Published on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Valeria Arriaga
The dark, underground coffee shops. A stool upon a stage. A mic and a speaker with a paper in hand, reciting poems that paint vivid images and pluck at the heartstrings of the listeners. This experience is being recreated into easily accessible spoken word albums that mimic, yet don’t replicate, watching and seeing poets perform live. Shane Koyczan’s Remembrance Year is a collection of poems written from deep within his memories and the poems are backed with the instrumental talents of Short Story Long. The album is aimed at attacking abuse, both self-inflicted and from outside factors, with inspirational and courageous words.
The opening track “Remember How We Forgot” signifies the opposite of its title. Koyczan’s infamous chorus “we won’t forget” announces every moment of sadness or happiness in his life. I agree with Koyczan that memories shouldn’t be forgotten and they make us who we are. In the second track, “Pulse”, Koyczan uses sensuous words and vivid imagery to interpret the importance of embracing our bodies. This track sweeps away the negative aspects of bodies and makes listeners feel that imperfections are really what make up perfections. “Pulse” has the ability to change opinions on bodies and highlight a recurring problem of women not embracing their bodies.
The third track, “To This Day”, pushes away childhood bullying and self-loathing. The line that struck me the most was “our lives will continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty”. In other words, life isn’t meant to be spent pondering all our misfortunes. My thoughts are that there will be negativity coming in at us from anyone or anything, but the effort should be concentrated in staying positive.
The next few tracks, “Insider”, “Tomatoes”, and “Weather Reports”, are filled with confessions, mostly to do with his past romances. The lines in each of these songs are packed with phrases that are hard to grasp because each word adds more, and just when it seems that nothing else can be said, Koyczan still manages to push on. These songs are songs that could sweep people off their feet due to the incredible romance that’s packed into the poem.
Although seems humorous at first, “Visiting Hours”, communicates an important message as Koyczan attempts to answer a question everyone faces at some point: What is my place in this world? This motivational track is meant to explain that life gets hard, but obstacles are meant to be overcome. Many of his lines in this poem have deep significance, but as he says them, they are very lighthearted, which is how the song should be interpreted.
The final track, “My Darling Sara”, is a sad ending to an encouraging album. Koyczan tells a story of two lovers looking for consolation for all their wrongs and their flaws. Everyone at some point experiences feeling like an outsiders and in finding someone they feel welcomed and belonging with, there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do to keep them. The background music adds to the atmosphere, with arpeggiated piano, cello, and violin.
Remembrance Year is a work of art. Although the album is deeply intimate to Koyczan’s experiences, the songs appeal to anyone because the messages are direct and reach out to the youth. Although Shane Koyczan isn’t well-known, his work is well worth listening to or reading. The album is written with emotion, without giving emotion a bad name.