5.18.2009

Disconnect



I've been listening to Metric's new album, Fantasies, fairly obsessively lately... wait, sorry... let me back up a bit.

So, in 2006 Emily Haines released her solo record, Knives Don't Have Your Back, which was one of my favorite records of the year, and [hands down] my favorite album title of the year. I can't remember exactly what prompted me to pick Knives up. (I think at that point I was only vaguely aware of Metric, and I was only just beginning to get into Broken Social Scene -- a band I had avoided listening to for so long simply because they seemed to get so much damn press. And yes, I'm aware that such a reaction is fairly petty, and in this particular case a disservice to myself.) No matter the catalyst, I'm thankful I found it, as it was a record that truly resonated right with me. So beautiful and sparse and melancholy. God, her voice. There's something about Emily Haines' voice that absolutely slays me.

Thus began my little crush on Emily Haines.*

I'm really not prone to developing celebrity crushes. It very rarely happens to me. Sure, most everyone has their list (hopefully only a mental one) of movie and/or rock stars they'd love to spend a night in bed with, but that's really just one aspect of attraction. Crushes are such a different beast -- there's this [psuedo-] emotional component in addition to the aesthetic (read: carnal) attraction. Sure, there's the desire for the night in bed, but first you want to do John Cusack-ian things together like falling in love while learning to ski the K-12 and rebuilding a '67 Camaro. I think it's often about a (clearly falsely) perceived emotional connection -- something about their tone, their style that resonates. It's not too difficult a thing to swat down, because it is so obviously a one-sided thing and not an actual connection, merely the observation and recognition of personally desirable qualities.

Fast-forwarding a bit: I've been listening to Metric's new album fairly obsessively lately -- it's such a wonderful piece of smart pop music. Being back on an Emily Haines kick, I decided to put Knives on the stereo while on my drive home last night. In the song "Crowd Surf Off a Cliff" she sings the lines "I'd rather give the world away / than wake up lonely," which, especially due to the tone she sings this with, always gets me -- in one of those "God, I know that feeling" sorts of ways. I had just enjoyed a very fun and awesome evening, but while listening to this song, I couldn't help but think about a conversation that was had, which basically revolved around myself and two of my friends being in fairly similar positions -- namely, that the three of us were dealing with feeling weirdly and deeply fucked up by relationships that were long over and that we had no desire to revisit. Speaking only for myself, it's a strange thing, feeling so over a person in every way, but unable to change the fact that I am a vastly different person as a result of my experiences; that I have built walls (as the old-as-dirt adage goes) and that there are ways in which I isolate myself long past what seems necessary. Despite the wonderful evening, I couldn't help but take that song in, and briefly reminisce about feelings of loneliness -- thinking about the frustration of waking up alone, and also just-as-bad/sometimes-worse feeling of waking up lonely despite company. With that on my mind, I sent out the following message via Twitter**:
Emily Haines, stop breaking my heart.

An hour or two later, I received an email:
Metric is now following you on Twitter!

I found myself feeling oddly embarrassed about what I had written -- despite the awareness that I had been added by a publicist through automated means, combing search terms, with the desire that I will, in return, add Metric to my own Twitter feed, thus allowing a direct pipeline to me (the likely fan) for promotional information. I'm more than aware (and actually quite glad) that no one in Metric is following my life on their cell phone. ("Ben's trying to decide if he should get out of bed to get the Lester Bangs biography from his car." "The Jim DeRogatis one? That was pretty decent." "Oh, shit.... he's totally got a thing for you, Emily!" "Jim DeRogatis does?" "No, that guy Ben we started following on Twitter tonight." "Ha ha.")

This is tangential (and perhaps should have just been a footnote), but: I've never quite understood why there are such heated discussions and strong opinions in regards to Twitter -- I feel that both the "It's the most amazingest thing that ever was or will be"-camp and the "It's destroying the very fabric of the universe with it's banality"-camp are equally insane and expending way more energy than necessary on something that is fairly harmless and innocuous. (Interestingly, this exact same debate seems to happen over Chuck Klosterman, and I retain basically the same stance.)

Alright, so... Irrationally embarrassed, I thought back to something I had written in a recent email exchange regarding the new Metric album with a friend, and I felt strangely (and sillily) glad that it wasn't something that I had said publicly (ah, irony) on Twitter:
One day Emily Haines will marry me, and life will be perfect.
I think for many music-obsessed people, there is a lot of casual hyperbole and hero worship. It's not intentional. It just happens. It's all part of that odd one-sided feeling of connection that some song or album evokes in us. Friends and fans connect to one another through having like-minded idolatry; a similar connection stirred even while listening on headphones and stereos separated by a thousand miles distance.

At this point in my life, so many of my friends are are flung fairly far and wide across this country and beyond. I find myself quite thankful for the explosive growth and widespread adoption of social networking tools and the variety of ways in which they can provide some semblance of connection to the day-to-day realities of far-away friends. I'm aware that things like Facebook and Myspace are, at their core, merely platforms for generating advertising revenue. (Which is fine, as the developers to code these new communication tools and the electricity needed to power the arrays of servers on which these tools run aren't, obviously, free.) With a quickly expanding user-base, in no small part due to the [absurd] amount of media coverage, of course a wide variety of commercial interests have begun to investigate ways to use Twitter. That's not inherently bad, per se (just as it certainly isn't inherently good either). I can't help but think about the language and terminology of social networking. On Facebook or Myspace, we might have plenty of people on our Friends List who are not, in reality, our friends. Twitter's use of the word "follower" is interesting as it is, in my mind at least, such a loaded term. It'd be foolish to take these terms too literally of course. I guess I just find it fascinating that with all our new communication tools, it can be so easy to break past the metaphors and feel a real sense of disconnect.

Of course, disconnecting from something that is illusory isn't such a bad thing. In the practical reality of my life, I'm not affected much by the awareness that Emily Haines is not actually following the mundane details of my life on Twitter (again, I'm relieved, in fact), just as there aren't any pangs of heartbreak with the knowledge that the odds of us marrying are effectively zero. I would, however, love to learn the ship date for the vinyl copies of Fantasies.

(Photo above by Wendy Lynch for Under The Radar.)

__________
*Interestingly, spell check suggests that Haines is not a word, and offers to replace it with Highness.
**I have a hard time bringing myself to use "tweet" as a verb.

No comments: