Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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this month in music, or my musical phases are very phasy

One of the benefits of Amazon and iTunes slowly but surely expanding their musical offerings is stumbling over stuff I never knew the name of, who it was by, or when I heard it, but still have on carefully preserved tapes from junior high and high school. I don't actually own anything that can play a tape--hilarity--but I can't make myself throw them away, because back then, I had to record from radio, being, y'know, poor and only having like, a few radio stations I could get in the country, so each song represents a serious investment of time and energy sitting by the radio and listening. And I don't mean casually; I mean, listening for hours and hours waiting for a song I liked, or when I got my very first stereo, saving up for blank tapes and then leaving one tape to record on the longest available play on the radio and spending my time after school the next day listening to it and carefully using the double tape deck to record the songs I liked from one tape to another.

I was not a patient kid, and I was a cheerleader, played basketball, ran track, was in band and drama and the chess club and was doubling up for honors classes, and my parents also owned a bar; time was precious. Add to that it took time away from my favorite activity, reading; I was invested in these songs to do this. I loved them. So one day, I will get a tape player and listen, write them down (or their lyrics), and recreate my first seven playlists, all off of double sided tapes at longest available play. Until then, it's an awkward process of suddenly in the grocery store or a club or Club Vivid or at a friend's house or, oddly, youtube, suddenly sitting up and saying, wait, I know that song, and if I am fast enough, grabbing my phone and getting shazam going to see if it will tell me what that is (this almost never happens), or guessing wildly until I find the right lyric that goes with that song on google.

The more effective (for lack of a better word) approach, however, is finding a completely new song that sets off a train of thought that leads to--well, most recently, Enigma, after I was surfing video of natural disasters (it started with [personal profile] svmadelyn showing me a picture of a water spout in Japan, then a fire tornado? w/e) and someone sountracked it to 009 Sound System's Dreamscape, which led me to--well, Enigma).

Oh Enigma.

One of my favorite songs for years was Return to Innocence, despite the fact I still have no clue a.) what it is about b.) what it means or c.) what the goddamn lyrics are, really. And I've never looked them up. I kind of don't want to? I listen to it by the moment, not as a whole, so I've never actually listened to it with any idea I needed the narrative. I actually turned off the video--I really don't want to know.

Sadeness is the other one (wait, this is about the Marquis de Sade?) that I have no freaking clue what they are saying? None. Zip. I don't want to. (Now I know why it unsettled me? I wonder if it was on my playlist when I was being edgy and working my way through the collected works of Sade, which hey, that's a quick and easy way for you never to really be surprised by anything that shows up in a kink meme ever) (this is not a challenge for anyone to put up a kink meme prompt 'Kradam based on 120 Days of Sodom' because--well. No. I mean, I can't even conceptualize it, one, and two, let's face it, once you get to the outline ending, you can kind of tell even Sade was getting bored--debauch, mutilate, murder, fuck, yawn, breakfast, incest, mutilate, nap, kill, kill, fuck, lunch, cannibalism, necrophilia, stopped being edgy and shocking and started being really repetitious and I suddenly understood why all the stories of debauched dissipated rakes ended with them dying young. They were really bored. Even syphilis had to be more interesting at that point for them, you know?)

(Note: I get the philosophical underpinnings of 120 Days means I'm not supposed to read it literally, but I was eighteen and yes I read it literally initially. Not like anyone sits down first read and goes "Okay, so what is Sade really trying to say after the rape/mutilation with the hags here? What is Constance's role in this scene?" Me: Screaming a lot? You see why I would not have done well in Sade as Philosopher 101.)

(How did I get on this tangent anyway? It's because I had to work on Saturday, that's why.)

Some songs are best when you know the lyrics, right, and can sing along, but I have several playlists in which I work pretty hard never to figure them out entirely.

Dreamscape by 009 Sound System is another one.

Most of why I like this still, however, especially my enchantment with Shiny Toy Guns, is based on the five months I was an exchange student. I can still read about the Moomi in Finnish (I have no idea how, but I can; nothing else, but that book, yes. I verify this every year with a Finnish dictionary and a lot of concentration), I can count to five thousand, and I still have a really strange weakness for European technodance.

To give some context, I grew up rural--classic country with a strong anti-Nashville bend until around age twelve and the explosion of modern country, and very very mainstream pop and a lot of leftover late eighties and early nineties hair bands and dissipated rock before rock revolutionized; I didn't discover grunge until college and while I discovered alternative and classic rock in a big way, I'm from Texas and in the Austin sphere of influence, which means I listened to more independent Indie than anyone should have to, and condensed at that, because I was considered really backward, though there was at least some vague approval that I was used to live music because again, Texas, you can't get away from that. That fucked me up for years; when you are more likely to hide your music collection than your pot when your RA comes by, that tells you what you need to know about my freshman year of college.

However, before college, I was seventeen and I went to Finland and everything I understood about how music worked changed entirely.

