star guest cast, Kill Hannah’s Wake Up the Sleepers garnered them heavy accolades in other areas. Prior to the album’s release, the band suffered a curse of cult-like obscurity.  Wake Up the Sleepers (WUTS) earned Kill Hannah a spot on the second installment of the Rock Band video game with “Strobe Lights” (the guitar solo meant for Corgan), songs on various tv shows (“New York City Speed” was featured on the CW’s Fly Girls and Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, “Acid Rain” was dubbed over the Netflix release of a first season episode of Charmed, almost in its entirety), even a video directed by cult horror master, “Spooky” Dan Walker (the Devil’s Carnival) for “Why I Have My Grandma’s Sad Eyes.” 

Top to bottom, the album is twelve tracks of in your face alternative rock, blending synthesizers with guitars to create an album worthy of learning every word to scream sing in a dive bar or arena. Even when the lyrics turn inward on tracks like “Living in Misery” or “Vultures (Be There for Me)” the rhythms and melodies power through, driving the album into the next track. 

The final track of the album, “Promise Me,” quickly a fan-favorite, stands out as an oddity, both on the album and in most of Kill Hannah’s existing catalog to that point. A pure, unadulterated break-up lament, featuring singer Mat Devine and guitarist Dan Wiese, the band intentionally elected to tack it on the end, thus calling attention to its differences rather than attempting to mask them (Still shots from the making of the video led fans to believe another popular artist plagiarized the concept for his own video, though the theory has never been -officially- confirmed).

Looking back, this album has never lost its power for me. It was through this album–sadly, the last the band produced–that I made incredible connections with amazing people.

I had been invited a few times to join the Kill Hannah Kollective–a group that was equal parts fan community and street team–but hadn’t taken the bait until the opportunity came up to meet the band. Within a few short months I was running my own division of the group and meeting people who have been important friends ever since.

I made deep connections with the music Kill Hannah was producing as far back as 2005, but Wake Up the Sleepers will always be the album that brought me friends and family unlike any I have ever known, and those friendships have taken me on unfathomable adventures. I have traveled an estimated 10,000 miles to see Kill Hannah concerts and to make memories with these irreplaceable friends. I have seen Chicago at Christmas and in the summer, I have toured the depths of a Broadway theater, and I have hosted a private friends-only concert in a house in the suburbs of Denver.

If you have never heard – or heard of – Kill Hannah, I would never discourage a deep dive into their catalog but I can say Wake Up the Sleepers is as solid a place to start.

The Obligatory Hello and Welcome

Years ago–gawd, it’s been ten years!–I hosted a music-themed podcast through a now-defunkt independent record label. I called it the Soundtrack of a Voluntary Misfit and I just talked about music for an hour once a week

I would love to pick that back up again.

Through the label, we had all the necessary licenses to embed the music we were talking about into our shows, but that kind of licensing is prohibitive to little ol’ me so I think we’re going to try bringing it all back to life here, through a written blog.

The original Soundtrack was a showcase of independent rock, new and old, famous and obscure. But that’s not where this is headed.

I want to share reviews and retrospectives (I also wrote music reviews–professionally–for several years around the same time). I want to deep dive into the music that shaped me. Albums that have had a profound effect on me as a whole ass adult human and lover of music.

Do I hear the albums of my teenhood the same way now?

Am I still viscerally affected by the same songs?

Do the same songs make me weep?

It will be a lot–A LOT of 90s alternative and grunge blended with 80s new wave and country and 00s punk, alt rock, and emo. There will undoubtedly be other albums mixed in but that will be the majority.

I am an author, but the truth is I don’t know which dominates my senses more deeply–molding words into something to be consumed by the mass of readers or plunging headlong into the lyrics of a favorite song. I can’t even say, for absolutely certain, that I am an author first and foremost. It may very well take a close second in my life. But when it comes to music, all I really have is my visceral experiences. I sing, unreliably, and I have a drummer’s brain, but I was a terrible musician and I never learned to write songs. So this is it. I come here and I write about it.

I write about the memories I have of listening to certain songs. I write about the feelings those songs have elicited. I write about the texture and the triumphs of a well-done album (reviewer brain still works).

This will be a (self-indulgent) labor of love and I hope you will join me as I follow whatever path it leads me on. And if you would like access to even more content like this, Buy Me a Coffee.