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Diffused: What’s the Last Song That Changed Your Life?

Fred Mott, Hulton Archive

As a transitive verb, “diffuse” means “to pour out and permit or cause to spread freely,” according to Webster, and that’s the idea behind our new Diffused feature. Each week, we email a diverse bunch of artists a question we find interesting and compile their answers. The hope is that we’ll gain new insights into the unique peeps behind our favorite jams, and responding to the query, “What’s the last song that changed your life?” this week’s participants didn’t disappoint. Scroll down to learn how music saves lives.

GRMLN [Website | Facebook]
Weezer‘s ‘Say It Ain’t So.’ This Weezer song would for sure be my life changing song. This was the first official song that I learned on the bass guitar, so it was a pretty big deal for me at the time. I would cover this song with my brother on guitar, so it was a really subtle but powerful song that I still listen today. This is one of the first/best rock band that I listened to during my beginning years of writing along side of Interpol and Fugazi, so I owe this song much respect and swag.

Pete Tijerina of Young Girls [Website | Facebook]
The last song that changed my life was ‘California’ by Delta Spirit. Its simple arrangement and dramatic lyrics really spoke to me.  It’s a sad song, but I always feel really optimistic after I listen to it.

Yvonne Ambree of Take Berlin [Website | Facebook]
Leáozinho – Caetano Veloso:  I´ve never listened to a lot of Brazilian music before I met Jesse, but I definitely fell in love with it. Mostly because of the beautiful songwriting and the always seemingly effortless performance of the singers. It always sounds like the first impulse – the right thing to do. Leáozinho is one of my favorites because of everything mentioned before plus the lyrics. Go and listen to the song while reading the lyrics (or the translation) — I promise it will make you feel good.

Jesse Barns of Take Berlin
The last song that really fucked me up was Randy Newman’s song ‘Redneck.’ I was driving and listening to his record ‘Songbook Volume 1.’ It’s classic Newman songwriting. Ironic, penetrating, light and dark, funny and caustic serio-comedy. Not for the faint of heart, it’s a take on racism in this country and perhaps struck me particularly hard because it mentions Hough, a neighborhood in Cleveland that experienced severe rioting in the late ’60s. I’ve taught a lot of music classes in Hough; it’s a pretty rough and racially divided neighborhood, and for some reason, this song took me back there and made me really sad. There aren’t many songwriters that can make you angry at humanity and then have you laughing out loud the next moment. That’s Randy Newman. He’s one of the greatest musical treasures we have in this country.

Barbara Trentalange, aka Trentalange [Website | Facebook]
Neko Case’s ‘Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.’ A good friend told me to take a listen to the song because it related to a conversation we were having. I took a listen as soon as I got home and it stopped time for me. Nothing was more important at that moment than listening to what Neko Case had to sing, in all it’s simplicity. It spoke to me as a parent and to the little child beliefs left in me. It is a reminder that our actions and words, no matter how fleeting, can change the outlook and beliefs of those around us and to always be aware of this great responsibility.

Thomas Shaw of Mount Pressmore [Website | Facebook]
‘Sweet Life,’ Frank Ocean. This is an amazing track; he’s able to make you complicit in the social critique of the song through the power of the hook while at the same time conveying the allure of the subject through the intoxicating groove. He’s inside and outside all at once. The production is exceptional — vocal harmonies and horns are introduced at perfect moments for optimal effect — and the band sounds incredible, which he affirms by having them play us out. Ultimately, there’s his voice, which, like his character in the song, inhabits worlds — the leisured realm of his subject, the conflict of the outsider, the yearning to grasp the changing landscape before him. A life-changer, for sure. I love what Frank Ocean does.

Richard X Heyman [Website | Facebook]
You could make the argument (or I guess I’m gonna make it) that every song you’ve ever heard changes your life in some way because you’ve never heard it before that first time, and now that you have, good or bad, it’s added to your sonic existence. Or something like that!? I would say, for me, at least in the context of what your question seems to imply, that is, hearing a song that actually shifted the direction of my life, I can think of only a couple. ‘Rhapsody In Blue,’ if that can be considered a song, by George Gershwin, for its innovation and beauty; ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles for obvious reasons. But the one that was truly an epiphany for me was ‘Uptown’ by the Crystals. My older sister Gail and her boyfriend let me tag along with them to Stewart’s Root Beer, a drive-in hang-out in our hometown of Plainfield, New Jersey. I was a little skinny bratty 10-year-old kid, sitting in the back seat of the car, waiting for our burgers and fries to arrive, when a song came on the radio, blaring in the rear speaker right behind my head. “He gets up each morning and he goes downtown” the girl singer (Barbara Alston) pronounced at the top of the song, setting up the story which leads to the chorus, ‘Uptown’ where he (the dude in the song) can be a man again. All of this is accompanied by the most glorious production (Phil Spector’s early Wall of Sound) and the effect on my 10-year-old brain was, “I love this!  I love rock’n'roll!  I am dedicating my life to be a part of that sound!” The song made me feel wistful, melancholy, happy and jubilant, all within its 2:21 length. Even to this day, when I hear ‘Uptown,’ I think back to that first time I heard it, and give thanks to the gods of rock ‘n’ roll.

Collin Rausch of Shy Boys [Website | Facebook]
Amy Grant, ‘Stay For A While,’ from ‘The Collection.’ No ironic pick here. ‘Heart In Motion’ gets plenty of plays at our house, and this track from ‘The Collection’ is perhaps our favorite. If there are consequences for admitting this openly, we’re prepared to face them head on.

Zara from As Animals [Website | Facebook]
The main song that affected me is ‘Lullaby’ by the Cure. It’s the first song that had an obsessive effect on me, I could listen again and again. I was blown away by the combination of strings and bass/drums, then piano taking over. It may seem ridiculous and kitsch to some, but it must be remembered that at the time, it was super innovative!

Fred from As Animals
The last song that changed my life and approach to music composition is ‘The Limit to Your Love’ by Feist! The way the strings, guitar and voice mix together make is so powerful. I can imagine that I am in the same room as the band. Each sound has it’s place. The lyrics are pretty simple, but the interpretation is truly amazing. A little story: The album ‘The Reminder’ was recorded in a French town called “La Frette sur Seine,” where I grew up! When I was kid, I knew that there was a studio right near where I lived, and I always wanted to record there since I was little. ;)

Pontiak [Website | Facebook]
The last song that led me to a revelation was ‘Twilight’ by ELO. If you haven’t heard it, go find that s— and listen to it. Jeff Lynne is a pop layering genius nonpareil. He layers voices, guitars, synths, drums, pianos into a wall of sound that is at once arresting and inviting. It’s effusive and yet doesn’t lose any restraint required for nuance. It’s catchy but not a bit saccharin. And it’s certainly dated but that doesn’t seen to matter, it sticks in my head with a freshness and vitality that exists above 1981. Also Jeff Lynne’s look knows what’s up. Get on YouTube or Google image search him.

Lennon Bone of Ha Ha Tonka [Website | Facebook]
It might be cliche, but the last I can remember is Radiohead‘s ‘Kid A.’ It was my first introduction to electronic music, not to mention my first intro to Radiohead. I remember laying on my bed in high school and thinking, what are these sounds, and how in the world do I make them?!

Jófríður of Samaris [Website | Facebook]

The last song that changed my life is Steve Reich’s New York counterpoint for solo clarinet and playback. It changed my approach to songwriting and made me realize that I am a minimalist in my heart.

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