When I was in Finland, most of my peers and my host family's kids were super into pre-trance techno-pop dance (and I think industrial something, which apparently was techno based on grinding random metal objects together to a beat with someone wailing in the background; I didn't need drugs to get high, the music was sense-altering all on its own for me), and most of it was stuff I still can't find here because a.) I have no idea what it's called, b.) A lot if it wasn't mainstream popular in the US or was only for a very short time and c.) tons of it wasn't in English, Finnish, or Swedish, or any language I could a.) speak, b.) identify, or c.) knew existed. Though there was, and I only know this because it was in my diary I kept there, a ton of French and German stuff at a party that I vaguely labeled 'technorock' where dancing meant 'jumping up and down for six hours and being unable to walk the next morning'. Charming.

(This is when I also discovered Abba and Dire Straits, with very mixed results. My relationship with those is a whole other entry on classic versus popular versus mainstream versus my propensity to live on first impressions.)

It was, for me, revolutionary--my tastes were formed by Hank Williams, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paula Abdul, Vanilla Ice (oh, don't judge, you know you liked it), the eighties hair bands, and sadly enough, Bon Jovi. I couldn't even listen at first--the beat was too hard, the bridging confused me, it went too fast, I didn't know what it was about, and hey, it wasn't in English or at least goddamn Spanish so I could at least work out what was going on. But that was what was played at the parties, the clubs, and I didn't have my mix tapes or any music at all, and you may not know this, but I soundtrack my life. I had to have something to listen to, and I burned through my host brother's Madonna and Roxette before my transition point, which as it turned out was Culture Club, and fell in love with Mr Vain by DJ Maurice at a party. After a few weeks of that, I could work with pretty much anything they threw at me and started browsing the Swedish and international pop aisles and transitioned into dance music like it was a new religion. Most of it wasn't English, but as it turned out, that wasn't the point. I didn't need to know what they were saying, which was new to realize; I got the feeling right anyway.

(If you'd known me at this period, this was when I was butchering German industrial lyrics at the top of my lungs--I've mentioned I auto-memorize lyrics in music? Yeah. Apparently I can do this in any language. I don't need to know what it's saying if it's articulated enough for my brain to pick up. Ace of Base had me singing in Latin. Just go with it. I sang things that I still don't know what language they were in. I'm pretty sure at some point, I was performing Greek pop in the shower, badly.)

(Good training for automemorization is hitting Austin live music venues on a Saturday night half-drunk, but keep to the bars and smaller live music clubs; half the bands were always work-in-progress with their music and the same song could have serious changes in pretty much all aspects right down to time signature. At one point I knew up to five alternate interpretations of the same three and a half minute song.)

Now, music recs for the month, old and new. Youtube links were basically chosen on availability and sound quality, not visuals.

To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra, first heard on Criminal Minds. I love this, and I also get annoyed by it. It feels like it's building to something and then it just doesn't. I love the piano line, but there's the feeling in there that it should explode and it just doesn't, and it's fragile and very moody and so very lost.

I class it with these:

Scarlet by Brooke Fraser, though this one doesn't have the subliminal build that never explodes. It's wistful and moody and I feel like everything's ending when I listen to it.

Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, as made famous (again) on West Wing. I love this one, and it's playlisted with the above two, along with Coldplay when I'm just really feeling wrong.

Add in these:

Sleep by My Chemical Romance - I never hated them, but I didn't like them either, not until an accidental interception of fate when Sleep kicked me over hard, and this is why I never throw out music, ever. I ended up with this one on several playlists and it's a repeater as well, because it hit me at just the right time. They're so loud and huge and overwhelming that I can't deal with them very often straight without feeling I'm under musical siege (and Gerard feels a lot like my RA, like he's judging the playlists I put them in and totally despises my musical taste, so I feel weirdly defensive about what songs I put around them), but there's about three or four songs that I seriously cannot live life without.

Elegia by K's Choice - weirdly, I should classify this with Scarlet, but it has a build up and this and Addict are two of my favorite that I used to combine occasionally with Evanescence and Dido to take the edge off the Evanescence-Dido pop-style but keep the mood right. Though I usually feel guilty about putting it with anything by Evanescence--comparing them directly really doesn't work, because I do actually like both the latter, but compared to K's Choice, they sound way too over-balladic and overdone, and not in a positive, that's the entire point Meatloafy way. On the other hand, Elegia and Addict are goldmines of spiraling darkness and ennui-filled despair and there's a reason the Cut Your Wrists playlist is never set on a full repeat but I play them individually. Teenager emo tends to defuse it a little into something listenable but not with the feeling you forgot to grab your needle and should have an open flame somewhere handy.

Every Day is Exactly the Same by Nine Inch Nails - speaking of, my love for NIN is weird and typically uneasy because eight out of ten times, I pretty much know what I'm getting and they aren't my usual aesthetic, and then the two times I don't, I fall in love. They aren't consistent for me emotionally, which is why depending on song, they can end up on a moody playlist, an angry playlist, or the one titled End of the World. Sometimes, I need the mindless metal anger, but it's this stuff that makes me come back again and again. They nail down a lot of tightly controlled, carefully channeled despair and hopelessness without ever touching emo. In a weird way, they're my bookend to My Chemical Romance, who goes completely in the opposite direction musically, being huge and dramatic but always, always with that self-awareness of knowing exactly what they're doing and how to make it work and why (I pair this one with Sleep when I can).

