I confess to a contrarian streak. If someone (especially an authority figure) tells me to do something, I will do the opposite. If everyone says to do something, you can be sure I won’t. This is particularly true in subjective matters. For example, I cannot bring myself to read the Da Vinci Code or watch Jurassic Park. When bands that I like finally hit it big, I unconsciously stop listening to them. Years of yoga practice and introspection have revealed this tendency to me, and I have worked hard to resist it. I try to evaluate books and music based on their objective merits and my own taste.
If my emotional maturity were insufficient to quell the knee-jerk reaction against the sway of public opinion, one would hope that hard experience would teach me to overcome this contrary tendency. After scoffing at the hubbub surrounding a children’s fantasy novel, I read Harry Potter link and was instantly converted to a Rowling fan. After rolling my eyes at the slavish praise heaped on Snow Patrol link, I received a pair of free tickets and found myself in tears at their show in support of Eyes Open. But did I learn? No.
I have ignored the buzz surrounding local artists Fleet Foxes for years. Finally, I checked out the latest album from these KEXP link darlings, and needless to say, I was floored. Then I watched the video for The Shrine/ An Argument. Not since Radiohead’s Kid A have I had this feeling of stumbling on something wondrous and new.
At last, I have learned my lesson. Although my determined anti-cool stance has saved me from many one-hit wonder and manufactured ingénue in the past, the cost is too high. By ignoring the recommendations of KEXP’s noble DJs, I have missed out on years of Fleet Foxes. Who knows what other music I have overlooked simply because it came with critical acclaim? From now on, I will follow the middle path between pop culture cynic and mindless consumer.
From now on, I will listen to my betters. Since my undergraduate days listening to KCMU, our local noncommercial radio station where the music matters has never let me down. Ok, so they have rarely scheduled the shows I like most during the hours I can listen to radio, but in these days of podcasts and streaming archives, that is a petty complaint. The DJs at KEXP know of which they speak, and I will trust them. Cheryl Waters, John Richards, Hannah Levin and all the rest of y’all – thank you. Thank you for Fleet Foxes. Thank you for all the bands I have ‘discovered’ since 1992 while listening to your programs. I will listen more consistently, more carefully and more respectfully in the future.
Music provides a soundtrack to my memories. The right music at the right time can open me up to new ideas, emotions and experiences. At times, it provides an emotional anchor, or acts as a spark plug to ignite strength and energy when I can’t seem to generate it myself. And that music, as often as not, comes from KEXP. In a sense, KEXP powers me.
And with the first paycheck of 2012, I promise that I, too, will power KEXP.