A few weeks ago I gave my own reflections about learning to fall in love with new music again as a response to Questlove’s short essay. His title was misleading as he actually talked about how difficult it is to respond to music the same way as we did when we had to work for it through vinyl and cassettes. But he made some good points as I often found myself struggling to get into new music because I don’t access it the same way as I used to.
However, I recently found myself inundating myself with a slew of new artists brought to my attention via social media, mostly Tumblr through a pretty awesome blog @ blackrockandrollmusic. I mostly perk up when I find music by black women. This happened when I listened to a few songs by Kimya Dawson, who is often featured on the blog. I’m sure the song was “Tree Hugger” and I was captured by the quirky, carefree tone. This is the type of music I want to hear more black women making.
It also made me think of music for indie films. I found out later that this actually was included on the Juno soundtrack, but I’d only seen the film once and paid no attention to the soundtrack. Still, I got inspired. I wanted to make my own songtrack for a black girl indie film, something that captured our quirkiness as much as our messiness. I wanted to answer Wyatt Cenac’s Micah in one of my favorite indie films Medicine for Melancholy. He plainly states, “Everything tied to indie is tied to not being black.” I wanted to tie indie back to black.
So I set out to work on A Black Girl’s Indie Film Songtrack, music for a film never made. (Yes, there will be sequels because I got a lot of music 😉 I turned to that aforementioned Tumblr blog because I knew it had exposed me to some great stuff. I re-found Peter and Kerry and reminded myself that Johnnyswim is too adorable for words. I remembered the haunting quality of Cold Specks on my own and turned my attention to Fitz & the Tantrums. I spent days searching Tumblr for audio files to listen to these artists and see how well they fit with my songtrack.
I then went back to a few artists I had already known or found through other spaces such as AfroPunk like Marian Mereba. Of course, Imani Coppola is the first on that list since I’ve been a fan of hers for nearly 20 years. Then I remembered Georgia Anne Muldrew from her beautiful animated video for “Runaway” and fell in love with her whole vibe. Martina Topley-Bird came to my attention again and I have yet another musical shero. And don’t get me started on PHOX.
I eventually began to put the playlist together. It was much harder than I thought because I wanted to include so many awesome artists. I needed just the right V.V. Brown song; I had to include denitia odigie; it’s okay to include Remy Shand; Straight Line Stitch’s acoustic work is just fine for the mood. I had to narrow down which Santigold song I would use since both her albums already sound like the songtrack to my life… I decided eclectic was okay since it matches the mood of my indie film: all over the place in a way that makes sense only to me.
While I had fun with the list, I also got another unexpected benefit while deciding what to include. I revisited some artists I’d downloaded from sites like Bandcamp but didn’t properly get to know. For instance, I had to relisten to Estère to figure out if she had anything that went well with the list. I found a place for TV on the Radio and finally had an excuse to include new favorites like Greighwolfe. Even Ben L’Oncle Soul’s francophone soul seems to fit even though I’m almost certain he’s performing a romantic ballad.
In short, I realized I was falling in love with new music again. But I still needed to get to know it. I think I found the key last week…
For some reason, my MP3 player shifted around some songs and took them out of their regular alphabetical order. At first I thought they’d disappeared, but they were simply shifted to the end of the rotation. I found myself paying attention more to these songs since I didn’t expect them out of their regular rotation. That was when I decided I needed to give some of the newer music in my collection a chance by loading it on the MP3, the one place I intimately get to know my music when I’m out for a walk or in transport for one reason or another.
But this would lead me to some hard decisions. I don’t have an iPod or another device that holds thousands of audio files. I knew I would have to get rid of some of the songs already on the device to make room for the new artists. I had all of Jimi Hendrix’s catalog, some Minnie Riperton, Donny Hathaway, Sly & the Family Stone, The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire that I had to sacrifice out of rotation. Then again, I know all those songs and albums forward and backward, so I can just put them on when I’m in the mood. I’m sure these artists understand that I need to give this new music a chance to endear itself to me.
For now, Martina Topley-Bird, PHOX, Kimya Dawson, Peter and Kerry, Johnnyswim, Fitz & the Tantrums, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Cold Specks are more than worth it. I’m looking forward to getting to know their work better and making songtracks to the sequels of my nonexistent black girl indie films. I’m so glad to have found a way to fall in love with new music again, especially with so many black girls taking back music outside the bounds of R&B.