This is a pretty uncharacteristic song for me to post on here, but I have to let this drop: I love Ray LaMontagne, and I have since the first time I heard him. There’s not really any larger intellectual reason behind the way I love his music, but I can put my finger precisely upon why I love it, and here is that reason. I love his music because it sounds like a synthesis of some of my very earliest musical experiences; namely, the albums my parents listened to when I was a youngster.
I know I talk about my parents a fair deal on here, and that’s because I think my parents are two of the coolest people I have ever met. Talking about my parents when I write about music is a fairly common theme of mine: one of my very first writings about music, a review I wrote in my high school newspaper, was as much about the album in question as it was about my dad. As a kid, my parents ALWAYS had music playing. We have never really been a big TV family: we didn’t get cable until I was 12, and most of our viewing was limited to movies and the evening news. What kept our house from silence was music. What’s interesting is that music in our house wasn’t always limited to background music, either: I’ve made my case for listening parties before, but I think where I get a lot of that from is the way my dad used to listen to music: he’d put an album on the stereo and just sit and listen to it, drinking the whole thing in.
Of course, there was background music aplenty, too: whether it was music on in the car on the way to school, or in the kitchen while my mom made dinner, or in the garage when I worked with my dad on the car we restored, or blasting from a boombox during one of the innumerable home improvement weekends which make up life in the middle-class Midwest, there was ALWAYS music on. And, of course, there was a standard litany of albums that made regular appearances on the stereos of my youth: Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, Bob Seger’s “Night Moves”, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and “Rhythm Of The Saints”, Warren Zevon’s “A Quiet Normal Life”, and The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” are the big ones that populated my early years, and, not surprisingly, these albums remain some of my very favorite albums today (yes, even “Night Moves”. Actually, ESPECIALLY “Night Moves”. Take off your hat. Don’t be a dick.). I think that I love Ray LaMontagne because, to me, he sounds like a synthesis between Van Morrison and Bob Seger, and so, to me, he sounds like my childhood.
The other big tradition in my household, and one of the only times I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime, was when we were able to figure out when “Austin City Limits” was on PBS. Our local PBS affiliate was really terrible about consistent scheduling, and so it was a bear to try and catch the show, especially in the pre-Internet days, when checking TV schedules meant poring over the newspaper or the TV Guide. Whenever we found out it was on, though, ACL was a family event, and I got to stay up to watch. A couple years ago, I started DVR-ing Austin City Limits, and, while perusing my library, discovered a Ray LaMontagne episode. I dropped EVERYTHING to watch, and, for an hour, it was like I was a little kid again: I was INSTANTLY transported to my youth.
When I moved to New York, I started hanging out with a lot of cool people who were listening to classic rock on a more interesting level than the Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith songs that fill up classic rock radio: these people were listening to Steely Dan deep cuts, weird Hall and Oates albums, Harry Nilsson, and other criminally under-appreciated acts from my parents’ generation. What struck me about this was not that this was weird: rather, it was unbelievable to me that I didn’t meet people who were listening to the same weird classic rock as I was until I moved out here. When I asked them how they got into this weird rock, their responses were all the same: it was on in their homes as kids. These were bands that their smart, interesting parents were listening to (as were mine. Steely Dan’s “Aja” and “The Royal Scam” are two more albums in regular rotation during my youth). We don’t really view these albums as “classic rock”, or as things “belonging” to our parents: while “Rhythm Of The Saints” was on frequently during my formative years, it gets MORE frequent play now on my iPod, and it’s one of my favorite albums, for plenty more reasons than simple nostalgia.
This got me thinking: what are the albums that are going to be on in MY house, that MY kids are going to associate with their youth and carry forward to the next generation? What will be on in MY household during dinner preparations, in the garage on weekends, in the car on the way to drop my kids off at school? What will THEIR favorite older albums be, the albums that cross generational lines and are favorites of young and old alike?
I think that The National’s “Boxer” will probably be up there, along with Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, Yeasayer’s “Odd Blood”, Zombi’s “Spirit Animal” (this will probably be a “Dad album”, just like “Bone Machine” and “Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar” were when I was a kid: these are the albums that you listen to when mom isn’t around because she can’t stand them), and The Hold Steady’s “Boys and Girls In America”. And, although this is embarrassing, and although he’s a pretty despicable person, John Mayer’s “Continuum” will probably be another regular (it’s like an abusive relationship. I just can’t quit it, although I know I should.).
I’ve enabled photo-reply here, because it would be cool to post album covers instead of album names. What are the albums that were on constantly when YOU were a kid? What are the albums that YOU want to pass on?
I love Put This On. I have four or five posts about men’s style/fashion (or, really, any more, anti-style/anti-fashion) saved in my drafts right now, and as soon as I can figure out exactly what I want to say, this blog is going to have a LOT of posts about men’s fashion.
More than that, however, this combines basically all of my interests right now: American men’s workwear and futurism. Or, in short: JESSE THORN INTERVIEWING WILLIAM GIBSON ABOUT CLOTHES. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL.
“Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them.”—Bertrand Russell, via 1001 rules for my unborn son
“A question: do you support atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All legal, of course, and there’s no Christian movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or to people divorcing and remarrying. Why the hell not?”—