Why do I feel like I must create something?

May 22nd, 2024

My mom died 14 years ago today, in what is widely considered to be the worst thing that ever happened to me. I was at prom, which was a pretty stupid place to be when your mom is about to die, but when you're 17 everything is a little stupid. Death, as described by The 1975, happens not to the decedent, but to their family and their friends. This is inconvenient, and quite frankly unfair - the dead have always had it easiest.

As I've aged, I find myself with lots of thoughts that are stuck inside my head - ideas about songs to write, business ventures to try, and ~content to create~. And the problem I've found with all of these ideas is that I simply cannot bring myself to execute any of them. This irks me. I can try despareately to start on any of these projects, but I cannot finish them. 50% completion on anything would be a big achievement, Joining any of those thoughts is a sense of FOMO, as if failing to share everything that I've ever thought of, ever, for anything, is making me less useful in society.

Of course, this is not a healthy way to think. Look anywhere around the Internet and you can find plenty of posts that really, really should have been "inside thoughts."

I find myself asking "why do I think like this?" And I fear that like many things in my adult life, my prematurely dead mom shoulders the blame.

Allegedly, one of my mom's favorite things was listening to her boys play music. Beginning when we were kids and into our teenage years, we were (excited to be, then later forced to be) a part of our church's ~youth music ministry~. A lot of my free time was consumed by rehearsal and performances, formal and informal. My dad and brother would challenge me to play along to increasingly more difficult music. When group rehesarsals went poorly or I couldn't keep up, I would admonish myself and begin a spiral of feeling bad about myself. Even if nobody else noticed.

Those of you who participated in high school band (especially if it was competitive) surely understand this feeling. I'd assess that these feelings are the root of the imposter syndrome that many of us feel today, as the youngest group of millenials crosses into their 30's.

Quickly we can jump to the conclusion that a fear of failure is the underlying issue here. But a fear of failure doesn't necessarily explain half-baking concepts and then dumping them into the junk drawer - fear of failure would probably preclude me from starting in the first place.

But one of the things that has followed me from childhood is that underlying thought of "why aren't you practicing? Why aren't you making something? People want to hear and see what you have to make!"

I'm afraid that in our modern society, they actually don't. Art should of course be important to the creator of it, but if the creator is forced (by their will or others) just to do it for the sake of doing it, what is it worth? That's a bit of a catastrophic thought - anagolous to the tree in the woods.

If nobody was around to hear the music, did the sound ever happen?

If nobody saw the pictures from college, did you ever go?

If you don't take a video of the moment, will you ever remember it?

If you didn't cry at your mom's funeral because you were too busy performing, did you ever mourn?

Maybe that last bit is my problem. My persistent childhood performance continued right through my mom's celebration of life - that's a fancy way of saying funeral so that people can pretend like death doesn't eventually happen to every single one of us.

My high school band played. The youth music ministry played. The organist played. I think my uncle even busted out the sax, which brought some much-needed levity to an otherwise horrific event. But none of that processed for me. I was busy playing - clarinet in the bands, drums with the youth band. I was focused solely on the production of the event, and that was well before I ever thought I'd spend time doing that as a careeer.

When you're 17 and your mom dies, people feel really bad for you. You get a lot of attention you don't want, you get a lot questions you don't need, and you get enough lasagna to fill 2 freezers.

What you don't get, though, is the opportunity to feel your feelings. And so here I am, approaching an uncomfortable milestone of having experienced more than half my life without my mom. And I don't know that I've ever bothered to feel the feelings.

But at some point we have to ask - does it matter? It doesn't bring anybody back. It doesn't move me forward. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll eventually figure it all out; come running to my future kids with a Eureka moment that makes it all make sense, and then I'll start 100 businesses, release 200 songs, and create 50 smash-hit videos all at once because the blockade will have been moved!

Probably, that won't be the case. But it's nice to think about.
I'll add it to my internal thought-list of businesses, songs, and videos.

Be nice to one another!


We've got Steak at home..

April 28th, 2024

Click on the plate for the recipe!

Too much leftover pesto...

April 21st, 2024

He's not actually very good at Valorant

April 13th, 2024

@icbherg Literally #valorant #valorantclips ♬ original sound - IcBherg

An album review - 1989 (Taylor's Version)

October 27th, 2023

I absolutely did get drunk and write a full album review of 1989 (Taylor's Version)

Taylor Swift provides with 1989 (Taylor’s Version) an exceptional re-imagination of an album that defined my early adulthood

– originally releasing 9 years ago today during my (first) senior year at university. Swift’s noble pursuit of clawing back ownership of her master recordings is doubly well-received, coming off her hugely successful Eras tour and introducing a younger generation of Swifties to what I consider her magnum opus of Pop Music.

