music is my crutch

BrowseA true believer hangs up his headphones, for now

By Troy Farah
Published on 10/18/2012 in Flag Live (


Editor’s note: Troy Farah has been a contributor to Flag Live for more than three years and his regular “In Rotation” music reviews have always brought a fresh and unfiltered view into the modern music world. Troy is backing away to concentrate on other endeavors and will be sincerely missed. 

I fear age. That day when I don’t grasp what the cool kids listen to. That day when I’m burnt out on new ideas and new movements. New genres with stupid names and noises that grate me. My iPod selections that are “In Rotation” will be reduced to a repetitive droll, the same tunes over and over, on an endless rinse cycle.

Sometimes, I feel that way already. A musical curmudgeon, stuck in my own self-inflated cynicism. But I’m not completely there yet and for now, new music will continue to prop me up. It started in my mid-teens and ever since, music has been my crutch.

Dumbed by new emotions I still couldn’t control, the adolescent version of myself sought a new venue for expression and found it through the folds of Zia Records store racks, the bent, cracked notebooks shoved into CD jewel cases and gigs of torrented tunes passed on to me by friends and strangers. It was a weakness, an ineffable attempt to channel emotion through someone else’s guitar, synthesizer or voice. Rather than my own.

But it isn’t so wrong to be weak. Every band I recommend to others is a forlorn attempt at communicating some idea, some emotion, some expression that I can’t verbalize any better than I can describe a dream. And that’s the whole point. My search for obscure, unheard-of music is part insatiable desire for the unknown and a short attention span, part feeble endeavor to express something I still can’t get at.

I try to be positive and never want to put others down. Even if I can identify as a “hipster,” I can’t identify with being a jerk who elevates themselves with scoffing and “You haven’t heard of this? What, were you born under a rock?” Like sex and drugs, rock ‘n’ roll entered my life latently and I’ve been catching up ever since. I resent ignorance, especially when it’s directed at me, but try not to direct supremacy at others.

My biggest regret in life is not knowing how to play an instrument and yet I’m too busy or too intimidated to teach myself. I can’t really describe very well what makes one sound better than another or even what that sound really represents in terms of genre. I can guess and I’m pretty good at guessing, so there’s that. Even if I can’t answer the “what” so well, I’m excellent at analyzing the “why.” Why this artist, this musician, this instrument, this song, this lyric, this note. And I won’t shit on your tastes if you won’t shit on mine, especially if you can answer “why” for yourself.

My time for answering why in Flag Live is over. Life has led me to other places and this autumn looks both incredibly optimistic and devastatingly difficult. Maybe I’m being melodramatic—I have a penchant for that, but time isn’t on my side right now. Yet, for three years, I made the time, as “In Rotation” has been like a child to me. I spent hours searching for the right records to review and hours more, listening to them on repeat and taking notes. I listened while I drove, while I made love, while I worked, while I ate and while I read. I was teaching myself as much as I was spreading my opinion.

Like record releases tend to do, the music aligned every high and low I experienced through my life. The right album has the potential to do that, as you understand. Music is likely a crutch for you, too.

And while it was technically work, I loved every aspect of writing for Flag Live, especially being able to interview internationally acclaimed artists and local musicians, so I felt like I was part of a “scene.” But mostly, my job was to keep on top of record trends or be forced to admit to myself that I was someone with no idea what I was writing about. I still don’t know if that’s true. I’ve changed my mind dozens of times about albums I ripped apart and even records that I fell in love with lost that zeal in the weeks that followed. Nothing in print is truly permanent.

The only difference between me and the average audiophile is that I had a built-in audience and a more articulate method for explaining that “why.” That’s all. But I’m open to error, bias and misinterpretation, if such things can even exist in music. Isn’t it all subjective, fluid, impossible to navigate? I hope not, because I’ve tried to make sense of this crutch for years to no avail.

The mystery is part of the appeal; the weakness is part of the strength it gives me. I may be saying goodbye to Flag Live, but I hope you will continue to explore new sounds, new expressions and new ideas on your own. We all have crutches, but music isn’t one that I’d ever give up. It just doesn’t let you down.