Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Good Winter Sounds

Present pop music

You probably know that I am in a long term relationship with music. But given my commitment to Honesty, and after careful discussions with my family, I have an admission to make: this year I have had passionate if brief liaisons with these songs (which can be heard in the player on the left, and downloaded here). Thank you, friends who introduced us.

- DJ Al Jazzera

White Winter Hymnal / Fleet Foxes
Like Edgar Allen Poe with the Raven, Fleet Foxes carefully take the best ingredients of Charles Ives and the Garden State soundtrack to create a nearly perfect winter holiday song. 

"You were always on my mind."

Sabali / Amadou & Miriam
I thought I might be able to make it through 2008 without falling in love with Amadou and Miriam again, but I was wrong. Again.

Oh No / Andrew Bird
Oh yes yes yes yes. I want to be Andrew Bird's friend, and cry together, and whistle together. I know he's not, but I still think he's saying calcium minds, as in calcified minds, but he's actually taking about mining. The layering of the bum-bum-bum kills me. He wrote about the song on a blog at New York Times (?):
In the instance of this song I was on a flight from New York back to Chicago and a young mother and her 3-year-old son sat in front of me and it was looking to be the classic scenario of the child screaming bloody murder. However, I was struck by the mournfulness of this kid’s wail. He just kept crying “oh no” in a way that only someone who is certain of their demise could. Pure terror. Completely inconsolable. It was more moving than annoying.

So when I got home I picked up my guitar and tried to capture the slowly descending arc of that kid’s cry. It fit nicely over a violin loop that I had been toying with which moves from C-major to A-major.

We could be friends, us harmless sociopaths. I can learn the guitar. There was a New Yorker piece recently by John Seabrook about sociopathy and psychopathy, terms which tend to overlap, but which refer to "the condition of moral emptiness that affects between fifteen to twenty-five per cent of the North American prison population, and is believed by some psychologists to exist in one per cent of the general adult male population." 

I think that number should be a lot higher. Anyway, in the piece, John Seabrook subjects himself to an experimental test for sociopathy that involves looking at some distrubing images while being brain scanned by a functional magnetic residence imaging machine. The other night on 60 Minutes, a brain scientist was saying that within five years we should be able to read people's thoughts, based on the colorful computer maps created by fMRI scans. Pretty at least. But Seabrook:
The scanner was housed in a tractor-trailer parked behind the prison’s I.D. center. We followed a correctional officer through an internal courtyard to the rehab wing, which consisted of a large common area surrounded by two-man cells. The prisoners were standing at attention outside their cells, some holding mops and brooms. I entered a vacant cell and saw the occupant’s brain, a grainy black-and-white image on a piece of a paper, its edges curling, tacked up over the desk.
Then we walked through the common room and out a door at the other end, passing under a large poster with lines that read, “I am here because there is no refuge, finally, from myself.” 

Bag of Hammers /Thao Nguyen


Half Asleep / School of Seven Bells
Running away without watches, skipping alongside dandelions, riding unicorns with your friends from camp. 

But it's just a virtual reality machine; you're actually on board a spaceship, shooting into the sun.

Obama / Extra Golden
Once my passport was stolen. How is too embarassing to say. But I spent three nights combing the streets of Cambridge in vain looking for it, in the outside chance someone had just taken the pretty stamps and left the rest behind. My desperate, insane hunt likely had something to do with the timing. Within days, my passport was due at the Russian embassy in Washington, DC, where it would receive a stamp allowing me to begin a Siberian exile. Sure, that might sound like a strange thing to get worked up about, but that was just how it was back then. Phone calls ensued. Yelling and accusations. Often at automated phone operators.

Eventually I spoke with a man named Dastagir Samee. Emailed. Wrote. Via FedEx, I handed off photos, information, money to Dastagir. Days later, a passport, with a sturdy three-month Russian visa. I was not then in the mood to sing a song of praise to Dastagir Samee. But I perhaps knew half of the struggle of getting a visa to the U.S.  

Until We Bleed/ Kleerup
An eternal night that ends before you realize it. Eternal relationship that hasn't started yet. 

