On the Beach in the Record Store

I was sifting through the bins. New arrivals, Local, 3 for 10. A brief moment of static and then Side B of Neil Young's On the Beach came on through the in-store analogue speakers. My ears perked - I had heard the album before (sometime in college probably when I quickly sifted through Neil's discography). I had missed it though; The honesty. The gut-wrentching open spaces in the record, the abrasive bar chords, Neil's breath in the microphone.

After listening to most of the side, I walked up to the cashier. "Which Neil Young is this?" I asked. "On the Beach" he cheerfully replied. "Can I buy it?" I asked. The cashier explained that copies of On the Beach were pretty rare and that they had just got that copy in the store that morning and hadn't catalogued it yet. After a brief moment he walked over to the turntable it was spinning on, lifted the needle, and returned the album to it's sleeve. He walked back over, album in hand, and sold it to me.

I've heard that Neil preferred side B to be side A but his label flipped it, trying to give it more commercial appeal. I recommend listening it to it the way Neil wanted, the way I heard it in the record store.

(memory from Jive Time records in Seattle, 2013)

Kid A

The air outside was cold, the foam on my headphones was warmed by the hours of listening. I stood in the backyard, silent snow fell. This was the first moment I felt connected to the music being pulsed into my ears. The notes rain down my neck, through my spine and into my gut.  I felt it. A new feeling, unparalleled by what I understood music to be.

Before this, music was a hobby. A conversation topic. Songs were fun to learn in power chords and play for my high school friends to impress them. It was all different now, music had found its way into my soul. 

Kid A shifted my perspective of music. It started a new conversation that I've been having with music ever since.

The image of this memory often comes back to me when I put the album on and hear the opening notes of "Everything in it's Right Place." Every time, for a brief moment, it feels brand new.

(memory from 2002)

Finding the Heartbeat

Every record has a heartbeat. Some are propelled forward by pounding drums, others by the steady fingerpicking of a steel string guitar. Some are mechanical in their efficiency, others wavering and fragile and vulnerable.

The records that stay in my blood stream are the ones that drive forward, locking the listener into the foundation and movement of the music. 

It's the power in the rhythm that defines The National's fourth album, Boxer. It feels like a fast walk at night on the uneven cement sidewalks of a new city. It's the high speed heartbeat-in-your-throat feeling of youth and adventure and young love and fresh nerves.

Throughout the album singer Matt Berninger invites you to listen in to the voice in his head. His personal inner dialogue on growth, love, family, and self-image. Flip flopping from confident to self deprecating, it's an honest image of a man growing into himself and into his city.

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"I wanna hurry home to you / Put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up / So you can put a blue ribbon on my brain / God I'm very, very frightening, I'll overdo it"

The images that the album's lyrics create are mirrored in my own feelings of youth and adulthood. Boxer is a companion to the uneasiness of growth, as well as a trophy to the purity of new love and individuality. All the while being driven forward by the heartbeat of the music.