The Album That Changed My Life

Written By: Daniel Alcantara
Photo By: Unhindered_By_Talent

Something like four years ago, I was sixteen years old and discovering a whole new circle of friends. It was a great time for music as well. Death Cab For Cutie hadn’t released Plans quite yet, and many wish they hadn’t. I had just begun to start listening to music that was unknown to much of general society at that point.

A process I have come close to completing as I have no idea who is famous or who’s one a Grammy or who is on the radio anymore. Sure, I listen to the radio every day at work but that is against my will. But that’s a whole other conversation that I’d rather just not have right now. The point is, I had just begun to listen to really, really good music. Eisley was a new band to me and I had decided I was in love with them. I had also begun to work quite hard on writing songs.

One day, I was hanging out with Andrew, a friend I made through a mutual appreciation of Radiohead. He played the guitar and we decided to try and record some songs at his house. It was one of the great unproductive nights of my life, with the exception of one event. We ended up listening to songs on iTunes while still holding our silent guitars. I showed him The Decemberists and he showed me Pedro The Lion. That was the turning point in the night, though I did not know it until I was driving home. He burned me a few CDs and I listened to them while I drove. I couldn’t get passed a certain one though. It was called Achilles Heel. Something about the album was utterly magnificent. I had never heard songs that moved someone like that, especially when they were simply well-told stories set to music.

The songs were melancholy but not depressing, that is until I reached The Poison, the album’s final track. I found a bit of identity with the characters in the songs and with the questions they asked about things. Something in David Bazan’s voice made you feel the songs as he sang them. I felt something change that night. I had discovered a way for music to move someone without being spiritual in any way except that it was a beautiful, well-crafted piece of music. As I dug deeper into the Pedro The Lion collection, I found a wealth of really amazing songs about people dying or being murdered by their spouse because they were unfaithful. It was new territory for me, coming from a church-raised family that didn’t allow “un-Christian” music until I could pay for it myself through means other than allowance. I had been sheltered ever-so slightly to what really went on in the Bible. But again, a sidenote and very long conversation.

I found myself beginning to attempt writing murder-mystery songs and chase scenes. That was the year I began to write a concept album. The whole idea of which had somehow escaped my attention previously. I listened to music differently, I still do. It gave me standards for songwriting. I had learned not to just take what’s put in front of me but to prod it, question it, test it and find it true and good before accepting it. I’ve kept that with me. It’s become a part of who I am and has made me who I am. Not necessarily skeptical or cynical, just… cautious to accept anything that is said to be good as actually good. Achilles Heel by Pedro The Lion gave me a complete intolerance for bad art and for that, I am grateful.

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