Tag: Radiohead

Five favorite travel-related songs

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, this blog was devoted to music and concerts. Since I started travel writing, I’ve neglected my passion for the auditory arts. I’m combining the two today in this post.

When I walk around town, I always have a song playing in my head. It’s like having a personal soundtrack. Here are some of my favorite travel-related songs/compositions. I’d love to hear what yours are in the comments.

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Happy New Year! Favorite Songs and Top 10 Posts of 2010

TOP 10 SONGS OF 2010

If you have an rdio account, click here for a more convenient playlist. And please be sure to add your favorite songs to the comments below!


1.) My High School Senior Project: The Myth
2.) PLAYLIST – Yelp Holiday Mixtape Banger
3.) “Everything Is Meaningless” / Joseph Campbell, Ants, and (since it’s me) Radiohead
4.) “In the Movies” / Giants win the World Series!
5.) La meglio gioventù – My favorite film that’s not Inception
6.) PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)
7.) Chopin, Piazzolla, The Temper Trap / The most beautiful music in my life right now
8.) Merry Christmas!
9.) PERFORMER MAGAZINE – RECORD REVIEW: Mikie Lee Prasad, Jukebox Folktales: Volume Two
10.) ARTIST ADVICE – The First Gig – Setting your head for a proper performance

“Everything Is Meaningless” / Joseph Campbell, Ants, and (since it’s me) Radiohead

I’m currently reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces again for the first time in ten years. In the past decade, I acknowledged his book as influential in shaping my understanding of the world. And, having lived and matured for ten years since, reading his words again proves even more illuminating the second time around.

In his 1988 interview with Bill Moyers, entitled The Power of Myth, he examines many of the themes present in his book. A fan of Eastern mythologies, he is quick to cite ancient Shinto texts and Buddhist beliefs, one of which resonated strongly with me:

Everything is inherently meaningless.

This is something I would never say out loud in public, as it runs the risk of being readily misinterpreted and argued against, prompting a long philosophical discussion that I probably don’t have time for. A friend of mine once said the phrase to a coworker. His coworker responded by snatching his hat. “Give it back,” replied my friend. “If everything is meaningless, then this doesn’t matter!” I don’t suppose he knew, amidst revealing his diminishing maturity, that he was touching onto an irony even more profound, that when everything is meaningless, we can find perfection in everything.


The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.

An ant, living under two months, goes through relatively more life in a day than a human. Similarly, mountains, existing in geologic time, exist well beyond the years of any human civilization. Our lives are a blip to them as ant lives are a blip to us. The Universe, itself, is eternal, with the only finality being a construct of time. In the vastness of eternity, my desire to cut a dope record is about as passing to the Universe as an ant’s desire to score a fraction of a piece of rice is to me.

So does that mean we should just off ourselves, fulfilling our meaningless destinies as blips in the cosmos? Only if we’re unwise, the type to snatch a hat in a childlike response to a profound conundrum. If anything, viewing existence as inherently meaningless frees us from our obsession with only achieving goals, and reminds us that, since the results themselves will be ultimately dissipated into the stream of time, we really ought to enjoy the journey toward these goals.


God has made different religions to suit different aspirants, times, and countries. All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God Himself. Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with whole-hearted devotion…. One may eat a cake with icing either straight or sidewise. It will taste sweet either way.

What is our purpose in life? Unless you account only for the natural aspect of proliferation, there is no inherent purpose but what we give it. And because there is no purpose, and because we cannot be sure or even comprehend yet the vastness of God or an afterlife, we are freed to be grateful for the lives we are given to live. We are free to realize that no particular moment is serendipitous, but rather that life itself is the definition of serendipity. Every day that we do not die or suffer horribly is a wonderful thing.

