22 Albums That Changed My Life (Part 3)

So we went through the albums that shaped my teenage and early adulthood years — now here come the stuff that shaped me as a grown-up.  Note that these span longer years than the earlier eras, because as an adult my palate has already been formed and it became harder to find things that impact me as deeply as it was when I was an open slate.

That’s not to say that I didn’t discover new music or I was less affected by those that hit me.  If anything, the music that did manage to cut through just stay with me for the long haul.  I’m not a teenager any more so some of the stuff that shaped me early on don’t necessarily offer something that’s relevant to me today.  But these resonate with me as much or more now than when I first heard them.

King’s X Dogman

King’s X has just so much amazing music that it’s hard to say which stands out.  The self-titled album was the first one I heard and its opening two songs are among best one-two punches I’ve heard in rock albums, but the rest are a bit uneven.  Dogman is a much more focused affair, they just come out of the gate with the title song and absolutely crush you, and they keep on slaying with every song thereafter.  The mysticism of the earlier material is gone (and is missed), but instead this album reveals the hard, raw, unadorned heaviness, both in terms of the sound and the life described in these songs.

Stone Temple Pilots Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop

This one didn’t offer quite as much emotional connection as some others on this list, but it earned its place because it opened up my mind about hard rock’s range and vocabulary.  This is an album where the band really set itself apart on many levels, revealed that they had more depth than what the rest of the world assumed thus far.  Scott Weiland shows a rare breadth for a rock singer by varying his voice’s timbre from song to song to serve the material, going from raspy and thin in “Pop’s Love Suicide” to plain and intimate in “Adhesive,” hardly touching the deeper baritone tone we heard in the preceding albums.  Equally varied are Dean DeLeo’s guitar tones, which again eschews the hard rock crunch that came before to opt for more jangle.  Their harmonic lexicon is much broader than typical rock acts, and songs like “Trippin’ on a Hole with a Paper Heart” are great showcases of that.  STP got me fascinated with chords which serve as a major element in my songwriting — my songs are filled with weird chords and voicings.  This album proved that STP commands an uncommon authority on songwriting, and it really pushed me in my development as a musician.

System of a Down System of a Down

When a then-bandmate turned me on to this album, I got its significance right away.  This album is like an unstoppable freight train, running over everything in its way with sheer might, brutality and intensity.  I just could not believe how unique they were.  A lot of the credit goes to the drummer John Dolmayan, who infuses what I always thought was missing in metal — groove.  The album is filled with so much propulsive momentum that I can’t listen to it sitting still.  Simple and naked in understated production, this is metal without any pretense or posturing (which unfortunately creep into their material as their career progresses).  Again I felt the social injustice was a worthy cause for bringing out the big guns and raging.  While Rage Against the Machine is the top dog in my book for activist rock (an important act to me also), SOAD’s first album gets the nod here for planting the seed for my desire to pound and sway — that metal becomes so much more moving when it combines fist pumping with a bit of swing.  Songs like “Know” and “Soil” are prime examples of this, and I am not ashamed to admit I rip them off a lot.

Jerry Cantrell Degradation Trip

This sprawling double album showed me how deeply rock and metal can reach in my darkest of times.  20s were filled with harsh struggles and this was the sound track that accompanied me while I was down there.  To this day I can’t listen to “Psychotic Break” without tearing up, and “Anger Rising” reaches some place way deeper than most other supposedly angry metal songs.  24 songs with nary a hint of hope (though the album closer “31/32” offers some respite), this is one trip I don’t take lightly. But if you’re in the mood for something that unflinchingly portrays the darkest bottom of our psyche, this album offers a rewarding experience.

The Beatles Revolver

I discovered the Beatles late, way late.  And I’m still discovering, but now having surveyed their catalog I can say that Revolver is my favorite album.  It’s filled with one iconic song after another, from the inventive rocker “Taxman” to peerless “Eleanor Rigby” to psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows.”  Their middle era is just something really special to me, because the songwriting is so melodic and succinct but their egos were still in check enough to keep them from engaging in more sprawling experiments (which have many amazing moments, but made their albums more uneven).  Between Revolver and my next favorite Rubber Soul there are two dozen songs that take you on a such a wild trip, from the childlike “Yellow Submarine” to wistful “In My Life” to astute “Nowhere Man.”