Legends Never Die by The Plasmatics, which I downloaded thanks to [personal profile] fan_eunice's Nightmare on Elm Street vid. I also don't have it classified, so it's not playlisted yet other than in the Vid Music playlist where I track what I liked thanks to vids. It's creepy and uncomfortable and addictive, and it has weak links to my feelings for Elegia but the mood and tempo are so contradictory I can't listen to them together. It might be closer to Placebo overall in listening, but even that's a stretch, since Placebo is way too jaded and worldly to be this visceral. This song attacks you in the second person and keeps going long after you stop wanting to fight.

Running Up That Hill by Placebo, and speaking of uncomfortable music choices, my ultimate in weirdly classy dissipation and ennui and kind of a bored acknowledgment of how utter emotional numbness is so trite and yet still comes from a place where despair is never too far away. They're so polished sometimes that I never notice the edges leave papercuts until I realize how many there are and they hurt. I can't figure out if it's because the aesthetic is so different, or because they're so sophisticated that nothing means anything and even nihilism is a little too positive and life-affirming, really. My Sweet Prince with the syrupy, patronizing bitterness and Without You I'm Nothing, a celebration of love by way of reluctant obsession and hate so habitual it feels like addiction are uncomfortable in that it's like they're way too self-aware to really ever want to be happy.

New and Interesting:

I got One Less Reason's new album and worked through the whole thing--I'd bought enough of their earlier work and previewed on this one enough to just get it all and figured I'd like enough to make it worth it. I came out with a trifecta of yes with the rest at okay, maybe, and eh.

Someday reminds me of Desperately Wanting by Better Than Ezra, though technically speaking, they aren't alike in any way except in my reaction to them (Ezra is more in my The Fray/Wallflowers/Toad the Wet Sprocket continuum). Start slow, take it up a notch, be angry and so bitter you can't remember ever being happy. It's You're Beautiful Ending without the wistfulness to soften the grief, and A Day to Be Alone without the rancid sweetness. A Day to Be Alone is fucking creepy and it tricks me every time until I really listen. Someday is honest about what's going on. I've been comparing/contrasting them and keep coming up with the feeling that I'm listening to a chronology of things going really nuclear in a very alt-rock finds manipulative emo way. It's unsettling, to say the least.

No You No Me is pure loss and hurts, but it's less bitter than angry and wistful and not hopeful, but not pure id of despairing rage either. It's a breakup, but it's really catchy, and it's better for my psyche to pair this with Someday than reruning that one at two hundred repeats. Which you know, I did, and wow, did I write some weird shit doing that.

Where Did You Go? is--I don't know. This one is actually hopeful, which is why I had it on repeat for a while, because I didn't expect it, and it's resigned-transition, after you're angry and bitter and maybe you've learned to forgive. How you can be in love and still be hurt and still be angry, but the edge of rage and bitter helplessness is gone. It's not about the person you lost; it's about the person you were to them and with them, and what you learned about yourself because of them, and what you became because of that. You forgave them, but also, now you're sorry for the right reasons--not just that you lost them, but why you did, and maybe you've forgiven yourself, too. There's a lot of why here, but the why isn't as accusatory as it is hopeful, because maybe things are better.

I'm also not sure the other person in question isn't actually dead, either, so take that one with a grain of salt. I read it as metaphorical originally and I mostly still do, but I like the idea that he's sitting by a grave during the fifth stage of grief, too, which I kind of like to add to the A Day to Be Alone and Someday emotional chronology, because I do things like that. The three together make a really unsettling ode to the stages of grief when played back to back.

Not trifecta, but interesting.

The Distance threw me hard. The beginning was totally a stylistic one-eighty after hitting Someday like the fist of God and so mellow I didn't really care for it. I put it on repeat finally to see if I could get into it, and about forty-five seconds in, it got familiar. It's not magical and it's pretty standard for wistful, loss, sad, come back, whatever, but it's not like what they do with Someday and A Day to Be Alone either, which is what I listen to them for. It's good background music and I may get more out of it if I can write to it, but so far, it's listenable.

I'm still working through the rest on what they do for me. I may come back with something on Faces, because that one is still a work in progress. I think I need to like this one, but I'm not sure if it will transition for me emotionally and it's not hooking me. Everything Changes might get somewhere but I'm not sure that after Someday I can be fair when that one hit me so viscerally that everything else feels weak and watered-down when it's not nailing me down with bitterness and rage and obsession. Be the Same is very club-dark and I like to background it, but I'm not sure if it will do much more than give me a hard beat to listen to.

So this entry got surprisingly long. Anyone have any recs they'd like to toss out?

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Tags: crosspost, jenn's life, music
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