Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

Chambers Brothers, "Time Has Come Today"

We're supposed to focusing on recent releases around these parts, but I came across the long version of this song fairly recently.

For years, this was one of those songs that I knew really well but could never remember the title or the name of the band who performed it (OK, it isn't too hard to guess the title, but you could be forgiven for thinking it was simply called "Time"). It always sounded like the Rolling Stones to me, so that's how it was labelled in my mind -- "That Stones (Not Stones) Song". Even to this day, I think about the Stones when I hear it.

I guess the cowbell jokes write themselves these days ... anyway ... it wasn't until this song made a home on my hard drive (and was able to hear it through headphones anytime I wanted rather than wait for it to regularly pop up on oldies radio) that I noticed how the cowbell is consistently behind the beat throughout the entire song. I have no idea why -- I'll assume that this is something to do with the mixing process and not the way it was played live. At first, being conscious of this was a bit distracting to me but it didn't take long for this rhythmic tweak to endear itself. For a chaotic, distracting use of the cowbell I refer you to the demo version of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" (which is charming in its own special, sprawling way -- in fact, I like it better than the version they used on "Loaded" but that's a story for another time). But on "Time Has Come Today", the cowbell is metronomically late after the beat and as such, it takes very little effort for you to zone out and let it seamlessly blend right in with everything happening around it. For eleven minutes!!

Sometimes you're in the mood for the interminably long organ solo on the Doors' "Light My Fire", and sometimes you only have the patience for the shorter radio version. I've been warming up to "Time Has Come Today"'s long middle section, although I think the added playing time detracts from the song's famous slowed-down ending. And no matter how you slice it, those dub-like, watery echo FX on the cowbell is some heady stuff for 1968.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

List Overload Pt. 2

When it comes to lists, I think there's more of a love/hate dichotomy among music fanatics than you're implying. I fully agree with your take on the "Maxim-ization" of many print media -- magazines have conditioning their readers to process information in the form of bite-sized lists (essentially nothing other than an 100+ page sequence of 30-100 word blurbs, perfect for reading in 479 sittings) and I'm not particularly thrilled about that. But a lot of music fans get burned out on lists fairly quickly. 99% of them get burned out quicker than I do, so my attitude shouldn't represent anything close to the norm.

Sports fans (and sportswriters!) can never agree on what an MVP is. Is it the player with the most impressive stats? The most noteworthy player on the winningest team? The player whose team would have been lost without him or her (how can this be quantified, if at all?). Similarly, music fans can never agree on what, for example, a "Best Albums of 2005" list should represent. Composing a top ten of the year is nothing but a brief snapshot in time for some people. It's the list of the music they liked best during the week they wrote the list, with the full understanding that in the week before (or the week after), the components of that list would (and/or *should*) surely change. I try to make my lists more permanent than that. I try to evaluate, as honestly as possible, how I felt about everything I heard during the course of the year, integrated over the entire year. To me, if I looked at my top ten of 2005 one year from now and realized that I hated almost everything on that list, then I would feel that I failed myself in some way. But a lot of other fans wouldn't be bothered by that at all (with respect to their own lists).

To complicate matters, music fans are fond of pooling their lists into bigass polls, in the hope of ... what exactly? Coming up with the most objective Best Of list possible? If everybody uses different criteria in evaluating the material on their individual ballot (as discussed above), how can you attain "objectivity" by averaging all those lists into an amalgamated whole? It's like the old fable about the emperor of China's nose -- you ask a large number of people what they believe to be the length of his nose and take the average of their answers -- but nobody knows what they're supposed to be evaluating, so once you average all their responses, has anything at all been learned about the emperor's nose?

To put it another way -- suppose five people collaborate on writing an essay or newspaper article. After going through several drafts, where each contributor gets their chance to edit what everybody else has written. The final, submitted copy won't reflect any one person's writing style or opinions. It'll be a never-before-seen hybrid version of the ideas of the individual contributors and chances are, if you asked each of them in turn, they'd all say that they aren't happy with the final product and would prefer to make changes that express those ideas in a style closer to their own. Or they'd prefer to emphasis certain sections of the article more than others. And so on. In this sense, reading through five drafts written by five different people can be more illuminating than the final, hybridized product (albeit far more time consuming). The same can be true of the data gleaned from individual lists versus a generalized commentary on the full, averaged results of a large music poll.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

 

List Overload Pt. 1

A big part of the reason I started JVSI was because I was having a hard time find my way through all the new music, and my confusion was precipitated by all the end of year lists. For a schmoe like me, and probably for many others, if you don't KNOW what's good you figure the listmakers have done their work and all you need is a list of the top picks. But to top it off, often the descriptions that went along with the lists were of no help. On of the writers of Good Weather for Airstrikes -- a music blog which obviously has a lot of work put into it -- and i appreciate that; has this blurb to go along with the pick, which unfortunately isn't that helpful if you're trying to decide if you should commit the time to the music :

3. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning - Bright Eyes
Key Track: "Poison Oak"

Narrowly edged out of the top two spots, Conor Oberst's folk-american record of 2005, I'm Wide Awake, is not to be overlooked, as in any other year it could easily contend for the top spot. The fact that an album of this caliber slips all the way to number 3 is a testament to the incredibly quality of 2005's releases. Though the entire album displays Oberst's finest work to date, "Poison Oak" stands out as the best track of his illustrious career and one of the most moving songs I've ever heard. I consistently get chills every time he reaches the swelling chorus for the first time, and for a while I was actually convinced this was the single best song I had ever heard.


Somehow lists are an archetype of pop music, as much as drums or bass.

I dunno how it came about -- but i assume sometime in the salad days of rocknroll some DJ or radio marketing guy realized that making a list and counting it down made for some compelling listening and it added a competitive element to music. And since all the sheep needed to be told what to like, it introduced some "measure" of quality; to something that is intrinsically sujective.



Interestingly, though there is a lot of info around about how music charts are calculated there is very little to be found about the history of music charts. All I could find (via Wikipedia) was that the first Billboard Music Popularity Chart was calculated in July, 1940, but that's it.

You can imagine some evolutionary psychology reason why humans have a need to rank and classify information as much as possible, and it's seen in the fact that people put more importance on information if it's presented as a list.

But "list thinking" has ruined a lot of things with this rush to replace real content with lists. Magazines for instance: Maxim ruined magazines when it killed off editorial content with lists and factoids, now every magazine is is collection of lists. TV channels like VH1 a almost dedicated to llists and specilize in countdown shows of the top celebrity freakouts or whatever. Even CNN now counts down their top popular news stories in the nightly news. Obviously this is a ploy to keep you watching.

I know the Jew, being the Jew, puts a lot of thought into his year end lists, and the Jew being the Jew doesn't really care if others agree with him or not, but you can be sure he has a rationale for why each entry is the list and a case for it's respective ranking.

So, I pose the question:

*why are music people obsessed with lists ?*

Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

t.A.T.u, "All About Us", Pt. 3

Don't worry, the definition of a single hasn't changed since the last time you bought one. It's catchy as hell because it's Europop and therefore it sounds completely obvious. No peeling back the layers of half-assed squeals passing as singing in order to uncover the perfect indie pop within. It's HUGE -- the tympani, dude! -- and because of the sheer spectacle of it all, I didn't even notice that the melody was nothing but an ascending scale until my fifth of sixth listen (I take it you noticed that almost right away). And the t.A.T.u girls are smoking hot in the video. No "rock" song could come close to touching "All About Us" in 2005.

And saying that "a lot of the music of 2006 sounds A LOT like some older tune" is a bit disingenuous, don't you think? Lots of music from every year sounds a lot like some older tune. Songs and artists rip off other songs and artists all the time. It's not like subtle plagiarism has become a sign of the musical times or anything.