It’s like what a character might dramatically say at the end of a war epic (the type of epics where characters say such cheesy yet memorable lines). As Katsumoto, the second-to-last samurai in The Last Samurai, realizes with his dying breath his quest of finding the most perfect cherry blossom: “They are all… *gasp*… perfect.” Or as in Kingdom of Heaven, when the warrior-poet Balian, failing to defend Jerusalem, questions the invading Muslim king Saladin after their bloody battle, “What is Jerusalem worth?”

Adding perspective to the culmination of their years of brutal conflict and the suffering of thousands over the place, Saladin replies quickly, “Nothing…”

He walks away, but turns and smiles,


Music As Paintings of the Universe

Sounds exist all around us, raw and unrefined like short splatterings of color against a gray canvas. As a painter masterfully combines and organizes color into a work of visual art, so does a musician string and sustain sounds into a coherent, melodious piece. It is the voice of God, I believe. It surrounds us in waves, and penetrates our ears into our thoughts and into our very souls.

“The artist, his function is the mythologization of the environment and the world, people particularly gifted, whose ears are open to the song of the universe.” -Joseph Campbell

One of my favorite attributes of a song is atmosphere. I’ve long realized that the general public subconsciously shows little regard for carefully crafted lyrics, placing a greater emphasis on how a song makes them feel, with quality lyrics as a secondary (albeit still important) characteristic. This is evidenced by the public prevalence of pop fodder with a dance backbeat and gibberish for lyrics, not without help from corporate record labels. But when a song can exhibit great atmosphere and lyrical sensibilities, it becomes something more than a simple song. It elevates itself in both our bodies and minds. It becomes an experience.

In no particular order:

and my favorite song of all time…

Keane, Ingrid Michaelson, and Fran Healy @ Fox Theater (07.20.10)

Keane | Ingrid Michaelson | Fran Healy

Yes, that’s still my favorite Keane song. And if you’re thinking I’m not a very good Keane fan for liking their old pop single, you’re right. I’m not. While I own their debut record, “Hopes & Fears,” I’ve never really been a fan of the band, despite the fact that we share the same name and that their popularity hides some of my web content when you search for me on Google (a blessing, really). I’ve always thought of them as talented, but just not my particular cup of tea. So when a friend messaged me with an opportunity to see Keane for free, I chuckled a little (again, we share the same name – the jokes went on WELL into the night) but happily agreed to check them out.


Going in, I knew little about Fran Healy, the lead singer of Travis, aside from a few quality songs I heard from his band. I fully expected to enjoy Ingrid Michaelson’s set the most, as I find her minimalist style of songwriting endearing. Keane, I suspected I would enjoy, though I was not really sure how much.


Fran Healy completely won the audience with his solo act. His was an intimate set, filled with stories about playing on tour, “nicking chords” from Noel Gallagher of Oasis (he since slipped in the phrase “What’s a Wonderwall, anyway?” into the alleged Travis song, “Writing to Reach You”), and having his heart broken by girl after girl. He messed up noticeably several times on stage (“Ahhh, fuck!”), only adding to the warmth of his performance.

Surprisingly, I didn’t care for Ingrid’s set at all. I felt she spent a good percentage of her performance playing cover songs (“Creep” is overdone – everyone, stop it now) and being an overall goofball. While I think this works most of the time, going on a seemingly five-minute long rant about her boobs was a bit much. And perhaps if I hadn’t heard Or, the Whale‘s amazing rendition of Britney’s “Toxic,” I may have enjoyed her closing version of it more. Don’t get me wrong. I think she’s an amazing artist. I would have just liked to see more of her art.

I enjoyed Keane very much. While I’m not a fan of listening to their music at home, it translated incredibly well into a live show. The same endless vocals and keys that bore me at home provided a steady stream of energy into the crowd. And the crowd seemed to enjoy it thoroughly, as the band spent more time smiling in thanks between songs while the crowd cheered their mouths and my eardrums off.

There was a point when everyone started chanting, “KEANE, KEANE, KEANE, KEANE.” I may or may not have pretended in my head that they were chanting for me. Just a little bit.

