Tuesday, October 12, 2004


I have too many CDs.
I have stacks and stacks and stacks of them
They keep piling up into skyscrapers of music, like a city skyline of plastic jewel cases.
I listen to most of them. In fact, I listen to as many of them as I can on regular rotation.
And people do ask, could you have possibly listened to all this music and my answer is simply, yes. I do, I have, and I will. I listen to certain albums depending on my mood and the time or the season. They're like outfits. White in the summer, darks in the winter, earth tones in the fall. Gentle in the morning, blasting at night. Then gentle again when I lie down to go to bed.
It's kinda organic. Like that restaurant you like in the East Village.

Nowadays, though, I find myself gravitating to two particular artists: Ben Folds, a gifted and rare talent, a pianist with a heart and a sense of humor, and Jimmy Eat World, a power-pop band that puts a great deal of effort into their blistering and most earnest compositions. Coincidentally, both do not get the credit or respect they deserve. Most often, snobs will simply blow them off for being too simple but that is not a fault. In fact, that's why they both mean so much to me. Listen to songs like "Not The Same" or "Gone" off of Ben Folds solo debut, Rockin' The Suburbs--they are both supremely poignant and bittersweet. "Gone" tells the story of a man who has moved on from a broken heart but still wonders, years later, how the perpetrator is. This is a weakness that most would look down upon. In this world of emotional detachment, we see expressive people who are able to embrace their emotions and upkeep them like a plant that needs watering as a weakness. "Magic" and "Mess" off of Ben Folds Five's final album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, are both underappreciated classics. With lyrics like "there are rooms in this house that I don't open anymore/dusty books of pictures on the floor/that she will never see...she'll never see that part of me," "Mess" is the sort of brutal honesty and delivery that we wish we could encounter on a daily basis. The twinkling harpsichord and the congo-like drumming along with a couplet like "things got complicated/my innocence has all but faded/oh, this mess I have made" speaks of an acceptance; that perhaps we have brought the drama onto ourselves. At the end of the song, the narrator speaks of the relationship and his desire to not make the same mistakes: "I want to be for her/what I could never be for you." The violins sweeping the background add to the chill-factor.

Incidentally, the song following "Mess" is "Magic." Perhaps this is intentional. "You're the magic that holds the sky up from the ground/you're the breath that blows these cool winds 'round/trading places with an angel row" are just some of the things the narrator of "Mess" wish he would have said to the woman in question. Folds is a classic songwriter, channeling the human condition in an unprecedented way (what other artist is doing today what he is doing) and telling us, the listener, that it is okay to be sappy, funny, sweet and expressive. Wounded and introspective. Life has its cries and laughs. In perhaps one of his sweetest and adoring songs, "The Luckiest," Folds sings "now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here...and I know that I am the luckiest." If you can't respect a sentiment like that and if you're rolling your eyes...well then, it must be pretty cold where you are. Wear a jacket.



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