A Should-be Classic: Tegan and Sara’s The Con

About four years ago I was renovating a house myself—doing tile-work, demolition, painting, you name it—and commuting a lot. In my car, I listened to the radio; in the house, headphones. When I was actually in my office to talk to students I was, for better or worse, usually exhausted, a bit over-caffeinated and still vibrating with whatever music I found compelling that week. During one of the meetings, a quiet girl told me she was going to a major music festival in our region. I said I was going too. She asked which band I was most excited to see. I turned into a teenaged girl from New Jersey.

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The best album of the last decade (?)

I have written before about the difficulty of making judgments—of the extent to which a value judgment is the reflection more of the character and taste of the critic rather than objective worth. We can try to create criteria to make our judgments seem more objective. We frame objects in historical terms (this album is important for its influence or as an example of its time) or for comparative worth (this album is different from anything else around it).

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The Best Defense is a Good Offense? To Emo or Not-Emo

This is a post of uncertainty. It is about a genre I think I know nothing about. Ignore it, if it seems senseless; set me right, if you know more.

Earlier I mentioned suffering reproach at the hands of a man with tattoos in his mouth for liking Wilco; during the same party I was also accused of liking Emo, as if this accusation alone could strip someone of any pretensions and aspirations of ‘coolness’. Years later, I still occasionally hear students mocking others for being ‘Emo’. At times I mock the Younger J for excoriating a girl for liking, nay, for being, Emo. Here’s the problem with these experiences: I have no clue what Emo is.

Aside 1: To the Younger J, your post is a fine illustration of why your success with the fairer sex has been rocky—your irascibility! One must sublimate the baser aspects of oneself for romantic accomplishment. Yes, I know you’ll claim that such an act is disingenuous, but I have a further claim: affiliations with social constructs like Emo, or in your case, not-Emo, are only skin-deep. Maybe the Emo girl was something more than her musical tastes; her avoidance of you certainly speaks of some integrity.

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Musical Attitude

“Music is my Aeroplane”

Everyone feels differently about music, what we will today call one’s “musical attitude”. I don’t think any one person feels exactly the same about it as any other person because, like anything else, we all experience it differently. Everyone has different memories of certain types of music or specific bands/songs and this tunes elicit emotions of those memories.

For instance, I associate emo music with lame dudes and morose girls from high school who were always depressed for no apparent reason. I know emo just means “emotional” which all good music should be, but I mean the dudes wearing eyeliner and tight jeans and whiny music by dudes who look the same as their fans. They were commonly straight middle class with fair to middling post high school prospects and who seemed to always have more girls around than I did which obviously pissed me off. In particular, I hated this band Dashboard Confessional and their hit song “Hands Down” which has the chorus “My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me so why don;t you kill me”. I mean c’mon, this is schmaltz , same as the kids I perceive as fans of this. But I digress and trashing on emo kids is not the point of this essay.

My musical attitude was formed like everyone else’s, through different life experiences. Much of my own comes from old people I was lucky to have around who were full fledged musical snobs, albeit seemingly well-versed snobs. My brother, perhaps my greatest musical teacher, outlines his snobbery in a funny piece about the song “Nookie”; basically he always has been against anything popular and strove to find random music that no one else has heard.

I don’t take it to this extreme but I respect the fact that he created for himself this stance and has maintained it as long as I can remember. He played me everything I liked up to the edge of 14 or so when my hippie neighbor took over. (I will get into that in a later entry.) It’s safe to stay that the foundation of my musical attitude comes from hours of listening to and talking about music with these two people who liked at least something from nearly every genre in existence. I like a lot of different music and can tell you very specifically why I don’t like something. Such as emo, which I dislike due to the fact that I think it’s too whiny and also because it seems like punk with no balls. Also, the general demeanor kids I thought liked it as I mentioned above.

So, it’s people who influence what you like, but it’s also the little things.  I first heard “Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams Sr. in a scene from The Shawshank Redemption and have forever since been enamored with Honky Tonk Country and the pedal steel guitar. I used to make out with my college girlfriend to “Freebird”, so I am very into Skynard. I spent a good part of high school hanging out in trailers across my rural hometown listening to gangster rap so the first vinyl  I ever bought was The Chronic by Dr. Dre. I could go on endlessly with these examples but don’t need to as my point is made. We all associate music with other little things that make up who we are.

I am a musical snob and that would best describe my musical attitude. But not in a way that I’m trying to be a dick, rather that it’s something I am very passionate about and try to express that as often and as enthusiastically as I can. Let me explain. After having a few good older folks and multiple life experience develop my taste in music, I attended a major public college in the Northeast that had a vibrant musical scene and thousands of like-minded young adults trying to figure out who and what they were going to be in life. The best friends I made in college were those who were as passionate as I was about music, the same folks with whom I attended hundreds of concerts over my time in school. I had the best experience I could have there and it mostly had to do with music.

I’m snobby about music because I’ve spent and will spend countless hours listening to music, talking about music, reading about music, writing about music, learning to play music and the million other ways it is a part of my life. I don’t even think snobby is the right word because it has a negative connotation and I only try to share my thoughts on musical subjects for positive reasons of illuminating other people with things I’ve picked up over the years. I assume that other people, like myself, want to learn new things from social interactions and this assumption is very often off-base. People think you’re getting all high and mighty with them and showing off what you know; thus, you’re being a “snob”. This is unfortunate for reasons I just stated but ultimately you’re either going to be a snob to them or you will connect.

I’ve tried to nail down my musical attitude here and I think I have. I love music and I hope it shows. I spend almost every waking moment with some type of tune in my head and I will know something’s wrong when that stops. Our motivation for writing this blog is connected to the same philosophy I just laid out, of being deeply passionate about something to the point of needing to share it. Maybe it’s an ego thing too but, honestly, I hate anything remotely snobby and wish I had a better term for describing my musical attitude. So it goes, I’m not trying to win friends and influence people, I’m trying to express myself.

Post Script: Ok, so I only really have one good story with rejecting a girl, or rather causing her rejection of me, due to a musical judgement. I judge people constantly by their musical taste. I won’t deny it as I feel no need to deny it. There are a lot of ways people judge other people and most of them are a lot more inflammatory than one’s musical taste.

It was the first semester of my third year of college and I was looking for a new girl when I ran into an individual we will call JG, as in “Jersey Girl”. I invited her to my room, we cracked a beer, and started in on what we liked for music. After a solid stream of verbal diarrhea on my part, she named off numerous bands I took to be “emo” bands. Intelligent with women as always, I leapt up and exclaimed “You’re an emo kid!”, probably accusingly pointing my finger her way. JG also sprang up, but more to move towards the door than to counter my persecution of her musical taste. She never looked me in the eyes again and I lived in the dorm with her for a year. Luckily, I got back with my old girlfriend but I never forgive myself for this brash behavior. Whatever though, she was an “emo” kid.