In this series, we’re asking you to tell your life story through eight songs. Starting with your earliest memories, guest columnists will name their defining songs along with a couple of sentences explaining their meaning.
DJ Nick Smith
Track #1: The Who — My Generation
Like most people, my initial thoughts on music were shaped by my parents. My mom constantly had the radio tuned to the oldies station, but my dad’s into rock. Easy choice. Later on, when my brother and I were responsible for getting ourselves up and out the door on school days, we would always pop one of his various Who CDs into his stereo and blast it to get hyped up for the day.
Track #2: Weezer — Buddy Holly
Weezer came along at a perfect time in my life. Honestly, I could have just made this a list of eight Weezer songs. Grunge was great, but there’s not a lot of angst built up in your average suburban 12 year old. But Weezer? You bet 12 year old Nick can relate to being an awkward nerd who doesn’t know how to talk to girls. The Blue Album has been a cornerstone of my musical tastes ever since it came out, even the focus of some of my college multimedia projects some 20 years later.
Track #3: Alkaline Trio — Private Eye
After high school, I joined the Navy, where I was able to surround myself with people with different-yet-similar backgrounds and similar-yet-different tastes, who introduced me to a lot of things about myself. I’d started listening to Alkaline Trio in high school, but when I met some friends who had a band with an unreliable singer, they invited me to sing their live cover of this song, since I was the one of the two of us who actually knew the words.
Track #4: Hold Steady — Barfruit Blues
After the Navy, I worked a bunch of dead-end jobs, but the best of the lot was a bar-backing gig at a busy downtown bar & grille in my hometown. When all the customers would file out after last call, we’d hook our iPods up to the sound system and jam out while we cleaned. That’s how my manager introduced me to this band, and after hearing the line “She said ‘It’s good to see you back in a bar band, baby’/I said ‘It’s great to see you’re still in the bars,’” I was hooked. It’s the best burn in rock, in my opinion.
Track #5: My Morning Jacket — One Big Holiday
There’s not a lot a music fan from Kentucky can claim as far as “hometown pride” goes, but when My Morning Jacket brought their bizarre psychedelic Southern rock to the national scene, I was happy to be able to claim some tenuous connection to them, but even more I was lucky to be around a lot of people who shared my sentiment.
Track #6: Metric — Stadium Love
Once I actually figured out that I needed to do something with my life, and what I wanted to go to school for, I moved to Rochester, NY with basically nothing. Seriously, everything I owned fit in a rented minivan, which meant I had no car. On my bike rides to the bus stop every morning at 6 — sometimes through more than a foot of snow — I often needed a pick-me-up, and this song really knows how to get my blood pumping.
Track #7: Ok Go — Upside Down & Inside Out
I’ve been an Ok Go fan for a while, but now my wife and I have a little music fan of our own, and just as my father before me passed on his musical tastes, now it’s my turn. We got to take him to his first concert last year, and he spent the whole show headbanging (#proudpapa) and trying to catch the confetti from their confetti cannon onslaught.*This is actually my second choice from this album, but my first choice is called “WTF” and has some decidedly NSFW lyrics.
Track #8: Thrice — Beggars
This wouldn’t be a Nick list without a little dissonance and a little metal, and though this one takes a slower turn, it’s long been a mainstay for me as a reminder to stay grounded, but it was especially meaningful during this Election season:
All you big shots that swagger and stride with conceit/Did you devise how your frame would be formed?/If you’d be raised in a palace or left out on the streets?/Or choose the place or the hour you’d be born?
Tell me, what can you claim? Not a thing, not your name/Tell me if you can recall just one thing, not a gift, in this life/Can you hear what’s been said?/Can you see now that everything’s grace after all?
If there’s one thing I know in this life/We are beggars all