You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and you don't need 90,000 strangers to be your pretend best friends to have a communal musical experience.
Take The National, for instance. I had never heard of them until learning they were opening for R.E.M. on the Accelerate tour. I wasn't sold on them after that show but my pilot and co-conspirator 11 was. He quickly bought Boxer and Alligator because the bulk of the songs performed in Atlanta came from those two records.
After hearing him rave, I tepidly put a foot in the water and began my own exploration. I also bought him the first two National records and their EP for Christmas last year. My own admiration for The National grew more slowly.
I began with Boxer and Alligator. There are some artists and albums that are difficult to solve and I'm content to let them remain a riddle. I found certain aspects of those records impenetrable but was drawn to them nonetheless. There are dark mysteries to unravel and it is a journey I need take myself. I continue to amass clues with each listen but haven't solved anything other than this: they have won me over.
So 11, his wife, and I had a belated Christmas dinner last night. Among my gifts? The first two National records.
I love it when things come full circle. More than that, I love the way music can be communal and personal. I don't believe in making friends of strangers. I don't believe in radio. I don't believe in MTV. I don't believe in iTunes. I don't believe in MySpace. I don't believe in Facebook. I don't believe in Twitter, iLike, or Last.fm. I took a chance on The National after experiencing vicariously the impact it made on a very, very good friend. None of the hi-tech nonsense you find on the Internet can compete with that.