by Emily Brownsey
Each person I interview is encouraged to share 6 tracks that represent a memorable time in their lives, they’re not necessarily their favourite songs. This gives me an opportunity to share new tunes, and introduce someone you may not know by giving a special insight into their life in music.
Our second guest is Alex Pienkowski, an ASW alumna. Since graduating ASW in 2015, Alex currently resides in New York City studying media and communications at NYU. She’s still up to her usual hobbies such as writing, playing music, going to shows, and reading. Lately Alex has been really keen to work on a late night comedy show, or be a producer in television.
- “I Can’t Dance” – Genesis
My parents aren’t really “music” people. I grew up listening to a lot of opera and classical music, as well as a selection of about five or six CD’s that my mom would play in the car or at home sometimes. That collection included a Beach Boys compilation album, a Celine Dion album, and “Hotel California” by the Eagles among a few others. We had a couple of Genesis albums though, and those are the ones I remember the most fondly. I honestly know all of these albums by heart, but the live “The Way We Walk” album was always super close to my heart. I’m now on a life mission of putting together a vinyl collection of every Genesis album (which I am slowly but surely accomplishing), and it may be needless to say that Genesis was the starting point of my obsession with 80’s music. I owe a lot to Phil Collins, I guess.
- “The Cave” – Mumford and Sons
I have this strange memory of my brother driving me to my guitar lesson when I was about 12 or 13, and when we were both in the car, “The Cave”came on the radio. My brother – being the obnoxious teen that he was – decided to crank up the volume and roll down the windows. I was super embarrassed and begged him to turn it down, but at the same time I was intrigued because the song was like nothing I had ever really heard before. The radio DJ mentioned afterwards that the song was by Mumford and Sons, and after I had gotten back home later that day, I looked them up on YouTube. I eventually found that the song on the radio had been “The Cave,” and I consider that to have been my first real introduction to music. This is also why I used to say that my favorite band was Mumford and Sons, not only because I loved their songs but also because they are essentially the sole reason that I got into music. If you are confused as to why that last sentence is all in the past tense, it is because after the release of their third album Mumford and Sons has become dead to me so please do not mention “Believe” or “The Wolf” around me ever. Thanks.
- “Wide Eyes” – Local Natives
I took it as a given that people listened exclusively to music played on the radio basically until the 8th grade. After I discovered Mumford and Sons, I learned a bunch of their songs on guitar and decided that I wanted to perform them. I got together with a few friends and we somehow got the go-ahead to play a couple of songs at our middle school graduation. I, along with my Mumford-converted friend, insisted that one be by Mumford and Sons. The second song, however, was suggested by one of my more musically inclined friends. It was “Wide Eyes,” and that was my induction into the world of indie rock, soon followed by Cage the Elephant, The Maccabees, and The Boxer Rebellion. My friend and I each learned a guitar part, another friend learned the drum part, and my best friend and I were to sing. We ended up not performing it because we were told the day of that we only had time for one song, but we did learn the whole thing which I was immensely proud of.
- “Brother” – Matt Corby
I honestly just wanted to include a Matt Corby song in here because he changed the way I look at songwriting, genre, melody, and guitar playing. His new record is absolutely mind-boggling to me, but “Brother” was one of the first songs of his that I ever heard. I recall finding out about Matt Corby in the 9th or 10th grade, and I wrote a song in my junior year also called “Brother” that was very inspired by his track. I think that imitation and appropriation is a really valuable way to learn about music and songwriting, and I realized a lot about myself and my relationship with music thanks to this man. I will also maintain my longstanding assertion that he is the most underrated musician, singer, and songwriter that I have ever heard.
- “Wagon Wheel” – OCMS
Putting this song on this list is only kind of a joke. Obviously, “Wagon Wheel” is not the greatest folk song ever written but it is one of the most iconic for me. My beautiful friend and bandmate Will and I would play this song all the time, very seriously at first and descending quickly into rambunctiousness over the couple of years we spent in ASW together. If nothing else, this song is simple and fun to play. It also brought me and Will together which is possibly the most powerful effect that a song has ever had on my life.
- “Don’t Get Taken” – Acid Dad
This is a bit of a random choice, but I wanted to mention a band that I discovered while in college. Acid Dad is a New York band that I have unfortunately not seen live yet, but who represent a weird balance between punk and indie psychedelic rock. Honestly I just think they’re really good, but they also exemplify a sort of branching out for me. I generally tend to be the kind of person who listens to the same kind of music all of the time, consisting almost exclusively of indie surf rock and shoegaze. I finally reached a breaking point with that though, and over the summer I had about a month-long period where I was completely disillusioned with all the music I had been listening to for the past couple of years. For some reason, I turned to angry American hardcore punk from the 80’s and 90’s. While I do not see myself playing this sort of music ever, sometimes it’s just really nice to be able to distance yourself from the music you’re listening to. I know that I do not want to and could never recreate their sound and genre, so I can just sit back and listen to the awesome punchy and sharp punk drum beats. So Acid Dad is really great because they’re a balance between my surfy roots and some new punk elements. Also, their sound is just really dope and refreshing for me.
… If you want to take a listen to Alex’s tunes, check out this Spotify playlist: