Thursday, March 29, 2012

Music Made Me - Part 18

Neon - John Mayer

I discovered John Mayer as a guitarist first. Yes, he was a singer/songwriter too, but for me it was his acoustic style that initially caught my attention. I scoured Napster for all sorts of bootlegs of his guitar work. Some of them were live recordings, some were apparently from this album. On Napster the metadata was always screwed so it was hard to know these things.

Shortly after this he released Room for Squares, which was so overproduced that it made me sick to my stomach. It wasn't until he redeemed himself with his next album that I was truly able to forgive and return to Room for Squares to pick out the goodies.

"Neon" is a great track to demonstrate what initially caught my ear. The riff in this song is incredibly powerful. And it comes across far stronger here than it does with the full wall of sound from Room for Squares.

When Will I - Monte Montgomery

It was definitely Dan that pointed me to Monte. We were playing a lot of guitar together, and sharing recommendations of awesome artists we came across. He said something along the lines of "OMFG, this will blow your mind". I'll probably never find the bootleg live recording of "When Will I" that did exactly that. I remember that it ended with a stunned silence and then someone saying "holy shit" before the recording cut out. The album recording doesn't do hit the same highs, but it's all I've got after my hard drive with all those Napster MP3s failed. And it's still pretty damned good.

Gravel - Ani Difranco

So Jessica listened to a lot of angry female vocalists. It’s similar to how she loves books and movies where everything ends in beautiful tragedy. Later I would be exposed to many other different sides of Ani Difranco, but in the beginning it was mostly just the angry stuff.

I have two memories related to Jessica’s Ani mix tape. The first is her singing along to this song in the car, a bit too emphatically for my tastes. I mean, you really don't want your girlfriend singing "I abhor you" in the car with lots of ambiguous pointing. Sure, it also turns into "I adore you", but that whole love/hate blend wasn't exactly what I was looking for.

The second memory is an argument. She's not wearing her seatbelt, and is refusing my pleas to put one on. I now have a vested interest in her safety, and mild discomfort is not an acceptable excuse. She's not budging, so I escalate. I take this cassette tape, her Ani mix, out of the stereo and threaten to throw it out the window if she doesn't put her seatbelt on. She tries to call my bluff, and I chuck it.  It’s lost forever.

I don't think I've ever lived that one down. It was one of her favorite mixes. But I did eventually get her to start wearing her seatbelt.

I was really conflicted about what track to nominate here. I had a pretty intense reaction to "Fuel" as well. It's this crazy rhythmic poetry… something. It's music, but not in any conventional sense. And it's very powerful. But in the end the image of that mix tape laying in the gravel somewhere won out.

White Ladder - David Gray

I had gotten so used to Jessica introducing me to female artists that when she first played "Babylon" by David Gray I thought it was a female vocalist. She made fun of me for quite a while after that.

We went to see him at Bumbershoot. We don’t go anymore, because it turns out all the other people at Bumbershoot are colossal pushy assholes. But I do remember that David Gray evening show fondly.

I love the B-side of this album. Basically from "Silver Lining" on there's this lovely cohesive stretch. I don't know why they felt the need to include a second version of "Babylon" at the end of the album, because otherwise the close would be perfect.  When you can finish off with an album that has “Goodbye” in the title, you should.

Into The Mystic - Van Morrison

There's something about this song that seems to capture the maturing relationship between Jessica and me. We were relaxing into the more serious thing we’d arrived at. I was getting along better with her parents. For some reason this song sounds like that time to me, but I can't pinpoint any specific reason why. It's sure a great song though.

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