Once more, with feeling

March 28, 2013

I’ve seen or heard a number of people expressing the wish that they could hear a favorite album (or song) again for the first time, and admitting some jealousy towards those who have never heard it before, and thus will hear it with the freshest of ears, experiencing every twist and turn as a genuine novelty.[1]

I suppose I understand that desire,[2] but there’s also something to be said for putting on an album that you haven’t listened to in years, and just being reminded why you liked it.

Which, I suppose, is just a roundabout way of saying that I made the recent discovery that Dark Side of the Moon remains a phenomenal album.

* * *

[1] This is obviously disregarding the possibility that the virgin-eared listener might perceive a particular album, song, chord change, lyric, or whatever as unbearably trite and not novel or surprising at all.

[2] On the other hand, a pretty damn uniform characteristic of my favorite musical works is that my first listen was the one I liked the least. The stuff I really like in the end is what grows on me. Even something that blows you away on the first listen has room to get even better. I can think of some arguable counterexamples to this general rule among my own favorite-musics list, but they tend to be songs that are particularly strongly associated with a particular time, place, or event—songs that function more as time machines, aids to memory, or madeleines than as musical works per se.

On music

April 13, 2009

Nearly five years ago, I saw a Finnish movie used a particular song as background music at one point. I have no memory of the movie other than a brief snippet of that song. When the movie ended, hummed the song for somebody and asked what it was; turns out it had been a reasonably popular recording by a reasonably popular Finnish recording artist. I was told, and promptly forgot, the names of both the song and the artist.

For years, that was the end of the story. Actually, the story, as it were, didn’t even exist, because I had no recollection of any part of it. Until the other day, when I somehow managed to get that long-forgotten snippet stuck in my head again.

After racking my brain for a while, I was able to pin the snippet down chronologically — I knew, more or less, where I was and what I was doing when I’d heard it originally. From that, I remembered the Finnish connection. I read every name listed on Wikipedia’s “Category:Finnish singers“, to no avail — though some of the names were quite familiar, none of them was the right guy. I didn’t know who the right guy was, but none of the names on that list sparked an ‘aha!’. For one thing, I knew the guy had a one-word moniker of some sort, and I was sure it wasn’t on that list.

So I tried again, with another Wikipedia list: “Finnish rock artists and bands“, which includes the name Rauli ‘Badding’ Somerjoki. Badding! That’s the guy. And the song, I was pretty sure, was “Tähdet, tähdet”. A quick YouTube search later, and I finally heard the song again, and got it out of my head. Thank god for the internet.

Song of the Moment: «Tähdet, tähdet» — Badding

Same old song and dance

June 9, 2008

One of these days, or weeks or months or years, I’m going to remember that there are people who are more than willing to help me, and who don’t want me to fail horribly. And one of these days, it is to be hoped, I’ll let myself be helped before it’s too late—even if it means asking for help. I swear.

Note: I’m not too proud to ask for help, I just really really hate bothering or inconveniencing people. Which sometimes makes me end up inconveniencing people a thousand times worse down the road, when something eminently preventable spirals or festers or snowballs out of control.

So, yeah.

In other news, I saw The Tallest Man on Earth yesterday, and he put on a great show. He briefly forgot the words to one of his own songs, but these things happen. Plus, he covered for it pretty well, and it was a very friendly & appreciative crowd. Also, Mr on Earth himself is quite a friendly and good-natured guy. A+++, would see again.

Telling tellers tell me

November 13, 2007

A not-so-recent-anymore article includes the following:

Music sales have slumped in recent years as more people have turned to file-sharing. The Recording Industry Association of America, which is not a party to the lawsuit, says record companies have brought more than 26,000 actions against people alleging they shared files in violation of copyrights.

I’m not going to address the merit of this lawsuit in particular, or the approach in general. There’s enough of that all over the internet already. Nor will I point out that, during the “recent years”, while “[m]usic sales have slumped”, DVD sales have exploded and RIAA labels have released fewer and arguably worse albums. There’s gotta be enough of that all over the internet as well.

No, my point is illustrated by this list of the past 10 or so albums I’ve purchased, along with the record label (if any) for each one:

  • Elliott Brood — Tin Type (Weewerk)
  • Holy Fuck — LP (XL Recordings)
  • Husky Rescue — Ghost is Not Real (Catskills)
  • Junior Senior — Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (Rykodisc)
  • Manu Chao — La Radiolina (Nacional Records)
  • Maserati — Inventions for the New Season (Temporary Residence)
  • Menomena — Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
  • Portugal. The Man — Church Mouth (Fearless Records)
  • Radiohead — In Rainbows (?)
  • Spoon — Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge Records)
  • UNKLE — War Stories (Surrender All)

Green indicates an album is non-RIAA, red RIAA (post-purchase, I looked them up here). As you can see, that means one of the past ten CDs I’ve bought (or one of the past eleven albums I’ve bought) has been a release from an RIAA-affiliated label. I guess that means I’m so indie it hurts [1], but it also illustrates that, without even trying, you can nearly eliminate your support for the RIAA and still buy as many CDs as you did before. So while I don’t necessarily doubt that music sales in general have fallen, I have to wonder whether the fall is as big as it’s been made out to be. Articles tend to parrot RIAA talking points, and it’s not clear where they’re getting their numbers from. If their sales figures are only based on the sales figures from their member labels, then the vast majority of my purchases don’t count, and I know there are lots of people out there with tastes like mine (or, God forbid, even indier).

