- Prince, “La, La, La Means Eye Love U” (N.P.G./EMI; 1996).
- R.E.M., “New Test Leper” (Warner Bros.; 1996).
- “Suikinkutsu Water Chime” (Virgin AMBT; 1996).
- Peshay, “The Real Thing (90 BPM Version)” (Mo’ Wax; 1996).
- Built to Spill, “Carry the Zero” (Warner Bros.; 1999).
- Lifter Puller, “Lonely in a Limousine” (Frenchkiss; 1999).
- John Prine ft. Iris DeMent, “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” (Oh Boy; 1999).
- Luomo, “Market” (Force Tracks; 2000).
- B15 Project ft. Crissy D & Lady G, “Girls Like Us” (Select Cuts; 2000).
- R. Kelly, “Step in the Name of Love—Remix” (Jive; 2003).
- U.S.E., “Climb the Walls (Umbrella of Love)” (Sonic Boom; 2004).
- Black Leotard Front, “Casual Friday” (DFA; 2004).
The first time I visited Seattle was in 1988, at 13, with my great-grandaunt. Walking by the Pink Elephant Car Wash on our way to eat strawberry crepes, I decided that I had to live here as soon as I could. Soon grunge happened, and with it so many of my suburban Minneapolis classmates expressed the same desire that it turned me off the idea completely. But by 1996, at 21, I’d gotten over it, and after abandoning a road trip to San Francisco with a friend, I got on a Greyhound in Bozeman, Mont., and decided to try my luck. The bus lost my luggage, all of it, and neither the Green Tortoise hostel on Second and Roy nor the house near 100th and Aurora I lived in between August 1996 and January 1997 was especially inviting. But I fell in love again anyway, and the first four songs on this mix were crucial Walkman fodder during this time.
“La, La, La,” from the three-disc Emancipation, is one of Prince’s greatest and most overlooked vocal performances—the high notes would give a teenager angina, and the dude was closing in on 40 when he recorded it. “New Test Leper” features one of Michael Stipe’s most heartbreakingly empathetic performances; “The Real Thing,” from the Headz 2A compilation, is the lustrous faded crystal shimmer that too much trip-hop wasn’t. The water-chime field recording concluded David Toop’s astonishing soundtrack to his book Ocean of Sound, criminally out of print. All of these were bought at the downtown Borders, at the time the city’s best record shop that wasn’t Tower. How times change.
I departed from the city hastily—in a mere 24 hours, I was fired from the Lower Queen Anne Pagliacci, was booted from the Aurora house due to a roommate’s rental nonpayment, and ended up in the hospital after a back-muscle seizure. None of this could deter me from returning. The first time was for two weeks of a monthlong road trip in 1997. I timed it to attend Bumbershoot, where I first heard Built to Spill, sandwiched between Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth, and where, impossibly, they blew them both off the stage. Later that year, I’d hear most of what made it onto 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret at shows in Minneapolis, but I still associate those songs with that glorious midday show.
I came back the second time in August 1999. My road-trip friend, instead of going to S.F., had followed me here, and he was marrying the woman he’d met as a result. Shortly after my arrival, I lucked into a job writing the Weekly‘s music calendar. My trainer was Tricia Romano—now the Village Voice‘s nightlife reporter and one of my best friends, then a snappy firebrand who loved drum and bass and didn’t care one whit about the copy of John Prine’s new album sitting on her shelf, a disc of classic-country duets with female singers. That night, on the bare mattress in my new loft apartment, I played In Spite of Ourselves on my Discman, the only playback device I had at the time, and fell helplessly in love.
A few months later, I’d realize that I had played what wound up being the final album by Minneapolis’ Lifter Puller, Fiestas + Fiascos, every day for four months solid and wasn’t about to stop. Something similar happened a few feet away, in the loft’s studio, where I’d sleep in the summer. One August afternoon, I brought home a CD with an eye-catching cover—an impressionistic close-up painting of a disco ball—and fell into the sway of Luomo’s voluptuous, dread-filled Vocalcity. Around the same time, I’d been ensnared by the bump and wiggle of U.K. garage, and got hooked on a 12-inch a visiting critic friend played me. Five years later, I’d rediscover “Girls Like Us” on a compilation, and was enormously gratified that my ears had been right the first time.
In March 2001, I decided to try my luck in New York. After two and a half years, just as I began to have money in the bank for more than a week at a time from freelancing, SW asked me to come back and edit the music section. I didn’t hesitate a minute. Arriving in June 2003, I worked endless hours, pissed off a few people who deserved the headache, annoyed a few more who didn’t (sorry, Kirsten), and began trying to create something I would want to read every single week. I didn’t always succeed, but for the most part I do think the work speaks for itself, and I’m proud of the caliber of writers I’ve been able to wheedle into this space. I hope I have a long life ahead of me, but something tells me this will be the greatest job I will ever have.
My arrival coincided with the iPod’s cultural ascendance, and the device brought about some of my deepest listening epiphanies, usually late at night. Walking over the freeway bridge to my house in Eastlake as “Step in the Name of Love—Remix” revealed itself as a deep-soul masterpiece was one such moment; numerous trips down Pine Street, through downtown, and down the waterfront at night to the first U.S.E. album was another (though I should note that their shows were equally inspiring). So were cab rides blasting “Casual Friday,” 15 wired, badass minutes that never feel anything less than right now no matter how many obvious ’80s touchstones it nods toward (the loose, Arthur Russell–style groove, the finishing synth freak-out inspired by Sleezy D’s early Chicago acid-house monster “I’ve Lost Control”).
All of that’s about to change, though. Last month, I accepted a job with eMusic, the online MP3 retailer, and by the time this is published, I will be back in New York. It’s true that New York is like no place else, but it still isn’t Seattle, the most beautiful, livable city I know, and the one I’ve loved living in more than any other. So before I go, let me thank, again, everyone who’s helped or encouraged my work and life here. It’s been a privilege and a deep honor. We’ll meet again.