Aug 312008

Ryan Adams and Oasis @ the Wamu Theater, 2008.8.26

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First of all, I’d like to congratulate Tickets West for continuing to create innovative new ticketing technologies. I had no idea they had tickets that would change to reflect changing show times, for instance. Or at least that’s the only explanation I can think of for why I could have sworn the show started at 8 when I bought the tickets but then started at 7 when I checked the tickets again day of…

Okay, okay, so maybe I’m just getting a little senile in my old age. At any rate, thanks to the new show time, we (my friend Trevor and I) got out of Spokane an hour later than we really needed to and into Seattle about a half an hour after the show started. Ryan Adams had already taken the stage, but had apparently only played a couple of songs when we found our way to our seats. (Side rant: there’s NO reason that it should have been a seated show. The “high-school-band-concert” folding chair thing just doesn’t work for a rock show.)

As semi-expected, Adams and a few of his bandmates appeared to be exceptionally stoned. (I’ve heard that this is pretty much par for the course for him.) This meant that, as entertaining as the music was, it was almost equally fun to hear his rambling, surreal commentary between tunes. (Bison, apparently, “aren’t, like, unicorns, they’re like, multicorns or some shit.”) It’s a strong testamony to Adams’ musical abilities that, despite being too stoned to talk coherently, he still sang and played pretty well. He played a good spread of material off of his various albums, with surprisingly little material off his latest album, Easy Tiger. (Though I will say that by far his best tune of the night was the Easy Tiger cut “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.”)

Ryan Adams and co. played for a solid hour after we arrived, stopping only to lament the goring of “Ray” by a bison and to talk bad about math for awhile. (“Once you count to, like, 4 or 5, everything else is just ‘a lot’. Or as we say South of the Mason-Dixon Line, ‘eleventy’!”) Unfortunately, I think Mr. Adams’ pharmaceutical habits may have been sapping his energy by the end of the set, because he definitely didn’t have quite the expressivity left in his voice that he started with.

Once the Cardinals vacated the stage there was a fairly short change-over before Oasis took the stage with high-energy renditions of “Fucking in the Bushes” and “Rock and Roll Star”. And oh man do those Mancunian rock geniuses do “high energy”! The whole show had the crowd on its feet and dancing. They played a fairly wide spread of material, giving the audience a healthy mixture of singles, b-sides, and tracks off of their upcoming album, Dig Out Your Soul. They played about half of the “must-play” crowd favorites (including absolutely amazing versions of “Wonderwall” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol”, which both featured truly excellent drum work from Chris Sharrock).

Interesting side note: Sharrock (who only first appeared with the band earlier this month) apparently got his start with Robbie Williams. Liam Gallagher, who apparently isn’t a fan of Mr. Williams, was, uh, “disinclined” to accept Sharrock because of that. In an interview with MOJO magazine, Noel said “I went home and thought about it and it was just too much of a temptation to piss Robbie Williams and Liam off in one phone call.” If this show is any indication, they made the right choice: Sharrock gave one of the best performances I’ve heard from a drummer in years. The rhythms were solid and supportive, the fills were interesting and impeccably timed, and he effortlessly gave the audience that classic, tom-heavy Oasis sound that we all know and love.

Some other highlights of the set included Noel Gallagher’s acoustic version of “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, a great one-two closer of “Champagne Supernova” and “I Am the Walrus”, and the cacophony of the entire audience trying to sing along with “The Masterplan” despite the fact that, apparently, no one actually knows all the words.

In summation: brilliant show. Two great bands, two great sets. As Trevor and I fought our way out of the city and back onto I-90 for the trip home, we both agreed that the soundtrack for the drive would be Standing on the Shoulders of Giants followed by Love is Hell. Nothing says “great concert” like driving away tired, hoarse, and still wanting more.

Aug 252008

Intro: One note of correction in last week’s column – It’s Beck, the word-inventing psych-rock powerhouse, and not Jeff Beck, the former guitarist for the Yardbirds, that is playing at Bumbershoot. You have my sleep-deprived auto-pilot typing to blame for that and a comment from reader “Zoygo” to thank for the correction.

