The Music that Moved Me in 2018: Ida V. Eskamani
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
Written by Ida V. Eskamani
I was equal parts relieved and terrified when 2018 turned from the future to the present. 2017 would not be defined as a “good” year for me. I’m inclined to be an eternal optimist— I tend to see the glass half full, even when the glass is completely shattered into pieces on the floor. But 2017 wholefully tested my positive inclinations. Similarly, 2016 was generally, a horrible, horrible year. Though I do cherish the moments and people that help us survive and find resilience, I was ready to put these horrifying years behind me. Yet based on my track record, I had doubts 2018 would serve me any better.
I actually launched Bandifesto at the end of 2017. Music has always been my comfort food. I remember when, after being reprimanded by my mom as a child, coming to her with the Beatles “We Can Work It Out,” emphasizing how short life is, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friends (I doubt she bought my argument). After our pet box turtle Torty passed away (rest in peace boo boo) my sister brought me her compact disc player with "Let It Be" blaring (I think by now y’all know we had a lot of Beatles playing in our house). I will never forget the healing feeling of my first punk show at seventeen, and how all I wanted to do was feel that magic again, and again, and again. So when facing immense loss, I decided to cook up something to nourish my soul, and hopefully the souls of others. I had no goddamn idea how I was going to get through 2018, but I knew music would play a role. So with a little help from my friends, Bandifesto was born.
The music that moved me in 2018 reflects the triumph and tribulations of a year that began with struggle and deep sadness, yet somehow concluded with resolve and immense joy. I don't quite know how I managed to pull this off, but I know these tunes helped. Below is a small representation of the music that moved me in 2018:
Eulogy for You and Me, by Tanya Davis
"Clocks and Hearts Keep Going" is perhaps one of my favorite album titles, and it belongs to Tanya Davis’ 2010 record, which was new to me in 2018. Sung much in spoken word, this album is minimalist in execution, allowing the lyrics to sit deep within, nestling in spaces you perhaps didn’t want, but certainly needed. Just as time is inevitable, the album assures that so is life after loss. The overall theme is one of deep sadness, yet the singer-songwriter maintains an enduring hope and optimism. "Eulogy for You and Me" is the song that entered my world when I needed it most.
I am an unabashed lyrics nerd— I have spent countless hours throughout my life listening to songs over and over again, reading and processing the lyrics. "Eulogy for You and Me" is one those songs the I send to friends going through breakups with clear directions: “LISTEN AND READ THE LYRICS XO.” It’s a break up song finding itself at the final stage of grief, acceptance. It’s a beautiful testament to the universal devastation of heartbreak, and a song that brought me a lot of hard cries, as well as comfort.
And what happened surely changed me
And the hereafter is full of sadness that is raw and oh so sweet
Because every time a cold heart thaws
It sends a river of tears to nourish the ground
On the way to the sea
I bow my head to praise and remember this
Look up again to greet my days
This is a eulogy for you and me I won't forget
But will let go of this just the same.
Less Than Perfect, by The Spook School
Brilliantly self-described as a “queer indie-pop punx” band from Edinburgh, Scotland The Spook School are trailblazers. Unafraid to be labeled as a “trans* band,” the foursome unapologetically deconstruct the gender binary and set toxic masculinity ablaze by the means of sincere lyrics, exhilarating arrangements, and earnest vocals. Yet the band’s 2018 release Could It Be Different? shifts gears from previous records; rather than queer theory, queer lives take center stage. The stories portrayed are intimate, vulnerable, and honest. Yet as tragic as the circumstances may be, the album emanates unabashed joy and genuine compassion. This is not only resiliency expressed in a record. Speaking from experience, this is a mood elevator via music.
“Less Than Perfect” was one of my theme songs for 2018. So much so, that I actually added it to my Discover Favorites playlist twice in one month, on January 8th and January 16th. Spotify always gives you a notice when you are about to add a song twice to the same playlist. I love that I a) forgot I had already added this song days prior, and b) decided “well, I'm such a mess, I definitely need to hear this song twice anyway.”
Less Than Perfect reminds us to treat ourselves with compassion, acknowledging perceived inadequacies with perspective: “You say you wish that you had gone out more while you still had the chance / The ones you envy are kept up at night by parallel remarks.” Its chorus is cathartic and exudes kindness: “It’s alright now / Not what you hoped / But that’s okay.” The lyrics are executed with a reassuring tone and paired with a confident bass line. After a long, horrible day (of which I had countless of in the first quarter of 2018) I would take a walk while this record caused permanent damage to my eardrums. I always felt better afterwards. 2018 witnessed quite a few adventures related to music. In this case, myself and a group of amazing friends drove five hours from Tallahassee to Atlanta, Georgia to see The Spook School live. I found so much joy in sharing this band with chosen family, and watching firsthand how these tunes healed their hearts too. I hope they do the same for you.
