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A Year in Music: Matthew Schnipper

A few months ago I spent a while at a bar with my friend Michael talking about Girls’ song “Forgiveness.” It’s a sad, beautiful song, and iTunes tells me I have listened to it 53 times. I can remember one time, driving, but the other 52 are unspecific. I am sure I listened at home, in my office, on the subway, the same anonymous listening I gave to Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You” (84 times), Danny Brown’s “30” (53 times) and Julian Lynch’s “On Eastern Time” (43 times). I know that I walked around listening to Drake’s “Lord Knows” and playing air drums (44 times), but I couldn’t tell you specifically when and where. Attempting to sum up a year in music is the same thing as attempting to sum up a year. So what happened this year? My boss quit, I got a promotion, I went to England, I went to Norway. I spent a lot of time with a pretty serious babe. I went to Los Angeles, the Catskills, an endless amount of concerts that blur. I ate a lot of bagels, I went to Sweden, I finally bought a Swiffer.

I tried to delicately coagulate my various thoughts on 2011 through emblematic moments, but found the thematic thread between stopping being a vegetarian and Just Blaze’s use of big drums in a digital year to be no different than thinking about sending IMs to a rap writer about whether or not avant garde jungle is a genre. Basically, things change, but in different ways. So instead of extrapolating symbolism out of specific instances, here is every time I can remember listening to music in 2011. I’ve omitted all the mundane listening to a random song at work or on my commute, any random record I put on while doing the dishes, just listing when I remember something happening as being soundtracked, or if the soundtracking was itself the something happening. I’ve been lucky enough to have music be my business, so many of the memorable moments are work-related. I forgot a lot of the year, for better or for worse, but here it is, in vaguely chronological order and a number of different tenses. Also I did not include the 60 times I heard The Wire theme song over the course of three weeks in early fall. I liked season four’s version the best.

•Holy Ghost! DJ Talking Head’s “Once in a Lifetime” at Le Bain at midnight 2011. Everyone in party dresses and drinks more than ten dollars. It was my friend Brian’s 30th birthday and he wanted to go out to something a little shittier, too, so we took the train to Brooklyn to a big loft party where Ariel Pink was DJing. The floor was soaked and covered with broken glass. Andrew from Beautiful Swimmers was DJing. Right when Innergaze was about to play, the police shut down the party.

•“Black and Yellow” played by the DJ at the Drake concert at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. Was there interviewing James Blake, he was a guest of the artist. He had never heard of Wiz Khalifa.

•Listen to Justin Bieber “Baby” for the first time at a shitty pub close to the Hammersmith Apollo after the Drake concert. The bartender was way too pretty to be working there. Later, some dude poured a beer on a woman’s head. It occurred to me that The-Dream wrote “Baby.”

•James Blake takes my iPhone and looks through it and puts on something from Aquemini and plays it through the tiny speaker. I have to ask him for my phone back when the cab gets to the apartment I am staying at.

•Listen to Rick Ross on headphones in the rain, walking to the tube station. Don’t remember where I was going. Was singing along and excited that I was in London.

•James Blake writes a song on his computer, which is actually incredibly boring to watch. The drums sound cool. We eat dinner, come back, he plays piano, which is way more exciting. He plays gospel music, then an hour of various dubstep on YouTube over beers.

•Go to a Dustin Wong concert in Bushwick, Brooklyn on a very cold night in early January. My friend Daniel met me there. I had been listening to his record a lot. It’s really pretty, just guitar loops. He gave me a tutorial about how looping works and how you can build and build, but can’t subtract one loop at a time. The bar has 16 ounce bottles of Budweiser, which I’d never seen at a bar before. It was freezing. I remember feeling compelled to go.

•Hear the new Friendly Fires in the FADER conference room. It sounded so compressed and generally underwhelming. I never listened to that record again, except for the time I watched the video they did that was all VHS footage of raves.

•Jamie XX plays his remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” during a Boiler Room set. They filmed it on Vimeo, but took it off the Soundcloud stream of the set. I had an intern who is good at technological stuff rip the audio from the video, then cut it into an MP3. Sometime later, I got a high quality version of the MP3 and listened to it on repeat on my headphones pretty steadily for a couple of weeks.

