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The Exited Door, On Sale

9 Mar

In honor of all the new friends I’ve made over the past six months, I’ve decided to make my first solo record, “The Exited Door,” 50% off at Bandcamp. For the rest of this week, it’s selling for $5 (though you can name your price, should you want to pay more). You can also stream the whole thing for free on the site, or even listen to it right here:

I had no label, no producer, no mixing engineer, no professional studio—only me, my best musician friends, and anyone else I could convince to pitch in. I guess the word “indie” has taken a bit of a beating lately, but I’m not sure it gets more indie than how I made this album.

If you’re curious, I wrote a detailed, seven-part series about the process of making the album which was fun to write and is worth checking out. Even though I hope to work with a producer and a professional engineering team on my next album (and don’t doubt that the album would have been “better” had I had them), it is a point of pride for me that I managed to make it at all, and I’m really glad that I took the time to document the process.

We also do this stuff live, and I’ve made a video montage of a show we did a year and a half ago. I seriously, mega need to do another big show like this one; it was way too much fun.


Huge thanks to everyone who’s bought the record so far; I hope you are enjoying it. Your support is hugely valued, so please spread the word to anyone you think might like it!


We End Up Together

31 Dec

Lots of people are doing lists of their favorite things from 2010, and I have done my share of those as well. And while I didn’t listen to enough new music to make a top-ten list, I did want to share what was probably my favorite album of the year: The New Pornographers’ Together.

This kind of music is very close to my own musical sensibilities—anyone who has listened to my stuff (and heard me sing alongside my own lovely redheaded co-singer Lindsay) can probably pretty easily tell that I’m a longtime fan of the band. Not that I chose to sing with Lindsay because she bears a superficial resemblance to Neko, I just… oh, you know what I’m saying. At any rate, Together is the Pornographers doing what they do so well: punchy, complex pop tunes with great melodies. It’s immaculately paced and listenable in the way that so many of my favorite records are—I put it on and before I know it, it’s over.

I wasn’t into their last album, Challengers; I thought it lost a lot of the drive and energy of their earlier albums. It was partly the softer, wider audio production, and partly just the songwriting. Together is a return to form—the album almost explicitly follows the template set forth in Electric Version. And like fellow DIY indies The Shins, The Pornographers have figured out how to mix their records so that each instrument has its own space (clustercuss mixes are a common problem for indie artists, myself included).

My favorite songs are all but impossible to choose. “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” does that “New Face of Zero and One” shuffle thing, and it does it better than ever; “Valkyrie at the Roller Disco” is gorgeous and well-arranged. The closing track, “We End Up Together,” brings the whole record together (yes, together) in a grand-finale manner that they’ve never quite pulled off before. It’s also arguably the peak of AC Newman’s three-bar-phrase approach to building tense, looping verses.

Every song goes above and beyond to really give listeners something. Part of the Pornographers’ approach involves layering, repeated sections, but the songs on this album also feature codas, finales, unexpected breakdowns, lovely bridges. Despite the erudite lyrics and verbose indieness of it all, there’s a lot of heart on display.

I didn’t listen to that many new albums this year, but I was thankful for the stuff I did listen to, as well as for everyone who took the time to make music recommendations throughout the year. I hope you’ll all keep telling me stuff I should check out in 2011.

Happy New Year everyone!

Musical Happenings

17 Aug

I’ve been working on a lot of different things, so I thought I’d take a minute to detail them here. Also, as you can see from that image, I’ve come down with a mild case of Scott Pilgrim Fever.

SF Songbird Festival Show @ The Blue Macaw

First up is a show we did a couple of weeks at at the groovy Blue Macaw in the Mission. It used to be called 12 Galaxies, and I actually haven’t been to the club since they changed names. Fortunately, the super cool Mz. Urban Therese (whom I have gotten to know as “Therese”) was putting together a bill for her Songbird Festival and asked if I’d like to participate.

