With the previous review talking about how music is capable of saving your life, I thought it best to talk about the music that saved mine.
I am not shy about the fact that I discovered the band Blue October from looking at the playlist for Twilight and New Moon. Those first two songs – “Hate Me,” and “Sound of Pulling Heaven Down,” led me to download as much of the Blue October discography as I could from Limewire. If you can’t tell by my dated references, I was in year eight at the time and heavily swept up in the romance of vampire novels (thanks Anne Rice). Over the next few years however I was to start questioning much of how I felt. I was different to those around me but it was going to be a long time before I worked out I was queer, so instead I did the best I could and dabbled in both emo (hoping to instead be rich enough for goth) and Christianity. Neither were particularly fulfilling but they were part of a process of learning about myself that I don’t regret. Through all of these years of self-discovery Blue Octobers early albums – Consent to Treatment, Foiled, and Approaching Normal were there for me, purchased through Amazon because that was the only place you could get them. I am still sad that their first album – The Answers was only available as an expensive second-hand copy. These albums are full of heart and soul, rage and sadness, all expressed through maddened violin solos, driving guitar riffs, and the soaring melodic voice of Justin Furstenfeld. They speak of addiction, mental health and suffering- could anything be more perfect for also expressing the pain of being a teenager?
In 2010 Blue October formed their own recording label and started to produce more music. Any Man in America was angry, full of swearing and rage at a judicial system lacking justice. It was their next album however, Sway, that held me together when I had my first notable depressive episode. The album is about healing, about love and dancing and it marks a turn for the band that they have not slipped from. The first song is called “Breathe, It’s Over” but it was “Fear” that held me in its arms when I cried in my car before a day at Uni, “Not Broken Anymore” that slowly put me back together, and “Angels in Everything” that lifted me up to dance when I was ready.
It was Home that came out at the exact right time. “Coal Makes Diamonds” expressed so much that I felt I couldn’t, and “I Want It” gave me the drive to keep going, to keep clinging on to the things that I wanted to do, even if I wasn’t as accomplished as those around me. “Heart Go Bang” and “Home” saw me into a loving relationship with The GF and expressed all the joy that came with it. Unfortunately it was around this time that my mental health got much worse, I fell into the arms of the familiar music that helped me get the words out, that expressed the feelings I couldn’t, and that helped me continue. “We Know Where You Go” talks about watching a friend disappear into poor mental health, giving me the perspective of an outsider to my own feelings, the hurt of watching a friend suffer.
The newest album I Hope You’re Happy continues the theme of healing we have seen with the past two albums. Blue October has been venturing into a very new sound since they broke with Sony – there is much less of the sawing, melodic violin, replaced with harder beats and synthetic sounds. For fans of the fantastic violin breakdown in “Italian Radio” from their first album, the lack of this classic sound is felt deeply. That being said, a few of the songs on this album are more reminiscent of older works than we have seen recently. “Colours Collide” gives us more of the crunching, driving sound that featured heavily on “Home” but its lyrics, especially those in the bridge, are reminiscent of darkly addictive “Dirt Room”. The title song “I Hope You’re Happy” has helped me adjust so much of my outlook on life – it is such a loving song and its release couldn’t have been timed better. The first single off the album, it is the song that got me through what was probably the worst mental breakdown I’ve had, kicking me to my feet and dragging me forward into the next day and the next.
It has always been the saddest thing for me that Blue October (to my knowledge) has never toured in Australia. One day I will buy plane tickets to America and follow their tour. Who knows, I might even have the chance to tell them how much their music has helped me.