Listening to years past

On Christmas eve she plays songs from years prior, from just the year prior. They are familiar, favorites picked carefully for the moments they bring back. The first song takes me a moment to place, the reason I was so enamored taking longer to return than the lyrics, which are instantly on my tongue.

It’s a song I listened to on repeat while wandering miles alone at night in Taichung, trying to get some exercise and to see the city after long factory days and dinners with colleagues. It represents a freedom, a sense of possibility in the world. I walked to night markets and through alleys, stopped at FamilyMart for coffee, and listened to music. On work trips of more than a single day the routine of the job becomes a home in itself. Days in Taichung started with a 7 am swim, before most others were awake, usually with the pool entirely to myself. Then a shower and early morning coffee from across the street while checking email and texting with the family. And then gathering with the team for the taxi to the factory across town. Factory days are both long and slow, full of stress and meetings that are hard to do remote. We learn from watching and discussing with the operators, from revising methods and attempting changes on samples ourselves. We learn simply from the hours spent, a benefit that’s been rarely discussed the past year. Simply by being together, by working on a project at the same time as a group, we the customer and them the project team, gain from the days together. Future emails, calls, and sample photos will be clearer for these hours, and our goals will be more similar. In the end that’s what we pay for with the days on site, for aligning two groups of people. Three, in my case, the engineers from headquarters in San Francisco, the Taiwanese factory engineers, and myself, supply chain in from Hong Kong, benefitting from time with both sides.

In the evening we’d eat together, at least some combination of groups. And after that, around nine, I’d walk them back to the hotel and then head in a new direction, walking without goal but with intention until eleven. And I’d listen to that song. Last year.

The mix she’s playing we put together in Hanoi, in a boutique hotel for a week of escape just after New Year’s. It was a week of peace after the intense fall burn of new jobs. We read and laughed and walked and walked. Mostly we were so happy to be adventuring again in Asia, in a year that had so much promise.

Sitting on the floor in the sunroom writing this, now with Lizzo playing, I remember the joy of that trip, and the joy of the year it wrapped. In twenty nineteen we’d survived two startup crashes and gotten our own visas to a foreign country for the first time. We’d gotten new jobs while abroad, made good friends, and played a ton of disc. A week later we would head to LA for a tournament with our old friends.

A year later we are making a mix again. It’s been such a different year than we expected. We again got new jobs, the startups of twenty nineteen failing to keep us employed for even a year. We traveled so much, that trip to LA, India, Taiwan, and another swing for me through the US to LA, SF, and NYC before the flights stopped.

It’s been a year. And I still like these songs.

M83 and the album of 2008

A lot of people post about their albums of the year.  Usually they do it sometime within that year.  I don’t bother, though sometimes lengthy emails go out, those last weeks of December, extolling something to people unfortunate enough to attract my attention with similar lists.

Most of those lists, painstakingly crafted, are then forgotten, set adrift into the winds of a million similar compilations and lost forever.  Or at least until the next December, when we all vow to make better lists than last time, because some of those songs were so popular, we didn’t look indy enough at all.

Sometimes, though, we’re just right.  Looking back, months later, we can say Wow, really nailed that one, absolutely hands down the best thing to have come out of 2008, musically.”

M83 Saturdays = Youth is that rare truth.  Listening to Too Late’ as I write this it is both timeless and relaxing.  Timeless seems an odd adjective, as most reviews start with M83 is a blast of nostalgic 80’s sound done well” or some other nonsense.  Timeless in that, unlike MGMTs hits from last summer, I am not immediately transported to a place or a time.  Which is good, because that means when I hear M83 in another few months it will still sound just good, not like that one time we…”

It’s the best album of the year, it’s the best album of a long time.  If you don’t have a copy go dig it out and throw it on.

Sometimes it’s nice to be right.