My Salaryman Soundtrack

Haven’t been updating a lot lately. It’s been difficult. Lots of reasons for it, but there are two big ones.

1. I kind of…don’t know what to write about? Okay, sure I could write about  more record stores in Japan – and I plan to, trust me, but I feel like I should spread those out a bit. That shit gets old. So if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

2. I’ve been HELLA BUSY! Work is, well, a lot of work! On the weekends I’m usually at the office for 11+ hours, and during the week I’m usually in around 7:00 am, which means I have to wake up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am. I still get two days off a week, thankfully, but on those days I typically spend as little time as possible inside my apartment and don’t really feel the need to write. When you live in one of the most exciting metropolises on Earth, you really don’t like spending your days off cooped up in a tiny room, y’know?

But yeah, right now my life is pretty focused around my work. And I’m oddly fine with that. I’ve never been one to settle well into an office job. Cubicles typically make me want to die. But I guess the fact that I spend most of my day teaching helps counter that. Teaching is fun! At least, I find it fun. It’s one of the few jobs I’ve ever had that I’ve actually found emotionally rewarding. That’s a nice switch from when I used to work in a warehouse packaging porn (long story).

As much as I love my job, that morning commute, it’s a real mother. While I’ve gotten used to waking up at 5:30 in the fucking morning, it’s not something that I ever think I’ll be happy about. Forcing myself to crawl out of bed before the sun is even out is not easy. And there isn’t a strong enough coffee (especially in Japan) to put a bounce in my step that early.

Once again, music to the rescue.

In the past when I had to make morning commutes, I would pick a CD to serve as the soundtrack to my journey. Partly because I’ve never been a fan of playing singles over albums, and partly because the last time I actually had to make a daily morning commute was so long ago that I didn’t even own an iPod yet. (Shit I’m old). But now I’ve begun to realize the power and importance of a good morning mix  that can get you up and running even on the groggiest of days.

I think the ideal morning work mix is different for everyone. Some people hate their jobs and need to get into the proper FTW aggro space in order to make their way through the day. Others get super stressed out by their work and need a nice, mellow mix of downtempo jams to calm them down before heading into the office. Me, I need the most UPBEAT SHIT IN THE WORLD. Because, shit, did you forget that I have to leave for work before 6am? I need aural coffee.

This means a lot of 80s pop music. In fact, when I first started making my morning mix I entitled it “My giant stupid mix of stupid 80s stupid” and filled it with wondrous wonders like “Jessie’s Girl” and “The Safety Dance.” I even went out and bought some budget 80s compilations and added disposable idiocy like Sly Fox’s “Let’s Go All The Way,” and even forgotten “hits” like Haircut 100’s “One Plus One.” Anything with an fast beat and a good synth lick, that’s good enough for me.

And anything that makes me feel like I’m early-80s Eddie Murphy (except, y’know, white and in Tokyo) is a good thing.

But even I only have so much stupid shit from the 80s (granted, it’s still a lot) and recently I’ve moved on, incorporating rock, techno and even punk into my list.

I was worried that it wouldn’t blend together, but it turns out that damn near anything with a fast beat works well together. Or maybe I’m just better at making mixes than I thought and I should really quit this teaching gig and be DJ Godzilla, the hottest, biggest DJ in Tokyo.

There are a few things I noticed that don’t work, however. Like I said before, I need to be in a good mood when I get to work, so most obvious downer tracks, no matter how exciting and fun they sound, had to go. No “F For You” by Disclosure, no “Cream And Bastards Rise” by Harvey Danger. The track has to celebrate life, or be defiant against those who don’t. Even instrumental tracks can’t make the cut. I need a narrator to my morning. A narrator that reminds me that I’m one dope motherfucker who’s ready to rock the workplace.

Yeah, that’s right. I took it that far. Nothing is too silly, too poppy, too “light” for this list. In fact, this whole experience has kind of re-kindled my dormant interest in pop music, and make me understand a bit more why some people only listen to the pop charts. Think about it, if the main chance you had to listen to music was between the hours of 6 and 7 am, would you want that time to be filled with Arcade Fire? Are those mopey Canadians going to get you ready for work? I don’t think so.

Fuck you, that’s a great song. I mean, it’s obviously Bruno trying so damn hard to be The Police it’s almost painful, but whatever. And besides, dammit, I’m tired of trying  to convince myself that the catchiest and most fun tracks on the radio are somehow secretly the worst (okay, sometimes they are – “Blurred Lines” I’m glaring at you). I still listen to thrash metal, ambient electronica and about 100 other obscure and/or marginalized genres, but sometimes I want to bask in made-for-the-masses populist fun, and I don’t feel like I should apologize for that any longer dammit.

Also, yo, if you’re getting on the morning train to work the nine to five all day and you’re not listening to “Morning Train (9 to 5)” you’re FUCKING UP.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to recently. Stupid music and hellish commutes. But I have been chipping away at a few things I want to write about. Expect another write-up about another awesome Tokyo record store, and I also want to get something together about a very specific aspect of Tower Records here that I think is wonderful amazing Japanese weirdness. But if anyone reading this has anything else about Tokyo that they think might be interesting for me to write about, let me know! I’m sure I’m staring at something in plain sight that’s incredibly interesting and worthwhile and I don’t even know it!

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