Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feelin' Half Right: Why Do I Listen to What I Listen to in the Morning?

I woke up this morning and knew I was in the mood for Ted Leo. I opened my iTunes, found “Me and Mia” from Shake the Sheets, and utilized the Genius button. While making coffee, the second track Genius delivered was “16 Military Wives” by the Decemberists. I wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to hear Ted Leo, so I went back and just started Shake the Sheets from the beginning (which of course meant listening to “Me and Mia” all over again, but that’s okay.)

What I find interesting is that I wasn’t thinking about Ted Leo when I went to sleep the night before. (I guess that would be kind of weird if I was.) But upon waking up, I knew almost instantly what I wanted hear. This happens to me quite often. I never go to bed thinking “I know exactly who I am going to listen to tomorrow morning,” but in the morning, I just know. Now, I don’t know what subconsciously happens over the span of six to seven hours of sleep I usually get, but nevertheless, 90% of the time I wake up ready to rock, and know which specific artist is going to deliver the goods. (The other 10% of the time, I go with “Shuffle.” )

Sometimes it will be a new album that is currently whetting my appetite. Lately that would be Middle Cyclone by Neko Case, which means I’m using the phrase “ready to rock” a bit liberally. I’ve found it can be connected to literature. I’m reading Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City right now, usually before I fall asleep. I would be a fool to think that my neighbors shouldn’t have blamed Klosterman when they were awakened at 7 a.m. this past Monday to Van Halen’s 1984 emanating from my place at a volume that completely violated any standards of human decency. (I have 1984 on vinyl, and while I am by no means a vinyl snob, it just seems that records always have to be played loud. Also, 1984 is badass. That helps.) Another time I remember having a dream about someone I knew awhile ago, when I awoke I was reminded of a band, and that band was played.

But that’s pretty rare, I usually don’t remember dreams, and if I do, they don’t serve as a catalyst for an early morning soundtrack. The other examples are a bit more valid but also seldom. Usually this phenomenon (is this a phenomenon, or am I being way too analytical about what I feel like listening to while I brush my teeth?) is completely unexplainable, which is why I find it so perplexing.

This could all have something to do with my chemical mood. I am a morning person by nature. That’s when I do my best work, and usually when I’m in my best mood. Someone once asked me why I am so happy in the morning and I explained it like this: When I wake up, I’m always under the impression that there is potential for greatness, but usually around 11 a.m. I realize “Nope, just another day,” and then it’s a slow slim slide into monotony until I go back to sleep. But never mind that, point is, I wake up with a purpose. I’m ready to get the day started, above Neko Case example notwithstanding, this means I usually need something loud and borderline abrasive. In other words, get out of my way Joanna Newsom and make room for Silkworm and the Sex Pistols. The day has begun! (There’s a good chance I have never listened to the Sex Pistols after I’ve had lunch.)

Other rules I seem to adhere to: It has to be music I know, but I can’t know it too well. So this eliminates any record I’d be listening to for the first time, or for the thousandth time. It can’t be too depressing like the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, or something overtly happy, like the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. The loud stuff mentioned above like Silkworm and the Sex Pistols, along with acts like the Jesus Lizard, are all fine right when I wake up, but when I leave my place and head for the Metro, things seem to shift and I need something a bit more subdued. I’ve found Rogue Wave’s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate to fill this slot nicely. It’s gentle and refreshing, but not morose.

And you see, this is a time where I need to be calculating, but not belligerent. Calm, but not sluggish. I view the morning commute as a battlefield, and everyone else, with the exception of perhaps a random cute girl, is my enemy. (If a random cute girl commits an unpardonable sin of the early morning commute, such as standing on the left side of the Metro escalator, she will be bumped into the “enemy” category. This will be done with ease.) These people are enemies only because they are merely obstacles of my initial goal at hand, which is to get to work. That might sound strange to some people, but I like my job. However, I have been the same way for jobs I have had in the past that I didn’t enjoy. I don't know if never being late for places I don’t even want to be at in the first place is a good quality or not. I'm sure there are very reasonable arguments on both sides, but that’s for another day.

In fact, all of this “commute” nonsense is for another day. The purpose of this post was to try and figure out why out of the approximately 10,000 songs in my iTunes, I usually know precisely what I want to listen to the very instant I wake up. If others experience this, I would love to hear about it. Maybe the ultimate answer to this quandary is in the paragraph above, but I would like to think there is something unknown and metaphoric at play. In all likelihood, there isn’t. But tomorrow when I wake up, there will still be a band that is mysteriously playing in my brain, and probably not a minute will pass before they are playing on my stereo. Yep, just another day.


1 comment:

Brian said...

This does not happen to me. I go with whatever's in my car stereo, or hit "shuffle" and work from there.

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