Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category

Earth (and how I listen to music)

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Today I listened to the new Earth album, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 (Southern Lord, 2011), thanks to the stream over at

But any new Earth album had to start with a visit back to 2008’s outstanding The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord), my #1 record of that year. That album really captures a moment for me; I listened to it over and over when I was living in Los Angeles in January of 2008. It wasn’t the greatest time in my life: After a debilitating breakup, I just wanted to get out of town, so I accepted a couple of projects for my dayjob that sent me travelling for four months continuously, bouncing back and forth between northern Alberta, Canada, and Los Angeles. I thought that the travel would help– a change of scenery, an opportunity to get out of DC and my apartment and not have to see all the things that might stir up bad memories– but it had the opposite effect. I spent those four months completely numb (quite literally so: it was -40 F in northern Canada while I was up there) and disassociated from my friends and life back home. I have some fantastic friends in LA who kept me grounded while I was there, but living out of a suitcase for months at a time is never easy, and it’s certainly not the way to try to heal a bruised heart.

And then there was that Earth record. I listened to it over and over and over again in my little rental car (one does a lot of driving in SoCal, it turns out), and it channeled something for me. I couldn’t put it into words then, and I probably can’t now either, but it captured my attention and it calmed me in a way that nothing else to that point had been able to.

I’ve touched here before about how my listening habits changed when I started writing about music (check how I wrote about Silkworm‘s 2002 album Italian Platinum, here). That 2002-2003 timeframe is when I turned from a music fan into a serious music writer– and therefore, a music consumer– and the changes to my listening habits are huge. Albums released before that time conjure very specific memories: Spoon‘s Girls Can Tell (Merge, 2001) was the soundtrack to my move out of Texas; Britt Daniel might’ve written “Anything You Want” about a woman, but my ears hear my breakup with the city of Austin: I took my half of the beer with me when I moved to DC, and I still get a little choked up thinking about the traffic light on the corner by the (now-defunct) Sound Exchange. Songs: Ohia‘s The Lioness (Secretly Canadian, 2000) reminds me of a weekend spent in NYC with a boy I never dated (but probably should have), Low‘s I Could Live in Hope (Vernon Yard, 1994) got me through countless allnighters in college, and Soul Coughing‘s Ruby Vroom (Warner Brothers, 1994) gave me an escape from a miserable senior year in high school.

But now, I listen to music differently. I don’t get the luxury of listening to one album for weeks at a time; it’s now listen!-react!-moveon!, over and over and over again. I’m constantly asked for my reactions and thoughts on new albums– and I love having those conversations, don’t get me wrong, but keeping up with new music could be a full-time job; most days, I wish it were mine, but it’s not, which means I almost need to make even faster reactions since I don’t get to spend all my time on it.

What all this means, though, is that when I do make connections to albums, they become all the more intense. Back in 2008, even as early as January, there was no question that that Earth record was going to be my #1 album of the year; there may have been better albums released that year, but none was more powerful or meaningful to me than that one– music is all about capturing and evoking emotions, and that’s what that record does. Even when I listen to it now, though, I don’t think about the pain I was feeling at the time; instead, I hear only the calming effect that it had (and still has) on me.

I wish I could say that things have gotten better in the three years since I was living in LA, but this past January reminded me that some demons still cast their long shadows over the bruises that remain. Thank goodness, then, for another Earth record to pull me through the darkness into a calmer place.