In Flames Come Clarity

This was the first album I came across from the veteran Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames, and from the opening chords of “Take This Life” I was hooked.  Here was an act that combined all the favorite elements that I have never found in a single act — the pounding intensity, catchy choruses, and introspective lyrics.  Later I learned that they are revered as the pioneers of melodeath but by the time I got into them they had long evolved away from their original twin-harmonizing-guitars-with-growly-vocals formula.  Long-time fans hate them for it but I adore them for who they are now, I’ve bought every album after Reroute to Remain and I like them all.  But Come Clarity still holds the highest esteem in my book, because it is the most cohesive and consistent (except the awkward closer “Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone”).  In Flames is not that good with variety and the handful attempts at slowing down often come out clumsy and forgettable.  But the title song here is a mother of all power ballads, and the rest, they stick to what they do best — pounding and thrashing on fast and furious riffs, with hook-ridden choruses.  Their style is so extreme and distinct that I can’t say my songwriting is influenced by them, but when I think of metal I don’t think of Metallica or Slayer, I think of In Flames.

Honorable Mentions:

These are some of my most recent (as in the last 5 years) discoveries and while they mean the world to me now, I am not quite ready to upgrade them to the “changed my life” status.

Cloud Cult Light Chasers

This concept album by the local indie heroes is so inspiring.  Their orchestral sound reminded me that I have classical music in my background as well, and the story of the album is one that reaches deep inside me.  This tale of a spaceship led by the enigmatic Captain goes through various stages of human life and witnesses tribulations and triumphs, only to fail to find what they were looking for at the end.  But therein lies the brilliance and wisdom — life is not measured just by accomplishments, but by the journey taken.  The music is filled with so much energy and spirit, I’m certain this album can stir the soul of any rock music fans.

Tool 10,000 Days

I was aware of Tool since the 90s but I never listened to them.  Well, better late than never — now I am a huge believer.  This is one challenging and uncompromising act, demanding patience and attention from its listeners, but the reward is huge.  Even though it’s a traditional four-piece of drums, bass, guitar and voice, each layer takes up its own unique niche inside the music, always intertwining and morphing, but without being inaccessible.  (The Mars Volta is similar in some ways but while they are perhaps the most stupendously virtuosic rock ensemble I’ve seen, I just found their music inaccessible)  Tool and Radiohead proved to me that you can treat rock as high art and give the middle finger to conventions and still create highly revered masterpieces.  But between those two I take Tool any day, because I’ve come to really crave the intensity of metal.  I wish if they didn’t have so much vulgarity and sinisterness to their identity, but songs like “Jambi” still offer ample wisdom.

SHEL Just Crazy Enough

Now this man in his 40s is chasing these brilliant young women in their 20s, the way he did U2 when he was a teenager.  The folk-pop-alternative band SHEL’s second album contains a jaw-droppingly rich tapestry of human emotions, from flamboyant “Rooftop” to sly “You Could Be My Baby” to defiant “Moonshine Hill.”  But you don’t need to dive deep to find that they also courageously face their fragility and vulnerability.  “Lost as Anyone” will stop you on your track with its intimate confession, and even peppy “Let Me Do” is really an unrequited longing for freedom.  The unexpected cover of “Enter Sandman” gets down right creepy in its depiction of a dark fantasy.  Above all, though, the slow-building opener “Is the Doctor in Today” just knocks me out every time I hear it, because in three and half minutes the girls encapsulate one of humanities’ deepest insecurities, our loneliness.  When Eva Holbrook wistfully sings “Maybe you can hear me late at night/ I’ve been searching all my life/ Is anybody there?” my whole body quivers and I have to fight back tears.

I discovered SHEL from an article on NPR (it was about the “Enter Sandman” video) that mentioned that the members are four homeschooled sisters.  My wife and I homeschool our children so that piqued my curiosity.  From there on I got hooked and I’m now scouring every live footage and taped interviews I can find because I adore them as people.  It’s so fun to connect to an act whose music resonates so powerfully while the musicians themselves come across as relatable.  I can only dream that someday my listeners feel similarly about me.

They say we are what we eat, and I can say the same thing about what we listen.  The music you listen to is a reflection of who you are.  But it’s also possible that a piece of music affects you so profoundly that it actually influences and changes you.  It was fun to look back at my journey, starting with 80s hard rock to religious music to death metal.  As I get older my horizon broadens and I gain appreciation for music I couldn’t fathom before — I didn’t get the Beatles until my 30s, for example.  The world is filled with talented musicians making amazing music and I can spend a life time uncovering gems and hidden treasures.  Music has given me so much, what I give back seems so minuscule and insignificant, but without doing so my life seems less meaningful.

