Tag Archives: music review

Songs to Ease Your Mind

With the way of the world currently it feels important to state this message very clearly: Protect Trans Kids.
Art by: Tray Taylor
IG:: @allusiontoreality

There never seems to be enough time. 

I think that is something we have all felt before or something that we constantly feel. All in all, it may be easy to agree that even in a world where we were given “more time” at home …it still never feels like enough. 

In a year (more like well over a year) of added stress due to a global pandemic and a metaphorical world on fire around us… we should all just keep acting accordingly…right? 

No, no absolutely not. 

We all need space and time to breathe….AND be forgiving to ourselves & the people around us. 

I’ve tried to set a routine for myself a countless amount of times during this past year. Nothing has truly stuck. A few things I always find myself falling back on for centering though are meditation (shout out to the app Insight) and music. 

Here’s a list of songs to soothe your soul & mind: 

Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce

Have I mentioned how much I adore Jim Croce? I’m pretty sure I have, but I can’t gush about this man enough. His music is my favorite to listen to on vinyl. This song particularly gets me lost in his voice…wait wait, who am I kidding? Almost every song he sings I get lost in that gorgeously comforting soft as silk voice of his. In fact when I was trying to think of songs that made me feel calm or centered, I found myself humming this song instantly. Oh the magical power of a Jim Croce song…

Still Sound (instrumental) – Toro y Moi

Full disclosure, my introduction to Toro y Moi was the instrumental album. Which I quickly realized was actually just a re-release of the original lyrical album that was dropped a decade ago entitled The Difference. I stumbled upon Toro y Moi when I was looking for music that was going to soothe the anxiety I was feeling and somehow in my rabbit hole for searching for that perfect album….The Difference instrumental version was what I found. I fully intend to go back and listen to the lyrical version of the album, I just wanted the experience of listening to the instrumental first. For me, I was instantly blown away and of course Toro y Moi has been around for awhile – so I am a bit behind the times. If you are a fan and haven’t listened to the instrumental version of the album, I highly recommend checking it out in its entirety. This was a favorite, but it was pretty hard to pick just one track. 

You Were Meant for Me – Jewel

I once worked with a guy that loved Jewel…other fun facts about him: he also loved dinosaurs and had a vintage motorcycle. Part of me never really understood his deep appreciation for her music, but I think how much he would talk about it randomly every day made me understand the beauty in her songs a bit more. That friend of mine recently passed away a year or so back and I hadn’t spoken to him since we had worked together. Jewel’s songs have a calming spirit to them, but they not have an added meaning for me. In the chaos of life, when a Jewel song comes on – I get to think of my friend and I think that is part of the many facets of beauty that music holds. 

Simple as This – Jake Bugg 

I forget how much I love this song, until I rediscover it buried in one of my many playlists I have created. This is a song that is simply (no jokes intended there) joyful. Part of it is the sound of it makes it seem as if it is from the 60s or 70s when it actually was released in 2012. A real comforting tune for an old soul like myself. 

Place to Be – Nick Drake

Nick Drake for me has a voice that defies odds …because it is seemingly raspy yet soft all at the same time….which is truthfully an exquisite combination. Anyway, Nick is another artist I often find myself reverting back to when I just need to get work done or to calm my spirit. Place to Be is a favorite of mine because it is a song I can put on and get lost within without even realizing until the song has ended. I say all of that, because that is exactly what just happened when I had it playing.

California – Joni Mitchell

Something about this song that no matter the weather outside or the mood I am in – I am instantly elevated for three minutes and fifty seconds. Joni has a way of transporting the listener to a dream-like-state with this song. There is a powerful pull within the lyrics of the song and Joni’s captivating voice that can make a person believe there is sun on the horizon and everything will be okay in the end. Sure a cynic would say that it is just a song about California, but I’ve never been a fan of cynicism. 

Maybe these songs pulled you in and excited you enough to add them to a playlist. Maybe they encouraged you to revisit music that grounds you and makes you feel centered. 

In a world full of chaos, I wish you all to find whatever outlet will bring you comfort.

Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken

By Tray Taylor
IG: allusiontoreality

Sometimes writing for this website feels like I am consistently learning how to ride a bike and continuously falling off it each time.

There’s imposter syndrome and loads of self doubt with being a writer, but the gag is …. in order to be a writer you have to get over that and write anyway. 

I don’t think I can count the amount of times I heard the phrase in my life, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I’m trying to relate that to what was working when I first started creating posts on this site and I don’t want to stray too far away from just sharing music with my opinions/reviews to each track or sharing book suggestions or writing anything in my authentic voice. I say all of this because I’m looking to grow my readership, so if you ever want to recommend my writing to a friend, family member, or stranger …that would be greatly appreciated. 

What does seem to be broken though are these past two weeks, because every single day has felt like a Monday. The amount of energy it has taken to intentionally find the silver lining in each day has been utterly exhausting. 

I have searched endlessly to find just the right kind of songs to make me feel upbeat for a mere two minutes of the day. Here are those songs (tell me why I said that like that part in L&O:SVU when the intro says, These are their stories.):

Shakedown Street – Grateful Dead

This is one of the songs that made me fall in love with The Grateful Dead and it is a song I turn to often when I want to reconnect with my younger self. My teenage years and early twenties were very drenched in Dead Head culture. I went to a lot of shows, played the music endlessly on repeat, and dressed the part. Over the years I’ve strayed a bit from my hippie ways, but every now and then I like to play the Dead to remind myself of how carefree life once felt…especially in moments of stress.

