Friday, February 3, 2017

Musical Chairs

So, I guess I'm next in line to take Baseball Card Breakdown's challenge to channel our inner Night Owl and pair albums with cardboard.  In all honesty, this was a major challenge for me because music and cardboard never really went hand in hand.  When I was 14 years old and got my first job, wielding a shovel out in the irrigation ditches of my hometown, I spent all my money amassing cards.  Just a couple of years later, I had a car with a CD player and I spent all my money amassing CDs for said car.  One collection began when the other ended (which reminds me of a song from album that just missed inclusion.  "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.")  Now it's been years since I bought any new music whatsoever, and I'm back to spending my dough on cardboard.  They've never happened simultaneously.  I guess I can only afford one interest at a time.

The other reason this was difficult was how varied my musical tastes have been through the years.  My friends used to laugh that my CD collection had everything from George Strait to Tupac, from Sinatra to Metallica.  Each musical genre kind of phased in and out with periods of my life.  I eased this challenge by holding tightly to Gavin's edict to choose from albums that influenced your teenage years.  I've read some more vaguely worded responses that said "youth," defined by teens to early 20s, and that opened up too much for me to work with.  I fudged in another area, however, in which I chose a round dozen instead of an even ten.  Without any further, ado, allow me to post music on this blog for the first time ever.

In no particular order . . .

Dave Matthews Band--Under the Table and Dreaming

Dave Matthews is still one of my favorites today, but from ages 15-19, my appreciation bordered on obsession.  Here is my confession (married women, prepare your eye rolls): I still own, and wear, my DMB t-shirts that have been in my closet since 1998.  My wife is appalled that a) that statement is true, b) I admit it, and c) that I just disclosed it to other people.

Speaking of near obsessions from my youth, and tying in nicely with the first track on this album, Barry Sanders will always be "The Best of What's Around."  Yes, I've been a Packers fan since around the time Barry entered the league, but I can't deny that I still hold that he is the most talented football player I've ever seen and an absolute joy to watch.

Garth Brooks--Fresh Horses

I grew up in rural Utah.  I have two uncles and three cousins who made their living in professional rodeo at some point.  Failure to include any country music whatsoever would be to deny my roots.  That said, this particular Garth Brooks album was one of the last of my childhood before my musical tastes branched out in my teenage years.  Today, I still like the country of my youth, but I'm much more rock influenced than anyone else in my family.  But I listened to Fresh Horses countless times, even when some of my friends were begging me to turn it off.

Note: Apparently Garth Brooks videos are hard to come by on YouTube.  I can't find any with Garth actually performing; they're all covers.  But at this point in the draft, I'm not changing the write-up.

The final track on this album is "Ireland."  It was my favorite, and I still use it when I teach my poetry unit to middle schoolers.  I'm not sure if it was because of this song or not, but Fresh Horses actually hit #1 on the Irish charts late in 1995, knocking What's the Story (Morning Glory) by Oasis out of the top position.  Connecting to the song, I have representation of the Golden Boy Golden Domer and my favorite Notre Dame gridiron star turned hurler.

The Wallflowers--Bringing Down the Horse

If my early childhood was defined by country music, then Bringing Down the Horse is a turning point in my musical timeline.  This was the first non-country album I owned, and the sound of it is really a natural bridge from the country to the alternative that I grew into in my early teens.

Since this album will always be meaningful to me for the transition it represented in my personal development, I think it's fitting to commemorate three future Hall of Famers who transitioned from college hoops to the NFL.  Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates could conceivably go down in history as the top tight ends to ever play the game.  Julius Peppers has been terrorizing quarterbacks for well over a decade.  All three played college basketball, and Antonio Gates never played college football.  And all three fit nicely in my collection as members of the All-2000s team.

Third Eye Blind--Third Eye Blind

This album possibly got more play on my stereo than any other.   The final three tracks could be put on loop for the entire day and I'd be happy.  "Motorcycle Driveby" is probably my favorite song ever.  Oddly, most of the songs that were released and got airtime on the local radio stations are my least favorite; I love the deeper tracks on this one.  It almost feels like the band had two different personas when recording this one, and the pop-rock sound that drew me in, while very good, was the inferior of the two.

