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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

It’s been months since I’ve written, and years since I’ve written about music (don’t you remember my wildly popular “Listen to This” series? No? Oh.).  I write today to talk about music that should not be listened to. Well, that’s awfully dramatic.  You can listen to these songs. But keep your kids away! I am not a parent (unless you count my puppy, but she doesn’t understand lyrics, so I’m safe), but if I had a child with me, I would absolutely turn the radio off when certain songs come on, because some things are just not appropriate for children.  Children will be adolescents before any of us are prepared to deal with it, and adolescents will be confronted with sex, drugs and alcohol also before any of us are ready to deal with it. So there is really no need of speeding up the inevitable by talking about sex, drugs or alcohol in a way that glorifies the behavior. Their friends will do that on their own in, like, five years.

The first song that made me think about this is actually one that I love.  It’s Doses and Mimosas, by Cherub.  The beat is infectious and it makes me want to dance.  And then I listened to the words, and for a minute, I thought, “Wow, that’s actually sort of empowering.” The lyrics are something like, “To all you bitch ass hoes, who hate me the most, I hate you too; to all you punk ass thugs, who just want to talk shit, I hate you too; to all that high class ass, that’s too hot too fast, I hate you too.”  Here’s what I think is awesome about those words – people talking shit and making you feel like they hate you? F* it! Hate them too.  I love that.  But then comes the chorus: “Doses and mimosas, cocaine and champagne, that’s what gets me through.”

Now, as much as I adore the message of not giving haters and jerks the time of day, I don’t necessarily think that drinking and drugs are the way to get through it.  Isn’t feeling empowered enough? How about being high on life? Does that make me sound old and uncool? Hmph.

Recently, I heard a song being played on the radio by someone called Tove Lo. The song is called Habits and is essentially about a woman who is no longer with her significant other, and has to stay “high all the time, to get you off my mind.”  Not only is she “high”, she sings of going to sex clubs, binge eating Twinkies and then throwing them up in the bath tub – gross – and “drinking up” all of her money.  Hey, that’s neat.  So someone broke up with her, and her response is to mope around feeling sorry for herself and using it as an excuse to stay drunk, high, promiscuous and bulimic.   I think the singer is from Sweden, so maybe “high” is supposed to mean drunk, and video only shows her drinking, but “high” to me generally means drugs. Is this song merely an ode to self-pitying substance abuse and other vices? And an eating disorder?

I thought maybe I was just being an old fuddy-duddy about all of this, but at a work party a few weeks ago, the song “Chandelier” by Sia came on. One of the guys I work with, who has two young girls, said his daughters adore this song, and love to sing along to it, and then one day he realized it was about getting drunk. The “chandelier” of the title is meant to be swung upon after she “throws ’em back ’til I lose count.”  Then, “the sun is up, I’m a mess.”  So at least she lets everyone knows what the consequences of all that drinking will be – a crappy hangover! It’s practically a PSA.

I must be turning a corner in life. I’ve always been a champion for artists’ self expression, but I can’t help but feel that that self expression has taken a turn and we are now glamorizing co-dependent, self-pitying behavior, as well as a plethora of vices as a way to deal with said self-pity. Don’t pick yourself up by your bootstraps and shoulder on like a strong, independent young woman! Spend all of your money on booze and hang out in sex clubs! I can only imagine if I was driving around in a car with my sister’s kids, and one of these songs came on, I would immediately change the channel to Radio Disney or something safe where I can be reasonably sure that none of the songs will have the words “cocaine,” “high,” or “sex clubs.”  Think of the children.

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Last time I checked, it was 2012.  Unless I have hallucinated an entire future for myself and it is still 1996 and I am still in college, in a coma or a really impressive drunken stupor.

