Getting Lost in Pop

I’ve spent so much of my life making legitimately weird music. See my algorithmic music on bandcamp for that. So it’s only natural that at some point I would go completely in the opposite direction, and that time is now.

Lately I have just been loving pop music. I love listening to it. I love making it. It’s just fun. When making music in a pop style it’s really easy to find collaborators. After all, most musicians are trying to make “pop” in one way or another. And the collaborations usually run along predefined lines. e.g. “I’ll make the music, and you do the vocals.”

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. Tons of collaborations on tons of fun pop songs. Here’s my latest on Spotify with Drizztopher Walken.

And these collaborations push me to explore more of my own ideas too. My daughters started listening to Galantis recently, a group that I fell in love with a few years back. And those two things have pushed me to make fun, danceable pop, and to even try to include my daughters (who are aged 2 and 4). Here’s my latest on SoundCloud with special appearances by both of my daughters.

So what does this say about me? Am I going to make pop for the rest of my life? Do I have bad taste in music? I don’t know. For know, I know that I’m having a lot of fun making pop.

I paid my dues to see David Gray live

One of the reasons I am fascinated with both computer science and music is that each is a bit like magic. Each has invisible power to make change.

Yesterday, my daughter woke up with the flu. Actually, we found out today that she has croup, which is apparently going around her school. So Erin stayed home with her, while I went to work. But we also had to cancel our plans for the evening. Instead of going to the David Gray concert together, I would go alone.

At work, I was stuck in a meeting that seemed like it would never end. During this meeting, I got a headache that kept getting worse and worse. When I rubbed my head, I could feel my temperature rising. I could tell that I was getting sick too. The meeting dragged on for four hours, but I pushed through it.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted and feverish. I had driven to work, because I was still going to make it to the concert, even if I was going alone. But in Palo Alto, you have to do a dance with the parking authority if you want to park for free. You have to move your car every two hours, from one colored zone to another. I left work a little early because I knew there would be traffic on the drive, but when I found my car, there was a bright orange envelope on the windshield. I owe Palo Alto $53.

At that point I had paid $70 for the tickets, plus $53 for the parking ticket, so I had invested $123 to see David Gray. The parking ticket only steeled my resolve. I was going to see him come hell or high water.

And this is all sort of silly, because I don’t even like David Gray that much. Mostly, I have a deep sense of nostalgia for his one hit album that came out right before I went to college. I listened to it a lot in college. At the time, he was the only person I knew of who was doing singer-songwriter-plus-drum-machine really well. When I found out that Erin couldn’t come to the concert, I tried to explain this to my younger coworkers who I invited to the concert. They were nonplussed to say the least. A singer-songwriter with a drum machine really doesn’t sound very compelling today. It sounds practically commonplace. But nobody had quite figured out the formula back in 1998. So David Gray felt really fresh to me at the time.

My point is, I’m not a David Gray fanboy. I just respect the amount of time I spent listening to him when I was younger. Unfortunately, this is not enough to convince others to drive all the way up to Oakland for a concert.

The drive was hellish. If you have ever commuted from San Jose to/from Oakland during rush hour, then you know how this goes. The Greek Theater is only 40 miles from my workplace. The best route that Google could calculate took two and a half hours. I was in traffic for every minute of that drive, with a rising fever. It was extremely painful, and even though I left work fifteeen minutes early, I still arrived 10 minutes late.

But when I pulled up to the parking garage, things seemed to turn around. By this point I had a very high fever, the sun had gone down, and it was raining. So I couldn’t see the “Full” sign on the parking garage until I had already pulled in using the wrong lane. Everyone was continuing on to the next lot. At first I tried to back out of the garage, but then I realized that it wasn’t really full. So I pulled into a spot. I’d take my chances.

Then I stepped out into the rain, and started running to the theater. I could hear the music pouring over the hills. I saw a man standing in the rain, asking for extra tickets. I knew he was just going to scalp them, so I almost walked by, but fuck it, who cares. I gave him my extra ticket.

Then I ran up the steps, and breezed through security. I climbed to the top of the hill, and the music hit me.

That’s the moment when you feel the true power of music. I was all alone and feverish, in the rain after a long day of work and an awful drive to the theater, yet the music seemed to heal me. I could feel myself recovering as the sound washed over me.

I didn’t really talk to anyone. I listened to the music, and watched from the top of the grass. David Gray has a good band, and he has a good audience rapport. Even though his music isn’t as fresh today as it was in 1998, it still changed me last night.

I bought a shirt, and felt a lot better on the drive home.

David Gray at the Greek Theater in Berkeley

David Gray North American Tour 2017 Shirt

What Will Come from the Vacuum

This week What Will Come from the Vacuum is being played in Trauenkirchen, Germany, as part of a exhibition called Physik und Musik. This piece was written as a response to images of scientific equipment.

A Quiet Place

Transient