One-Line Enlightenment

Are you in the market for some fact-acting self-knowledge and/or spiritual fulfillment? Might I suggest one line each from these three newish songs?

JR JR — “Same Dark Places”

One-Line Enlightenment: “I know everybody goes to the same dark places”

It’s easy to feel alone and isolated when you’re suffering in some way, but there’s a really good chance that people — maybe even people you know — have gone through or are currently going through something similar. “Same Dark Places,” which was accompanied by a touching message about the song’s origins, does a wonderful job of shining a bright, compassionate light on those shadowy emotional spaces.

Future Islands — “Through The Roses”

One-Line Enlightenment: “It’s not easy just being human”

Speaking of compassion, when you approach interpersonal communication with a basic level of empathy — “This person I’m talking to has the same basic wants and needs as me and could be dealing with difficulties that aren’t immediately apparent, etc.” — it’s amazing how much easier it is to defuse charged situations and find positive outcomes. This line from the new Future Islands album reminds me of this in such a simple and powerful way. The video above ain’t great, but the message comes through loud and clear.

Eric Slick — “You Are Not Your Mind”

One-Line Enlightenment: “You are not your mind”

I often fall into the trap of assuming there’s a way to think my way out of every situation. I also tend to prioritize my inner experience when I’m feeling less than good about what’s going on on the outside, whether that’s the clothes I’m wearing or my inability to force myself to exhibit extroversion when it counts. And while the mind can certainly act as a refuge, I love the idea that there’s some other self that’s even more basic — something that’s not so readily accessible or easily tinkered with. I’ve read that meditation was a big part of the inspiration behind Eric Slick’s new Palisades album, so I’m sure he has a more precise idea of what this lyric is getting at, but just hearing it gives me this tremendous sense of relief, like walking away from an elaborate array of spinning plates.

To bring things full circle, here’s a video of Eric Slick speaking very articulately about the need for open discussion of mental health.

Daniel Rossen

Silent Hour/Golden Mile

Back in early February, good friend of the blog Greg and I played a game called Adjective Battleship, wherein we tried to sum up songs we liked using 5 words or less. There were some fun similarities in our descriptions, the spookiest of which being that Future Islands’ tune “Balance” made us both think of elephants. Hmm. As weird as that was, I think the most meaningfully similar descriptions belonged to Daniel Rossen’s dark and beautiful “Saint Nothing” (mine was “Rainy days are pretty too” and Greg’s was “A smile buried alive”). I had no idea how close we were to the truth until last Monday, when Pitchfork posted a brief but revealing interview with Rossen, who spends most of his music-making hours as one quarter of the brilliant, brooding Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear. In the interview, Rossen talks about how alienated he felt after finishing an especially long and grueling tour with the Grizzlies, saying things like, “I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and if I really even wanted to make music anymore.” Heavy stuff. The rest of the interview focused on Rossen’s stunning and highly recommendable solo EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile, which just came out yesterday. Please don’t let the gloomy introduction fool you. There’s a reason both Greg and I alluded to positivity in our descriptions of “Saint Nothing.” One of the things I love most about the EP is how tantalizingly close each dissonant moment comes to a blissful resolution that hovers just inches out of reach. The natural urge to obtain that shiny, withheld joy results in a deeply enthralling and rewarding listen. It also results in kids getting stuck in those claw game machines. I mean, who hasn’t that happened to, right? Start your own claw game by sampling Rossen’s “Up On High” and “Silent Song” below. If you dig ’em, click here to buy Silent Hour/Golden Mile on iTunes. Who knows what you’ll snag!

Daniel Rossen — “Up On High

Daniel Rossen — “Silent Song

Adjective Battleship

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a group called Little Dragon and how my friend Greg’s 5-word description of their song “Ritual Union” — he called it “alien Motown in the snow” — made such a fantastic and indelible impression that my enjoyment of the song went through the roof. Listen to the song here. He’s totally right, right? I know!

Well, Greg came up with the awesome idea of trading these types of descriptions back and forth (an idea I promptly militarized*, being a dutiful son of Norfolk, VA) and after we traded a few emails about how fun this would be, the joys of structured creativity and about Spin’s new Twitter reviews, which aim, with no small amount of chutzpah in my opinion, to sum up and rate new albums in 140 characters or fewer, Adjective Battleship was born!

While you won’t find any star-based or scale-of-1-to-10 ratings below, I hope these descriptions, or “unread footnotes to a haiku” as Greg put it, will help you find something in these songs to latch onto and love, as happened for me with “Ritual Union.” Before we get started, here are the rules, as ratified by the two contestants.


  1. Each player nominates 3 songs.
  2. Each player provides a description comprised of up to 5 words, not all of which actually have to be adjectives, for all 6 songs.
  3. There is no time limit on composing descriptions.
  4. The player who compiles the descriptions for posting purposes cannot look at the other player’s descriptions before finalizing his or her own.
  5. There is no winner, just congratulatory high-fives for a game well played.

As for listening strategies — that’s entirely up to you. Song then description, description then song, song then description then song… do whatever floats your boat. Without further ado, let the battle commence!

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