So there you have it.  What music changed your life?  What does that say about you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

j j j

22 Albums That Changed My Life (Part 2)

This is a series walking back the time line in my journey as a music fan.  The previous post covered the teenage years — now we’re getting to my 20s.

U2 Achtung Baby

Like everyone else, I was just blown away by the transformation.  The Edge’s guitars were so distorted and mangled, sometimes I didn’t know what they were (particularly in “The Fly” and “Mysterious Ways”).  This was the most complex music I encountered at the time, since it had so many layers.  It rocked hard but it also had this dance groove.  It was mysterious, abrasive, ironic, and vulnerable all at the same time.  The songs flowed from one to another and every one of them had its place.  This is perhaps the album I did the most research about, from interviews to documentaries to the book U2 at the End of the World.  I learned that they went through a creative crisis.  But the result is a pinnacle of their career — they’ve been trying to climb back to this point ever since, and failing to do so.  There’s just something very special about this album, and to this day it’s very hard to pin down exactly what it is.

Midnight Oil Earth and Sun and Moon

I was already a fan of Midnight Oil from the seminal Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Morning, but in my mind this is their Achtung Baby.  Their politics get all the attention but Midnight Oil had very wandering, experimental side.  Their singer Peter Garrett is not a conventional “good” singer, his voice has this presence and intensity that defies and denies usual technical standards, but were complemented by soaring, towering backing vocals of Bones Hillman and Rob Hirst.  The preceding albums had amazing songs but the pacing was odd and there was curious shortage of heft.  Their vocals are serious and heavy-handed but the music somehow seemed more light-hearted and languid.

Not so with Earth and Sun and Moon.  The production is more filled out, this is one case where going less raw and more produced really pushed forward the artistic agenda.  Somehow the thicker arrangements made the guitars sound more ferocious and the songs had the gravity the vocals needed to deliver its point.  The pacing remained unpredictable but it flowed better, from the mid-tempo stumper “Feeding Frenzy” flowing into the majestic up-tempo anthem “My Country” then onto the funky romp of “Renaissance Man.”  “Earth and Sun and Moon” and “Outbreak of Love” were slow but not in the lax “ballad” kind of way — there was still simmering, pulsating groove, not allowing the momentum to bottom out.  “In the Valley” offers an unexpected and surprising sense of hope in very personal ways, after all the raging and ranting about their society.

I’m not keen on Australian politics but in my life Midnight Oil was the first act that wielded the might of rock n roll to address topics truly worthy of its weight.  Rallying against injustice seems much more justifiable channel for our aggression.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying any art needs justification — but personally I felt this was the more righteous output of our energy, compared to pounding and thrashing about breaking up with your girlfriend.  Midnight Oil is responsible for making me aware of this possibility, both in terms of literal liberal politics and use of art as your platform.

Pearl Jam Vs.

Pearl Jam turns out to be no less political than Midnight Oil, but they started out by rocking their personal demons.  If Earth and Sun and Moon rocked me by expanding my view, Pearl Jam turned the same energy inward, channeling perhaps the very rawest and abrasive of all rock n roll I heard up to this point to address the most personal and intimate pains.  Lyrics has always been a mysterious element to me, first because I didn’t understand English but then around here the mystery of lyrics started coming from the abstractness, rather than my challenged language capability.  Midnight Oil was mysterious because I didn’t understand Aussie politics or culture.  Pearl Jam I didn’t understand because the words don’t tell cohesive stories.  But somehow that made me get into it even more, the mystery adding intrigue like oil into fire.

Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins all came onto my radar — I believe the brief period between ’92 and ’94 was a unique era in which the radio played rock songs that talked about things that mattered.  But all the other guys had this drug-infused pessimism and sinisterness that didn’t sink into me.  Pearl Jam was equally anguished but their bitterness addressed more discernable, visible struggles, rather than making blanket statements about how wrongly life dealt with them.

