Thursday, June 9, 2011

Opening my mind

But not with drugs. Unless you consider music a drug. A friend of mine, T, invited me to a concert for a band I'm not too familiar with called Manchester Orchestra. So why would I agree to attend a concert of a band I've never heard longer than 3 seconds?

Because an experience I had going to another concert. When I went to see Taking Back Sunday with my little sister, I couldnt get into the band beforehand. She burned me a cd and I just couldnt like their stuff. But I had to go to the concert because Christine was young enough at the time that my parents wouldnt let her go without me. And because I already had spent the money on a ticket. At the concert, I fell for their music. Then TBS became one of my favorite bands that summer. From that experience I concluded, some bands are just better live. And some are better when they've been doctored up in the studio (Black Eyed Peas, anyone?)

So Sunday night I say to T, "I guess I have one week to get into Manchester Orchestra." I was excited at the prospect. The first time I listened to them I was not hooked. I could appreciate a couple of songs for their musical qualities but they didn't catch my interest. Pensacola was one of the first I liked for its sound--not so much for the lyrics. T asked me what I thought of the lead's voice. It is very unique. I liked it. I also like the voice of the lead singer in Anberlin who also has a unique voice. And James Blunt. Some people are turned off by those types of voices. And trust me, there are voices of musicians out there that I simply cannot stand. Not the case this time.

I've known for awhile that it usually takes me a long time to like new stuff and I usually hate everything at the beginning. One of my most favorite bands right now, Muse, was a band I was unimpressed with at first.

I've listened to Simple Math every day (sometimes multiple times a day) this week. Monday and Tuesday, I was trying to force their style and sound into my little box. That wasn't working. I wanted to be in love with the lyrics but it just wasnt happening. T knows lyrics is one of the biggest things that drives me to particular songs. With him, not so much. He is more interested in the melodies a song has to offer. I think emotion can be strongly expressed in both ways, but one is a little more obvious than the other. Props to T for appreciating the unspoken emotion of a song. By Tuesday I felt like I was entering into an arranged marriage with Manchester Orchestra on Saturday. I was going to a concert of a band I didn't choose and I didn't want to back out. I wanted to make it work. But it was going to be a mystery as to what the band would bring to the arranged marriage. It wasn't like I felt dismay at the prospect of an arranged marriage. Just this feeling of, "ok, I'm going to make this work despite my preconceived notions."

Wednesday was a turning point for me. A couple of songs really started to stand out to me, like Pale Black Eye and Virgin. Pale Black Eye snuck up on me. It was toward the end of the song when I felt the emotion the lead singer was conveying as well as the music supporting him. As it ended I had to restart the song with this open-mindedness that I might actually like other parts and aspects of the song if only I looked for them. The song grew on me fast.  At first I didn't like Virgin because of how heavy it was and I typically gravitate to lighter styles like John Mayer or Death Cab. I could appreciate Virgin for what it was trying to do, but it didn't catch me. Kind of like how I can acknowledge Jazz music as good and talented without actually liking it. But Virgin grabbed me because of its predictable repetitiveness. Maybe it is a little too repetitive but it got stuck in my head. Then I started allowing myself to feel the emotion of it and then I loved it. I told T a few of the songs were actually starting to grow on me. I gave up on trying to be in love with the lyrics and just tried to appreciate the sound because thats what got me with Pale Black Eye. One of the reasons I had a hard time with this specific band is that I couldn't understand what they were saying half the time.

Today is when I was able to articulate the reasons I had a hard time with this album at first. I've learned from this experience that I'm pretty closed-minded about new music and thats why I usually don't like it at first.  I try and cram music into a box. I want it to sound a certain way. I want the structure of a song to follow a certain format. I have to fall in love with the lyrics. If it gets stuck in my head quickly, all the more better. I like music with predictable repetition. I've got to be able to sing along. But after listening to most of the songs several times, I've realized I have to read a little deeper into the lyrics to understand what they mean. I have to work at appreciating the message. I also did a little googling wed night to find some explanations by the band. Not every song is explained but hearing the central message of what Simple Math is about, I realize that there's a very specific context for some of these songs and its not blatantly obvious. And if you dont know what that context is, you are like a lost wanderer in a foreign land. Anyway, yesterday I accepted I couldn't expect to appreciate the songs based on lyrics alone. And today I realized these songs just dont follow a structure I'm used to. But when I started opening my mind do what they are (instead of what they aren't) I started to feel a new hope that I could maybe really like this band.

I'm still excited to see if they're awesome in concert on Saturday. Thats one question I had from the start and after this whole process this week, it still remains.

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