A Lesson in Introspection

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Discovering the Music scene on Twitch has really changed my viewpoint on music as a whole. I used to hunt and struggle for hours on end to find music that had heart, which pertained to me and what I was going through. I know that may sound cliché and I wouldn’t argue necessarily argue with but music for me has for a long time been a form of emotional therapy. I am always striving to find music that really hits one of my emotional centers. Sometimes I want to scream along with music; other times I want to laugh or perhaps sit in deep contemplation and sometimes even cry and there wasn’t enough of this type of music for me to digest.

It seems like nearly every week in the Twitch music community I am discovering music that perfectly encompasses and encapsulates what I am looking for. It is written by artists with a true passion for their craft which is evident in both their performances and their songs. They are willing to put themselves out there and write about their struggles which has to be a difficult thing to do especially when you know people are listening. I don’t think most people enjoy feeling vulnerable. (I personally don’t really worry about this since I know that only about two dozen people ever read these blog posts.J) I sincerely appreciate what they do as I am able to connect with so much of the music in one way or the other and it is emotionally empowering to know that there are others out there who have felt what you feel; who have struggled with things that have also burdened you. Sometimes those things are as common as dealing with a bad breakup or as complex as dealing with anxiety or depression. That is my very long introduction to what new things I came across in the Twitch music community this week. I stumbled into a couple of streams I had never been in or heard of before.

Jessica Novak being the first. What hit me first was the timbre of her voice; I heard a hint of the sound I remember from listening to the Country and Americana music greats that my Mother loved. Having all the best qualities of artists like Faith Hill, and Bonnie Raitt while also having a very soulful blues vibe. Her voice also has a magnificent power I feel like she could fill the any room with her voice no matter how big it is. She also has a fantastic stage presence and watching her streams really feels like going to a show. She is changing out instruments more quickly and more often than anyone I have seen before and plays each one with great prowess. When you combine this with her song lyrics the results are magnificent. It is almost as if emotion permeates from her songs causing you to channel whatever feelings she is singing about. I can only imagine what seeing her band perform live would be like perhaps someday I will have the pleasure of witnessing what that is like.

Next is Sarah Jayne; listening to her stream at times made me feel like I was traveling back in time. I was drawn in instantly by the very classic Folk/Americana that made me think instantly of Joni Mitchell. I also enjoyed the beautiful simplicity of what was happening; there is something about having nothing but an artist and their instrument. There is a different type of connection you get when music is performed like this; when it is raw and stripped down everything is just so genuine. It is hard to explain and I am not the best with words but it gave the stream this sort of pure quality that appealed to me.

Now for “No Thrills” the latest release by Melissa Lamm; someone that you should be familiar with if you are one of the amazing people who reads my posts on a regular basis. She is an excellent singer-songwriter from the northern land of Canada and she has changed my perspective on Pop music in the short time since I discovered her. I have always enjoyed the Pop genre but previously it was music I listened when I wanted to have fun and just sing about seemingly ridiculous and somewhat superficial things. I would have playlists that included: Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani and similar artists; which don’t get me wrong is fine music but I never really found it particularly powerful or moving. I mistakenly figured that all Pop music was this way. Her music has shown me that this is not the case. Melissa is an artisan of emotional depth who masquerades as an indie Pop artist. Her songs have the upbeat and light feel you would expect from pop music and if you chose to only skim the surface of her creations you surely won’t be disappointed. However if you take the time to dive truly into her songs you will find discover that she composes pieces that are chalk full of lyrical brilliance. That is surely the case with her newest release.

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I will say that I am someone who sometimes infers things which aren’t there; who projects my own feelings into various forms of entertainment media (I think many of us do this) so I acknowledge that I am likely doing that here. From my first listen to my twenty-second the same things kept sticking out to me. The lyrics instantly reminded me of the severe anxiety I have dealt since I was a kid which certainly has become much better but is ever present. The prospect of new situations or large crowds would make me just as sick as any case of food poisoning or stomach flu I have ever had. It was something that I never wanted anyone to see so I always put on a calm and collected façade. But just as it states in “No Thrills” I was always “trying to keep my heart from racing all the time.” To me this concept is masterfully illustrated by the contrast between the lyrics of the song and the feel of it. The lyrics perfectly stating what I often feel and the addictively upbeat pop track representing the calm and cool mask I often find myself wearing. I would eventually get comfortable in a space be it literal or figurative and the prospect of leaving would be all but crippling. I didn’t want to do anything new or try anything new because I was good with whatever the situation currently was and I had learned how to deal with it. I had to compartmentalize things and lock them inside myself in order to cope with whatever was stressing me out. If I was better at writing I may have expressed this fact with words such as “I’ve got filters in my head, Lock on all my doors, Scared of losing what I have, I don’t risk things anymore.”

I didn’t want to be panicking all the time and I didn’t need any more thrills. Just trying to going about my day to day life was enough. I know that I didn’t transcribe the song correctly but I do think that I understood what it was saying and I surely got a lot from it regardless of how well I picked out the lyrics. As I said earlier I really appreciate when songs feel so sincere. I could tell with this song that Melissa was being very honest and talking about something personal and that made the song all the more relatable and relevant for me. I feel like in the process of dissecting and writing about this song I worked through some things and thought about some of my own perceptions in a new way. The lyrical elegance and refined pop beat of “No Thrills” work together to create a track that I both want to listen to again and again because it sounds so sensational yet each time I am about to play it there is a slight hesitance because I know it is going to bring experiences to my mind and be emotional journey. That has surely not stopped me from hitting the play button over and over again.

Edit: In my haste and excitement to post this I have now realized that I missed some obvious point in this track that I want to talk about. At this point I am convinced that nothing in this track was purely a style choice there is a reason behind everything and I have simply yet to figure it all out.

I’ll start with the very beginning that would have been a very good place to start originally. The opening lyrics “We knew thrills at 17 chasing every high; jumping off no safety net, knowing we’d be fine, when did we grow up, and start to say…” This is were the story begins I don’t why I blew past this the first time. The fact that a specific age was mentioned is what hit me when I was listening on repeat today and I as listened to this first verse it reminded me of a very specific instance. I was sixteen when I came to the realization that my anxiety was something real; it wasn’t panic attacks or just being circumstantially nervous as I had been told by some. I was dealing with this on daily basis and having this epiphany did change things. I understood why I was thrill seeking and looking for natural highs through running and rock climbing and even academia. These were distractions they gave my temporary reprieve from “…my heart racing all the time” I forgot about the panic when I was doing these other activities.

Throughout the song the words no thrills are echoed a second time in a hushed tone that is almost a whisper. I thought this was a cool style choice that surely added to the song but I think it is more than that. To me it is representing the things that I would tell myself to try and help calm me down. I did eventually discover things that did help but at first I was really just trying to psyche myself out. I was trying whatever I could do to “sedate all this panic in my mind.”

Lastly were the words “when did I wake up and start to say” in contrast to the beginning lyrics of  “when did we grow up, and start to say…” if the earlier lyrics represented a realization of sorts then these to me are speaking of a progression. For me that progression was manifested in learning ways to deal with what I was experiencing. Knowing that while this wasn’t something that would go away there were things that could be done to cope; and that I didn’t want to let it stop me from living life.

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