If you were to ask me to talk about my biggest hobby, i would simply say, “Music.”
If you were to ask me to elaborate on my favorite elements of music, i would reply, “Hearing it. Making it.” Or, more explicitly, i enjoy being a fan of music and being a writer of music. One can involve being very critical of other people’s work, while the other requires an unending faith in my own.
Sometimes i have trouble reconciling the two. For example, in a book of my agonizingly chosen flying-to-Florida collection of music, the new Bright Eyes disc faces a burned cd of my recent trios. I have no qualms in admitting that i am skeptical about Conor Oberst’s new effort as Bright Eyes; i was skeptical before ever hearing a song by Conor and continue to feel that way now that i have bought a third album of his. He’s not so different from a previous version of me; a recent Rolling Stone article featured a picture of his slight vegan frame with a guitar almost dwarfing it, singing about heartbreak in a style whose lineage includes Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan.
I happen to really enjoy my new Trios;though the imperfections of my performances are more noticeable when crisply preserved in digital format, i delight in hearing the sound of my own voice captured in such a faithful fashion. I have worked hard for that voice… failing auditions, slaving at voice lessons, struggling through choir. Singing and singing until the sound of my own voice became transparent to me; hearing myself on a recording of “Tangling” or “Excuse” feels the same as performing the songs live. I cannot distinguish anything about my vocal performance other than whether i am hitting the notes i intended to. I cannot be critical of it
Conor is just about a year older than me, and i don’t think he is much of a singer. His bio calls his vocal stylings “quak[ing] with the tumultuous energy that only youth can produce.” Tumultuous energy sounds very much to me like unsteady notes and failing vibrato. There are parts of his album Fevers and Mirrors that i physically cannot consume — he screams, yowls, stretches his voice past the breaking point. I do it too, of course, all rock singers do at some point. But, to me it never sounds as rough… as pained. And, i am doing it for my website… him, for an international audience of consumers..
I ostensibly bought his new disc Lifted to review it, but i know that i am really casing up the competition. In the past i have wondered at the success of others who are only slightly older than me, and whose work i adore. Now, i am wondering about the success of someone who i could very plausibly be; who shares the exact years of pop culture inundation with me, if not some of the same influences. I happen to think that i sing better than him; i also think i write more accessible songs. But, i am in college, and he is on the road. I am on the dean’s list, and he is in Rolling Stone.
My two favorite hobbies will be staring each other in the face deep inside my bookbag as i walk through the metal detector this morning, bound for Fort Lauderdale. They will both air themselves, probably more than any other music i will have with me. And, when my family asks me what i did this year, all i will say is “i am on the dean’s list.”