Toad the Wet Sprocket Fear and Dulcinea

Gentler than any of the above albums, Toad the Wet Sprocket used poetry and every-man persona to show me how relatable music can get.  The lyrics still contained plenty of mystery — what the heck is “Walk on the Ocean” really about? — but their music seemed so unguarded, honest and true-to-life.  These were not rock gods raging against the world.  These were sentiments that felt so close to home, intimately familiar.  That’s not to say that they can’t rock when the material called for — “Stories I Tell” is as dark and intense as rock music gets, and “Fall Down” crash and burn in a very satisfying manner.  For the next 20+ years these albums become my most oft-played, and Toad still sits atop my short list of role models.  I just adore how their music never spoon feeds any answers yet form an always-reliable conduit for my suppressed emotions.  In comparison my music has darker edges and stretches out more, but the end goal is the same — whatever you’re holding inside, this is the music that helps you let it out, through the power of relating.

Jason Harrod and Brian Funck Dreams of the Color Blind

Harrod and Funck were Boston-based folk duo in the 90s, and gained enough traction to catch the eye of Mark Heard, a revered artist/producer in the budding indie Christian rock scene.  Mark would pass away at the tender age of 40 and Harrod and Funck would disband a few years later, but not too long before all those untimely partings the three of them made this mystical, transcendent, immaculate gem of an album.  Awash in delicious reverb that spread this otherworldly sheen over intricate acoustic guitars, their two voices tell tales not of religious fervor but bittersweet existential struggles.  In fact there is little here that makes direct references to their religious dogma, I will bet that this will go over just fine for listeners of all faiths and inclinations, so long as you bring to the table a yearning to experience all things beautiful and true.  I’ve listened to a lot of music but I am yet to come across anything that sounds remotely like this album.  And I treasure it for that.

Looking back, in my early 20s the innocence and naïveté started giving away to more nuanced, complex and mysterious paths.  All of these music had solid spiritual core but their expressions became less about answers and more about questions.  It’s an outlook that forms my foundation to this day.

But from here, I head into darker and heavier directions.

To be continued.


j j j

22 Albums That Changed My Life (Part 1)

Here are 21 albums that shaped me as a music enthusiast and musician.  It’s listed more or less in the chronological order of my discovering  them.  It’s fun to trace my journey and see my tastes evolved with time.

Bon Jovi New Jersey

Europe’s Final Countdown was perhaps the very first English-language album I got into, but this one was the one that knocked me out with the grandeur of rock n roll.  The intro to “Lay Your Hands on Me” is so majestic that it still pumps up the teenager heart inside this middle-aged man’s body.  Slippery When Wet had bigger hits but New Jersey seemed much more consistent and cohesive as an album.

Pet Shop Boys Actually

I had no idea what “It’s a Sin” was about, having just started listening to English-language music, but I was really mesmerized by how the somber mood coexisted with fast and propulsive tempo.  From start to finish this album presented me with a journey that offered a great variety but also a cohesive thread.  I know Behaviour commands higher esteem in the PSB fandom, but in my mind that album is too subtle while this one offers pop hooks galore.  PSB ends up being the longest act that keep connecting to me — the last couple of albums didn’t do it on an album level but there are still songs in there that I enjoy.

U2 October

The Joshua Tree had better songs but this album had more urgency that kept me coming back.  It also had a sense of mystery that intrigued me, though I didn’t understand at the time that this was their most overtly religious album.  I know U2 has long stopped relating to this material (with the exception of elegiac “October”) as the forced and rushed production necessitated the bare and natural sound.  But that made it age better than the preceding Boy or the next War, albums that are revisited more often than this one.

Joe Hisaishi Symphony: Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind

The only instrumental album to have the impact that rival all the rest, this one meant so much to me that it would become one of those albums I would reserve for special listening occasions, when I can sit and listen and really emote with music.  The movie is amazing and the comic book series even more so, but this orchestral arrangement of the film music (not the actual music that accompanied the film — that’s a different album) blew me away by how intensely it made me feel emotions.  All the pieces evoke such pure, clear and strong feelings, from hair-raising monstrosity to pastoral serenity to nightmarish dread to deep longing.

Skid Row Skid Row

Up to this point the hard rock I listened to had pretty boys and party vibe, then Skid Raw came and pushed me in a different directions.  These guys felt dangerous, like they were real punks (I was not exposed to real punk rock at this point).  There was rawness and aggression to their music that resonated with me and all the sudden all other so-called “rock” bands felt tame.  Looking back now actually their debut still contained much of the 80s hair metal vibe, which they shed in their follow up Slave to the Grind, so it feels like a transition album, of hard rock moving out of that glam-y atmosphere of that decade.  I did notice the difference at least, and it was enough to set me on a different path.