•Adele does private performance at the Box, a super fancy vaudeville-inspired venue in the Lower East Side. She was wearing a lot of tartan plaid, made penis jokes. Sang while sitting down. I kept wondering who all the banker looking guys in suits were and, if they were in fact bankers, who invited them. Adele’s voice was beautiful.

•Receive an assortment of Scandinavian music leading up to my heading to Oslo to be a judge for the inaugural Nordic Music Prize. It was a lot of CDs of things I honestly did not want to listen to. But I did. I sat in my office and put them on, one by one. My favorite CD was Radio Department. They didn’t win. Also, I hate Robyn.

•Watch Odd Future on Jimmy Fallon on wifi at the airport in London.

•Actually get to Oslo. It's super cold but I still head down to a club and saw Supersilent. I would never do that in New York (never), but because I was abroad, it felt like I should. A dude from at a marketing company made incessant small talk and I was really tired.

•Jon Galkin who runs DFA is also in Oslo, giving a talk. He tells me there is a new Rapture album and I go to his hotel room to listen to it. I am shocked that it is really, really good. We talk about them being on the cover of the FADER, which they are many months later. Then we watch about 30 minutes of the black metal documentary, Before the Light Takes Us.

•Had the jury panel discussion for the prize, listened to all the music on a boombox. Was really surprised and happy to hear that everyone else hated Robyn. Jeanette Lee, one of the other panel members, was also the woman in the photo on the cover of Public Image Limited’s Flowers of Romance. Later listen to “Banging the Door” from that album on YouTube.

•Went to the award ceremony for the prize. An Icelandic woman whose name I cannot remember performed. She scrunched up her face a lot. Dungen performed. I fell asleep, zonked from too much jetlag.

•Got stuck in Heathrow transferring from Oslo to go home. Had at least four hours to kill. Went to Wagamama and ate noodles. Went to the gate when they announced it and there were already about 100 teenagers everywhere. Can’t remember if they were British kids going to America for a trip or vice versa. Listened to “America” on the new Bill Callahan where he pines for the US from Australia. I wanted to go home so bad.

•Downloaded Biggie’s original takes for Ready to Die. Listened to them way less than I listened to the other versions, mostly on YouTube and then at home. Realized I sold my 3LP copy of Life After Death. Downloaded the Lord Finesse remix of “Party and Bullshit” and argued with people that it was superior to the original, which I still believe.

•Accidentally saw a performance of a few violin and piano duos from John Adams’ piece “Road Movies” at Lincoln Center while there to see Tyondai Braxton and the Wordless Music Orchestra. Emailed YouTube links to the three movements to the FADER staff the next day. Did some googling and was surprised to find out John Adams is really famous.

•Listened to the Liturgy album many, many times before interviewing them for a piece I wrote that I ultimately did not do a particularly good job on because I was stressed out. Interview was fun and they smoked me out. I walked the 30 minutes home in the kinda cold and was convinced I had left my keys on their table but they were in my pocket.

•SXSW and The FADER Fort. Saw an insane amount of bands, just completely overwhelming. Off the top of my head, I remember lots of people being awed by James Blake’s set, but I couldn’t really see and that was frustrating. I was nervous Odd Future was going to hurt someone. I was freaking out when Trash Talk actually did. Bon Iver covered Carly Simon, something like that. Maybe Carol King? At night I tried to be mellower. I wandered around east Austin until we found a place where some friends were. Janka Nabay was playing, incidentally. It was really nice. On the way home, someone offered to smoke us out with a giant joint; there was one fallen soldier. One of the days, I heard the Vaccines playing while walking to the FADER space. I never found the location, but I don’t remember if I tried.

•Back in New York after SXSW, worked super late with Felipe to finish FADER's Notorious BIG issue, cutting up photos and text to make a dummy layout for the crux of the issue. He told me about this rapper Future and I downloaded “Dirty Sprite” and we listened to that. Was super into “Racks.” We listened to the new Tity Boi mixtape. Literally working on our hands and knees in my office. We had to move the chairs into the hallway to make enough space. The nighttime cleaning people came through and looked at us weird.

