The Tweets
The Tweets

Entries in Music (5)


Apple (Music) is making me love it (music) again… a love letter from a lazy technophile that's really about something else

While this is incredibly late to be relevant anymore, I'm hoping this is far enough removed from relevance to avoid most of the "fanboy" tags from being thrown my way.

I love Apple Music, and it's really because I've become lazy in my old age. Oh, and because podcasts.

Let me explain. The main reason I realized that some kind of music service was for me happened on the day I realized that I was a) listening to podcasts exclusively and b) it was turning into a bit of a chore. The whole reason I love podcasts--yes,still in the present tense--was that it was an enjoyable way to get informed, be entertained or just spend an hour (or two, if you're listening to Never Not Funny or the Todd Glass Show). When it got to the point that I was slogging through things just to get through them, I knew that there was a problem. Part of it is my "completest" disease, but that's another story.

The other thing that came to mind is that I couldn't remember the last time I heard a song that wasn't playing in my own head. That really hit me hard because music was the podcasts of my youth. I wouldn't leave my house without a walkman, discman--later MP3 player, iPod and iPhone--in my bag or clipped to my belt. Yeah, I was that cool. So many of my memories, both good and bad are forever and inexorably linked to songs and albums.

Ironically, it was a podcast (TOAP) that really reminded me that I needed to find some way to fit music back into my life. I started to institute a rule for my weekday listening experience: Podcasts on the morning commute; whatever you want to listen to during the day; music on the afternoon/evening commute. Because there is a never ending rabbit hole of both podcasts and music, this has worked out well for me, and to my surprise, I've rarely broken the rule except when I feel the onset of podcast fatigue or alternatively if there's an amazing episode I can't wait to listen to coming up that only shows up in my feed at 2:00PM.

But I'm getting slightly off track; this was supposed to be a fanboy gushfest about Apple Music. So to undercut everything from here on out, if I wasn't all in on the Apple Ecosystem, this would probably be about Spotify or something. But I am, so it's not.

While incredibly easy, the biggest selling feature isn't the fact that I can search for any song that comes into my head, and there's a 95% chance that I can find it and add it to my library. Nor is it that everything is remembered/saved in the cloud so I don't have to physically (digitally) have the song to have access to it. What I love are the playlists: Playlists created by real people that actually make sense and take me back to 1997 or 2003. Playlists that I can trust will take me back to 1956 if I want.

Not that I'm incredibly important or anything, but I honestly don't have the time to recreate a skate punk mix that will remind me of the times I would sit on the asphalt of a skating rink turned basketball court in July listening to "The Bag," waiting for my friends to show up for a pick up game, but a quick scan of the plethora of playlists available to me, I can come pretty close to finding one in a few clicks and swipes. Curation is a wholly undervalued skill; something that I would love to do if I could make a living off of it, mostly because I wouldn't have time to do anything else.

In a (read: my) post radio world, I'm just very happy to have a place where I can still discover both old and new music, listen on my terms and not sacrifice some of my other audio based forms of entertainment after which I can easily share with friends and jumpstart a dialogue with another real human being in the real world?

And isn't that one of the best ways to use our innate selfishness for good?


Insert clever song lyric here

Media consumption in 2014--for me anyway--has become more complicated as the ways to consume have gotten easier, or at least more convenient.

Podcasts are great, but when you subscribe to too many of them, it takes almost all day, every day--excluding weekends--just to keep up. This leaves precious little time for music, TV, movies... or actual human interaction. I was actually stressing myself out trying to listen to everything, which is the exact opposite reason why I listen to podcasts.

I don't know why it took me so long to realize it, but just like there's no way to see every news story, read every book or watch every tv show in existence, I can't possibly be expected--by who, exactly, I'm not even sure--to listen to all episodes of the small sampling of podcasts that I subscribe to.

So here's my crazy plan: I will choose a list of no more than ten podcasts that are "must listen." These I will make a point of hearing no matter how long it takes. These are the shows that are the most entertaining, informative, and the ones I'll feel actual guilt about not hearing. Everything else I'll do a clean every Sunday and delete any episodes that I haven't gotten around to in that week (I figure that downloading them in the first place help out the artist with their download numbers, thus helping in my tiny way to keep the podcast alive).

Caveats? It's me, so of course:

  • Any supremely interesting guest, or topic I can keep for a while
  • Any time I'm actually on vacation or travelling, podcasts released in that time frame get carried over to when I'm back to my "normal" schedule again.

To answer your question, yes, I am this neurotic. It carries over into most aspects of my life, sometimes in very strange ways.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm actually listening to good old fashioned music as I write, so I guess you could say it's paying off already.


Anachronism, Chicago punk rock and New England horror stories

Through the sometimes mad genius of shuffle, I heard a song today that I hadn't heard in a while (Calling All Skeletons by the Alkaline Trio to be exact, but that's not fundamentally important to the story). The interesting thing is that this song, and the entire album it's from reminds me of the Stephen King novel The Stand.

A little background: Irony and Agony (the album the song in question is on) came out in 2008; The Stand was originally published in 1978 (a year before I was born for those not paying attention to the subtitle of this website) and I first read it sometime in the early 1990s.

So why, exactly, are these two things joined at the hip in the recesses of my mind? Well, in the year 2008 I had purchased what was then the latest Alkaline Trio album and was listening to it on my daily commute. As I've been known to do, I would also read at the same time. Some might say that that would be counterproductive and would split my concentration. To these people, I would politely ask that they not pretend to understand the means I use to survive my (week)daily trek to and from my place of work.

