In 1999 and 2000, the years I began devouring indie rock as ravenously as my part-time job’s paycheck and a 56k modem would allow, I spent a lot of time listening to “The Chris Carter Mess,” a weekly three-hour block on the now-defunct Southern California radio station Y107. Unlike the Shins, it changed my life. It turned me on to everything from David Bowie to Fiona Apple, and a lot of really incredible sad bastard ballads in between: Hefner’s “Hymn for the Alcohol,” Luna’s “Dear Diary,” and a number of songs that are still my all-time favorites.
I found this song later, probably on an Audiogalaxy user group — I don’t remember the exact details, but essentially you’d download like-minded people’s recommended songs via P2P. (I found another gem, Bright Eyes’ “No Lies, Just Love,” there as well. Also a pre-fame coffeehouse Jason Mraz jam, but that’s neither here nor there. If you think there’s no serendipity on the Internet, you’re probably a real fun guy at parties.) At any rate, it occurred to me to track it down last night. I hadn’t listened to it in 8 years, but it still splits my heart right in two. Bands don’t really make music like this any more — fragile and pretty without having to dive into Olympic pools of reverb or even acknowledge that pop music continued after the Zombies and the Left Banke. If this song’s any indication, it could’ve quit while it was ahead.