I’ve been grappling with the possibility of losing passion for what I hold dear. While I’m interested in the work that I do, it often feels as if I’m simply going through the motions, so what’s next to go? Will it be my fervor for journalism? Given that I’m part of the CT, I sure hope not. My interest in cooking, once I’m forced to do it to survive? Of all the things that bring me joy, music feels as if it will be the first to warp in a long line of casualties.

My love for music, smothered by the chilling hands of COVID-19, has started to wilt. It feels like I can’t listen to a song anymore without being filled with this dread, this fear that there will be a day where I just hold no love for listening anymore. A paper I read once noted that music was “a cocktail of recreational drugs that we ingest through the ear to stimulate a mass of pleasure circuits at once.” What do you do when the drugs stop working, no matter how many you take?

Through this stagnation, Grace Conheady’s “Hello, Goodbye, and In Between” has been just the thing to keep me hooked. As a result of it being released by a recent UR alum and member of UR band The Recall, I was compelled to listen to it as a form of solidarity. I didn’t know it’d hit me as hard as it did.

The album itself immediately throws the listener into an atmosphere that combines the melancholy with the heartwarming; the brighter elements such as the brass interjections provide gorgeous countermelodies and engaging timbres to ballads like “Nightmare Machines”, and the percussion keeps long, sentimental songs like “Mexico” moving – you won’t feel any urge to skip a song, even if it’s over seven minutes long. The additional knowledge that these added layers are thanks to other UR talents just feels good to listen to as a fellow musician, especially in an age where making music has been deemed “unsafe” and (albeit rightly so) pushed to the wayside by school administration. 

While you can just sit and let the instrumentals envelop you in a hazy fog of sound and be perfectly content with the album, focusing on the lyrics adds extra depth that is perfect background fodder for a good cry. The three-parter of “Hello”, “Goodbye”, and “In Between” brought me to my knees, with each song unfolding and spilling into the next in a way that made it feel as if time could stand still to make way for its progression.

There were multiple jokes made during the album’s promotion prior to its release, such as “support your local healthcare worker who has COVID[-19] by streaming my album”, but one struck me almost as hard as the album itself; asking listeners to stream to help Conheady quit her job as a hospital registration specialist. To some degree, it isn’t a joke. I gave up my longtime dream of being a professional musician the second I applied to college. Sure, music would be an important facet of my life, but it would never be more than an extracurricular to me due to time constraints. A full-time career just didn’t seem worth it to ever attempt — I’d never be dedicated enough, talented enough, marketable enough — so why not accept it early and move on? I cut myself off at the knees, and as a result, gained this apathy towards music that grows alongside me as I age. It’s easy to assume, for me, that I won’t get to make music with my friends once I get a job, once I settle down, once I stop dreaming.

Maybe that’s part of why this album has such a pull for me. In a personal sense, I feel like I’m following in Grace’s footsteps in many ways: doing collegiate a cappella, pursuing a degree in linguistics, finding this love for producing and behind-the-scenes work. I get to live vicariously through her work, and it gives me hope that I could do the same. Maybe I can retain this love of music, this love of creating with people I love, and this vitality I feel now, even once I graduate and lose the framework set to keep me engaged. Every layer of backing vocals is a reinforcement, a testament to her love of her craft, and it is evident. If you listen close enough, you can hear it yourself.

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