Monday, August 8, 2011

Musical Chronicles of Workplace Drudgery

Based on the utterly pathetic amount of posting I've done here lately, you'd be right to assume that I've been busy. Considering slow work days and clean slate evenings are my two prime-times for blogging, the lack of both has put the squeeze on my ability to produce. So I apologize for the negligence. Work doesn't promise to be any leaner, but softball seasons just ended, so hopefully I'll get some more content out.

By day, I'm a graphic designer at a publishing company. We publish self-help and business titles, so as you might imagine, it can get pretty dry. For instance, over the past two weeks I've trudged my way through the interior layouts of two books; one on the legalities of financial firms (or was it finance for law firms?) and another on financial planning geared towards upper middle-class Midwesterners. If you fell asleep reading that sentence, I understand.

The good news is the text-heavy nature of the manuscripts made the work relatively mindless. (Set style; apply style; repeat.) This yields some of my best critical listening time. I can focus on the music for long, uninterrupted stretches while still being productive. And I gotta say, the ol' iPod was on fire, rolling out the big guns as if to offset the cream-of-wheat content with which I'd been saddled. Mind you, I only use the album shuffle because, as always, I am an insufferable purist when it comes to start-to-finish album experiences.

As the projects wore on, the juxtaposition of this music and these projects became almost parodical. It was as if these songs were inspiring a creative outpour that metastasized into serif textflows and jagged line graphs depicting the ten-year performance of various hedge funds. So I'd like to provide some selections from the soundtrack of my past weeks' groundwork, and discuss the wacky relationship each may have had with the task at hand.

Spoon: Gimme Fiction

Fitting, considering I'd far prefer to lay out fiction titles. There are two reasons for this: less work, more interesting. Kinda like Spoon, actually. Their sounds aren't overcomplex (no subtitles, charts, bullet lists, etc.) and like the best writing, the music seems effortless.

M. Ward: Transfiguration of Vincent

I first listened to this dim-lit, pensive album sitting in a near-empty Seattle airport, waiting to board a delayed redeye to O'hare. I don't really have any reason to tell you that, except that it's a shred more interesting than saying, "Vincent came on while I was italicizing a sentence about uniform commercial code.

Bright Eyes: Fevers and Mirrors

Had to skip. Not sure my mind could compute the sensory amalgamation of Conor's angry-screeched downer anthems while adjusting the margins on a correlation matrix graph. Note: I'm not sure if it was a correlation matrix graph, or if that exists. I just remember those words on a graph, and I'd really rather not look at it again.

Radiohead: Hail to the Thief

My go-to for long late-night drives, it suited the situation well since, like night driving, I found myself fighting off the overwhelming urge to faceplant at any given moment. Thankfully, in both situations, coffee is there to help.

Beirut: The Rip Tide

I gave the new one from Beirut a test drive whilst building an index. Despite Zach Condon's vocal similarity to that jackwad Morrissey, I liked what I heard.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: III/IV

This one saw the light of day late last year, a collection of relics from the Cardinals era. To me, it's a mishmash of decent B-sides and throwaways, but I took to it a bit more than I had previously. Perhaps it didn't seem so bad compared to thorough analyses of alternate investment strategies.

Titus Andronicus: The Monitor/Pixies: Surfer Rosa

Throwing these two rollicking affairs together, since they soundtracked my past week's drives to and from work. If blistering guitar runs and angry vocals don't prepare you mentally for this sort of excitement, then you're in the wrong line of work.

Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger

The country-western masterpiece was perfect for the final wind-down. Willie Nelson's dulcet coos swirled as I finalized the preliminary layout of the latter (and dryer) book, easing my week to a close.


And, here we are. The above list reads as an eclectic soundtrack (sort of) set against some very un-eclectic subject matter. If nothing else, it provides comfort that no matter how dry the work, we can always turn to music to inject a bit of pizzazz into the daily slog.


Justin said...

III/IV is a really fun record! I think its a great one to work-out to. The songs all have really catchy tunes, even if the lyrics aren't as good as usual. I wouldn't mention how much this one has grown on me over at the .org since I'd be too annoyed by the ripping it would take. Glad you gave it more time.

George said...

Yeah man, I'm eager to give it another spin already. And by the way I saw your recommendation the other day, haven't gotten to it yet but will when I have a minute!

Thomas said...

I call bullshit on album shuffle!

George said...

It's there!