At My Worst Pink Sweat$ feat. Kehlani

Okay so, yes this is more of a sad bop. The truth is sometimes, when I am searching for music to uplift my spirits listening to sad songs that I can sing along to actually have a tendency to uplift me (I know I am not alone on this). This song is fairly new, and has been added to one of my recent playlists that I have had on repeat. I love the combination of both of their voices together – poetic in every sense.

Dead FLowers – New Riders of the Purple Sage

I admittedly didn’t discover New Rides of the Purple Sage until a few years into my love for the Grateful Dead. It was actually an old Tumblr friend that recommended the band to me. Sidenote: Tumblr for those that don’t know, is a blogsphere type of platform where others can connect through similar interests & blogging (Disclaimer sidenote: this was not the best description, you can Google it for further details). ANYWAY – my point is I have been going through old favorites of mine and stumbled upon this gem.

Got My Mind Set On You – George Harrison

Oh sweet George – I have a deep love and appreciation for George Harrison. I think the first time I heard this song when I was younger, I became instantly obsessed. I know for those that have listened to George Harrison’s music this may seem like the overrated single and he has a greater discography than this song….and I would agree with this sentiment. However, this song still has a special place in my heart, and will always be a favorite. Especially in a time when I need a song to boost my mood.

Heat – Paul Woolford, Amber Mark 

This song just made me feel like I was in a club in the Gayborhood in Philly or at Pride …and I couldn’t resist putting it on the list. I miss music to dance to, I miss dancing, I miss the feeling that dancing to good music gives the soul. So, if you want – here’s a directive…turn up the music, and dance wherever you are…right now.

America – Simon & Garfunkel

Yeah, I know… another sad bop…and this isn’t the last one – so get over that already. I adore this song. I adore Simon & Garfunkel. They were one of the first artists I listened to that showed me that some music lyrics are absolute poetry. Their music tells a story of a time I wish I could travel back and live through. My old soul yearns to just live during this musical time period more often than not. If I could live in a song – it would be this one, hands down.

Dancing On My Own – Robyn

A forever favorite of mine. Robyn is a go-to when I want to get up and dance – but don’t know exactly what I want to be listening to. The answer is never not Robyn, so therefore it is always Robyn. Plus, I mean…”Dancing On My Own”… it just kind of hits different during a time of quarantines and pandemics.

Orpheus – Sara Bareilles

Swoon…Every. Single. Time. when it comes to Sara Bareilles. Her voice is like the sun setting across an ocean horizon and the sky fills up in bursts of all of the colors that every existed in the universe. Beauty that expands any true imagination. She has the power to write a slow song and I find myself singing my heart out in my apartment suddenly filled with energy. Or maybe I am just some strange person that enjoys singing sad songs even when I am not sad just to feel something? I don’t know. Anyway, she’s a master of her craft – if you’ve never listened to any of her music…please do me a favor and go, now.

Welp. That’s it. That’s all there is for now. Writing this made today, an actual Monday, feel a lot less like a Monday…so hopefully reading it did something similar for you.

More Music to Add to Your Playlist

By Tray Taylor
IG: allusiontoreality

Here’s the thing with me and I’m assuming some other people out there – I didn’t mind not being able to socialize for an entire year. I loved not having to feel the pressure of flaking out on people simply because I did not have the energy. I didn’t feel a sense of guilt for having to come up with an excuse that I just wanted to go home to read a book, listen to music, or watch TV. 

I also know that this year has been really hard for my friends that get their charge from being around others. That’s just…so not me. 

There was no “hitting the wall” for me, except for that one time last month of March 2021 when I was like…I just wish I could go out dancing with my friends again. Then I woke up the next day and was happy to not have any plans on my calendar. 

This is no shade or anything to my friends that I love so much – I love you all deeply and enjoy spending time with you. I’m just a hermit and that’s the truth. 

I do a really stellar job to appear outgoing to most, but that’s all a facade – I promise. 

You know one thing that really recharges my energy?
You probably guessed by the title where this was going to go…yes, yep…it’s music! ….And it’s been far too long since I’ve shared with you what songs I’ve had on repeat lately. 

Through these long drawn out days of what has been so far a gorgeous spring…I offer you a few songs to add to your playlist: 

Starstruck – Years & Years 

This song is to be played when you want to cook dinner, have your own dance party, or that thing called exercise. I was beyond thrilled to see that Years & Years recently released this song, because it has been far too long since they’ve released new music. Olly Alexander was more so recently focused on acting and just starred in the latest Russell T Davies project, It’s a Sin. Which, if you haven’t seen yet – it’s a 5 episode miniseries focused on the AIDS crisis in the UK during the 80s and 90s within the view of 5 characters’ eyes. Highly recommended and available on HBO max. 