Incidentally, if not for downloads, I wouldn’t have spent actual money on any of those albums.

* * *

[1] Adam, if you’re reading this, you can consider this post an explicit recommendation to listen to all those albums listed above. Sorry this still isn’t a proper mp3blog, but at least it’s trending in that direction. In any case, all of those albums qualify as ‘best of new music’ in my book; other than the Elliott Brood, which came out in 2004; and the Junior Senior, which came out in 2005 but wasn’t released Stateside until this year. Though the US release of the Junior Senior album does come with an EP of all-new material—which is the entire reason I bought it, since I already had a copy that I got in Denmark this spring.

Friday 4.5.7

May 4, 2007

Here I go again, with the end-of-week shuffle action . . .

  1. Weezer — “My Name is Jonas”
    I keep thinking I like Pinkerton better than the blue album, until I actually go back and listen to the blue album again. The cleverness and dreadful melancholy of Pinkerton will always have a place in my heart, but as soon as the opening notes of “Jonas” come in, I immediately forget all that crap and brace myself for an album of unapologetic rocking.
  2. Sublime — “By the Rivers of Babylon”
    What can I say, I’m a sucker for acoustic guitars and soulful harmonies.
  3. Pink Floyd — “Brain Damage (live)”
    The only thing that was capable of making Dark Side better was rerecording it in front of a live studio audience. Studio audiences suck when they’re perfunctorily reacting to cues in the form of signs that say Applause or some such, but when they’re legitimately enjoying the experience they can have an immensely positive effect, and that’s just one of the reasons why Pulse is so good.
  4. Unbelievable Truth — “Home Again”
    Even for somebody as hopelessly obsessed with mopey British bands as I am, this is a goddamn sleeping pill of boring crap.
  5. Django Reinhardt — “Belleville”
    Django and a clarinet: what more do you really need?
  6. Beer is Bad — “Poo”
    Have you ever seen that episode of That 70s Show where they set up a tape recorder before getting high, to archive all their pot-induced wit and wisdom for posterity? This was a similar idea, and I have to say it didn’t come out much better in real life than it did on TV.
  7. Eels — “The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight”
    It’s one of the closing songs on a double-album, and it sounds like it — for better and for worse.
  8. Feeder — “Radioman”
    I bought this album because the title (Yesterday Went Too Soon) summed up how I was feeling at that particular moment (January 2 or 3, 2000). Also because it was in the bargain bin and only cost $2. Then I found out it’s actually quite a good album as well, and this song in particular entered heavy rotation on my mp3 player, which had a whopping 64MB capacity. Oh, to be young again . . .
  9. Badly Wooden Head — “After the Party”
    Fucker had two whole albums recorded already by the time he was my age. Sure, they’re “uplifting as a trainwreck”, but more importantly they’re good. Meanwhile I’m lucky if I can pull off one decent song a year.
  10. Manu Chao — “Malegria”
    The entire album Clandestino is too good for words, but honestly this is one of my least favourite songs on it.
  11. Starsailor — “Talk Her Down”
    Starsailor always walk a fine line between exhilarating and unlistenable, mostly because of their singer’s delivery, which is usually implausibly earnest and shamelessly maudlin, while somehow being even breathier than Matt Bellamy’s. It can be a lot to take, but in small doses it’s often very nice, and this song has a strong enough melody that it isn’t completely overshadowed by the giant sign saying “LOOK HOW SENSITIVE I AM, IS THIS NOT HEARTBREAKING?”

Friday shuffle

April 6, 2007

One of those things that “bloggers” do, I guess… this is what came up when I put my mp3 player on ‘shuffle’. I’ve taken the liberty of writing briefly about each song as well, rather than just providing a list.

