25. “Simmer,” Silversun Pickups

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This is actually the opposite of what this blog is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be: a random song comes up on shuffle and it reminds me of something; my shuffled life. This song couldn’t have been played any less randomly. But it speaks to the power of music and how it works in my brain.

Speaking of that lump of synapses between my ears, it was stewing over a frustrating work issue, as I walked from the office to Union Station. I was listening to another song. Can’t even remember what because my brain was out-shuffling shuffle. It was not my phone, but my brain that randomly popped a song into my head. My brain was playing this trilly guitar lick. I had to think for a second to remember what it was. It was this song. My brain was demanding “Simmer” by Silversun Pickups.

Fortunately, there was a miracle in my pocket.


Yeesh, mind out of the gutter, Imaginary Reader. My phone. I’m talking about my 64 gig iPhone 5 that fits in my pocket yet miraculously holds 90% of my music collection. I was able to pull out this little four-ounce device, swipe and press a few times and instantly access the very song my brain was demanding.

This remains a miracle to me. That this technology exists, regardless of the brand. That I can have a little thing in my pocket that currently holds 5,372 songs. But it’s also a phone, a calculator, a gaming device, a thermometer, a map of the world that can also be a map of any neighbourhood in the world and show me how to get there, an address book, a calendar, a notebook, a camera, a video camera, a gigantic photo album, an encyclopedia, a tape recorder, a video-playing device on which I can watch movies and TV shows, a stopwatch, a timer, an alarm clock, a video phone like they had on The Jetsons, and probably a few dozen other things that as a kid I wouldn’t have imagined two of which could be combined into one device, let alone a few dozen.

How old are you, anyway?

I’m 41, Imaginary Reader. Forty-one years old. I think that’s the iPhone appreciation sweet spot. I’m young enough to get everything I can out of this miracle, but also old enough to remember when all those things that are in an iPhone were individual things that I couldn’t dream about being all in one small device. Seriously, anyone who’s my age, imagine yourself when you were 16. Now imagine telling that younger you that you had something that was both a phone and a camera. Just a phone and a camera. You probably would’ve dismissively said, “Who are you, Marty McFly?” (You know, because Back to the Future Part II, where Marty travelled to 2015, came out when I was 16?) Not possible.

But it’s not just possible now. It is. It’s a thing millions of us carry around with us. And I love it.

Hmm. I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked away from the song. The point is, this miracle device was able to play the song I needed to hear to calm down a little, to soothe my worried mind. So we have two miracles at work here: the miracle of the smartphone and the miracle of music, the healing power of music, even in this small sample. I really don’t know why my brain wanted this specific song at that specific time. I like it a lot, but it’s not one of my all-time favourites. But there is one moment in it that stood out the first time I heard it. It’s pretty deep into the song, around 4:58, and it takes me away. The song has quieted down a bit for nearly a full minute, then it explodes into this big, expansive riff. It always made me picture the band playing this song at some festival at sundown. The sky has exploded into streaks of yellow, pink and orange. And Brian Aubert steps away from his mike, closes his eyes, cranks up the volume on his guitar and this riff, along with the full power of the band, sends this gale-force wind of music into the crowd, their hair blowing back from the force, like the guy in that Maxell ad, the reference to which also proves that I’m 41.

What’s the point of all this? This all seems totally random.

I think that is kind of the point. This blog is all about randomness: random songs popping into my head and the random thoughts and memories they bring to me. And the point is also that music is awesome.

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