Two Parallel Lines: Growing Up With The Wonder Years

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On this day nine years ago, Philidelphia-based pop-punk band The Wonder Years released their sophomore album The Upsides. I listened to the album one year later on February 14th of 2011, and my life has never been the same since. 

I became infatuated with The Upsides upon first listen, and the record quickly became one of my all-time favorites racking up hundreds of listens over the time since I first pressed play eight years ago. While eight years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, a lot has happened in my life since 2011, and the group’s songs were there with me every step of the way. 

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In many ways, your twenties are the first real years of your life. Your first years out of school. Your first years on your own. Your first years figuring out what the rest of your life will be. The music of The Wonder Years has been with me through every one of those. Their records act as demarcation points in my life because I consumed them so voraciously as they came out that now each one evokes a different era of my own history. 

When I first discovered the band I was a senior in high school, on the cusp of entering the unknown expanse of college. The Wonder Years had only put out two albums at the time: Get Stoked On It and The Upsides. I listened to them both endlessly, and one even helped me get through my first real breakup. In the fall of 2011 I went off to college the band released Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing. I spent two years in school directionless and depressed, and after two years of soul-searching I finally found my passion. In the spring of 2013, The Greatest Generation was there right as the clouds began to clear. In 2015 I finished school and the band released No Closer to Heaven that same summer. Most recently, 2018 has been marked by the release of Sister Cities which I listened to as I moved across the country to start a new life following my career and passion into the unknown. 

All of that has happened in the last eight years, as have the Wonder Years. With each phase of my life, the band and their music continues to intertwine with my existence no matter what I’m going through. I write all this to say one thing; The Wonder Years May not be the greatest band in the world, but they are the greatest band of my life. 

On their earliest songs, lead singer Dan Campbell would pen lyrics of struggle and resistance. As I got older, so did the band. Their lyrics shifted from struggling with post-college listlessness to family, community, and acceptance. The band members have gotten married, and some now even have kids on the way. The words have changed, and the feelings have shifted, but the core has remained the same. 

The specificity of the lyrics allows the band to weave intimate tales of their own lives and experiences while simultaneously tackling something more significant. They address a universal struggle with existence. They’re poetic, heartfelt, sincere, and human.

The words within the songs have only strengthened this sense of attachment I feel with the Wonder Years’ music. I’m eight years younger than Campbell, and the frankness with which we wrote about adulthood, addiction, depression, and belief connected with me on every level. I feel like I grew up with the band. Not only that, I feel like they gave me a warning of things to come. That my experience mirrors theirs. That we are two parallel lines experiencing the same things eight years apart. 

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Back in October of 2017, I stumbled across a NYLON article by Helena Fitzgerald. It was technically a review of The National’s then-new record Sleep Well Beast. In the article, Fitzgerald talked about how The National had impacted her. How the band and their albums had been there for every step of her life, releasing music along with every minor and major change of her existence. Something clicked in my head as I was reading her words, and that article became one of my favorite pieces of music journalism I’ve ever read. 

It helped me realize that The Wonder Years have guided my life in the same way. I’ve loved bands before, and I’ll love bands after, but this past decade was soundtracked consistently by only one musical force, and was The Wonder Years. 

When someone asks me who my favorite band is, I don’t have to think about it twice. I answer ‘The Wonder Years’ instantly and without hesitation. Is it weird for a 25-year-old to love a group that started off as an easycore act singing about zombies? Well yeah, it’s funny at the very least, but I look at the Wonder Years and see progress both musical and literal. They’ve grown up and matured. They’re not the same people who released The Upsides nine years ago, and neither am I. I look at them and see progress. I look at them and see myself. 

Say Yes To Michigan: A Physical Exploration of Sufjan Stevens' Third Album

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One year ago I published my write-up on Sufjan Steven’s Michigan, and in the three years I’ve spent running this blog it’s still the thing I’m most proud of. It took many hours, revisions, and relistens to hone that post to a point where the words accurately captured my affection for the record, and even then my relationship with the album has evolved in the past 12 months.

This fall I accepted a job in Detroit and moved out to the Great Lake State from my hometown of Portland, Oregon. While there are plenty of reasons why taking that job was an objectively-good career move, I’d be lying if I said my love for this record didn’t influence my decision in some way. 

So back in September I packed my belongings into my car and spent five days driving across the country to a state I’d never been to, where I knew nobody, and knew almost nothing about.

