Am I Pretty Yet?

Cage the Elephant is one of my all time favorite bands. I got their track Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked a while ago, back when iTunes was still big and gave out free, weekly tracks. I’ve been hooked ever since. Their newest album, Tell Me I’m Pretty came out in December of 2015 and won the award for Best Rock Album.

The album itself starts off strong, slows down, then picks back up again for a strong finish. It has a slightly different sound than their prior albums, because Cage brough Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys on board to help them with their record. “Mess Around” and “Trouble” were both tracks released as singles. Both upbeat in nature, there’s still no one song that sums up the entire album. One thing for sure, though, is that when listening to this album, it’s hard not to remember all the late night joy rides I’ve taken listen to this album.

cage 3Tell Me I’m Pretty is a cup of coffee at the local shop. It’s the 20 something with circle lense sunglasses riding their long-board. Those late night drives or walks as the sun sets. Calming, free and just a sprinkle of pretentious.

On the album title, Matt Shultz, the lead vocalist, says, “There’s always this huge need to be loved, so it’s like ‘please tell me I’m pretty.’ It’s nice that it’s a phrase that has a surface, but it has kind of a dark undercurrent as well,” (iheart). The album has depth – it begs for validation (but deserves it too).

Throughout the album as a whole a women seems to be followed. In “Mess Around”, “she don’t mess around” yet she causes things to get hot – causes tension – while also driving people crazy (assumably with her looks). This follows the “Tell Me I’m Pretty” type of validation the title goes after, with the concepts of womanhood and beauty and the power it holds.

In “Cry Baby”, Cage talks of Capitalism, people “crawling all over one another”, trying to get ahead. “We all got something important to say/ But talking’s a waste of time.” This track really sets up the world for the rest of the album, this dog-eat-dog reality they live in.

cage the 1Guitarist Matthan Minister expresses the feelings put into “Cold Cold Cold”, “That one hits really close to home. It’s a song that’s about that feeling of imminent doom that’s always looming overhead. I used hospital characters like a doctor, and a nurse, and a counselor to tell a story that’s about just feeling like you need to be checked into a hospital,” (iheart). An overall theme of this album is the connection to depression, to dark and heavy feelings weighing people down. In Cold, Cage is speaking to a Doctor, talking about he’s “breathing air” but that there isn’t “sign of life”. How he’s cold inside, using words like dead and dark. He pleading with the doctor for help, saying  “something don’t feel right”. He later asks a counselor for help, feeling like he’s living a “double life”. “Cold Cold Cold” shows the results of the reality set up in “Cry Baby” while still allowing a personal connection to be felt about the dark elements of the song.

“How True You Are” starts with Shultz singing about saying a prayer. Self reflection is a reoccurring theme within the album; depression and trying to find the cause of it and get help. “Take a look at myself…stop and stare…I wonder who is standing there.” And at the end, there is the illusion to suicide, “Told me all your secrets, oh I never saw it coming/I thought that you were joking/You were actually quite serious.” When people kill themselves, sometimes they tell people their secrets – a circle back to the prayer, the releasing of sins and back to being validated and resolved of them.

Shultz opens up about their song “Punchin’ Bag”, “Funny story about Punchin’ Bag. There was a day in the studio my brother Brad [Shultz, Cage the Elephant’s guitarist] was being overly heavy-handed about the decisions that were being made, and it was driving me insane! So I wrote the song Punchin’ Bag about being the punching bag, you know? (laughs) I went on to change the story to it being about a battered woman, which I thought was a more interesting concept than being just about having a fight in the studio,”(digitaltrends). Even so, Cage continues with the idea of a strong women pushed to the edge. She been beaten and abused, snapped and won’t take any more. “She’s a stone cold straight-faced killer and a lover/And she won’t put up with another brood who only wants to bruise her/Take her love and then abuse her,”. “Heaven help ya she’s coming for you/Heaven help ya the girl likes to fight/Afraid of nothing and she carries a knife,”. She then declares that she “ain’t no punching bag,”.  This is the second time a women is said to be coming for you. Once as a femme fatale figure and one as a women scorned.

cage the 2

Overall, not only is the music of Tell Me I’m Pretty quality, but their lyrics offer a deeper meaning to a desolate reality they create. Their world speaks to those who feel similar, who feel separate. The music behind it is catchy (some songs difficult with 13 chords) and the words ring true, especially to those just trying to find their way.


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Tuesday was the national day of love (or, if you’re life me, the day that celebrates rose-colored Capitalism). I decided to lean more on being sentimental than actual physical gifts. One of those gifts included a 19 song playlist. At first, I added songs I liked, but, after much consideration, I decided that today was not about me, but about the person close to me. Below are five of the songs on the playlist; some of the better and more highlighted ones.

  1. Portuguese Knife Fight – Cage The Elephant

cage_the_elephant_-_tell_me_im_prettyWe were at her beach house. I was watching them play Overwatch as I hooked up my phone to the speaker. Cage the Elephant, arguable one of the most underrated bands, had released their album “Tell Me I’m Pretty” and all of last year I had been listening to it nonstop. Between the constant flick and tapping of the buttons, I heard a mumbled “Hey, they’re pretty good. I like them.” And there’s nearly nothing more that I get off on than showing people new music, especially when we can listen to it together and swoon.

This song itself is about someone who is entering a relationship (serious or not) and is trying to figure out if the partner is as well. “I wanna waste my life with you, (oh yeah)/Well the look in your eyes says you’re feeling the same way too, (oh yeah)/Give me a sign, tell me what should I do/I’m just trying to catch a f-f-f-f-f-feel.” I feel like a lot of people relate to scoping people out, trying to get what you want without getting hurt and making a fool of yourself and your emotions. I put this track on, as well, because the instrumental opening is catchy, following the sweetness and fresh sound of the main beat.

  1. The Lovecats – The Cure

the-lovecatsThe Cure, yet again, is a band I love. (I guess I still made it a little about me? I want to show them songs and groups I like to have more in common? Narcissistic romance, maybe?) “The Lovecats” is a classic, not only because of it’s lyrics but also because of its instrumentation – the beat is old and clearly influenced by later funk and blues, especially with the heavy, obvious bass.

The song is about a positive, healthy relationship with metaphors to…well…cats. Smith, the lead singer, croons; “We should have each other to dinner/We should have each other with cream/ Then curl up in the fire/Get up for awhile/It’s the grooviest thing/It’s the perfect dream…/Not broken in pieces.” What more could you ask for? Talking about a nice meal (and a little desert) then a nice relaxation together. A lot of love songs are depressing and negative, but on a Valentine’s Day playlist like this, I really wanted to add an element of optimism.

  1. We’re Gonna Groove – Led Zeppelin

were-gunna-groovePage and Plant are musical geniuses. There’s a reason Led Zep sells so much and so well – why thousands of hipster girls and boys unknowingly wear their brand. I couldn’t not add them in somewhere. Especially because my partner in crime loves classic rock as well. “Coda”, in my opinion, is a fantastic album and one that is frequently overlooked.

The entire song states Plants wishes. He is telling his woman that he wants her – now and in the future. Saying he wants a family one day. He also lets her know about his intentions by singing, “Sweet as sweet as sweet can be/You do not know what you do to me/Let me say you are my one desire/You just set my soul on fire”. His love goes beyond the shallow – this women is his soul’s desire, what he craves. Not all of Zeppelin’s songs are positive, but this one surely is a sweet tune.

  1. Think About Me – 2015 Remastered – Fleetwood Mac

fleetwood_mac_-_think_about_meWhen we first met, I had completely blonde hair. We actually first interacted at a party, one I had come to late after a long night in the hospital. My busted Doc Martins on my feet and a velvet dress; an amber stone dangled from a long silver chain. My circle-rimmed glasses must have given me a prior-decade look. Maybe it was just my vibe. She actually first called me Misty Day, a beloved hippie-like character from American Horror Story. Soon, a few other drunk party-goers followed.

When we first hung out, she wore necklace with crystals and stones because she said it (and that I) reminded her of Stevie Nicks and being mystical. Every chance she gets, she’s talking about Fleetwood Mac and Nicks, so I absolutely had to add something by them in the playlist.

Turns out, Stevie Nicks doesn’t have very happy love songs. Fleetwood Mac doesn’t have very many either. If I’m being honest, I don’t like this song. It’s simple, it’s alright. It’s done well (I guess). It’s short and sweet. But, beyond myself and my opinions, I did this as a little nod for her (Stevie’s looks are wonderful and I took no offence to being related to her in any way). She mentioned her love for them, for Nicks, and I had to add them in, regardless of my feelings.

  1. Heroes – 1999 Remastered Version – David Bowie

david_bowie_-_heroesDavid Bowie is wonderful in the most whimsical way. The song “Heroes” is possibly the most frequently used song in those films that actually have a budget but are of an indie vibe and plot line. One of those songs used in every “alternative” movie in the mainstream. See – “Horns” (a great movie, by the way). The song is catchy, the beat original for the first couple listens. I actually have the original vinyl of this album (passed down – i.e. stolen – from my mother’s collection). The song is actually about members of the band – one of them being married – which illuminates the ‘doomed’ elements of the song. Bowie sings about how something doesn’t have to be long term to be serious and have extreme value. “I, I will be king/And you, you will be queen/Though nothing, will drive them away/We can beat them, just for one day/…Though nothing, will keep us together/We could steal time, just for one day/We can be heroes, forever and ever.” The love they share is real. The love they share is intense. The love they share will have to end, but that doesn’t mean it’s ending now. The love you share for another person can end. It probably will end. But that doesn’t mean the memories and experiences that you have in your time together weren’t fun or good or worth it. The present is real, the present is what should be enjoyed, the love there should be relished – because, yeah, it might end – but why fight it and have it be tarnished and doomed while there’s still good times to be had?

I choose these songs because I liked their message and I wanted to add another connections between my playlist, myself and someone else. I wanted to add elements of both our personalities and interests and expand both our music tastes. Because isn’t that what it’s about? Expanding and growing together, finding and creating common interests, and sharing what is closest to you. We both listen to this playlist on and off – when we drove to our plans for the day – I think she listened to the playlist as she worked out this morning. And, oddly enough, she made me a physical CD for Valentine’s day – so I guess smart minds do think alike.