’m in a strange place. Fact is: it’s indescribable. Someone was next to me reading out of a book. My mind makes the judgment that it is Doseone, semi-famous rapper of the Anticon collective, and he’s reading out of his poetry book. And there are books scattered everywhere. As Dose starts to read something out of his book concerning Yoko Ono a car appears and begins to head towards us. Dose disappears and the car begins to run over the books that have taken his place. Although I’ve barely seen two photographs of him in my life, my mind instinctively tells me that this is Markus Popp- ruining everything. I alternately run towards the car and away from it depending on whether it is facing me, all the while yelling at Markus- “Hey! HEY!”
And then I woke up. Now: I wouldn’t call this a nightmare, necessarily. But when the three papers that I’ve written over the past two quarters at the Ohio State University all converge into one strange narrative I know that something is not quite right. I look at the clock next to my bed and see the time: 10:43 AM. Oh. I’ve just slept longer than 8 hours for the first time in months.
And to inaugurate this fact- I’ve decided to start my own personal journal of listening for the week for your enjoyment/perusal. As editor of this website, I suppose my ideas on why this type of article is a worthwhile enterprise. Well- you won’t find it here...yet. Perhaps later in the week, but not now. Let me just get through the morning, first.
Today, I’m buying flowers at the grocery store for an event later on that evening and as my fraternity Brother and I walk down the grocery aisles looking in vain for the Muzak takes a decidedly emotional turn. I’m not sure exactly what the song is but the lyrics “I feeeeeeel IT. BELIEVE IT” seem to feature prominently in the chorus. The whole grocery store seems to stop the first time it happens. It’s as though there’s been a major breakthrough in Muzak technology- or a complete failure on its part to be unobtrusive. Today, though, we marvel at the song and I react with glee to the acapella finale. My fraternity Brother is not as enamored with the whole thing, “This song needs to end” he firmly says. “This song needs to continue forever,” I respond- secretly hoping that it replays for the rest of the day causing a revolt of supermarket employees.
As I find my way home amidst classic rock ditties that I used to sing along with while playing Nintendo and Atari in my basement in my youth, I start to write down the songs that I’m listening to on an index card. My fraternity Brother doesn’t ask what I’m doing- I suppose he’s used to this type of behavior out of me. We get food and then come home to watch the NFL draft.
The rest of the day is hurry up and wait. A large fraternity event is in the works for the evening and I spend the day doing Stylus archives and Theorizing America homework before I have to get dressed up in a suit and go spend three hours pretending like the most important thing in my life is maintaining a steady stream of small talk with people that graduated from college in the 1950s. It is surprisingly fun- especially since we don’t end up singing the Fraternity song more than four times in the evening. Now I love my Fraternity- don’t get me wrong- but that song is sung far too much for me to have any feelings associated with it anymore. Much like the Star Spangled Banner must be for most Americans, the song has less and less meaning attached to it each time it is sung- and has finally become a rote measure that only contains an amount of fun in the endless variations that I have devised in my mind. If there was ever a reason that Tom Waits should be involved with fraternity life, in my mind...well...every aspect cold be livened with the inclusion of Tom. Never mind.
In any case, the festivities take us back to the Fraternity house and one of the Brothers from the 80s sits down at the piano and runs through the litany of songs that our Fraternity is known for, but soon rolls straight into a mix of Grease and other Broadway showtunes that drive a number of the current Brother’s from the room- and one, in particular, to pull out a bottle of Steel Reserve from the refrigerator in a gesture that appropriately mirrored my conflicting feelings on the situation. Soon enough I retire for the evening, kind of tired of...everything.
Sunday is perhaps the worst day in the world. For most it’s a day of relaxation- “what will I do today: watch NASCAR or read a book for pleasure?” My Sunday’s, on the other hand, consist of editing music articles, music reviews, artist profiles, label profiles, updating staff pages, attempting to clear out my e-mail box of unreturned correspondence, having short conversations with reviewers, and then attempting to read 150 pages of American Studies homework and write four pages of scholarly notes on them to send to graduate students that all have had far more training in the reading that we’ve done that I have had.