On my way across the state line, I stopped at the welcome center, took photos, and (of course) queued up Sufjan’s Michigan on my phone. I also made sure to keep my physical copy of the record handy for any photo opportunities that may present themselves, and I quickly realized that there would be many. 

Using a state map from the visitor center, I sat down with Genius, Google Maps, and my copy of the record to plot out how many different locations Sufjan names throughout the course of the record’s 66-minute running time. Turns out it’s a lot.

What the process looked liked.

What the process looked liked.

While it’s far from comprehensive, I’ve gone out of my way to visit the sights, sounds, and feelings captured on Sufjan’s third record. I’m not going to pretend this is anything more than a glorified iPhone-quality photo gallery, but I view it as an amendment to last year’s Michigan write-up. It’s a physical manifestation of my love for the record and how much it has impacted my life both spiritually and literally. 

This post is a documentation of my life and how Michigan continues to intertwine with it every step of the way. 


Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)

City of Flint Water Plant

City of Flint Water Plant

City of Flint Water Plant

City of Flint Water Plant

 

For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti City Hall

Ypsilanti City Hall

 

Say Yes! to M!ch!gan!

Bagley Pedestrian Bridge

Bagley Pedestrian Bridge

 

Holland

Holland

Holland

Big Red Lighthouse

Big Red Lighthouse

 

Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)

The Spirit of Detroit

The Spirit of Detroit

 

Romulus

Romulus Historical Museum

Romulus Historical Museum

 

Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)

Muskegon State Park

Muskegon State Park

 

Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)

The Redford Theater

The Redford Theater

The Marquee of Redford Township

The Marquee of Redford Township

 
Yours Truly Enjoying Sleeping Bear, running to the top, and only getting a little scared

Yours Truly Enjoying Sleeping Bear, running to the top, and only getting a little scared

A Very Sufjan Christmas

The following is a welcome post from our sister site A Very Sufjan Christmas. Follow us at @SufjanChristmas on Twitter or @SufjanChristmas on Instagram to enjoy daily song write-ups this December!


The holidays are our greatest gift. Regardless of surface-level differences in how we celebrate this time of year, the one thing we all share is tradition. It doesn’t matter if you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, every one of us have rituals we use to get us through the winter. It’s the coldest, darkest, most inhospitable time of the year, and that’s easier to get through when we’re closer to other people, both physically and psychologically. Tradition is survival. Tradition is human.

That is the true meaning of Christmas. 

Not presents.
Or Santa Claus.
Or even Jesus.

Christmas represents universal tradition. A communal coping mechanism evolved on a species-wide level for the purpose of survival on both a physical and spiritual level. Over time, Christmas has been twisted to mean hundreds of different things. The truth is Christmas is what you make of it, and that’s what makes it the greatest holiday in the world. 

While Christmas has endured in the pop-cultural landscape for far less time than the holiday itself, it has still been around long enough for millions of different traditions to develop. From Coca-Cola popularizing Santa Claus to Montgomery Ward’s creation of Rudolph, there are a seemingly infinite number of touchstones that we share as a culture. Movies, TV, music, food, smells, shapes, and symbols all seep into our head from a young age, giving us a complicated, tangled web of connections and bonds to this complicated and tangled time of year. 

Oppositely, there are just as many individual traditions that we carry out on a much smaller scale. Whether it’s watching A Christmas Story with your family or making the same cookies every year with your roommates, there are both universal celebrations and personal ones. Among this delicate balancing act of traditions, vacations, gifts, and rushing around it’s important to slow down and have a personal escape during this hyper-communal time of year. For many people, one of the newest additions to this Personal Christmas Canon is Sufjan Stevens’ holiday music. 

While you may recognize him from his contributions to 2017’s Call Me By Your Name, Sufjan has been creating soul-affirming and critically-acclaimed folk music for nearly two decades. Aside from landmark artistic creations like Illinois, Age of Adz, and Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan has also displayed his personal devotion to the holidays with a catalog of two multi-hour Christmas compilations. 

Religion, Christianity, and family have been a constant throughline of Sufjan’s discography, so the Christmas holiday proved to be both a fascination for Sufjan as well as a synthesis of all these themes. Releasing one EP a year from 2001 to 2011, Sufjan has birthed to exactly 100 Christmas songs over the course of one decade. Some original, some covers, some standards, each entry is lovingly-crafted and amounts to more than 4.5 hours of Christmas spirit. These songs are collected on Songs For Christmas and Silver and Gold, two releases that have warmed the hearts of indie fans and Christmas lovers alike. 