Listening: Honestly, the few days since last week’s column have been pretty hectic at work. That means that most of my music listening has been Pandora. I’ve found that there’s certainly an art to creating a good Pandora station, and that Pandora doesn’t always seem the commonality between songs that I do. For instance, I had made a station that included Rilo-Kiley, Mary-Lou Lord, Janis Joplin, and a few other acts featuring strong folk influences and female vocalists. Well apparently one of the tags in the Music Genome Project (which Pandora uses to find “similar” songs) is “offensive lyrics”. That made for some interesting and diverse listening. Any station that sandwiches “Some Jingle Jangle Morning (When I’m Straight)” between Amy Winehouse and Rodney Carrington has to be interesting.

When I haven’t been plugged into the wonderfully random loop that is Pandora, I’ve been listening to a lot of Harvey Danger. Not much to say there, other than that if you like good music and/or clever lyrics, then you owe it to yourself to own King James Version.

Upcoming: Honestly, I’ve had my head in the sand a little too much to notice any exciting new upcoming releases. Upcoming on this space you can look forward to a review of the Oasis and Ryan Adams show that I’ll be hitting up tomorrow night, as well as one or two exciting developments that I’m in the final stages of working out. oooOOOOooo, mysterious! And hopefully awesome.

News: Nothing very interesting I’m afraid. I’ve seen a few of the raggier music news sources going on about the thing between Joel Madden (of Good Charlotte) and Mary-Kate Olsen (of…uh, actually what has she done? She’s been in some movies, right?).

On the more interesting side, a sheriff’s deputy drew his sidearm during a stop of a certain Mr. Diddy. Sir McCartney is going to play Israel for the first time since this band he used to be in (the Beatles or someone) got banned.

Also, Rock is apparently kind of political sometimes. Who knew?

Thinking: Not much of anything, actually. One music-related thought did manage to flit under the radar and poke it’s head up in amongst all the work that’s been crowding my brain, however. Isn’t the notion of an “underrated” song or album sort of a funny one? I mean, for all the noise in modern times to the effect that there’s no objectively good music, it seems funny that we’d be sort of okay with the notion that a song might be rated more poorly than it deserves. It seems to be inherently dissonant to both say that “good music” and “music that I like” are synonymous phrases and to allow for the idea that people don’t laud a song as highly as it deserves.

And yet it’s become (in many circles) anathema to say that some music is objectively better (or more valuable or better crafted or possessing of more artistic merit etc.) than other music. By this reasoning, the “Hokey Pokey” could be considered every bit the equal of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. And yet we hear all the time that a particular song or album is “underrated”. (It bears noting that a parallel argument can be made for things that are considered “overrated”).

Thoughts? Can songs really be “under-” or “overrated”? Is (heaven forfend!) musical value really just a measure of how much we like whatever it is we’re listening two? Is it at all possible that both are the case, or am I right in thinking that to concede both leads to some sort of contradiction?

Song of the Week: This popped up on my Pandora the other day and I’d forgotten how much I love this song. They apparently surgically removed the singer’s accent in post-production, since he sounds a lot less Australian on the album version. Which is sort of unfortunate, since this live version is kind of amazing. Here’s Thirsty Merc performing “I Wish Somebody Would Build a Bridge (So I Can Get Over Myself)”, live at the Dusty Days Festival in the wonderfully named Wagga Wagga, Australia:

Aug 212008

Intro: Sorry it’s late again this week, folks. In future weeks, I’ll try to get these up on the Monday prior so that Wednesday meetings don’t futz with the schedule. I’m going to try and front-load the happier stuff before I get to the sad passing of Ronnie Drew. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Listening: Okay, so why have I been listening to Weezer’s “Heartsongs” all week? Can someone please tell me? Once you get past the musical in-jokes, it’s almost everything I dislike about Rivers Cuomo’s songwriting rolled into one package. It’s self-gratifying, the rhymes are forced, and the message is so heavy-handed that I’m pretty sure it’s leaving bruises. But that acoustic guitar hook, the vocal rhythms, and the snappy syncopation in the drums… It just gets under my skin. It’s the very definition of a love-hate song relationship.

Upcoming: As I mentioned last week, this next Tuesday is going to be old home week with new albums from Blues Traveler, BB King, Slipknot and a bunch of other venerable names. There’s also a Michael Jackson compilation entitled King of Pop coming out soon. I question the title, but it’s there if anyone wants it. Early September sees releases by Joan Baez, Okkervil River, Jessica Simpson, Joan Osbourne, and Gym Class Heroes.