 

t.A.T.u, "All About Us" Pt.2

I did listen to "All About Us" and I don't hate it. It is catchy as hell, but I am surprised that the Jew thinks this was THE BEST SINGLE of the year. But, I don't really know what his definition of a "single" is. Knowing him it really means a song that was relased as a CD single (does anyone buy those?).

A remember once someone gave a talk about music in the Physics Dept. and though his talk was about chords and scales and that sort of thing, people kept raising questions about the temporal structure of music (if that's the right term), as in to do with verses and choruses, and he said any aural information with some chracteristic correlation length would appeal as music. This song really pushes it by being so repetetetetive.

It also starts of sounding a lot like Celine Dion ("My Heart Will Go On"), this is another blog topic -- how a lot of the music of 2006 sounds A LOT like some older tune, I'll roll out the examples in a susequent post.

In the meantime I have at least a half a dozen topics for JVSI that I've been stewing on, which I will get to posting soon ... very soon.

Friday, January 20, 2006

 

t.A.T.u, "All About Us"

The Indian spoke about hipsters (I mostly ignore them), Pitchfork (they're decent folk, most of the time), and the Decemberists* (I've never gotten around to hearing them and I'm in no rush). Truthfully, I know very little about those things. If that's how the Indian defines "indie music", then I'm not sure if he knows what he's getting into.

If we apply that definition (it's as good as any other one) then I don't believe most websites and blogs write about indie. When so much (too much!) music available is available to you, there's no need to set up boundaries for yourself. In particular, a blog doesn't have to ensure it reaches a specific type of consumer because the only products being sold are the blog's authors. There's no need to "cover it all". There's no reason to be thorough if you don't want to, no need to ensure you have your say about the latest shit hot release like the monthly print mags do. Bloggers don't need to stick to a marketing agenda, they can write about Sunn O))) one day and Il Divo the next. My first ever blog post was about the Backstreet Boys. Write about pop, techno, hip-hop, noise, whatever is on your mind. I can't trust bloggers whose focus is too narrow, or who appear to be sticking close to canonical bands and topics, or who feel the need to throw in their two cents about MIA just because everyone else has.

It might appear that I'm trying to overstate my point by deliberately choosing the most blatantly un-indie song I could find. The truth is that I decided to start with this song several days ago, because what could be a better subject for the first post on JewVsIndian than my favourite single of 2005? In contrast, the Onion AV Club named its parent album the Least Essential Album of 2005. The Onion AV Club doesn't care about Europop. Fuck the Onion AV Club.

The Indian will probably hate this song.


*via cartoon. A damn funny one too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

Intro: Indian

I stole the idea for the name of this blog from the well known music blog Gorilla vs. Bear, but the name gave me the idea for a MP3/music blog that's a bit different.

Back before music blogs and MP3 aggregators, when it was just radio (and TV), everyone knew that only a tiny fraction of the the music that gets recorded ever got any airplay. So deep down you knew there was a whole world of music out there -- but unless you really went out of your way you'd never be exposed to it. Nowdays, it's not that hard to find a lot more music than what gets played on the radio.



But almost all music sites and blogs are are dedicated to "Indie Music" -- ie. what Pitchfork writes about. Maybe that's just representative of the people who would have a music blog -- who knows ?

So for a definite non-scenster like me it's a weird paradox. On one hand there's so much music available I can't decide what I want to listen to, and I might not even be able to find what I like. So the internet of music feels like an Island of Indie music hell where it's hit or miss and you spend a lot more time trying to find music (that you like) and a lot less time appreciating any of it. And probably you don't give a lot of decent music a fair shake because you have way too much on your hard drive.

It's like the ago old conundrum when trying to decide where to go out. Having to decide between the Homefield Advantage or the Change of Scenery. But, if you stick to the familiar you'll be missing out on something potentially good.

Hopefully that's where the Jew comes in. The Jew listens to, buys, collects, downloads and sees a lot of music, and I'm eager to see what he comes up with.

My thought is that Jew vs. Indian will be a lively debate between those perspectives.

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