In between all of this busy work I take short breaks after each small task. One review edited? OK. Let’s check the message boards to see if anything interesting has popped up. One artist profile done? Time for another snack. If I didn’t have a former swimmer’s metabolism I think I would be much more rotund because I eat more candy than any college student should do and expect to remain at the weight that I maintain. Hold on. I’m getting a Cadbury Egg.
What Sunday requires music-wise, though, is music that I can ignore. Over the past year I’ve switched from a roommate that vaguely understood my Merzbow project to one that listens to the same CD over and over again- if he listens to music at all. It’s not a bad CD, usually. But it gets a little tiring. Today I’ve decided on the Wind-Up Bird. It’s good music and non-obtrusive if I don’t want it to be. The capper is that the disc is about an hour long, so I can keep track of time, as well, without having to look at the clock. I have my computer hooked up to a stereo that my roommate has brought to school from home and use it much more than him. The reasoning behind this is simple: my indoor headphones finally crapped out after a year and a half of constant use. These things were beautiful and comfortable Sennheiser headphones. The only drawback was the almost permanent indentations that they left upon my hair around my ears. The hair above is normal, flowing out. The hair below is not as lucky, matted down completely, making me look extremely odd when the headphones come off.
The stop for lunch at Bob Evans brings a nice respite from the soothing tones of the Wind-Up Bird and the car blares a good amount of smooth-jazz and, upon my request, we keep the station on Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird”.
The other two major musical events of the day revolve around my lady friend. First, I make her a copy of the Microphones new album Mt. Eerie. As I walk out the door with it I think twice and also bring over flowers for her. Even if she doesn’t like the record, at least I will have scored some points tonight. And the flowers go over great, even though she has claimed not to like them all that much in the past. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see about the disc.
When I get home after the requisite television watching and spending time together (Andy Rooney was in fine form), I get home to begin work again. On goes the Wind-Up Bird until I finish my reading. And when I begin to write my notes up for class I begin to take the short breaks again. This time, though, I begin to construct a 1st trimester of 2003 mix for her. Once again, I have my doubts as to whether she’ll like it. But...well...it’s good!
Here’s how it turned out:
01- Exploding Hearts- Modern Kicks
02- Ted Leo/Pharmacists- Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?
03- The Decembrists- July July!
04- Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Maps
05- Electric Six- Danger! High Voltage!
06- Zongamin- Double Dostiev
07- Audio Bullys- The Snow
08- Junior Senior- Move Your Feet
09- Sean Paul- Get Busy
10- Lil’ Kim- The Jump Off
11- R. Kelly- Ignition (Remix)
12- Richard X/Liberty X- Being Nobody (Soundhog Mix)
13- Tatu- Not Gonna Get Us
14- The Postal Service- Brand New Colony
One of the best and worst things about maintaining a music review website is the e-mails that you receive from people. Many times nowadays it’s e-mails regarding my piece on Michael Jackson...that I wrote in December. I can honestly say that I never felt that I would be getting any e-mails from that piece, but alas: at least 100 pieces have come into my inbox regaling me with how much I suck and how much the King of Pop needs to be respected by people like me, but maybe not by people like me since I obviously suck.
In any case, sometimes I get e-mails from record labels or artists offering to send me promos. I always say yes. And am always disappointed. That is until one day I received an e-mail from the Janitor at Load Records. Apparently in Rhode Island all janitors are entitled to send out promos. And after a one e-mail back and forth correspondence, Stylus has been getting stuff from them to review after my glowing endorsement of the Pleasurehorse disc. Yeah. I don’t know either. But it made me happy to at least get promos of the better artists from their label. And I don’t think Joe Panzner was that disappointed either.
So, when I came back from Theorizing America, my American Studies class, today, I was ecstatic to see a large package from the label. The site doesn’t get very many promos, as Clay made clear in one of his final reviews, and every time I receive something, even if it is some sort of singer-songwriter that has touches of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, I do get extremely excited. So excited that I called up Joe and offered to come over as soon as possible to look over some stuff that might possibly review. Before this, however, I took each disc and put the CD player on intro to get a feeling for what each one sounded like.
