Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ALTERNATE REALITIES: Yesterday I went into my usual Starbucks and it took me a moment to notice that it was the store stereo, and not my iPod, that was playing Elliott Smith's exquisite "Waltz #2." You know that feeling you get when you unexpectedly hear a moderately obscure song -- not necessarily unknown, but also not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear on the radio or covered on Idol -- that you love? It feels almost personal, like Starbucks or Shonda Rhimes or Josh Schwartz secretly dug deep into your musical fossil record, past the .aacs and the .mp3s and into the CDs, maybe to the ones you bought in longboxes, and maybe even to the vinyl/cassette strata. In the back of my head, I know that before the music reaches my ears it's wrung through a complex algorithm where art and nostalgia are only two of the inputs and commerce is several, but still. Great feeling.

Today I went into my usual Starbucks and it was playing a woman's falsetto reggae version of Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." I guess the best gifts are precious because they're rare.


  1. Well-said. I heard Ben Folds' "Emaline" at Target the other day and had much the same reaction--also, you're singing along in your head while at the same time realizing that there's a 99 percent chance no one else in the store could be.

  2. Jenn.2:12 PM

    Totally true.  It happens occasionally, and always floors me.  One that struck me was that I was walking into a Macy's, of all places, and an Erin McKeown song was playing.

  3. Maddy2:26 PM

    Waltz #2 is possibly my favorite song ever.

    On a mildly related note, does anyone else feel really cool when they recognize a song on a tv show with good music selection?  I'm always sort of proud of myself when I hear a song that I know on Chuck.

  4. Tosy and Cosh2:29 PM

    Maddy - was just going to say the same thing. Why do I feel like I accomplished something when I know a TV song? I didn't do anything. Happens every time the opening credits of Parenthood play.

  5. isaac_spaceman2:35 PM

    Maddy and T&C:  I love that.  Happens most often on Chuck, somewhat less often (or used to) on Scrubs or Weeds. 

  6. Jenn.2:43 PM

    True.  Although for a while at the start of Season 1, it seemed like Chuck was simply raiding my ipod.  Which was nice.  But as I'm not used to popular culture and my musical taste coinciding, it was also very, very strange.

  7. Marsha2:47 PM

    Thank goodness Bill Lawrence loves Colin Hay or it would never happen to me. My taste in music is, shall we say, very very square.

  8. Robin6:23 PM

    I really like the song "Cathy's Clown."