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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Doldrums give way to musical ghosts

By Paul Shirley
Special to ESPN.com

The plotline of my childhood Sunday nights followed a similar pattern each week. There was popcorn. There was public television. There was depression. There was a wiggle room, of course -- sometimes, "Nature" was replaced by Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" -- but the Shirley family (and my brain) enjoyed our respective routines.

The source of my mental and emotional distress was the end of the weekend and the impending start of the school week, making me exactly the same as everyone else. That my distaste for the beginning of the week had more to do with getting up early than it did with what would happen after getting up is important, but I'll save a discussion of my hatred for alarms set for 6:30 a.m. for another day.

I'm made to think of the Sunday doldrums -- and then, to write too-long introductory statements about them -- because, as I write this, I am suffering their effects. I'm not Sunday despondent for the usual reasons. I don't have to arise tomorrow morning, rinse my tired body in a too-brief shower, and report to an office. No, I'm unsettled because my Sunday night comes on the heels of three beautiful days in Colorado and because the conclusion of those days in Colorado was a painful goodbye, a nine-hour drive home and a burst pipe in my basement.

Granted, my Sunday could be worse. But as contrasts go, I'd wager that it ranks highly. Relaxing weekend in a resort town with a beautiful girl, followed by sopping wet carpet and the prospect of two weeks of battles with mold has left me feeling frantic. I'm channeling the 7-year-old I once was, anxious about a day filled with long division and awkward encounters with classmates much cooler than I.

Because I've been doing all I could to avoid the Sunday doldrums since, oh, college, I haven't learned how to deal with them as an adult. I've gathered that others employ methods such as "watching football" and "drinking heavily" to get through the end-of-weekend depression. But I usually don't have to participate. In my world, Sunday is no different from Monday is no different from Thursday. A fact that I report not to gloat or to gain sympathy, but only to help describe the childlike state I'm in.

Hockey
Hockey just might be in your future music rotation.

There is one thing I remember vividly about the pre-work/school week depression: Almost nothing helps. In the end, the sufferer will be awake at all hours. And he will worry about the next day. Short a prescription for Ambien, there is no cure.

As such, I've decided to go with the flow. Tuesday's column (or what's left of it) will reflect my scattered Sunday.

A schizophrenic briefing, then, on the world of music. And then I'll step away from the computer and return to fretting about the carpet in my basement.

First up: Fever Ray.

I was tempted to write an entire column whose main thesis was that I had finally found an album of music that actually helps with the Sunday doldrums. And to declare Fever Ray's self-titled record to be that album. But, while Fever Ray is almost effective as a Sunday night depression-breaker, it isn't perfect, only because nothing is.

Fever Ray is one half of the Swedish electronica duo The Knife. Or, Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson. FR/KDA's music is … um … weird. Which is hardly the best way to make you want to listen to it, I realize.

(If only I could stop thinking about the mess in my basement. I might be able to string together a few adjectives and accurately describe this music. Focus, Paul.)

Fever Ray is the slow-motion montage music from a steamy romantic scene between an American special operative and his slim but striking European girlfriend. That is: a little unsettling, but ultimately gratifying.

Try "When I Grow Up" here.

Second: Spoon, Metric and Hockey (the band, not the irrelevant sport).

The Bravery
The Bravery was on the bill but barely deserves a mention for its part in The Buzz's Christmas show.

Or, the Ghosts of Music Past, Present and Future.

I watched all three courtesy of our fine Kansas City alternative radio station, 96.5 The Buzz. Dedicated readers will notice that my compliments for 96.5 are becoming more effusive. That ramping can be attributed to my realization that not every major city has a decent radio station. Or rather, that almost no major cities have decent radio stations. In other words, I'm beginning to understand how lucky my fellow Kansas Citians and I are.

The Buzz brought all three bands to town for their Night The Buzz Stole Christmas show. The station deserves credit for its scheduling efforts. Conversely, it deserves a toilet-papering for its naming efforts.

Says the guy with a girl's name.

But that does nothing to explain my Dickensian comparison.

The future went first, the present came next, and the past was last. As rock lineups go, it was a fitting order. (Fellow attendees will note that I've opted to leave out a band that was also charged with performing. That's only because The Bravery is awful.)

The ordering made sense because Hockey (Future) has potential, because Metric (Present) has made 2009 its year, and because I've decided to put Spoon (Past) behind me.

In my musical world, Spoon is The Flaming Lips is Blur is the Raveonettes is Okkervil River. I know I should listen to more of their work, but I'm almost never inspired to do so. I rarely have moments when I think, "I have to hear something from 'Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.' Right now." Which I write not because I want to trash Spoon, but because I want to make the one person in the world who agrees with me feel better. (In the off chance that one person is reading this.)

Thus, Spoon is the Ghost of my Musical Past. They remind me of a time in which I would feel guilty about not loving them, if only because everyone was telling me I should.

I don't have time for such worries. I'd rather use my brain to listen to Metric. Or to wonder what might become of Hockey. Or to worry about the fate of the carpet in my basement.

So, while I haven't come up with a cure for the Sunday doldrums, at least I've come to terms with my music taste. On the spectrum of Things To Worry About, that solution equates only with overcoming the fear that I'd touch my tongue to the drinking fountain spout after recess, but as I learned on darkened Sunday nights in a twin bed in Meriden, Kan., the brain has to start somewhere.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to go watch Marlin Perkins videos on YouTube and start hoping that I'll get two hours of sleep tonight.

Paul Shirley has played for 13 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams: the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. His book "Can I Keep My Jersey?" -- which is available in paperback -- can be found here. He can be found at Twitter (Twitter.com/paulthenshirley) and you can e-mail him here.