songs that change

image from Armand Hammer’s “Doves” music video, directed by Ryosuke Tanzawa

by sadie almgren

the final project of my FYP class, Practicing Togetherness, was making a community oriented zine – the night before it was due, i stayed up feverishly collaging and compiling a zine about music, specifically music that the people around me hold close and dear to their hearts and minds. a part of this zine included a piece i called “songs that change”. i asked my classmates and close friends to tell me a song that is so important to them, that it changed them in some way – whether it changed their mind, their perspective, their life, their love – a song so important that it significantly changed them over the course of their life, or at a point in life, or somewhere in between or in a universe far away or in their dreams. i want to share my song from when i made this zine, and a new song i’ve gotten to know since, both which are eternally and relentlessly relevant in my brain:

Peculiar, Missouri” by Willi Carlisle

i first heard this song almost 2 years ago. i was working at a summer camp, had a night off, and decided to spend it listening to the new release from one of my very favorite folksingers and humans – Willi Carlisle. i walked around in the dark woods of the northern sierras, and stopped dead in my tracks when i heard the titular track, “Peculiar, Missouri”. it’s been 2 years and i’m still not over this song – i’ve seen Willi play it live, shared it with dear friends of mine, and continue to listen to it frequently, mostly on long drives, alone. the most perfect portrait of Americana existence in the present, what it feels like to exist in our collective capitalist nightmare – and to hate it, and nevertheless love products of these systems, like unremarkable small towns (such as Peculiar, Missouri). i’m convinced Willi is one of the greatest storytellers and folksingers of our generation. i, too, don’t know what to do with myself, but he reminds me that, at least, i’m not alone. 

i prefer this youtube performance

“Doves” by Armand Hammer (billy woods & E L U C I D) featuring Benjamin Booker

it’s a bonus track to their deliciously challenging masterpiece, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, one of my favorite records released in 2023. the first time i heard this song, i sat in colorado coffee on a cloudy day. i stared out the window and watched a car crash outside on cascade street. poignant? i think so. almost nine minutes of goosebumps across every inch of my body, i feel as though, for now, it’s not worth trying to pick the song apart in an effort to understand why. every listen feels like the end of something. there’s no drums, just sounds of someone moaning while trying to sing, or maybe singing while trying to moan, or somewhere in the middle or different altogether. i had to let it all go so i could live in my head, billy woods pauses, again. the short film / music video, directed by Ryosuke Tanzawa, is mostly a slideshow of grainy, black and white photographs, some with indecipherable compositions. each lyric sounds bolded and italicized. everything, save for the vocals, is fuzzy – i can’t help but dedicate each of my brain cells to listening as completely as they collectively can. i am deeply unsettled by this song throughout my mind, body, soul, and all the space between.

but also watch the music video

these songs are long, consuming, and challenging to me. absolute masterpieces that warrant an almost harsh multitude of reactions and experiences. casual listens are impossible, songs are powerful!!!!!!

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