If none of those artists ring your bell, you could always catch one of your favorite bands on tour. Fall is the prime time for tours, and many top acts are making the rounds. Conor Oberst is doing a world tour, but seems to be shafting us Yankees: what few shows he’s playing Stateside are mostly in the South. Wilco are doing shows around the country including one tonight (Thursday, 2008.8.21) here in Spokane. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to go. I can’t really justify spending any more funds for concerts this month (I’ll be making two trips to Seattle and back for shows by this time next month.) A super lame excuse, I know, but fear not: rumor has it that my good friends Ann and Paul will be going and while they don’t know it yet, I hope to harass one or both of them to writing something up about the show. I also hope to get them to kidnap Jeff Tweedy for me so that I can make him sing “Hummingbird” on command, but that might be aiming a bit high.

The inimitable Beck is also out on the loose this fall, and he’s playing the Bumbershoot festival on the 30th. Speaking of which: Bumbershoot. If you can make it, go. It’s an awesome festival and the lineup this year is tops. Again, I suck and won’t be able to make it (I’ll be working so that I can take part of that week off for my buddy Matt’s wedding), but despite my absence it’s still gonna be a great show.

News: So Ronnie Drew passed away this last week. He was easily one of the most powerful influences in music in the past 100 years. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Irish folk and Irish-influenced music is successful today because of Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners. But more than that, he was simply a brilliant musician and an amazing singer and songwriter. Requiescat in pace.

Here he is, singing “In the Rare Old Times”. Sorry for the random documentary-ish bit at the end, but this is the only version of this song I could find, and it’s too good not to share:

Thinking: There’s an interesting article in this month’s Under the Radar about political music. The article itself is actually kind of unimpressive, but it features pictures of various artists holding up signs with slogans painted on them. It’s amazing how much you can tell about an artist’s songwriting by seeing what they come up with when present with nothing but a blank piece of poster board and some grease paint. The sentiments range from simple cliches to stunningly succinct and evocative commentary. (They even pass by the [I think] unintentionally ironic with the very Caucasian Britt Daniel of Spoon holding up a sign which reads “Viva La Raza!”)

My personal favorite shot, however, is Michael Stipe calmly staring down the camera, holding a sign which reads “gutless Puff Adder Journalists”. Say what you will about Stipe, the man has a way with words. Close seconds are Wayne Coyne, hamming it up for the camera and showing off his “JUST BE A NICE PERSON wayne” sign and Fleet Foxes’ sign, which reads “CAPITALISM I$ UNETHICAL (AND WE’RE HYPOCRITES)”.

Compare those to the stale “END THIS WAR NOW” (Sharon Jones), “WAR IS OVERRATED” (St. Vincent), and “USE YOUR VOTE” (Elbow). (This is not to mention My Morning Jacket’s sign, which reads “Lack of Funding for the Arts/Art Education” and includes a drawing of a crocodile. Needless to say, even WITH the crocodile, it’s not even a complete sentence, much less a compelling political statement.)

Now, all these are fine and good sentiments and are important to express. But the point behind political music is not simply to state a platform or an ideal. If it were, we could put policy papers to a back beat and they’d be the best political songs ever. This points to one of the key things which separates great political tunes from boring, heavy-handed drivel. “White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)” was a brilliant protest song, because it ultimately was a catchy tune, with powerful ideas expressed in an intellectually and emotionally engaging fashion. In this same way, “Gutless Puff Adder Journalists” is effective political sloganeering because it’s not simply a statement of opinion. It definitely does that, but first and foremost it’s engaging.

At any rate, the article’s got me thinking about what it is that separates good political and protest music, from bad. Just why, for instance, Jarvis Cocker’s “Cunts Are Still Running the World” can be a seeming recipe for bad protest rock, and yet still turn out to be brilliant. A big part of it, certainly, is that message is not enough. It has to engage people on a level other than the political, in order for it to even work on the political level at all. That’s why “Cunts Are Still Running the World” works. It’s a clear statement, but the song itself also makes great use of Jarvis Cocker’s wonderfully snarky wit. This need for engagement beyond the politics is why, for example, “Ain’t No Rag” (Charlie Daniels) is eye-rollingly cliche crap and “Hoist That Rag” (Tom Waits) is an effective, thought-provoking political analogy.