To the Class Of – Bleed the Rads (explicit)

I recently discovered this song when watching the romantic comedy Almost Love on Netflix (yes also go watch this lighthearted movie starring some spectacular underrated actors). The lyrics and composition of the song reminded me of a lot of music that I grew up on. I’m a sucker for nostalgia in the form of music, especially when I’m in a rut of sorts about where I am going in life. 

Obsessed – Mariah Carey

There’s just something about that opening line, “and I was like..why are you so obsessed with me” that has felt more appealing to say recently. Even when I’m not saying it to anyone and I’m sitting in a room by myself (okay…maybe all of this alone time during the pandemic has gotten to me). But also, I would never say that to anyone other than my good friends in a sarcastic tone. Anyway – this song is a forever bop.

Fight the Power Pts 1 & 2 – The Isley Brothers

Verzus recently had The Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind, and Fire and like..WOW four hours of legends ..it was totally worth staying up way past my bedtime to witness. Anyway, I was texting my Dad during it because I was introduced to both of these bands through him growing up. His response was to send me multiple different videos of some of his favorites. This was one of them.

Forget Me Nots – Patrice Rushen 

This is another song that I like to put on when I’m cooking or dancing in my apartment by myself. The kind of song that when it comes on is just an instant mood booster – I have a deep appreciation for songs that have the power to do that. Clearly it was such a hit that it was replicated for the Men in Black theme song in 1997. 

Can We Hang On – Cold War Kids

There will always be artists or songs that remind us of certain people in our lives both past and present. I’ve been revisiting this song and thinking about where I was when I first heard it. How different I am now and the new meanings these lyrics have taken on for me. The power of music is incredibly beautiful. 

So, there you have it – add a few, add ‘em all, or don’t add any. A good friend of mine often tells me you should only do what you want to do. I’m merely here to suggest music and share with you my thoughts and reflections to hope it’s entertaining enough that you keep on reading. 

Happy listening folks!

For Your Listening Pleasure: Recently Released 04/02/2021

By Tray Taylor
@allusiontoreality

I have an appreciation for reviewing and sharing songs that I have been listening to on repeat or just songs for the season- aka my infamous Happy Holigays playlist. Today, I think it is time to share and review some new songs that recently dropped that I think you need to add to your latest playlist, if you haven’t already. 

As much as I love reviewing and suggesting songs from throughout the decades and genres – I believe sharing recently released music to recommend is just as important (coming from a person that loves music and being introduced to new music). 

Some of these songs might be ones you have heard about recently, and others never before. Either way, enjoy:

Dancing with the Devil – Demi Lovato

I have been overly excited for the album to drop after hearing this single last week. This woman blows me away with her voice and her talent EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Overall the entire album deserves a listen, but I chose this song because it is what pulled me in. 

Recommend the entire album, but here are some standouts: Butterfly, Anyone, Met Him Last Night

Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X just keeps giving us the music we don’t deserve but absolutely need in our lives. A true Queer anthem with a backstory that will warm your heart (as long as you aren’t one of those people that have been passive aggressive with your homophobia over the video). I couldn’t get this song out of my head for two days straight…and now since I am writing this blurb it’ll probably get stuck in my head again for a few more days.

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) [Nicolaas Remix] – Hall and Oates

There’s no hiding it, I am a sucker for a remix version of a song when it is done well. And it is the right kind of song that can be remixed. This falls into that category for me. The song is already catchy, but with this Nicolaas remix it’ll have you turning up your volume so high that you’ll forget there are other people in the room that then tell you to turn it down (…or maybe that was just me…) 

Amir – Serpentwithfeet

The first time I discovered serpentwithfeet was watching the music video to Same Size Shoe which I loved. Listening to this album in its entirety though, Amir was the standout song for me. Serpentwithfeet is unlike anything I have ever listened to, which is a fantastic thing because it feels original and unique.
Also listen to: Fellowship, Same Size Shoe (and watch the music video)

Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen Cover)- Waxahatchee

Some people have strong opinions on cover songs. I would consider myself to fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Sometimes I have strong opinions on songs that shouldn’t be covered, and sometimes I think the cover of the original is much much better. This is one of those cases where I think the cover is better than the original.

What’s Wrong- half alive

Certain songs remind me of different times in my life and hearing this song instantly transported me back to a spring day in Philadelphia. I haven’t listened to half-alive in awhile- and was excited to see a new song drop. If you enjoy indie, alternative music…give this song a listen.

Live & Direct – Kota the Friend, Statik Selektah

There are few things I love more than discovering a new artist and falling in love with their art instantly. This album provided me with that satisfactory moment. Kota the Friend is a lyricist, a poet …so smooth with his delivery. Listening to every song feels like an experience, which made it hard to pick one or just a few songs.
Also take a listen to: Sunrise, Wolves

What better way to start your weekend …or for those in the service industry your work week...than adding a few of these songs to your playlist?

Sunshine? I Don’t Know Her

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I think I ignore the fact that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a thing because I deal with depression year around. So, when the sun comes out I experience this extra burst of energy and renewed sense of self – without acknowledging it’s probably because spring is right around the corner. Also I have a love/hate affection for winter, so I don’t like to believe the season brings me as deep down into hibernation as it actually does – I can’t be alone in that, right?

