Listening

Mp3 Digest: September 27, 2006

I went to college in central Maine, a small school on a hill overlooking a rusted-over textile town where Richard Russo used to teach (the town’s river and shirt factory popped up on the cover of Empire Falls). The winters were long, the springs were soggy, and there seemed to be lots of discussions about sex; theorizing about it; hoping for it and despairing for it; attending seminar classes about sex taught by shoeless massage instructors; sludging through muddy farm fields in April toasting beer to it; bragging to friends how it had been secured or, more likely, at night and alone, worrying why not and whose fault that was.

One girl I had a crush on and talked to a lot, about sex and other things, also liked to talk about bowel movements. Hers, mine, her roommate’s. She was two years ahead of me in school, a pretty girl who ice-climbed and always seemed half-asleep. I remember one cold winter afternoon in February lying on her bed while she described why she took fiber supplements.

“You’re supposed to poop at least three times a day—at least,” she said. (She always said “poop,” never “shit.”) “Otherwise you’re not cleaning out the plumbing. How often do you poop?”

“Once a day?” I managed, afraid I’d disappoint her.

We didn’t have Sufjan Stevens when I was in college. We had Elliott Smith, pre-Good Will Hunting. But I can imagine being 19 again in a dorm room, walled in by snow, listening to Sufjan and wondering why in the world I was always talking about shit instead of doing it.

» “Sister Winter” by Sufjan Stevens (via Bows Plus Arrows)

(See also, “He Poos Clouds” by Final Fantasy.)


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My wife has much better musical taste than me. She earned it; her teenage years, involving a period living abroad in bleak and soggy England, required the consolation of the Smiths, the Cure, James Brown. Where was I? Holed up in a Connecticut suburb memorizing John Coltrane solos at 15, or trading bootlegs, by mail with strangers, of a then-unknown band named Phish my cousin’s husband had heard play at a restaurant in Burlington.

After we met, my wife introduced me to Al Green, the Cocteau Twins, Otis Redding, Sade, and Dwight Yoakam. I introduced her to the internet. “Love is too young to know what conscience is; yet who knows not conscience is born of love?”

» “Lorelei” by the Cocteau Twins (via Marathonpacks)


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Inspired by hearing Wynton Marseilis talk about Louis Armstrong yesterday, and then remembering Woody Allen cite Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues” as a reason life is worth living, my ten unranked most favorite audio things (songs, albums, so forth) I love as of this morning listed quickly so I can’t over-think:

1. The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Live At Newport
2. “Ringing In My Ear,” Adem
3. Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash on the same record
4. “Mushaboom,” Feist
5. Luna, Pup Tent
6. Ambient Thrill Jockey albums (Brokeback, Pullman) I loved in college
7. “Everything I Got Is Done in Pawn,” Elizabeth Cotton
8. “I May Hate Myself In The Morning,” Lee Ann Womack
9. “Radio Lab” on WNYC
10. Sound Team, Movie Monster

This was also inspired by seeing Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond list her top ten favorite songs (via Music Is Art).

(See also the Decemberists’ favorite things, though a certain TMN T-shirt goes unmentioned.)


* * *


We recently went to a birthday party where I discovered how easily I can be hypnotized by Daddy Yankee. The party was held in the backyard of a friend’s house in Bed-Stuy and she wasn’t messing around—pro DJ set-up, catering, Astroturf, cocktail tables, many candles and an outdoor sofa and plants, and then the fact that more than half the guests, like the birthday girl, were professional modern dancers.

Not that I was intimidated. But at one point no one was dancing except me. The DJ had switched to reggae, or what sounded like reggae but was more up-tempo and skuzzy, and I was by myself eating chicken wings when I realized my thighs were involved in some high-stepping motion. My head nodded, my arms swayed up and down like a show dog’s legs loping forward. I was possessed. I thought, Excuse me, drum major? You are embarrassing yourself and your wife. But then I noticed the birthday girl’s boyfriend, in from Philadelphia, standing in front of an eight-foot-tall speaker, doing the exact same dance.

This song was neither played nor is it in any way Reggaeton, but it would have fit the party:

» “Smile a Lil Bit” by Oh No, featuring Posdunos (via So Much Silence)


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P.S., About those ten favorite music things, I’ve already changed my mind about half of them (how did I forget to include U2? Renee Fleming singing Strauss? “Semi-Charmed Life”? Oasis? Lovers Rock?), but Dylan and Cash remain.

» Many songs performed by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash (via Little Radio)

biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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