That much, I think, is clear. But beyond that I’m at a bit of a loss for what separates great political satire and commentary from dreck. Though a lot of protest tunes are subtle, subtlety’s not enough, nor is it really even necessary. Being clever is undoubtedly good, but can be overdone. I’m almost inclined to say that it comes down primarily to lyrical novelty and resonance. If the way in which the message itself is phrased can either force the listener to think (novelty) and/or connect to some aspect of their experience (resonance) that that’s a huge first step.

I think this week’s Song of the Week is a good indication of that. It’s not subtle, nor particularly clever. Its use of reference to “Waltzing Matilda” is extremely effective, certainly. There’s something very poignant about the national anthem being played repeatedly throughout one man’s horrible experience in service to his country. But all in all, the song’s not particularly deep. And yet, I don’t think there’s a person alive who can be unaffected or unsympathetic when the narrator realizes that “to hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs”.

This is definitely something I’ll have to keep thinking about. I’d be interested in your folks’ thoughts. What makes good political or protest music? Which tunes would land in your Top 5 political or protest songs and why? On the flipside: which are the worst and what makes them suck?

Song of the Week: To close out, here’s one more in memory of Ronnie Drew. This is “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” I first heard Drew’s version of it almost a decade ago and to this day it breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Tonight more than most:

Goodbye, Mr. Drew, and thank you.

Aug 192008

Late again

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Okay, so that early-morning meeting that made me a day late last week? Yeah, it turns out it’s going to be a weekly thing, and I was an idiot and didn’t get started on the Playlist early like I thought I was going to. So instead, here’s Red Hot Chili Peppers rocking “Dani California”. You can kill the time between now and when I get the playlist up by trying to figure out which bands they’re mocking. (I mean, aside from themselves, that is.)

Aug 172008

Sad Day for Streaming Audio

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My friend Ann links me some depressing news; it looks like Pandora may have to shut down its service.  Needless to say, this makes me a Sad Panda.  Pandora is a brilliant service and the internet will be a colder, darker, less interesting place without it.

Of course this has been coming for awhile and so, while I am saddened, I am not surprised.  This is a product of the big music labels and the RIAA looking at internet music both as the enemy and trying desperately to cling to outmoded business models.  The royalty scheme currently proposed by the RIAA and its allies and enforced by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) is antiquated and draconian and, if left to stand, will kill huge swaths of modern music.

Let me repeat that: the CRB is helping to kill modern Major Label music.  The Internet is how people hear new music.  The Internet is to music now what radio was to music for most the 20th century.  Nowhere is this analogy more clear than in internet radio stations.  If you kill internet radio stations (which the CRB is doing), you are making it harder for people to hear new music.  The less new music people hear, the less new music they will buy.  The internet is how people these days find new songs, albums, and bands and, increasingly, how they buy that music as well.  Shutting out internet music sources with prohibitive fee scales serves only to discourage listeners from finding and, ultimately, buying new music.

So, CRB, congratulations on helping to kill music your customers.  And the major labels wonder why the Indie shops are beating the living hell out of them in the marketplace?  It’s because the Indie labels are all about the Internet, and the major labels still, after more than a decade of getting laid over a barrel because of it, think that the Internet is some sort of profit-stealing witchcraft.

(Of course, if the CRB and SoundExchange insist on collecting to royalties for non-RIAA members and for bands who don’t WANT royalties from things like Internet radio play, then they might manage to do some serious collateral damage to Indie houses as they torpedo the Majors.)

Aug 142008

Intro: Greetings all and welcome to the Olympics edition of the Tuesday Playlist. I say that, like it’s going to be all about the olympics, but really, they just get passing mention in one paragraph. Well, two paragraphs if you count this one.

Right, well, in this issue of the playlist, I talk about the new Conor Oberst album, admit to an irrational dislike for terminal punctuation in song titles, and poke fun at the music media in an oblivious and possibly ironic fashion. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Listening: It’s been interesting to hear the way music gets used in the Olympics. It’s been used to soundtrack several events (notably the floor gymnastics events), and while it’s been interesting to hear some of the songs chosen, it’s even more interesting to see how little the athletes seem to respond to it. One gets the impression that the floor routine, for instance, would look the same whether or not there was a peculiarly national folk song or cover of an American pop tune sound-tracking the proceedings.