“Style” is, in my opinion, the finest example of modern synth-pop in the past decade,

and Taylor’s Version elevates an already radio-ready pop track to Top 40 Nirvana, opening with an iconic guitar riff that has always felt like an homage to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s "Superstition" (although that predates the sugary pop the track exudes), now reinvented with less reverb. The pre-verse instrumentals bring in a driving bassline that refuses to be ignored and the chorus, in contrast to the original recording, continues the underlying guitar riff more prominently for a touch of extra color. In the second chorus, there is a bizarre moment at 2:38 where perhaps the mixing engineer missed a punch and Taylor’s voice pops from the mix in a jarring way. I am willing to bet that this moment will magically disappear in future streams.

“Out of the Woods” takes me back to New Years’ Eve of 2015 (into ’16),

when the Music Video was inexplicably released during Ryan Seacret’s Rockin’ New Years’ Eve with Dick Clark (they must let sleeping men lie), and I was absolutely blasted on Absinthe at the behest of my best friend’s mother’s boyfriend. The musical theme for Taylor’s Version is definitely “less instrumental reverb,” and as described as one of my close friends, “SO CRISP.” Indeed, it is. Jack Antonoff makes credits on this as producer, and the influence is impossible to miss with the jungle-style drums and chanting underneath the last chorus.

“All you had to do was Stay,” a sleeper track on the original album,

makes its case as a potential standout single here, with a drum and bass-style prominent hi-hit line throughout that could very well been remixed into an EDM track with relative ease.

“Shake it Off” keeps the marching-band instrumentals,

although, again, with far less reverb than I originally remember. To be fair, the drugs and alcohol consumed at the original release may have led to auditory misinterpretation of the first couple-hundred listens to 1989 across the past 9 years. With the toned-down reverb Taylor also provides a toned-down chorus, trading gated reverb snares for a tambourine and rimshot hits as the main 2 [&] 4 features. Not sure what’s up with the almost tribal chanting during the bridge, or the similarly tribal background chorus during the last chorus, but it feels appropriate for the (slightly) lower energy re-recording,

“I Wish you Would” also features a great guitar riff on its intro,

and this time the effects chosen are more congruent with the into from “Style,” for which I have no complaints. This track was one of the first that made me consider (even in college) how many things Taylor Swift writes about doing at 2 AM. The Ambien monsters live deep within her, I suppose. Coming out of the 2nd chorus into the 3rd verse (still at 2AM, by the way) feels like a cathartic release as the heavy drums and bass of the chorus fade very quickly into a vox and guitar-only moment. Antonoff collaborates again on this track, and I would argue that these collabs were the beginning of Antonoff’s meteoric rise from Bleachers on to a massively successful writer and producer.

“Bad Blood” musically approaches its 2015 re-imagination with Kendrick Lamar

(and a host of exceptionally talented women in the music video) while keeping only the melodic motifs from the original record. I am sorry that “you forgive, you forget, but you never let it go” wasn’t included in this bridge, as I felt that it was an epic addition on the first re-record, but in the spirit of repossessing the masters, I understand the omission.

“Wildest Dreams” was my most-skipped track on this album originally,

which is an opinion likely to result in my cancellation by the Swiftie culture. With a heavy musical “heartbeat,” you’ll have to forgive me for becoming somewhat entranced (and unfocused) during this listen. Taylor always writes a hell of a bridge though, and here on Wildest Dreams I am reminded that a good bridge can save nearly any song. Continuing the pattern of less reverb, the vocals on the first half of the bridge are quite pleasing.

“How you get the girl,” which I did try to use as an instruction manual

on more than one occasion WHY WAS THE BUILD INTO THE CHORUS ABOUT TO BE THE GTA SAN ANDREAS INTRO?! Somebody is going to beat me to that remix unless I stay up all night making it. I’m not opposed. I’m literally downloading virtual DJ right now. It’s going to be a great tiktok. One of the other pervading production gags on this album is increasing the stereo separation on the vocals, which is quite effective, especially when snapping the mix back to center. Okay. Anyway. More to come on that remix!

