Imaginary Brazilian Revolution

Brazil is a state of carefree serenity. Brazil is attained by forsaking sanity.

Return . . . I will . . . to old . . . Brazil.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thinking About Music

Hello ladies and gentlemen...

Sometimes we humans are lucky enough to find things that change us, things that alter the course of our existence. For example, the discovery of T.S. Eliot turned me quickly into a poetry junky. Stanley Kubrick or David Fincher or Terry Gilliam taught me the difference between a good film and a bad film, between a hack and an auteur.

Currently in my iTunes folder I have 188 bands. That seems like an awful lot of artists to me. I feel like talking about a few of them in this post, but one in particular, citing them as one of these afformentioned catalystic discoveries. Standing out, shining brilliantly before 188 competitors right now is...drumroll...The Magnetic Fields. I adore the hell out of this band. They are incredible! The peculiar thing about them is that they aren't necessarily groundbreaking, their music isn't terribly unique or experimental. For me though, it's been the same as discovering another Elliott Smith or Stars: just another artist/band who is extraordinarily good at doing what they do. The songs are typically tight, concise, and conventional, though they seem to utilize more instruments than your average indie-pop band. And could I speak kindly enough about Stephin Merritt's songwriting??? I don't think I could! The dude is brilliant. He's not a poet--he's a songwriter. There is a difference. While I am awfully fond of the poets, (Dylan, Oberst, Smith, Ol' Dirty Bastard, etc.) there is something spectacular about just being really good at writing verses to be sung. "I Don't Believe You," "All My Little Words," and "100,000 Fireflies" are all PERFECT examples of PERFECT songs. Now, I'm not sure how the discovery of The Magnetic Fields is going to spark an evolutionary change, but I'm sure that it will, or maybe it already has. In any case, if you haven't noticed, I really love them. So will you.

Also recommended are Stephin Merritt's side-projects The 6ths and The Gothic Archies.

Tom---how is your relationship with Bright Eyes these days? Do you listen to any other Saddle Creek artists? Cursive? Tilly and the Wall? The Faint? Son Ambulance? Azure Ray? Older Rilo Kiley? Just curious. Speaking of Rilo Kiley though...if you may be considering checking them out, "Three Hopeful Thoughts" is a good jumping-in song. Or "The Good That Won't Come Out." Or if you just want to fall in love with Jenny Lewis and let Rilo Kiley come later, "The Charging Sky" is such a beautiful song. "So my mom, she brushes her hair/and my dad starts growing Bob Dylan's beard." Tiz-ight.

Recently discovered was John Vanderslice. He produced The Sunset Tree and We Shall All Be Healed, (The Mountain Goats,) and apparently played several instruments on each album. I just got his album "Pixel Revolt" featuring the backing vocals of John Darnielle and also some incredible songwriting. "Dressed like that/you are the flag of a dangerous nation." Check him out. He's pretty rad.

Nine Black Alps have been getting alot of playtime lately. I heard the song "Intermission" and was sold.

And as a novelty I've been enjoying The Dresden Dolls. Sometimes I generalize and think of theatrical music-making as sort of gimmicky. The Decemberists are a pretty good band, but sometimes their gimmicks bother me. As a result I can't listen too much. I just think that the music is cheapened by being too thematic, too centralized in one idea. Maybe this thing with The Dresden Dolls will be short-lived, but I've been enjoying the showmanship for now.

(Okay, before anybody calls me on it...I realize that the whole concept of The 6ths is to be gimmicky. There are exceptions to every rule. Get off my back already. Geez.)

Other gimmicky bands:
The Fiery Furnaces...but that's okay
Animal Collective...that's okay too
Belle and Sebastian
uhhh....Bjork? Sometimes there is a fine line between art and marketing...has she ever crossed it? Could she really be so...weird?
Tom Waits...

You know what...this has been a revelatory post. I've changed my mind here, right before your very eyes. The mark of the artist is experimentation and exploration. While some artists are interested in exploring themselves and the way they tick, other artists are interested in exploring ideas, the way their ideas tick. Nevermind the whole gimmick nonsense. I could just go back and delete it, but that would deprive you all of something profound...a bildungsroman experience. Ironic how exploring my own reactions triggered a change of heart. I'm gonna log off and write an album about mutant butterflies attacking Salt Lake City. Peace!


At 3/28/2006 6:39 PM, Anonymous Susan M said...

I don't know if I should tell you how many bands I have on my hard drive. I will say that I've seen more than 188 bands live, though. :)

I have some Magnetic Fields but haven't taken the time to listen to them properly yet. Most of the bands you mention I haven't heard--except Rilo Kiley, who didn't hold my attention, though I thought they were pretty good, and the MG, who I actually just burned to listen to on my way home tonight. Oh and Stars, they're pretty good.

Most of those types of indie bands I can't listen to an entire album of at a time, though. But that's what iTunes and mix cds are for, right.

Thoreau said, "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book"--I've always felt that way about certain bands. I'll have to think about which ones and reply with them later.

At 3/29/2006 9:49 AM, Blogger Tom said...

John Darnielle on backing vocals? Isn't that a bit . . . inappropriate? I can't imagine his voice blending very well. Interesting.

Me and Mr. Bright Eyes are on good terms. I look forward to his next release, but I don't really want to explore his previous releases and I don't think I'd go see him if he came to town.

I have listened to Tilly and the Wall and I dig it. I'm about to listen to Jenny Lewis's solo album and after that Rilo Kiley's The Execution of All Things. Right now I'm listening to the Flaming Lips Transmissions of the Satellite heart. My love for the Lips grows and grows. They're making their way up my list of all-time faves.

At 3/29/2006 10:56 AM, Anonymous Susan M said...

I can hook you up with the new Lips album if you want, Tom. (Or anyone) It hasn't been released yet. I also have the new Calexico. The first I copied from someone at work--the second I bought used for $10. Someone with an advance copy sold it to my local indie cd store.

I've listened to a bit of the new Lips and what I've heard is excellent. (Calexico being excellent goes without saying.)

At 4/02/2006 9:10 AM, Blogger White Man Retarded said...

Hey Tom! It's good to have a brother. I've loved the F. Lips for around 14 years now. I saw them in 93 and again with Beck in 2002. They're playing in Austin around September, and if they play near you, do not do not do not do not miss it! The ultimate best show in the world! I'm not too keen on their new album, but I honestly only listened to it once. and hit the audio tab to hear it.

At 4/03/2006 8:51 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Tomorrow's the day. I'm going to go pick up the At War with the Mystics before I head into the lab tomorrow. I know I could've listened online already, but I want to listen to good quality first.

Oh, and thanks Susan for the offer of sending me a copy. This is one album that of which I want to have an original copy. There are a few bands whose releases I care enough about to go out and buy a hard copy: Wilco, Radiohead, Flaming Lips are among them.


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