Category Archives: nostalgia

Me: A Musical History

I love music.

I was a latecomer, not really developing an interest until I was in my early teens, and until I left for college, I listened to very little that didn’t come from the radio or thrift store tapes of artists I’d heard on my favorite station.

When I was 17, I left for college, and there came in contact with my first high-speed internet connection. I’d discovered Napster far earlier, but there was no comparison between picking one or two songs, waiting all night for them to download and then deleting them when it turned out they were just Donald Duck farting, and having the entire musical world at my fingertips.

My preferred poison was Audiogalaxy, where you could queue up entire discographies and wait for them to become available. Audiogalaxy was also my introduction to musical criticism, with articles posted several times a week about whatever album was tickling the editor’s fancy. I learned about Sigur Ros and their towering soundscapes, Neutral Milk Hotel’s lo-fi maximalism, and Okkervil River’s emotion-first approach to writing and recording. Okkervil’s Will Scheff was even a contributor.

File sharing wasn’t all that was broadening my horizons though. After reading a fawning review in USA Today, I went to Circuit City (RIP) and purchased Radiohead’s Kid A, which I hated and proceeded to skip through looking for “real songs”. I forced myself to listen to the album ten times in a row–after all, I’d paid for it–and had probably the biggest musical conversion of my life. After that, the radio and its band weren’t enough. I sought out music blogs, and discovered The Mountain Goats and Bright Eyes by reading Mitch Clem’s webcomic, Nothing Nice to Say. I made friends based on our shared musical tastes, including the co-founder of Fifty Books Project, Chris.

When I graduated from college, I found myself in a funk, stuck in a small town with all friends hours away. I started a job and my coworker, Eric, showed me his own music site, the now sadly defunct Firesideometer. This was a whole new approach: not only could I listen to music, I could get it for free, meet the bands, and be thanked for it. Eric, bless his objectivist heart, eventually handed the reigns of the site to me, and, along with a few other contributors, we resurrected the site, increasing its traffic 10x and discovering, and frequently meeting, lots of great bands who were and remain under the radar. Eventually, the grind of writing multiple reviews every week along with the time investment of sifting through the garbage for the gems led the site into hiatus, where it remained until our domain lapsed and the site was bought out from under us.

After the Ometer phase ended, I found myself with less time to listen to music. A girlfriend who eventually became my wife changed my life for the better, and now I’ve got a daughter, who I who I can guide through the musical landscape gracefully, and music became something to put on while I worked. Shows became largely a thing of the past, and I haven’t reviewed a record in years.

In spite of life and its crazy twists and turns, there is still, inside of me, a place that only music can touch. I can’t help but air guitar when listening to Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency and I, I still cry sometimes at OK Computer. When things are bad, I can crank up Bright Eyes, Tim Hecker, or William Basinkski. Wilco’s I’m the Man Who Loves You and Radiohead’s Videotape will always be wedding songs for me, and Ben Fold’s The Luckiest sincerely makes me remember how lucky I am. Air’s Talkie Walkie never fails to calm me, and remind me of the time I listened to it on repeat while on a nighttime bus ride in the Philippines. Nick Drake plays guitar how I wish I could. And if none of these ring your bell, there are thousands of others, songs I have loved and forgotten, songs I have hated and still remember. I still get a chill when I hear something new, still a little buzz of being in the inner circle when a no name band surprises me with brilliance. Music is no longer the only thing in my life, but there is very little of my life without music in it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.