A Very Sufjan Christmas is a blog dedicated to every one of these songs. Much like we all celebrate the holiday season in our special way, every listener has a unique connection with Sufjan’s extensive body of Christmas-based work. As such, each post on this website will tackle one specific Sufjan Christmas song from a different writer’s perspective as we countdown the days till Christmas. Maybe they’ll talk about their experience with Sufjan, or their memories attached to that one song. Maybe they’ll just write about the music itself. 

These songs are a window into the traditions and lives of the writer. There are few albums that have opened this many spiritual doors for this many people, and that’s why these songs must be celebrated. These are the soundtracks to Christmases past and the inner lives of music fans the world over.

You’ll quickly find that each song is a beautiful work worthy of its own celebration. Whether this is your first experience with Sufjan, or you are a long-time fan, we hope you find as much connection, warmth, and joy in these songs as we did when we first heard them. We hope you connect with these stories and that they allow you to reflect on your own traditions and those of your family. Most of all, we hope you enjoy the music and we wish you a very Sufjan Christmas this year. 

Welcome to our Winter Wonderland. 

Love, Kyle, Taylor, and the rest of the A Very Sufjan Christmas Staff.

The Elephant Visual Album

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When I trace my musical history back to its origins, there are four or five key discoveries from my childhood that have gone on to become foundational cornerstones of my taste. I’ve written about many of them here from my first iPod and 2006 pop music to entire genres that I stumbled into by accident all thanks to people with better taste than me. I measure my life with music, and these events have all become part of my personal mythology; milestones that have gone on to inform not only my taste, but who I am as a person.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a dad who cared about music. While that mostly relegated itself to me raiding his CD collection to rip classic rock albums onto my iPod, there were also a small handful of (then) modern bands that we bonded over as I began to show an interest in music. The shared section of our musical Venn Diagram has expanded over the years as my taste has continued to mature, grow, and spiral in unexpected ways, but the first “new” band my Dad and I found common ground with was none other than The White Stripes. 

Luckily, because my dad loved The White Stripes, this meant I had the band’s entire discography at my fingertips. He owned their studio albums, B-sides, singles, live albums, demos, side projects, you name it. As a result, I have a worryingly-deep connection to (and knowledge of) Jack White’s musical catalog.

Around this same time, I was also taking guitar lessons. Aside from the standard “starter” songs like “Smoke On The Water” and “Pipeline,” The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” proved to be low-hanging, easy-playing fruit for a 10-year-old Taylor. Between borrowing the CDs and playing the songs, I showed enough of an interest that my dad decided to take me to see the group on tour in 2003 for my second concert ever. 

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While I’ll admit that the 1.5-decade marination time of nostalgia plays a huge part in it, Elephant remains one of my favorite albums of that genre, this era, and my entire life. Hits and overplayed singles aside, there’s a lot to love about Elephant, and there’s a reason it remains the band’s most enduring release this many years later. 

Literally every track on Elephant hits. “Seven Nation Army” is an unparalleled anthem of the early-2000’s. “Hardest Button to Button” bears one of the best drumlines of the decade. “Ball and Biscuit” is one of my favorite songs of all time with its lumbering blues riff that slowly erupts into blistering guitar solos. There isn’t a wasted moment or an unpolished idea. Elephant is rock in its purest form. A feeling that can’t quite be put into words made by two people with two instruments. Perfect.

As eye-opening as Elephant was, sometimes your favorite albums can slide into the background of your life without you ever noticing. New music, other mediums, or life events can keep you from venturing back, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, this had absolutely happened to me with The White Stripes. It’s almost like taking art for granted. I’d listened to Elephant so many times, heard “Seven Nation Army” in so many different movies and TV shows and commercials that at a certain point it just kind of feels like “well, yeah, everyone knows this album is great, so what’s the point?” 

While my relationship with Elephant is ongoing, a chance encounter with a designer completely renewed my love for the record with a project that was crafted as lovingly as the album itself. Sometimes the classics are not only worth revisiting, but worth diving into on a microscopic level, and that’s exactly what Chandler Cort did with this beloved album. 

Creating what he calls a “visual album” Chandler transposed Elephant onto a 9-foot scroll that tracks the entire record second-by-second. Interpreting each instrument’s volume and the exact starting point for every word sung, Chandler’s creation is one-of-a-kind and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. There’s something to be said for standing face-to-face with one of your favorite records and taking in the entire thing as it towers above you.

