An Album That Changed My Life: The Power of Failing by Mineral

I wrote this piece up for a forum I frequent, and I figured I’d post it here as well.

I was sixteen years old and browsing one of the old B-Sides R Us blogs when I came across a post with a link to Mineral’s first album, The Power of Failing, accompanied with a challenge: “If you can listen to this and feel nothing, then you don’t have a heart.” It was rare in those days to see a full-length album on the B-sides blog, so with no other context or background on the band, I dove in.

To this day, it remains one of my most memorable first listens. It’s an imperfect record in so many ways, but the songwriting and the passion shone through the messy production and rough musicianship to a degree that I’ve yet to hear replicated. The guitar tones aren’t what any producer would pick out today, but Scott McCarver’s parts stand out nonetheless, from the tension of the feedback solo on “Slower” to the cathartic release of the pre-chorus riff in “Parking Lot.” Chris Simpson is not a technically proficient singer – his voice cracks and strains in ways that make trained vocalists cringe – but he puts every fiber of his being into every word he sings. And the lyrics were exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Simpson writes about perennially relatable topics like overcoming loss and personal failure, and his lyrics are steeped in Christian themes and imagery that made the songs hit even harder for me. I was in tears by the end.

The Power of Failing also challenged how I shared the music I loved with other people. My friends ignored it because it wasn’t on the radio. My brother wouldn’t listen to it because of the production. I had to beg people to drop any preconceptions they had about emo or whatever and just close their eyes and listen. I would print out the lyrics and include them when I burned the CD for someone. I’m not sure any of my friends ever really got Mineral the way I did, but I recently heard Frank Turner tell a story about doing almost the exact same thing, so I know I’m not alone.

From there, the floodgates opened. I couldn’t get enough of this “midwest emo” sound, and within months my iPod was full of The Get Up Kids, Texas Is the Reason, the Promise Ring, and many others that I still count among my favorite bands.

It wasn’t until their reunion tour in 2014 that I finally got the chance to see Mineral. I truly thought it would never happen, and I could do little more than stand against the stage and stare at the four people whose words and music had affected me so deeply over the past seven years. I cried again during “Five, Eight, and Ten” and “Parking Lot” and especially “Unfinished,” and I’ll never forget it.

Modus Aurora – “Plague” / “Until Our Lungs Collapse”

A few months before Modus Aurora ended, we were asked to be part of a compilation that a small record label in Peoria was putting together. Katie was already living in Chicago, and I think we only had a couple days together to write these songs before we went into the studio. The recording process was similarly quick. We drove out to Peoria (or some tiny town outside of it) and tracked both songs in one afternoon at Steve Lambaise’s house. Cale and I recorded bass and drums live, and we didn’t do more than two takes of either song. It was the polar opposite of the leisurely pace at which we assembled The Ghosts Inside of Us, but I think the end result is better for it. When I listen back to “Plague” and “Until Our Lungs Collapse,” which are more concise and focused than anything we had released previously, I hear all of the urgency of the writing and recording process, but I hear more than that. I hear a band that knew we had something special and not enough time to prove it. I don’t remember talking about it until well after the recording session, but I think we understood all along that this was our coda. I think it’s a fitting one.

Listen here.