Summer School of Rock: The Airborne Toxic Event

Let’s get something straight here: I do other things besides just write blogs and be unemployed. Hard to believe, I know.

Photo courtesy of weaselzippers.us.

Self-portrait.
Photo courtesy of weaselzippers.us.

I do have friends. Friends who talk. Granted, we talk about music and our jobs, whether they exist or not, but friends of mine they still are. Also, prepare yourselves because that wasn’t the first Yoda-esque phrasing you’ll see in this blog. If you don’t understand that reference, then we would not be friends who talk about our nonexistent jobs. Sorry.

As I admitted to in my lesson on researching, these friends sometimes give me brilliant music suggestions. My best friend Maddie led me down the path to Blue Scholars, my brilliant friend Melissa gave me the keys to Tallest Man on Earth heaven and one of my fellow Gaveliers, Online Manager Emily Akin, played some funky music white girl and showed me the greatness that is our next band. But we’ll get to that in a second. Whoa, keep your shirt on! There are young children reading this!

Ahem. I mean it.

Anyway, now that you’re decently clothed, I can move on. There comes a point in every young musician’s life when she wants to expand her repertoire (Disclaimer: By "musician," the author means "person who enjoys music," and by "repertoire," she means "her iTunes library, full of songs written and performed by other people." The author is making no claims to have any sort of musical or instrumental talent whatsoever. Trust me, she has absolutely NONE).

Last week we talked about purging. This week, it’s time to talk about splurging. Oh, you’re wondering when my favorite time to go on a music splurge is? When I’m not working of course! How about that. See how things come full circle?

A music binge used to mean getting a sampling of new music. My immature, 15-year-self was like, “Hey, look at all these cool bands I bought off of iTunes that no one else has because I was the only one smart enough to scroll past the first 10 songs!” Stupid, stupid stupid.gavel3-300x300

So there I was, a year ago, scanning through my iTunes list of artists and having, like, one song from each one. Yet I’d still hear any mention of one of those artists and immediately claim to adore them, love them, “Oh, I’m OBSESSED. Been listening to them for years.” So. Stupid.

Whatever happened to Emily Akin? Oh right, how could we forget? Her beauty. Her adept hand at online managing. And her superb music taste.

This next band had been in that “one song per artist” category for years. Listened to that one song on 8tracks, fell in love, left it at that. So when Emily brought up that they had a new album coming out, I jumped at the chance to show off my keen knowledge of their music. Let me give you a snippet of how this conversation panned out.

Beautiful: Hey, The blahblah blahblah blahblah just came out with a new album!

emily akin

Isn't she lovely?

Me: OMG NO WAY! I love love love them.

Beautiful: I love [insert song] by them. What’s your favorite?

Me: Oh, umm, “[insert only song I have by them]” probably. It’s genius.

Beautiful: Have you heard this one? [plays random song that I’ve never heard before in my life and can't even claim to recognize that it’s by the same band that I’m obviously in love with]

Me: Umm, [panicking] yeah, of course, it’s a classic.

Beautiful: [disappointed in my obvious bluffing]

A blossoming friendship, ruined.

Just kidding, she’s the coolest. And I’m pretty sure she still likes me.

HOWEVER, a classic case of a horrific occurrence that happens daily between  each and every wannabe and diehard. It’s a tragedy really. Here’s the solution:

Lesson #9: Give every band the attention it deserves.

I learned this lesson the embarrassing way. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN TO YOU. SAVE YOURSELVES.

It’s okay to sample a band before you go all in and buy their entire discography. That’s what YouTube and those 1:30 iTunes song snippets are for.

But, 15-year-old self and anonymous readers, how can you ever know how you feel about a band if you don’t give them the chance that they deserve to impress you? Sure, singles are great (both songs and people). But what about the potential hits that would never get played on the radio? The transition songs on the album? Those quirky instrumental songs that get no credit from music critics but are inherently brilliant? What about them, 15-YEAR-OLD SELF AND ANONYMOUS READERS?!

Here come the Yoda references: Give each band a critical ear, you must. A chance on them, you should take. Their entire discography, you should buy. They might surprise you. They might disappoint you. But how will you ever know unless you do it?! Spoiler alert: This will also save you from potentially embarrassing experiences like the one that plagued my dreams for the following month. Again, not worth it.

Photo courtesy of The Airborne Toxic Event.

Photo courtesy of The Airborne Toxic Event.

So what was this fabulous band that I had been missing out on for so many years because of my stubborn refusal to download more than just one song? In case you were unable to decode what “The blahblah blahblah blahblah” meant, or sadly unable to read the title of this blog post, they are The Airborne Toxic Event.

Airborne Toxic started out as a purely lyrical sensation, born in 2006 at the hands of Mikel Jollett, a writer and essayist from LA. After a series of traumatic events in his personal life and a couple of chance meetings through mutual friends, ATE started performing together in October 2006 and scored a record deal less than a year later.

Three studio albums later, the most recent having been released in April of this year, and the band has developed a reputation for their unique blending of the alternative rock sounds of powerful electric guitar and drums with orchestral arrangements.

However, as catchy and fun as these songs are to pound out on the steering wheel, with more and more listens I find that lyrics are truly Airborne Toxic’s most mesmerizing aspect. I’ll admit, “Changing” was the first song I ever heard by ATE and, true to 15-year-old form, my ears to this day still shut out the lyrics and listen strictly to the sound.

https://soundcloud.com/islanddefjam/the-airborne-toxic-event

However, without Emily Akin calling my bluff, I never would’ve discovered the words of now one of my favorite songs of all time lyrically, “The Graveyard Near The House:”

I mean, “It left me to wonder if people ever know each other or just stumble around like strangers in the dark. / Because sometimes / You seem so strange to me, I must seem strange to you. We’re like two actors playing two parts. Did you / memorize your lines?” Heart wrenching. I want to tweet about it. Oh wait, I already did.

ate tweet

If you didn’t notice, I’m a sucker for song lyrics decorating every inch of my Twitter. It makes me feel profound.

And can we just talk about “Bride & Groom” for a second? Not to degrade the opening trumpet sequence and how the guitar pick-up going into the third verse just makes me want to dance, but the raw honesty of Jollett’s words are unlike any other. I’m a child of the singer/songwriter era and I’m proud of it.

The second verse of “Sometime Around Midnight,” makes me think I might be falling for this girl too: “As you stand / Under the bar lights / And the band plays some sone about forgetting yourself for a while / And the piano’s this melancholy soundtrack to her smile / And that white dress she’s wearing, you haven’t seen her / For a while:”

https://soundcloud.com/joshypooh116/the-airborne-toxic-event-sometime-around-midnight-2

Oh, don’t mind me while I blather. Check out “All At Once,” “The Fifth Day,” and “Numb” as well:

See what I would’ve missed out on if I had stayed 15? Besides puberty and college? Yikes. Entirely different story.

Seriously, though. Don’t be that guy (girl). Know your stuff, give ‘em a chance and most importantly, always read the book before you judge the cover. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Screenshots by Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media.

gavel ad hoshi ya

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