Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Homeschool – Built to Spill, Keep It like a Secret(1999)
Dear Keep It like a Secret,
I don’t remember the precise moment I met you, but I remember the precise feeling. An immediate exhilaration mixed with deep understanding. This unspoken, irrational kind of knowing that crawled up and absorbed into my skin – rapturous, angular, pulsating – before being exhaled through smiling cigarette smoke.
I was about 15 years old when we met and you shaped everything that came afterwards. I grew up in a small town called Hastings on Hudson, New York. Around 2010, which was the start of my Sophomore year of high school, music taste was a valued currency among certain groups of friends. I loved classic rock music, alternative rock music, pop-punk, experimental music, folk music and was just getting exposed to the notion of “indie rock” bands – groups of musicians that seemed to write songs that were just as catchy as Blink-182 or Sum 41, but not as embarrassing to admit that I enjoyed. There was more character, more nuance and intellect behind bands like Modest Mouse, Grandaddy, Pavement, and I was in love with their sounds, their attitudes, their weirdness, but I wanted the undeniable earworms that the pop-punk bands were churning out. I wanted that fast food satisfaction but made with real ingredients, prepared by real chefs. Then one of the kids in a group of older boys that I recently started hanging out with asked me if I liked Built To Spill.
Built To Spill. That’s a sick name, I thought. That’s the kind of name that you think you’ve heard before but then when you actually examine the individual words, the letters, you realize it is entirely new to you even though you feel a connection to it. Instantly, both name and music spoke to me and welcomed me in.
Then, “Let me show you one of their albums,” was undoubtedly said to me as a joint was passed around and then I finally heard you. I heard you. Keep It like a Secret, you simply never stopped being awesome. You start with a big ol’ swing on ‘The Plan,’ just a straight-up banger that overflows with riffs, each one more interesting and more “of course, that’s exactly what should be played,” than the next. Song after song just builds off the already successful first track – and that’s the thing about this album, you don’t delay any gratification, you don’t make us wait for some well-deserved payoff. Every song is a payoff. Every movement within every track. So much so, that by the time my friend showed me ‘Time Trap,’ about halfway through the record, I remember thinking: “You gotta be kidding me.” I could not believe something that perfect and that epic was just plopped on the middle of the album.
But then, I thought, of course it is. Where else is it going to go? All of these songs are gold. It was almost like BTS was messing with us. Every beautiful and imaginative lyric was mirrored and reinforced by an even more magical guitar line, almost randomly, but never out of place, always correct, like an unconscious, primordial kind of correct, like an everything-is-right-in-the-world-right-now-because-of-this kind of correct.
Every other guitar band I had heard before you was missing something. They were missing hooks, or they had sick hooks but were missing dimension and complexity, or they had all the complexity in the world but eventually became too pretentious, too self-involved to remember to give the listener the treat that music can be.
Not this band. Not this record. You are the centre of the universe, as your second track suggests – containing all of the elements that are needed for space, time and life to flourish. You are relentless. You are inevitable. You changed my life and I love you so fucking much.
In April, NYC indie singer/songwriter Tom D’Agustino’s solo project Homeschool released debut EP, ‘Homeschool: Book I’. “Homeschool: Book I is the first episode of what I hope will be a long series of open questions, thoughtful exercises and weird experiments about how I see the world, and the desperation with which I seek out other voices and ways of knowing,” notes Homeschool on the release. Listen to the EP, here.