“This Love” had me in literal tears on more than one occasion

in college and it isn’t hard to see why – these beautifully plucky guitars refuse to be ignored. Although Taylor continues a low-reverb mix, there is some prominent delay featured in the verses, with an effective reverb-dry-reverb motif at the end of the chorus “oh-oh-ohs.” Also in the chorus, the descending scale on the background vocals is featured more prominently than the original record. Reverb (plus delay) makes a triumphant comeback in the last chorus for what I’d argue is the most rounded sound in the entire record.

“I Know Places” has always been a skip and you know it. (if you were chronically between partners in college, that is)

I do not recall “Clean” pushing the four-and-a-half-minute mark upon original release,

but I do remember cleaning the tears off my face listening to it. Not sure about the inclusions of 909 drum fill pickups throughout this track, but to each their own. Clean is arguably the most re-worked song on this re-record, with almost entirely new samples being utilized in production. A new voice (Imogen Heap!!!) appears in the right channel during the second verse. Deep-cut Swifties will be disappointed that “10 months sober” wasn’t updated to “10 years sober,” but not only does it align with my earlier commentary about the purpose of the re-records, I simply do not care. Or know what they’re talking about. I was sober once, it was awful.

I legitimately forgot about “Wonderland”

as it fell on the D.L.X. version of 1989 at first release (which I absolutely did not have). The background instrumentals for this belong in Cities Skylines on the Mars channel (iykyk)

I appreciate that “You are in Love” is thematically about being in love

but feels like the rainy-drive credits scene from the end of an 80’s movie after the protagonist has to break off the relationship of a lifetime. This recording strays not far from its original and fans of the song will be pleasantly surprised that it survives the “Midnights-ification” of some of the other tracks on Taylor’s Version.

“New Romantics” appears to feature a guest appearance by fucking Stomp!

The Musical with some absolute grating metallic clanging during the chorus…It’s like banging on a chain-fence. The new guitar lick in the post-chorus would send me to the afterlife though, if the moment was presented back in 2014. The background vocals and harmonies are also brought forward in this mix, creating a somewhat chaotic vocal presentation throughout the chorus – welcome, in my opinion, for such an energetic song.


opens the vault tracks with what feels like the musical amalgamation of Midnights and Evermore, featuring melodic themes from Reputation. Very pleasing to the ear, but you would be forgiven if you thought this was written in a much different era than 1989 originally was. “If I’m Gonna be Drunk, I might as well be Drunk in Love” is fun word play, and maybe an unintentional cross-reference to Swift’s appearance on the 2009 Boys Like Girls album Love Drunk, where she featured on the ballad “Two is Better than One.” I’m likely overthinking that.

“Say Don’t Go” continues the mismatched Eras tour of the vault tracks

with a chilled-out and soft-synthed backing reminiscent of a mid-set evangelical mega-church song, and the featured writing with Diane Warren (having collaborated with huge artists in the 80’s and 90’s) lends a hand to a soft rock vibe .

“Now that we don’t Talk” realizes what most of us learn in high school and college

– you’re often going to be better off once you escape a relationship that isn’t working, and you can take solace in being yourself, not having to do what the other wants, etc, etc…generic theme, but lyricism well-written enough to tolerate. And of course, Jack Antonoff's production can do no wrong.

“Suburban Legends” strains the lower range of Swift’s vocals,

and considering again the collaboration here with Antonoff, I’d be remiss to not suggest this "Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve" been a Bleachers single. The angelic harmonies bouncing in throughout with a driving 8th note bassline punch are staples of Antonoff’s style (see: “Mastermind” from Midnights), but in collaboration with Taylor’s lyricism and style make for a fun track.

“Is it Over Now” rounds out the album

with what feels like a sister track to Midnights’ “Labyrinth.” Although I do tend to stay out of celebrity relationship drama, word on the street is that Swift is exploring the end of her brief relationship with Harry Styles. Descending “woah’s” in the chorus scream through the clever lyrical cuts that Jack Antonoff is with us once again. Swifties don’t give much credit to Jack’s influence and production over the Top 40 success of Taylor’s albums, and on seeing the first reviews coming in on the album, many would prefer he back off. I for one, can (and will) write a love essay to what Jack has done for pop music. The nod to being the last track is cute, too.

Overall, my only slightly-drunken first listen provided exactly what I was looking for

– an auditory journey back to that barely-inspected house on Wood Street with the haze of modernity clouding my memories. The Taylor’s Version series should be taken at face value. Fans looking for functionally identical recreations of the original album should have a listen to others in the series (Speak Now comes to mind) lest they be disappointed by a statistically significant difference in the underlying art.