Guest List: Tuned to the Music Blog

Hey you all. Today we've got something for you that's close to our little hearts. Since Best Case started, we've found ourselves in a constellation of sister blogs we believe in. One of these is Uniquely Ordinary, a collective fighting to spread awareness of mental illness and the tools we can call upon against it. Another is Here's My Number, So Call Me Ishmael, a cultural quiz show hosted by Tony Ditta and our very own Austin Sisson. 

Today, we're excited to share with you another. It's called Tuned to the Music, hosted by friends Ben Kiers and Jack Andrews. They've began their own ongoing conversation about music and its place in their life and art's place in our development as people and how those things blend together, and below they've shared with us just a small taste of some of the gems they've picked up along the way. These gems don't feel like pyrite to us. As they say below, never stop listening. 

That sounds like a worthy mantra to us. 

Art by Maria-Ines Gul, who was gracious enough to let us use this piece. Check out her work! 

Art by Maria-Ines Gul, who was gracious enough to let us use this piece. Check out her work! 

From Jack Andrews and Ben Kiers of Tuned to the Music:

Jack’s list of songs

  1. Stop This Train - John Mayer
  2. NY State of Mind - Nas
  3. Change - J Cole
  4. Back Home - Yellowcard
  5. Keep Ya Head Up - Tupac

Like a lot of John Mayer’s songs, “Stop This Train” expresses every idea I wish I could. I remember the first time I heard this song thinking no words could probe so deep into my hopes and fears. I think this song conveys so many of my yearnings to capture life and slow it down for a moment, to remain just a little longer in childhood bliss. “Stop This Train” really sparked a desire in me to convey meaning through songwriting and lyrics, especially in the transition of moving away from home and beginning to find my own way in life.

“NY State of Mind” was the first rap song I listened to. I was in middle school when I heard the song on Youtube and I had no clue what Nas was rapping about. All I knew was that I loved the pulse and beat of rap music and wanted to understand where he was coming from as an artist. This was the beginning of a huge component of my musical journey and development as a person. Rap music to me is an expression of poetry that can be a vehicle for change and positivity. Nas embodies amazing storytelling through poetic narrative. Listening to “NY State of Mind” takes me back to a period of personal growth in my life as I was developing interests and passions musically.

It wasn’t until college that I got into J Cole. I was riding home and a friend of mine was playing songs from Cole’s latest album “For Your Eyez Only.” I was struck by the rawness and authenticity of Cole’s lyrics. In particular, “Change” really rekindled my love of rap music. A lot of the songs on the album deal with external struggles of oppression and racism, but “Change” delves into personal struggles and demons that the rapper is dealing with. For me, listening to this song really helped my outlook on resolving personal issues and overcoming self doubt. “Change” represents what I look for in great songs; it universalizes the artist’s individual context.

“Back Home” is the last track off an album that’s reminiscent of carefree summers and the glory days of pop punk music. I remember in eighth grade being enthralled with punk music, yet this song was different. It wasn’t about angst, or conformity, or fighting society, it tapped into real feelings and emotions I had yet to feel. “Back Home” examines our dreams and aspirations and the ways they leave us feeling less than complete. It is about cherishing those we love before we are whisked away by our visions of success. For me, it wasn’t until heading off to school that I fully realized what this song meant to me.

To me, “Keep Ya Head Up” is the quintessential rap song. This song exposed me to the rap legend Tupac and really broadened my rap tastes. I think the message is really powerful and also defies rap stereotypes that people often hold. I don’t listen to this track quite as often as I would like, but this song really embodies to me what rap should be.

Ben’s list of songs:

  1. Measuring Cups - Andrew Bird
  2. Cigarette Daydreams - Cage the Elephant
  3. 3,6,9 - Cat Power
  4. Congratulations - MGMT
  5. Prosthetic Love - Typhoon

“Put your backpack on your shoulder, be the good little soldier. It’s no different when you’re older, you’re predisposed.”

These songs all did wonderful things for me when I heard them for the first time, and more importantly, they’re still messing with me today. Some of them challenged me, and some of them threw up emotions all over me that I’d never felt before, and I really just don’t know who I’d be if it weren’t for these songs.

Take that quote for an example; I heard “Measuring Cups” for the first time when I was 12 or 13 years old, and at that age I already had a very damp view of our education system. So, hearing Andrew Bird sing what I knew to be true but never could say, made me fall in love with his music instantly.

A similar experience for me was listening to “Cigarette Daydreams” for the first time. The emotional punch that hit me when I heard this, and when I saw the music video…I think I’m still reeling. If I could compare it to anything, it would be any one of my favorite 80s themed high school movies starring angsty and emotionally suppressed teenagers. You know, the classics.

These other songs, they get me mostly through their sound. Cat Power introduced me to a completely new sound, and I grew to love that digital, uppity, ray-of-sunshine style. MGMT somehow made me feel serious nostalgia while simultaneously bringing me into a new euphoric world. And that big band Typhoon…well they brought it all back home. Back to the melancholy, semi-nostalgic, smoky noise I somehow always love.

If you like listening to Jack and I carry on about the music we love and grow to love, then take a look at our blog ( We believe that music is more than just noise, more than just a pastime, and more than just the three boy bands you’ve listened to since junior high. You can read our discussions on new music we discover, as well as ones we grew up listening to, and our hope for you is that through that you get to experience something new, whether it be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or in any other way. Keep your ears open, whatever you do. Never stop listening.