Radio Silence

I used to listen to the radio. A lot. Once upon a time I thought I’d be a radio DJ. It seemed like it could be quite a nice gig.

When I moved to NYC in 2005, I stopped listening to the radio by default, as I could never get a signal on my stereo in any of the multitude of apartments I inhabited.

Zoe Radio

A shirt I could only get away with in my twenties. But I did love listening to my tunes, as evidenced by my hip CDs on display.

As someone who likes to keep on the up and up with the newest hit songs, it was depressing to go into a void. I never learned what the radio stations in New York were. In fact, I still only remember the ones from St. Louis, where I grew up. Fortunately, around that time, music was more and more shifting to streaming and/or being available on things like Napster and iTunes.

I could check the iTunes Store to see what I liked and order a CD or download an album, as I became wont to do. The shift from CD to downloaded music was a subtle one but I haven’t purchased a hard disc of music in quite a few years now.

One of my favorite things in life is getting that instant gratification from sampling and downloading songs I love, new or old. Instead of hitting Record on the tape deck, I can type in any artist, song title, or album, and either take a trip through the Forest of Nostalgia or see what the kids are listening to these days and figure out if anything is worthwhile. (Unfortunately, as I get older, I am more and more baffled by the “hits” topping the charts, and I recognize fewer and fewer artist names.)

Living in New York, everything I ever needed was on my iPod, which is an absolute necessity if you are going to live in any major metropolis and commute on public transportation. My commute is pretty short and sweet these days, so if I do listen to anything on the way to work, it’s on a CD or my iPod. Add in to the fact that listening to radio commercials sets my teeth on edge and I have no patience for them anymore (thanks to the advent of the DVR), the radio has slipped into nonexistence, as far as I’m concerned.

It only occurred to me the other day that, essentially, I have not listened to the radio in eight years. What used to be a crucial item in my existence has simply faded away. The only “radio” I listen to now is Pandora on occasion, a totally evolved version of the medium. I still get to hear new music, insofar as it’s new to me, and anything I really like, I can go to my computer and get. C’est magnifique!

Anyone else out there still a hardcore radio aficionado? Or has your music lifestyle changed, as mine has?

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Side notes: I have never subscribed to Sirius Radio or anything like that, which is the “cable” of radio. My total ignorance on this topic is why I have left it out entirely. Additionally, my dude does listen to talk radio, so it’s still a big part of his life. Plus, when we go on road trips, we play a game where we hit Scan on the radio and see who can guess the name and artist of a song before it scans to the next station. It’s a nice way to pass the time, actually, and the only time the radio retains any lingering significance for me.

Yeah Toast! and Other Trips Down Memory Lane

In the process of moving, we have been ardently striving to downsize our collection of STUFF that we’ve accumulated since childhood, adolescence, college, and then Young Adulthood. We’re not yet in the place where we are moving into a four-bedroom house with lots of extra storage space. This means prioritizing what gets to stay and what gets to go.

It’s actually escaping me whether I’ve ever shared how many times I moved when I was in New York City, but it was a LOT. Between 2005 and 2010, I moved six times to various neighborhoods around NYC. If you count the move from New York to Illinois, that’s seven. This is lucky move number eight in seven years. When you do the simple math, I’ve moved more than once per year since 2005. Yikes.

Considering my other half can’t stand moving – and I daresay it’s a toss-up whether he hates celery or moving more – we’re trying to make this move be the last one before we’re in a more permanent housing situation. But only time will tell.

While downsizing, I came across my cassette tape holder that I have had through all of my moves since 2005. It’s never occurred to me to go through it before now. I’ve just said, “That goes with,” and then it sits on a shelf or a desk or in a closet until the next move. Since I grew up with cassettes, I guess there is a sub-conscious part of me that never wanted to throw them away, so I never thought, “I should sort through these.”

Just as I was putting the tape holder in a box, all of the little drawers slid out. When I looked at the contents, none of these were critical for hanging onto any longer. I mean, it has probably been over a decade since I popped one into a tape player, even just for nostalgia purposes.

But before I put these little babies in their final resting place in a landfill far, far away, I thought I’d share some of the contents with you. There’s a small selfish motivation to this, if only because I’ll have this post to remind me what kinds of things I used to have on tape before CDs and then digital music came along.

What’s in Zoe’s tape deck?

The bulk of what I found were mix tapes. My tape collection began at a young age but the mix tapes are from the ages of 12-18, most likely (circa 1992-1998). I discovered at an early age the magic of recording on blank tapes. I even have tapes of myself pretending to be a radio DJ but those are elsewhere and are not being thrown away. (Guests included people like my brother.)

I had a CD player/stereo starting when I was 14 but the car I got at age 18 only had a cassette player, so until I put a CD changer in the trunk, I was jamming out to some mix tapes in the late 90s.

Some samples of songs on my mix tapes are: Silent All These Years by Tori Amos, Never Ever by All Saints (yeeeeah……), The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, Linger by The Cranberries, Beautiful Disaster by 311, Emotions by Mariah Carey, Vogue by Madonna, Hippychick by SoHo (hahaha remember that song?), Finally by Cece Peniston, Rollin’ With My Homies (nod to Clueless), I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis, Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, something called “Yeah Toast!”, which apparently is something I recorded from the former St. Louis morning show Steve and D.C. and is now a YouTube video (see below), Machinehead by Bush, The Key, the Secret by Urban Cookie Collective, Daughter by Pearl Jam, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, Self-Esteem by The Offspring, Cantaloop by Flip Fantasia, Brain Stew by Green Day, Hello by POE, All That She Wants by Ace of Base, Rhythm Was a Dancer (by ??), Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio (only the coolest song everrrr), Time by Hootie and the Blowfish, Ironic by Alanis,  Santeria by Sublime, Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, Faith by George Michael, and Toy Soldiers by Martika (what ever happened to her?).

