Enough with the soul searching! Enough with the feet crossed zenned-out meditation bullshit! We want music!
Fuck, new music is everywhere right now. And of course it’s absolutely true that the less you actively look for it, the more it seems to spring out at you from every direction. The days that I skim through Discover Weekly anxiously searching for the next thing, are usually not the moments when I find something sticky.
If I have one film at the end of the day that I can watch, it’s gonna be a Will Ferrell. That’s where I want to go. But if I like the film, if I like the scene, if I feel something good about the scene, something truthful—I don’t mean ‘like’; I can dislike, but if I know it’s quality—if I feel that way about the film at the end, I know someone else will. I can’t guarantee you it’ll be a mass audience or it’ll be a small audience, but I know. And I’ve always kind of operated that way. Meaning I know when it’s a bit smelly. You know? When it’s all said and done and it smells, I know.”
A few months later and I was starting to feel good again. I was forty-something days into burying myself in Sam Harris and Joe Rogan podcasts and was beginning to get into the groove of a loose and not-so serious meditation routine.
Sam was getting me to be in the present. Random shit moved me, like a woman on MUNI with a shaky hand or long walks with just the right amount of downhill. I started to understand why people love taking psychedelics. Awareness of the present moment is fucking sweet.
But there was one thing Sam Harris couldn’t convince me of. You have no head. There is no writer of thoughts. No person sitting back there shuffling cards. The very concept of “I” is just an appearance in consciousness, like a smell or a thought.
Abandon your ego! Basically what everyone says when they come back from Burning Man. It seemed weird but I gave it a go, trying to convince myself on a crowded bus that subjective and objective could be the same, but bumping up against people just reinforced a sense of clear and distinct boundaries.
I kept at it. And by some stroke of luck ended up at a party outside of Pescadero – a Hipcamp designed for ayuascha retreats, fully operational with drums, meditation pillows, and a stripper pole.
Beers were had. Weed was smoked. Dinner was neglected. And at some point a guy handed me a piece of torn up paper and said, “please write down who you think you are.” He went around the fire telling everyone to write down their occupation or their name or whatever they wanted really. I was too far gone to be able to see where any of it was going and so feeling very clever I wrote down in terrible, drunk chicken scratch, “I am me,” and then slunk off to my tent.
When I woke up the next morning my head didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I looked outside and saw Charley rolling up his rain fly.
“What time did you Irish exit last night?” he asked. I told him it was right around the time some guy asked me to write down who I was on a piece of paper.
Charley laughed and told me they’d thrown the pieces of paper into the fire and watched them turn into smoke, and suddenly all I could think about was what must have gone up in flames – I am me.
I went emo at first, just to be sure I really scraped the meaty depths of my soul. Holding onto the handle of the J train I stared mysteriously out into a foggy San Francisco morning, playing Radiohead’s Weird Fishes over and over again. I avoided other songs – returning to the same sad refrain, proudly wondering how down-trodden I looked to other passengers who sat, neck-bent over Candy Crush.
I hit the repeat button that literally no one uses unless you’re depressed and you want to fill your head with the same sad melody, looking through Reddit for a loose interpretation of Weird Fishes. One commenter wrote “Weird Fishes –> Feared Wishes” to much Reddit fanfare; another argued the closing lyric of the song alluded to suicide. No one was really sure – summed up best by a popular user, amishuis: “if you want Radiohead songs to be ABOUT things, you’re gonna have a bad time.”
I moved on, needing sturdier ground to stand on, turning to the closing song of High Maintenance Season 3. Never would I describe myself as a fan of 1980’s goth pop, but Do Your Best by John Maus evokes some greater need – a desire to connect on the most basic human level. The swelling in my chest lasted about a day, but the lyric, “someone’s alone…in the city… tonight” which gets repeated over and over again, felt a little too perfect, like someone whispering in my ear.
DOPE LEMON’S Marinade was a no brainer. Straight from the source of all this moping about, the lyrics are wonderfully intelligible: “she used to draw rainbow faces in the sand, but the rainbow made the face sad,” a truly lovely thing when rationality feels offensive. Buzzed and singing out of the side of his mouth, Marinade belongs inside a jukebox discovered on a drunken, unforgettable night – recalled in the ugly light of day, over and over again.
So that’s where I stayed, for awhile, shifting through this make-shift playlist like said jukebox if it was stripped down to just a few buttons, and then a new moment appeared, one that I wasn’t really prepared for – silence. A dead battery left me defenseless, up against the void. So I started writing about music, hoping it would conjure up the same magical spell of being able to put words to something that feels truly wordless.
I dislike when music blogs come clean about not posting. It’s always something like, “Sorry been crazy busy with work, haven’t been able to blog in awhile but here’s a new one from…” and then the recommendation.
It feels kind of disingenuous. Nothing should get in the way of posting if it means that much to you, right? Work-shit, relationships, even fun should take a back seat to blogging – if you really care about it. Not posting probably means you shouldn’t have a blog.
Usually it happens a few times in a row. You can almost see the blogger connecting the dots – noticing the pattern. It happened to Auditory Remembrance, Tiny Rockets, and others. I have folders of dormant music blogs.
But here I am drafting something up after not blogging for two months – tail between my legs – wondering what I could possibly say to peak anyone’s interest after not writing for two months.
The truth is I simply haven’t felt like writing about music. And to force it felt like a disservice to all the good that has come from blogging consistently. Not good as in Davey Pageviews good. Or good as in attracting attention. But good as in committing to something. Good as in loosening a creative valve to let it flow freely.
For some reason today it was happening. By some good grace I started listening to a playlist from longtime Afmth fan, Seve, and one after the other, new-ness started flooding in. Add in a little weed and a glass of booze and a beautiful concoction of loose energy took over. I think it was the Darius song that really did it. Even one step beyond Pryor. At least at first. It’s still early.
It’s good to find new music again. It’s been hard recently – maybe something to do with getting older – you experiment less and stick to the tried and true. If you know This Must Be the Place will work, why mess with anything else? And the harder you look, the less you find. But take your foot of the gas and sometimes new melodies start to flood in.
Lane 8, Darius, Amtrac, Tourist – all familiar names. DJ’s we’ve featured on the blog many times. But for me this is all new.
When I was fourteen I used to practice the solo from Smells Like Teen Spirit with the guitar hoisted over my left shoulder. Not looking at the frets was a total rock and roll move – one step removed from playing with your teeth or mastering the hammer ons for Eruptionbut come on – still very rock and roll.
I ran through the progression over and over again so it would seem effortless, but that’s about as far as my guitar playing abilities went. I was discouraged when I couldn’t make it through what I considered to be the most desirable solo of all time – the six minute mark of Stairway to Heaven – even when Damien, the instructor with curling fingernails tabbed it all out on lined paper. I sold my hefty Line 6 amp at a pawn shop for cash, and got really into digitized beats.
The EDM-blitz lasted quite awhile, but the gravitational pull of guitar is tugging me back. I’ve re-discovered classics (Crosby, Stills & Nash), geeked out on Mac DeMarco antics, and bit off pieces of jam bands, shoe gaze, and slacker rock – a slow, dystopian groove that’s both haunting and energizing (Japanese Breakfast).
I like the introspective nature of slacker rock. I like that you can lean back in your car and let the reverb wash over you. I like that I’m not listening to a long-haired rocker rifling through a million notes. It’s sleek and slow and kinda sad.