December 8, 2014
To me, music is a love affair. And it has been as long as I can remember.
My family used to go on 4 hour drives up north every holiday and summer, so I spent a lot of time in the car. Every minute of that time I listened to music. Before I had my own cassette player, I was at the mercy of my parent’s funk and rock (and wouldn’t admit at the time that I loved it all). My first cassette was Janet Jackson’s Design of a Decade. My first CD, only a few years later, was Madonna’s Ray of Light.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Nine Inch Nail’s “Into The Void”. I was barely 13 years old and listening to the radio when this haunting melody and these disturbing lyrics left me shocked and amazed as I gazed up into a starry night from the back seat of a Ford station wagon. It was two years before I figured out who had done the song, and I worked up the nerve to tackle the entire The Fragile album, as in the interim I had evolved from the boy band hormone rush to Linkin Park and Korn. I couldn’t handle The Fragile at first. It was weird and dissonant and sometimes downright disturbing (I was 15, give me a break). But I was inexplicably drawn to it. I listened to it again, and again, and rode the emotional hurricane every single time. I told my later-husband when we were 17, “Give it a chance. Listen to it again, even after you decide you don’t like it.”
He did. And we both became hopelessly obsessed.
I’ll admit it: I have some obsessive tendencies. One of those is listening to an album start to finish. Apparently a lot of people don’t do this? I do. I prefer it to hitting shuffle. If a song is a snapshot of an emotional state, an album is a movie. And I like to watch that movie from start to finish, scene by scene, emotion by emotion. Because of this I get a kick out of concept albums, like The Mars Volta’s Frances The Mute, or NIN’s own The Downward Spiral. I like following the character through their journey, and trying to make sense of it all in the end.
Due to this tendency to listen to albums the whole way through, I form a bit of a relationship with the album. At first it’s new an exciting, then I’m taking in all its nuances and working on remembering all the details. Then it either becomes an old favorite, or slowly moves to the backburner of iTunes. Of course, my favorite part of this relationship journey is the honeymoon period. When the album is still new to me, I’m still getting used to it, and I just can’t get enough of it.
As I said, music is a love affair. And right now, I’m courting Welcome Oblivion by How to Destroy Angels. Sometimes, like with The Fragile, you listen to an album and you just aren’t sold on it at first. And others you know from the first listen that they’re something special. This is in the latter category. Welcome Oblivion is the first full-length album of Trent Reznor and his wife Mariqueen Maandig. Their first album, a self-titled EP, had one amazing song (“The Space In Between”) and a lot of songs that weren’t fully realized. I could feel the potential in the combination of Mariqueen’s beautiful voice and Trent’s unmistakable sound. And Welcome Oblivion completely delivers. It’s everything I could have wanted from “a NIN band with a female singer”. It may just be the movie playing in my head, but the whole thing has a bit of a “post apocalyptic” feel. Of course, the video for “How Long?” helps that a bit. And lines like “The more we change / Everything stays the same” from “Too Late, All Gone” take me to the rebuilt cities of my own post apoc novel and I get those warm fussy feelings. Except to me, they feel like that aching loss of something you can’t quite place.
Music is a love affair, and what I’m in love with is that feeling music gives me, especially the majority of Trent’s work, this feeling of despair or anger or loss or madness. This tearing ache, this hollow chasm in my soul, this insatiable hunger. I channel the feelings and get lost in them. Yes they’re negative, depressing. I don’t care, because to me, it feels like bliss. I surface at the end of an album emotionally shredded, and deeply satisfied. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How about you all? What albums are you dating? What albums will always be good friends?
Thanks for reading <3