I loved the 90s.  They were so much better than the 80s for me. I graduated high school, lived away at college, and become a sort-of grown up.  One of my favorite things about that time period was the music. In high school, I had the good fortune of making one of the coolest friends ever, who introduced me to the idea of alternative/college music and WFNX (and 120 Minutes on MTV!! Anyone? Oh.).  It changed my life in the best way possible. I found a profound love of 80s new wave music, and this was also on the precipice of the Grunge movement, ushered in by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  By the time I got to college, the music was amazing…Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, No Doubt, Soundgarden, Garbage and countless other bands you surely have never heard of.  I have a theory that no matter who or where you are, the music that defined the best time of your life will always be the music you will gravitate to.  Because 90s alternative was such an important part of my life, it is where I got “stuck” for a while. Granted, I like a lot of other music genres, and even went through an electronic phase in my post-college club days.  But my music collection consisted mainly of CDs I had bought between the years of 1994 and 1998.  My ex made fun of me endlessly for this, and I suppose it is a little bit pathetic. But, the music still makes me happy and always brings back good memories, so I shrug off criticism.

Living in LA, there are not a lot of great radio stations (this is always shocking to me).  I’ve given up complaining about it and mostly just listen to KROQ, especially in the morning because I love their morning show.  I’ve noticed recently that many of the bands from my hey day have put out new songs in the past few months. From what I’ve noticed, there are new songs by Soundgarden (decent), The Offspring (terrible), Garbage (ok from what I remember), and No Doubt (I despised it at first and now I can’t ever get it out of my head; I’m not sure if this makes me despise it more or means that there is a lame part of my subconscious that actually likes it).  When the Soundgarden song came out, my first thought was, “What year is it?”  When the Offspring song debuted, I thought, “No, seriously. What year is it?”  Then the one-two punch of Garbage and No Doubt happened and I was seriously perplexed.  Am I so old that I am now hip again?  No, that cannot possibly be the case (not that I’m not that old, just that I can’t possibly be the hip one).  The best I can figure is that these bands are “safe.”  The music industry has changed so much in the last 10-15 years.  Once people stopped buying CDs, record companies and radio stations were much less likely to take a chance on a band no one has ever heard of.  It always astounds me how much great music there is out there, and how you have to dig around to find it (some people just seem to know where to get it, but I am not one of them; see previous statement about not being hip).

So, even 15 years after their peak in popularity, these bands of yesteryear still have a greater chance of getting radio play than an indie band that has a small following.  Even though it should make me happy, and maybe make me feel validated that my music choices aren’t so pathetically outdated, it feels a little strange. Like we’ve all overstayed our welcome at the party. Or worse, are the 40-year-olds at a 20-something bash (I’m not 40 yet, that was a metaphor).  I’m waiting for someone to complain about it and then it will all go away and we creatures of the 90s can go back into our angst-ridden caves. Until that happens, I guess I should just break out some Doc Martens, a plaid flannel shirt and unflatteringly dark lipstick and enjoy having a piece of my youth invade the present day…assuming that it is, in fact, 2012.

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I’ve noticed a recurring theme in my own posts lately, in that they much have to do with being sick and/or getting older. I’m trying to avoid becoming either, but, clearly, both issues are on my mind a lot lately.

One way I think you can keep yourself young is with music, and to keep tabs on what the kids are listening to.  I don’t much like Top 40 radio, but within the genres I do like, I try to keep up with what is new and up and coming.  I also try to listen the radio in general (even though stations in LA mostly suck) so I’m aware of what’s popular.

The inevitability of my advancing years is rearing its ugly head, however, no matter how much I try to ignore it.  Last week while getting ready for work, I was listening to KROQ (rock/alternative rock) and they were playing  a song by 30 Seconds to Mars.  This is the band fronted by Jared Leto, who played the alterna-heart throb Jordan Catalano on My So Called Life. I’m generally not that excited about men who embrace guy-liner, but most of the time, I find this band’s songs to be decent – or I at least don’t feel compelled to change the station when they come on.  But last week I noticed that Jared Leto screams in the middle of the new song (I forget the name). And then it occurred to me that he screams in pretty much all of their songs. This seems entirely unnecessary to me because his voice is actually pretty good, so he doesn’t need to overdo the theatrics by screaming.  Last week was also when I realized that I was completely turned off by someone screaming in a song. I felt like my father for a minute, which was pretty depressing (why wouldn’t it make me feel like my mother? Perhaps best explored in an entirely different post…or therapy).  I could just hear in my head, the voice of the older, crotchety generation, who just doesn’t “get it” anymore…”What is he screaming for?”  But really, I just don’t understand what he’s screaming for. Maybe old people have a point 99.9% of the time, but just need better delivery and better PR.