Love Lockdown (Flying Lotus Remix) / Kanye West
"Keep a secret code / So everybody else don't have to know." The song sounds like a brute force attack on the password. But: do alien frying pans and autotune cancel each other out?

Shake That Devil / Antony and the Johnstons
Bitch hunt turned sock hop.

What Is Not but Could Be If / Silver Jews
For the longest time I thought this song was in the past conditional. And then recently I realized it was just conditional.

Red, Yellow and Blue / Born Ruffians
It is pretty. And it probably won't offend anyone, unlike this (which I saw happen, and also filmed).

Fatalist Palmistry / WHY?
One thing that musicians, unlike painters or filmmakers, don't have to worry about is lighting. 
Or do they?

Flaming Home / Mount Eerie
The illogical conclusion of Bag of Hammers, above.

Librarian / My Morning Jacket
When I was recently in California, I visited three libraries in the space of a week. It was really the only place to go. 
Still I miss no one more than the one that never missed me

Day n Nite / Kid Cudi
The song is sort of about lonelieness and desperation and stubborness and loss and failed dreams. Not exactly top 40 material. And yet it totally is. According to one Internet commenter, 
this kid is a official hype beast. this is the beginning of official hype beasts making it into the music world.

And that's the promise of America.

Bruises / Chairlift
Isn't it pretty to think so. And dance to.

Sad Song (RAC remix) / Au Revoir Simone
A song to bring you home.

Blackfly Rag / Carl Spidla
He's got so much to say and really should not stop.

Do Your Best / John Maus
The colors of points of light, waves of shadows, out the window late at night are not describeable in words, but they don't need to be because they don't belong to words, they don't belong to anything, and for a moment, when our eyes are both stuck in cycles of auto-focus in and out, they belong to me and you. Whoever you are.

Keep Yourself Warm / Frightened Rabbit
I am embarassed by the words, but it's the kind of glorious rock that I need to hear once and awhile. I'd like to see them take fellow Scots Snow Patrol in a fight. And Bono. Their Christmas one, which appeared on Alex-mas 2008, also verges on epic and kept me warm. Also: a lighter.

Family Tree / TV on the Radio

Dinosaur on the Ark / Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit
The whole great album is free hereTengazako and I are still on dancing terms.

Malawi, where Esau Mwamwaya comes from, was once known as Nyasaland. Nyasa means lake and it also means rubbish, or bad. Wikipedia opines that the colonists might have thought that about the "undeveloped" land there. In other places visited by British colonists, the word used was "waste," which was often synonomous with the word "wasteland." Waste, they reasoned, was a problem to be solved, like the Native Americans, who clearly didn't know how to "use" their largely untouched land. But thing is, nobody did.

Generations later, this thinking would yield phrases like "manifest destiny." As much as I detest waste in so many of its forms (fiscal, emotional, temporal, sometimes it's like my whale), but that's probably because I can't get enough of waste, its potential, its lack of logic, its pleasure, its pain (o the white waste!).  And this waste -- in the sense of the un-used, waiting to be used, developed, transformed -- I love it. I love what its old usage says about colonialism, about capitalism, about blindness, etc. But I really love its double-meaning, its infinite-meaning, its potential, its space, its full emptiness. If you think about it, a lake is like a waste in a way, a perfect waste. It is non-land, a space that cannot be used, cannot even be walked upon, an amorphous body, a collection of an excess. It is just there, just beautiful.

So the dinosaur (the fiance of MIA, not Esau) is walking through a waste land. "Africa, Africa!" sings Esau. Is it Nyasaland? I don't know. But boy is he happy.

Drive on Driver / Magnetic Fields
The bad thing about L.A. is you have to drive everywhere. The good thing about L.A. is I don't know how to drive.

Bluster in the Air / No Kids

Listen for when he sings "time."

1259 Lullaby / Bedouin Soundclash
I think it works as a sequel to Justice's "One Minute to Midnight."

re:stacks / Bon Iver

Someone asked me why women don't gamble as much as men do, and I gave the commonsensical reply that we don't have as much money. That was a true and incomplete answer. In fact, women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.
- Gloria Steinem

And concerning the number of books and the establishment of libraries and the collection in the Museum, why need I even speak when they are all the memory of men.

- Athenaeus, the Deipnosophistae

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