THE LISTENER | The Sound and the Stories


by Skylar

Hey readers.

It’s been a couple weeks since I posted, and there’s a good reason for it. As a result, this post is going to be a bit lengthier, as it will contain the last two discussions that the group has had.

We’ll start with the one from 6/16.

The topic from this week was again taken from Dr. Ortiz’s book that we’ve been looking at recently. This week’s discussion was anger, and how music can be a source of relief. Dr. Ortiz listed many common causes of anger on page 64, and the group picked songs that they felt could relate to one of these causes. The list from the book is as follows:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Low Tolerance
  3. Frustration
  4. Hypersensitivity
  5. Psychological Noise
  6. External Irritations
  7. Abuse
  8. Escalating Arguments
  9. Injustice
  10. Impatience

A few pages after the list, Dr. Ortiz outlined some practical ways of letting go of one’s anger. One method in particular is what the group focused on, picking and listening to angry music. Dr. Ortiz instructs his readers to “select a number of songs or music, which, to you, sound just about the way that you feel. These songs, or music, should be up-tempo and loud, and have other characteristics or elements which may reflect the energies you are feeling” (67). Speaking from experience in my own life, this is a highly effective means of letting go of anger (and other emotions as well), and I have utilized this many times prior to the inception of “The Listener.”

The songs that were picked by the group members are found in the list below.

  • “Arrogance” – Traitors
  • “They’ll Never Get Me (Word With You)” – Drop Dead, Gorgeous
  • “Hush Yael” – Oh Sleeper
  • “Go To Sleep” – The Acacia Strain
  • “Brothers In Arms” – For the Fallen Dreams
  • “Bad Blood” – Gideon
  • “Parasite” – Legend
  • “Let Me Give You a Hand Throwing Yourself Out” – Killwhitneydead
  • “GNF” – Like Moths to Flames
  • “Badge and a Bullet” – Stray from the Path
  • “If Being Fake Was an Olympic Sport” – Liferuiner
  • “High Horse” – Oceans Ate Alaska
  • “Dead Set on Suicide” – Cattle Decapitation
  • “A Letter” – La Dispute
  • “Sick and Disgusting” – Beartooth
  • “H.C.H.C.” – Black Tongue
  • “Bastards” – Defeater
  • “Strange Comfort” – The Color Morale

Many of the songs on the list were picked merely to align with Dr. Ortiz’s advice to pick music that aligns itself with the feelings or energies we experience, but a few of them were picked to fit into the list of common causes of anger.

“Hush Yael” by Oh Sleeper was picked to express anger towards injustice. The song is about a war-fueled murder of a family in the Middle East that left young children and a father dead with only the mother surviving. The final minutes of the song express her feelings towards the murderer as she sees him on trial.

One other song touched on injustice, and that was “Badge and a Bullet” by Stray from the Path. This song is an explicit call-out to police brutality and unjust treatment by law enforcement.

“Go to Sleep” by The Acacia Strain was chosen to represent a combination of external irritations and impatience. The song expresses irritation with life itself, and the member who played the song explained that they listen to the song when they are impatient or irritated in life.

One member decided to touch on the subject of abuse by playing “Bad Blood” by Gideon. This member hadn’t experienced it personally, thankfully, but it is difficult to ignore that this song is an accurate representation of the aftermath of abuse years down the road.

There were two songs from discussion that were applied to frustration and psychological noise. During the discussion, I left Dr. Ortiz’s definition of psychological noise to keep the discussion as open to member interpretation as music is.

The first was “Sick and Disgusting” by Beartooth. This song is not a particularly angry song. However, it does an excellent job at relaying a message from someone experiencing frustration and psychological noise. This tearjerker of a song has singer Caleb Shomo screaming about how he sees himself and how he wants to be loved. The second song was “Strange Comfort” by The Color Morale. This song was contributed to the discussion in a similar way as “Sick and Disgusting.” This song expresses feelings of being lost and frustrated and the fear that they are starting to be familiar feelings (side note: The Color Morale does an excellent job at providing music to dispel negative emotions. I personally recommend the Know Hope album as a whole).

“Dead Set on Suicide” by Cattle Decapitation was put into the list to align with Dr. Ortiz’s advice to find a fast, up-tempo, and high-energy song. The lyrical content had little to do with the discussion; the focus of this song was the music itself. The song is full of high-speed drums and instrumentals as well as terrifyingly unique vocals that capture the essence of anger. The same can be said of “H.C.H.C.” by Black Tongue, minus the speed. This song captures the same essence of anger but with a down-tempo approach. The low-tuned hostile battery of this song has the ability to relieve especially intense anger and negativity.

Now, onto why this is a longer post and why you haven’t heard from me in a couple weeks. About a week ago, I spent four days in Chicago with my band doing a music video. The time away hindered me from writing the post from the 16th, but it provided me with a great opportunity for another discussion topic. The entire time that I was there, I was making notes to myself about how I could bring this to “The Listener,” and I came up with an excellent idea.

The whole point of a music video is (or at least should be) to tell a story, and music itself is widely used to tell a story; because of this, last week’s discussion focused on music that tells a story. There are many stories told in music that are entertaining, many that are unnerving, and many that connect to listeners. Since I was on the way back from Chicago on Tuesday, the meeting was with the members of my band and my friend who tagged along (and is a regular attender of the group). Below is a portion of our list from that week and brief descriptions of the stories they tell.

  • Coheed & Cambria’s entire discography
    • This was my contribution to the discussion. There really isn’t a short explanation for the story that Coheed & Cambria tells. The band’s name itself is the two original characters from their comic book series entitled The Amory Wars. As their albums have gone on, they have sung different parts of the story.
  • “The Witching Hour” by My Heart to Fear.
    • This song was written by their vocalist after messing around with the supernatural, specifically, demons. While in a time of spiritual doubt, he decided to summon demons to then dispel them. It worked, and he did it again to dispel them again. Unfortunately, they came back stronger and hung around for a little longer than desired. The song is about his experience and what it taught him.
  • The “Johnny” songs by Crown the Empire
    • Crown the Empire wrote a three-part story about the character by the name of Johnny, who, long story short, conquers Hell. The three songs, if I am not mistaken, are “Johnny Ringo,” “Johnny’s Revenge,” and “Johnny’s Rebellion.”
  • Aaron West & the Roaring Twenties’ album “We Don’t Have Each Other”
    • This album follows the character Aaron West as he goes through one of the hardest weeks of his life. It starts when he finds the divorce note from his wife, goes through his arguments with himself and psychological turmoil, and ends with a cliffhanger as he wakes up on the shore in the Deep South after running away for a week and drinking himself insane.
    • Side note: this is a wonderful album and well worth a listen. Dan “Soupy” Campbell (yes, the same man that fronts The Wonder Years) does an excellent job telling the story in the album, and even references Wonder Years lyrics in a few places.

As a follow up to the discussion, I would like to include a few of my personal favorite music videos that I feel tell a good story. The list is found below:

  • “Melrose Diner” – The Wonder Years
  • “All This Time” – The Wonder Years
  • “When I’m Gone” – Eminem
  • “Waking the Demon” – Bullet For My Valentine
  • “Domino the Destitute” – Coheed & Cambria
  • “The Suffering” – Coheed & Cambria

Now that I’m back from Chicago, we’ll be back on our regular schedule for the last week or two of the group. I almost have my required amount of hours for the internship, so it is likely that “The Listener” will end soon. If you would like to get involved for the last couple meetings, or if you want this to keep going, contact me at the email address below.

Til’ next post. See you soon.


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