Weird New Pop, Vol. 2

There are two things that don't have to mean anything; one is music and the other is laughter.—Immanuel Kant

We can dance until we die.—Katy Perry

Track 6

While I certainly carry around my fair share of Puerto Rican Catholic guilt, I have never in my life felt guilt over music.

That is, when it comes to music, I believe there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I like what I like: George Michael, Elton John, Kiss, Survivor, Journey, Drake… It’s all just pleasure.

Yes, there have been many times when Mrs. Little has returned home from work to catch me mid-dance, unprepared, leaving me to race, frantically, to hit the "Stop" button or lift tonearm from groove. But these are not actions made in guilt. These are actilons made in deepest fear.

My wife’s patience and understanding run only so far. She, too, is human, and I listen to a lot of noise.

Track 7

John DeVore, Michael Lavorgna, and I were sitting around the barn, sharing with one another our recent musical discoveries. When it was my turn to occupy the red Eames chair and take control of the iPad, I selected Puce Mary and cued up Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Katie Gately, and Shackleton.

The music played.

"So," someone said, "what do your wives say when you play this sort of music?"

A hesitation, consideration, shaking of heads followed by silent understanding.

"Yeah."

Track 8

In a recent article for TheRinger.com, Kate Knibbs argues that Spotify’s privacy modes should default to the highest possible setting, thereby relieving users of the potential embarrassment associated with broadcasting their musical selections to friends and followers. While I share the opinion that some things should be expressed in person or, better yet, not at all, I find Knibbs’ stance on Spotify, specifically, and on listening to music, in general, severe.

She does admit, "I tend to think of listening to music as a passive, private activity"—which is an entirely reasonable statement, one that clearly represents a particular relationship with music and, as such, allows for diversity of opinion and experience. But Knibbs continues: "While the social aspect of Spotify is fun, the assumption that most people want to broadcast every song they take in is strange."

"Strange" here seems to be an injudicious word. Certainly, Spotify might find great value and insight in such data—if properly and thoroughly explored, it could be a marketing and analytics goldmine—while the additional user engagement it encourages is obvious: I am merely a click away from David Hyman’s listening room. Former CEO of Beats Music, MOG, and Gracenote, David knows a thing or two about sharing music.

What’s strange about that?

Knibbs cuts deeper: "In what twisted universe do most people want their friends to know what music they’re playing?"

Jeez, Kate. How about my twisted universe?

Track 9

Kate Knibbs is serious about this. She would prefer her music selections and listening habits to be kept private. It’s quite possible that Knibbs and I exist at opposite ends of a spectrum. Like her, I had only recently discovered that Spotify shared my listening habits with those in my social network. Unlike Knibbs, however, this didn’t upset me at all. I tend to think of listening to music as an extremely active experience—one that is, by far, best shared. In fact, I remain the type of strange, twisted individual that actually wants to share music with the world.

Apparently, a lot of my friends do, too: As I type, Nicole is listening to "Goods" by iamamiwhoami, Vera is listening to "Someone New" by Banks, David is listening to "Café Petite Chatte" by Bernardino Femminielli, Kristin is listening to "Dead Flowers" by The Karl Hendricks Rock Band, Adam is listening to "Lamb’s Lullaby" by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 (which is so Adam), Steve is listening to "Angel" by Jimi Hendrix, Peter is listening to "Separate Ways" by Journey (ha!), Zach is listening to "Midnight Creeper" by Lou Donaldson (because Zach is extremely cool), and Beth is listening to "For Stormboy" by Rhiannon Bannenberg (which is surprising, but shouldn’t be).

And, yes, as indicated by the parentheticals above, my friends’ listening habits are subject to my own prejudices and limited perspective. My understanding of people, what they do, and what they want is at least partially formed by the music they listen to and share. It is now and was so long before Spotify.

Someday love will find you.

I try not to tease—after all, a person who feels no guilt has no business attempting to shame—unless, of course, we’re talking about the Eagles. (And here is where I would, if indeed I could, link to Episode 1 of "Audiophile Dudes," in which Michael Lavorgna and I poke fun at so-called "analog-sounding" DACs and that most worn-out of all audiophile standbys "Hotel California"—ironically, the most abused song ever written and recorded, and only moderately less offensive than that unlistenable dreck from Train, the worst pop song of all time, "Play that Song.")