We played alongside Debby Gipsman, Juliet Strong, and Jascha Hoffman, all of whom sounded great and were really cool. Debby opened with a solo acoustic set – girl has a really strong voice, sounds somewhat like Natalie Merchant, but better? And I don’t mean that in a silly way, I like Natalie Merchant’s voice, but Debby actually has a really cool quality that I dug. Juliet brought a really big, eclectic band, with accordion, cello, flute (who killed it and was a total babe to boot), cajón, upright bass and herself on keys and vocals. She sounded great, and has written some neat songs – check her stuff out! Jascha Hoffman played the closing set and gave a really charming performance with a kick-ass band – my bassist Daniel was playing with him, and his guitarist sounded great (his name is Adam Roszkiewicz, he plays with a ton of cats) and his drummer was Jason Slota, a great player from Afrodesia and John Vanderslice. Dang, that dude can freakin’ play the drums.

So yeah, our set. It was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever felt going into a show, which was so nice. All of my go-to color instrument folks (Violin, Trumpet, etc) were out of town or booked, so we went with the six-piece. Me, Dan and Lindsay on vocals, Nervo on guitar, Daniel Fabs on bass and Tim McGregor on drums. A killer group, and all friends, so we had a really laid-back vibe in general.

And we killed!  Seriously. I’ve never felt so good about a show – we could do that every night and it’d never get old. I mean, it’d get old, but it feels like it’d never get old. We went through the usual acoustic stuff – “The Darkened Street,” “No Crow, Scarecrow,” “North Kinser,” “Oh, Brother,” “If You’re Feeling Out Of It.”  Most of which are on my record, which hey, if you don’t have it, you should buy it. You know, forget iTunes even – you can actually buy it. Support independent music, man!

Just for kicks, Dan and I did our duo song “The Can Man,” which we wrote together a while back, and it was a ton of fun. We might have to start performing that one more often. And of course, at the end of the set, we played Shoshana. A hit, as always.

There was a really great crowd out, and we were so happy for everyone’s enthusiastic support. Thanks so much for coming, one and all! Thanks also to Therese and the awesome Frankie Burton, who helped run the show and took the pictures here. My next show will most likely be in September, and I’m planning on whipping out some mondo new material later in the fall, too. More on that soon.

Keyboards This Weekend with Blue Rabbit!

Next thing up is a cool one. I’ll be subbing on keyboards with the groovy chamber-pop vocal band Blue Rabbit! This is a band who, if you’ll recall, I described upon first listen as sounding like “the best episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer ever.” (Don’t worry, I elaborated. Or maybe, worry: I elaborated.)

They are awesome, and we’ve been friends since we shared a bill last year at the Rickshaw Stop. Tim, their keyboardist, wasn’t available this weekend, so they needed someone to fill in. They gave me a ring, and even though my first instinct was “Seriously? Can I learn this much keyboard music in a week?” after thinking about it, I realized “Yeah actually, I can!” So I went for it. We rehearsed last night, and the show is going to be a blast.

We’re playing at the Rock Make Street Festival in the mission, going on at noon. The best part about playing keyboards is that I don’t have to bring an instrument – just myself and my middling chops. So, after the set we’ll hang around at the festival and drink beer and listen to music. Come out! Say hi! Meet these people! They are like the nicest band ever!

Info on the festival is here. Do eet. Do eet.

New Songs, New Projects, DRUMS

Last but not least are the new things I’m working on. Mostly, it’s new music. A bootload of it, actually. I’ve got around eight songs in the hopper, and a few more ideas that are slowly working their way into more fully-formed tunes. It’s really, really fun stuff, and I’ve been having a blast finally adding lyrics and finishing up the form. Pretty soon, I’ll have demos out to the band and we can start actually learning this stuff!

It’s bigger, I’d say, than anything on The Exited Door. Not a huge shift in style or anything, just more fully-realized – the tunes take greater advantage of the three vocal parts, as well as the strengths of Lindsay and Dan, my two vocalists. In addition, they’re geared a bit more towards live performance – as fun as “The Bird Women of Golden Gate Park” and “Down By The Water” are, they’re not really songs that always come off amazingly live.

So, ton of new music there, as well as another cool project (or actually, series of projects) I’m working on with Khamara Pettus, the amazing actor/director/producer/force of nature with whom I’ve been working, scheming, planning over the past couple of months. We’re putting together some things to perform at the Brava Theatre, and I’ll have more on that stuff once it’s a bit more ready for the light of day. Suffice to say: it merges a lot of things about which I am quite passionate. Also, Khamara is a rock goddess.

