semi-favorable review, which begins in earnest after a six-paragraph preamble comprising a long list of baroquely rendered, seemingly unrelated anecdotes peppered with obscure references, summarizes music as a “solid but uninspired effort.”
“Coming in at an exhausting 7,000 years long, music is weighed down by a few too many mid- tempo tunes, most notably ‘Liebesträume No. 3 in A flat’ by Franz Liszt and ‘Closing Time’ by ’90s alt-rock group Semisonic,” Schreiber wrote. “In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement.”
As a listener, I have always been obsessed with moments of perfection. Lyrics, lines, or pieces of music that are so absolutely brilliant and flawless that they seem to suddenly justify the whole crazy endeavor of making and listening to music. I’m the sort of guy who will rewind a track over and over again just to hear a particular chord change or three second guitar lick or lyrical turn of phrase. A particular musical quip that seems perfectly evocative and makes me feel and understand exactly why we do music.
Wilco, “Poor Places”, the guitar solo starting ~2:49. The chord change in the verses of “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel. “Every heart sings of what it’s with out, so we all sing of love.” The transition from the opening solo to the first melody riff in “One Hand, Two Hand” by Gosling. All of them are instantly, viscerally, joyously affective. I used to wonder what it would be like to hear a song made of nothing but those moments. Brilliant element after brilliant element just strung together.
I’m less sure now that such a thing is possible. A lot of these moments derive their power from less immediately brilliant musical context. Wilco’s guitar solo, for instance, wouldn’t be brilliant without the long instrumental build up to it and Jeff Tweedy’s powerful, heartfelt lyrics setting it up. So I admit that it’s probably foolish to try and search for some Platonic form of this particular form of musical brilliance, but I have to admit, that I’m still intrigued by the notion.
Some pieces come pretty close by taking sense evoked by such perfect little quips and drawing it out into a larger scale. Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is like that. The whole thing is gut-wrenchingly powerful whereas most of the individual pieces are relatively banal.
I sometimes think that a big part of the reason I’m so obsessed with music isn’t a love of the music as such, or a fascination with the process of its creation, but rather a protracted search for those perfect little moments when the music kicks its way into my heart with some perfect little musical bon mot and makes me feel why, exactly, it is that people make music.
So I’ve been thinking lately: the weekly review thing has been a lot of fun and has been exceptionally informative, but I think it’s time for a definite break from it. The format as it was was good, but eventually got to feel decidedly like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. This is no one’s fault but my own.
Honestly, I think the experience of writing those reviews, all of music which I didn’t pick for myself, has been a great one. I think I’m a better writer and a better listener for the experience. But too often, with as busy as my life has been, I’ve considered it a chore. As chores go, it sort of necessarily ranks towards the bottom of things, since I don’t get paid for it and it’s not necessary for getting through my day. But I did feel like I had to do it. There were even days when I thought “oooh, I should write a FTT post about X! Oh, wait, I’m already a week overdue on my review, I shouldn’t post anything until I get that done . . . ”
So I think that it’s time for a hiatus from the reviews. Honestly, I think that this will increase the rate at which I post here and (hopefully) increase the quality. My friend Ann (half of the hot new movie blog Cine-ful Thoughts) made an excellent point today about “stopping by and just seeing more videos.” I think they’ve sort of become my default filler these days.
So here’s the deal: no more weekly reviews. But more posts, more actual content, less filler. I’m thinking of doing a sort of weekly music newsletter sort of thing. Instead of holding myself to reviews, I’d like to write more about the music industry, what I’m listening to at the moment, and what’s going on in the swiftly evolving world of modern music.
So I’m thinking that there will still be some sort of weekly post, but it will be more of the stuff I care about. With as busy as life is, I think that if I come to this project thinking “I get to write about X” as opposed to “I really should write about X”, then I’ll be better and happier about posting. But overall, and more importantly, I’m shooting for more frequent and more content-full posts. There will still be reviews and videos, just not on a schedule and not chosen by the readers.
For all of you who voted: thank you SO much. I’m a better listener and a better writer because of all of you. And thanks to everyone for reading. I hope you’ll continue to do so. I also hope you’ll all continue to participate in the comments. And now, I’m going to lead out with a video of the Dead Boys covering “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges.
P.S: I’m also going to do something one of these days about the plain default blogger template that I’ve been using. Note to self: learn PHP and a sense of visual aesthetics.
My friend Mike just pointed me to today’s woot.com deal: a digital archive of the first 40 years of Rolling Stone magazine for only 40 bucks. Pretty cool that. Of course, as is the way of these things, the deal only lasts for a few more hours, so if you’re in the market for some music journalism history, best snap it up now.
Jubilee, “Rebel Hiss”, off of the Rebel Hiss EP:
This is what happens when you get a hack to do your “best of” list. It isn’t pretty. Many of these bands aren’t even metal bands. And even the ones that are hardly rate. Meshuggah is on the list, but Judas Priest isn’t? Jimi Hendrix is a metal guitarist? Deep Purple are a heavy metal band?
Seriously amateur hour.
Of course, this probably helps me secure a spot on “25 Most Snobbish Music Reviewers in History” but eh, if this guy writes the list, I’ll probably share that distinction with Tom Paine.
It’s no real secret that I have big fat musical crushes on many of the members of The New Pornographers. Which is one of many reasons why I’m so smitten with this video for “Use It” (off of Twin Cinema). Pay special attention to Kurt Dahle’s hands as he drums. Even when he’s trying to play a puppet, that guy just can’t help but twirl his sticks. If you ever see him drum live, he does it constantly and seemingly compulsively.
So an acoustic set from Queens of the Stone Age. Who would have thought that that would EVER work? But here’s Josh Homme and the boys rocking the acoustic sound(well, not entirely, the guy on bass is playing an electric) down in Australia with “No One Knows” from their album Songs for the Deaf:
And here they are in Amsterdam tearing through my personal favorite QotSA song, “3s and 7s” off of Era Vulgaris:
Any Ryan Adams fans in the audience? If so, what’s your favorite album? For as gut-wrenching as some of the songs can be, I’d say that Love is Hell is probably mine. Fantastic songwriting, great lyrics, and absolutely stunning melodies. I mean, with a start like “Political Scientist”, a finish like “Hotel Chelsea Nights” (my personal favorite Ryan Adams tune), and a handful of truly amazing tunes in between. (“The Shadowlands”, “Does Anybody Want to Take Me Home”, “English Girls Approximately”, etc.)
Amazing album and, in my opinion, far and away Adams’ strongest.
Anyone else have a favorite Ryan Adams album?
Okay, is this not the single most emo video in the history of the world? I think it’s quite possible. The Dreaming, “Beautiful” off of their self-titled EP: