Music To Heal My Damaged Nerves, a mixtape

Taking a closer look at my music choices as I heal this pinched nerve injury started as a nocturnal habit, brought upon my sleeplessness due to a sharp, biting pain in my upper left back and shoulder. As determined by my last post, it’s from a work injury, and clearly I’m not done complaining about it. Unfortunately for my partner and workplace, they will be hearing approximately 5-7 more weeks of me wincing and sighing, as I close my eyes and massage my muscles. To take my mind off the pain, I actively redirect my thoughts to whatever music I have going in my AirPods. Here’s a few choice records I’ve been mulling over the last few weeks:

Michelle Branch, Hotel Paper (2003)
For aimlessly passing the time; Hotel Paper is the first album I bought after moving from metropolitan Manila, Philippines to suburban Ontario, Canada. I recall bouts of self-imposed loneliness in the beginning of the transition, through solo trips to the local shopping mall and library. Michelle Branch’s sophomore album was half-locked in my memory, until recently. Whenever I’m feeling lost or hurt, drained or depressed, I binge on heaps of media nostalgia, those being videogames (golden age Final Fantasy), books (David Sedaris, a bit uncouth for a 14-year old), or music (2000’s pop). It helps remind me that suffering is cyclical – my current miasmic state of mind is thankfully, not permanent. Hotel Paper‘s 2000’s pop-rockiness transports me back to my freshman year of highschool, friendless but curious and hungry for cultural knowledge so different from the Philippine life I had known before.
“I write mostly on hotel paper / Knowing my thoughts will never leave this room”

Beach House, Once Twice Melody (2022)
For scenic commutes to work or the physio guy; Beach House is one of those bands that bubble under the radar of mainstream pop music, where my foundational thought process is filtered through. Happily, I share this love of the musical duo with my youngest brother, who is an aspiring film auteur. His penchant for the band is obvious, and Once Twice Melody’s lush, cinematic colours are perfect accessory to a beautifully shot sequence. I’ll admit, no specific lyrics or songs come to mind after the first few months of rumination, but Beach House’s appeal comes from the mood and tone, so to calm my nerves, I let my mind and body feel it out. This record is something to luxuriate upon for years to come (I’m still digesting 2015’s Depression Cherry) – someday, we may come back to this.

Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
For keeping loose and limber: this record remains positively timeless, 15+ years later. Arguably the glossiest and most euphoric of her entire discography, Confessions is still my favourite Madonna album. Sixteen-year old me thought he believed in delusion, believed in the sequencing, mixing and unrelenting danceability of its pop perfection. Madonna and record producer Stuart Price sit at the glorious pinnacle of mid-2000’s pop music. Fast forward to 2022, and “Forbidden Love” and “Future Lovers” work as soundtrack to my neck and back stretches; a WFH cervical aerobic experience. I’m daydreaming of Britney Spears’ comeback as a Stuart Price-produced Confessions-like, potentially the creative zenith of her career – the rest of the Spears beware, I guess.
“Life’s gonna drop you down like the limbs of a tree / It sways and it swings and it bends until it makes you see”

Rufus Wainwright, Want One (2003)
For nighttime introspection; Rufus Wainwright’s career has eluded regular listening for me, though he’s swam into view of my musical eyesight before. Notably, his “Complainte de la Butte” on the Moulin Rouge original soundtrack is melodic and melancholic, far and away on the spectrum from the official 2000’s gay pop anthem. The marketing on him being a modern Shakespearean Elton John seems on the nose for post-Vanessa Carlton fans, and I am a Carlton-head, so Wainwright should be up my alley. Twenty years later, Want One has finally found some rotation in the playlist, as thoughtful, introspective music. Choice cuts include “Vibrate” and “Pretty Things,” which resonate immensely with me now, at 33. Perfect for sitting on the couch, attempting to ignore the pins and needles of my upper back – speaking of which, let me take my Motrin.
“I tried to dance Britney Spears, I guess I’m getting on in years”

Arthur Rubinstein, Chopin: Nocturnes (1967)
For maximum relaxation to combat sleeplessness; whenever I am in need of some spiritual nutrition, Chopin is my musical manna. Videogame soundtracks also serve this purpose, notable works include Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu. But since the dull throb of this pinched nerve demands strict micromanagement, Chopin it is. The sleeplessness sneers its ugly face, and so Arthur Rubinstein as his pianist avatar, Chopin sneers right back. Relaxingly. This nocturne collection, discovered from a simple Apple Music search, is often left on twinkling in the background as I sleep. Admittedly, I’m open to other nocturne-esque classical music, so please suggest away.

Additional reading:

“A commentary on Bjork’s ‘Atopos’” for Windhill Journal

“Summer Readings 2022, a mixtape” for Windhill Journal

“A commentary on modern Mandy Moore” for Windhill Journal

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