On a more domestic note, I’m really digging the new Conor Oberst album. If Cassadega was Conor Oberst discovering Country music, then his new self-titled is Conor discovering Mexico. Spanish lyrics and references to Mexico and hispanic themes abound. And while the references are occasionally awkward or forced (“El cielo es azul”, no, really Conor?), they’re typically the sort of well-crafted lyrics that Oberst fans have come to expect. Particularly strong tracks include the classic Oberst purgative “Moab” and the rowdy, noisily fun “Souled Out!!!”.

And while the album is mostly Conor in top form, there are a few disappointments. One random short track of bellowing noise (“Valle Mistico (Ruben Song)”) seems to exist only to give the listener’s “Skip Track” button a workout. One track, “NYC-Gone,Gone”, is the first minute of a raucous, energetic Alt-Country tune which I, for one, would really like to hear. All things considered, however, despite the two short, frustrating tracks and a few moments of earnest Oberst pretention, the album is a solid 9.

Also in new(-ish) music, I recently grabbed The Soho Dolls’ Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation and Washington Social Club’s Catching Looks. Of the two, I’ve mostly been listening to Catching Looks. By which, of course, I mean that I’m in the habit of putting “Modern Trance” on repeat and dancing my arse off.

Upcoming: Brian Eno and David Byrne have apparently collaborated on an album that’s due out next Monday. With two fevered music imaginations like that, the odds are that whatever it is, it won’t be boring. It’s called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which says to me that David ByDrne won the naming rights for the album (knowing those two, likely by being the victor in a drug-fueled pillow fight.)

Also coming up next week is the physical release of the new Dandy Warhols album, Earth to the Dandy Warhols. I’ve only a few of the tracks off the album, but they’ve been all kinds of funky goodness. It turns out, however, that all the tracks on the album are available for streaming (scroll down a bit and you should see the track listing with a play button by each tune) from the Dandy Warhols website.

The next couple of weeks also promise releases by The Stills, Loudon Wainwright III, and, if you swing that way, Fiery Furnaces. Of special note is the 26th of this month which might as well be called Official Music Industry “They’re Still Alive?” Day with releases by Blues Traveler, Slipknot, The Verve, and BB King.

The King album actually should be pretty cool. It’s called One Kind Favor and it’s King doing covers of songs by his early influences.

News: I’ve had my head buried in the sand (read: work) for the past couple of weeks, so I’m a bit out of touch with industry news. Fortunately a quick glance at the front page of Music-News.com tells me that it’s been a slow news week. For those too lazy to click links: Paul McCartney goes camping! Bono the Pretentious snorts salt water! Victoria Beckham is rich and spoiled! Also, in music news, sound is carried by vibrations in the air!

Thinking: Random personal annoyance – I dislike song titles that include terminal punctuation. I got to thinking about this when listening to “Souled Out!!!”, one of the tracks off the new Conor Oberst album. First of all, as any good Middle School graduate should know, exclamation marks are “one or none” affairs. Secondly, putting terminal punctuation in your song titles just strikes me as somehow tacky. Not quite sure why, but it seems to say “your sentence ends with this song title!” It always looks awkward to me to put titles like “Fit, But You Know It.” in the middle of sentences. The period just screws the whole thing up.

Is anyone else bugged by this, or is it just me being finicky?

Song of the Week: Well, the song of the week WAS going to be Washington Social Club’s “Modern Trance”, which is catchy as hell and been stuck in my head for days, but I can’t find an easily shareable version of it on the intarwebs. It’s on Last.fm, but I can’t get it to play. So here’s “Souled Out!!!”, off of Conor Oberst’s new self-titled which, despite its redundant exclamation marks, is an awesomely groovy tune:

Aug 122008

Late At Last

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Well folks, looks like I’m gonna have to put off finishing off this week’s column. I blame the Olympics for causing me to start it late (it has been a BAD day for world records; the poor things keep getting broken, often by Michael Phelps) and an early morning meeting in the valley for forcing me to turn in before it’s done. In lieu of a column for tonight, however, here’s a song I’ve been grooving on for a few days now. It’s called “Bang Bang Bang Bang” and it’s by The Soho Dolls:

Aug 062008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.8.5

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Intro: Okay, well, I’m a little late starting this one (11:53pm), but it’s still Tuesday, so I declare that this still counts as on-time. I’ve got a lot to get through, so I’m just gonna jump right in.

Listening: Well, my progress up through recent musical history’s brought me more or less up to the present. Been listening to some of my favorite 2007/2008 releases (Our Love To Admire FTW!) and even getting around to checking out some new albums and bands to which I’d been meaning to listen.

