First Listen Look-Back: Dance Yrself Clean


James Murphy is a king in a musical candy store. Notes and forte pianos are for his taking. A rhythm here, a chord there, what seems to be random picks are calculated equations. He is shaping the modern notion of electronica, rock and lyricism into a tasty musical blend.
Of course, you don’t know all of this at the beginning. In the beginning, there’s just the song and how it makes you feel. And for me, what other song could it be?
When I first listened to Dance Yrself Clean, I didn’t know about the length. I didn’t know that I had 9 minutes in store for me. All I knew was that my cousin sent me a link simply saying: “Listen to this with good headphones on and at full blast.”
Woah. That sort of simplicity is daunting. Not even a “love the part when the keyboard comes in” or “the guitar solo rocks.” The song itself speaks for itself.
So I put on the headphones and began.
The song starts.
Okay. And it’s… Still starting.
More starting.
Is this it? Is this the song? I thought. I mean, it’s good but I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere. The layered vocals are nice and the minimalist percussion is cool but it’s not really much…
And then the 3:06 mark hits.
My brain and life exploded and everything in existence became that song. NOTHING else mattered.
The drop was killer and ballsy and funky and just plain cool. Murphy came back in with echoey force that never overstretched his shouting vocals.
“Don’t you want me to wake up? Then give me just a bit of your time.”
The percussion was just perfect for the keyboard bursts and melodies. His falsetto weaved through the music and the song just became this vehicle for dancing. Try not dancing to this song. I dare you.
Both the Murphy and I gained a break after his amazingly long note hold. The song winded down to the way it was for the intro, but not for long. Back in dance mode with some scat.
The song closed out in its fancy dance-y fashion and then slowed down for the last few lyrics.
“Every day’s a different warning – there’s a part of me hoping it’s true.”
By the end of the stream, I was standing, panting, mind blown. I listened to it ten more times after that.
So if you haven’t listened to this song by now, I suggest you go… dance yourself clean.

Dancing’s Done by Thumpers – Edward Hopper eat your heart out

Whenever I walk through the Loop, I feel like I am entering a 1940’s photograph.

It isn’t just the architecture or the beautiful emphasis on the beige and stone in the buildings. It isn’t just the steel or the above-ground subway system or the smoke rising from the grates.
It’s the way that the sun hits the side of the buildings, how the windows reflect the sky. It’s the way that the sunlight beams through each avenue, weaving its way through grid after grid of skyscraper. It’s the bustle of commuters and workers and the dawn all merging into one.
Buildings and light make me feel nostalgic for art museums. I still go to them, but as a kid the Art Institute wasn’t an uncommon field trip experience. I got to go much more often than nowadays. The closest that I got to reliving that experience was when I was in London and I had the opportunity to go to the National Portrait Gallery or the British Museum nearly every day.
Buildings and light make me especially feel nostalgic for learning about Edward Hopper. I remember first learning about Night Hawks in school and then when I saw the real deal, that was it. The starkness in each painting was prolific. The seemingly simplicity was, in reality, shaded and layered. It may just seem like a woman looking out of a window sitting in a coffee shop, but just think – what is she wondering about?
These feelings can be found in Chicago. The buildings, tall and brown and the sun hitting against the edges to cast shadows onto the pavement. Finding a coffee shop and sitting at the window table and watching the rest of the world walk by.
The song that I feel compliments these variations of rumination is Dancing’s Done by Thumpers. The percussion, the trickling notes, the layered vocals. It’s breathless and impactful all at once. Simple yet complex. And it makes looking at the start sunbeam-lit building all the more beautiful as the morning comes into fruition.

Turning Blue and Turning Away


Go down, down south. Way, way down south. And instead of going to some tourist hot spot in Florida, go to a little beach town in Alabama named Gulf Shores. Drive through the little town with washed away storefronts and small seafood shacks and a souvenir store where the front entrance is a shark’s mouth. Drive past all of the resorts with chandeliers in the windows. They reside across the street from the humble condos. Both residents are not strangers to walking barefoot and finding sand in their hair. Drive to where the beach houses all have names like “Sand Dollar II” or “Our Lil’ Slice Of Heaven.” Where they could be purple or green or yellow. Park in front of one these houses and walk to the beach. Make sure it’s the beach that is gulf side and not the lagoon, although the lagoon is very beautiful. But that’s not what you came here for.

You came here for the waves. You have to cross the beach first, avoiding stepping on any jagged broken shells. The sand, soft and so white it’s blinding, stretches far. Maybe you’ve brought something to help the aesthetic match your actions – a book, a towel, possibly an iPod and headphones or speakers. Looking out into the ocean, you start treading water, wiggling your toes as the foam glides over your feet.

There is where you’ll find peace. But first, you must reconcile with yourself. Sometimes you can just do it on your own, walking around listening to the waves and watching them rise and fall in front of you. Sometimes, though, a situation is too good to not have its own soundtrack.

For me, Turn Blue was that soundtrack. I sat in the sand and watched the waves. Songs like Weight of Love, Waiting on Words and In Our Prime moved through me, feeling like it went along with the rhythm of the water. Memories and contemplations of love, change, and mistakes. The idea of my identity becoming as fluid as the current. My consistency is as consistent as the changing tide.

But it’s so easy to get caught up in existentialism and that weight of caring. Of all of it mattering too much. It’s best, every now and then, to let go of those thoughts and to just let everything flow. It’s not hard. Or, at least, not as hard as you think. Being there on that beach helps. The sun feels nice. The sand is soft. And the water is cool.

Maybe you’re at the beach with some special people. Maybe you’re alone in that specific moment on the sand, but you know that can go back to a smile and a good evening. But, just as I needed to, you need to sit for a little. Give your mind your break. All you have to do is watch and listen.

When you do just that, then you can turn and walk away. You’ll have the waves with you.