I have found myself in the past few months listening to the same albums on repeat; sometimes, individual songs nonstop on repeat. I go back and forth between artists from my adolescence and young adult years - Death Cab For Cutie, Aimee Mann, Jimmy Eat World, don’t judge! - along with recent discoveries like Yola, Kacey Musgraves, Lianne La Havas, HAIM. For me, there is a combination of comfort and longing - and occasional heartbreak - in revisiting music that I was obsessed with in high school and college. It’s like hanging out with a friend that you haven’t seen in years. You’re not the same person you once were; you can never be that person. Yet, you can still appreciate - cherish - that past version of yourself and those memories. Revisiting older music is a funky little time machine.
Even though the experience of listening to new music can also act as an escape and alternative reality of sorts, for the most part it’s the opposite experience: I’m immediately thrust into the present. I’m forced to confront my daily anxieties and ever-expanding to-do list as well as some things I would rather avoid: my growing fears about getting older and running out of time to do the 800 things I feel compelled to do; the catastrophe of this upside-down world right now; my own mortality; you name it. Luckily, that experience is malleable: it is never solely fixed in the present but rather is soft, buoyant, and able to expand the present.
The artists featured in Crop of Kismet create similar, pliable environments that seem to vibrate. And amaze. Sneak up behind you. Hiss. Badger. Guffaw! And ultimately force you to slow down. Through fragmentation and repetition, the artists in Crop of Kismet envision new realities with an assured nod towards the future. They contribute to an expansion of the present by engaging in a unique handling of materials, a wide range of media and techniques, and by utilizing discordant color combinations. What might be perceived as a logical, defined space breaks down to its core in order to invite you in. Just like being shaken with new music, these artists open up room for thoughts and anxieties to ebb, unravel, repeat, and reconfigure: to demand to take time. These spaces help guide us to look at the road ahead, take a deep breath, and - hopefully - find new wisdom in old worries.
Currently, I have Waxahatchee’s “Lilacs'' on repeat (from their 2020 album “Saint Cloud”). In a March 2020 interview with Pitchfork, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield, who is the primary member of the band, describes the song as “a reminder that none of us are ever done doing work” and that “everybody has stuff that is always coming back around. You have to find the tools to repair yourself.” The song opens with a simple, plucky guitar riff and Crutchfield’s textured, comforting voice:
I wake up feeling nothing, camouflage the wavering sky
I sit at my piano, wander the wild whereby
And the lilacs drink the water, and the lilacs die
And the lilacs drink the water,
Marking the slow slow slow passing of time
When I live a sparse existence, I'll drop down in the fold
Lean in to an urgent falter, spin silence into gold
I run it like the crop of kismet, I run it like a dilettante
I run it like I'm happy, baby, like I got everything I want