Last, my odyssey into becoming a real-life drummer is all but complete – I’m confident now that I could hold it down in just about any bitchin’ rock band that’d have me. And I want them to have me. Do you know of a kick-ass, stripped-down, glammy rock punk freakout band, preferably with some female energy in the mix, that is in need of a tall, goofy drummer who makes up for his lack of extreme burning chops with energy and musicality? If so, A) I am surprised you know such a specific band and B) GIVE THEM MY NUMBER.

That’s All, Folks

So, that’s it for musical updates. I’ll post some demos and further thoughts on the new songs once I’ve got them in shape to share, and in the meantime, SFers come on out to the Rock Make Festival this Sunday and say hi!

Ten Songs From My Last Decade

7 Jan

Just in time for everyone to be done with decade-related lists, I thought that I’d do one myself. For me, the last decade was a period of humongous personal and artistic growth – I began in 2000 a greenie freshman at UMiami, a total jazz snob with a saxophone and not a single clue.  Over the decade, I was introduced to more amazing music than I could have possibly foreseen – during that period of time, the music I listened to affected me more than the music I studied.

This list is far from definitive; it’s not even a real “top-ten,” since I’m sure that just after posting it, I’ll remember something amazing that I left off.  These are just ten songs that had a big effect on me, that changed the way I listened to, thought about, played, and wrote music.  More than that, though, they’re ten songs I dug the most. They are listed in roughly the chronological order in which I heard them.

Maria Schneider – Hang Gliding – from Allegresse (listen)

Oh, how this piece enchanted me and my friends at Miami.  We were so into it, and with good reason – Maria came down to Miami a couple times while I was there to direct the Concert Jazz Band on her material, and not only is she one of the most lovely creatures on the face of the planet (you should see her tai-chi directing), her music is so beautiful, soaring, and dripping with incredible melody that it’s kind of this… undeniable thing. Hang Gliding is, for me, the pinnacle of Maria’s writing – the peaks and valleys are so epic, by the time its 11-minutes are over, I really feel like I’ve been taken somewhere.  When she does the piece live, she tells this story about how it’s based on the first time she went hang gliding. With that in mind, it’s easy to visualize the build-up to flight, the initial leap, drifting in the clouds, etc – it is, at its heart, music about freedom, about flying.  Allegresse can be a tough album to track down, but this piece alone makes it worth the trouble (the rest of the album is pretty great, too).  This recording’s uber-Miami connection, with Greg Gisbert (who is now a Miami trumpet professor) handing his seriously ridiculous trumpet solo over to the that really, really creative tenor playing by UM-alum Rick Margitza… that makes me like it even more.

MUSE – Micro Cuts – from Origin of Symmetry (listen)

Listening to Origin of Symmetry for the first time was like having a window opened in my brain.  And through that window, the rock flowed in. Here was a band making music I could get behind – really strong melodies and really, really ripping hooks, played by three guys… when I heard this record, it was late 2002, and you couldn’t even get the disc stateside.  We were years away from MUSE’s eventual rise to prominence (and, I would argue, fall from total musical awesomeness) in the US, and this little trio with the huge sound was the first band that made me realize that I didn’t want to just play jazz for the rest of my life.  Micro Cuts in particular, with its crazy-creepy verse and EXPLOSIVE chorus, was practically the most awesome thing I’d ever heard.  It still is.

Jeff Buckley – Grace – from Grace (listen)

In terms of where and when I first heard it, this album went hand-in-hand with Origin of Symmetry, so much so that I’m going to ignore the fact that it didn’t come out in the 2000’s.  All the tunes were amazing – I’d never heard anyone sing like Jeff, and Lilac Wine and Hallelujah were both really emotionally draining, beautiful songs.  But the thing that really sold me on Buckley was the title track from the disc, Grace.  It’s got so much going on, and it builds and builds, climaxing in a scream that is so fucking awesome that it, like, switched the part on my hair.  He holds the scream for like five minutes, and that was cool enough, but it’s at the end, when he takes it farther up before taking a breath, that I knew I was hearing something one-of-a-kind.

