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PLAYLIST: Growing Up Joe

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DSCF0661Hello there, lovely Infectious readers! I’ve had several years’ worth of wonderful adventures in the music industry and last month, Angela Mastrogiacomo was kind enough to hire me to the Infectious Magazine staff as a managing editor. I may be the newbie on the staff but I’m also one of the oldies, as my growing up playlist will reveal.

Music is like a best friend to me. It’s always there when you need it, it never judges you, and it evokes an endless number of emotions in your heart. You know that feeling you get when you’re only a few seconds into a new song and you somehow just know it’s going to be a new favorite? That’s the exact feeling all the songs you’re about to see have given me at different points in my life. Whether it’s from my pre-school days, high school, or dealing with the passing of a loved one, music has always had a profound effect on who I am and who I’m still becoming.

I hope you enjoy this little journey through my 26 years and just maybe, you’ll listen to one of these nine songs and get that same magical feeling I did when they touched my life so deeply.

9. The Beach Boys – “I Get Around”

The very first song I can remember listening to when I was about four or five years old. My mom had a cassette tape of The Beach Boys’ greatest hits and we jammed out to it all the time in the car. Even then I was already captivated by their incredible harmonies.

8. Jars of Clay – “Crazy Times”

While all the other kids in school were listening to the world-famous hits “Wannabe” and “Mmmbop”, my mother’s love for Jars of Clay influenced me instead. Much Afraid, the band’s second album, was released when I was 9 and “Crazy Times” was the first song that ever really touched me on a deeper level. 17 years later, it remains one of my all-time favorites.

7. Deftones – “Change (In The House of Flies)”

My original introduction to the heavier sides of rock, and to this day “Change” remains my favorite Deftones song – even though they somehow keep getting better with every album they make. What makes this song such a fun memory is that I only heard it thanks to a Dragon Ball Z movie. Cooler’s Revenge, anyone?

6. Story of the Year – “Anthem of Our Dying Day”

It was early 2004 and my mom had recently gotten this thing called digital cable. I was flipping through these hundreds of new channels we didn’t need one day when I came across a station called Fuse, which played nothing but music videos 24 hours a day (ah, the good old days). “Anthem of Our Dying Day” had just started playing and I was immediately struck by the pure emotion dripping from the song. When you’re an angsty teenager struggling to figure out your identity, this is exactly the kind of song you hope to find. And thanks to Fuse, I soon found the likes of Saosin, Finch, Lostprophets, Taking Back Sunday – all the bands that would appear on the endless number of mix CDs I made in high school.

5. Oasis – “Champagne Supernova”

There were two big movements in rock music in the 1990s: the grunge movement in America and Great Britain’s subsequent counter-movement, Britpop. While most of my friends were drawn to the angsty, socially alienated lyrics of Nirvana and Soundgarden, I couldn’t get enough of the uplifting, “fight back against authority” tone of British bands like Pulp, Blur, and of course Oasis. I still remember the first time I heard “Champagne Supernova,” because straight from the first line (“How many special people change?”) the chills running down my spine told me this would immediately become one of my favorite songs.

4. The Stone Roses – “She Bangs The Drums”

How often can you describe a band’s music as both “arrogant” and “beautiful”? Almost never, and yet those are exactly the two words I always use when I tell people about The Stone Roses’ perfect self-titled debut album. It was released in 1989, yet it doesn’t sound the least bit aged in 2014. Their brand of danceable psychedelic rock is fully epitomized on “She Bangs The Drums,” as only Ian Brown could sing a line like “Kiss me where the sun don’t shine/the past was yours but the future’s mine.” It’s not just that his soaring vocals astonish you, it’s that you fully believe every word he says. For anthem after anthem of glorious arrogance, look no further than The Stone Roses.

3. Anberlin – “Paperthin Hymn”

I was lucky enough to find my favorite band shortly after their debut album Blueprints For The Black Market was released, but “Paperthin Hymn” was my number one high school anthem. Literally none of my friends knew Anberlin at this time, but by the time we graduated in 2006, all of them (plus both of my parents) had become huge fans and this song in particular was one of our strongest musical bonds. The heartstring-tugging music video is just an added bonus.

2. The Beatles – “In My Life”

My favorite Beatles song and my favorite song of all time (well, tied with my #1 pick). It is well known that John Lennon disliked much of his earlier work with The Beatles and believed that “In My Life” was the first truly great song he ever wrote. Not sure I agree that it was his first, but I do think it was his best. If there was ever a perfect song for a Growing Up Playlist, this is it.

1. Blur – “The Universal”

It was fall 2010. My grandmother, who I had been especially close with – as a kid I spent the weekends at my grandparents’ house twice a month – had just passed away. We were all devastated; she was the heart and soul of my mother’s side of the family and we have never been the same since. When the visitation and funeral came around, I felt a responsibility to be the strong one, the one everyone could lean on for comfort and strength. In doing that, however, I never had the chance to let my own emotions out and kept them bottled up inside.

Naturally, I turned to music for help – my favorite Britpop bands, as they have that knack for uplifting positivity that I mentioned earlier. But it was all too familiar, nothing was breaking through. After some quick research online, I checked out the greatest hits album from another Britpop band called Blur.  When “The Universal” came up, all the pent-up emotions from the previous few weeks came out. As Damon Albarn sang the chorus line “When the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go” and the next verse “No one here is alone,” I finally let out all those pent-up emotions, pressed the repeat button about ten times, and privately said goodbye. It was exactly what I needed. To this day I have listened to that song hundreds of times and still feel the same heavy emotions every time. And that, dear readers, is why I will forever count music as one of my very best friends.

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Joe Ballard

Managing Editor, Infectious Magazine. If I'm not listening to Anberlin or finding new music, you can find me reading anything by George R. R. Martin or obsessing over Game of Thrones.

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