Sept. 22, 2017
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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Wisdom Lost, Wisdom Found

What I learned about life, music, the universe, everything while I was totally unconscious and having my wisdom teeth removed

March 8, 2017, 12:00 am

Last week, after years of putting it off (and only because my ladyfriend was like, “Dude, get your life together!”), I had my wisdom teeth yanked. Now, this probably doesn’t sound so bad, but the way they’d shifted and impacted themselves meant they’d gone so far as to actively destroy other teeth in my mouth. Other teeth that were also yanked. Other teeth I already miss dearly because, as it turns out, I love crunchy/solid/not-just-yogurt foods.

Anyway, I never much liked being put under, due in part to a tonsillectomy when I was a kid after which a doctor told me nonchalantly, “Wow, man, it took you, like, a really, really long time to come back, and we were terrified!” Basically, I thought I’d probably die.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I spent the morning in twilight sleep, unaware of the brutality and in a place that allowed my mind to wander to places on its own. My ladyfriend lent me headphones, and the plan was to listen to music, but I was out before I remembered I meant to do so. The good news, however, is that, like a coma victim who somehow wakes speaking fluent Spanish, I am now able to explain why songwriters like Ben Barnett and (old) Rivers Cuomo and Blake Schwarzenbach and David Bazan really work for me in a way that’s more well-realized than, “It sounds good.”

See, I’ve always gravitated toward these emotional scribes in part because I love a good wallowing, but my unoccupied brain brought me to the realization that albums like Jawbreaker’s Dear You or Pinkerton by Weezer or Kind of Like Spitting’s $100 Room are less about things being done to someone, and more about people doing things to themselves. Woah. OK, so a song that is so deeply personal—even to the point that it makes its creator look like an asshole—has intrinsic value in its unabashed honesty, and that means something in a world with love songs that sound and read just like other love songs and that are, frankly, boring.

Father John Misty came into my head a lot as well, as the songs from his forthcoming Pure Comedy album have been stuck in my head in an “Oh, wow, this reminds of me of Harry Nilsson!” kinda way. Misty’s work is becoming more intense than his previous efforts, and he’s evolving from a simple sad-song guy to someone with something to say—which is not always easy these days but, to borrow from something else I recently wrote, it’s kind of like when NOFX released The Decline and we all suddenly realized they could also write more meaningful songs. I look forward to Pure Comedy’s April 7 release.

Don’t think it’s lost on me that most of these things my unconscious mind visited are older. Hell, even OK Computer is 20 years old this year (for real—Radiohead released it on May 21,1997). But I kind of can’t tell if that means I’m loyal, I’m stubborn or I’ve just written about music for so long that I can no longer enjoy it or even simply consume it from a vantage besides clinical/critical. I hope that’s not it, though, because in the aftermath I’ve found myself listening to all kinds of things (with headphones … y’know, so you can really hear it all), too weak to tear it apart.

Local musician Bill Palmer, for example, recently put out some new stuff that I’ve been slowly getting into, and it’s working for me. Palmer feels his feelings so much, it’s obvious; I like that. Or at a recent show, the singer-songwriter Paris Mancini, who goes by PSIRENS and does ethereal pop weirdness, reminded me that really meaning it is sometimes everything. Maybe it was her loops and loops that stuck in my head, but trust me, it’s great music to the soundtrack of your own unconsciousness. I pulled out Luke Carr’s Pigrow again which, in my opinion, is about the best locally made album of the last decade and focused on the layers he’d created. If I die, play this thing at my funeral.

But the ultimate point my brain made to me while I floated freely through the void was that I need to let go of some of this clutter in there and re-teach myself what it is to love new sounds. I’ll totally meet you guys halfway if you give me a little time to heal.


Hear, Here

We’ve got our ear to the ground in search of interesting tidbits of music-related information, Santa Fe. Are you recording an album? Hitting the road to tour? Thinking of going major-label? We want to know about it, so email your best friend Alex De Vore at alex@sfreporter.com.

Promoter Jamie Lenfestey of AMP Concerts is hittin’ the big five-oh on Friday March 10, and will celebrate accordingly during a show from Brooklyn-based funk act Turkuaz this Saturday at Skylight. Saturday is Alex’s actual birthday, so send presents to both of us. Happy birthday, nerds, Alex says, while feeling weird that he and Jamie are almost b-day twins.

Albuquerque/Santa Fe songsmith Brian Botkiller—who wrote a staggering 52 songs last year and released a full-length record titled In Case of Revolution—is writing new material as we speak for his next album. Botkiller is pissed as hell and not gonna take this anymore, and we love it. Become acquainted at brianbotkiller.com.

I briefly touched on this in the full column to your left, but seriously, Bill Palmer’s newest solo album, These Days, is super-good. Palmer’s songwriting sensibilities really dig deep into his personal shit, but they’re universal. Visit billpalmermusic.bandcamp.com to learn why.

OK, this isn’t local or anything, but At the Drive-In is playing shows again, and that’s just, like, a really big deal for a lot of people. Get tickets if you can and go (the closest dates right now are in El Paso in May and Denver in June). This is important. Failing that, buy Relationship of Command and thank us later.


 

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