I was rummaging through a box of old stuff and of all the useless things, I found two shoe boxes of cassette tapes. I don’t even have a machine to play cassettes anymore so it was long past time to let most of them go, but I such a great time looking over my handful of old mix tapes I couldn’t bear to part with them.
Mix tapes used to be a big thing in our family. My oldest sibling is seven years older than I am, so he was off to college before I hit my teens. He used to send me mix tapes for birthdays and Christmas. My youngest sister, in turn, is nine years younger than I am, so I was off to college before she hit her teens. I used to send her mix tapes, or bring them home on visits. Somewhere in there, my other sisters got involved, and anytime we were stuck for a gift to send, we’d create a mix tape and send it along.
Eventually mixing tapes turned into burning CDs (so much easier!) and now we’re all old and set in our ways and we barely send music at all. It’s too bad–maybe next Christmas I’ll try to revive the tradition.
This is verging on an Ungoth Confession, but if you can make out the songlists you’ll notice my taste was and still is all over the place. Partly, I was gearing the tapes toward my sisters and not myself, and partly I’m just like that. I listen to all the things. Just not on cassette anymore.
This last photo is pretty much my favorite Christmas album ever, put together by one of my sisters and her ex, Mike. I listen to it just a silly amount every year.
In case you can’t read the list off my crappy photo, here it is:
- Sleigh Ride–The Ronettes
- No Christmas for Me–Zee Avi
- Please Be Patient–Feist
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas–Aimee Mann
- Christmas is Going to the Dogs–Eels
- Winter–Kristin Hersh
- I Saw Three Ships–Sufjan Stevens
- Goyim Friends–The LeeVees
- We ThreeKings–Reverend Horton Heat
- There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In–Elvis Costello, Feist, John Legend, Stephen Colbert
- Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town–Bruce Springsteen
- Silver Bells–William Hung
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)–Darlene Love
- Maybe This Christmas–Ron Sexsmith
- Angel in the Snow–Elliot Smith
- Here Comes Santa Clause–Elvis Presley
- Snow Song–Judd & Maggie
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas–John Denver & the Muppets
- 25th December–Everything But the Girl
- I Know You’ve Come to Take my Toys Away–The Mountain Goats
- Joy to the World–The Klezmonauts
- My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)–Regina Spektor
They played Tool on the radio last night–yes, I still listen to radio sometimes–and I got all nostalgic. I was a big fan in college and even got to see them in concert back in the day. As my mind wandered back into the past, I remembered that Maynard James Keenan makes wine now down in Arizona. There was even a documentary about it several years ago that I never got around to seeing.
So I watched it this morning. It’s about seven years old now but it’s still good, a geeky and fun look at a region just getting into the wine industry. If you know nothing about wine it’s a painless introduction, and if you know something about wine it’s an unpretentious look at the subject. It also gives some interesting insight into Maynard James Keenan himself. I’d love to try some Arizona wine and tell you how it stacks up but I’ve never found any around here. Our state only sells wine in state-run stores and they usually stick to well known brands, with a smattering of local Utah products. I might have to take an actual trip to Arizona to see what its wine country has to offer.
As much as I love the music, it kind of makes me happy when famous people move on to other things. As Keenan put it in the documentary (and I paraphrase badly), you get to be a beloved rock star by screaming about your issues, and if screaming about your issues helps you should eventually feel better and move on to other things. If your music isn’t helping you feel better, how can it help anyone else feel better?
This certainly seems true in my own life. Back when I was young and struggling and full to bursting with unprocessed pain, bands like Tool were such a vital part of that process I can’t imagine making it through without them. But now that I’m older and healthier and just a tiny bit wiser, that intense need for music has faded. I miss it sometimes, but I think Keenan is right and it’s good that I’ve moved on and cultivated new talents and projects.
I don’t write much about labels or who qualifies as goth. Out of more than 60 posts so far, I’ve written maybe two on the subject. I see my blog as a scrapbook or a cabinet of curiosities, so most of my posts are about what I find beautiful and interesting. I don’t worry too much whether those things are goth or merely ‘darkly inclined.’ I don’t worry whether I’m a ‘proper goth’ or merely a goth-adjacent horror geek, and I’m way too old to let other people tell me whether I’m goth enough. I’m happy enough lumping it all together and I’m mostly content to let others do the same.
There’s this idea out there that being ‘goth’ is better than being ‘darkly inclined.’ As if anyone can be darkly inclined, but being truly goth is more exclusive than that. It’s ironic, because I find the ‘darkly inclined’ to be more flexible in their interests and curious about new things than the people who worry about who’s goth or not.
That said, I think it’s weird when people who like no goth music at all want to call themselves goth. A large number of goths still like goth and darkwave and such, and still use the label to find others who like the same music, being ‘goth without the music’ gets in the way of that. You can still type ‘goth’ into instagram for fashion purposes without actually calling yourself a goth, so why not leave the label for the music lovers?*
Or better yet, give the music a chance. Be curious about new things and flexible in your interests. Back in the day you either had to know an obsessive fan or shell out money for actual cassettes or CDs, but today it costs no money and just a few minutes to try out all sorts of goth music. If you can’t be bothered to do that, you’re boring and I’d rather not know you.
