Late Bloomer by Evan Ozimek-Maier
CAMD Communications and Marketing Manager Evan Ozimek-Maier writes this about his playlist: “Inspiration doesn’t always come from a tiny spark igniting the smoke and shadows of your subconscious. At least, that’s true for me. It seems I’m just as likely to hear or see or read something that fuels what will inevitably be my next writing project or joke idea or random story or marketing concept as to be hit by a moment of clarity, a much-needed catharsis of unexpected brilliance, that’s totally my own and inspired by nothing but the synapses in my head.
Music has always been part of my process in becoming inspired, as while art and photography and narrative and film all do a decent job of shaping the way I process things, the investment needed to get there is sort of all or nothing. I don’t know how many books I can immerse myself in while simultaneously exploring my city or getting work done nor can I remember the last film or piece of artwork that emotionally or intellectually touched me while sharing my attention with Facebook. Music, on the other hand, is just as enjoyable, impactful, and affecting when given full attention with a good pair of headphones and a darkened room as when left in the background to bleed into your subconscious.
As such, I’ve assembled a playlist of songs I’ve found inspiring for a multitude of reasons. Some are hopeful, some are heartbreaking, at least one is brimming with snark, and a good number of them make me feel like I could sprint to the top of Mt. Everest. But all of them share a common thread: humble beginnings leading to great, inspirational swells (much like those sparks of inspiration we all hope will swoop in to save us from our proverbial blank canvases). It’s the kind of music I like to listen to when I want to believe I can think or feel or do anything. Because ultimately, isn’t that what being a so-called ‘creative type’ is all about?”
Evan’s breakdown of why he chose each track:
Sleeping Lessons – The Shins
This track has always felt like waking up, which, perhaps, makes it the perfect opener to the Shins’ third album. Two minutes of fuzzy mumbling and haphazard, off-key blurts turns to a bright, driving final swell in the final minute of the song. If you’re ever in need of feeling like you’re coming back to life, “Sleeping Lessons” will surely do the trick.
Lakehouse – Of Monsters and Men
There’s just something inspiring about Of Monsters and Men. Maybe it’s that most of their songs feature at least one sing-along moment (feelings of camaraderie are never higher than when listening to this Icelandic collective with friends). So it’s fitting that near the end of their first full-length album, “Lakehouse” not only features some heavy inspirational swells but a full-band chant to celebrate a successful end to a wonderful record. Inspiring stuff.
Introduction – Voxtrot
I’m an enormous fan of Voxtrot, and it’s not just because of the band’s knack for songwriting. They’re inherently indie, never having really achieved mainstream success but plowing ahead nonetheless. As such, the optimism, the twinkling naïveté, and layer upon aural layer of melody all hammering the same subtext (“we can do this!”) found on their sole full-length’s opener, “Introduction,” has always charmed the pants off of me and made me think “I, too, can surmount the odds!”
Lovely Allen – Holy Fuck
My first of a few lyric-less songs on this playlist, “Lovely Allen” is a wonderful example of getting lost in a constantly complexifying soundscape. Though the opening bars seem to give it all away, so to speak, every moment from there on contains something new. It’s hard not to be inspired by a simple idea being defined by the exploration of its own nooks and crannies.
Three Portraits – Yppah
I’ll admit, nostalgia put this track on the list, but it’s perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. In truth, the Yppah album containing “Three Portraits” only just came out in 2012 and while much of the album has that dark, brooding quality found on many electronic albums these days, “Three Portraits” feels like if the Chemical Bros. had kept reiterating Exit Planet Dust through the last decade. Though nostalgia can sometimes be a burden, I find remembering simpler times from my youth always gives me the energy to imagine I’m not the increasingly grumpy old man I’m becoming and recapture the feeling that anything is possible, which seemed so pervasive as I was exploring music for the first time in the early 90’s.
DARE (DFA Remix) – Gorillaz
Talk about a slow burn! I know, but before you scream “Free Bird!” just give it a listen. The DFA remix of what is arguably one of Gorillaz’ best/catchiest tunes is so jaw-droppingly dissimilar from the original that it’s a perfect underscore to the notion that even when taking inspiration from external sources, a sense of identity and intention will always end in something unique and beautiful. Plus, I can’t think of many songs that make me feel like I need a nap after they’re over.
Hymn and Her – Earlimart
Much of Earlimart’s music skews toward the shoegazing, Elliot Smith side of indie, and while those sad, touching rock songs make me smile and yearn like the best of them, “Hymn and Her,” the title track for this lovely indie rock album, is sort of razor edged and tongue in cheek. It’s the kind of sardonic, sour melody that’s perfect for making a life-altering mistake after which all you can say is, “screw it – the damage has been done.” For those who love fresh starts with a trail of destruction behind them, this is the perfect accompaniment.
Line of Fire – Junip
Jose Gonzales, who provides the lead vocals for Swedish folk band Junip, has such a haunting quality to his voice. Usually (and more typically in his solo stuff) it’s restrained and guttural, almost to the point of being Muppet-ish, but in “Line of Fire” his vocals are more arrested and indignant, blending with an unrelenting drumline and layer upon layer of epicness in the explosive final third to the point that I am left feeling like I just need to get up, get out, and fight some oppressive force.
The Bleeding Heart Show – The New Pornographers
Yet another in a long list of slow burners, I’d say this song is pretty subtly unspecial until the second minute, when the drums kick up and the full collective starts harmonizing at full volume. When A.C. Newman breaks out an unexpected “we have arrived!,” tears well in my eyes every time. It’s a moment that’s so earned and such a pointed reminder that amazing, explosive creativity is only ever well received when the timing is right, that I can’t help but relate.
Outro – M83
I’ve tried to keep this list fairly tissue-free, but M83’s closer to 2011′s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is so beautiful, so sad, and so inspiring I couldn’t not include it here. The framework is laid pretty early but the payoff doesn’t come until after a good 30 seconds of near silence in the middle of the song. Like that moment of contemplation we all know before doing something big and amazing, the silence precedes something so powerfully explosive that I can’t help but pine for the chance to surmount the odds and do something amazing and meaningful with every fiber of my being with this as my soundtrack.
Með Blóðnasir – Sigur Rós
Iceland’s Sigur Rós has always been a favorite of mine, and their 2005 album Takk… has long since been my favorite of their albums. You’ve likely heard their music in emotional movie trailers, feely montages, and maybe even a commercial or two. But one thing’s for sure, regardless of where you’ve heard their music it likely stuck with you in one way or another. “Með Blóðnasir” is an odd track, as is serves as an epilogue of sorts to the track that comes before it, but hits with such explosive intensity, as the cymbals crash over otherworldly chanting and the twinkling glockenspiels begin to fall over themselves with hurried enthusiasm, that I, as I listen, can’t help but think “it doesn’t matter whether you do something well but that you try and do so with everything you’ve got.”
Everyone’s a VIP to Someone – The Go! Team
There’s something about this song that makes me feel like I’m flying. Maybe it’s the airy strings that reiterate a melody established nearly a dozen songs ago on an impressive freshman album. Maybe it’s the unexpected crash of drums at the mid-mark that seem to catapult me into the sky. Maybe it’s the fact that no matter how many times I listen to this ridiculous buddy cop-ish song I still feel like it’s the first time. Whatever the case, the smiley 70′s nostalgia of the Go! Team’s “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone” is so airy and yet tangible that it feels not just like the perfect way to cap off a week or drive off into the sunset, but the only way I could think of to wrap up a list of songs with no other purpose than to underscore the idea that amazing things always come from humble beginnings.