Joshua Redman – Enemies Within – from Passage of Time (listen)

Josh Redman was a really important guy for me, growing up – he was the first modern sax player I got into (modern meaning post-1965), and if I really had to choose the ultimate Redman tune to list here, it’d be his joyous, incredibly playful introduction to “St. Thomas” on his live record “Spirit of the Moment.”  But while his youth and energy on that recording are really great, “Enemies Within” is a much more refined bit of awesome, featuring some terrifyingly perfect playing, and the most awesome “Pent-Up House” quote I’ve ever heard. I did this on my senior recital, and while in retrospect, I can’t believe I even attempted it, I’ll never forget the tune, or all the time I spent listening to this record.

Me’shell Ndegeocello – The Way – from Peace Beyond Passion (listen)

Speaking of people I got really into in 2003, Meshell is right up there, too.  I believe this is another album that didn’t come out in the 00’s, but no matter – Peace Beyond Passion still ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums, and this tune is a big reason why.  It was the first thing of hers I heard, and in addition to having the absolute most grooving programmed drums I’ve ever heard (they groove almost as hard as Gene Lake does on the rest of the record), it features Mr. Josh Redman, again, ripping it apart with a wah-wah sax solo that is uncharacteristically weird for him, and fits the tune perfectly.  The rest of the album also features Dave Fuiczynski, whose band Screaming Headless Torsos I would’ve included had I had another couple of slots on my arbitraily-decided “top ten” list.  But instead, I’ll just mention that he is good.  Me’shell was the first of my monday’s people I wanted to be, and everything I said there about her is still true.  She is possibly the coolest, most spiritually interesting, musically compelling writer on the face of the planet.

Gabe Dixon Band – Expiration Date – from On A Rolling Ball (listen)

This one, fewer of you are probably familiar with.  So I’m gonna put in a link to buy the song on iTunes.  Comprised of dudes who were a few years ahead of me at Miami, GDB doesn’t exist anymore – Gabe, Winston and Jano are still playing together and making some great music, but the band has most assuredly moved past “Experimental Jazz-Pop” and into “Really, Really Solid Songwriting That Will Pay Bills.” It’s all still great stuff, but doesn’t have the jazz-geek rhythmic virtuosity that made me love them so much while they were still down in UM. This tune, off of the full band’s major-label debut, will always be my favorite. From the beat-displacing intro to Jano’s constant drum hits on 4, through the incredibly epic chorus (listen to the drumming!  He plays like three notes per bar!), and the crazy-pants outro… it’s just an utterly unique song, with a melody that’ll get stuck in your head.  For real, give it a spin.

Rufus Wainwright – Oh, What A World – from Want One (listen)

This tune is on here instead of the four or five other real Wainwright standouts because it was the first thing of his I’d ever heard, and it just blew me away.  I’ll never forget where I was when I first heard it, too – sitting at my desk at the law firm where I worked for a year after moving to SF. I’d gotten the record based on some review I’d read, and put it on my iPod, and as I filed envelopes, listened to it.  And a few minutes later, I was just cracking up, kinda unable to believe what I was hearing… the people in my work area must’ve though I was a complete freak.  But I was loving it so much – the unrestrained grandiosity, the shameless pompousness, the huge orchestra, the hilarious lyrics… to this day, this tune gets at what I love most about Rufus.  He doesn’t take anything too seriously, and as a result, is able to write huge, strutting songs about little things.

The Shins – Pink Bullets from Chutes Too Narrow (listen)

I got Chutes Too Narrow a good three or four months before Garden State came out, so I’m totally that guy who got into The Shins before they were cool.  For approximately five seconds, I couldn’t get into the record, and then I heard “Saint Simon” for the first time, and realized what they were all about.  So why did I chose “Pink Bullets,” instead?  Hang on a sec, I’m getting there.  The music was really great stuff, and I enjoyed it, but was having a hard time understanding James Mercer half the time. So, I turned to the lyrics on their website, and that was when the true magnificence of The Shins, and Mercer’s writing, became clear to me.  I bet that some people make fun of his twisting, poetic language.  Those people are wrong. James Mercer might be one of my favorite lyricists ever, and “Pink Bullets,” a song that imagines two lovers as kites flying and twisting together in the air, is probably my favorite of the bunch. Haunting, and beautiful.  I also love the part towards the end of the video when the cow starts to sing.