I don’t trust the promo sheets much, except for biographical material, and wanted to let the first ten seconds of each song color my lengthy descriptions of what each release consisted of to Joe.
Here are the results:
Pink and Brown- Shame Fantasy II
A collection of old stuff plus five new songs. I didn’t know that even underground hardcore bands were capable of such shameless self promotion as my classic rock heroes of yesteryear. I guess I only have an mp3 copy of Final Foods, but I didn’t want to replace it with a physical copy anyway.
Noxagt- Turning it Down Since 2001
Metal with a viola instead of a lead guitar. Cute.
Barnacled- 6 (Corleone Records, also from Providence, Rhode Island)
Avant jazz that is uneven- some really good intros and some really bad.
The rest of the day’s listening consisted of electro and Italo Disco, as I revised a paper comparing the Canadian and American exclusion of Chinese immigration in the 19th century. My conclusion? They both did it because the Chinese were able to work for less and harder and because America did a better job of excluding that type of work ethic we’re now number one, baby. WOO-HOO!
Tuesdays aren’t much better than Saturdays, honestly. The day begins at 8:30 and doesn’t end till 5:30, usually. Which brings me to some of my favorite listening, however. That is, the 12 minute walk to class listen. In between class I usually place my headphones on, queue up the loudest and most abrasive tracks I happen to have in my bag and walk to my next class, head down, attempting to both do some critical headphones listening and not bumping into anyone on my way. Frequently, as I’m looking at the ground, I will be smiling, amazed at a particular portion of a track or something that has been unexpected that has finally been heard because of the sheer volume.
My friends and acquaintances at school have all heard the plea from me, most likely, at least once that if I’m walking to class that bothering to get my attention, unless they are directly approaching me is a lost cause and they shouldn’t be offended by my aloof attitude. I’ve never been a huge fan of the casual hello, in any case. No meaningful conversation is going to be had- it’s merely a matter of recognition, which doesn’t matter, unless you’re starving for attention. Which I’m not. Honest.
At 5:30, as my two hour stint at the radio station is up (doing office work, not listening to music except for the lousy new Buzzcocks and pop-punk that we were previewing to make sure that, yes, indeed it was horrible. As a good deal of my life is focused on the radio station, I’ll spare the details here and wait until another day’s description to go into depth about it.
What does need to be talked about, however, is both the fantastic Latin synth pop that we listened to in the car as we rode downtown to get free ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and the amazing record purchases that I made later that night with Gavin.
Gavin and I are pretty much best friends. Every Tuesday, to establish a definite meeting time and to continue tradition, we head over to BW3’s for 30 cent wing night and then go record shopping at the best used shop in all of Ohio, Used Kids. Tonight’s situation is different, as my lady friend has suggested that a trip to take advantage of the fact that Ben and Jerry’s give away free ice cream one day a year would be in our best interest. On the drive downtown we are treated to a light backing track of Latin synth-pop by Los Prisioneros. Perhaps it was the volume at a low level, but it made for a beautiful accompaniment to the long trek to find suitable parking for free. It’s impossible in Columbus, it seems.
After that Gavin, John (my former roommate) and I went down to BW3’s and talked mostly about the imminent arrival of another friend coming home from China, escaping the SARS virus. If he makes it home this week he will most likely featured later on in this article, so it’s relevant.
