Albums Of The Year: 2017

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It’s been quite the year. Did anyone actually have a good 2017? The only thing I keep hearing is that this year tore just about everyone to shreds, myself included. On the upside, music happened. When it was good, it was really quite spectacular.

A little disclaimer, I by no means think that my list encompasses the absolute best music. This is a list of my favorite releases.

Without further ado, I give you my top ten albums of 2017.

Honorable Mention:

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Stand Atlantic – Sidewinder

I’m rooting for this band very loudly, at least it feels that way. I was thrilled when they released a very solid EP this September. Strong vocals cap off a slightly edgy but otherwise familiar sound. If We Are The In Crowd and early Tonight Alive made an EP together, you’d get something that sounded a lot like Sidewinder. I’m hoping for big things for this Australian trio, and would love to see them take off in 2018.

Listen To: Sidewinder, Chemicals

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10. Sleep On It – Overexposed

The best way to describe Sleep On It’s gloriously colorful debut is musical comfort food. If this had come out a good four years ago, it would have probably been an album of the year contender. This year, it just barely squeaked on to the list. There’s a lot of good about this album. It’s bright, fresh, and utterly reliable. There’s not a bad track on a fairly ambitious twelve song album. I’ve come back quite a bit for repeat listens since it came out in November, and the main reason is that it’s about as catchy as it gets. Sleep On It built a truly infectious sound. If you like a bit of nostalgia give Overexposed a spin.

Listen To: Fireworks, Photobooth, Overexposed

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9. Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights

It feels like we waited quite literally forever between 2013’s Old Souls and All These Countless nights. Somehow, Deaf Havana stayed one of my favorite bands over almost four years. What we got was an experimental, odd, glorious piece of music. I still can’t quite figure out how I feel about All These Countless Nights, and it always slips away until I play it again. Don’t let that fool you, each listen is fantastic. The story telling, told in blunt, unrestrained lyrics is as honest as ever. There are songs that hearken back to older albums such as Ashes, Ashes and Fever. Then there are the more experimental tracks like Pretty Low and Ghost. Of course, the whole thing is rounded out by Deaf Havana’s main strength, aching ballads of heartache and healing in Happiness and Saint Paul’s.

Listen To: Ashes, Ashes, Fever, Saint Paul’s

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8. The Wonder Years – Burst And Decay (An Acoustic EP)

Pull up a chair, sit back with a mug of something hot and a pair of fuzzy socks. It should be snowing outside, or at least raining. The Wonder Years have managed to pull off something that is not easy to do well. Old songs were stripped down to their simplest form, and remained incredibly poignant. The real strength of this acoustic project is that the lyrics shine even brighter than they do on the full band versions of these songs. Burst And Decay has a way of weaving itself around you as you listen and pulling you straight into the story. It’s not a snooze fest though. There’s a driving force behind these revamped songs that sends you straight through the seven songs without a moment of boredom. The only acoustic thing on this list, and rightly so.

Listen to: There, There

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7. Hundredth – Rare

Ready to get weird? A little fuzzy? Look no further than what I’m looking at as Hundredth’s second debut album. It’s not often a hardcore band takes a sharp turn and turns into a shoegaze band, but here we are. Rare is entrancing. So much so that songs sort of blend into each other after a few minutes. I’m all for diversity in sound, but there’s also something a nice about not remembering what the beginning of the album sounded like when you get to the end of it. Rare is a hazy experience of an album. It’s a unique gem in the onslaught of new music this year. To be honest, I’m not sure how it found it’s way to number seven on my list, but again here we are. Let’s just go with it.

Listen To: Shy Vein, Vertigo, Suffer

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6. Knuckle Puck – Shapeshifter

Remember who took album of the year in 2015? Knuckle Puck’s incredible debut Copacetic swept the field. It might seem like a fall from grace to wind up at number six after their last appearance on this list. But Shapeshifter is an entirely different animal from the band’s previous release. It’s short, and feels a more like a collection of songs than a fully cohesive album. Therein lies the reason for a number six spot. The songs themselves are strong throughout. The band tried a lot of new things on Shapeshifter, and managed to pull it off without a hitch. Through countless listens, I’ve tried my hardest not to be blinded by the last three songs which are arguably the strongest material the band has ever released. Conduit, Wait and Plastic Brains are heart breaking, emotional perfect closers to a very diverse track list. It may be different, but Shapeshifter is an essential listen.

