OTR, Take 18: AIR - Moon Safari

(If you would like to listen to the album as you read, click here, or hit play on the embedded album below.)

Let's talk about mood music. Not those godawful Spotify playlists offered up on a debased algorithmic platter. The kind of music made for specific moments in life, made to allow you to adopt a certain walk, to slip into an attitude.

There are definitely mood songs (think entrance songs for relief pitchers), but there aren't as many bands who lock onto a mood for an entire album. Even rarer for entire careers (I'm looking at you Philip Glass).

I've mentioned elsewhere that I listen to music basically all day while I'm working. If I'm not in a meeting or on a call, I've got music blasting just loud enough to slightly annoy Audra but not loud enough for her to do anything about it. Before I switched from Spotify to Tidal (and I really encourage you to do so: it has better sound quality and it pays much higher royalties to musicians), that recap Spotify puts out for you at the end of the year told me I listened to more minutes of music than 99.99% of people on Spotify.

So I guess I've got that going for me?

Anyway, I have a catalog of albums that I play for specific types of work I need to do. For different moods to inhabit. (I retired my Brief in Response playlist when I stopped litigating, but it was a banger!)

Today's album is one of the best mood albums I've ever heard: AIR's debut album, Moon Safari.

This is the newest addition to my collection: look at that etheric blue!

It's difficult to discuss Moon Safari without acknowledging the other emerging French sound in the late 90s, best encapsulated by Daft Punk: the rave scene. It's a bit reductive to describe Moon Safari as the album you'd listen to the morning (or afternoon) after you spent clubbing to Daft Punk, but it's also not entirely wrong.

Think of it this way. Moon Safari is the album you put on your headphones as you go walking around town, a personal yet cinematic soundtrack that gives a little extra confidence to your step. In fact, when I take Clare for walks, Moon Safari is often the soundtrack to our walks.

Do me a favor: the next time you go on a walk outside (going for a run doesn't have the same resonance), hit play on the opening track, "Le femme d'argent" as you are stepping out of your door. Bonus points if you're in a city. Let the sound of the rain soothe you into that hand drum rhythm before that bassline kicks in. This all happens so smoothly, so naturally, that by the time the Rhodes kicks in, you're walking in-beat with the song and feeling like you're in total fucking control of your life.

I mentioned last week that I've been walking like a crazed person in the wake of Winnie's passing. There's another reason I've been walking with Clare miles and miles every day: like many people, I solve the problems I'm facing by walking (literally) away from them. Some achieve this in the shower – same subconscious mechanism at play – but I've found a fairly direct correlation between walking and the resolution of seemingly intractable problems.

So folks, a note from the too-obvious-to-actually-say files: running a business is hard work, emotionally as much or more than intellectually. On the one hand, this is a full and complete business plan:

  1. Offer a service or product to the market;
  2. If it works, double down until it stops working, and then return to step one;
  3. If it doesn't work, return to step one with a revised offer.

On the other hand, that is as helpful as the napkin business plan from Glass Onion.

This means nothing. Not in the nihilistic sense: in the "this doesn't fucking mean anything" sense.


Seriously, take some time to piece together the lunacy on that napkin: it is a perfect parody of so many contemporary businesses. I am approached by a lot of startups and, let me tell you, most of them have plans that are not too dissimilar from that napkin.

"Cool cool. So could you explain to me in basic English who your market is?"

"Man, that's the beauty of this: we have to create the market! We have to teach people that they've always wanted this."

This pseudo Steve Jobs shit never ends. I don't work with these startups.

But sometimes I do start working with a company that says all the right things, has the business plan figured out, is associated with all the right people...and turns out to be a very, very bad fit. A company that has political divides that attempt to use me as leverage in a festering battle.

Here's why business is hard: despite what all of us say about doing business the right way and seeking to create business environments that serve the people inside and outside the business, it's hard to walk away from good money when you recognize that the source of that money runs counter to your values.

I faced such a situation recently. I walked away, but it was both very easy and very difficult to do. Here's why:

First, why it was "difficult." I have a mortgage and fixed costs at the firm. That's it. The interest in staying in the business relationship was strictly financial. A lot of us write this consideration off as though we're above it. Don't believe anyone who says they don't care about the money at all. The important thing is to care about other things more.

Now, here's why it was easy: I got over my initial reluctance to establish written firm values. When I opened the firm, I was reluctant to do this. I thought it was a bunch of woo woo nonsense.

I was wrong.

Thinking carefully about the values you want to build your business on helps keep your business on track. Your values become your decision-making matrix. Every decision must meet this basic criterion: what option serves the values of the company? And this is key: your repeated decisions become your values. As Aristotle always sez, we are what we do.

One of my firm's stated values is: "We do work that makes both our lives and our clients' lives better." That conjunctive "both/and" is critical, and it means that we simply do not do work with people who push ethical boundaries or disrespect anybody at the firm (the fastest way to me firing you as a client is disrespecting my team).

Sometimes I feel perturbed or sense a smoldering anger tensing under the surface of my consciousness. Long walks help me excavate what's bothering me. They let me bring into harmony what I'm feeling and my conscious awareness of it. And this week, I knew before "I" knew that continuing to work with this customer would be an affront to the values of my firm.

The hard things become easier when you've put in the hard work of deciding what and who you want to be. This shit is the opposite of woo woo nonsense.

This week was a fight, a loooooong night out. This morning, I'm accompanied by Moon Safari, a quintessential comedown album, a slow settling back into myself.

Now, excuse me as I throw in my AirPods, get Clare leashed up, press play on "Le femme d'argent" and emerge from this cloud.

Till next week –

I'm writing a novel in public. Shitty First Draft and all. You can check it out here.

Here's Moon Safari by AIR:

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