Oct 282008

Intro: Well, fall is in the air, the rock shows are moving inside, and the hipsters are trying to decide which kafia best compliments their boxframe glasses.  It also means, unfortunately, that I was well due for my semiannual illness, hence my missing last week’s column.  Again, my apologies for that.

Listening: Fall for me also means digging out old albums that I haven’t listened to in awhile.  Whether this is because fall makes me nostalgic or because the record companies are hoarding all their promising releases until Fat Sacks of Money DayChristmas is probably even odds.

Most recently, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the two Loudermilk full-length albums.  Now, I will fully admit that I like the Loudermilk albums more than they deserve.  Man with Gun Kills Three and The Red Record are great albums.  But for me, they’re both the sort of albums that I could only in good conscience give a 10 to if we were talking about a 5-point scale.  The Red Record in particular is one of the best rock albums I’ve ever heard.  That the first rock show I ever went to was a Loudermilk show, or that I spent most of my formative years desperately wanting to be Mark Watrous probably has nothing to do with it.

Another such disk is an EP by a Portland-based band called PDeX, which has been soundtracking my drive to and from work the past couple days.  I’m actually working on a post/review/essay thing about that EP, so I’ll say no more about it for now, other than that it’s another fine example of music from the halcyon days of my youth.

On a more modern note, I became one of the last people in the world to acquire a copy of Carnavas by Silversun Pickups.  It’s awesome.  The single off of it, “Lazy Eye”, is pretty representative of the album both stylistically and quality-wise.  So basically my review is this – listen to the below and if you think you’d like that plus 10 more tracks kinda like it, well, then you should probably grab Carnavas:

Upcoming: New albums out today by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, The Cure, and Kaiser Chiefs.  Next week sees the release of new material from Sarah Brightman and Travis, as well as the US release of the entire Stereophonics back catalog.

Thinking: Honestly, I’ve been a little too busy to do much music-related thinking of late.  Most of my mental energy has been work- and/or thesis-oriented the past couple of weeks.  That being said, I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with my friend Becky about certain similarities between art (particularly music) and religion (particularly sacraments).  Now, it bears mentioning that I go back on forth on why, exactly, we make music and what it is we’re doing when we listen to it.  I do, however, think that at some level it’s about communicating important parts of the human experience which can’t be relayed any other way.  I mean, I could tell someone what Leonard Cohen meant by the lyrics in “Hallelujah”, that would, in a way, totally be missing the point of the song.  If I really wanted to communicate to someone what the song was all about, I think I’d have no other recourse than to just sit them down and play it for them.

And in this communicative aspect, I think, lies the core of the sacramental nature of music: in listening to music, we’re recipients of a message which transcends words.  It’s a level of communication which is entirely beyond normal verbal transactions.  At the moment, I’m pretty sure that that’s why we listen to music.  Each song is a message that cuts deeper than language, right to some deep and important structure of what it means to be human.

News: Island Records is turning 50.  Which in some circles is synonymous with saying that music itself is now a half-century old.  Island’s been responsible for a large portion of the good things to happen to the music industry in the past 50 years (though on the downside they’re also responsible for U2).  I mean, everyone from Led Zeppelin to Tom Waits released on Island at one point or another.  So, from Fifty-Two Tuesdays, happy birthday, Island!  I sincerely hope I’ll get to say the same in another 50 years.

In sadder news, Levi Stubbs, the lead singer of the Four Tops, died awhile ago.  If anyone ever wonders what Motown was about, they need look no further than Stubbs and company.  Here’s perhaps the defining tune of the whole Motown phenonemon, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops.

Rest in Peace.

Song of the Week: But on a happier note, what do you get when you combine Gosling (formerly Loudermilk) and David Bowie?   Pure, uncut awesome, that’s what.  Here they are doing “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)”, originally by David Bowie: