Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Those of you in the know are already aware that we have a big anniversary coming up. With any luck our annual Best Of music list will publish on that very anniversary date, thus kicking off in a very formal fashion The Year of Idle Time. Looking forward always forces us to look back, so this first peek into the Institute’s origins takes us all the way back to 2001, and a blog post that was originally published in Justifications on June 26, 2006:

In the spring of 2001 a friend and coworker left a CD on my desk at work. We were (and are still) in the habit of recommending music to each other constantly, labeling every new find and must-listen as the best thing since the last record we swore would save rock and roll. This CD had a different sort of note attached; it was a different sort of record and required a more appropriate hook to give it a place atop of my need-to-listen pile.

The note reads (I’m not insensitive to the photo’s lack of clarity or the hundreds of readers who visit from outside this community and are looking at a duct-taped Suicide Girl rather than a CD-R and its memo): “Mike, Turn off the lights and curl up with this record. It will wreck you like a ninth grade romance. Keep a hankie close by. – Will. Oh, Inverted World!”

The album was, of course, Oh, Inverted World, the sublime debut by New Mexico’s The Shins. And it is a record with a place.

I listen to a ridiculous amount of music. Tuesdays are my Fridays and the latter half of the week is spent in frenetic caffeinated states of stereophoria. Oftentimes a record gets one chance to grab my attention before it’s relegated to the back of the pack and has to wait for a window in the cycle of new releases and mood-specific mixes for a second shot at roping me in. Gone are the days when every CD in an undergrad’s backseat carried a story, a memory, a reflection of a time and event and place. Blame the internet, blame my attention-span, blame Bush, blame whomever you please… that’s just the way it is.

So when a record does sink into my psyche, when it does make me stop what I’m doing and hang on a lyric, or a chord, or a wistful NewSlanged melody, then that must truly be something to cherish. Revisit and restore. Clear the muck, shake the Etch-a-Sketch playlist in my head and bring back some semblance of order to an otherwise overstimulated and sorely disheveled head of hair.

’06 is about half-over. And there have been some real winners. The Figurines, Oh No! Oh My!, Gnarls Barkley, Pelle Carlberg, Maritime, Belle and Sebastian, Asobi Seksu… to name a few.… But there has also been a lot of filler: forgettable, unforgivable, and tidal areas in between. The video for “New Slang” was playing last night and it made me stop, and remember, just for about as long as I needed, that I still do love every second of it.

We still listen to a ridiculous amount of music. Maybe even more so. And although the rules have changed, both in the world of music and the operations of our jolly little collective, we still cherish our pop music-fueled debates. The latest round table roulette has just concluded… and I can’t wait for the next chapter. Take another look at our Favorite Forty of 2010 while we drag our feet, ignore deadlines, and goad each other into tidying up the 2011 edition.