  1. Ratatat — “Everest”
    I loves me my Ratatat, I do, but the best part of a Ratatat song is always the ending, when they suddenly change around the beat you were grooving to and turn it into something bigger than the whole world and suddenly you find yourself stomping on the gas pedal or gyrating your entire body against a big heap of sand, depending on the particulars of your circumstances at the time. This song doesn’t do that, so while it’s quite nice it’s middling at best in the Ratatat canon.
  2. The Beatles — “Paperback Writer”
    Great song. But man oh man how I loathe the early days of stereo. I’m sure that, at the time, it was all kinds of cool to be able to play around with different channels at all, but there’s absolutely no reason to put every instrument hard left or hard right. It sounds terrible and it’s very difficult to listen to.
  3. Elliott Brood — “President”
    Elliott Brood are the original “death-country” band, but this song has too much country and not enough death. Anyone can play banjo (though admittedly the Brood do play it quite mean), but when I listen to these guys I want to hear some screaming too. That’s why I like Tin Type better than Ambassador.
  4. Mew — “156”
    As with every Mew song, this one requires multiple careful listens to get to the bottom of. As with most Mew songs, this one is well worth the trouble.
  5. Evan Dando — “My Idea”
    A nice enough twist on the standard wistful post–break-up song; he doesn’t necessarily want to get back together, he just wants people to think it was his idea.
  6. Sublime — “5446 That’s My Number / Ball and Chain”
    Dear lord I’d forgotten how goddamn bass-heavy Sublime mixed their early stuff.
  7. Miles Davis — “Freddie Freeloader”
    I like
  8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience — “House Burning Down”
    See “Lucy”, below, regarding “…the worst excesses of 60s psychedelia”, and know that I was not talking about this song (some other songs on Electric Ladyland, though…). The intro is certainly all kinds of trippy and effects-laden, and is definitely an artifact of its time, but it’s also the work of a master craftsman with unsurpassed familiarity with the tools at his disposal. And the rest of the song ain’t half bad either.
  9. Men at Work — “Who Can It Be Now?”
    Probably the best song ever written about having an unknown somebody at one’s door. Not only is it incredibly catchy, the lyrics are brilliant as well. I can’t explain why lines like “If he hears, he’ll knock all day / I’ll be trapped, and here I’ll have to stay” appeal to me so much, but they do.
  10. Carole King — “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”
    Don’t get me wrong: Carole wrote a lot of very very good songs, and this is one of them. She just wasn’t the best performer. When she lets herself go, she’s phenomenal, but most of the time you can hear the timidity and trepidation.
  11. The Beatles — “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
    My opinions about this song, both positive and negative, are very similar to my opinions about the Simpsons episode where Homer gets a job with Hank Scorpio. Taken on its own merit, that episode is a masterwork: full of hilarity, an instant classic, and since become constantly referenced in the vernacular. In a broader context, though, it opened the floodgates for a storm of derivative, self-indulgent, self-referential crap to follow. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that episode was when The Simpsons jumped the shark. Continuity had never been important, but with this episode it just flew out the window, never to return again. And they’d had celebrity voices before, but I feel like this episode was the beginning of the revolving-door celebrity cavalcade that the series has been reduced to. “Lucy”, on the other hand, merely paved the way for the worst excesses of 60s psychedelia and other such crap, and lent the entire genre an undeserved air of legitimacy. I can’t decide which is a graver sin.

“That’s fine, boy, never mind the tulips.”

March 14, 2007

This has certainly been a momentous week or so in terms of my ever-burgeoning addiction to obscure &/or foreign musics, as not only did I wisely use my time in Denmark to flesh out my Junior Senior and Kashmir collections, but today Cantafabule and Cei ce ne-au dat nume were sitting in my mailbox, in a plain brown envelope festooned with Romanian postage. I loves me some Phoenix, I certainly do.

Incidentally, I should take this opportunity to note that if I hadn’t had a chance to download music by the above-mentioned bands, I wouldn’t have had any reason to scour the world for their albums. As RMS pointed out, sharing is caring.


January 31, 2007

By decade:

Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' ElseClifford Brown - Brown and Roach, Inc.The Modern Jazz Quartet - Django
The Beatles - Rubber SoulHorace Silver - Song For My FatherThe Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were HereThe Stooges - Fun HouseNeil Young - Harvest
Dissidenten - Sahara ElectricViolent Femmes - Violent FemmesGeorge Harrison - Cloud Nine
Radiohead - The BendsManu Chao - ClandestinoCake - Fashion Nugget
Menomena - I Am The Fun Blame MonsterKashmir - ZitilitesCMX - Dinosaurus Stereophonicus

Edit: Updated, since I’d inconsiderately left a decade out originally.

Four-score and seven years to go

September 27, 2006

Menomena tonight, Sonar, Baltimore.

Can’t fucking wait.

Solid state, 2

August 1, 2006

I’m well on my way to becoming everything I’ve always hated. I’ve got some vinyl records, I’ve got a turntable that spins and is connected to an amplifier which is driving some speakers…. So as soon as I actually get a needle I’ll be ready to progress to the next level of being an asshole audiophile. I imagine that’s something like Bulbasaur evolving into Ivysaur or something.

Which poses the question, why in God’s name is the wikipedia entry for “Bulbasaur” a good 25% longer than the one for “Iran-Contra Affair“? For fuck’s sake.

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