The other thing I noticed as a new pet peeve is music that is too loud in public venues.  I was out to dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were in a restaurant where the music was so loud, we couldn’t hear our own conversation.  Unable to deal, we mentioned it to the hostess, whose response was, “It’s just because they all like this song (presumably referring to the staff).  They’ll turn it down when the song is over.”  I found this to be a really  unacceptable response, for multiple reasons.  But, she was young and very matter of fact about it, which made me wonder if I am just getting older and clueless about what passes for socially acceptable in the world today.  Similarly, a week or so later, I was out shopping and went into an H&M, which is kind of an overwhelming experience to begin with because your eyes are assaulted by legions of cheap, bright clothing. But the music was so loud you would have to shout to be heard over it.  I was very happy to leave and may never go back there, ever.

So, it seems my method of keeping older age at bay – which is just about equal parts denial and delusion – will crack under the strain of reality in no time. It’s difficult to maintain the pretense that you’re young and “with it” when you’re shaking your fist and yelling at people to turn down the music.

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I’ve purchased a few albums in the past couple of months and have been defunct in sharing my findings.  A few of these albums came out somewhere in 2009, but I am a little slow on the uptake. So, apologies if this is old news for the more hip of you in the crowd, but they are definitely not mainstream bands so some of you may not have heard them before.  Also, I am on an “electropop” kick, which will explain some of my choices below.

* Miike Snow (self-titled):  A trio of guys from Sweden (none of them named Miike).  Of 11 songs, there is only one I’m not crazy about, which seems like pretty good odds.

* Broken Bells (self-titled): This is a duo composed of Danger Mouse and James Mercer from The Shins.  They are so hip and cool that the first song on this album was used in an episode of the hipster-centric show on HBO, “How to Make it in America.”  Hearing and recognizing it while watching that show was a proud moment for me.  The mid-point of the album drags a wee bit, but it opens and closes strongly. The last track is my fave.

* The Temper Trap (“Conditions”): I bought this album based on being in love with one of the singles that’s been getting some radio play out here, “Sweet Disposition” (apparently it was featured in 500 Days of Summer).  It’s really an amazing song.  The rest of the album is very good with a couple of other notable standout tracks and a surprisingly good instrumental song at the end.

* Passion Pit (“Chunk of Change” and “Manners”):  They are my current obsession.   I think “Sleepyhead” is their most popular track, which is on the EP “Chunk of Change,” my first PP purchase.  The six songs were so incredible, I bought the full-length album “Manners” – but the version with some bonus tracks.  It’s got a stripped down version of “Sleepyhead” – think instrumental with piano – that is surprisingly beautiful. The person who first turned me on to them thought I wouldn’t like the entire album and explained it as “experimental.”  I disagree with that and was pleasantly surprised by how good these songs really are.  It is by far the best music purchase I’ve made in quite a while.

* Run Toto Run (various): The way I found them was kind of by accident.  My hipster friend (who I rely on for any and all new music recommendations) turned me on to this cover of “Sleepyhead.”  Being generally ignorant of the hipster music scene, I misread the name of the video and thought that this trio was Passion Pit and they were covering a song by a band called Run Toto Run. Turns out Passion Pit is 5 guys from New York who just sing really high and that this adorable group were the ones doing the cover. They do not have a full length album anywhere (at least not one that I could find), so I bought an EP, “Plastic Gold,”  as well as a few random singles that were on iTunes. Their sound is really great – string instruments and this woman’s soft vocals, which are beautiful. They seem to have experimented a bit with electronica for their newest single, “Hater,” which is an awesome song and may just be the new anthem for my life.

So, there you have it.  It took me almost six months, but I eventually pulled it together.  Hopefully I’ll have another list by November or so.

