art above by Emmanuel Laflamme

A lot of people find listening to music helpful when they work out.  I had a buddy who listened to Pantera when he ran.  Actually, his coach made him stop doing that because he’d run too fast and burn himself out before the finish line.  I don’t have that problem. The music I listen to when I run makes even the most vintage melancholy look like an episode of Friends.  I have noticed lately, however, that how much I run is directly if not intimately related to how well I write.  Yes, I am working on a novel.  I started in 2010.  I have 2½ pages.  And I know what you’re thinking.  Oh… no… Johnny.  Buddy.  No one is going to publish that thing.  You’re not even going to finish it!  2 years and almost no progress?  Have you thought about going into McDonald’s management?  I hear they have a robust benefits package.  Well fuck you, imaginary voice in my head, you know what I’ve spent most of those 2 years doing?  Research.  The valuable kind.  What’s that?  …You want to know what my novel is about?  Well… since you asked.  It is an acid disco epic.  Enough said.  Anyway, the more I run, the more I am able to write.  I live in a very small town in central Iowa, and it can be very stifling.  But I’m starting to use this place as inspiration.  Since I started running again I’ve been noticing more, and taking more in.  It is a shame I don’t know more people here.

Young Love
Sun Kil Moon
Among the Leaves (2012)

Most of my friends who listen to Sun Kil Moon didn’t really like their new album.  They thought that Mark Kozelek had abandoned the songwriting techniques that they had grown to adore throughout his long career.  The style has definitely changed, lyrically especially.  The songs are so much more personal, where there were once metaphors and epic songs about boxers and death and love there are now these straightforward, honest, personal songs.  I think they give you a better look at Mark Kozelek than any other record has.  I think Young Love is a great example of this.  A great song for reflection.  Which is I guess what this article is about. Chasing perfect poems / and trying them in your ear / but I’m losing the will to chase them anymore / across those lonesome oceans.  Enough said.

Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Country Joe and the Fish
Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967)

In a world where Jacob Beebler can write a song that is 20% nonsense and 80% the word ‘swag,’ my heart yearns for days where songs could open with lines like: She hides in an attic concealed on a shelf.   Seriously, this is my favorite song by this band and if you haven’t listen to them yet, now is your opportunity.  Why is this song on the list?  I said I’m writing an ACID disco epic, yeah?  So this is the acid part.  Stick around and maybe we’ll get to disco.

Stayin’ Alive
The Bee Gees
Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Okay I know what you’re thinking.  Wow this guy has seriously lost his Higgs Bosons.  But bear with me.  This song was a masterpiece for what it was.  Try to listen to this song and be unhappy.  Try not to tap your foot to that funky bass line.  Try not to imitate that weird falsetto thing that is happening.  When you are meditating, you can imagine a white abyss that you dump all your troublesome thoughts into.  Look closer.  That white abyss is actually a disco ball.

Leonard Cohen
Old Ideas (2012)

You know, there are some acts you stop taking seriously after a few decades.  No one listened to Yes in the 90’s, Chinese Democracy is mocked by pretty much everyone including television shows, and Bob Dylan… seriously, that guy had a Christmas album a couple of years ago that is guaranteed to make children cry.  (Seriously, it’s on the album cover).  Leonard Cohen is not one of these guys.  Darkness is brimming with brilliance.  And to boot, ‘Darkness’ is such an overused word in poetry, fiction, songwriting, you almost think that he wouldn’t be able to get away with it, but then you listen to it.  He coulda snuck that one by the Secret Service.  Honest.  Into the white house, up the stairs, and into the Obama’s bedroom.

Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger (2007)

Actually the song title sums up the attitude I find myself actively trying to avoid, especially at work.  I’m a counselor.  I work with teenagers.  Girls, to be specific.  I wish I could give you a glimpse into the shit storm I generally find myself walking into.  Don’t get me wrong, I like my job, it pays the bills and it is marginally rewarding.  It requires a great deal of self-care, which is a job I sometimes suck at.  If I could I’d fold myself away like a card table/ a concertina or a murphy bed/ I would.

Dancing in the Dark
Bruce Springsteen
Born in the U.S.A.

Why?  Because this song is fucking cool.  I’m not above hit songs, that should have been obvious after Stayin’ Alive appeared.  The Boss, I mean, he spoke to a generation.  Besides, what are we if not dancing in the dark?