I haven't listened to much new music this year, but I'm always listening. In my mid-year round-up
, for which this amounts to the much belated and superfluous part 2, I neglected to mention what is far and away my new song of the year: Bill Callahan's cover of Kath Bloom's "The Breeze/My Baby Cries" (which was recorded for Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute to the Songs of Kath Bloom
). I admit that I'd never heard of Kath Bloom before this year, and still haven't heard her music, but if it's anything like the quality of Bill Callahan's version of her song, then it must be worth seeking out. (Though fans
of the originals may be understandably bitter at Bloom's apparent obscurity, still that's no call for completely missing the boat on Callahan's cover--"adult alternative"? No. Just, no.)
Here, anyway, is Bill playing the song live (this clip first seen via Steve
, who is also responsible for privately sending me the link to the studio version--thanks Steve!):
Ok, got the song of the year out of the way. Other thoughts:
Of the first four Talking Heads albums, which are the only four that matter, I remain convinced that Remain In Light
is the fourth best. I prefer the more austere sound of the unaugmented group. For years I would have said Fear of Music
was my favorite, but it may now be More Songs about Buildings and Food
Outside of the sublime If I Could Only Fly
, can anyone rep for late-period Merle Haggard? I have to think he has had a few more gems in the last couple of decades.
I don't listen to the radio much, but I want to say a few words about 96.5 FM out of Chincoteague, Virginia. Basically a rock station, but clearly its own thing. Dylan's "My Back Pages", some Zep, George Jones, some obscure Fleetwood Mac (or solo Lindsey?) alternate take of "Big Love"... the songs I didn't like were at least atypical: a Bryan Adams song that probably hasn't seen the light of day in years, that weird 4 Non Blondes hit, stuff like that. The point is that there didn't appear to be any discernible playlist, most of the commercials were local, actual public services were performed on air by people who sounded like they actually cared... All radio stations should be like this one, in spirit.
I went through another Beatles period recently, in part thanks to Marcello Carlin's superb blog, Then Play Long
, in which he writes at length about every album to reach #1 in the UK since 1956. He's made The Sound of Music
soundtrack sound fascinating, and the Monkees emerge as vastly more interesting than this listener ever gave them credit for being. But more impressively, he's managed to say something new and interesting about over-analyzed albums from the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan (the posts on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
and John Wesley Harding
are incredible--I think it's how he illuminates the music, where other writers are so often fixated on Dylan's lyrics). The Beatles in particular. I've loved all of his posts on Beatles albums, especially those on Please Please Me
, With the Beatles
, A Hard Day's Night
, and Beatles for Sale
. The one on Sgt. Pepper
had me listening to that album for the first time in years, with much greater appreciation (if only because I was paying more attention). Great music writing.
We've inherited some children's music from a friend. Some of it I find I actually like (though I have to say that Raffi, bland and inoffensive as he is, is much more tolerable to simply listen to than to view--there's something weirdly creepy about that dude's eyes! But, hey, the kids all love him. It's a mystery. [Actually, it's not: he's respectful of them and he sings pleasant songs that they like to sing along to. I'm just being a critic.]) In particular, I'm fond of Donovan's Pied Piper
album. We've already listened to this cd numerous times. Something tells me that Devendra Banhart spent a lot of time with it. (I can hear him singing "I Love My Shirt".)
Belated entry in the sad songs sweepstakes
: "I Keep Holding Back the Tears" by the immortal Souled American
Not enough is said about Jim O'Rourke's wonderful "Prelude to 110 or 220/Women of the World". (I hear he has a new record coming out, after a long hiatus.)
My favorite working male vocalist: Bill Callahan; female vocalist: Neko Case; group: Animal Collective. None of which will surprise regular readers.
I count myself fortunate to have caught Joe McPhee live more than once. Same with William Parker.
I was obsessed with Jane's Addiction back in the early 1990s. But then it turned out Perry Farrell was hard to take (and the less said about Dave Navarro the better) and Porno for Pyros was not my idea of a good time (given that they sucked). So the Jane's cds got sort of forgotten, lost in the big wall of cds. I loaded Nothing's Shocking
and Ritual de lo Habitual
onto the iPod not too long ago. Verdict: the former is a little less than I remember it being, a little too, well, "shocking", though I'm still a sucker for "Summertime Rolls"; the latter, however, really holds up well. A great, expansive, meandering rock album, which sounds fantastic (where Nothing's Shocking
sounds like it was recorded through a cardboard tube). Even "Been Caught Stealing".
On a related note, of the so-called grunge bands that I was so into back in the early 90s, Soundgarden isn't holding up as well as, say, Pearl Jam, or Alice in Chains' Dirt
(Nirvana, ironically, doesn't count as grunge). I still like much of Superunknown
and "Rusty Cage" and "Jesus Christ Pose" from Badmotorfinger
, but man, the rest is rather nondescript.
For those of you who may have wondered, yes we are familiar with the singer-songwriter named Mirah. In fact, she is the original source for our daughter's name--not that she's named after
her, or that we're huge fans or anything, but we were struggling with names, and hers popped into my head one night and we liked it. We are fans though, at least of C'mon Miracle
(not sure yet about (A)Spera
By the way, I only recently zeroed in on the lyrics
to Mirah's song "Jerusalem", from C'mon Miracle
. I think I may previously have been afraid to pay too much attention, but these are pretty good:
So now jerusalem, you know that it's not right
After all you've been through, you should know better than
To become the wicked ones almighty god once saved you from
I recently made a mix cd for a friend, on which I included "The Breeze/My Baby Cries" and "I Keep Holding Back the Tears", both mentioned above, but also "Beer & Kisses" by Amy Rigby. I'm working on another, on which I hope to include Rigby's "Down Side of Love". Does anyone listen to Amy Rigby? These songs are both off of her excellent Diary of a Mod Housewife
from 1996. I remember it was very highly regarded that year, and I dutifully bought a copy. The narrative was that she'd been a rocker but then got married and had children and disappeared (she was apparently no Kristin Hersh), before coming back with this record (after a breakup, I think, and the record's lyrics seem to confirm the memory). But, as happens so often, even for one with a music habit as ridiculous as mine became, I never followed up with her, though I liked the cd very much. I know she's released music since then--does anyone have anything to say about her? Any other cds one should try?
I am too old for Death Cab for Cutie. I am too old for Arcade Fire. I am too old for the Rapture. I am too old for Interpol. I am too old for Arctic Monkeys. I am too old for Art Brut. I am probably too old for Broken Social Scene, though I admit I liked that You Forgot It In People
record quite a bit (but I'm already not sure it's aged well, and I didn't like the self-titled one at all). (Some of you may notice that these have all been Pitchfork-approved indie bands du jour
at one time or another. But: I am not too old for Deerhoof. I am not too old for Animal Collective. I am not too old for the Microphones/Mount Eerie [though I remain mystified by the over-the-top love for The Glow Pt. 2
]). I am too old for emo. I am too old for metal (as much as I can appreciate, say, High on Fire and Mastodon, to name just two rather high profile and completely awesome metal bands, I cannot listen to them at the correct, necessary volume. My ears are too sensitive, too fragile, too damaged, too old. People listen to High on Fire through earbuds? A generation of deaf people!).
I mean to say, by the above, that it's one thing to listen to new music, it's one thing to follow musicians down new paths, keeping up with old favorites, but I wonder if there isn't something unseemly about the attempt at remaining up-to-date well into serious adulthood. I wonder if it's not part of what keeps us not young but infantile, or rather, distracted
. It becomes consumerist frenzy, this need that must be filled (something like a manufactured consent
, of sorts). I also wonder if it isn't convenient for me to come around to such an idea only since I've abandoned my own serious efforts at keeping up. Do I need to know what every hip band of 20 year-olds, however inventive, is up to this and every year? Should I? Am I wrong to call the whole process into question? How many records need to exist? How many can you listen to?
Labels: Music, Smog/Bill Callahan