Scandinavian Summer

A story of summer and winter has haunted me since I was a little girl. One afternoon our elementary class gathered for an assembly in the school gymnasium. The occasion, meeting a real, live author. He promised to read us an historical fiction story that he had written, himself. I was at the edge of my seat.

He read us the story of a boy who ignores his parents’ admonition to leave his beloved puppy safe at home. Instead, the boy smuggles the puppy in his coat pocket, bringing him on an expedition to the lake, where he and his big brothers harvest ice for the farm ice house. I’m sad to say the puppy met an unfortunate end at the bottom of the icy lake. The story ends with the little boy eating ice cream the following summer, made from ice that was collected the day he lost his best friend.

The name of the author who chose *that* story for the elementary assembly, is lost in the mists of time.  But the idea of winter saved up in the ice house of our hearts, to later chill our summer, has never left me.

Now that I’m grown up, and can choose books that don’t involve drowned doggies, I enjoy going on reading adventures to learn about different parts of the world. This January our household did a deep dive on hygge, the art of Danish-style wellbeing and happiness. Reading about comfy socks and candles made us feel cuddly and cozy all through January and February.

The Little Book of Hygge excited us with fun suggestions to bring hygge to our home, even though we’re not lucky enough to live in Denmark. One  hygge idea was Danish music. Lucky me, Wiking specified some artists to explore. That was the first time I searched Apple Music for Agnes Obel.

As spring faded into summer, our hygge candles were still flickering, but we’d lost enthusiasm for wool socks, and I had completely forgotten about Agnes Obel.

Then one hot day, as I was dusting to GooglePlay radio, this cool, dreamy, yet deeply engaging sound made me cast aside my dust rag and race for the iPad. Who was the originator of this enchanting, icy music?

Agnes Obel.

Citizen of Glass is sadly sweet, soothing and intriguing at the same time. It’s like entering Narnia to find that it’s winter, preserving a snowball in the freezer for summer. Or like crunching a chip of ice that has survived to the Fourth of July in a prarie-era ice house.

My Scandinavian summer hasn’t been all about the Danish songstress. I’m on a Swedish author reading kick, too. I just finished The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and I’ve just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Both these books have been full of intrigue. But, thank goodness, there are no puppies or icy lakes.

My July with Tidal

I became an expert at packing jewel cases back in the years we were moving to Italy, NYC, and other apartments in between. The trick to packing an extensive CD collection is: don’t be greedy, use a medium box. A box of CDs is heavier than one jewel case in my hand seemed to suggest. There was such satisfaction finding just the right box to accommodate those tightly packed, uniform cases. So much neater than the messy Tetris of cramming other haphazard possessions into square boxes.

Stacking massive numbers of jewel cases is no longer a big issue in our household. These days music organization means juggling our many subscriptions to streaming music services.

Our household has tried an awful lot of them: Rdio (now defunct), Spotify, GooglePlay, Apple Music, Deezer, Pandora, YouTube Music, Tidal. I’m often unsure which service to access when I’m craving a particular song. Is my favorite K-Pop tune on Spotify? Maybe, but Apple Music is sure to have it. I miss being subscribed to Deezer, their “Flow” feature always knew what I wanted to listen to before I did, and their catalog of French music was fantastic.

This summer with the advent of JAY-Z’s 4:44, we decided to give Tidal a second chance, and we resubscribed. The first thing we noticed were catalog holes for beloved K-Pop hits and Euro favorites. The second thing we noticed was how awesome the music sounded. Tidal HiFi on my good headphones or stereo system provides a better sound experience than any other service we’ve tried.

My dream is to find The One music service that becomes home base. One app, one subscription. Despite its delicious HiFi, Tidal has a long way to go before it could become The One.

I want two things from a streaming music service: 1. play the specific song, album, or artist I want to hear (and I’m eclectic!); 2. help me figure out what I want to hear when I’m feeling open to suggestions.

When I signed up for the Tidal account, Tidal gave me a multiple choice test. Which of their chosen artists did I like? A couple, but most of my personal favorites didn’t make the list. And when I browsed by genre, the only way to view tracks and albums was by latest release date. The message was clear: what’s trendy and new is what I’m supposed to consume.

Tidal is trying to train me to be one of the cool kids.

And you know what? In the sea of Tidal Rising and Tidal created playlists, I find the occasional interesting new artist. Here’s my find of the week (link from Spotify, which shines at social and sharing):

Some of the trendy new stuff pushed at me is pretty good. Does that make me one of the cool kids, now, Tidal? Maybe. The more I hang with Tidal, the more I miss my Deezer summer of 2016, when the important thing was what I liked, not what made me trendy.

My hubby and I have wandered the world in search of a place to call home. We’ll meander from one subscription music service to the next, searching for the same. Thank goodness it’s easier to subscribe to two different music services than to live in two different places.

My experience with Tidal this summer has showed that it’s comforting being surrounded by music I love, but it’s also tons of fun going outside my comfort zone to try new things. Musical life is happiest when I’m free to do both. I wonder which service will be the next to improve the algorithm balancing familiar and new. Can’t wait to subscribe.