I’ve never found very much of my music collection to be too implicitly sexy; sure, certain songs have their own sex appeal and others somehow took on one over the years, but what it comes down to is that i frankly don’t have a lot of albums that i would leave on while making out. Of course, for the longest time my rules of album buying went something like “there has to be a girl or an acoustic guitar, and both if i’m really going to enjoy it.” And, while this still is the most ultimate truth in my hunt for new music, it is no longer my sole critera for purchase, and it’s because of this that i feel like i own some music that’s a wee bit sexy now.
The crux of it is that the female voice doesn’t have a scandalous effect on me. Tori Amos sings some sexy songs, Elastica has one about feeling one’s back on the hood of a car, and Garbage has a web of darkly electric songs that are simply churning with sexual energy. That’s all well and good, but i’m compelled to listen to them rather than have it on the score of my lovelife. These songs are soundtrack music rather than scores… they talk about the movie but they don’t always click with the emotional content of the scenes themselves. However, today i realized that i do have the elements of the score lurking in my music collection (although theoretically half of it would come from hers), and it’s all because of the effects of a single girl.
We never kissed. Not once. Not even goodbye. Such was my relationship with Anastasia. However, what we did do a lot of was going to the movies and lying on her floor on Sunday afternoons arguing about music; she had the same sort of exception to women singers that i did to men, only really harbouring a great love for Tori Amos, Bjork, and Heather Nova. Her soft-spot was for men… and not aggressively loud alternative men, but squeaky or thoughtful or nerdy men: Soul Coughing, Ben Folds Five, Elliott Smith, Evan Dando, Get Up Kids, and a whole raft of even more indy rock guys whose albums i know on sight but not by name. And, so, we’d sit on her floor and we’d argue about why i didn’t like any of those bands and why she should really buy an Ani DiFranco album (which she eventually did, with Dilate).
Anastasia and i had a falling out near the end of Senior Year when the mess of applying to college was over and i felt as though i could actually talk to my old friends again. It was too late for my record collection, though, as a tiny kernel of the future had already taken root; on a total whim i had bought the just-released Keep it Like a Secret by one of her favourite bands, Built to Spill. I knew that i liked them a little, but i saw it and it was $13 and suddenly i needed it. But, when i got home it laid untouched on my desk in it’s perfect cellophane wrapped sitting on top of a brown bag containing its receipt. I wasn’t going to open it … it was simply symbolic of my lost relationship (and lack thereof) with Anastasia and there was no reason for me to open it let alone to buy it to begin with.
And, while i was at school the next day, my mother walked into my room for the first time in weeks, ostensibly to take out the trash, and she threw out the empty brown bag i had sitting on my desk. Afterwards it was inevitable – i could scream at my mother all i wanted to, but that album was a part of my collection as much as it was a part of hers, and i couldn’t not listen to it. So, in into the cd-changer it went.
It seemed so harmless at the time, just one happy springtime record in my collection of disappointed and jilted women, but the damage was done. I listened to it with my windows open, i put it on during showers, and i played it while working on my webgame. Built to Spill was like a pot slowly boiling all through my Freshman year; an album i would return to at the drop of a dime. And, suddenly, with this school year came restlessness and disposable income, and suddenly i was coming home with Ben Folds Five and Elliott Smith and even striking out on my own to find things she would like, like Deathcab for Cutie.
Today i was trolling through the used section at AKA Music and i bought, among other things, the Matador Records 10th Anniversary 3 disc set. The first song on the first record is “Stereo” by Pavement, which is a sort of innocently thumping bass groove with a nearly-spoken almost unattentive vocal that trips its way through the song unselfconsciously as it accents and squeaks and turns. And, somehow, to me the geek sound of an indy rock voice paired with at once carefully crafted and lo-fi instrumentation is a seductive sound to me.
There is a Built to Spill album called “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love,” and the cliche of the title mocks the a-typical and affecting songs therein. I remember that once we were lying on her floor talking and she told me how Ben Folds loves Built to Spill and how they both do “Twin Falls Idaho” and how the song after that on the Spill disc mentions David Bowie and at some point while i was sitting there nodding along and listening attentively my brain decided that the upward curl of an untrained mail falsetto or the persistent movement of a band with just a lead or bass guitar rather than a rhythm guitar was an attractive sound to me. Men have a way of writing about girls and sex that women obviously don’t, and while it’s not always the most artful thing in the world when compared to one of my Tori Amos cds, i understand when Ben Gibbard says things like “i hung my favorite shirt on the floorboard, wrinkled up from pulling pushing and tasting tasting” because even though the lyric is obvious, the effect the girl had on him is inherent to the lyric more than the lyric is demonstrative of it. Or,… i don’t know, maybe my brain is just forever trained to create sexual tension around Anastasia’s sort of music the same way i can get whiplash if someone walks past me smelling of Happy
The funny thing is that she’s in New York or Boston now because she got into college a year early and is this amazing artist and has all sorts of direction and i’m still sitting here in Philly listening to her sort of records as if she’s ever going to make it onto my top-five breakups list just because she’s influenced at least one song on every relationship mix tape i’ll ever make while in college. In a way she transcends my hardly populated list of heart-breaks because we never happened, so that in my memory i can keep us lying on her floor together perfect and separate forever without any tangles to comb out. So, here i am listening to Pavement and wondering if it could really underscore a perfect kiss. I wonder if, hundreds of miles away from here, the thought ever crosses her mind while she’s listening to Dilate.