It was too late for Used Kids by the time we were done, so we went over to the semi-corporate CD Warehouse and browsed for a while. Gavin purchased nothing. I, on the other hand, picked up:
Various Artists- Trojan Ska Box Set, Volume II (Three Discs)
Various Artists- Now! That’s What I Call Music! Volume 6
Various Artists- Now! That’s What I Call Music! Volume 7
The Backstreet Boys- The Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys- Black and Blue
Total Price for Seven CDs: $27 and my dignity
After class on Wednesday I talked to my Professor about my proposed end of the quarter paper. I had taken his class on the basis of our similar interests: music. Within this Theorizing America class, however, the topic of music has not come up nearly enough, in my opinion. Today’s class, however, had ended with a spirited discussion about Eminem, which vaguely ran down most of the ideas that have been posited about him by music and cultural critics everywhere. It had been the first time that we had more than a superficial mention of music in the class, past the guest lecture by Josh Kun the week before. In any case, my paper idea is taking a look at the rap collective Anticon and their relative influence on the hip-hop community and all of the problems that they bring up in the context of the culture: race, class, and their influences being the major points to talk about. My professor agreed that it would be an interesting topic and I, for once, felt that Ohio State was the best school in the world.
My suspicions were quickly shattered by a car driving by as I walked away from the building and a kid yelling at me: “Hey faggot! 14 and ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I understand the first part obviously. I guess I have some effeminate characteristics or something. But the reference to our football team’s record over the past year didn’t register a lot of sense with me. It’s April. Haven’t we gotten over this by now? And what does it do with me having headphones on and being a homosexual? I guess I can relate very well with Chris Smith on this whole issue of being yelled at by any and all passerbys whether they are in a building, a car, or simply on the street. College sometimes isn’t much better than high school.
The day got better, however, as I went to the library with my lady friend and listened to an Anticon mix-tape that I had made on the way down. She didn’t feel as strongly conflicted about the music as I did, I think, as she currently had her mind on my reckless driving and her thesis that is due in a few weeks. I knew her mind was elsewhere when no comments came about the nasality of the voices present and the rapid-fire nature of the dialogue.
Later on in the evening Gavin and I went to do our radio show, appropriately titled “Now! That’s What I Call Music!”. Our show this week was not very good at all, mainly caused by the fact that we spent more time talking to our guests in the studio than actually attempting to create a coherent mix. Joe Panzner and his girlfriend had come by to inspect the studio and to determine how it would be possible for both Joe and his musical partner in crime, Mike Shiflet, to play live during next week’s show. Halfway through the show, our proposed party mix theme was dropped in favor of merely playing music for ourselves and listening to it play against other things. A lot of laughter in the studio was heard, but I can’t say much for the listening public. Our sincerest apologies.
I begin listening to music quite quickly on Thursday. Gavin and I’s radio show goes till 1 AM and then after a short break I head back to my house to begin to write all four reviews for the site that night to go up on Thursday morning. I start with the easy: the Wind-Up Bird. I listen to the album as I write, attempting to place it in context of their very short existence and relate it to where it stands in terms of ambient music. I like the release well enough, but I know that it isn’t amazing. I give it a very 7.0 because I want them to keep making music and see what they can come up with next and move onto a more interesting release that may get me into trouble.
Yes. It’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As I begin to write the review I remember the Pitchfork message board thread on the review that the site had run a day before. I purposely write the review as blandly and as uninteresting as possible, in an attempt to ignore the hype and appear to be balanced. I don’t think anybody got the point that read the site that day, but I was pleased with the results. I still can’t get over “Maps”, though, and I spend a lame paragraph in an effort to get people to download it, even if they hate the band. It’s one of the best songs I’ve heard all year, hands down. I finally finish that review at about 3 AM. I look at the clock and cringe. It looks like I won’t be doing much studying for those two midterms I have today at 9:30 and 3:30.
Next up is the Soft Pink Truth. Gavin and I talked a good deal about the album during our show and a bit afterwards and I think we agree on its general faults. I basically use the whole of the review to encapsulate our conversation and add a bit of flavor in the opening paragraph because my sense of humor has completely been lost for a few hours now. It’s a good record, surely, but it also could have been so much more, which is the main disappointment I have with it.