Fittingly, the album with two great but distinct sounds was released in 1997.  That year, Brett Favre and Barry Sanders shared the NFL MVP award.  This album produced some of my favorites songs.  Brett and Barry were my two favorite players.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Barry Sanders makes his second appearance in this post right here.


This may be the most obscure mainstream band on this list.  They were one-hit wonders whose one hit, "What I Didn't Know," never was huge.  Lest I be accused of "I like music you've never heard of" mentality here, I wish they had been more popular.  Alas, after hearing their second album, I understood why I never heard from them again.  It was a bit lackluster and didn't really have the feeling of the first.

Throughout the Cubs' playoff run, I heard it said that the Cubs were destined to win because they were such a young team that the key players were too naive to understand just how difficult it actually is to win at that level.  Not knowing any better, they would just assume that they would win because that's how they had always done it.  I like that idea, though it is logically flawed.  At any rate, tying in with the song "Spotlight," here are some young Cubbies who just had a chance to step into their own spotlight.

Eve 6--Eve 6

The punkish quality of this band struck a chord somewhere in my extremely-not-punkish-self.  Actually one of the things that attracted me to the songs was the excellent wordplay.  I'm a sucker for a well-turned phrase, what can I say?

One such wordplay is Eve 6's breakout song, "Inside Out:" "Socal is where my mind states, but it's not my state of mind."  My card connection to this is legend in the making Mike Trout.  Sure, he plays ball down in Southern California, but whenever I look at him, I see a Jersey boy.

Counting Crows--August and Everything After

No one could place a "Yeah" in a song as perfectly as Adam Duritz.  I loved the Counting Crows sound that lent itself so well to an acoustic version of the songs and the poetic nuances of the lyrics.   By the early 2000s, their style had changed a little and I liked it a lot less, but the first few albums were gold.

Track 2 of this album is one of my favorite Counting Crows songs: "Omaha."  Yeah, I think you know where I have to go with this.  It's almost too easy.

Old 97s--Fight Songs

I'm not even sure what genre this belongs in.  I guess I've hear the term "alt-country" before and it fits.  I was introduced to this band by a friend who had a demo CD of different new artists and he thought I would enjoy the song by the Old 97s.  He was definitely right.  Here's the strange thing: the CD was of fresh new rap music.  Not sure who decided this was a good fit.  Interesting side note: after many, many listens, I have concluded that "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)" is about losing a pet.  What do you think?

My last post actually referenced the fight song of BYU, and my hometown team is the focus of my 2017 collecting efforts.  But I'm actually an alumnus of Southern Utah University, and, therefore, a hardcore collector of Brad Sorensen, my alma mater's first ever NFL draft pick.   In the spirit of college fight songs, here are my three most recent Sorensen pickups.

Sister Hazel--Somewhere More Familiar

Bluesy and acoustic, this band is right up my alley.  I love me a strong rhythm guitar and upbeat tempo.  Following The Wallflowers, Sister Hazel was next in my non-country listening.  During my early 20s, when I decided to buy a guitar and attempt playing it, I tried to learn some Sister Hazel songs.  (No, I never really learned, nor do I currently own a guitar, so don't ask.)

Sister Hazel hails from Gainesville, FL, home of the Gators.  Now, UF has seen some great players in multiple sports through the years, but in my lifetime there is only one Mr. Gator: Tim Tebow.  I was older when he played, but I am too young to remember Emmitt Smith being there.  Tebow did things in college that Emmitt never accomplished anyway.  Regardless of what you think of him, the guy knew how to win.

Evan & Jaron--Evan and Jaron

Don't let the appearance fool you.  This is not a boy band.  At least not of the N Sync and Backstreet Boys variety.  These two young men were brothers who formed yet another band that I appreciate whose sound centers around an acoustic guitar.  Musically, this is the least influential of all the albums on this list.  However, the effect it had on my life is immeasurable.  I was a senior in high school when they debuted with the song "Crazy For This Girl."  I had just started dating the girl who turned me down when I asked her to homecoming (moral of the story: never give up).  She bought me this CD and led me on a crazy scavenger hunt through the mall to find it, and it became our song.  Sixteen years later, we're still married.

