In our minds, we group artists into different categories. There are our favorites, the ones we always listen to with the songs we choose to repeat. There are those one hit wonders who we look back to when stumbled upon, the ones we used to like but now seem insignificant, and then there are the ones that we mindlessly skip over. In our music collections, there are certain songs we never bother to experience with an intro we probably never listen to.
Though a favorite of many, Radiohead unfortunately had never really appealed to me, something I often found to be very ironic. Isn’t every Pitchfork reader supposed to worship at the feet of Thom Yorke? Frankly, I’d rather listen to music free of self-depricating lyrics, no matter how profound. However, when I took a second to put my pickiness aside, I allowed myself to judge the band by a little bit more than just their song on Rock Band (way too easy, just btw).
A few months ago, a friend made me several mix CDs, all containing very good music most of which I had not heard. To him, these CDs were just a part of his favorite playlist. To me, it was uncharted territory, mainly because I did not have any of the track listings. Though frustrated at first, this proved to be a blessing in disguise. Because I am cursed with a horrible case of music ADD, it was hard for me not to press skip after hearing the intro of every unfamiliar song. So often do I struggle to open up my mind to absorb the sounds that my ears hear. However, what is worse than simply disregarding a song due to an unfamiliar intro is not giving it a chance at all because I have condemned it music purgatory. Listening to these mix CDs proved that the only true treatment for this “downfall” (other than the patience that I unfortunately do not have) is anonymity. As I slowly went through the three CDs, I was quick to pick out my favorites. One song in particular stuck out among the rest. It was the type of song that overwhelms, takes you in so that it is the only thing that you experience so that you simply cannot imagine thinking about anything else but the syncopated rhythms taking you in and out. I couldn’t help but press repeat as the song continued to take over. It’s as though I was being forced to zoom in and out, to focus on individual beats while still hearing everything else, almost making myself dizzy. The thought of deciding what to listen to or choosing what to hear was out of the question as the sound directed me where to go. It was skipping, but staying in line, speeding and staying in control all at once. So many times would I come back to this song when I wanted to focus, to remain in one place when I really wanted to go every which way. Laying in the dark, it allowed me to stay collected, as everything came back to me at the same time before completely fading away. Even now, a little bit of the frustration fades away as I allow myself to be directed by what inspired the feeling in the first place.
The first time I listened, the song seemed the most beautiful it would ever seem due to the mystery surrounding it. Not knowing its name or the artist by whom it was inspired, I experienced a thrill every time I listened because part of me knew that if I had the original track listing I would have probably been hesitant to listen. However, it was a song unlike any I had ever heard. If I had not primarily forced myself to listen I would not have been so blown away.
The song was “Idioteque,” and I had chosen to listen because it was called Track 08 by Unknown Artist rather than being attributed to Radiohead, a band that I had always disregarded. Granted, this article wasn’t meant to express my distaste for Radiohead (with several exceptions). Rather, it is meant to express a point as well as to explain the by-line of this blog, “don’t be afraid to press shuffle.” So often do I judge a song simply by the name of the band or the album that it belongs to. Though not a bad thing, it does definitely narrow the scope of the music I allow myself to listen to. Similarly, I often fall into the trap of building “the best playlist ever,” which is often a flawed observation. In addition to the primary realization that no playlist is perfect, such a playlist condemns its creator to ignore the rest of the several thousand songs in his or her music library. Rather than learn my lesson the first time around, I constantly fall into the same trap, listening to and skipping the same songs I always do. For this reason, I submit myself to a “cleanse” every so often in order to discover and rediscover certain gems in my collection of music that I am so prone to ignore. Sometimes it just lets me giggle to myself about the music I used to listen to; however, every so often I find myself enjoying a song I would have otherwise not stumbled upon whether it be “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Radiohead (“In Rainbows”) or “Black Wave” by the Shins (“Wincing the Night Away”).
With music on shuffle it is often easy to be overwhelmed, as it serves as a distraction from what usually does take over. Sometimes, however, relief sinks in as I allow myself to take the backseat, so that everything around me can become like ambient noise, a quiet insignificant hum.
Everything in its right place.