While it’s impossible to translate the feeling of interacting with the scroll itself, I wanted to share this beautiful and original piece of art with as many people as possible. Not only was Chandler kind enough to let me share his incredible work on Swim Into The Sound, but he also sat down with me to talk about the process that went into making it as well as his personal background with the band. So without further adieu, I’m excited to present The Elephant Visual Album. 

Full-resolution PDF version of the Elephant Visual Album at the end of the article.
 

The Visual Album and Its Creator: An Interview With Chandler Cort

Much like Taylor, I have a very distinct memory of my introduction to the White Stripes. I came to the party very late, as my parents found it borderline impossible to break away from anything outside of the typical 60’s - 80’s hits they grew up with.

There aren’t many specific events in my life that I would refer to as “life-changing,” but hearing “Rag and Bone” for the first time in my high school art class was absolutely one of them. My obsession with the White Stripes began with Icky Thump and worked its way back to the very beginning of the group’s discography until I had completely immersed myself in everything they had ever produced. The White Stripes were something I listened to exclusively for months. When I wasn’t listening to them, I found myself watching interviews with the members, reading about their history, and completely immersing myself in the group’s mythology. I had never quite felt myself become so taken by a band before.

Six years later, the White Stripes are still one of my favorite bands, if not my all-time favorite. Jack and Meg White have taken hold of a very big piece of my heart, and I don’t know if that will ever be able to be eclipsed.

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The way the project really came about was kind of funny. I was in my first infographics class at Portland State University, and we were told to make a timeline for our first project. The professor made sure he kept things very open-ended, so we had the choice to do an incredibly accurate historical timeline, or we could do something more whimsical like a timeline of the Harry Potter Universe.

I remember going on break one day listening to Elephant, and thinking “it would be funny to do an infographic on the number of times Jack White goes, ‘WOO!’ in one album.” So that’s where it really kinda started. I refined my guidelines a little bit further and decided that I would track the main instruments: guitar, drums, and piano, as well as the vocals. 

The process for this piece is something I feel just as proud of as the actual work itself. All of my research for this project was done entirely audibly. I printed all of the lyrics to every song, and I would sit down at my desk every day, listen to the song, and get the second-by-second timestamps for every lyric, and then go back through, and repeat the same process for the guitar, drums, and piano. This means I listened to every song at least three or four times in full, not counting pausing, rewinding, and playing again to make sure the time signatures were as accurate as possible.

In addition to the individual instrument timelines, each song also got a “genre gauge” that I had designed too. Because Elephant is such a diverse album, I feel like it was very important to describe how each song was different in comparison to the others. Every song was ranked on a scale of punk, blues, folk, and pop, with the end result being a circular graph that represented the track’s sonic texture. 

This was then translated into a second graph that I constructed to help best visualize the album in its entirety. I’d guess this project took somewhere between 40-45 hours total. It was truly a monster, which can be seen in the final 9-inch by 9-foot print. I remember people telling me in class that I was doing was ridiculous, and that I was crazy for even attempting something like this, which honestly just kind of pushed me to do it even more.

A lot of my design work has been very music-focused, and I have done very intense pieces about other albums I love, but I feel like this one is probably the most accessible, and the most interesting. I describe this piece as a visual album because I feel like it is the most literal visual translation of an auditory piece. I’m so happy that this piece has received the reaction it has, and I’m incredibly thankful that Taylor was moved enough to offer me this opportunity, and I hope to be here again someday. 

Until then everyone, be good, and love what you listen to.

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TalkRadar or: That Time A Podcast Changed My Life

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On May 19th of 2008 a file was uploaded to the internet that changed my life forever.

The decade-old file in question was a 49-minute MP3 that belonged to a video game podcast called TalkRadar. To describe something as innocuous as a video game podcast as “life-changing” probably reads worryingly-melodramatic, yet, as overwrought as it sounds, that’s what this site was built upon.

Despite the semi-recent addition of monthly new music roundups, Swim Into The Sound has always been, and will always be a nostalgia-based music blog. The mission statement for this site is to share the things that I love with other people, and that can take many different forms.  

While this blog was a little listless for a while there for a while there at the beginning, I’ve come to view Swim Into The Sound as a way to crystalize my own experiences into something that I can share. Truth be told, it’s as much for me to revisit and remember as it is for other people to read and understand. So it’s not like this is some selfless act, rather it’s me bottling up these experiences of enjoyment into something that’s (hopefully) palatable to a total stranger. 

Given this focus on nostalgia, I tend to write about things that have impacted me profoundly. Most of the time it’s easier to focus on smaller bite-sized pieces of content like reviews, but when I have the time, focus, and energy, I really do prefer to go deep and expel every thought in my head surrounding a formative experience. 

Sometimes in the past I’ve even used the phrase “life-changing,” but this write-up is different. I don’t want to lessen the impact of those other posts, because I stand by every word of them, but they’re life-changing in a way that provided me solace or comfort. The phrase “life-changing” isn’t a stretch, but it’s more that those albums helped me through tough times. They’re pieces of art that mean something to me on a personal level and have lingered with me for years. They’re life-changing in a less-drastic, more-reserved way. However, when I use the phrase life-changing in this post, I truly mean being-shifting

This podcast changed practically everything about me. It changed the way I write and the way I talk. It changed what I wanted to do with my life, and who I wanted to be. It changed the music I listened to, and what I found funny. It changed the way I held myself and behaved. It changed my philosophy and approach to the self. It has gone on to inform nearly every facet of my being down to the way that my brain is wired. There is no me without it. It’s absolutely embarrassing to admit, but this silly, stupid, vulgar video game podcast is foundational to my existence.

This write-up is Swim Into The Sound’s endgame. The thing I’ve wanted to write about since day one. The thing that I’ve been inspired by. The thing I’m still worried I don’t have the language to articulate properly. The thing that’s most important to me in the world. 

This is TalkRadar. 

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I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking that this all sounds like hyperbole, but I can assure you it’s not. I’m choosing my words very carefully, and I want this to come across as calm, collected, measured, and thoughtful. My ideal outcome would be for the podcast’s creators to read this and have some idea of the impact they’ve had on just one of their listeners, but at the very least, this is something that I feel must come out of me for the sake of my own mind… but before we get to that, I suppose I should start at the beginning.

Back in the 90’s and early-2000’s I had scant access to video games. My family owned an NES and (eventually) a Nintendo 64, but the consoles themselves were never in the house. Video games were practically a foreign concept to me, a delicacy. Something sacred that I enjoyed on the weekends, or in very concentrated doses. 

Whenever I got the chance to go over to a friend's house, I’d relish the opportunity to try out their newer, fancier games on consoles I’d never even heard of. Sony? How exotic. Dreamcast? What does that even mean? Super NES? My NES lacks descriptors all-together. 

New games and shiny consoles aside, when one of my childhood friends first introduced me to the concept of “cheats” it blew my mind. Not only do these “next-gen” games exist, but the idea that you can break them and turn the characters into bobble-headed freaks? That was quite the realization for an adolescent Taylor. My friend showed me a website called cheatplanet.com, a haven for game breakers that collected the cheat codes of (seemingly) every game in existence, and that’s where it all began. 

A bastion of early-2000's web design.

A bastion of early-2000's web design.

Eventually, my siblings and I wore down our parents and games became more of a regular thing in our house. Even with this newfound access, there were still limits on how much we could play, and as a result, Cheat Planet became a loophole that I exploited on a regular basis. I’d print out the codes I wanted to try, memorize paths to hidden collectibles, and study screenshots from games that I didn’t even own. It was digital window shopping and the only way for a video game-starved kid to scratch that itch in a time before smartphones, Let’s Plays, and decent internet. 

One day a few years later I pulled up my browser, typed in cheatplanet.com, loaded up the site and everything changed… literally. Cheat Planet was gone, and something called “GamesRadar” was in its place. The cheats were still there, just pushed off to the side, so I didn’t care much at the time. In fact, GamesRadar grew on me and eventually became a destination all its own; a website with funny writing, wacky images, and topics that I found compelling as a young internet surfer. The website became my first bookmark and quickly grew to be even more of a destination than some rinky-dink cheat site. 

When I visited GamesRadar on May 19th, 2008 the most recent post at the top of the website was a small rectangle bearing a crudely-photoshopped image announcing the website’s inaugural podcast. Interested to hear the voices of the people I’d been reading for so long, I downloaded the episode and synched it onto my click wheel iPod. I didn’t know it then, but that one decision would go on to impact every day of my life from that point on.

