I took a vacation from music in the unlikeliest of places: the hideaway home of one of the Northwest's most acclaimed young songwriters. He needed a house sitter; I needed an escape. Tucked into redneck countryside among actual barnyard animals, I broke down over the guilt of analyzing other people's creativity as a means of collecting a paycheck. All around me were the tools of a successful songwriter's trade--various collected guitars and other instruments, expensive-looking recording equipment, a CD player and wall-to-wall displays of discs any music critic would dive into with enthusiasm.

But I had unexpectedly come to a day in my life when listening to music made me want to run for the hills--literally. I'd become claustrophobic over the fact that most of us communicate emotionally through the musings of a songwriter. We want to tell someone how we feel about them, but rather than do it with our own words or actions, we do it through the words of another. That's how we connect with music--we identify with the mood or the lyrics; we think it's speaking for us, and we are enmeshed in the song. It becomes an example--it says what we would say if we knew how, and we speak to others through it.

Several weeks ago I overheard someone saying he needed a whole new record collection now that every record he owned had become unpleasantly associated with someone or sometime in his life. I thought about my own avoidance of certain albums or bands after breakups or deaths, and began to spiral in the notion that something that never actually lived or breathed could become as vivid a wraith for me as the person I associated it with. Cathartically, and co-dependently, I'd gone through such deep involvement with songs that they provided emotions when I was too empty to provide them for myself. And then I was unable to listen to those songs for great periods of time, for the same reason. A lyric tattooed around my wrist now irks me nearly as much as it inspires me.

In the midst of my respite, our nation was attacked. I had no TV on which to watch the horror unfold. A wall of music became my comfort, and familiar albums now signify a new, more pertinent heartache. No one hears songs quite the way they used to, and the words of others provide a consolation we can't provide for ourselves. On national television, Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready were joined in performance by Neil Young as the entertainment world banded together to raise money for a struggling city. Locally, during a packed show at I-Spy in which all proceeds were donated to the Red Cross, Juno, Death Cab For Cutie, and other Seattle bands gave impassioned performances. Aveo's moving version of "Sounds of Silence" was but one of the evening's edifying moments.


Gossip still seems trivial, but here's a bit for the dedicated: Less than a day after the lovely and hilarious Leslie Hardy blew out of Seattle--she moved home to Detroit following her departure from the Murder City Devils--her former abode was engulfed in flames. Thankfully, Pretty Girls Make Graves singer Andrea Zollo, who shared the house with Hardy, was elsewhere when the fire erupted in the early morning hours. Friends and bandmates helped Zollo salvage what she could before Pretty Girls left on tour the very next day.