Throughout my prime, I was lucky to connect with bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Gaslight Anthem, Blink 182, and Third Eye Blind. These bands cushioned the walls of my proverbial bubble. They made me comfortable because they kept the world spinning flawlessly on its axis – accurately reflecting my formative years of thirsting and pining over every non-mattering detail. These bands allowed me to connect with them on a deeper, more personal level. Basically, they wrote my angst ridden youth in their lyrical prose, encouraging me to feel something even if I wasn’t quite sure what those feelings were supposed to represent. And because of them I was safe, nestled firmly between the wax and the needle of my favorite songs.
But sometimes I would second guess myself and find that I had become too comfortable – too safe – within the confines of my self-created universe. And when these thoughts became very real, only then would I seek an alternate route.
That’s how I came to discover alt-country bands like Whiskeytown, The Damnwells, Augustana, and the band inspiring this piece, The Alternate Routes.
My curiosity and insatiable thirst for something different and unfamiliar rang true, and I gave in.
Because sometimes it just feels better to give in.
The Alternate Routes. A band that many music lovers haven’t heard but will be wishing they had. Think of a harmonious mashup of The Fray and the Goo Goo Dolls tossed liberally with all the good things you have come to love about Whiskeytown. The band features Tim Warren and guitarist Eric Donnelly, though they record and perform with a supporting cast of musicians. So sometimes they sound like an acoustic duo, and sometimes like a boisterous rock band.
Warren and Donnelly met at Fairfield University in Connecticut a little over a fourteen years ago (2002). In that time they’ve recorded four studio albums, four EP’s, and one live album.
Winner of a 2006 Independent Music Award from the 2005 album Good and Reckless and True, the song (and album opener) “Ordinary” subtly blends Americana lyrical roots with the jangly guitars one might find often accompanied by Neil Young’s uncanny voice. In other words, it’s easy to like.
The song reflects life. Not in a way that’s hard for us, the listener, to gauge – but in a way that’s so relatable you have to listen to the song again to actually enjoy it because the first time you spin the tune, you find yourself so wrapped up in the honesty of the lyrics that you forget it’s an actual song and not a 4 minute biographical creed.
Warren stylishly and insightfully sings: “Would you love, could you love to be ordinary?/ I know it’s hard, but I can’t see you trying/ When you die will you be surrounded by friends?/ Will they pray for a heaven out loud/ a hope that they will somehow see you again?”
We have the control to make our lives whatever we want them to be, but at the same time we have to be careful not to get caught up in the wrong effects and lose track of the pivotal importance’s that actually matter in the grand scheme of things – love, people, and our self-conceived path. “Ordinary” parlays a bit of that reflective thought, when-you-look-back-on-your-life-what-are-you-going-to-remember feel to it, and it strikes a very existing chord. Mostly though, it’s a song that will have you thrumming your hands on the steering wheel while you simultaneously manufacture worthwhile thoughts.
I’ve been wasting my days/ Good and reckless and true/ I have danced in the dark at the edge of the water/ Swinging my hips at the black and the blue
I say things I regret, swallow words I should have said, and mostly try my best to capture moments I know will serve as a memory worth replaying somewhere down the road. It’s not easy. None of this is. Life’s not a series of one liners and easy to digest moments, it’s far from ordinary. It’s hard. It tests us. It forces us to sift through the ordinary to find the extraordinary.
So be willing and enjoy where life takes you. The grand, the small, the bizarre, the poetic, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising – but absolutely, unconditionally, resolutely nothing ordinary.