I've heard rumors that these two didn't last in the music industry due to their devotion to their Jewish faith.  Holding the Jewish Sabbath sacred, they refused to do shows from sundown on Friday through Saturday.  I have to say, I respect the decision, even if it cost them their careers.  After all, Friday and Saturday nights are pretty big for concert-goers.  I'm not entirely sure it's true, but that's what I heard and I'll roll with it.  Since I won't presume to know which professional athletes are devout Jews, I'll widen the net a little and include devoutness of any faith.  Here are some TTM autographs I've received through the years that include an inscription of scripture.

Tonic--Lemon Parade

What a great mix of up-tempo rock and slow ballad on this album.  The music is great, but it was the oft-poignant lyrics that hooked me.  And, as an English teacher, I appreciate the Whitman reference in "Mr. Golden Deal."  To this day, I've still never heard a Tonic song I didn't like, and even former lead Emerson Hart's solo stuff from the mid-2000's is great.  I'm actually surprised this group isn't better remembered.

Who better to represent "Mr. Golden Deal" than the man with the richest contract in NFL history?  Andrew Luck not only has a golden deal, but he has also been deemed the golden boy from the very inception of his career.

Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband--Dream Big

 This is a local group that I discovered as a senior in high school.  On a whim, I decided to take my girlfriend (yes, the very same aforementioned one) to a free concert.  We both loved the show.  It's totally a bluegrass band, so not everyone will appreciate it.  Since then, I've seen them live in concert five times, own all of their albums, and have met the band a few times.  It's happy, uplifting, sometimes downright silly music ("The Corn Dog Song," anyone?), and I love it.  The album Dream Big was not their first, but it was the only release they got from a major label in Nashville.

"Banjo Boy" is a whimsical song about trying to make it big, but simply lacking the right tools.  I think back to the recent past when the Jacksonville Jaguars professed their confidence that Blake Bortles can lead them to a title.  I, however, think that Blake Bortles is a Banjo Boy--I once believed in him, but I don't see him finding much more success in the NFL than he has already had.  And that's not much.  All of the hopes that he will transform into a superstar look to be about as realistic as becoming a rock star equipped with a banjo.

 Other albums that just missed the cut:
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
  • Matchbox 20-Mad Season
  • Our Lady Peace--Happiness Is Not a Fish You Can Catch
  • Semisonic--Feeling Strangely Fine
  • Ben Folds Five--The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
  • Goo Goo Dolls--Dizzy Up the Girl
  • Stroke 9--Nasty Little Thoughts
If I were to repeat the same task, but focus on my early twenties, I'd find something different from my college years.  Just for the record, the albums that most influenced my musical tastes from that period would include:
  • Pat McGee Band--Shine
  • Matt Nathanson--Beneath These Fireworks
  • Mat Kearney--Nothing Left to Lose
  • Better Than Ezra--After the Robots
  • Kid Abelha--Acustico ao Vivo
  • Colors--Outside the Lines
Anyway, I probably droned on enough about this.  This was a very time-consuming and difficult post.  Which makes it only that much more rewarding.  I hope you enjoyed some of the tunes.  Let me know what you think!


  1. Very nice selections - I could have easily squeezed a couple of these on my list, as well (especially the Eve 6 and 3EB selections). All in all, pretty much every one of these albums are repped in my music library. You definitely nailed the cardboard tie-ins too, especially the story behind Evan and Jaron.

  2. Based on these albums, we are exactly the same age. :-)

    1. Yeah, it's funny that I surmised that was either a little older or younger than a few of the people who have done this. Nothing dates us like our music, right?

  3. Very diverse lineup. I only know the ones from AOR radio, but Tonic's CD is in my collection too.

    I think RGIII is the poster child for Banjo Boy.

    1. I considered RGIII, but I still feel like he might regain some of his rookie season magic if he can stay healthy. Bortles, however, seems to be regressing even with some great weapons around him. I just don't think he has it.