With Loss for Words and Bloodrush and Heartstop

Melissa is safe inside now. I just walked her home.

She is listening to music—Magnolia Electric Company, maybe—and trying to teach her kitten not to scratch her while she sleeps.

We again met randomly. We do this at least five or so times a month. We make no appointments, but I see her more often than I see many of my closest friends. This time, it was as we were crossing Sixth Avenue at 14th Street. I was on my way into the PATH station, Melissa was on her way into Urban Outfitters.

When you run into a beautiful girl, follow her.
That’s my motto. And so, that’s what I did.

I won’t recount the ensuing trip to Taco Bell, but our stop at the Virgin Megastore proved productive. As Melissa now struggles with her kitten, I’m listening to Sufjan StevensIllinoise, which Melissa urged me to buy.

Honestly, I was going to buy it anyway. She had been telling me that it’s wonderful—from beginning to end, wonderful (!)—and was never able to speak of it without sighing and smiling and shaking her head with loss for words and bloodrush and heartstop in that same way that I do about a certain girl. If I could—if I had the choice—I would do almost anything for that certain girl.

The CD, however, was selling for a whopping $16.99 at Virgin, which is about $6.99 more than I really like to spend on any new disc. Oh well. I whipped out my debit card and bought it anyway, despite a certain feeling that I could find it at Kim’s or Other Music for less; I wasn’t going to look like a cheap-o in front of Melissa.

Which reminds me: My friendly neighborhood EPA officer, Philip Ansel Ritz, tipped me off to an independent online record label called Magnatune, which allows its customers to decide how much they’d like to spend on their artists’ albums. You pay as little as $5 or as much as $18. In discussing his motivations, founder and owner, John Buckman writes:

I thought: why not make a record label that has a clue? That helps artists get exposure, make at least as much money as they would make with traditional labels, and help them get fans and concerts….

The goal is to find a way to run a record label in the internet reality: file trading, internet radio, musicians’ rights, the whole nine yards.

Sounds good to me. This is an idea I’ll be pushing on my band—either in an attempt to get signed onto Magnatune, or simply to use the Magnatune sales model when we sell our own CDs at shows.

So, anyway, I paid the steep $16.99 for Illinoise, not knowing what to expect, but simply trusting a friend. And now, while Melissa sleeps and is being scratched by her thankless kitten, I am still up and listening to this truly magical album.

Unlike Clap Your Hands Say Yeah—familiar and comfortable—Sufjan Stevens' latest stop along this cross-country trip is strange and fascinating and I really don’t know what kind of music this is, but—god—it’s great, it’s great. It’s weird and wonderful and filled with twists. It’s like the beginning of something lovely and dangerous. It’s like running into a beautiful girl as you cross Sixth Avenue at 14th Street. And there are horns and there are strings and there are handclaps and shouts and cannons. There is so much going on within these compositions that I can’t help but think that I’m missing something important. The Magnavox AZ9345 just isn’t cutting it tonight. Knowing that our Michael Fremer has had Illinoise in his heavy rotation, I have to wonder what these songs sound like coming out of his Wilson Audios. And on vinyl!

Maybe I’ll soon know. Or, at least, maybe I’ll soon have a better idea of the possibilities.

And along with Sufjan and the singers in "The World’s Columbian Exposition," Melissa sings:

Oh great intentions
I’ve got the best of interventions
But when the ads come in
I think about it now

And along I sing:

I cried myself to sleep last night….
Even with the belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?

And I only paid $16.99 for this? If I had the choice, I would have paid more. Now, I think, I would have paid almost anything.

Monty's picture

Steven, be honest," you have ""An Affair To Remember"" and ""Beaches"" in your video library don't you?

acd's picture

Wow, this is the first time I've read your blog and I'm very impressed. I've been listening to Illinoise steadily for the past several weeks and I couldn't agree with you more. Everytime I try to describe it I'm quickly reminded that I'm incapable of doing so. It's truly a great album.

tris mccall's picture

he is impossible not to root for. even if his christianity bugs you (it doesn't bother me at all; i like intelligent christians), his writing is so bright and charming that it disarms you instantly. i forgive him all of his excesses -- even his tendency," now established on three albums -- to think that ""a lotta"" is a powerfully descriptive adjective.

melissa's picture

with 2 states down and 48 to go - i'm sensing a historical tribute of the garden state next. just think - thomas edison, the jersey turnpike, paul robeson, ellis island, the cult of jersey city, and so much more!

Stephen Mejias's picture

Hi Monty.At first, I was like," ""Huh?"" But after I Googled ""An Affair to Remember"" and found that it's some sort of romantic love story", I think I got your point. Hee hee.Beaches, by the way, was the first movie (or thing of any kind, for that matter) that made me think that there really are differences between men and women. I was 11. And I was not the same as my mother, or any of her friends who also loved Steel Magnolias. God, that movie was sad!Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Monty.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Hi acd.I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog. Thanks very much for commenting.Yeah, this morning, I was trying to decide what kind of music Sufjan Stevens is playing, and I was like," ""Are these show tunes? Is it opera? Is it prog-rock? Is it music for cartoons?""Wild and awesome is what it is. I love it.

Stephen Mejias's picture

The Jersey Devil, Clifton Commons, George's Pub 'n' Grub, Guillo's Place...Sufjan totally has his work cut out for him with New Jersey. We'll see what he can do, but he's going to be following some pretty big footsteps; Bruce Springsteen and Tris McCall. But, I can't wait.Thank you so so so much for forcing me to spend $16.99.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>it is hard for words to do justice to his music, but damn sir, you have captured something there... Thanks so much, Beta. But I owe this one to Melissa. It's funny: as I look back on some of these entries, it's obvious that there are usually two things (or a combination of two things) that really inspire me - women and music - and the relationship between the two I kinda just make up on my own to create a story. Women and music - yeah, that makes sense; two of the most beautiful and wonderful and weird and perfect things I can imagine. They kill me. Audio gear, not so much. But, I agree with you: the gear gets us closer. To the music, at least.