I’ve very recently become sort of obsessed with the accordion.

Unironically, even. Seriously, I like it. And this disturbs me, because accordion is not my usual soundtrack of angst-ridden guitar- and piano-laden lo-fi post-punk alternative-folk-rock-pop.* It’s not even that I refuse to venture outside my standard musical parameters,** it’s just that I very rarely see any reason to bother. I don’t often get to choose my soundtrack any more, so when I do, I’m going with something I like.

The reason I’m not in total control of my soundtrack is because of work. If you were following along during the holiday season, you may know I work in retail. You may even know that I’m one of the lucky retail types, in that I don’t hate my job. I actually shamelessly love most of it.

I don’t love the music.

The music at work is generally Variations On a Theme of Smooth Jazz, also known as Jazz of the Type Wherein Every Song Is Named “This Was For a Paycheck.” It’s that hideous, random, nonsensical and emotionless sort of jazz, the type piped in overhead in order to make sure it isn’t completely silent in the store.*** It’s the type of music so awful that the occasional wine rep will come in and, on a slow day, ask me how I can stand it. I can’t. That conversation is usually a short one.

The thing is, everyone at work except the store owner hates the Smooth Jazz. It even came up at our most recent staff meeting, the general grumbling being such that the manager finally told us we could listen to Not-Smooth Jazz when the owner wasn’t around, so long as Not-Smooth Jazz was free of swear words, not too loud, and not distracting to the customers. Since then, we’ve listened mostly to Smooth Jazz, Contemporary Piano (read: elevator music), Blues, and, very occasionally, Classic Rock.  And sometimes, if I get lucky and no one else is around who cares, Folk Rock or “Coffeehouse Blend.”+

What I’ve discovered in the past month is that, so long as we’re not listening to Smooth Jazz, I pretty much adore whatever it is we *are* listening to. This is where the accordion comes in.

See, one day recently we put on some kind of film score station. We spent the afternoon happily stocking bottles and playing “name that film” and generally having a whee of a good time. The station was fun – it was playing everything from Forrest Gump to Lonesome Dove to the Godfather and beyond. And then it threw in the accordion waltz from Amelie, a piece of music I’ve always loved because I feel like it catches the whole tone of the film perfectly. Plus, I adore that film.

So I think those are the first two causes of the accordion thing: being so sick of Smooth Jazz as to glomb onto anything else, and hearing a piece of accordion music that I already liked due to happy associations.

Then, last Monday, I was standing behind the counter psyching myself up to gather the trash, when this song, Mount Wroclai (Idle Days) by Beirut, came on the Folk Rock station I’d managed to turn on. I was listening, thinking that I sort of liked it, when a customer came in. She made it three steps in the door when her eyes went wide and she asked me if we were listening to my iPod or radio. When I told her it was radio, she asked me if I liked the song. I told her I thought I sort of did. This was enough for her to tell me who the band was, that she adored them, and that she’d bought herself an accordion on eBay++ in hopes of learning how to play most of Beirut’s back catalog of songs. Then she paid for her wine and left. I listened to the last minute or so of the song, thinking that, all told, I did rather like it. The accordion line was nice.

When I got home, I listened to the song again.  And then downloaded it. And then downloaded more Beirut. And then set up a Beirut station on Pandora. And then listened to nothing else.

Translation: in the past 72 hours, I’ve heard a fuckton of accordion. And I like it. A LOT.

Moral of the story: if you want to break someone with extremely narrow music taste, make them listen to 30 hours+ a week worth of Smooth Jazz. Eventually they’ll learn to like ANYTHING else.

Finally: too much retail does weird things to a person.


*translate this to “Radiohead” and “bands that sort of try to sound like Radiohead, or at least count Radiohead among their biggest influences”

**which could probably also be described as “narrow” or “pretentious”

***We’ve had silence in there before – it’s honestly preferable to the Smooth Jazz, although I think the silence may be a bit awkward for the customers. It does get loud, the silence.

+Where the hell do they come up with these names?

++When the next generation of kids gets to school and is incapable of dealing with capitalization rules, I figure we have things like iPods and iPads and eBay to blame. Honestly, what the hell is up with brands that have to make their second letter, rather than their first, the capital letter?