Track 10

As I considered Knibbs’ argument, I pressed Play on "Bouff Daddy" from J Hus’s exciting debut full-length album, Common Sense. Between skittering hi-hat patterns and a bass line that grips, grabs, and relentlessly tugs, J Hus rhymes atop a highlife guitar:

I know one thing for certain
You better keep your eyes peeled, I’m lurking

The Internet is watching.

Of course, it’s also entirely possible that my friends neither know nor care about Spotify’s privacy settings. Still, there is an extremely large group of people that have spent their entire lives with (and within) the Internet and are now establishing themselves in the workforce. They’re brilliant, ambitious, and complex. They hate writing, but all they do is text. We call them Millennials, I guess.

In Issue 33 of the online audio journal, Copper, Bill Leebens shared news of a messaging app that allows users to include bits of music with their images and text. From the press release:

[Eli] Aizenstat, the 24 year-old entrepreneur of Beatshare, points out that millennials listen to three hours of music per day and send on average a constant flow of 120 daily messages. Beatshare unites the two. Sharing a Beat with a friend connects them with the sender’s now. It’s not a tired old selfie, so one-dimensional. A Beat is a dynamic clip layered in sound, sight and emotion. The ease of use and integration represents a breakthrough in communication with the potential to rock the way mobile junkies who are crazy about music interact.

You used to call me on my cellphone.

Is it true that Millennials listen to three hours of music each day? If so, yay Millennials! I salute you.

It’s also interesting to think about our collective preoccupation with the present and its influence on our relationship with music. Social media tends to encourage the expression of fleeting thoughts, nurtures a form of communication untethered to the past, coerces its consumers into thinking that all experiences are presently shared simultaneously—in effect, a form of miscommunication.

Hashtag deep thoughts.

By the way, I want you to know that right now I am listening to and enjoying the living hell out of Loss’ beautiful, anguished Horizonless. And, yes, I do think you’d benefit from doing the same.

Obviously.

And now: The playlist.

Weird New Pop, Vol. 2

  1. Sevdaliza: "Human" (from Ison)
  2. Kelly Lee Owens & Jenny Hval: "Anxi." (from Kelly Lee Owens)
  3. ANOHNI: "Paradise" (single)
  4. Katy Perry & Migos: "Bon Appétit" (single)
  5. Forest Swords: "Raw Language" (from Compassion)
  6. Temples: "Mystery of Pop" (from Volcano)
  7. Future Islands: "Ran" (from The Far Field)
  8. Young Fathers & the Leith Congregational Choir: "Only God Knows" (single)
  9. ctress: "CYN" (from AZD)
  10. Brooklyn Youth Chorus: "Bubbles" (from Black Mountain Songs)
  11. Sondre Lerche: "Bleeding Out Into the Blue" (from Pleasure)
  12. Aldous Harding: "Imagining My Man" (from Party)
  13. Lana Del Rey & The Weeknd: "Lust for Life" (single)
  14. Chromatics: "Shadow" (single)
  15. Talaboman: "Safe Changes" (from The Night Land)
Bonus Tracks

Horizonless is not the type of music I would eagerly or intentionally share with Mrs. Little. It is exactly the type of music that would send me racing to hit the "Stop" button or lift tonearm from groove before its bestial growls distress her too deeply.

My wife and I interact with music in very different ways. I like to think about music while it’s playing. I expect to learn something from it. Mrs. Little simply wants to sing, dance, laugh.

However, because I do love to share music and I would like to fill our home with music that we both enjoy, I spend a good amount of time searching for music that I think my wife will like. Please don’t misinterpret this as some sort of weird play on Wife Acceptance Factor, in which we go to great lengths to rate the ugliness of an amplifier or pair of loudspeakers, only to buy them anyway. This is not that.

This is music that I genuinely hope my wife will like.

Full disclosure: I already know that she does, in fact, like a few of these songs. I’m not stupid.

Hashtag marriage.


Weird New Pop: The Mega-Mix (Tidal version!)
In response to popular demand (mostly Jeff Joseph), Weird New Pop is now available on Tidal.


Stephen Mejias has worked at Stereophile and AudioQuest. He now works to live—in Jersey City, NJ, with his wife, Mrs. Little, and two cats, Avon and Stringer.

COMMENTS
GarkM's picture

It's like I have a cool new radio station.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I'm so glad to hear you feel that way. Thanks for reading and for listening.

Kudalev's picture

Nice to read you again! It's like an old friend come back. Thanks for turn me on to new music.

Stephen Mejias's picture

My pleasure. Thank you for reading and listening! I'm very happy to be here. :)

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