...a solid soul and the blood I bleed...

It's been a productive office hours day so far: a recommendation letter written and sent, tomorrow's lecture prepped, my reservations for an upcoming conference checked and modified appropriately. It's amazing really, since my colleagues are swarming the hall today, having conversations about sweaters and injuries and the like.

I'm tempted to close the door. But that feels a little wrong to me, having complained more than a few times as a student about walking down a department hallway and getting treated to a sublime exhibit of Far Side cartoons, newspaper headlines, and event announcements, but rarely ever actually seeing a faculty member. It was especially acute when I was supposed to catch them in their office hours but found only that well-decorated door. I wonder at what point this happens - is it a change that I'll one day go through? Is it like academic puberty? One day my voice in department meetings will change, and I'll slink off to my office and shut the door, grumbling about how no one understands me? Is the sabbatical nothing more than the equivalent of getting the keys to your first car?

Hipster music may be one of the forms of music that the academic adolescent blasts to drown out crude authority figures who just don't understand. Think about it.

So, it's with some irony and distress that the album I'm listening to today is one that came across on a number of "Best of.." lists recently. Today's disc is "Merriweather Post Pavilion" by Animal Collective.

Let me be upfront: I bought the album because it turned up on so many lists. And unlike many of the things from those lists that I passed over, it seemed like it was worth a listen to me because it wasn't quite like what seems to be the dominant indie/hipster musical preference d'jour: whiny voice, coffee house guitar, I'll try to channel Connor Oberst if you'll tell my ninth grade girlfriend she was a bitch sort of feel. You know the sort. I love lo-fi as much as the next guy, but when it turns into a formula, well...it's like the anarchist I saw in grad school who smashed out a turn signal while the driver was still in the car, then cried for the police when the guy got out of the car to give him his own version of street justice. I don't care if your formula started out with some cred: once it reverts to type, it's less than interesting. It's I loved you but you jumped the shark funny.

The songs I checked out from this album before picking it up had a sort of experimental feel to them. My suspicion is that Animal Collective would fail the "does the album sound like them live" test that is one of my more trustworthy musical tests. It's all well and good if it flies in the studio, but does it feel the same at the show? I saw Modest Mouse a few years ago, and to this day, feel like I saw someone masquerading as the band who I might have liked better than the band whose album I'd been enjoying.

Maybe it's the same for Animal Collective: the album's got a little bounce but not so much to burst your working quietly vibe, but perhaps the band brings a little more menace to the show. I feel like it's a background noise album, rather than something that has an anthem or a song that I'll find myself quoting or humming or even wanting to sing along with.

Maybe that's why it works so well for moments like this at the office: not just because sometimes you need background noise, but maybe because the pre-tenure process functions similarly. If pre-tenure is your safe time to be produced and made to sooth the masses, post-tenure could be your moment to revisit your menace? That hardly seems the case, but it's an interesting possibility.


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