Saturday, July 26, 2014
Track of the Week: My Morning Jacket "Gideon"
Now that I have two kids and am getting older and the music scene is more fractured than ever, I've had a hard time finding new music. That wasn't so in grad school, when I had many friends with highly developed tastes, could go see rock shows at multiple clubs, and could play the latest indie record rather than showing a new episode of Sesame Street to placate screaming toddlers.
For that reason, I find myself constructing a lot of Spotify playlists full of music released during the second Bush administration. A lot of the stuff I first heard in grad school has really stuck with me, and it has the dual purpose of reminding myself of people and a place that I miss. At that time (2000-2006) it seemed that there was a real renaissance in independent rock music, with all kinds of great bands. My Morning Jacket is one I discovered then that I continue to follow, but no album of theirs will likely ever top 2005's Z.
That autumn I was finishing up my dissertation and looking to hit the academic job market for the first time. I had no clue what was in store for me, but felt both cautiously optimistic and scared to death. Back in those relatively carefree days I would go to a downtown coffee house with my laptop after lunch and work laboriously over my dissertation. As an award, I'd often walk down to the local record store (which is still open) and browse around. Sometimes I'd buy something, sometimes I'd shoot the bull with the owner and play a couple games of Joust on the old arcade machine in the corner.
Sometimes I browsed for awhile before finding a good record, sometimes I'd ask the owner for a rec and he might play a couple of tracks for me. Z was one I bought right away, anxious to hear it. Having expected to the rootier sound of their last record, I was blown away by the first track, "Wordless Chorus," which had keyboards and angular rhythms that sounded less Neil Young and more New Wave. I quickly latched onto "Gideon," which combines the album's eerie, echoey atmosphere with an inspired Jim James vocal and a swelling power that's never failed to lift my spirit when the song gets to the rousing finale.
I listened to it a lot during the stresses of that first shot at the job market, when my spirit needed some lifting. Nowadays I hear it as a relic of those last happy days of grad school naivete, before the realities of my mistaken career choice became all too apparent. Now that my bitterness about my failed career has subsided, it helps to remember the good times in grad school, the last time I was actually allowed to be a scholar. It was a nice dream while it lasted.