We Should Fight, by Ezra Furman
In 2018 I discovered Chicago-raised Ezra Furman’s decade-long discography. Why our souls took so long to cross paths only the universe knows, but I’m making up for lost time. A queer artist who defines gender identity on their own terms, Furman embraces the full spectrum of gender expression and rejects traditional definitions of masculinity. The artist is also devoutly Jewish, often donning a kippah and observing the Sabbath while touring. While constantly employing new sounds and themes, Furman draws inspiration from lived experiences, with songs signaling solidarity with the downtrodden and demanding basic human dignity. Furman is a brilliant artist, their 2018 record "Transangelic Exodus" is a concept album rooted in revolutionary love and is a masterpiece. However for me, their 2008 release "We Should Fight" is the song that moved me in 2018.
It’s the track that introduced me to Furman’s tenacious vocals, blaring horns, and folk-punk inclinations. With rapturous defiance and a breakdown that makes your heart flutter, Furman exclaims “I’m not a monster / I’m a human being, whoa / And I'm the greatest thing you've ever seen!” This track is not just a declaration however, it is a plea to the listener, an argument for why we shouldn’t back down— we should fight. As an advocate who constantly faces uphill battles, this song resonates deep within my bones. During a year with countless challenges personally and within a larger social justice lens, this track constantly centered me and brought needed determination. I also have to say, I can't resist a punk song with a saxophone. The closing lyrics are my favorite, and a message I’ll carry with me into 2019 as well: “Don't give in / No don't give in / I think that we should fight!”
Don’t Be a Stranger, by Nervous Dater
(+ countless femme-led punk bands):
I came of age listening to punk music executed by a whole lotta white guys. I am eternally grateful to the men in tight black skinny jeans who introduced me to a new world of strained vocals, power chords, mosh pits, and angsty melancholy. As my music tastes grow more eclectic and I exceedingly feel too old for the pit, bands like Rise Against will forever hold a permanent place in my heart. However 2018 was all about processing my angst and general situational depression through femme-led punk bands. This list is substantial, and includes acts such as Remember Sports, Priests, Swearin’, Screaming Females, Tacocat, LONE WOLF, Lippies, Downtown Boys, Chumped, Thin Lips, Dude York, Slothrust, and Nervous Dater (I could go on). All incredible, underrated, and on Bandifesto’s long list of bands to highlight. Reflecting back on my 2018, Nervous Dater deserves special attention.
Their debut album Don’t Be a Stranger was released in September 2017, and as determined via twitter can be best characterized as “angsty party rock.” Although to make you love them more, it should be noted that the Brooklyn-based band has also described themselves as “the music equivalent of finding out aliens are real but the documents are covered in T-Bell fire sauce.” Don’t Be a Stranger speaks authentically to the heartbreak, self-doubt and anxiety that constantly haunts the best of us, and does so with celebration rock riffs, cathartic breakdowns, and perfectly punk vocals. The title track demonstrates this masterfully produced combination, however the entire album is essential adult emo, something I desperately needed this year. Just as emo did for me in high school, when everything felt terrible, Don't Be a Stranger made me feel infinitely better.
Everything & Anything that involves Brian Fallon
Speaking of white guys-- I strive to discover and embrace new artists, particularly those led by marginalized people. But Brian Fallon and The Gaslight Anthem continue to remain a musical constant in my life, to the lovingly executed eye rolls of everyone I know. 2018 saw the release of Fallon's second solo record Sleepwalkers (of which I reviewed here) as well as the ten-year reunion tour of the Gaslight Anthem’s breakout record, The '59 Sound. I personally traveled the country twice this year for this artist: to Austin, Texas for Fallon's solo tour and Washington, D.C. for The Gaslight Anthem's ten-year reunion tour. Both nights filled my heart infinitely.
I know exactly why this artist moves me so. Fallon maintains a few constant themes in his writing, and they are inherently punk: the loneliness of not quite fitting in, and the fear of having to take on the world on your own. Yet through these motifs also lies a quiet optimism, with songs that are often hopelessly romantic (emphasis on hopeless), a feeling I wholeheartedly relate to. Fallon often executes these values through stories and characters who serve as mirrors, helping us know ourselves better. Yet even though The Gaslight Anthem feels punk, they don't necessarily sound like punk. Their riffs twinkle, their basslines bounce, their drums dance. Staying true to their timeless heartland roots of New Jersey, this is Americana at its best, maintaining a working class spirit this daughter of immigrants can relate too.