Full albums I owned that make me chuckle are: The Simpsons Sing the Blues, Tom’s Album (which is just a bunch of takes on Suzanne Vega’s classic hit “Tom’s Diner,” an ALL-TIME favorite of mine), the soundtrack to the movie Straight Talk with Dolly Parton, Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion, Johnny Mathis’s “Merry Christmas” album, and Mariah Carey’s original self-titled album.

I also found a bunch of nature sounds like Distant Thunder and Gentle Ocean, both from the store The Nature Company, which was eventually bought out by The Discovery Channel.  We had a Nature Company store in the Galleria in St. Louis. It was extremely popular in its heyday. I think there are only so many rainsticks and natural mineral stones people need, though. Anybody else remember that shop? I had the nature tapes because I liked to listen to them at night to help me go to sleep. Even now, I need some kind of white noise in order to get to sleep. Pure silence unnerves me.

Anyway, I had a few, “Oh…my…..GOD” moments while I was going through the tapes. I don’t remember recording much of the songs, though I do remember doing quite a few tape-to-tape and CD-to-tape mixes. All this reinforces is that music affects us from an earlier age than we can imagine. Quite a number of the songs on the tapes remain some of my favorites to this day, even for no other reason than I loved them on such a pure level when I was younger.

However, I’m still scratching my head over “Yeah Toast!”

Adolescence is such a bizarre time. I leave you with the skit to hear for yourselves.

Mandatory: cleaning with music

Happy Labor Day!

I hope all of you are enjoying some (much needed) time off. Out here in my neck of the woods, we’re enjoying some spectacular autumn weather. It’s sunny and breezy and in the high 60s. It doesn’t get much better than that for a day off.

While a certain law student I’m dating is at the library studying, or whatever it is that law students do on the weekends, I’ve been occupying myself at home. I edited some photos, answered some emails, Facebooked, Google Plussed, let the dog out to play in the backyard where he wooed at our neighbors’ dogs, and then I got tired of sitting at the computer and decided I should straighten up a bit.

I grabbed my ‘Pod, attached it to the stereo and cranked up the tunes while I went to work in the kitchen.

This is something that has been an absolute must for me since I was a wee tween. (Well, I wasn’t “wee…”)

I can not do housework without listening to music. It is absolutely impossible. Maybe this is why so many people hummed and whistled back in the day. It really helps keep up one’s motivation. I’m not a fan of doing dishes, vacuuming, or folding clothes, but if there is a fine beat pulsing throughout the house (or my ears, if I’m ear-budding it), it makes it just shy of enjoyable, if mindless work can be considered enjoyable.

There is something to be said for blasting music throughout the house more than just listening on headphones, especially if I’m by myself and it’s not going to bother anyone else. Pro to living in a non-metropolitan city: no one lives above or below me and won’t come knocking on my door because of a high noise level. Win.

So in order to keep my cleaning mojo going, I’m going to go crank up the tunes once more and tackle the virtual mountain of clothing there is to be folded. I know, it’s Labor Day, and I’m working. But at least I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of music ready to accompany me.

Zoe Recommends: listening to music while you clean/do chores/tend to your home. It soothes the weary soul – especially if you’re like me and this lady.

$1.29 Well Spent

I don’t think I’ve written about my loyalty to watching American Idol. I have loved it since the first season — ten years ago — when I began watching at the young age of 20.

If iTunes had been recording performances ten years ago, I would have loved to get an official version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Natural Woman,” because girlfriend belted that ish out. She is still my favorite Idol but I have few other close favorites, as well. (If David Cook could release more music, that’d be terrif.)

Annnnnyway. This year, with it being New Judges Year and no Simon, I didn’t think I’d watch much past auditions. Although, J-Lo is infinitely better than Kara and I didn’t supremely dislike her, either. But my continuing to stay tuned is a testament to the talent they procured this year, because these kids are really, really, really good.

I really want a woman to win this year because they have talented enough ones in the bunch for sure (Pia, Lauren Alaina) but I think there is a dark horse that could sneak in – and his name is James Durbin.

At first I thought, okay this guy has a great back story but we’ve seen him before in the likes of Adam Lambert. But after hearing him for a couple of weeks now, he not only has a different character and flavor, but his voice is much more Axl Rose-ish and he has started to exude control over those huge pipes.

Case in point: “Maybe I’m Amazed,” the song he sang this past week, which really blew me away. I wanted to keep rewinding it and hearing it so I knew I’d check it out when iTunes finally released the singles for the week.

I sampled all the people’s songs I liked, including Casey’s, Pia’s, Scotty’s, and even Lauren’s (sorry Lauren, need something better from you) but when I had to pick where I was going to throw my $1.29, it came down to James Durbin.

As I write this, this song is on repeat. It is SO. GOOD.

Whether or not you agree with my selection, I highly encourage you to check out this week’s songs on iTunes because at least one of these kids is going to be a huge star, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there were at least two.

Unless something goes terribly, tragically wrong, I think it’s safe to say that this year’s winner won’t fall into obscurity like others have. (Taylor Hicks? Bueller?)

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play this song a few hundred more times while I clean my house.

Update: I no longer watch American Idol. It ran its course for me. I endured the season with Randy, Jennifer Lopez (whom I actually liked as a judge), and Steven Tyler, but once they moved on to the new Loathsome Foursome, I was done. It was a great run!