So one of the major flaws with “I like all music but X and Y” thinking, is that one genuinely never knows where a really awesome song will come from. I can totally understand that some genres might not to speak to a listener as much as others. Others might have a remarkably low signal-to-noise ratio. Others may be full of gimmicky bands whose premise is so ridiculous that it’s hard to take them seriously.
But see, then one of those ridiculous bands makes a song like this:
The Protomen write and record songs (two full albums of them so far) based entirely on the old Megaman series of games. Is that kind of absurd? Well yeah, it is. But is this tune (“Act II: Breaking Out”) an awesome, well-crafted, poignant rock tune? I contend that yes. Yes it is. That it’s also a well-crafted, poignant rock tune about Megaman is entirely beside the point. It still totally rocks.
So next time you hear yourself saying “I like all music but X and Y” know that yes, Virginia, X and Y do have some really awesome tunes. You just haven’t found them yet.
Maybe because you’re not looking.
So lately, I’ve been really into the Mountain Goats. I’d always sort of liked what I’d heard (I, like any warm blooded creature, love singing along at the end of “Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton”), but for whatever reason hadn’t ever listened much past the singles and best-known Mountain Goats tunes. But recently, after seeing them play at Sasquatch, I started tracking down more of their stuff.
Easily my favorite of the tunes I’ve stumbled across is “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”, which is as good an expression of all-consuming terror as has ever been put into music. H. P. Lovecraft found himself out of work, separated from his beloved wife, and surrounded by strange, foreign cultures the likes of which his New England upbringing had not prepared him for. His sense of helplessness, fear, and xenophobia is often credited (probably rightly) with being a significant force in developing his unique writing style.
But for all of John Darnielle’s writing about fear and self-destruction (two topics he explores frequently), the man writes some of the most life-affirming songs I’ve ever heard. At his best, though, he manages to combine the two, and conjure strange joy out of some really dark places. Probably my favorite example of this is “This Year”:
And then there are some tunes that are just pure distillations of perfect little moments, as in “Jenny”. “We were the one thing in the galaxy God didn’t have his eyes on” is one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever heard. I also like the pure, simply joy Darnielle evokes when he says “900 ccs of raw, whining power, no outstanding warrants for my arrest”. Perfect.
Jack White’s latest band, the Dead Weather, recently announced the follow up to their excellent debut, Horehound. The new album is called Sea of Cowards and is slated for a May release. The single is a dark, rattling tune called “Die by the Drop”. It’s definitely worth a listen:
Here’s a great interview with Porno Para Ricardo frontman Gorki Aguila. It was filmed by Reason TV and the aim of the interview is largely political. That being said, it’s interesting to get a glimpse into just how hard it is to be a musician in Cuba.
Also, being arrested for “Social Dangerousness” is punk as fuck.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of covers. I think that the myriad ways in which a song gets covered says something both about the songs importance and value, but also makes a larger statement about the paradoxically personal and universal nature of music. All of that’s to say that I found Lisa Mitchell’s cover of “Romeo and Juliet” (originally by Dire Straits) absolutely enchanting:
Many thanks to Fifty Two Tuesdays’ Music-Pusher-in-Chief, Ann, for inspiring the Lisa Mitchell YouTube wander that turned this up. Mitchell’s debut album, Wonder, is out now in the UK and Australia, and available on the import market for the committed. I also hear it’s available on the iTunes, but I haven’t been able to confirm.
A little birdy told me that Fitz and the Tantrums are giving away their debut EP plus a bonus track. That’s right, giving it away! As in free!
I’ve been all about these guys sense I heard them open for Flogging Molly here in Spokane a couple months ago. They’ve got an awesome Motown-ish sound to them that I just can’t get enough of. Seriously, go download the EP, you definitely won’t regret it.
Here’s the music video for “Winds of Change”, which should give you a good sense of the sort of delightful Motown kitsch you’re in for:
As much as I like Neko Case’s new solo work, it’s really a pity that she’s drifting away from her Country roots a little. Country and its hipper, rougher cousin Alt-Country both really need voices like Case. Here’s a gorgeous, sad, lonesome ballad from her Neko Case & Her Boyfriends era. It’s called “Set Out Running” off of her 2000 Furnace Room Lullaby album.
It’s with great pleasure that I find out that the Long Winters are getting ready to release their fourth studio album sometime around Spring of next year. In an interview over at the Text of Young America blog (the blog incarnation of the awesome Sound of Young America radio show) lead singer John Roderick talks a little bit about the creative process behind the album and what fans can expect when it’s released. Roderick also has a YouTube channel where he’s recorded some videos talking about the new album and how it’s coming about and coming together.
In celebration, here’s “Blue Diamonds” off of When I Pretend to Fall. I love the surreal Lynchian (totally a word now) intro on this one. “Where is my band?” “They’re eating ice cream!”
Here’s a new (though arguably inevitable) use for Pandora. Twee folksters The Swell Season are streaming their new album, Strict Joy on Pandora. I’ve not previously been a huge fan of Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard’s particular brand of breathy, mopey folk, but from what I’ve heard of the album, it’s pretty well done. If you’re interested in giving it a listen before laying down your hard-earned ducats on buying it, you can hit up this link to hear it as a Pandora station.
On the one hand, kudos for The Swell Seasons for being innovative in getting their music out there for their fans to hear. I hope that it works well for them and that their debut is a run-away success. On the other hand, it’s curious that it took Pandora and artists this long to collaborate on something like this. Pandora, as a platform, has been around for a few years now and they do streaming music in a robust and innovative fashion. This sort of presentation has always been a possibility, and I’m curious why it’s only now seeing reality.
It is possible that this sort of collaboration has always been on the table, but that there have been practical considerations that kept it from happening. Pandora’s history as a service has hardly been trouble free (thanks in large part to industry dinosaurs roaring and stamping around trying to avoid the epoch-ending meteorite that is the Internet). So it’s possible that other artists have approached Pandora with an offer like this and that Pandora simply wasn’t in a position to make it work.
Still, glad it’s happening. It seems like it’s win-win. The Swell Seasons gets press and listeners for their new album. Pandora gets more traffic. It’s hard to see a downside for anyone.
This is one of my favorite tunes off the new A. A. Bondy album (review coming soon, I promise!) It’s called “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”. I really think that this is a great example of what establishes Bondy as one of the most important voices in modern American folk. The lyrical flow is perfect and the imagery in the song is amazing. The guitar counter-melodies are slick and subtle. And even while the song is simple in construction, it’s inspired in execution.