Friday, February 22, 2008

A Sad and Happy Story of Multimedia and Web 2.0 Serendipity

It all started a year ago, when John Green won the Printz Honor Award for Young Adult Fiction for his incredibly wonderful book An Abundance of Katherines, and someone writing about it linked to the daily vlog John was doing with his brother; his entry for the day was a clip of him getting the call telling him he had won. It was pretty funny, and then I kept going back to the vlog, Brotherhood 2.0, and, like many other people (many of them teenagers, but another big clump of them grownup librarians and book people like me) became completely hooked.

Last June, John's wife got a job in Indiana, and they got ready to move. The post in which he said goodbye to New York and to his favorite walk in the city was one of the most poignant pieces of film or video I have ever seen, and it kept staying in my mind, and I watched it over and over (I'm sure it's not entirely un-germane that I was also leaving my longtime home around that time), which means that I also listened over and over to the song to which he'd set the video, which he identified later in comments as "Love Love Love" by a band I'd never heard of, The Mountain Goats.

I liked the song so much that I went looking for the song online, and put the album on which it appears, "The Sunset Tree," on my Amazon favorites list, which I do have but rarely update because really at heart I am an independent-bookstore girl and anyway I try not to buy books as we already have too many, besides which we have access to four or five different library systems among the three of us. So mostly my Amazon list consists of CDs and DVDs that I wanted two or three years ago and never got around to deleting, along with a standing wistful request for Godiva chocolates. But every year around late November the Renaissance Woman reminds me that I might want to put some things on it that I actually want, as someone might be trying to buy me something for the Holidays. So this year I put up The Sunset Tree and not much else. And RW bought it for me.

And as often happens with new CDs, because I am about twenty years past the age at which the average person's brain can easily accommodate new music, I opened it, listened to the one song I already knew, tried to listen to the rest but had a hard time getting into it, and forgot about the whole thing.

Which brings us to two weeks ago. When, who knows why, maybe a case of early spring fever, I picked up the CD from the pile in which it had been moldering since late December, blew off the metaphorical dust, and put it back in the CD player to listen to while I did the dishes.

And at that point the album (can we still call them albums? Is that allowed?) hooked its little aural hooks into me and would not let me go, and we became inseparable. I took it out to the car to listen to during my commute, and I memorized the songs and sang them to myself, and
I analyzed them and spent quiet interstitial moments thinking about John Darnielle's life and the story he's telling (it's a concept album, mostly about him being miserable during his adolescence--which was a while ago; I think he's about my age--and the abuse he endured from his stepfather. But it is much, much better and less self-pitying than that brief description implies). Just in the past couple of weeks, I have had a half-dozen different favorite songs from the CD, which play on an endless loop in my head.

And, of course, this being 2008, I Googled the band. For song lyrics, for reviews, for interviews and biographical information. I found out that the confessional nature of this CD is actually atypical of the band; that they've had a cult following for the past fifteen years or so; that Darnielle's mom was actually okay with the album, though it made her cry, but his sister had a harder time with it. All very interesting.

But the one thing I didn't check up on was the tour schedule. Until just a half hour ago, randomly, when I was having trouble falling asleep.

Guess where they played tonight?


I mean, what are the odds?

I wouldn't think they come out here that often, either.

My only consoling thought is that I've actually been sick for the past couple of days and have struggled just to get through my basic obligations, and that if I'd known in time to consider going, it would only have been a source of torment to me, because really I'm in no state to be going anywhere, not even the children's literature conference that I'm scheduled to attend tomorrow and for which we have called in major favors so that the Mermaid Girl can be looked after, as RW is working tomorrow as well. Also, it is true that I hardly ever go anywhere anyway, even to see bands I already know and love.

Perhaps it simply was not meant to be.

But, still!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That is serendipity, and I'm sorry you didn't get to go - especially without stress.

I have never had listening to new music come easily to me, and that which IS easy to listen to ends up being not-my-favorite in the long run. So I know that discovery and sudden love and commitment to something you've already heard. It's always been strange to me, that musical wooing, and I can never catch the point that it turns from noise to more! - Arwen

1:43 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Arwen, yes, me too! I still like "love love love" but it seems kind of surface-y and obvious compared with some of the other songs on the album which I have come to love. Sort of like how the summer I worked at an ice cream parlor, I came to really appreciate that hit of bitterness in the pistachio flavor; the others all seemed too sweet to me after a month or so.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I have three albums of his, but not that one. Must buy it on your recommendation, though.

8:06 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

I'd love to hear what you think of it, Phantom. And they're heading to your neck of the woods in a few weeks, too!

8:30 PM  
Blogger S. said...

Hey! I just downloaded that one about two weeks ago, on the strength of two of his songs from other albums that Phantom had sent me--but I've only listened to it once b/c my attention has all been stolen by Bishop Allen (I recommend both Charm School and The Broken String.)

It generally takes me a couple of listens to take in a new album, too. I'll get to work on that one!

10:16 AM  

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