Enough about the sadness of the seasons…

I’ve gone from binge watching every true crime, thriller, and mystery show I could find to watching every mystery dubbed in english on Netflix (I know, I know, I am the worst…but my brain won’t let me concentrate on captions for more than 15 minutes…even though yes I still have the captions on at all times…)

My creativity has been at a stand-still and it has been a mood killer for me personally. Writing makes me feel at home – particularly when I feel a connection with the words I am writing. So, I’ve been trying to find ways to pull that out of me. I went in a deep dive of trying to find music over the past week and the few songs I discovered I’ve had on repeat lately. 

Music that can center and ground me I find to be powerfully beautiful. 

Here are a few of the songs I’ve had on repeat over the past week: 

1. Silk Jam – Louis Futon

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this song, but I am glad that I did. If I had to assign a sunny day a theme song it would be Silk Jam. There’s something about a song from a genre that I don’t normally listen to that makes it THAT much better when it wins me over. That’s this song for me.

2.Borderline – Tame Impala

Tame Impala was introduced to me awhile ago, but I hadn’t listened to any of their stuff in a long time. If you’re a fan of Broken Bells or Yeasayer – this will be music for you. This song is catchy, upbeat, and has a way of magically uplifting my mood. Music can either be a distraction for me, or help me focus – this song has me awkwardly bopping my head while getting the writing I’ve been procrastinating accomplished.

3.Butterfly – UMI 

This is what I declare as a sad bop – the kind of music I am not usually into. A song that’s slow, smooth, and also has a groove that makes it a bop. But like. How beautiful is this song? Every time I listen to Butterfly by UMI it calms my soul.

4.On a Wave – Zilo (explicit)

Play this track….go ahead….press play ….were you instantly transported inside a car, with the windows rolled down, on a warm sunny day with no worries? I imagine in my own mind that this is where this song transports me. The days when I used to have a car – before I moved to the city and would drive around aimlessly listening to music on full blast. Anyway – this song will lift your spirits, trust me.

5.Mine – Alex Isley, Jack Dine 

Another sad bop that I highly recommend – her voice is elegant and entrancing. Even if you don’t appreciate the genre, you have to appreciate how absolutely beautiful her voice is. There’s a delicate calming sense to this song, that helps me find my center.

6. I Hear The Day Has Come – Matt Maltese

I recently started watching the Netflix series Elite (yes that is one of the shows that was dubbed in english that I mentioned at the top). What does the show Elite have to do with this song? Well..I kept hearing it over and over throughout the episodes – finally by the season finale I needed to know what the song was. It had won me over after hearing it repeatedly. Times like these I am grateful for Google and the ability to discover a song just by knowing a piece of the lyric. I think his voice reminds me of a Nick Drake song – maybe I am way off base… it just pulls me in and feels as though his voice is singing a very sad poem, and yet, at the same time there’s bits of hope.

7.Green Eyes – Arlo Parks

Someone posted a Tik Tok on Instagram of a person recommending artists that people should be listening to – Arlo Park was highly recommended by this user. I’m the kind of person that will give any song or artist a listen – because there’s a chance I could fall in love with the music…or there’s a chance I’ll never listen to it again. Collapsed in Sunbeams is Arlo Park’s latest album and WOW …like WOW – the entire album is a true work of art. If you need music to relax to, get work done to, create art to – go put on Collapsed in Sunbeams.

8.Hex – Ark Patrol

This was another accidental discovery out of my usual music library and it’s been a nice ear candy break from all of the slow jams I’ve had on repeat. I had a couple of hours to paint over the weekend and this song came on it felt like it unlocked a piece of my creative mind that has been stunted lately. What gets me about the song is the rhythm and how it fills my body with anticipation for days filled with sunshine that are just on the horizon.

These songs have allowed me to fully connect with myself – when more often than not I have been feeling disconnected. I think since we’re coming to almost a year into when lockdown began I am feeling the feelings of disconnection intensely

I long for the days that the future will bring, but in forcing myself to be in the present – I am seeking the kind of music that has the power these tracks had on me. 

Only art can save us from madness.

Waiting at the Bus Stop

By- Tray Taylor
(IG – allusiontoreality)

Is there any science behind January always feeling like 3 months within a month? I guess I could have researched before actually typing that sentence out…

Seriously though, it seems every January always feels so long in a short amount of time and then we blink and it is March. 

Whatever you are doing this week, may it be focused on taking care of yourself and staying safe. I live in DC and it is a bit surreal right now – I feel like I am inside a movie of The Purge. *I wrote this sentence a couple of weeks ago, just for clarification*

While the earth feels like an over shaken snow globe on fire, I have been trying to rethink back to times when I felt the most connected to music when I was younger. Trying my best to remember times when music sucked me in so deep that I felt extremely connected to what I was listening to.

All I could imagine was a younger me, waiting at a bus stop with my one chosen CD to listen to for the duration on my disc man. 

So yeah, that gives me the opportunity to introduce the musical choice of a younger me on a format that still exists but is rarely chosen over streaming. 

The Jackson 5 (The Best of Jackson 5)

I went through a phase when I was younger when all I wanted to listen to was “older” music. The moment I got my hands on the greatest hits of The Jackson 5 I was thrilled. There was a brief moment in my youth where this was the only CD I listened to. I used to watch the miniseries/movie on VH1 The Jacksons: An American Dream whenever it was on tv (yes, the one with Angela Bassett). The infatuation ran deeper than a greatest hits CD.

