I love music. It doesn’t matter where I’m or what I’m doing, music will probably be playing in the background (or sometimes, in the “front-ground”). Naturally, or perhaps obviously, I have an iPod that I have with me pretty much at all times. I bought my iPod as a gift to myself with my tax refund in 2006 (because I worked really hard that year?). Because iPods aren’t cheap and I wanted to make sure to “get my money’s worth out,” I did what most people would do…I got a new stereo in my car so that I could hook up my iPod directly (forget those silly FM transmitters). Looking back, I don’t regret either purchase because, like I said, I love music, and I don’t see the point in spending a bunch of money on a magical little box that holds all my music if I can’t listen to all of it everywhere I go.
I spent this past weekend at my grandma’s house with relatives celebrating what we called “Thankmas.” Since we were getting together for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we ate turkey sandwiches and then opened presents (it was like a hybrid holiday). We decided not to draw names and buy gifts for specific people this year. Instead, everyone brought a wrapped gift that cost around ten dollars, and in place of the usual exchanging and opening of gifts, we played a game that included rolling dice and repeatedly stealing gifts from each other until some people had gifts they actually wanted, while others ended up with something that others didn’t want. It was actually pretty fun, at least for me it was.
You might be wondering why I’m telling you about the Thankmas gift festivities at my grandma’s house after discussing my love for music. Well, as it turns out, the two are actually connected. You see, the gift I took home this weekend was a $10 iTunes gift card. I was pretty excited about it. Even more exciting was how I “won” the gift (in an epic dice-rolling battle with my brother-in-law). He wasn’t as excited. He got a fleece blanket.
If you’ve ever received an iTunes gift card, I probably don’t even have to tell you about the stress that come with them. But in case you are not experienced in the realities of iTunes gift cards, here’s a quick rundown of what happens shortly after a person scratches off the label and enters the hidden alphanumerical code online to redeem the predetermined value for purchasing digital music. First, the giftee does the math to figure out how many albums and/or songs can be downloaded with the amount gifted to them. Then, they begin searching for and sampling music in an attempt to determine how they might best use the entire amount of the gift card (minus a penny for every song or album purchased). After spending an appropriate amount of time “researching” their options, decisions must be made. Depending on the amount of the gift card, these downloading-related decisions can range anywhere from “EASY: just click ‘Buy Song'” to “DIFFICULT: the implications of this decision feel like more than I can handle right now.”
Inevitably, when it comes down to the last $10 on an iTunes gift card — regardless of how much you started with — you will be deciding between two albums. And so, with only enough to buy one, a seemingly impossible decision must be made. If you’ve ever found yourself in this predicament (and I’m guessing you have)…I know what it’s like. I feel for you.
Life is not easy.
I found myself in this very situation last night. Sitting at my computer, trying to decide between two albums (“Simple Times” by Joshua Radin and “The Sparrow and the Crow” by William Fitzsimmons). Now, as a music lover, I face tough decisions all the time. If it’s not deciding which music to buy, it’s deciding which music to listen to. For instance, just last week two new albums came out, each by one of my favorite groups/artists. I bought both, but the dilemma created by having two new albums, each of which I wanted to listen to, led to my facebook status reading “Andy will be facing a difficult question all day; which new album to listen to…kanye or coldplay?” all day long on Tuesday. I ended up listening to both on an alternating rotation, and by midnight I had listened to both of them five times.
Life is full of choices, and sometimes it requires compromise.
Last night’s iTunes dilemma brought back memories of this past summer, when I was faced with an equally difficult decision over how to use a $20 iTunes card I received as a seminary graduation gift. At the time, Death Cab for Cutie’s “Narrow Stairs” album had just came out, and my roommate and I both wanted it. But it was also shortly after I had been introduced to the music of William Fitzsimmons, after hearing him open for Brooke Fraser at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis (I wrote about this back in June). In a decision that I’m still not sure I’m happy with, I downloaded both William Fitzsimmons albums that were out at the time, much to the disappointment of my roommate who was lobbying for Death Cab. As I wrote in my post after the concert last summer, Fitzsimmons “quickly become of my most listened to artists,” but I eventually became dissatisfied with both albums (because there was just something missing), and as a result, I grew to be somewhat resentful about how I had used the gift card.
All that to say, when the decision of how to use this gift card came down to Joshua Radin (whose first album I absolutely love) and Billy Fitz, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the disappointment again, and the 30 second samples weren’t enough to sway me in either direction. I had wanted Radin’s latest album for a while, but I had just learned that Fitzsimmons had released his first album since signing a record deal and I was hopeful that this album might have whatever was missing on the others. On a whim, I clicked the “Buy Album” button next to picture of the goofy-looking guy with a bushy beard, and I’ve been happy ever since.
I still plan to get Joshua Radin’s album because I know it’s another one that I’ll listen to multiple times per day (at least in the beginning), but for now I’m really happy with my decision. I might change my mind in time, but after listening to Fitzsimmons’ new album at least five times yesterday alone, it is one of the most solid albums, from the first song to the last song, that I’ve heard in a while (including the new Coldplay EP and definitely more than Kanye’s new album). If you’d like to share in the celebration of my good decision, give a listen to one of the hauntingly beautiful songs from “The Sparrow and the Crow” (below). The song is titled “After Afterall,” and it’s a reworked version of a song titled simply “Afterall” from one of his independent albums (“Goodnight”).
William Fitzsimmons – “After Afterall”
Life is tough, but it gets better with a great soundtrack.