...but back to the topic at hand. I'm also the type of person who will re-read favourite books multiple times. I had just gotten though one such cycle of re-reading and there didn't happen to be any new books on my radar at the time. So I culled my ebook collection and I stumbled upon this forgotten gem. Since it had been somewhere around fifteen years since I had read it, my aforementioned split focus leaned heavily towards the book and not the new album in my ears. 

I also go through phases where I listen to entire albums as opposed to having an endless shuffled playlist; sometimes I'll even listen to one album for a period of time.

Thus, the perfect storm was born. While this album seeped its way into my subconscious, I got reacquainted with and old (inanimate) friend. Unbeknownst to me, my mind was already creating links between the two; plot points and lyrics, melodies and emotions. It wasn't until months later, when I heard one of the songs again, did I realize that it reminded me instantly of one section of the book that I thought I had forgotten. I could now tell you exactly how this makes sense; how there actually themes that intersect between the two. Whether I'm right or full of shit doesn't matter. My brain was working on rationalizing this connection well before I was consciously aware of it.

Now, I realize that none of this is unique or particularly noteworthy in and of itself. What struck me as particularly noteworthy how this relates to the human connections that we make.

It might seem natural that when you meet someone and you can connect over a cartoon you saw when you were young because "that's what everybody watched when they were seven." But that's not necessarily so. There are so many people and so many things that we could all be doing at the same time that it is truly remarkable to meet someone who had the exact same experience with something, or if you're really lucky, many of the same things.

There is so much out there for us to consume that we can't all expect to take it all in as soon as it becomes available. There are movies, music and books (among other types of art and entertainment) that I have just been introduced to that have been around for years, not to mention what's out there that has been available longer than I've been alive.

For me to connect with one of my best friends over Welcome Back, Kotter in 2006 is really quite incredible if you think about it. We're close to the same age, but there are still a handful of years separating us, and this particular show was off the air before either of us were born. Sure, the show and quotes from it are in the zeitgeist, but I couldn't tell you how many references I use every day that are met with blank stares.

So, in the spirit of looking on the bright side of life (one example of a reference that people I know don't always know exactly where it comes from *cough*Python*cough), just take a look at your significant other--or one of your close friends--and reflect on some of the things you have in common and just how amazing it is that you were actually able to meet this person who shares a weird connection with a thing that someone you never met created for people that they will never know.

Sometimes I even surprise myself with how disgustingly optimistic I can be... and how I don't hate it.


Sometimes it's nice to feel old(er)

Too many times in a day I'm reminded of exactly how old I am. Regardless of the advantages of being an adult, I don't always need to be reminded of exactly how much of an adult I am (we're talking pure years lived of course; I'd like to think that I'm still a child at heart, at least some of the time).

That's why it's so nice when something comes along to remind you of something you loved from your childhood while not sending you into cries of "that was HOW MANY years ago?"

Frank Turner's most recent compilation album, The Second Three Years, has quite a few covers on it, but they're so personal and unique that they're almost like a love letter to the original song (end sappy gushing, now). Listening to his cover of NoFX's Linoleum, for example makes me look fondly back at that awkward time when I was in high school, as opposed to lamenting it (or even worse, lamenting the time lost between then and now).

I've started to treat my past as something of a Cub Scout (shout out to my former pack from your Second) uniform, proudly wearing merit badges that make up the sum total of your scouting experience. Owning your decisions; who you are and who you've become is shockingly freeing (and disgustingly cliché).

I'm just happy I havent become so completely cynical and I can still like things, my past included. Take that, hipsters!


Relevance is Relative

Because I'm so comfortable with the topic, let's keep going on this Podcasting metaphor. While the point of this blog is to track my struggles in staying "relevant" as I get older, I'm not telling any tales out of school when I say that this is a very non-specific goal.

Relevant to who, exactly? I happen to be very plugged into the comedy segment of podcasting, but there's a whole world of podcasts that I have at most a cursory knowledge of. Thankfully, I've gotten my "must complete the set" issue mostly resolved, otherwise my head would probably explode.

So I guess my definition of relevant is to stay current with the topics that I am, er, currently interested in. For example, I'm a nerdy guy, and I also love sports (not so much the politics of sport but again, another topic for another post) and as I grow older my reasons for loving what I love tend to evolve as well. When I was younger, it was easy to just immerse yourself in something and just soak it all up. That gets harder and harder as you get older; your worldview expands--hopefully--and there are so many more avenues for you to explore. My worst nightmare is to be one of those people who are stuck in the decade of their youth, yelling "get off my lawn" at young whippersnappers. I know a few of those people, and if it works for them, great. It's just a horror story for me.

I may not be in love with Pinterest, but I know what it is and how it works. Sure, I had to actually do some work and research to figure that out, but I'm glad that I can take part in discussions when the topic comes up. I'm always going to like what I like, and of course I'm going to defer to my generation for some things; I am only human after all. Interests will come and go (and maybe even come back again), but I feel it's important to update your viewpoint and not be stuck in the past with old opinions and predjudices. Some of your feelings might not change, but keeping that door open helps to keep things fresh.

The term Jack of all trades seems to have this negative connotation to it (maybe it has something to do with the "master of none" tagged on to the end), but I've always thought it was unfair. What's wrong with having multiple interests that don't necessarily intersect on the Venn Diagram of life? I've always tried to let my passions come to me as purely as possible and not dictated by what I should like given my past history.

Am I going to be able to go stat for stat with the Sklar brothers or quote for quote with a Simpsons fanatic? No, but at least I can stay in the game. And I guess I want to be a part of as many games as I can.