All American Rejects

This album triggers one of the most vivid memories I have of standing at the bus stop when it was absolutely freezing out – flurrying almost, and listening to All American Rejects through my discman. Going back and listening to this album now I am impressed with how well I know every song, but also how deeply I felt these lyrics at such a young age. I can’t even lie, I was obsessed with this band and this album. Here are a few favorites: My Paper Heart, Swing Swing *this was their most popular song at the time*, Time Stands Still, One More Sad Song, Why Worry, Happy Endings, The Last Song ….okay I think I just named the almost the entire album…

Dream Street

Most people have never heard of this boy band, but they were my …obsession. I was a member of the fan club, and I even had a Dream Street dedicated wall in my room (yes…this is true..). They were also one of my first concerts at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City with my best friend in the 6th grade and my Dad took us there (still grateful that he was willing to sit through this for me). Anyway, I know this album from beginning to end and I still remember the dance to “It Happens Every Time” but younger me had some embarrassment around my love for them in public. Whenever I would bring this CD to listen to on the way to school I would bring another CD case in my backpack so people didn’t know what it was that I was listening to. Unfortunately one of the members passed away this year from COVID – rest easy Chris Trousdale.

2GETHER

I think one of the funniest things about this band is the fact that they were supposed to be a joke manufactured by MTV. However, people (ahem – me) fell in love with 2GETHER after the movie aired. From the movie, to their albums, to the TV show – I was hooked. I even had my Dad listening to them in the car when I would get dropped off for basketball practice (back when I thought my future was the WNBA…pipe dreams). Anyway, does anyone else know their calculus? Do you further know that U + ME = US?

Taking Back Sunday (Tell All Your Friends)

The moment I got this album I was in awe. An instant flashback to middle school, I remember holding this beautiful teal jewel case album in my hand – I was infatuated. My best friend and I in middle school would listen to this CD on repeat and knew almost every song by heart. I wore this album out going to and from school – plus away games for sports (because that was a thing). And of course as an adult, when I eyed this album on vinyl there was no question on whether or not I had to add it to my collection.

Damian Marley (Welcome to Jamrock)

Growing up I had a deep appreciation for the Marley family – it started with Bob though, of course. Then, as I always tend to do, I did a deep dive within to discover the other musicians in the Marley family. I was a big fan of many of his children- Damian and Stephen especially. I listened to Damian’s album on repeat all throughout high school. Side fact: my first concert in Philly was seeing Damian and Stephen on South Street (this was either in high school or right after I graduated…)

Saves The Day 

Would I be a true millennial from NJ if I wasn’t a fan of Saves The Day? I first got into them because my sister was a fan. Then somewhere along the way I became a bigger fan of the band and now still own almost every CD they have ever released (as well as vinyl records). There was like this section of bands that were emo/punk/pop and that was 100 percent my favorite genre in high school (see above: TBS). Their lyrics felt like poetry to me when I was in high school and I overplayed almost every album of theirs. A few favorite songs I’ll share if I had to narrow it down: At Your Funeral, Shoulder to the Wheel, You Vandal, As Your Ghost Takes Flight, This is Not an Exit, Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven, Hold, Jessie & My Whetstone, The Way His Collar Falls, Take Our Cars Now!, Z, O….. okay that list was longer than expected & that was me cutting it short.

….mixed CDs

It doesn’t feel right to write a piece about music of my youth without pointing out how much mixed CDs ruled my younger years. I still have stacks of CD books in the closet of my apartment somewhere…but who owns a CD player anymore? (says the person who owns a record player….)

So…what were you listening to when you were younger? Was it on a cassette player, walkman, discman, stereo sound system, boombox, record player, 8-track player…?

Music is Meditation

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Poetry has always felt like meditation in a way, from my perspective. Words that paint a landscape for us if only just for a few stanzas. 

When I write my poetry I feel like I am in a zone of only my thoughts and for those moments – I am at total peace. 

I have tried to bring meditation into my everyday life for the past few years (recommendation from my therapist, and just something I thought would be better for my mental well being). I started to keep track of the days I meditated back in December, then a good friend invited me to do a meditation challenge for 15 days. *which I was doing well with, until the weekend hit* 

Music does something similar – it gives us different perspectives into different worlds if only for a few minutes in a song. 

I’ve been trying to think of the songs I turn on when I need to just get lost in the music and be present in reflection. These were some of the songs that came to mind right away for myself:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies

I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with this song, but I think it happens every single time I listen to it. As I type this and have this song playing in the background – I am reminded how similar poetry and music are. Lyrics are poetry, and I think this song is a testament to that. “And the world spins madly on…” 

Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman


Oh Tracy Chapman, how I could listen to her sing for hours upon hours of any day of the week. When I need to really “feel” I will put on certain songs of Tracy’s. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the song I like to play when I just want to get lost in her voice and her lyrics. A perfect three minute meditation of Tracy Chapman.