Listen To: Double Helix, Everyone Lies To Me, Wait

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5. PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

PVRIS has done it again. Another powerhouse album, tied neatly into ten flawless songs. The first time I listened to All We Know, my initial reaction was that it sounded like a piece of art. There’s light, and color and a lot to sink your teeth into. It’s expansive, atmospheric, mysterious. It grooves, bops and the best thing is that it moves. Most of the album is comprised of songs coming in over the four minute mark and it would be only too easy for the entire thing to drag. I’m here to tell you that possibly for the first time ever after a first listen, I had the feeling of “that’s it?”. Wanting more, I pressed play and started again, which is what I do often with this album. It’s larger sounding than White Noise, and doesn’t pull any punches lyrically. While absolutely heartbreaking in places, it’s not an entire sob fest. With all of the darkness of Hell, Heaven tends to swoop in in the form of anger. It’s welcome distraction from the heart of the endless self reflection. Give this one a spin when you need something to sink into and pull you under.

Listen To: Half, No Mercy, Nola 1

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4. A Will Away – Here Again

Here we have a fail-safe of an album. Anytime I’ve been asked this year what I’ve been listening to, I’ve pointed every single person towards Here Again. It’s fresh enough to make the casual listener stop and take real notice. It’s also just accessible enough that the casual listener would have wound up there in the first place. A bit of rock, a little emo, a tinge of twang and folk thrown in for good measure. A Will Away made a debut that could go down as a modern classic. The main reason I’m so drawn to this band is the honesty and intention that shines brightly through the entirety of the album. It just feels real. No bells or whistles. Instead, the immense talent of this young four piece is hard to deny. As someone who didn’t have a clue about this band at the beginning of the year, they’ve climbed into my favorites. If you give any album on this list your full attention it should be Here Again. So why the number four slot? The most exciting thing about A Will Away is what comes next. There’s a lot of room for growth, and I can’t wait to hear it all.

Listen To: Crochet, Into The Light, Something Special

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3. The Gospel Youth – Always Lose

We’ve come to the album on this list that will fill you with all of the feelings in the best way possible. A little heartbreak, a little hope, soaring, massive choruses, unbelievable vocals. I dare you to listen to Always Lose and not be completely floored at least once. If the vocals don’t get you, the nostalgic melodies will. Always Lose could have easily come out ten years ago, or ten years from now and pack the same punch. It feels timeless, and timely all at once. Equally impressive is the cohesive, unwavering quality of the entire album. Pacing is an odd thing to talk about, but even the way these songs are arranged works in the album’s favor. There’s time to breathe in the right places. Of course, the slight lyrical nods to past material make my heart happy. It’s interesting that this came out in July, when listening back in December, it’s clearly a cold weather album. The sheer warmth in these songs is magical, and just what you’ll need going into winter.

Listen To: I Will Deliver You To The Fireflies, Gin And Black Coffee, Revolutions

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2. Can’t Swim – Fail You Again

Coming in at a very close second, Fail You Again has been an almost constant soundtrack since it came out in March. Can’t Swim continue to blow me away with how entirely unique they are. Compared to everything else on this list, Fail You Again sounds nothing like any of it. It’s a bit brash, raw, unconcerned. Mixed with little glimpses of warmth, atmosphere, and huge anthemic instrumentation, it doesn’t hold much back. After the surprise success of Death Deserves A Name, Fail You Again continues the saga with more complex songs, and a track list that spans a range of emotions. It broods through a number of stormy topics, and really brings the listener into the muddy gloom. Can’t Swim brings the message that it’s okay to not know how, or what, or why. In the sea of carefully packaged hope, it’s a relief. There’s no blaring message of hope at the end. Instead, the repeated “you’re searching for truth and it will fail you again” drives the idea home.

