Album #24, Ágætis Byrjun, Sigur Ros
The label of post-rock, or ambient indie rock seems largely meaningless to me now. This album demarcates a fault line. This record is a gaping hole, or chasm between music I heard about through record stores and live shows versus music I heard about on the internet. This seemingly banal statement is actually an unprecedented event horizon between the experiential world and a mediated world. Technology is funny that way.
I can say with no moral qualms, bands I learned about on the internet have provided equivalent enjoyment to the ones I heard about through the analog media.
Attending live music has been the great leveler for me and Laura. Nothing in my life other than paddling has as much oomph, or impact. The rules are simple. If you hear something you like, you show up and support the band live. You meet amazing people. You have an experience that is not mediated. It is untapped. You stand in the front row. You sing your guts out. You jockey for position, you bustle forward and back, your emotions rise to the timing of a communal experience. In the words of Lester Bangs, you drink ambrosia, and you sup on lightning. You are part of a time where a travelling band on a Wednesday night lives the dream. The experience is shared. That unmediated experience lies at the cornerstone of my life. I’ve lost countless hours of sleep. Driving crazy distances in search of that lightning. It’s cost lots of money. But I like to think the value for dollar spent has been worth it. I always think of people who have big houses, nice lawns, motor boats. But how many amazing bands did the guy with the perfect lawn see at small clubs in Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, or even more far flung places? That life seems very empty. Maybe our lives are better because we stood at the rail while those young gods pulsed, thrummed, and sung until the room bounced, hummed, and then broke into pieces.
Live music has shaped my life. I have massive anxiety. I have fear of missing out. If I hear about a band that came through town that I could have seen; my soul withers on the vine. I am the guy who tracks venues, tracks bands, and immediately buys tickets. This has both rewarded me and punished me. I’ve found myself front and center for completely sold out vibrating pants down shows where I was Johnny on the Spot. I’ve also found myself being one of 7 people present to celebrate middling punk rock bands and indie rock prima donna’s.
Demarcating music I heard about NOT on the internet, versus music I heard about on the INTERNET is NOT a knock on the music itself. It’s simply a nodal point in my history. We’d moved to a new house in Ferndale Michigan. Laura was pregnant with Isabella. I was very happy during this time. I was writing my second novel. The sound of the opening three tracks fueled my creativity in a way that I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. The sounds that came out of this album made me dream. It made me see my hometown in a different way. For me, this album is not Iceland. It is Detroit right as the Casinos changed it. This album is about the ice flowing through the Detroit river in winter between Windsor and Detroit.
I can’t go back and unhear what I heard. I don’t think I could re-xamine this album. It was the dawning of a new age. One where you had to pay attention or you just might miss it. I’ve been fortunate to see Sigur Ros many times. Each time was amazing. Pitchfork put together a short video of the story of the album.