Brace feat. Rainsford – Twin Shadow

A couple of years ago I used to listen to this song on repeat on my way to work whenever I was trying to channel myself into a good headspace. I went through a solid few months where I only listened to Twin Shadow. If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend adding them to your playlist. I like to seek songs that remind me I am not alone in the way I am feeling, and Twin Shadow tends to have those lyrics I need in the right moments.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens

This is a song I had on repeat for awhile after discovering it on the season finale of Better Things (have you seen this show? Go watch it. Pamela Adlon is a treasure). Mostly because that scene brought me so much joy, but also the lyrics (that are originally in French) are like damn yes a message we all need 100 percent.

Ship to Wreck – Florence and the Machine

I didn’t fully appreciate Florence and the Machine until I saw them live a couple of years ago with a few good friends. It was a special night that I really needed at the time, and I’ll say they were the right group of friends to experience this concert with. I fell in love with this song that night. Also grew a greater appreciation for Florence as an artist. This song pulls me into myself for a couple of minutes and allows me to sing out loud in meditation to cleanse my soul & feel my heart beat a little louder.

Runaway Goliath – Mantaraybryn

No clue how I found this song, I assume it was from a Spotify rabbithole that I tend to go down. For a whole year I had this song on repeat (because my self esteem needed it bad). I loved getting lost in this song- and I still appreciate getting lost in it every now and again. The beauty of music is the power it has of reminding us of our worth or it can just give us hope that darkness isn’t meant to be permanent.

A Better Son/Daughter – Rilo Kiley

Jenny Lewis is everything and Rilo Kiley is a musical gift. There are many Rilo Kiley songs that I like to play, so it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a song that, if you aren’t a huge fan, many people don’t know. I think my favorite part is hearing the emotion of Jenny Lewis in the song, how it breaks from her speaking in the beginning and then her emotion continues to build throughout the song. And you can feel it – in the lyrics and her voice.

I Got a Name – Jim Croce

My favorite artist to listen to on vinyl is Jim Croce. I love almost every single one of his songs and know them all by heart. “I Got a Name” always brings me back to my college years and listening to this record in my old apartment when I didn’t know what the future held (I mean, do I know now? No..but you get what I mean). I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think this song sums it up for me….”Like the fool I am, and I’ll always be/I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream/ They can change their minds, but they can’t change me.”

Do you have any of those kinds of songs that you find putting on in time when you need to recenter?

When I Thought I Was Punk

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Sometimes our younger years feel so long ago, and other times they feel a “blink of an eye” away.

A particular song did that for me this past week, and then I, of course,found myself going down a rabbit hole of old songs that I associate with that period of my life. 

In middle school and high school I listened to a lot of “punk” or “skaterboy”  or “Tony Hawk video game” music. However you want to classify it. It was a reflection of the company I kept and the town in which I grew up in. 

Anything Volcom I wanted to own and every Tony Hawk game I needed to have. Some of my favorite past times were riding my bike over the bridge to the beach to meet up with friends in Cape May to hang out all day or just cruise around the neighborhood on my skateboard. 

Let me just note, this was merely a part of who I was – I was also an athlete, a homebody, a reader, and a hippie loving child amongst many other things. I swear my vast music taste that spreads across genres & decades is a reflection of how I was able to become a chameleon to many different friend groups. 

Anyway, I somehow found myself listening to Pennywise – then I stumbled into Bad Religion, Millencolin, NOFX, and I just got lost in it all. Instantly transported to a time where my biggest worry was if I was going to be able to meet up with my friends over the weekend. 

I could spare you all the trip down memory lane and just say go listen to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack (which you should do anyway) – but instead I’ll highlight some of the classics that had me laughing at imagining 13 year old angsty me rocking out to the following songs. 

Yesterdays – Pennywise

As I was browsing in Spotify, I looked up an old band I used to love when I was in my middle school years. I haven’t listened to Pennywise in so long, but seeing the albums Full Circle and From the Ashes I was transported back to a younger, angstier time in my life. When all that mattered was playing Tony Hawk and longboarding to meet up with my neighborhood friends. Sometimes I wish my muscle memory for music was something I could apply to a few other things in my life that could use it. Anyway, this took me back to a fond time in my life where I had to listen to every track on an album because I was only allowed to take on CD to play in my Discman while riding the bus to school. So bada**. (Also listen to – Society)

Los Angeles is Burning – Bad Religion

Listening to this music again is making me feel like I am stuck in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, and I don’t hate it. A true nostalgic moment for myself, interesting to listen to it as an adult. Realizing the truth of the song and meaning behind it – how sensationalistic the media is (said by bassist Jay Bentley). (Also listen to – You)

No Cigar – Millencolin

This was definitely one of my favorite songs from this music era in my life. As soon as I hit the play button I felt something ignite in me that just wanted to sing along and jam out. It also made me really miss the group of guy friends I had that influenced this music on me at the time. They all had big dreams of moving out West (which they all ended up following through with for the most part & chasing their dreams). Funny how music can pull you back into a certain time period of your life, or old friends. 

Timmy the Turtle – NOFX

Well, this is just for humor and pure appreciation for how catchy this song is. I remember I got this album the summer I was going into 8th grade as a birthday gift. That album cover is forever burned into my memory. 

Superman – Goldfinger

If there is one song that encompasses Tony Hawk Pro Skater it has to be Superman by Goldfinger. This is a song that always puts me in a good mood and I like to return to it from time to time ….All of a sudden I have an urge to watch the movie Brink. 

