One of the scariest things about how integrated our lives and technology have become is how we are bombarded with torrents of the saddest, most romantic, or heartbreaking moments in an endless loop.
Every day we are suffocated by euphoric highs, global tragedy and unbearable cruelty. The results are awful; we are constantly measuring our lives against viral content and ultimately left to discard real life as insignificant.
We are left to question the validity of every emotion, wondering if the lack of hashtag means that our lives deserve to be distractedly scanned and dismissed. If our sadness can’t be retweeted by people we don’t know, should it really be crippling our days? If our love isn’t presented through synchronized dance routines, is it really pure and true?
Music is headed in the same direction. Songs, for better or worse, have become products written to be placed, traded and sold. I know we don’t need - and shouldn’t expect - authenticity in our music, but honesty always shines through. Julia With Blue Jeans On is as honest a listen as I’ve come across this year. Most people strive to sing without filter, searching deep inside to find the words that mean the most. Spencer Krug, at least in this incarnation, chooses to sing without any of the surrounding noise. There is no filter, just a singular floodlight aimed directly on him.
There is place for his emotions to hide and no textures, sing-alongs or even accompaniment to release tension or chase the burn. Some might argue that few artists would be allotted this freedom, few have the pedigree to warrant this indulgence and still expect our patience and open mind, but I’d suggest that few people have the courage to take this risk. Julia With Blue Jeans On is far from perfect - in fact it is an incredibly polarizing listen for me, one I love as much as I struggle to understand - but that might be it’s best quality. This isn’t a collection of likes, a link that is forwarded to friends and certainly not the face the launched a million clicks. These songs will not be shared instantly, but Krug’s stark presentation of alienation, intimacy and internal reflection means something.
Nick Hornby once - famously, thanks to John Cusack - asked, “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” On the surface, that seems sad but that shared depression meant we still felt emotions for everyday events. Love could run you over, and death, was grief worthy. Today we happily accept the fact we are the type of emotionless robots that great art forecast. Krug refuses to think his world - no matter how sad, conflicted, uneventful or fucked up it maybe or may not be - is any less worthy of our attention. He’s not hoping these scaled back piano songs are shared anonymously. He’s sitting down next to us, pouring a drink before he pours out his heart, looking us directly in the eye.
If we chose not to listen, that’s on us.