Play Me A Few Notes, Sonny

For me, getting older has been a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways, life gets easier as I figure things out and learn to prioritize what truly matters. If you’re struggling with this, consider checking out Mark Manson’s book on the matter.

On the other hand, I suppose it’s only natural to long for the good old days, a time when the world made sense and we were flexible enough to adapt.

For me, one of the saddest parts about getting older is that I don’t listen to music the way I used to. I don’t listen to complete albums. I don’t obsess over the details of the production and instrumentation, the stories behind the songs. And that’s what one would expect, because I’m an adult with responsibilities, and my time is more precious than it was when I was a teenager in podunk Louisiana, using music as my escape.

But man, how I used to get high on tunes. I remember the drama of downloading songs via Napster on my home computer’s 19.2kbps dial-up connection. So many times I’d wait nearly an hour for a song to download, only to have the connection severed at the end, leaving the file incomplete and unusable. I also searched out albums on the Tower Records website and then sat in agony over the next few days–or maybe it was weeks; I’ve been spoiled so long by Amazon’s two-day deliveries that I forget what it was like before–and there was little as exciting as getting new CDs in the mail. I used to love playing a CD low while I slept, one of my favorites being My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. (Side note: I think My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep” is the most interesting song to search for covers on YouTube.)

My best friend in college is the only person from my Louisiana days that I stay in frequent contact with. While we’ve both grown over the years–and so has our relationship–it all started due to music, when I complimented his t-shirt of The Cure’s Disintegration album, my favorite of all time. We soon discovered we liked many of the same bands beyond The Cure: Joy Division, Pixies, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, etc. Music wasn’t our only thing. We enjoyed many of the same movies. We played video games. We both loved Johnny’s Pizza. But I doubt we would have ever had the friendship I cherish if it weren’t for music.

Recently, someone on–I believe it was Andrew Doran–was pushing Bandcamp as a great platform for musicians. I had used Bandcamp in the past and had just a few months before bought my first album on there, but for some reason, this post resonated with me and convinced me to dive a bit deeper, resulting in the purchase of ten more albums, the most recent being this morning’s purchase of Yawn by Bill Ryder-Jones. Jones is one of my favorite new-to-me artists of the last few years, and Yawn is persistently melancholy, making for great music to reminisce to.

I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to music I have paid for. I find I’m more likely to listen to a complete album, to experience the whole piece. Music matters more again. It inspires more again. And this practice has the added benefit of making me get more value out of my Plex server.

Perhaps paradoxically, I think having such easy access to music via streaming services like Spotify had killed the value of music for me. There’s something about going out of your way to purchase music. It’s how you show what you value. It’s an investment–of money and time–even in the click-buy-and-download of today’s internet.

To be clear, I am not saying that we should all shun such streaming services. Some people may not be able to fork over $10 or so per album. And the platforms do help artists get exposure. I likely wouldn’t have discovered artists such as Bill Ryder-Jones if it weren’t for Spotify.

But individuals don’t have to take every option they’re presented with. Sometimes there’s a certain freedom in saying no. And maybe this is one of those situations for me.

Jake LaCaze @jakelacaze