Seein’ Red – Unwritten Law

The movie Grind. *that’s it, that’s the story*

Die For Your Government – Anti-Flag

In a way, it cracks me up that 13 year old me was seeing these songs. Like, I lived in a split-level house in a small beachtown in New Jersey – who did I think I was? I loved this song so much though. I know younger me didn’t fully comprehend this song as I do now, but oh I would love to meet younger me to have a chat about their thoughts on this song. 

….and with that I wish you a Happy New Year

A Friend of Dorothy

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I’m fascinated by all of the code names people used to use to communicate that they belonged to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Lately I’ve wanted to know more about the history of the Queer community, so I’ve been seeking out a lot of literature that can help me to understand how far the community I belong to has come.

I had never heard the phrase, “A Friend of Dorothy” until recently – but as soon as I did a let out a laugh. Then I tried to comprehend how terrifying it must have been back then to have to use coded language to connect to others.

For all the times I have fantasized to want to grow up in a different time, I am grateful that I live in the here and now (even in the pandemic times of 2020). I could not imagine not being able to live my truth out loud, or never having the chance to meet my chosen family out in the open. *note for those not in the LGBTQIA+ community: I do experience hatred on a regular basis, and sometimes exist in fear of living so outwardly. I think that’s important for folks to know.*

One of my favorite things about myself is my Queerness – I am a friend of Dorothy, just like the other Queers before me.

The phrase left me curious to go through some standout LGBTQIA+ musicians from the past. Some I have listened to before, and some recently discovered (I suppose nowadays it would be a friend of Beyonce, Cher, Whitney or Britney….or still Dorothy because, she’s still relevant).

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester

This is actually one of my favorite songs to play when I’m in a dancing mood or need to pump myself up. I imagine if I was alive when Sylvester first came about in the late 70s and 80s I would’ve been a huge fan. For some reason I picture myself walking into a Gay bar on a weekend in the Castro just to see Sylvester perform. Queer history really had some fabulous figures within it.

Galileo – Indigo Girls

You may be thinking since I grew up in the nineties I listened to the Indigo Girls – but I never did. The funny thing is I grew up on a lot of different music, but never remember listening to the Indigo Girls. I know they are recognized as the very gay band of the nineties (Lilith Fair and all…). When I got into the Indigo Girls it was actually around the time I came out (stereotype, I know) and I started to watch the series the L Word (…the stereotype keeps doubling). This is one of my favorite songs by them, and I of course will always appreciate “Closer to Fine” because it is the first song I heard of theirs (and yes it was the scene from the L word when they are all in the van…).

Million Dollar Bill (Frankie Knuckles Radio Mix) – Whitney Houston

Frankie Knuckles…this was a fun discovery of mine – I had never heard of Frankie before, but there’s a lot of information out there about him. They referred to him as “The Godfather of House Music” and he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996. Of course after listening to a few songs this song stuck out to me because, Whitney.

When the Party’s Over – Janis Ian

How funny it is that it always seems that those within the LGBTQIA+ community tend to gravitate towards one another without realization. Like in elementary and middle school – how many of my good friends from then are now living life happily out of the closet (as if I had my own gaggle of gays back then, without any of us realizing…). Anyway, I consider the same with music. I remember listening to Janis Ian after getting into collecting vinyl as a teenager and feeling drawn to her music in a very deep way. Funny to think years later I’d be writing this piece about LGBTQIA+ musicians within history and reminiscing of the first time I listened to Janis Ian feeling connected, and yet still not knowing myself.

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

When MTV and VH1 played music videos once upon a time I used to be glued to the TV when this song came on. I was entranced by Boy George and “Karma Chameleon”. Now this song makes me long to go back to times when dancing in the streets for Pride or Outfest or in Queer bars was once a thing (pre-2020).

Watch Me – Labi Siffre

At first I thought I had never heard of Labi before, and was excited to discover his music. Then I started to listen to a few of his tracks and was instantly like “hey..wait a minute…” Eminem and Kanye have both sampled his tracks for their songs – as I am sure many others have as well. Once again, remember how I mentioned the incredible coincidences where LGBTQIA+ people are somehow drawn to each other without realizing? Labi’s story is intriguing and his music is soul soothing. Important to note he has been out- openly gay throughout his career too.

City Girl – Joan Armatrading

The first time I listened to Joan Armatrading was just last week. I was trying to find more artists that had a similar sound to Joni Mitchell, and Spotify led me to Joan Armatrading. This was one of the first songs that pulled me in. Her voice reminds me of Tracy Chapman with the feel of Joni Mitchell. When I looked her up I realized she was also a part of the community (which instantly makes me appreciate an artist or frankly anyone… a little bit more). I’ve been pretty hooked on her music ever since, and this album particularly.

Tutti Frutti – Little Richard

For no reason for which I can remember I listened to Little Richard a lot as a kid. I loved his music and he was just so fabulous – almost hard to resist. Sadly I think my appreciation for him took a bit of a backseat in my life up until his recent passing. I began to revisit his music more and learn more about his history with being underappreciated within the industry.

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

One of my favorite songs when I was younger has held true into adulthood. As an adult I feel I have related to this song in different phases in my life and somehow the same words in a song have had different significant impacts to various stages in my life. I love Tracy Chapman and I could listen to her all day long.

Main Event – RuPaul

The Brady Bunch movie was the first time I saw RuPaul on screen and I was mesmerized. That scene stuck with me for years (the one at the pool with Jan). Then Rupaul’s Drag Race was a thing, and I fell in love with the Queens of season 2 and so many seasons later – it’s still my favorite. This album is my favorite of Rupaul’s and the world outside of the LGBTQIA+ community needs to know more than just “Supermodel” and “Covergirl” exist.

References and Further Reading:

How the LGBTQIA+ Community Has Influenced Music

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

LGBTQ Music Icons

Dusting Off the Bookshelf

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

The tale is in the title this time. 

I was trying my best to hold off on buying new books because my bookshelf is overflowing (as it darn well should be since I am a writer & a librarian). The problem is I haven’t read some (several) of those books or I never really intend on reading them more than once. 

So, this past weekend I went through my main bookshelf and made three piles:

+books to give away
+books to read & then give away
+books to FINALLY read & put back on the shelf. 

This activity in itself made me feel accomplished (it really is the little things in 2020).

Especially because I was not only letting go, but I was dusting off a shelf that really needed it (I forget that adulting means you actually have to dust your apartment). 

Anyway, it put me in the mood to revisit older songs that I adore, but haven’t listened to in awhile. 

Sometimes revisiting the past through music can help us to appreciate where we are in the present. 

1.Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen


One may think because I am from NJ I would follow suit in loving Bruce Springsteen. Truth is, I was a bit of a music snob that took pride in being someone that didn’t enjoy his music at all. Then one day someone told me, even if you don’t like his music – do yourself a favor and listen to the album Nebraska. It’s now one of my favorite albums and this is one of my favorite songs. If I had to only live with 10 albums for the rest of my life Nebraska would make the list. If you find yourself hesitant about Springsteen’s music like I once was, I will give you the same advice someone once gave me – listen to Nebraska.

2.The Wheel – Grateful Dead


If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know I mentioned my love for the 60s and 70s culture. I grew up a kid truly obsessed with the music and wanting to know everything about the time period. Right out of high school I went to my first Phil Lesh show – which was followed by a handful of Bob Weir, Furthur, and The Dead shows. I remember the first time I heard The Wheel live – I know jam band music isn’t for everyone, but it’s a different experience hearing it in person. At those shows I really felt like I was getting to experience a bit of a decade I wasn’t alive to live through. And oh what long and strange trips they were…

3.Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) – Janis Joplin


I’ve been listening to Janis a lot lately and dusting off my vinyl records. She’s been a favorite of mine since I was younger- I was always fascinated by her. If you really take the time to listen to this song it embodies all of the power that is Janis Joplin. The energy and the voice is all jam packed into this one song. A woman that was an icon of her time, and certainly doesn’t get the recognition she deserves compared to the men in her era.

4.For Once in My Life – Stevie Wonder


What other artist has the ability of connecting people through music better than Stevie Wonder? This song is one of my favorite Stevie songs, and it just sort of has the ability to get you out of your seat & sing along. I’ll never forget the time he did a surprise free concert in Philly (and ya’ll wonder why I talk about why I have such a love for that city…). It was right when I got back from my 25th solo birthday trip from Seattle, it felt like an extended birthday gift. I walked from my place in South Philly to Dilworth Park and got myself a seat on the lawn not too far from the stage. Stevie Wonder is timeless, and that is one concert I will never ever forget.

5.Walkin’ The Boogie – Memphis Slim


If this song doesn’t leave you speechless, I’m not sure what to say about your musical ear. I discovered Memphis Slim this year when I was trying to discover new music (for myself). This is a standout song and after you’ve listened to this – I encourage you to check out more of his music. Memphis Slim’s depiction of Blues music is like a stellar painting heard through sound.

6.Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival


Oh CCR how I’ve adored this band for so long – I went through a phase of only listening to CCR for a bit and wanting to listen to their entire discography. Green River was the song that always stuck out for me because of how upbeat it is. Honestly, I don’t think I knew (and still don’t fully know) what the lyrics were other than when he sings “Green River”. The instrumentals are my favorite though, and even as I relisten to this song now – I realize how quickly it puts me in a good mood, and why it was always a favorite.

7.Voodoo Woman – Koko Taylor


Thanks to a new vinyl subscription I received as a gift this year, I discovered this incredible woman. Her voice will blow you away, it is absolutely astonishing. Koko Taylor, who was sometimes called “Queen of the Blues”, is one person you need to add to your playlist…right now. If you take nothing else from this post today, add any one of her songs (although I recommend this one) to a playlist. Sometimes people wonder how can you “feel” music? Listen to her sing, if that doesn’t “feel” like you’re “feeling” something outside of yourself…check your pulse.

8.Wild World – Cat Stevens


Does anyone remember Myspace? This song was on my page for the longest time. I was young and angsty with a whole life ahead of me. At the time this song meant something completely different to me, and it’s funny to even think what my world of problems were as a teenager. Not to mention how very real they felt at the time. Now, I think I just listen to this song and appreciate the life I have lived so far as well as the many years ahead of me.