•Went to a bar and heard DJ Rezound play “The First” by Soulja Boy and totally lost it. It has this crazy sound like someone is curling. I went home that night and spent awhile trying to figure out who produced it, finally found some DJ promotion message board that said it was Knucklehead, then read his Twitter to find links to every song he had made. Exuberantly emailed people about Knucklehead.

•Got an email on my Gmail from friend Dean with an MP3 of “Without You” by Stacy Barthe. He was freaking out about the song via text message. Did not know who the dude with the guest verse; it was Frank Ocean.

•Entertained by The Weeknd's use of Siouxsie Sioux's "Happy House." Think about how Diplo put that on a Hollertronix mix eight years ago. Triple 5 Soul paid for that. Wonder what happened to Triple 5 Soul, realize they might still be around and I am out of touch.

•Heard the Frank Ocean album in Dean’s kitchen. Decided I understood why a major label would decline to release that record. Later rescinded that opinion.

•Downloaded Clams Casino mixtape from TheFADER.com after Duncan wrote a post about Lil B’s rare rap nose ring. Clams Casino’s instrumental mixtape was the bonus. Was kinda confused about how good it sounded. Still am kinda confused about how good it sounds. It’s a great feeling. Makes me super happy that music this out there is so (comparatively) mainstream in 2011.

•Dre Skull came into our office to play new Vybz Kartel record. He was criminally shy, a little bald. Spent a while thinking about how he had a really nice jacket.

•Downloaded Jhene Aiko mixtape from DatPiff.com during daily mixtapes rounds. Got obsessed with the song “Stranger.” Had a difficult time deciding how to word that she sounded like what everyone just hoped Cassie would do. Remember that people on Twitter were annoyed.

•Last LCD Soundsystem show, first date.

•Saw Ramadanman DJ. Earlier that night had him and Zedd Bias come to FADER’s radio show and it took them an hour to realize there was no pressure to do anything more serious than press play on their iTunes. At that point they had to leave. Was at the show with my friend Andrew who kept taking his hat off to salute the best songs.

•Read a comment on the FADER site that Soulja Boy has basically bought the sound for “Zan With that Lean,” an office favorite, from another Atlanta artist, Kwony Cash. Sure enough, Kwony Cash has a mixtape from several months prior of poppy Auto-Tuned rap about money. Listen to this constantly. Watch the video for one of the songs on girlfriend’s couch on my iPhone. She is not feeling it.

•Go see James Blake play. Spend a lot of time wondering if Saint Vincent and David Byrne are dating, as they are sitting quite close. Fall asleep during Active Child. Eat a lot of Peanut Butter M+Ms. Definitely had the hiccups for a while. People rapt during James Blake. Next time I wore the jacket I was wearing that night, months later, I found a few Peanut Butter M+Ms. I ate them.

•Interview Steve Reich on the phone and tell him he is “nice.” Go see the NYC premiere of his “WTC 9/11” at Carnegie Hall. Had lunch with my parents at Eataly that day, ate at the Momofuku uptown that night. At Momofuku, they played Nirvana on the stereo. Talk to the waiter about the music and he says people complain all the time. I would never complain, but it is really loud. Steve Reich piece is very intense and somewhat disturbing to see performed in New York. Before the show, a man in his 60s or 70s asks my why there are so many younger people there. I watch him leave after the first piece. The band Phoenix and their wives and girlfriends are there.

•Get really interested in the Texas band Love Inks for no discernible reason. Decide I really like the use of stale drum machine. I put it on a mix CD for my girlfriend who says that one ding in the song is the same as a warning noise in her car and she is briefly very confused.

•Get an IM from a dude who tells me to check out Beautiful Lou, a producer for Lil B. Listen to a lot of his songs that I like so-so until I find the instrumental for “Teardrops in Your Eyes” which sounds like syrupy house with hard drums. Put this on a mix CD for girlfriend who later tries to tell me she likes the electronic song the best but cannot for the life of me figure out what she is talking about until we go through the CD song by song.

•Dean who runs True Panther, Girls’ record label, sends me what he says is a new Girls song. It seems implausible, as the vocals are totally different. But it sounds like they took a heavy Paul Simon/Vampire Weekend turn. It’s a really good song, though recorded poorly with horrible sounding drums. Still, I jam it. Turns out he is playing a joke and it is actually a song by Cuckoo Chaos.