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TalkRadar was life-changing in the (very literal) sense that my life would not be the same without it. There's a clear point demarcating my life before it and my life after it. I would not recognize myself if it weren’t for this podcast. Lots of those albums I’ve described as life-changing helped me through tough times, but TalkRadar helped me through life

It was the first podcast I’d ever heard; a low-quality, crass, and juvenile 49-minutes that left me wanting more. It was the most candid I’d ever heard anyone. It was the funniest I’d ever heard anyone. They were discussing things that I cared about, and joking around with each other in a way that I’d never heard before in my life. I suppose I don’t have to explain the appeal of a podcast in 2018, but a decade ago, this felt like a revelation.

As the weeks ticked by, the episode count grew and grew. I was a high schooler who didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, so I had nothing but time on my hands. I listened to each podcast attentively, and then relistened to them because I truly had nothing better to do. Plus by 2008, not only did we finally have video games in my house, I had a console in my room. I was living out my own childhood dream, and with a little bit of experimentation, I quickly discovered there’s no pairing more intoxicating than sitting down with a good video game and a long podcast. 

After listening to the first 20-some episodes dozens of times, the content began to seep into my brain and embed itself. I had stolen phrases that the hosts used, adopted their mannerisms, even memorized long stretches of episodes. If you’re thinking this all sounds borderline-obsessive, you’re probably right, but this was a level of time, dedication, and interest that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to attain again.

The music exposed me to more bands than I can count. 
The crass sense of humor single-handedly formed what I find funny.
The verbose speaking patterns of the hosts gave me a voice to write in.
The (often drunk) banter replayed in my head so much that I began to think in their voices. 

It’s impossible to quantify the impact that TalkRadar had on me because I’m still coming to terms with it myself, but hopefully it’s starting to become clear how much this means to me. Perhaps most importantly, TalkRadar presented itself at the perfect time in my life. I was an impressionable fourteen-year-old kid, this was the first podcast I’d ever heard, and my first interaction with this type of format on a weekly basis. This came before the great “Serialization” of podcasts in 2014, and it was new enough that it felt exciting. Up until 2008 I’d only ever listened to music, and the idea that I could sit in on a multi-hour conversation about video games once a week was a godsend. It was solace. It was comfort. It was a warm blanket that I could descend into and find reliable serenity in.

They are the ones that made me want to be a writer. They are the ones who gave me, an aimless high school student, something to give a shit about. They are the ones who gave me the voice that you’re reading right now. They gave me myself. 

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Years later I went to college for journalism (because that’s what they did) and the podcast moved on. Hosts came and went, but the podcast remained. Eventually rebranded as its own self-contained entity called Laser Time, the show that began a decade ago as a drunken post-work chat has now ballooned into a fully-fledged podcast network with over a half-dozen shows to its name. 

In 2015 the hosts joined Patreon, a subscription-based crowdfunding service, and I was first in line. Happily supporting them at anywhere from $5 to $15 a month (depending on my economic situation), I’ve been a devout supporter of theirs from the instant that they allowed it. I was happy to repay the hosts for the invaluable gift that they had given me. A true sense of self. A true source of joy. Something to aspire to, and something that will forever motivate me. It’s the closest to a “Thank you” I was able to get. I would have been lost without TalkRadar, and I would be lost without Laser Time.

Now a near-daily tradition, I find myself happily listening to the 6+ hours of content that the network produces each week and wondering where I would be without it. What kind of person I would have turned out to be, or what I would have been doing for all those long podcast-less nights back in high school. Maybe I would have turned out better, but who’s to say?

Unlike most posts here, this write-up doesn’t have a point. If I could get a reader to check out one of their many shows, that would be great, but I’m willing to admit that this post is mostly for me. I started writing this so many times that I finally just gave up and let it all come out, and that’s what you’re reading now. This feels like the most accurate way for me to explain the impact this group has had on me, and I still feel like it’s not enough.

Whether I like it or not, TalkRadar, it’s hosts, and the decade of material that’s come after, have all gone on to become the single most important, formative, and being-affirming thing that’s ever happened in my life. 

As I look back now, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have stumbled upon that first episode ten years ago. I’ve improved as a writer, grown as a pop-culture nerd, and changed as a person. There’s really nothing else left for me to do but say thanks. So to Chris, Brett, Mikel, Shane, Charlie, Tyler, Henry, Lizzie, and every guest, host, collaborator, and community member, I would like to say from the bottom of my heart:

Thank You.

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