Thursday, January 7, 2010

Y2K Flashback

I've been thinking this week about where I was ten years ago and what I was listening to at the start of the oughts. In Y2K I was wrapping up my English degree and spending lots of time with the Daedalus catalog, which, if you're interested, still exists in both web and catalog form. (In fact, out of nostalgia, I just requested the book, cd, and dvd catalogs.) I was renting the top half of an old house in Springfield, Illinois, for $300 a month, working at a picture framing store, taking care of my pet rabbit, Oscar, and doing lots of mail-order shopping because I didn't know what else to spend my money on. (I do not have this "unfortunate" money malaise these days.)

Daedalus was a catalog I discovered from my mom, who in turn discovered it from my brother. It filled a music void in my life created in the late 90s when grunge and alternative bands gave birth to truly wretched OffspringLimp Bizkit, Slipknot, 311, and Incubus. Tired of reading articles on Eminem and Kid Rock, I canceled my Spin Magazine subscription and started buying world music and jazz cds from musicians I'd never heard of. I spent most weekend afternoons playing 81/2 Souvenirs, the Buena Vista Social ClubSusanna Baca, and Cannonball Adderley as loudly as I could in my upstairs apartment, my bunny sitting on the window sill chewing a piece of timothy hay superciliously.

(c. 2000)

I was also fortunate at that time to be in control of the frame shop's sound system. And so I became a surreptitious dj, creating mxtapes for my shifts and observing customers to see if they tapped their feet in the store while flipping through the print bins or picking out mats and frames. It made my day when someone asked about the music.

These were my jazz/world music years. I remained stuck in this phase until around 2001 or 2002 when I moved to Chicago and realized music was good again. Thank you, Lin Brehmer and 93XRT. Between NPR and Brehmer, my daily commute became two hours of bliss.

(Elliott Smith)

In retrospect, I now realize there was a lot of good music being made in the late 90s, but I had no computer and no access to the Internet, and so I missed out on many seminal classics from Whiskeytown and Elliott Smith. I became a different sort of music snob—a completely geeky jazz and world music one—and had to start all over when I received a laptop from work and the ability to burn cds and explore iTunes. It was a whole new world.

(Harry Belafonte shakes, shakes, shakes senora.)

The first cd I ever burned features some Harry Belafonte mixed with Thom Yorke and Herbert. I was all over the map on that one, which actually makes that first cd a classic. I continue to throw a broad mix of music styles on my cds because it's just more fun. The only type of music I have yet to successfully integrate is classical: it tends to be recorded quietly and causes awkward pauses in the flow of a mixtape. It's too bad, really. I think I could handle some Erik Satie hovering between my Patrick Watson and Air France.

At times I regret my music coma in the late 90s and early 00s, but it wasn't exactly a coma. I ended up falling in love with music I might not have discovered for many years had it not been for Daedalus. Those were magic years when brown shipping boxes appeared on my porch full of cd wonder. And now I can't wait for my first Daedalus catalog in ten years to arrive so I can reopen the portal on worlds of sound.

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