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Let’s say that you were to allocate me an hour with which I could entertain myself.  Very little of this hour would be spent with music.  If I were able to make a pie chart my preference of entertainment would be as follows:

Movies: 30 minutes

Reading: 20 minutes

TV: 4 minutes

Music: 1 minute

Obviously this doesn’t make any sense (who would watch 5 minutes of TV?)  Consider it pro-rated across a week or month or whatever.   But it is the best way for me to illustrate that music is not a medium of expression that I get and/or gets to me.   For every one good song they play on the radio you have to suffer through 20 awful ones.  And usually the same ratio proves true for songs on CDs you buy (Gob bless downloads).

I own about 10 CDs and I haven’t purchased one in about 5 years (a bunch of Dylan, a few Lyle Lovett, one Republic of Loose, Pete Yorn (Addendum: is Pete Yorn duetting with Scarlett Johansson for commerical appeal reverse-analogous to Mandy Moore marrying Ryan Adams for indie credibility?).  

For about a year now I have had one CD in my car and that is pretty much all I listen to:

Failer by Kathleen Edwards

I have spoken in this space before about “knowing” the people portrayed in certain movies, well this is the exact opposite.  The characters of whom Ms. Edwards sings are wholly unfamiliar and the type of women I would like to meet.  Put it this way; when I first heard the album I put it on a loop and wrote a screenplay that could use it as a sound-track.

Hard-drinking, tough-talking losers.  Think about how novel that is in this post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer world.  Every cultural portrayal of a women is like some sort of Barbie fantasy.  That women can, do and must have it all.  But some don’t (men, too), some of us were meant to fail and/or compromise.  Some of us are “thinking about drinking half-way through the day” or get knock-up by the boy who’s face is all over the six o’clock news or even (heart-breakingly) can’t skate backwards.

It was Halloween yesterday, do you realize how many girls came to my door dressed as Princess?  At least with boys the costumes were equally distributed between superheroes (Spider-man) and civil servants (fire fighters).  With the girls it is all Princesses.   These girls would be well-served mixing a bit of Ms. Edwards with the Disney propaganda.

I feel like I have a lot more to say about this album (it’s great start to finish, with the exception of one song that may or may not be about a wolf) but again, I don’t have a grasp of the effects music has on me.  Sufficed to say that if I had a forum (like this) in which I could talk to people (like you) about things that have impacted me–one of those things would be Failer by Kathleen Edwards.

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Rod Stewart is releasing a new CD tomorrow, “Soulbook.”  As with his “Great American Songbook” series, this album is a collection of cover songs, although different in that it focuses on R&B classics vs. American Standards.

It is undeniable that Rod Stewart is something of a legend in the world of music – after all, he’s responsible for some true classics like “Maggie Mae” and “If You Want My Body.”  Even his 80s albums yielded great hits like “Forever Young.”  

So at what point did he decide to give up completely and just re-record stuff that belongs to other people?  Will he never record an original song again?  I’ve been annoyed by this since the first “Great American Songbook” album dropped because 1) he’s British and 2) his voice is novel, but why would you ever listen to him sing “The Way You Look Tonight” over Frank Sinatra?  His scratchy warble is no match for one of the greatest crooners of all time.  But for some reason, people just ate that album up, prompting him to create three sequels as well as an album dedicated to rock covers. Now he’s tackling R&B, which, admittedly, seems like it might be better suited to his voice than Standards. But it’s still annoying to watch him make barrels of money by poorly rehashing other people’s work.

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In an earlier entry, I mentioned that I was so far disappointed in Tori Amos’ latest album Abnormally Attracted to Sin, and that I was hoping it would grow on me.

Well, I wanted to follow up to say, not only has it grown on me, but I truly cannot stop listening to it.  The album is strange.  She is strange. But she is just a brilliant musician.  Her songs have so many layers, and for years I’ve been in love with her voice and the way she drags out her syllables in songs.   The results are always oddly beautiful.  It’s definitely worth a listen, even if you think you might not like it.

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