I don't write about music a lot because I don't know what I'm doing. It would be like my trying to write about food in a critical or intelligent way, when all I could really muster is, "Have you tried that new restaurant IT IS DELICIOUS!" Same thing with music. It's not that I don't like either. Music and food are two of my favorite things. It's just that I don't feel I'm a qualified critic of, well, anything. Except maybe other people. So forgive me if this post is lacking in hip jargon but I did want to mention that last night we went to see Yo La Tengo, my supposedly favorite band. I say "supposedly" not because of anything the band's done. They're great. I say it because I haven't been a stellar fan. I've been too into NPR and old mixes I made in 2003 that turn up when I'm looking through our albums for actual good music. I listen to those CDs I made long ago, laughing at my taste in music, then secretly get really into it when I'm in my car, alone.
I first heard Yo La Tengo when I was a senior in college. They'd recently come out with the album "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out," and I recall the exact moment I put it on for the very first time, sitting on my bed, just listening. I'm not generally like this - the type of person who sits and puts something on the stereo and just listens. Puts something on the stereo and listens while maybe eating some cookies and playing with my dog and reading some emails? Sure. But not just sitting there like that. And that's how I knew I loved this band and wanted to hear all their music.
I don't know if it's because the band was formed by a husband and wife duo (Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, and by the way, at the concert last night Ira got so pumped that he broke a guitar and if that's not rock n' roll I don't know what is) but some of their lyrics really get to me - in a good way, reminding me happily of my own relationship. In one song, for instance, they sing about "our punchline" - all the private jokes a couple shares. In another, "On Our Way to Fall," Ira sings "I remember staring at my feet," when recalling meeting a person he eventually falls in love with.
In fact, J and I talked about Yo La Tengo the first time we met. I'm not saying we got together because of a band, but he'd just bought "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One," my favorite Yo La Tengo album, and we spent of a good deal of the first night we met - at a friend's wedding - talking about how much we both liked it, especially the song "Stockholm Syndrome," which is kind of funny, because that's definitely not one of those love songs I was referring to. It's actually a pretty sad song (this musical theme, so you know, persisted in our courtship: after drunkenly voicing our feelings for one another at the World Beer Fest in Durham several months after that wedding we got into a tricky situation on the way home - the car was packed so tight with our friends that I was forced to sit on J's lap, while "Love Bites" by Def Leppard played in the background...oh, and my boyfriend at the time happened to be driving that car, yeah, my boyfriend).
I've been a pretty sad example of a music lover lately. For one thing - and this actually isn't a problem for me - but I think that in all relationships one person ends up dominating every given situation. Like J definitely is more into identifying birds and talking about art than I am. I'm way more into enjoying a good bottle of red wine and discussing American literature than he is. And in the music category, J's kind of got me beat, I'll admit. He knows way more about music in general and is always on top of new bands and albums and a lot of times when we get into his car he's got one of these new albums blasting very loudly, like a true music lover tends to do. I do this too, don't get me wrong, I just do it less often, after I've fully exhausted my capacity as a nerd by listening to "All Things Considered" and "The Diane Rehm Show" for about four hours a day. And because I'm not on top of the music scene like he is, I don't know what to say when he asks me what I'd like to listen to on long road trips. This sometimes results in my telling him to pick "whatever you want to hear," and then my response to whatever he wants to hear is to roll my head back against the seat and sigh really loudly making it clear that what he wanted to hear? Not what I wanted to hear, despite the fact that I couldn't make up my mind.
Anyway, the point of all that is that I haven't really been into music lately, not like I have been at other points in my life, for instance, when I was when sitting on my bed my senior year mesmerized by the new music I was hearing. But yesterday I decided, since we were going to the concert last night after all, to put in Yo La Tengo's latest album. I'd given it a good, preliminary listen upon first purchasing it, but then had sort of let it fall to the wayside in favor of various downloaded podcasts or CDs I'd listened to three million times already. But when I put the album in, early in the morning on my way to yet another commissioner's meeting, I was instantly reminded of why they are my favorite band. Because one minute I'd been driving along, bummed out at the prospect of another annoying Monday and the next I was listening to music that made me really happy...and sometimes sad, and thoughtful, too, but good music can do that. Even better, I realized, I was going to see my favorite band play that very night. And the concert, of course, was amazing. So I think I'm going to take a look through the many, many albums I've amassed over the years when I've got some spare time - albums I haven't listened to in ages because I've simply been too lazy to find them and bring them back into rotation. I'm going to remember why I bought them in the first place. I'm going to listen to them really loudly in my car. .
You can listen to the song "Beanbag Chair" from Yo La Tengo's latest album here. It will make you happy. I promise.