Category Archives: 31 Days of Albums

31 Days: #2 – Tom Waits: Closing Time

In honor of March’s “Music in the School’s” month, I plan on listening to a new album every day and then writing about it. You can find more information here and even suggest an album to listen to. Thanks for reading!

Tom Waits: Closing Time

The first seconds of a song are crucial. They can pull you in and hook you,or push you away and make you never want to come back. Tom Wait’s voice pulled me in from the first words he slid to me.

It doesn’t really sound like he’s even singing. Not in the traditional manner – he just sort of breathes out his thoughts, slides them to you like a bartender slides a shot of whiskey to you from the other end of the bar.

Martha. Oh Martha. What did you mean to a 21 year old Tom? From what he sings about you – everything.

I’ve wondered at times if I’m the only one who does this. Thinks of the future conversations, of that moment where someone who meant a lot to you at an earlier point in your life intersects back in. Because that’s what this song is to me – that conversation he’s thinking about when he and Martha ended. They both got married, moved on but he never forgot about her. He never forgot about those moments he had with this girl who changed his life.

It of course is followed by Rosie. Could this be the one he ended up with? Maybe. He tries to convince her of so many things, all the while playing to the moon and his solo audience of the cat. It’s another moment of longing – but a different one. Why can’t things be better, be the way they used to be. “How can I persuade you?” he asks – I wish i knew Tom, because then I could persuade myself.

Lost chances, paths not taken. There is a lot of longing and regret in these lines and songs. Things everyone feels, and the doubts we all have. The eternal question of “what if” and “maybe” resound in this album. Falling into and out of love, the bad timing that things have and the ways in which we all founder and then pick ourselves back up. Narrated by the smoky room that I see Tom Waits inhabiting.

I had just moved 2000 miles to Mississippi from NH. I met a boy at a bookstore. He was the first person to try to be my friend and I’ve never made friends easy. It was a balmy hot southern night and we were getting high and watching lightning bugs. Something about tom waits, the rough voice expressing the most beautiful things, the beats, the piano, he opened up a whole new world in me. It was like I suddenly understood myself and my life better.
Coming of age album for me. He sings about drinking, trains and traveling, loss. And the imagery he uses is haunting.
I had “ribbon in the willow” engraved on a ring I still keep today

I can see these moments in my mind. I feel the heat dissipating after a long hot day, feel the air heavy with the humidity. The record slowly spinning and the special rasp that comes with vinyl. It’s moments like these that are etched into a mind for all time. Forever is a long time but that time forever glows.


31 Days: #1 – Massive Attack: Protection

In honor of March’s “Music in the School’s” month, I plan on listening to a new album every day and then writing about it. You can find more information here and even suggest an album to listen to. Thank’s for reading!

I think it’s fitting that we start this off with an album that I’ve known about for several years now and never listened to. Massive Attack’s 1994 album “Protection”.

Massive Attack: Protection

Massive Attack: Protection

It took me a little bit to make a decision about this, I got so many different responses from so many people (thank you all by the way, keep them coming) that I had a hard time choosing. But this one stood out to me not only because of who recommended it, but because I have heard of it referenced but never listened to it. Amusingly, I’ve heard a remix of the first track at a party once or twice and every time I heard I went “Yeah. That’s good.”

So here we are. 49:57 of jazzy trip-hop chill-out music.

The lead off just cinched me in. The singers voice (Tracy Thorn) and the cold night air mixed so well. She’s warm, inviting and full of longing. Pulls you into her world of love and friendship, of wanting someone badly to be happy with them, or anyone. Wishing for them to be better, to shield them while they try. It’s beautiful. Haunting.

Now I can’t change the way you feel
But I can put my arms around you

I’m not sure though. Listening to her sing, if she’s trying to protect this boy from someone else, wishing the boy was in love with her, or that they were together at some point and now she’s trying to be the best friend she can while he’s with someone else. I feel the love in this song, but is it the deep romantic love or the love from years and years of friendship. It’s hard to define. I think on some level it doesn’t matter – if you love someone long enough as a friend they are your lover. You have shared so many things with them that they know you so completely, they become your rock that they love you fully.

“Weather Storm” hits me as I laid down in my bed with the lights off. I closed my eyes and was transported to a moment of looking at the sky. The piano played over me like the wind on a hilltop. Playful and dancing, while the bass reminded me that there was power out there in the wind. Throbbing. Subtle. I could see the clouds slowly racing across the sky and colliding into each other to form new shapes of their own, each special and independent.

“Spying Glass” was a bit of an abrupt change. I went from looking at clouds in the sky to the steady walking beat I have in the city. “Mind your own business! Keep your head down! No eye contact!” my brain instantly reverted to these things because that’s what you do in a busy city. Worry about yourself. Don’t get involved.

“Better Things” hit me right in the gut. Here are excuses you’ll hear when the relationship goes south, when they don’t know how to end it or you’re just don’t feel it anymore. He’s tired of her, she still loves him and all the excuses he gives can’t stop the pain she’s feeling. Because she knows he’s down with her, and he won’t give her the real reason.

And save your line about needing to be free
All that’s bullshit babe
You just want rid of me

I heard this before, once. “I need to be free”. You know it’s not that at all, but they’ll never tell you their real reason. Hell maybe there isn’t even a real reason. But you know it’s over when you hear something like this. They’ll say “it isn’t you, it’s me” too – but it all means the same things. I see this exchange in my mind – they went to a coffee shop, she knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. He dropped this on her without a lot of warning and there were some tears in that moment. Sad tears, then angry tears and that final moment of goodbye, where he walked away without looking back and her eyes followed him out the door. At least he left the tip on the table.

“Sly” could have come straight out of an acid trip. A steady stream of consciousness, train of thought straight from the speakers to my brain.

I try to believe what I feel these days
It makes life much easier for me

Preach it sister. I fell like we’re out of touch with what is around us a lot of times. We always try and dig deeper, discover a hidden meaning that sometimes just isn’t there. Sometimes a pizza is just a pizza – there is nothing more to it than that. We don’t accept that things just Are and it seems to bother us unduly. Reach out and touch the tree – that’s all it is. A tree. Part of something bigger yes, but still just a tree.

The album finishes off with a remix version of “The Door’s” song “Baby light my fire”. Which was unexpected but did a good job of closing out the vibe and feel.

“I used to listen to this song coming home from work. We’d close up the restaurant and this would be my ‘chill’ music. I could have spent a whole day of wanting to kill customers, but this would always make it easier to go to sleep. It soothed me for 6 months at that job.” – P

It does. It really does soothe me. The voices, the beats and the flow just pulled me in, made me comfortable and welcome. I thought of summer nights laying on a hillside talking to old friends while you watched the fireflies danced, the day finally cooling off. Blades of grass tickling the back of your neck when you laid down underneath a blanket of stars. Things may not have been perfect – you had a fight with your girlfriend, out of money and broke or just a bad day at work – but those things didn’t mean anything right then.

You were safe and content in those moments. It was all going to be all right.