REAY JESPERSEN:
WRITER OF, AND DABBLER IN,
MANY THINGS

What I'm listening to

Since we finally made the jump to a music streaming service—I was a steadfast CD purchaser until well after things like Apple Music and Spotify were commonplace—we’ve been (ok, I’ve been) going to town with playlists. I have one for commuting to work; there’s one for our daughter (always chasing down new songs she hears to check for inappropriate lyrics before adding them in); I was recently in a doowop mood so made a playlist of my favourites from that era; musicals I like, songs I like to sing to (and there’s some definite crossover there)… the lists are already many, and the possibilities of more are endless.

While making a classical playlist to read to (the less cool sibling of the Jazz To Read To playlist I’m also always adding to), I was introduced to the work of fantastic pianist/composer Alexis Ffrench, so he’s got his own playlist now, and that came with an unexpected perk that came to light recently: Not only is such easy access to myriad kinds of music good to expose our daughter to, but my teacherwife is finding the same benefit in her class.

She teaches what are effectively suburban inner-city kids, who seem to be fed a pretty exclusive diet of rap and hip hop. To help broaden their musical horizons, she’s always played a variety of music in her class while they quietly do their work, touching on everything from classical to Beatles, Beach Boys, rock, 80s hits—I’m realizing as I type this that she may not have much jazz in there, which I’ll have to address—and whatever’s currently popular (providing the lyrics are appropriate for little ears) on the alternative stations.

Point here being, she’s finding that lately the kids in her class are pretty evenly split on whether they’d rather listen to Alexis Ffrench or Jack Johnson. Tell me that without my wife working to play a variety of music to her class, kids who start that school in September primarily (maybe exclusively) listening to rap and hip hop would ever end the school year wanting to listen to either a Hawaiian singer’s soft acoustic guitar songs or the piano work of a contemporary British composer.

It’s nice to see the internet living up, at least in this respect, to its promised potential of bringing more information to more people, rather than so often being a depository for bile and negativity. In this case, it’s made it way easier to introduce new kinds of music to kids who would almost guaranteed not have heard it for years, maybe decades (if ever). And if they had heard it too much later, it may have been long after the concrete of their musical preferences had hardened and they just didn’t want to hear anything else. Get them in their formative years to understand that there’s way more out there than what they knew of (musically, as just this one example), and you’re exposing them to a whole world they can enjoy for a lifetime.

Because we have such ready access to pretty much whatever we may want to hear (though singers making exclusive deals with other streaming services do occasionally create exceptions), it’s commonplace these days to hear something on the radio, check out the lyrics (if for the kiddo’s playlist), and if all is good, add the song(s) to whichever playlists we want to. And it’s not uncommon for that to lead to listening to the song of the moment a lot.

A lot.

A. Lot.

That’s usually on the eight-year-old, who seems to have an endless tolerance for listening to the same song on repeat. But in fairness, I’m not always an exception. At times I’m not immune to the allure of doing the same.

Years later, I still never get tired of Injection, and Help Is On The Way was in my ears a lot after I’d first heard it. For a while I couldn’t get enough of Umbrella. The list goes on, for months, years, and decades. All three of those mentioned, by the way, I’d also put into the Venn diagram circle of Songs Better When Played Loud.

Speaking of which, I’d make a Songs Better When Played Loud playlist, but I suspect the genres would clash a bit too much to be really enjoyable.

In the last few days, I’ve been huge on Gave You Everything by The Interrupters. Good lord, that’s a solid, catchy song. I’ve never been so in the know of any music that I can claim to know about bands before they’re played on the radio, so like many of the new breed of Interrupters fan, I only heard of them when their hit She’s Kerosene was played on the radio. That one in itself was a go-to for a while in the household. Gave You Everything hasn’t caught on with my wife or daughter as much as it has for me, but I’m perfectly happy enjoying it on my own. Something you enjoy needn’t be legitimized by others liking it, after all.

I’ll be back in a while, I’m sure, with the next often-repeated new song.

Bike To School Week thoughts

Technology hates me and now grass does, too