To be fair, I’m equally bored by ‘gother than thou’ types who peaked in the late ’80s or ’90s (or last year, or whenever) and haven’t tried anything new since. As if trying new things will ruin their eldergoth reputation or something. It doesn’t hurt to be curious about new things and flexible in your interests. You might find a new twist on an old favorite.
It’s all been said before and will all be said again, and this is why I don’t write about it. I mostly mention it now to encourage everyone to just be curious and try new things. (Did you get that theme? 😉 ) Precious few of us are interested in dark things already. I just want us all to feel free to express ourselves and find each other. Don’t just be goth, or just darkly inclined. Be interesting.
*Gothic Soul Flower had some great things to say about this on YouTube. I agree that the music makes more space for people who don’t look like Instagram perfect goth stereotypes.
Someday, when I have more money to spend, I would love to collect Roentgenizden, or bone records.
For quite a while after World War II, the Soviet Union had a black market record trade. A whole host of songs and musicians, even homegrown Soviet songs and musicians, were banned for various reasons, so people had to pass the music among themselves. Record players could be put together at home, but vinyl for pressing records was much harder to come by, so creative music lovers used x-ray plates instead. They called them bone records, or ribs, or Roentgenizden (after Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered x-rays), and they’re beautiful. I love the haunting images x-rays produce, and I love the history and the dedication to music behind bone records.
Unfortunately, after all this time they’re also a bit rare and expensive. You can find them on eBay but they’ll cost you quite a bit. I doubt they’ll get any cheaper, since there’s now a book (available used) on bone records and a documentary going around the international film festivals as we speak.
I just got the book in the mail but I haven’t sat down to read it yet. It’s part coffee table book and part history of bone records. I’m excited to get into it.
How about all of you? Is there something you’d love to collect that you just can’t afford? Would you buy a bone record if you could? I have an x-ray of my kid’s broken arm but I think she’d be mad if I turned it into art. It’s not her fondest memory.
I’ve been caught up in life stuff. We all have it; I don’t have to explain, right? I’ve been figuring things out, getting things done, and Band Camp has been getting me through.
I actually have a friend who produces on Band Camp. She’s a great person, but her music is a bit bright and folksy for my taste. (Still, if bright and folksy is your thing, give it a listen!)
Me, I’ve always run towards metal and alternative, but lately I’m all about dark cabaret and dark ambient. If you’re not Evelyn Evelyn, Kim Boekbinder* Atrium Carceri, or Kammarheit, lately I’ve not much use for you.
I’m no expert in either genre, but dark cabaret cheers me up as much as anything can, and dark ambient is the bleak soundtrack to every soul-sucking thing I have to get done. Everything is more exciting with something like these in the background. And sometimes that’s what you get–a cool soundtrack to your boring, frustrating life.
Hope everyone’s life is going well. And if it’s not, I hope you at least have a good soundtrack to your troubles. Catch you soon.
*Kim Boekbinder came out of Vermillion Lies, which was more or less dark cabaret, but she’s more than that. As most of us are.
While the winter storms have come one after the other, piling up snow and icing the roads, I’ve been snuggling up in my memento mori blanket and catching up on all sorts of entertainment.
Over the last few weeks I’ve watched the new Dirk Gently series twice. I read the books back in the day and I felt this series was true to the spirit of the original while creating a whole new storyline and cast of characters. But don’t let kids watch it unless they have a high tolerance for blood and weirdness.
This week season 4 of Bates Motel came to Netflix, so that’ll keep me company for a week or two while I work on my skully lap blanket. I found some silvery grey yarn in my stash and decided to alternate that with the red. So far I’m excited about the color combination.
My music has been tending toward the moody and atmospheric, like Tones on Tail and Dead Can Dance. All of that put a very specific song in my head, only I couldn’t remember what it was called or who did it. Took me an hour of googling to figure out it was Scott Walker’s Farmer in the City. This time I made sure to find out what album it was on (Tilt) and download it so I wouldn’t forget again. If you like avant garde music or somber chanting stuff, which I do on occasion, you’ll like the album.
I’ve also been in a reading mood. I just finished a nice dark fantasy novel inspired by Alice in Wonderland (called, unsurprisingly, Alice). The pacing was a little off for me, taking a long time to wind up and then rushing to a conclusion, but I was into the dystopian world the author created and I’m a sucker for stories that blend grimy cityscapes with magic and fantasy, which this book does well. I always found the dream logic of Alice in Wonderland creepy (especially in the original books and the Disney movie) so this explicitly dark take feels natural to me. There’s a sequel I’ll have to get to one of these soon days, but I’m finishing Broken Monsters first. I’m liking that one so far as well.
So that’s what I’m up when I’m not working. How are you keeping busy lately?