Speaking of which: why did no one tell me about the Rakes before? Their song “Binary Love” popped up a few times on one of my Pandora stations, so I added it with the hopes of hearing more of their stuff. Well, as so often happens, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I’d bought Capture / Release and was using it to soundtrack my drive to Helena this last weekend. Honestly, the album isn’t quite as brilliant as I was hoping, but it’s still pretty strong. “Strasbourg”, “22 Grand Job”, and “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)” are all fun. Also I’m enough of a geek that I’m pretty sure I want “Binary Love” played at my wedding.

I also grabbed The Last Shadow Puppets debut, The Age of the Understatement. It’s more introspective and complex than either Alex Turner or Miles Kane’s previous work. From the lush string parts on “My Mistakes Were Made For You” to the oddly cacophonous vocal counterpoints on “Separate and Ever Deadly” the album’s full of pleasant little aural surprises. I’m not sure what I think of it as a whole quite yet, but I do like it. If you like either complex, novel rock music or are a fan of either Arctic Monkeys or the Rascals, it’s well worth a listen.

I also just picked Conor Oberst’s new self-titled which just came out today. If you haven’t heard the single off it (“Danny Callahan”), it’s available for download here. If you’d prefer to just stream it:

Warning: it’s not exactly a happy tune. It is, however, beautiful and moving. Speaking of the album…

Upcoming: Wow, how did I not know that Oberst’s new release was due out today until I saw it on Amazon’s frontpage? I seriously need some new sources for upcoming release dates. Metacritic is accurate, but woefully incomplete. The Billboard lists are so noisy as to be practically unusable. News sites are, of course, hit or miss, since they all differ in what releases they deem mention-worthy. Where do you folks hear about new releases?

In concert news, Puddle of Mudd are playing Spokane tomorrow (2008.8.6) night, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, I learn by way of a comment here at the blog that The Shondes are touring this Fall. They’ll be playing several shows over on the coast. (Alas, none here in the Inland Northwest, but that’s nothing new.) If anyone’s interested, I’m seriously considering heading over to catch the Seattle show. Finally, Alt-Country masters Wilco will be playing Spokane on the 21st of this month. They give a GREAT live show, and if I can scrape together the funds, then I’ll definitely be hitting it up.

News: Did you know that Lee Perry is a dirty old man? Neither did I, but his new single “Pum Pum” is pretty much a stoned, dirty old man’s ode to cruising for sex in nightclubs. Wait, why do I say “pretty much”? That’s EXACTLY what it is. It’s also crazy-groovy. The man has a masterful command of the Dub/Raggae side of things.

(Warning: lyrics are not safe for work, beats are not safe for staying still in one’s seat. Download Link. Hat Tip to 3Hive.)

Also, those perpetually catty folks over at PopJustice are right: the new Streets single is pretty disappointing. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s “shite”, as they so eloquently put it, but it’s definitely no “Stay Positive”.

Thinking: So I’m a huge sucker for unique voices. Voices that, after a few listens, anyone could pick out of a audio lineup. Louise Wener, Tom Waites, Robert Smith. I love artists whose voice is entirely their own. It’s a little like hearing an instrument that no one else in the world can play. Paired with a good writing talent (either their own or a partner’s) and the possesors of such voices can turn out some truly brilliant music. (Louise Wener is a great example of that: a fantastic songwriter with the unique voice necessary to really make her songs her own.)

What I think is really interesting is how often these voices wind up either spawning genres or, at least, defying being placed into them. I think that part of the reason that Alt-Country became a big thing is that Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy have such unique voices and musical visions to accompany them. Similarly, I think that the current wave of singer-songwriters is thanks in large part to the unique voices of people like Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard.

I think that the vocal qualities are one of the key things that shapes a new musical movement or genre. It’s why so many singers in the late 90s sounded like bad Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder impersonators. In a way, their voices were distillations of what the genre was meant to sound like.

Just a thought that’s been rattling around in my brain of late.

Song of the Week: I’ve been going back to this tune over and over again ever since I got the album. This is “Orphans”, by Beck, off of Modern Guilt:

Aug 012008

I’m off to a wedding in Helena, Montana this weekend. As an appropriate filler until I get back, here’s the Rose Chamber Orchestra, Dean Anderson conducting, performing the Overture from The Marriage of Figaro: