Saturday, August 24, 2013

What we do is secret

I have never been a book club fan. I've been in a few over the years and the only one I actually enjoy is the one at work. I guess it comes down to the fact that I like to read alone and enjoy thinking about books but don't always enjoy talking about books with other people. Frankly, if I want to drink and talk about stuff I'll just go to happy hour with friends. Let's not pretend that we're going to read a book and have some deep conversation about it over a possibly terrible wine and some brie. Cheese is probably the only incentive I've ever had to go to book club meetings.

Music, on the other hand, is something I love to talk about. The challenge is that I have less luck finding people who want to talk about music with me. They either "don't listen to music" (I don't even know what that's about) or we listen to such diametrically opposed music that it's not fun or more specifically, they're not fun to talk to since the conversation usually ends in some weird argument about me not liking Billy Joel. Variety may be the spice of life but sometimes I just want to talk to another fan of The Smiths and wallow a bit. I love what I love and hate what I hate and I don't want to apologize for it. I've written about this before - you hope that the person will get what you're saying and share in the moment but most of the time you have no idea what they think. When you make someone a mix tape or give them your favorite album to listen to, they may never give you anything in return. No feedback, no music to play forward, nothing. It has the potential to be a monumental let down.

So even with all the potential anxiety and rage induced/beer fueled arguments, I absolutely jumped at the idea of being in an album club. People who want to talk about music! And share music! And will judge me in the context of the album and after a few beers - let's do this! As I am also trying to be more social, this seemed to fit perfectly into things. Album club consists of me and two of friends I met through work, Jason and Upendra. I give Jason credit for the idea - we were already sort of doing this; the three of us would occasionally go out for a beer after work and spend the majority of the evening talking about music. Jason suggested we form a club and add a little structure to our conversations. Of course, it's also a "secret" and exclusive club. We're not currently accepting new members - something that we discuss every time we meet but still have not come to any form of consensus. So don't ask to join. I think if we do ever decide to allow new members, the application process is going to be ridiculous. You've been warned.

Here's what happens at album club: once a month we meet at a bar or one of our homes (although that has only happened once); we talk about work for 15 minutes or so (although it does come up throughout the evening); we discuss our albums. Each of us presents an album along the theme for the month. Usually we discuss how we got into the band or found the album, songs we like or dislike, and everyone gets to put in their opinion. So far, we've listened to nine albums together (each of us selecting three). Eventually we move away from our agreed upon albums and talk about other things, mostly music related. Several pitchers of beer later, we settle on the next month's theme and call it a night.

This week we each presented a summer mix tape (or playlist for the children out there who don't know what a tape is). I discussed my mix last week - I probably spent way too much time thinking about the balance of songs. I ultimately selected summer road trip songs that I love and have to admit that I rather like this mix. Will they like it? Probably not all of it but that's sort of the point. We pick up some new songs or maybe refine our dislike of others. We learn a little more about the person who put the mix together. For the first time in our club history, we didn't listen to the music in advance. I have listened to both and can honestly say that had neither CD been labeled I still would have known who made which one.

What I really love about our little club is the variety of music we like and talk about. We have some similar tastes but I don't think that any of us could easily be classified as a "insert music genre" fan. I asked them both whether they picked songs for the mixes based on their audience or just their own preference. That's a big question when it comes to mixes (one that will probably never be answered). Regardless of the answer, I have a feeling we all picked songs that we thought the others would like on some level. Of the forty songs between their two mixes, I only have eight of the songs in my own collection. That's a pretty great number of new songs to listen to. Some of the remaining songs I know and like; others I had never heard before. I've already picked five new songs that will make it into my normal rotation.

The leftover selections
Next time we meet we'll do two things: discuss our mix tapes (since this was the first time we didn't listen to the music before we met) and we'll share our next selections. Based on Upendra's suggestion, we each selected three prolific artists and placed the names in a hat. We each picked one and now we have to select an album from that artist. I got the Rolling Stones (Jason's pick); Upendra got Madonna (my pick); and Jason got Billy Joel (Upendra's pick). Thankfully I didn't get Billy Joel but I'll be a sport and listen to whatever Jason picks.

Here's what I've learned so far from album club:
  • All rock songs are love songs.
  • For a person who says he doesn't listen to upbeat music, Upendra picked some rather upbeat song for this mix. Granted one is an Elton John song about killing oneself but there's a tap dance quality to that song that is undeniably catchy.
  • I find the lyrics to "Blurred Lines" a tad bit "rapey" and the video offensive; they (somewhat sarcastically) mentioned that Thicke was a defender of feminism.
  • Sometimes you find your way back to a song or album even if you thought it was lost (given a situation or person that may have "ruined" it for you).
  • It's possible that Jason was supposed to have been born in Detroit and just doesn't know it.
  • When you say something is "secret" and "exclusive" everyone wants to join.
  • Hanging out with guys is more fun than I remember it being. Maybe it's the subject matter. Maybe it's the beer.
  • I am not entirely sure what would have happened if I had gotten 311 as my selection for the next album. Considering I used to date a guy that was in a 311 cover band, I'm going to guess it would have been excruciating. I know my limits when it comes to music.
  • I know that I'm totally okay sharing my music with these two friends; they're as sentimental about songs and musicians as I am (if not more so on occasion), have less of a filter than I do (which is both a blessing and a curse), and are music snobs in their own way (just not insufferable).
Any opinions on which Rolling Stones album I should pick?


  1. If you can't pick a Hits album, I suggest Let It Bleed.

    1. No hits albums. Let It Bleed was at the top of my list; I narrowed it down to four and have to give them another listen before I make my decision.