Saturday, July 3, 2010

Collective Change

I've been listening to the band Animal Collective quite a lot lately. Oh, I've dabbled. They've always displayed an indie-weird vibe I enjoyed. But with last year's Merriweather Post Pavilion and the follow-up EP, Fall Be Kind, they're really coming into their own. I can't argue with Spin (and apparently a host of others) picking Merriweather as album of the year in 2009.

Which brings me to the point. And that point is, simply, change. Not the change that Animal Collective went through, but the change that I realize I must have gone through to say that an Animal Collective album is the year's best. And by extension, the change I see everyone goes through as their life progresses.

You have to understand... I've always been into music. Very much into music. I've published a music magazine, written a regular music column, DJ'd on college radio, and been to a zillion live shows. But while I was always open-minded, liking everything from jazz to Bollywood to punk to (some) rap, and (some) country, I've always leaned towards indie rock. Indie GUITAR rock. From jumpy, edgy, punk-influenced stuff like Five Eight and Superchunk, to moodier stuff like David Garza or Neutral Milk Hotel. Sure, I could appreciate the creative bombast of Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty, or the genre-bending of Moby's Play. But they never ranked near the top. They were just, well, fun. Indie rock was where it's at.

But as I sit here listening to Fall Be Kind, realizing there's not a guitar in sight, but an awful lot of slow-building -- dare I say, ambient? -- weirdness and sound effects, I wonder: how did it come to this?

One thing that comes to mind is how people change you. Not in a negative kind of way, taking you from yourself, but it the positive way that new people add to your life in ways you could never expect. When I met my wife, I thought "Man, we have so much in common! Even though we were in completely different places 10 years before (she a teenage punk and me a 20-something grad student), we were listening to all the exact same widely varied music, interested in the exact same subjects, and had the exact same off-key approach to life. Yet as I grew to know her better, I realized that she did have all of these exact same interests... but in very different ways. She could hear the same song -- a song that we each had listened to a thousand times before, before we knew each other -- and hear something completely different. She would be focused almost completely upon the vocals, whereas I would hear nothing but the guitar, the melody; lyrics were strictly optional. So, in essence, we were listening to the same thing, but hearing something completely different.

Because we were listening completeley differently.

And that's where the change comes in.

We change, and we grow, when we learn how to see, hear, and feel, things -- through other eyes. from other viewpoints. I think that's what Kristi has taught me. First, through music, and then, through the myriad facets of life. Going back to the music review analogy, I've always preferred bands that took chances, took in what they saw, heard, and learned, and then changed their sounds.

So I don't see why it should be any different from the listener's perspective. I don't see why it should be any different with people. Beyond just music.

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