•Interview producer Bennie Blanco at his house and he plays me a song with a sample from Jai Paul’s “BTSTU.” Maybe two days later a Beyonce song with the same sample comes out. Bummer.

•Go see Fleet Foxes. Really late. Girlfriend doing work on phone. Asks when Fleet Foxes are going on. Fleet Foxes already playing.

•Spend a lot time listening to Wu Lyf, including seeing them at Mercury Lounge. Cannot deal with the stupid 9/11 stuff on their website and find them to be pretentious. Cannot deny how good it is. Have a very difficult time trying to articulate this to their publicist.

•Listen to Danny Brown XXX with coworkers. The explicit oral sex details make it almost a little awkward.

•Drive to Cape Cod with girlfriend, go to tons of thrift stores on the way home. Get stuck in terrible traffic and after NPR loses its charm, listen to the Wu Lyf album over and over.

•Clean my house while listening to Zomby’s “A Devil Lay Here” on repeat. Remember it kept me peppy. The ride cymbal is the best part. A few months later talk to his former manager about concepts about the record, dealing with notoriously wily Zomby and how great the record is. I compliment his jacket; he says Zomby gave it to him and it is very expensive. He does not say this to brag.

•Download Lloyd’s “Private Dancer” from digitaldripped.com. It’s super creepy, thin and produced by Jim Jonsin, who also did “Motivation.” Meet him not too long after and tell him how much I like the song and how I was upset it wasn’t on Lloyd’s album as it was by far his best track. He told me he was pissed it had been out in the world because it was actually a leak.

•Watch an Action Bronson video for a song I like and feel like it is so explicitly violent towards women that we can’t put it on our website.

•Fly to California to interview Frank Ocean. Drive around in a rental car listening to Wu Tang and Paul McCartney. Talk about a gospel song with Frank Ocean over dinner he doesn’t eat. On the way to a burger place, in separate cars, he finds the song on YouTube on his phone and plays it for me while stepping out of an SUV.

•Listen to the new J. Cole record in my office with his publicist. My mind wanders and I wonder if it is more difficult to tell people you don’t like something or that something is simply not for you. Do chefs have to do this? Tom Colicchio hates okra, no big deal. That doesn’t mean that okra is bad, just that he doesn’t want to eat it. Do okra publicists get angry at him?

•See Four Tet DJ outside at PS1. He is wearing shorts and flipflops.

•See Juan Maclean DJ outside at PS1. There are a bunch of wood chairs behind him in a semicircle. They are soon populated by his blonde children.

•Go to a recording studio to have Wale play my coworker Sam and I his new album. Spend more time listening to him rant about Pitchfork and being misunderstood than we do listening to new music. It is highly entertaining and I wonder why he his songs do not effectively harness that. Feel like he should maybe just get a really popular podcast instead.

•Fly to Sweden for Way Out West festival. Was given the opportunity to come in an extra day early to mellow out in Gothenburg so I took it. It was pouring. That day sucked. Next day was warm. I walked around with headphones on and get incredibly lost while listening first to ASAP Rocky’s “Wassup” on repeat and then to Watch the Throne in its entirety a number of times. When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me a moralistic joke that basically amounts to: Jewish people will take anything if it is free or cheap, even if it is not something they want or need. That’s basically what happened with the trip to Gothenburg. I did not need to be in Gothenburg alone for way too long, wandering around with indeterminate weather. Still, the appeal of having an extra non-music day to explore the city sounded ideal and I took it. But Gothenburg is semi-depressing, like wandering around Pittsburgh.

•See James Blake in a Swedish church. Go to Warpaint in a club. See James Blake watching Warpaint.

•Meet up with my friend Eric and his friend Emilia for breakfast before the second day of the festival and decided to skip most of the afternoon’s music and take a ferry to the archipelago on the west coast of Sweden. Wander around a tiny island (where the above photo was taken). There were sheep on a neighboring island. The clouds looked fake. We settled on a big rock by the water. Emilia is a big R&B fan, so I played her the songs Frank Ocean sings on on Watch the Throne. They went swimming.

•Drive to New Jersey with Alex Bleeker from Real Estate to interview the band in their hometown. Got stuck in crazy traffic. Listened to the new Atlas Sound and half of the new Girls heading up the FDR. On the drive back, in the band van, we listened to Elliott Smith.

•Hurricane coming the day of my birthday, canceled birthday plans to see Tanlines. Subbed with Ital concert the night before. Show was in a large brick warehouse with ceilings maybe four or five stories high on the water in Greenpoint. Sounded terrible.

•Finally heard “Pumped Up Kicks” in my sister’s car while visiting her in Vermont. Not a bad song.

•Feel guilty about taking day off in Vermont, so write blog posts from deflated air mattress on the floor at my sister’s house. Listen to Quilt on Altered Zones and am surprised it sounds so much like the Mamas and Papas. Shouldn’t that disqualify it for Altered Zones? Then become perplexed about music.

•Entire FADER editorial staff (five people) gets tickets to All Tomorrow’s Parties in New Jersey, so we take a retreat and rent a house. I rent a car from Enterprise on the west side. They give me a giant Lincoln Towncar. The seats are very comfortable. Only grabbed three CDs from the shelf, Real Estate, Belle and Sebastian and Elliott Smith. No idea why I would be so masochistic. We spend the entire weekend listening to Real Estate over and over. Everyone knows the words.

•See Best Coast DJ at a museum uptown. She plays Blink 182. A publicist thinks I am in Best Coast. He does not remember me. I remember him, and he got fat.

•CMJ, where I didn’t really hear that much music so much as be stressed out. The best part was when Future’s DJ played one of the songs from the Rich Kidz’ mixtape.

•Surprise dinner to celebrate my old boss' new job. In the back room of a fancy restaurant. She is drunk at the end of the night and has them play "My Girls" by Animal Collective and dances and sings along to the entire thing. Later claims she does not remember.

•See Philip Glass at Lincoln Center, shit my mind.

•Common comes to the FADER office to play us his new record. He lip syncs to the entire thing, then asks us all what our favorite two songs were. He has the best skin I have ever seen.

•Duncan, who writes for FADER, comes into my office and tells me to listen to Unicorn Kid. I do, and am horrified. Later come around, and in further research find that he did a chiptune cover of a Wavves song. Am horrified again.

•Sitting at my parents’ round table the morning after Thanksgiving listening to Kwony Cash’s “Take it How You Wanna” playing off my iPhone, trying to explain to them why it is sad and why it is good.

•Fall asleep on Metro North listening to Tanlines.

•Kinda bummed, take hours to get my shit together to go do something. Decide to go into city to see Nan Goldin exhibit at Matthew Marks gallery. Walking from the train, realize I do not have depressing enough sounding electronic music to listen to on my headphones. End up listening to Raime’s jungle mix. The exhibit is good.

•Get four emails from my friend Daniel with YouTube links of depressing electronic music. Also a Julio Bashmore song. Find out I think Andy Stott just sounds like the Black Dice album Beaches and Canyons.

•Cannot puzzle out what song is playing at Clandestino. Finally realize it is a song from School of Seven Bells first record. Recount to my friend Andrew how my friend Kevin and I drove around Baja listening to that record. Then google photos of the most beautiful beach I have ever been to on my phone and show him.

•Shazam’d a Portugal the Man song.

•Coworker on the business side of the magazine DJs the holiday party. I get stoked for Trick Daddy. Later, she tells me it made her stoked to see that. Decide in my head that everyone thinks I am a curmudgeon and they must be shocked that I know the words to "I'm a Thug."

•Playing Waka Flocka Flame “Rap Game Stressful” for my friend Daniel for the first time in the back of a taxi in midtown, stuck in traffic going to MoMA to see Oneohtrix Point Never. I said I wished that Waka Flocka was playing at MoMA but realized as soon as I said it I did not. The Oneohtrix Point Never performance was noise music, basically, which is potentially what Waka Flocka is.

•Get wasted at a bar and try to make my friends listen to the Diplomats Rap City freestyle over the Scarface “My Block” instrumental but it’s too loud. Walking home I put my headphones on and press play and get Cam’ron. And the dude cop a car today/ Color: pink Chardonnay.

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A Year in Music: Matthew Schnipper