untie me, I’ve said no vows: the shins @ Music Hall of Williamsburg // 3.15.17

I got to live out a dream. I cannot believe that I have seen The Shins live. I cannot believe that I will get to see them again this summer.

I’ve noticed a trend, and it’s that all of my most essential friends grew up listening to the same things I did. Not necessarily in full, but some of the crucials were present. I think that if you’re a music fanatic – or perhaps even if you’re not – music helps to account for some of the ways you see the world. If you’re constantly listening to a song or if you have lyrics toiling around in your mind, something somewhere sticks.

I got to see The Shins with someone who listened to them during her formative years just like I did, and that made the entire experience so much more fulfilling and sweet. It was really wonderful to mutually express disbelief when they played some deeper cuts that we had thought were absolutely improbable choices, or to both experience the totally pure heightened emotion when you see songs you have been listening to for almost a decade come to life.

What a kaleidoscope character James Mercer is! There were moments where he seemed so boyish and sweet, and moments where his eyes went wild which made me wonder if he’s simply an insane genius savant, no more, no less – most likely, I’ve since decided. Then there were moments where he got personal – like when he was introducing Mildenhall – and moments when he played the guitar like a rockstar. All of them meld into this single human who I admittedly struggle to fathom, but completely adore.

Quick moment of appreciation for their set decorations which threw off total “Soul Meets Body”-meets-Sufjan-Stevens vibes (which is a confusing conglomerate), but were gorgeous and appropriate nonetheless. That set quickly raced to the top of my personal favorite set dressings list, alongside Real Estate’s 2014 tour stage lighting, The Districts’ 2015 stage, and The Killers 10th Anniversary Decennial (for obvious reasons – the antler keyboard made a comeback!!!). I don’t know who brought giant yellow happy face balloons to The Shins gig, but they somehow made the entire affair that much more whimsical.

I took five full videos which I think is a new personal record for full videos taken at a gig. See them under the cut (with indulgent commentary!)…

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Survivor Man

I’ve recently seen several articles about artists that are battling assorted types of loss pop up on my radar. I think I’m most looking forward to Richard Edwards’ new solo album, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. The first single, “Disappeared Planets,” paints a pretty accurate picture of the massive feelings that are associated with losing something; in Edwards’ case it’s a relationship. But feelings of loss translate to and permeate other types of loss, which is why I think I’m particularly drawn to it as a theme in songs.

Begrudgingly, I am not a musician. I don’t have a catalog of songs that speak my own emotions, but I like to think that I’m pretty well-equipped to carve out paths for myself in other musicians’ works. I think the same can be said of any music lover.

This playlist is something that I’ve been working on for the past five months and some change. It is simultaneously personal and impersonal in that only a few songs speak directly to the subject of my own grief. I sort of couldn’t bare to include artists or songs that were too relevant. The rest of the songs speak only to me – they quantify the huge emotions that I have felt in this last near-half a year of my life. I guess the criteria for this collection was any song that thematically or in a single line shook me to my very core, made me think, Yeah, they get it. If it seems like the entire thing is a tribute to Sam Phillips, well, I can only say, she gets it.

I don’t usually configure playlists in a specific order, but I’ve tried to achieve some sort of narrative here that covers all of the major waves: confusion, dissatisfaction, anger, sadness. It covers emotional black holes like being jilted, misguided elation, facing an impasse, feeling forced to reinvent the wheel. It twists and turns and loops back around to the beginning, because surviving loss is as much a process as it is a journey.


“Survivor Man” is:

  1. Hole in My Pocket – Sam Phillips
  2. Kicking Roses – Benjamin Francis Leftwich
  3. Unfucktheworld – Angel Olsen
  4. Okkervil River R.I.P. – Okkervil River
  5. The Industry – Okkervil River
  6. Broken Stones – Paul Weller
  7. One Less Bell to Answer – The 5th Dimension
  8.  I’m Not a Part of Me – Cloud Nothings
  9. I Did Something Weird Last Night – Jeff Rosenstock
  10. I Love You, What Are You? – Gene
  11. Working Titles – Damien Jurado
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