14 Dec 2016, 14:08

Commence Rake-Shaking at Children

One thing that bugs me about children’s programming, especially girl-oriented programming, is the idea of a “rock star.” On the surface level it’s intended to be an empowerment archetype, where a female lead displays her independence and talent to adoring fans, but it’s almost always portrayed such that the fans are applauding the glamour and star-ness of the performer rather than the performance itself. I know this is basically pop music at-a-glance in many ways, but it is really an unfortunate picture to paint. Most of the time these sorts of things are cutaway dream sequences or at least just little snippet vignettes, and you only hear the last line or two of the song. This typically goes something like “Yeah, we know the music, yeah, and we’re rockin’ it like superstars,” or something to that effect. Then the crowd goes nuts.

With guitar sales falling due to lack of interest in singer/songwriter-type music, or really any type of music that can be created and performed without electronic production, I suppose this is just an affirmation of the larger trend we’re seeing outside of the toddler entertainment industry. There is always a lot of unavoidable survivor bias in music: everyone remembers the Beatles and Led Zep, but all the terrible acts were interleaved among them on the radio fade out of memory. But even with that effect always at work, I think it’s clear that we’re in a phase right now that lacks a sense of artistry around pop music itself.

I occasionally listen to a light dose of dubstep when I work from home, and I definitely feel a sense of care and creativity to the best examples of that electronic work. And the indie scene will always be doing something, but we’re basically in a phase where reasonably large swathes of the population don’t have much regular exposure to more traditional aesthetics of music through the pop channels. We are losing something when that happens, at the least because it’s very difficult to imagine capturing a lot of the art and fun of this music in your bedroom with a guitar or piano.

Much like the Turkish military (when competent) has rushed in to press the reset button on the government when things get out of hand, I imagine there will be some kind of punk/hipster/grunge implosion to bring this back, just like what happened during the Hair Era in the 80s. Not in a conservative sense of standing athwart history yelling “stop,” but more in a sense of pruning back the cruft and ensuring music comes through.

I feel like I’ve captured a Rush song in a blog post. You can fill in the drum solo.

27 Aug 2015, 14:02

GPMAA

By no means do I wish to discourage them from continuing in the effort to build a vast library of humorous metadata, but the artist summaries “provided by artist representative” on Google Play Music are just hilarious.

Silversun Pickups is among the most dynamic and creative rock bands of the contemporary era, hailed far and wide for their inimitable merging of ethereal melodies and pure sonic force.

Jeeeez.

27 Aug 2015, 13:51

Stubborn

I have odd corners of my music library reserved for bands that manage to succeed in a sub-genre that I otherwise don’t really like. My prime example is Straylight Run, which was an emo band (I know!) that had a very emo song called “Existentialism on Prom Night” (I know!) that just struck a chord with me. And about half of the rest of the album is listenable! Part of my continued affection for them came from the oddest coincidence: I was taking a break from my capstone project or some other wretched thing while listening to the album, and I turned the page on the William Gibson novel Neuromancer to the chapter/book named “The Straylight Run”, which was just too weird to pass up. I can also play the song on my guitar with minimal practice, so it’s basically canonized for me at this point. Maybe I’ve told this story three times before.

They also had a piano, and this was kind of The Fray’s era, so that was important.

I also love The Silversun Pickups, and not just in a respect-of-coincidence way. Kristin and I can normally agree or reach understanding on most music preferences, but this one I just can’t give up trying to break down her resistance. The breathy, feminine-sounding lead singer, the noisy-wall-of-sound, the nonstop distortion, the incoherent-ish forgettable lyrics, all anathema to her.

I think it’s really that they’ve implemented something that, in my view, has solid lyrical (anti-lyrical?) roots in the semi-pop hard-ish alternative rock era (post-Nirvana, talking Bush here mainly), kind of candy-coated in emo influence, and a manifestation of what I understand to be called shoegaze. I purchased an album called Souvlaki from a shoegaze band called Slowdive back when you had to buy music to figure out if you liked it. Can’t say it worked for me, so back to my odd corners theory.

So if you see us both driving down the road, line-in from my phone active, me saying “Just listen to the bridge! Unh! Yeah!” with Claire trying to talk over the music, you’ll know I’m back futilely proselytizing SSPU.

Random flashback! encountered while doing a keyword search to see if I’ve ever talked about shoegaze on the blog! Not my finest work there.

Another flashback from 8 years ago!, talking about pretty much the same damn thing. Oh well.

19 Jun 2015, 15:40

Sine Qua Non

Something just makes me love this.

24 Apr 2015, 14:08

Good One Comin' On

Blackberry Smoke is pretty much just bog-standard distortion-heavy Southern rock, but “Good One Comin’ On” will pretty much confer high-proof (literally!), high-spirited redneck status to just about anyone for the full duration of its 3:40 runtime.

27 Mar 2015, 18:46

Death Cab for Cutie

I remember, in the depths of emo-induced musical ennui, rejecting Death Cab for Cutie sound-unheard, just on the basis of the name and the time period. Now they factor fairly heavily into my Pandora stations, and listening to Transatlanticism as an album instead of being chopped into singles is a quite sublime experience.

I’m a frequent offender, but using the term “honesty” when describing music feels to me like describing wine with flower fragrances. That said, Ben’s voice is just plainly honest, and the musical accompaniment is light-handed in a way that is all the more impressive given that I would never also attach “minimalist” to the description.

03 Feb 2015, 21:17

If I Had an Orchard...

What’s my name, what’s my station, oh, just tell me what I should do I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you Or bow down and be grateful and say “sure, take all that you see” To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it's that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I'm tongue-tied and dizzy and I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

08 Jan 2015, 20:05

Ol' Hoot Owl is Callin'

There is a specific type of slow day at work that involves me getting Randy Travis’s “Honky Tonk Moon” stuck in my head, slowed down to maybe 85% speed. I can’t find the appropriate GPMAA station to counteract this.

This is perhaps my #2 worst song to get stuck in my head, preceded by ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses”. I’m afraid to type those words most of the time.

17 Nov 2014, 15:50

Incomplete Spectrum

I’m all about the curated playlists on Google Play Music All Access, but they’re definitely missing a certain segment of the music and mood spectrum. It’s all “autumn walks” and “afternoon nap” and “coffee shop.” Where is the “people banging with hammers on the floor above you, need thrashing metal to cover it up and keep you going” channel?

09 Oct 2014, 19:15

Don't You Loose Yo Lip on Me

I’m gonna cash in my hand
And pick up on a piece of land
And build myself a cabin back in the woods.

Lord it’s there I’m gonna stay
Until there comes a day
When this old world starts to changin’ for the good.