Listen To: Stranger, Quitting, All The Moves We Make Are In The Dark

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1. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

This is the first album since No Closer to Heaven in 2015 that’s made me cry. Actual tears in the middle of a park downtown. That’s high praise from someone who often spends weeks at a time completely numb. Before you turn away, Lovely Little Lonely is not a sad album, it’s vulnerable. There’s a giant difference between the two. The Maine have managed to play with emotion in way that makes you unaware that its happening at all. An interesting part of the album is how it seems to weave and and unravel throughout. It starts with noise, and ends the same way, as if it lives in it’s own sphere. When listening, you enter that wavelength, and it unravels around you at the end, setting the listener back into their own world. It’s a fascinating use of sound.

Lovely Little Lonely is an experience. From the eerie sounds of the ocean sprinkled throughout, to the flawless transitional tracks that bind the album into one seamless entity. It starts with light, upbeat tracks in Don’t Come Down and Bad Behavior. From there, there’s the subtle shift into more passionate material. Black Butterflies & Deja Vu is one of the strongest tracks the band has ever written and begs to be played while running off into the sunset. From there the key turns, and we’re taken from passion to a dream like section with the intricate, swirling Lost In Nostalgia. The last quarter of the album is where the vulnerability really shines with the intimate I Only Wanna Talk To You.There’s a turning point right before the final track that simultaneously feels like waking from a dream and being punched in the gut. In a single line of lyrics, the whole journey becomes crystal clear.

The Maine continue to grow and change with each release, and for a sixth full length, it feels more inspired and intentional than ever. I’ve been waiting to put one of my favorite bands ever at the number one slot, and Lovely Little Lonely fits perfectly. From the highest highs to vulnerable lows, The Maine have created a truly special album that feels uniquely personal.

Listen To: Black Butterflies & Deja Vu, Taxi, How Do You Feel?

Here we are. As far as most anticipated for 2018, there’s only a few off the top of my head. Albums from Marmozets, Boston Manor, Trophy Eyes and State Champs, and hopefully Walking On Cars. What was your favorite album of the year? I’d love to hear about in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Musical Mileage: A Year In Review

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2017 was a year of musical deep dives into old discography. It’s safe to say that at times I got buried completely in the depths of various artist’s back catalogues. So much so that a few albums on this list were the only things I listened to for weeks at a time. Yes, I’m 100% that person. Here’s a little glimpse into of some my most played this year. Albums Of The Year will be posted very soon so make sure to check back for that.

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A Will Away: Bliss (2015)

Just to set the record straight, A Will Away is by far my favorite new find this year. The only reason I even listened to them in the first place was because they opened a tour I went to in March. On a whim, I decided to be a responsible concert goer and give these guys a shot about a month before the show. Not only did I fall head over heels in love, I fell really, really hard.

Bliss is exactly what it sounds like. This EP is about as feel good as it gets. It’s the type of music I want to listen to on warm summer nights with the windows rolled down. It’s passionate, honest, and clever. From the opening, optimistic notes of Play Dead, to the end build of Be Easy, Bliss hits perfectly.

On a side note, I’ve seen A Will Away three times this year, and they put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. No bells or whistles, just a bunch of dudes playing instruments, and raw, flawless vocals. This band is extraordinarily talented and it’s refreshing.

Listen To: Play Dead, Be Easy

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Trade Wind: You Make Everything Disappear (2016), Suffer Just to Believe (2014)

So here we go again with music that virtually came out of nowhere. I’m 100% not sure how I found Trade Wind, but I’m so glad I did. This was another slow burn that was beyond worth it.

You Make Everything Disappear: Is this an album? It’s eight songs, does that count?Either way, I’m sold. This is probably the most diverse release on this list. Heavy, guitar driven tracks, looped electronics, and a minimal acoustic track. It’s a journey of an album, and there’s a little something for everyone.The most impressive part of this album is that it’s heavy without needing to scream in your face. There’s a bit of drained feeling I get after listening. It’s not exhausting though, more of a release if that makes sense. Either way, there’s something very special about this album. I’d love to see these songs live one day.

Suffer Just to Believe: The bands first and only EP. This is more straight up rock with a little grunge and dirt. It’s heavier than the album, and is perfect for a dark, bitter rainy day. This EP makes being in pain a little more enjoyable. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve listened to Suffer a lot during bad chronic pain days and I feel a little more okay about my traitor of a body.

Listen To: Radio Songs, Dead Leaves

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The Dangerous Summer: Golden Record (2013)

Here we are again with music that seemed to come out of nowhere at the perfect time. Let’s start out by saying that this is far from a perfect album. The reason it’s on this list is because when it gets it right, it’s very right. There’s a handful of songs that feel so deeply nostalgic, I couldn’t tare myself away. We all need some emo music every so often, and songs like Sins, Anchor, and Miles Away really fill that void. I didn’t listen to this album all the way through much, but those songs got a lot of plays this summer and are definitely worth checking out.

Listen To: Sins, Anchor

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Sleep On It: Lost Along The Way (2016)

If you were looking for a short, sweet, play it again option, you’ve found it. Five songs of catchy, anthemic hooks. I’d imagine writing an EP is a bit like writing a short story. Not a ton of content, but it’s so easy to get it all wrong. Lost Along The Way manages to get it all very right. This is the type of music I’ll throw on when I’m not really sure what to reach for. It’s easy listening, and it’s fun. For me, the brightest point of the EP is the final song, Let Me Go. I love a good build, and by the end of the song, the only thing I want to do is start the whole thing over again.

Listen To: Unspoken, Let Me Go

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Trophy Eyes: Chemical Miracle (2016)

There was a period of time this year where I couldn’t find the right level of heavy. Nothing was hitting the spot and I wasn’t ready to dive into a totally new musical world with hardcore or metal. I give you, the album I’m still not sure how I missed last year. I’ve tried to get into Trophy eyes before, I’ve seen them live. It wasn’t until this summer that something finally clicked. If I’d payed attention when it came out, it would have been an album of the year contender, easily. This is a masterpiece. It’s truly heartbreaking in the best way. There’s nothing to hide behind on songs like Miracle and Daydreamer. Lyrics are straight to the point and they cut deep. So deep that after a little while, they started to fill the never ending void in my chest, if only for a few hours at a time.

The real standout lyrically is that there’s no mention of a happy ending. Instead, things are wrong and that’s the way they are. In a world saturated with stories of making it to the other side, it’s important to give voice to pain that isn’t over yet.

Listen To: Chlorine, Nose Bleed

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The Wonder Years: The Greatest Generation (2013)

Maybe it’s the fact that we happen to share a home town, but there’s something so comforting about this album. To be perfectly honest, it’s taken me far too long to properly get into this gloriously familiar band. Pop Punk gets a lot of crap for being a particularly unintelligent genre of music, but if you’re looking for a little more substance, this is the album to work on. This isn’t just an album, it’s an event. Thirteen brilliant songs, ending with arguably one of the best closing tracks ever. In fact, if you didn’t want to listen to the whole album, it’s a nice TL;DR for the whole thing. But you really should listen everything. It’s poignant, sad, nostalgic and hits close to home.

The Wonder Years shine very brightly when it comes to lyrics. Each song is an fantastically honest short story, and it’s very easy to become fully submerged. During uncertain times, The Greatest Generation brings a little bit of welcome stability.

Listen To: Dismantling Summer, The Devil In My Bloodstream

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Can’t Swim: Death Deserves a Name (2016)

This EP took me a while to get into. When I first saw these guys last year in a tiny little 450 cap room, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Then I gave it time, came back a few months later and listened to these five songs over and over again. The simplicity of Death Deserves a Name works because of it’s execution. It’s really not complicated. Angry self reflection steeped in a good measure of atmosphere. Just give it a chance, this one takes time.

Listen To: Your Clothes, Death Deserves A Name

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The Xcerts: There Is Only You (2014)

I’m not sure how this band wound up on my radar, but gosh it was a nice, light find. A bit reminiscent of Moose Blood and Beach Weather, it’s accessible, infectious, life affirming British pop rock. What I love about this album is that it doesn’t try and be anything but what it is. There’s nothing deep or pretentious about this band, and that’s nice once a while. A few stand out tracks include the apply named Pop Song, and unabashedly hopeful Live Like This. My favorite is the epic two-tracks-in-one final song There Is Only You. You’ll just have to give this one a listen to hear for yourself.

Before we move on, let’s put our hands together for the album on this list that sound the least like it’s cover.

Listen To: Pop Song, There Is Only You

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The Maine: Pioneer (2011)

Ah, hello old friend. This is my album. For all intents are purposes, this is the one. It’s not flashy, or fancy or anything other that what it is. A monstrosity of a project, all fourteen songs come in at just over an hour. In case you weren’t paying attention, that’s a long album.

I’ve never really gone into why this album is such a big deal, so let’s talk about that for a minute. The Maine, and Pioneer came into my life during the the most miserable summer of my life. The summer of antibiotics which lead to the whole lose twenty pounds in four weeks scenario. I was so weak, so done, so incredibly empty.

Although I first fell in love with The Maine during their Forever Halloween cycle, songs from Pioneer were what stuck with me when I saw them live for the first time. That was four and half years ago, and since then, I’ve slowly wrapped myself in this album to the point that this is what I reach for when I need to remember why I love music.

Pioneer is another album that’s probably not perfect. What I love about it is that it feels very honest. It’s pure creativity, risk taking, ideas, new beginnings, memories, apologies. There’s a song for every mood, and it covers a very wide range of what it means to be a human being.

This album has grown with me, and somehow remains relatable in a way that is completely unique. Pioneer is hot summer nights, campfires with old friends. It’s the peace of solitude, the quiet of internal reflection. It feels the most right, the most okay of anything on this list, even after four years.

If you just so happen to listen all the way through that fourteen minute song at the end, it might be the best musical decision you ever make.

Listen To: Like We Did (Windows Down), Misery, Identify

I hope you enjoyed part one of my musical year in review. Albums Of The Year will be up very soon. What have you re-discovered this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

The Fall (Part Two)

This is the not so long awaited sequel to a post I wrote in 2014. You can find it here. I’d suggest reading that first.

It snowed yesterday. The temperature dropped, frozen water fell from the sky in little cold, white flakes. The temperature dropped again, the snow froze. Streets and sidewalks iced over, worse in some spots than others.

I went for a walk about an hour ago. Hiking boots and thick warm socks, gloves on just in case. Around the block, hand on my jacket, trying to hold on to the pain in my chest. Wet eyes, cold nose. Make it home without falling apart. Avoid that patch of sidewalk, it looks slick.

It’s been over nine years since the night my world shattered. No, not shattered, opened. For all intents and purposes, October 23rd, 2008 was the end of my childhood. The release of the final Harry Potter book the year before is a close second, but I digress. Barely twelve years old, the curtain was ripped back and then shredded. All of the bad things that I’d held at arms length up until that night became real, true possibilities. Because as it’s so brazenly pointed out on a song by the band Emarosa, nothing ever happens until it happens to you.

I live in constant fear of falling. Icy sidewalks are a very literal representation of that snarling, tangled, deeply engraved fear. Falling is not limited to flying feet and sore bottoms, or a broken helmet and gravel in my lips. Falling is a feeling. An uninvited tap on the shoulder, bad news. The curtain shreds itself on a daily basis. It’s the missed step on the way down. When your heart says no, your chest closes, and air is gone. Just gone, every single day.

I think maybe psychologists would have a field day with me. Nine years on from an accident that should have been inconsequential in the scheme of things. A very first world problem to have. A fall off a horse, and years of grating, endless trauma.

The worst part is I don’t know what the hell would help. I got back on the horse only a few months after that night. Kept riding off and on for years. The fear eating away at me slowly, sometimes louder than others. Had the more reliable horses. The ones who were less likely to take off with me, throw me, trip, startle, bolt. I’ve had the more reliable everything. Always taking extra precautions just to avoid that tap on the shoulder. I’ve been careful, I’ve been careless, I’ve tried. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried.

 

Gone//Hollow

I can’t fill the void. There’s a huge, gaping emptiness in my chest and I can’t fill it. Believe me, I’ve tried. Tried everything. I’ve tried people, and food, cold air and crisp leaves. Stories with castles and villains and friends. There’s been music, and yarn on sharp metal needles.

It’s a bottomless pit in my chest. A never ending black hole, swallowing light and color and feeling. Maybe, if I waited in the street, the screech of tires on pavement would fill it.

Stay//Change

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I could sit here and tell you about every little thing that’s happened since August. I could tell you how I’m not the same person as I was then, but that’s a little cliche. Change happened, is happening will continue to happen and it scares me.

I’ve been quiet recently. This blog has been almost entirely dormant for months, and I’ve tried to come back. I really have. The problem is that words finally got away from me. The thing that always made sense slipped through my fingertips, and dissolved into nothing. No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t write.

We all get warnings, some of them come from other people. Other’s rise up from deeply embedded parts of ourselves. My warnings were sharp, bright, blaring, suffocating things. Primal, and raw. I’m good at hiding, but not good enough to avoid the consequences.

Everyone has a tipping point. The edge, the ledge, the tiny speck of no return. Stepping over is either loud, or quiet.

I’m not ready to go into detail about the last three months. I’m still here, still kicking and right now that’s enough. Maybe some day I’ll tell you all about what happens when you take a slow, silent, waking exit from the world.

For now, lets break it down.

Firstly, I’ve spent the time organizing every single post on this blog. There’s a handy menu on the top right hand part of the page. Feel free to browse.

It could be the fact that I had a dreaded birthday in September, but I feel like I’m going through another big, churning change. It’s like someone came through and stirred all of my thoughts together then left me there to try and untangle them. I’ve had to cut some strings, while simultaneously weaving new ones. It’s uncomfortable, but we all grow differently.

At the same time, I’ve had face some of the uglier demons that have buried themselves deep in my bones. I’ve been forced to flirt with my biggest fears since we last caught up, and the terror I’ve felt has been crippling. I’m trying to find a way to live with the constriction rather than breaking free, at least for now.

I think I understand pain on a level that was foreign to me up until this August, or maybe September. Of course, I still don’t have all the answers but I think I’m starting to get a grip on why everyone’s experience is so different. More on that later.

Music has been good to me recently. Sure, I would’ve liked to go to a few more shows than I did this fall, but the one I did go to put a lot of that into perspective. It’s hard for me to be around people and I’m trying to let myself be uncomfortable rather than hiding. The shows I’d been to this year weren’t giving me the same boost as they used to and I think I know why. That’s a good conversation for another time, but for now I’ll tell you this. It needs to fill your bones to sink in properly. It’s a little hard to do that when your bones don’t belong to you.

So here we are. I’m still not sure what’s going to happen with this blog, or in general. I want to make this clear. I’m not better. I’m working hard at getting better but I’m currently going through a thick, sticky hell.

I have a few posts planned between now and the end of the year. (Albums of the year anyone?) So I’ll hopefully be back then.

If you’re still here, I want you to tell me something in the comments. It can be anything. What do you need to say right now? Tell me that.

 

Because everyone wants a never ending sunburn

This isn’t my first time writing about pain on this blog. I thought I’d bring it back up because I’ve had a really rough couple of days with some of the worst skin pain I’ve ever had. It’s so easy to forget that people around you might be going through absolute hell, and that it can be entirely invisible. Here’s your reminder for the day that you have no idea what’s actually happening to someone else ninety percent of the time.

I turn twenty one in just under two months. One of the things that always made me do that ridiculous eye roll is when people have said “aren’t you a little young for that?” Because we all know that pain has an age requirement. My point is that perspective becomes a little skewed when you grow up with chronic pain.

We all have a baseline. There’s the “normal” that feels like where things should be. You have a baseline mood, a baseline energy supply, and a baseline level of pain or lack there of. For a “normal”, healthy person, you probably go through your day without much pain at all. Maybe you slept funny so your neck hurts in the morning but by the time you’re out of the house and into your day, you’ve probably forgotten about the pain in your neck.

The difference is that someone with chronic pain has a baseline that always starts with pain. Even on my best day, I’m still hurting. My “normal” is pain. Pain is a part of life. While it greatly decreases my quality of life, if it’s no worse than than baseline level, then it’s barely noticeable.

Just for a second, I’d like you to imagine that you spent a little too long in the sun, and you have a full body sunburn. It’s not at the point of blistering, but it burns. It’s hot, it’s sore. You’d rather not put clothing on because it will rub against your aforementioned sunburn, and it feels like sandpaper rather than cotton. Now I’d like you to imagine that you have that sunburn every day. That should give you some sort of idea of what it’s like to live with one very specific type of chronic pain.

You see what I’m trying to say? When your normal is pain, the perspective on normal becomes a bit messed up to say the least.

There wasn’t much of a point to this besides the fact that I’d like one more thing from you today.

If you have the privilege of health, try to remember that everyone you come in contact with could theoretically be fighting a skewed baseline.