At the end of every year Will and I go through the Pitchfork list of top songs and top albums...it's become a ritual that is highly anticipated in our household. This is only something we've done in the last 4 or 5 years as our leisure time started dwindling and things like houses and jobs replaced hours on end of music-trolling. Not to mention Will playing in a local band on a local record label...regional music tended to overtake our stereo. So we might come in at the tail end of an album's hype, but we can at least pretend that we know something of what's going on in indie music culture even while The Owls play on repeat in our car.
One of Pitchfork's top singles of the year was Japandroids' "The House That Heaven Built" (for whom our friend, Jimmy, recently drove while on tour). Here's what they had to say about the song:
"My favorite live moment of the year involved watching a crowd, not a
band. It happened during the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. I was
checking on something behind the stage during Japandroids' set and when I
climbed up the stairs at stage right, I found myself staring at
thousands of kids in their teens or early 20s who were singing along to
this song's words like they were scripture: 'When they love you and they
will/ Tell them all they'll love in my shadow/ And if they try to slow
you down/ Tell them all to go to hell.' Watching that joyful connection
brought to mind my original reaction to 'The House That Heaven Built'.
At first, Japandroids reminded me of music and a sensibility from my
youthful wanderings: basement shows, photocopied zines, couches you only
saw once. But seeing that sing-along made me think about how punk
spirit, however you define it, is something that can't be relegated to
the past. There will always be rock kids who go to a show wanting to be
saved. In 2012, this was their anthem." --Brandon Stosuy
With just 2 months left of my 20s and a new baby in tow, I naturally started thinking about my last decade and the gift that the music sub-culture we've been a part of has given us. Every show was a new opportunity to be saved, whether we needed saving or not. Every basement, no matter how disgusting (and there were some really sick ones), meant a chance for adventure and intimacy (no, not that kind of intimacy...at least not for me) with the closest of friends and the most random of strangers. We certainly had our own anthems...some were for all of us, some were just for Will and me, and some were just mine. You had never shouted so loud, arms emphatically above you, sometimes on the verge of tears that were either from emotion or just physical exertion or a little bit of both. These were the kinds of anthems that drove you (you=folks of the XY chromosome persuasion) to take your shirt off, jump on stage, and promptly hurl your sweaty body into a sea of hands willing to accept your sacrifice. Kind of sounds like a contemporary evangelical church service, I know. But for some of us it was our church, our scripture, our sacrament.
I don't think I have an anthem right now, and I'm wondering if I ever will again. Maybe you shouldn't after encountering so much of the real stuff of life: marriage, divorce, birth, death, disappoint, joy, betrayal, loyalty...and everything in between. The anthem wraps all of it up into one thing, one 2-5 minute song, and at this point I think I might know just enough about living to make it dangerous to compile it all together. I can't decide if that's something to mourn, or something to celebrate.
I just hope my daughter has her own anthem some day too.