Radiohead – "Everything In Its Right Place"


I incorporated this song in a Yelp review a year ago. It was in response to feeling particularly down and listless, when I was trying to figure out how to find balance in my life. Unemployed and searching for meaning, I’m finding this theme particularly relevant again…

Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco

The naked, descending notes on the opening track of Radiohead’s Kid A fall into a schizophrenic scatter of ambient sounds. I remember first understanding this album in New York when I plugged in at the Museum of Natural History and it transformed my experience into one more visceral. The chaotic repetition is meditative, and it distracts from the endless noise and static in the head.




There’s little better than enjoying a cup of coffee in the Ferry Building. The echo of spoken voices provides just the right amount of audio haze, and the view of the Bay keeps the mind at peace. The food options are also incredible – my favorites being Delica rf-1 and Acme Bakery – where one can grab a bite of quality comfort to enjoy with the scenery.

There are two colours in my head…

There are two colours in my head…

What was that you tried to say?…

I like to believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe it’s delusion, but there’s solace in knowing that, like the song, even random chaos retains some structure, that even the craziest noises can come together in meaningful harmony. Visitors enter from all around the world and are never seen again. It’s serendipity and chance that pulls us together. You prepare yourself as best you can for the world, but if the world isn’t ready, you must remain patiently wanting… and after that, it’s all a matter of luck…

It’s all a matter of timing.




…in its right place.

Songs That Defined My Life

These are the songs that defined my life. There are others, of course, but I felt the included were those important enough to share. Click on artist names for info and song names to have a listen for yourself…

Chris Cornell – “When I’m Down” (1999)
No one believed me when I told them the then recently Soundgarden-separated Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, was an eclectic masterpiece of somber alt-rock. I’m sure they believe me even less after the crap he’s released since then (Audioslave aside).

The Wallflowers – “One Headlight” (1997)
My favorite band from 1997-2004ish. There’s a soulfulness to Hammond-filled, rustic Americana that I think anyone can appreciate.

Jewel – “You Were Meant For Me” (1996)
Sexiest song ever. If love were bottled into a song somehow, it would sound like this and come from Jewel’s mouth. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the other songs on Pieces of You though. Additionally, I’m not sure one can actually bottle something into a song.

Oasis – “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (1996)
Post-Beatles, co-Radiohead, pre-Muse Brit rock at its best.

Gin Blossoms – “Til I Hear It From You” (1996)
Don’t hate.

Lisa Loeb – “Stay (I Missed You)” (1994)
One of the sweetest songs ever written. I think a whole generation of kids fell in love with Lisa Loeb the day this song was released.

Green Day – “Basket Case” (1994)
I didn’t get it at first…

Weezer – “Buddy Holly” (1994)
Pure 90s nerd rock. Weezer defined a generation with their Blue Album. Sadly, they sort of fizzled away creatively. Still, it’s amazing how their first two albums can still keep us loving them despite the mediocre fare Cuomo and crew have released since.

The Cranberries – “Zombie” (1994)
I actually just heard the MTV Unplugged version today. Click the song title link and listen to it. It’s even better than the original.

Radiohead – “Creep” (1992)
My anthem for about 70% of my high school experience. I had a great time but it was still high school…

Kris Kross – “Jump” (1992)
Okay, this one is kind of a joke. I remember liking it for a short while but not long enough to learn the lyrics. Honestly, I’m not sure why I even bothered. Maybe it’s because citing “Ninja Rap” just felt too wrong. Also, I was, like, 10 or something…

Michael Jackson – “Thriller” (1983)
I would leave the room when the video played on television. And this was BEFORE he was accused of child molestation.

The Carpenters – “Sing” (1973)
For the record, I don’t like the Carpenters. I sang this song at my preschool graduation in the Barbers Point Naval Base.

Gerry & The Pacemakers – “Ferry Cross the Mersey” (1964)
The first pop song I remember really liking…

I was five.