THANXFDR: DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU by The Sounds
In this heartwarming seasonal series, the Crossfader staff will be running you through some of the media-related things that they’re most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
There is a lounge outside my dorm room where I go to finish homework or study when I need to get fresh air. Recently, while studying for my Spanish test, a group of guys came in discussing one of their first times smoking marijuana and how fun it was to get high. I promptly moved to the other side of the lounge, where there were two girls and another guy talking to one another. Apparently, one of the girl’s roommates had taken one of her skirts and worn it to a party where it had gotten dirty after she had…gotten busy. These are activities that my demographic and age group typically find fun and proudly boast of in front of random strangers, activities that I don’t in any way enjoy. I wouldn’t even know where to find drugs or parties. An “old soul,” my mother calls me. I think most others were prefer the terms “killjoy” or “buzzkill.” “Blake the Killjoy” was my coat of arms in school that I wore far too proudly. You know that Alessia Cara song, “Here,” about the kid at a party who becomes disgusted with everything around her and wants to be anywhere else? Yeah, that song may as well have been my theme song through middle and high school, and I hate the fact that it was. I was that douche who bragged about not liking amusement parks, In N’ Out, the beach, or Harry Potter like it made me special.
The only thing that had a strong enough flame to melt my cold heart and be embraced wholeheartedly on the basis of being fun was a Swedish record that I listened to every time my parents drove me to tennis or hockey: DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU by The Sounds. Think Blondie with more spunk and a rascally attitude. It represented a lot of firsts for me. It was the first album I really listened to all the way through, it was my first European record, and my first album featuring a female singer, all things that I have incorporated into my musical palette ever since. My parents always poke fun at me for the latest band from Finland or the rest of Europe like H.I.M., Ghost, or Poets of the Fall, as well as female-lead rock or metal like Within Temptation or Garbage.
Without me realizing it, DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU really shaped what I want from my music in a big way: electronically-tinged, up-tempo rock with catchy, sharp choruses, clean vocals, preferably without any post-production flourish, confessional lyrics, and to-the-point songs that don’t overstay their welcome and know that stretching themselves out doesn’t automatically make them avant-garde. There had been other records I had enjoyed, like HOT FUSS by The Killers, but they always left me wanting something more in order to complete my prototype of what I wanted from music. This was the first record I can ever remember getting completely lost in, mostly because I thought it was “fun” and “catchy.” It taught me to drop the cynicism and enjoy myself for once, and I am grateful for it always reminding me that being catchy and fun is just as much reason to appreciate something as reasons more concrete or definable.
My taste, and subsequently my reviews, try to create explanations and justifications for my opinions. There is a lot of “this does or doesn’t work because of this,” and breaking down the music into its various components and how they interact rather than analyzing track by track. My Opeth review is a great example; I talk about progressive rock, how Opeth fits into the history of progressive rock, the progressive musical elements and the rock elements both individually and together, the lyrical themes, and finally, a brief summary encompassing everything I talked about. Even at 10 years old, that was how I approached my entertainment. I laid my music on the surgery table and dissected it piece by piece.
DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU was the first record that escaped its restraints, shoved me against a wall, and slapped me around a little bit, refusing to be dissected. And for the first time, I was okay with that. I didn’t want to break it down into its various musical parts, I accepted it as a fun, ear-wormy whole. I am thankful for The Sounds for reminding me that something can be the most technically well-put together thing in the universe and I still won’t find it enjoyable, and vice versa. Music can’t always be broken down or explained piece by piece, and sometimes I spend way too much time trying to do that, preventing myself from simply enjoying something by overthinking it. In the end, DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU isn’t flashy, emotionally deep, experimental, or boundary-pushing, but it taught me how to have fun and not overthink things, something “Blake the Killjoy” still needs to remember to this day.