Michael W. Smith i 2 EYE

By far the darkest album in MWS’ long career, i 2 Eye has one of his signature tunes, “Secret Ambition” which (to my knowledge) is the only song where he directly tells the Jesus story.  But to me the Jesus part isn’t its main point; rather, it’s a tragic story of a man with a terrible secret and mission that nobody understood.  The song doesn’t say he was lonely, but that’s the emotion that comes up to me.  And that extends to the rest of the album, which is filled with vulnerability, longing, lament and even rebuke.  “All You’re Missing Is a Heartache” is a stinging, sobering reality check, “On the Other Side” “I Miss the Way” tell tales of mourning, and the understated and utterly unique (in MWS canon) opener “Hand of Providence” bares open how lost and insecure we are.  This is the least slick and hyped MWS album, perhaps owing to the Wayne Kirkpatrick production (the only album he produces, despite co-writing most of MWS material for a couple of decades), and because of that, it has aged gracefully well, still sounding fresh 30 years later.

Petra Beyond Belief

This album was the anthem of my late-teen religious fervor era, and among the first of “Christian rock” albums I was exposed to.  And it’s a good one, from the rousing opener “Armed and Dangerous” to raucous “Seen and Not Heard” to slow-builder “Love.”  I remember playing it to my mother and saw how she got excited that this was church music with a ton of up-beat energy.  Sadly, the dated production didn’t age well and the rhetoric that sounded fresh then are now trite and overused — if I heard this today I’d cringe.  But because I was exposed to it back then, it’s still meaningful to me, for it showed me that you can be a church-goer and still rock your socks off.

Michael W. Smith The Big Picture

Go West Young Man and Change Your World were also knock-out albums but this is the album that affected me the most.  Its theme deals with various issues common to teenagers, where MWS offers empathy, guidance and emotional support.  He felt like MWS wrote these songs for me!  It did help that MWS rocks the hardest he’s ever done before or since.  I listened and listened and devoured the devotional book he wrote to accompany it.  This album was the turning point that made me want to write songs and to do what these songs did to me.

Billy Crockett, The Basic Stuff

Capping out my evangelical era is this tiny album, containing a dozen songs thrown together over the course of only a handful of days.  Billy Crockett was much in demand then as an acoustic guitar virtuoso, but here his singing and songwriter takes the center stage.  This was before the praise & worship became all the rage in contemporary Christian music, but I dare any of them to match the charm, wit and honesty of this collection.  Unassumingly down-to-earth, unhyped in its delivery,

That covers my teenage years.  As you can see I was of my time but fairly varied — I thought I was listening mostly to hard rock/hair metal but ones that truly affected me were not necessarily so.

The other thing is most of these albums I can still listen to and feel more than nostalgia.  Most of them aged really well and feel relevant to me today.  It seems like I had a good instinct already and I certainly approve of choices that my teenager self made.

To be continued to my 20s.


j j j

You Win by Showing Up

All you need to do is show up.

But showing up is not just merely being physically present at some place at some time.

It means you are present, as in, you are paying attention to what’s here and now.

You are not reveling in or plagued by your past.  You are not preoccupied with or daydreaming about the future.

You just show up, wholly, to the moment.  Everyday.

When you’re paying attention to the present, that also means you are open and ready to receive.   Receive answers to your questions.  Answers come to you when you are ready.  Trying to forcefully find it at the time and occasion of your choosing, through willpower, computing and analyzing, only shows you unreliable paths.  To truly walk the right path, you have to let go of expectations in terms of which path that is, and open yourself up, be vulnerable to the present.

That’s not to say that you have to lose sight of the desired experience, the feeling you want to have at the end.  The only thing you need to let go of is your idea of how you’re going to get it.  That’s why it’s more important to ask the right questions, than to find the right answers.  The quality of the answer depends on the quality of the questions.  Our job is to ask and be open.  That’s not hard, once you understand it.

All you need to do is show up.  Progress sometimes hides itself.  Progress sometimes shows up in the form of temporary backtracking.  There is no need to wring out every ounce of productivity out of your time.  If you show up, that’s already a win.  All you have to do is to keep showing up.  Day after day after day.

It is not much to ask.  Truly, anybody can do it.  All your desires and dreams.  Ask how you can get them, but don’t try to find the answer.  Simply show up and ask the questions.

This is the lesson I’m learning these days.  I can be stubborn or too dense to learn some things.  I am sharing it with you, so that hopefully it’ll take you less time than I did to come to this.  I made life to be harder than it needs to be.  Masters always make it look easy.  If you are struggling, that means there are expectations you are forcing, lessons you are not learning.  All that thinking, wondering, worrying, obsessing hold you back instead of moving you forward.

All you need to do is to show up.  Stand on the start line with the intent to run the race.  Then you listen, you wait for the “go” sign.  You’ll only notice it when you’re paying attention.  When you are ready.

So let’s show up.  Again and again and again.

j j j

Do You Like the Music or the Musician?

Music and the artist who created it aren’t the same thing.

While it’s true that the musicians poured themselves into the music, at the point of being made into the form of a recording, their connection ends.  The music will take on its own persona, its own life, linked but separate from the artist.  As a musicmaker myself, I can tell you that once a song is written, from there on it feels just like any other song written by anybody else.  I still have to learn how to sing or play it, just like learning to play a cover.  If I’m recording it I make arrangements and production decisions, I may even change melodies and words, but again that process is no different if I were recording someone else’s song.

Since the artist and the art are two separate things, it’s not uncommon that you connect to one or the other, but not both.  For this reason I don’t always wish to meet or dream of being friends with musicians who created some of my favorite music.  Scott Weiland, for example, is a brilliant singer and lyricist, and since we have a similar vocal range I find myself singing along to him a lot.  I love how he can change his vocal timbre from song to song.  But from what I’ve read and seen he was not the nicest person — some of the stories about how he treated his fans (I don’t believe everything I read online, but still) have me recoil in disgust.

Steve Vai, on the other hand, is a person I adore.  He’s smart, articulate and insightful, I think if he and I were to sit down and talk we’ll have a rollicking good time.  But his music, I only like some of them.  I think they are all very well-made music, I can appreciate that.  But does it match my taste?

The offering of a musician is music, so you don’t have to like the musicians to enjoy the music.  That said, it’s also a lesson in finding a common ground.  If you relate to or appreciate a piece of music, then you just found something in common with the person/people who made it.  You don’t have to like the musician, but you can appreciate the bits of themselves that they put into that music you enjoy.

But sometimes the stars align and you enjoy the music and adore the people who made it.  When that happens I’m elevated to a new height of fandom.  Most of my favorite acts become my favorites because the musicians, the music, and I all connect in my mind.  Despite my criticism of their recent output, I still appreciate U2 as people.  The guys in Toad the Wet Sprocket seem rather shy so I’d have to get to know them a little, but I feel like they are my friends.  The men in King’s X are class act.  And I watch every interview and read every article about the girls in SHEL because I think they are awesome people.  (A sidebar there is that I do take a completely unwarranted pride in their success simply because they are homeschooled sisters.  My wife and I homeschool our children.  Though I am also aware that this middle-aged man geeking over a group of 20-something young women may come across a bit creepy.  I’m still trying to make peace with that notion.)

So if you are a musician, it’s important to express who you are outside of your music.  Don’t sit back behind the wall that says “I let the music do the talking.”  You’re missing out on an opportunity to win some loyal fans, and make great, personal connection, by not sharing more of yourself outside your music.  A need for privacy is understandable and is to be respected and honored, but as a musicmaker it’s also useful to know that it’s just as valid for people to like you as much or more than the music you make.  You can intentionally stump out such possibilities, but to what end?  I believe it’s far more fascinating to delve into this dichotomy, accept it for what it is and let it play out.

And if you are a music fan, think about which entity you’re fan of — the music, the musician, or both?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with appreciating just one or the other, and that’s reason enough to support their musicmaking.  But don’t assume that if you like the music you’ll like the musician, because that’s a brittle proposition.  Just enjoy the parts that you actually enjoy, and don’t project that expectation elsewhere.  It’s OK to enjoy music by people you don’t particularly appreciate.

The world is a fascinating, complex place and there are many nuances like this, where if you sit and think about something, you discover new truths.  Music is awesome and musicmaking is a critically important endeavor, both for individuals and for societies.  Appreciate what you enjoy, don’t get worked up over what you don’t, and keep searching for more common grounds, more things that resonate deeply with you.  Then you feel less lonely, less disconnected, and enjoy your life more.

j j j