Y'all know how much I love lyrics, and my friends, Fallon always delivers. "Stay hungry, stay free, and do the best that you can" are lyrics that have defined my life for the better part of the 2010's. "I met you between the wax and the needle of the words of my favorite song" are the most romantic lyrics I have ever set my eyes upon. Throughout 2018, Fallon was a constant on my rotation. In the first quarter, it was all about Sleepwalkers and Get Hurt. In anticipation of the reunion tour, The '59 Sound dominated my spring. American Slang was my soundtrack as I backpacked through Europe over the summer, and the second half of Handwritten guided me through this winter. If music is comfort food, Brian Fallon is my (vegan) mac n'cheese, paired with french fries, and oreos. This was another Gaslight Anthem year for me, and I'm so grateful to these tunes for always being there when I need them.
Keep On, by Loose Tooth
The three-piece out of Melbourne, Australia are part of an ever-growing class of musicians from the down under posed to take over the indie-music world. All three members lend their vocals to the band with Etta Curry on drums, Luc Dawson playing bass, guitar, and keyboard, along with Nellie Jackson on guitar. The band released their debut record Keep Up in 2018. With sublime harmonies and effervescence undercurrents, the Aussie's have cultivated an invigorating sound that keeps you coming back for more.
The record's opening track Keep On moved me for the later half of 2018. The track is dreamy, with smeared guitar effects timed with intention throughout. I'm a sucker for a solid bass-line-- Keep On launches with an irresistible one, grounded in measured drum beats that drive the track forward. Two songs merged into one, the track incorporated vocals from all three of the band's members. Curry and Jackson’s harmonies are bound and determined, “Keep on, keep getting on, you will not be happy 'cause you don’t know what you want."
The trio are learning from the best; signed on to Milk Records, the record label founded by Australia’s most loved musical export (and my personal queen) Courtney Barnett. Despite the existential themes, with bouncy guitar lines and gentle harmonies, Keep On feels infinitely optimistic, a juxtaposition which carries on throughout the record and throughout 2018.
Break-Thru, by Dirty Projectors
I saw countless shows in 2018, a trend I intend to keep in 2019. However, seeing Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors live in Berlin this August was an unforgettable highlight for 2018. I already adored this band, yet by complete accident we landed in Berlin the same day. Their 2018 record Lamp Lit Prose is uplifting and forgiving as it is dynamic and redefining. The second track "Break-Thru" was a constant on my playlist during the second half of 2018. I didn't know it at the time, but this track entered my universe when my spirit was healing; it completely aligned with the happiness I was ready to embrace. Break-Thru is the perfect conduit for unfiltered joy.
It opens with a kick drum beat and harmonica, which quickly falls into place along a weaving guitar riff. Band founder and singer-songwriter David Longstreth slides into place with falsetto vocals and the best assortment of words "What's up? How's it going? / The unreal cheekbone / She is so dreamy / That she got features on Fellini." This track grooves, and the admiration the singer expresses for this incredible woman transfers straight to your soul; you can't help but twist your hips. Knowing this kind of love exists fills my hopelessly romantic soul, yet in my heart, Break-Thru will always be dedicated to the exceptional women in my life. In all her ways, she's a break-thru.
Bee Kind to the Bugs, by Culture Abuse
2018 saw the release of Culture Abuse's sophomore album, Bay Dream. If you ask the band to define their genre, they will say "having fun"-- they prefer to not be put in a box. Living, writing, and performing with cerebral palsy, their lead singer David Kelling is an incredible advocate for persons with disabilities at concerts, a community often marginalized in every facet of society, including gigs. Their track "Bee Kind to the Bugs" is my official "sine die" song for 2018. It's a psychedelic trip with punk underpinnings.
To spiraling guitar riffs, Kelling provides loving advice "Be kind to the bees / Be kind to the bugs / Be conscious of others / Be careful with drugs / Be kind to yourself, even though it gets hard / Don't let the distractions, stack up to the stars." I *LOVE* these lyrics. They are pure magic and the exact grounding advice I need as 2018 comes to a close. The song reveals itself as less assured and more vulnerable; as if reassuring himself, Kelling sings "Keep it tough / Push it up / Keep it cool / Keep it steady."
I haven't seen Culture Abuse live yet (hashtag 2019 goals) but I absolutely adored this live video of the band performing Bee Kind to the Bugs, in which a bunch of sweaty men in a mosh pit typically overtaken by toxic masculinity sing to one another about being kind to the bugs and themselves. This my friends, is what hope looks like.
2018, you were a trip.
I am still processing just how monumental 2018 has been for me. It's been devastating, liberating, exhilarating, and course-setting. I'm forever grateful to the music that brought me comfort, joy, and nourishment during the lows and the highs, and I am so excited for the future movement-making music ahead. Most importantly, I'm beyond humbled by all of the incredible people who chose Bandifesto, our little blog with a big ole' heart, to share how music moves them. Reading your stories and providing a home for them is an honor. We are so excited for all that is ahead.
Here's to the past, the future, and to the music that moves us.
Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart.