good morning ~
(click the link / open east gate to listen)
today's track is another giant stack of vocals, delay pedals, and varispeed - really into this method lately, hope you're enjoying it, too ~
Something else to listen to: some buddies of mine recently commissioned a cover of a Bee Gees tune and they told me they want to hear it, so please enjoy this matrimonial zone.
I have a bunch of shows coming up in the next month or so, including a gig this Friday at Rare Form where, apparently, I'm playing a totally new, guitar-free set according to this afternoon's rehearsal. Here's a handy image - - excited to hit Philadelphia and Burlington next week, I hope to see many of you :o)
Why, do you think, do you listen to the music that you do? What forces compel you to put on a particular recording? Do you feel confident that you are making those decisions? Or are there other forces at play?
Obviously there are the insidious tech mechanics, the algorithms and promoted tweets and "if you like" radio stations that subtly prod us into consuming one song over another. Those forces are almost constantly guiding our auditory choices whether or not we notice them. Convenience and availability are huge factors in deciding, too - what's already at hand? What do we have a copy of? What can be streamed in this coverage area, or what did I download in advance? If you're listening to LPs, naturally the rows of vinyl play a large part in determining what you'll choose to hear - remember driving around with only five CDs in the car? And though the towering library of the aggregated streaming platforms feels functionally infinite, there is plenty of music that never made it to your service of choice (how devastating it can feel when a favored, low-res YouTube upload of a hard-to-find album goes missing!).
But one thing I've been thinking about a lot lately are the sociological forces at play. I'll say it plainly - I started thinking about this because I simply can't understand why certain bands and musicians are beloved and popular. I've crunched the numbers on a few of them and enjoyment or technical appreciation of the music itself simply doesn't cover the bill. Case in point...why are there so many goddamn 2004 Subaru Outbacks in my neighborhood with the "fire dancer" emblem logo bumper sticker repping the Dave Matthews Band? I enjoy an "Ants Marching" every once in a while but c'mon...clearly some of these people are in it for the fratty, tailgate atmosphere of a DMB summer show. Sure, we all shed a tear to "Crash into Me" but only certain bands can help you feel comfortable in you decision to continue playing beer pong into your 30s.
What I'm starting to unravel - and I'm sure other actual smart people have done this work - is how little the organized sound of music itself has to do with our desire to consume it, and even less with our desire to consume it conspicuously (i.e. posting about listening to it or putting the bumper sticker on our car). I don't think people who are really in to a particular genre of music are 100% compelled by the idiosyncracies of the recordings. For instance, sure, you might like the anthemic quality of certain strains of emo, but I think you're at least equally compelled by the various aesthetics and textual content - the fashion, the dilemmas presented in the lyrics, even the graphic/typographic norms. You feel comfortable in that world.
At our most complacent, we want to listen to music that poses no threat of disrupting our milieu or the extant social order - we want to hear songs that we already know or songs that sound something like something we already know made by people we're comfortable associating ourselves with. We don't want to be challenged by anything we hear, we simply want to fill the space with some tunes. And then in the world the music we like becomes a powerful tool for tribalism - the last time you were at a party that was playing music you weren't into and made you feel like the vibes were off, what was playing? And the last time you walked into a bar where you felt comfortable, what was on the stereo?
I'd like to encourage you to challenge yourself to hear music outside of what streaming platforms and retail establishments determine is your bubble - go ahead, trouble the hegemonic structures! Get weird with it! Probably good for your brain, ultimately. And there are plenty of alternatives. Physical media is one really effective method, plus you get those fun boosts of holding an actual thing and supporting a musician and/or a record store.
A weird intermediary - and an archaic-feeling holdover from the 20th century - is terrestrial radio. In comparison to the hyper personalized, super siloed contemporary music listener experience, a classic rock station can feel almost quaint, a little glimmer of old world knowhow, electromagnetic magic. I love scanning through the stations when I'm driving around, particularly because about twenty minutes outside of my town there isn't enough cell service to stream music anyway. I give myself over to the broadcasts, little snippets of banal local political discussion and unbelievably corny country music. Someone else is deciding what to play, shooting rays of radio out over a particular geographic area - ah, great! I can catch the last 45 seconds of "Everlong" before it fades to static. But there aren't a lot of radio stations left with actual DJs, either - computers and algorithms are calling the shots most of the time there, too.
I really like internet radio stations - NTS and the Lot can be heard playing in my apartment nearly every day. Both projects are very successful in giving you a voyeuristic glance into the music listening habits of someone cooler than you. On the Lot you can even watch them play records via webcam (one of the biggest thrills of my life - randomly putting on the Lot one morning at my day job and seeing a copy of my own LP spinning on the platter). There's a beautiful and kinda tender feeling act of trust in letting a far-flung stranger soundtrack an hour of your day.
Probably preaching to the choir if you're reading this - dare I call my readers and listeners "adventurous"? - but I know that I personally need to be reminded to be wider and more generous in most of my habits, not just in what I choose to listen to. It's a big, beautiful world out there - you could put any band in the world's sticker you want on your Subaru, live a little!
But really, what about you? What are you listening to and why are you listening to it? Does consuming this project confirm your notions about how the world works? What will you put on today to trouble those notions?