23 June 2014

On not being able to say what you were looking for until you find it

It has to be sometime in 2012 and KEXP has begun playing some song what seems like nearly every morning. It's not an amazing song and I'm waking up to music at this point, so I'm listening to it half-awake at best. Some songs reliably give me goosebumps, others I will hear and feel mentally jostled. This song is not one of them. But as I'm walking to the gym one day, I find myself attempting to recall a different song. I can't. The only song I can pull up is that song I've been half-awake hearing every morning. It's not a bad song, I realize, and now I want to hear it again.

That day, I go home and look through KEXP's playlist for that morning, in the time I could have conceivably heard it, the hour after my alarm has gone off. I go through what seems like each song, putting the name into Youtube, listening to a couple of seconds, and finding none of them to be what I'm searching for.

But I'm by no means defeated, as this song has been playing every morning. Unfortunately, in the next couple of days I never hear the song again. The days become months.

At this point I'm occasionally whipped into frenzies where I can't get the beat of this song out of my head. Unfortunately, because I was listening to it so passively I have no idea what any of the lyrics are. I hum parts into websites that claim to be able to identify songs based on this. On others I tap out the beat on the space bar in further desperation. All of these endeavors are in vain.

And then I'm taunted. On a rainy day in Capitol Cider after a softball game I hear the song and ask the waitress if she can identify that song that's playing. She says the iPod connected to the speaker system is in a locked closet. Then I think I'm getting coffee one day and hear an acoustic version. I strain to hear a lyric that I can write down and search for. But the song is far too quiet. Then it's my birthday and I hear it. Several beers deep, I make it known that I need to know what this song is. Phones come out, but the loud bar defeats several attempts at Shazaming. It's discouraging. It's fucking discouraging.

And then, one day, at work I'm listening to KEXP and 

It's sometime in 2010 and I'm back in grad school, cooking. I'm listening to the radio. The radio market in Massachusetts is pretty lousy. It's nearly all bought up by media conglomerates that invest minimal effort and largely will play a very limited collection of songs over and over again. But I've found a station called WRSI that's at least not bad. One day they played Gimme Shelter and Reckoner back to back and that was pretty cool. On this day, WRSI played some enjoyable, funky song. I pay it little mind.

I got into Pandora radio a little after that and no matter what seeds I gave it, it would inevitably find its way to playing some song off of a Radiohead B-side called I am a Wicked Child. The more I hear it, the more I realize that the guitar part, with tempo and speed changes, would be remarkably close to that of song I heard one day on WRSI.

And that's where the addiction begins. I find myself regularly needing to convince myself that the song I heard wasn't just I am a Wicked Child misremembered. I go through grad school never hearing it again.

But then, in the spring of 2012 I'm visiting my parents. I'm sitting in the back of their car on the way to a restaurant and against all odds 

At some point though, I hear, of all things, a Lynyrd Skynyrd song that employed, again, a very similar guitar part. But unlike these other stories to this day it has eluded me. I've had the displeasure of listening to 30 second bits of so much Skynyrd, all without the desired effect.

It's frustrating. It's frustrating to be so hamstrung by a complete inability to describe music. Lyrics can be tough to grab in real time and transcribing music on the fly, well that's the domain of the very talented. But the beats, the rhythms, the sounds of the instruments remain embedded in the mind. But they're trapped in there, largely inexpressible.

So really what is there to do? You wait. You wait. And you wait more. That's all you can do.