Last is Mono’s One More Step and You Die. This is one of the records that I’ve truly been floored by lately. My review won’t reveal it, though. I attempted, vainly, to construct a review that would accurately depict the record for what it is- allowing listeners to give it a chance if they wanted and to explain why it will probably fail for most in the review, rather than revealing the fact that it’s one of the most replayed things that I’ve gone through (for no good reason, mind you) in the past month or so. In my defense, it’s the type of record that will be lost to the ages within a year- forgotten as just another retread of already traversed musical ground. I feel strongly about giving it the rating that it got- anything less than a 7.0, in my book, shouldn’t be bought by anyone. But I feel that the writing and structure of the review are pretty lackluster. But it’s 4:30 AM. What are you going to do?
I do the necessary HTML formatting and put together the movie review and then send my lady friend a picture of Sesame Street’s Bert eating a child, claiming that it’s extremely funny only at this late hour.
When I wake up for my midterm I find that she has e-mailed me back at 5:30 AM because she has been writing her thesis and agreeing that yes, indeed, it is quite amusing.
The rest of the day? I never want to listen to music again at this point, so I avoid it at all costs.
On Friday I wake up after a fitful night of little sleep to go over to the radio station for my other radio show, entitled “C90”. There is a certain amount of peacefulness that goes along with the knowledge that no one is listening to your radio station, especially at 9:30-11:00 AM on Friday Mornings, “The Underground, Ohio State’s Only Student Run Radio Station, 688-4287 if you have any requests, www.underground.fm if you’re on the web”. So I pop my tape in, press record and begin to mix some of my favorite songs that are housed in our station’s archives, keeping in mind that I’m going to be listening to this as driving music for the next week or so.
Listing it all would be a ridiculous time-consuming exercise, but I move from upbeat rock songs to some more somber rock to epic post-rock to dancey post punk to house music and end it up with some soul music. There are a few mistakes that I’m not proud of that will give the tape character, but overall I’m pleased with the whole undertaking.
It’s a far cry from the free-form radio things that I have done with Gavin in the past year, but it’s still a lot of fun to attempt now to make something sound good, rather than to hope it sounds decent.
After this I go home and begin to listen to my downloads from the past evening. I have downloaded an amazing amount of Italo Disco and electro and sift through the results attempting to find things that I can stand. It’s all good, unfortunately and I am left as confused about the genres- but satisfied that I need to look further into these things to get a good handle on their origins and greatest hits. It’s this sort of musical detective work that I’m most interested in- finding a genre and becoming enamored with it, attempting to find out everything about it as soon as possible. As I’ve said to Chris Smith in numerous AIM exchanges: “All I want to listen to for the rest of my life is _insert genre of music I am currently listening to_. Starting right now.” That and “All music sucks” are the two common refrains we throw back and forth before his schoolwork got the best of him. Hopefully this summer he’ll get out from under it and begin to write a bit more.
Later on in the day I meet up with a group of people to go out to dinner and we end up back at Gavin’s place where little music is discussed because we are in the presence of our friend back from China. The rest of the night is filled with stories, the Sixty Million Dollar Man (a Chinese movie that comes HIGHLY recommended), and Blind Date. Even without music the night is deemed a success.
Much of Saturday, honestly is spent sleeping. I attempt to catch back up on all of the lost hours that I’ve accumulated during the week and I am partially successful. When I wake up to begin to help set up for a fraternity party that I won’t be attending later on in the evening, I am assaulted by horrendous pop-punk and Audioslave. I don’t think assaulted is really the right word, though, here. It’s just...well...it’s so boring and bland that it doesn’t have any effect on me. Which is really offensive to me.
But the reason that I’m not going to the party is because the Rapture is in town. And they do have an effect on me. And Gavin. And Joe. And Joe’s girlfriend. But mostly Gavin who jumps up and down during the set with glee and yells “14 and ohhh!” in an alternately mocking and exuberant tone, attempting to draw the crowd into a frenzy. Both the crowd and the Rapture aren’t feeling it, apparently. The Rapture put on a good show, certainly, but for every moment they had us in the palm of their hands, there was a moment where they lost the ability to do exactly what their name implies. Two words, though, explain why the group wins the prize for best encore ever: Gary Glitter.