Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jam of the day, coffee shop albums, and fresh experiences: Neutral Milk Hotel / "Ghost"

I walked into the Tazza d'Oro satellite location in the Gates-Hilman Center today to grab some coffee and cure those post-late lunch fatigue blues. Yeah, man. I ended up sitting in a nice comforable chair, sipping delicious black coffee with a splash of whole milk (most places just have skim or half & half, so that was nice) while reading the 33 1/3 series book on Nick Drake's Pink Moon (written by Amanda Petrusich, one of those Pitchfork writers who I will read whenever I see the byline, no matter the album). More importantly, for this post, I caught the last half of the Neutral Milk Hotel tune "Oh, Comely" on the house speakers while I walked in. At the time, I thought, "Wow, that's an intense song to be wafting over the ears of these dutifully working nerds." (I can say that cuz I'm one of them.)

After I ordered my coffee and sat down and the song rolled around to its perfect finish, I expected some random playlist to kick in and throw something at us, but instead it transitioned exactly into "Ghost", as In The Aeroplane Over The Sea does. I realized they were playing this album straight through. Awesome. I'm all for exposing great music to potentially unknowledgeable ears. Unfortunately, I'm sure a lot of folks were just ignoring it or tuning into their own earbuds, but it's nice to think about someone who has never ever heard this album and will be drawn to it and maybe ask the barista what they're playing and go back to their dorm and look it up and be welcomed into an entirely new world of music. That makes me crack a smile. I love this album so much I almost wish I could forget everything I know about it and experience it completely anew. Since I can't do that, I just hope there are people out there doing exactly that every day.

Bonus! Here's a video of NMH (and friends, judging by the multitude onstage) jamming this tune live at the Electric Lounge in Austin, TX on April 4th, 1998. We live in an incredible age. We can watch this video of something that happened 14 years ago, something that will never happen again. Yeah, the playing's a little off and the video is grainy and the audio is kinda warbly. Who the fuck cares? This is great.

Are there any other great, classic albums that somehow just work when played at a coffee shop, straight through? We usually think of coffee shop culture as iTunes playlists, or radio, or whatever randomness the barista(s) feel(s) like playing. This album fits the bill, I think. Any favorites you want to share?

Oh yeah, they played through this album, then on to some Olivia Tremor Control tracks, then started of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and then I had to leave. Kudos to whoever's Elephant 6 playlist was chosen for that day.

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