Arcade Fire – Wake Up – from Funeral (listen)

The first time I listened to Funeral, I listened to it wrong. I was running, listening on my iPod, and I heard the first few songs, but somewhere in there my headphone plug came a little undone.  So, everything became this crazy mess of sound effects and half-deconstructed beats.  I thought that Arcade Fire had lapsed into electronica or something, and I was being all hilariously critical, thinking, like, “Hmm, interesting choice to deconstruct the beat here… not sure if I love it, though…”  It wasn’t until the end of my run, when I wiggled the plug and suddenly was hearing “Lies” in full stereo that I realized what’d happened.  So, I gave it another listen, and, as was the case for so many other folks, it was when “Wake Up” came on that I realized what a truly special band Arcade Fire was.  Enough ink has been spilled on this song that I don’t have much to add – it’s one of the few times that I’ve felt in-step with the hipper music fans out there.  The song is so orgiastic in its climaxes, so cathartic that even though I don’t totally love when they change the beat up in the last minute or so, nothing could detract from those first three minutes. To have one’s own work held as a high-water mark for all future efforts seems a bit unfair, but I’m not sure the band will ever match this song.

Sufjan Stevens – Come On! Feel the Illinoise!, Pt. I: The World’s Columbian Exposition / Pt. II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In a Dream – from Illinoise (listen)

I had a similar experience listening to Sufjan Stevens as I did when listening to Arcade Fire – well, except my iPod worked the whole time. I was on a run, enjoyed the first two songs just fine, and then Come On! came on, and I couldn’t believe it.  First off, they were grooving really weirdly and interestingly – playing in 5 was only part of it.. James McAllister’s drumming is so interesting; he leaves a lot of space, and it lets all the wild orchestration of the tune really come out. Chicago totally won my heart, too, and was sort of the “Wake Up” of Sufjan’s album, but this was the tune that I heard and I said… I can do this.  I can totally make an album like this.  And that was a pretty big moment for me.

There are a ton of other songs that should go on this list – a hundred musicians and artists, including pretty much anything anyone I went to school with has recorded, should all be featured.  Alas, I don’t have time to do the top-50 or so that I really would love to share.

Something I’ve noticed is that I don’t listen to as much new music as I used to, that I don’t have the time and energy to dismantle the workings of the new bands out there.  I think that, above anything else, my new decade’s resolution is to seek out new music again, and hope to find ten songs this decade that’ll inspire me as much as the ten on this list did.

It’s a lot to live up to, but I kinda think the songs are already out there, half-sketched little melodies in the head of some composer or songwriter, waiting to be written, waiting to be heard.

Regarding Adam Lambert’s New Album

23 Nov

American Idol Runner-Up Adam Lambert’s new album, For Your Entertainment, drops today. Actually, it already dropped, so it is now sitting there looking at us, post-drop. Considering how much I had to say about him during the last season of the show, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Short version: I really liked it. No, seriously! Some of the songs are pretty fun, some are kinda lame, but a handful are fucking outstanding (My recommended tunes are listed at the end of this post). It also has, as you can see, the most hilariously uncool/totally awesome album cover I’ve seen in a while.

I first listened to the record last week (it’s been up for a while streaming on Lambert’s MySpace page), after being steered there by the whole Out Magazine-centric “Adam’s PR people are homophobic jerks” debate, which has been discussed online past the point at which I have anything new to add (though I certainly tried, with limited success, over at Low Resolution – thanks, Joe, for dealing with my long-ass comments). And that was before his AMA performance last night (short reaction: I thought the whole thing was an overcooked clusterfuck, and the singing was all over the place), and along with whatever scandalous (or, “scandalous”) thing he does next…it’s easy to forget that the dude has an actual album out, too.

For Your Entertainment is the first Idol-related album I’ve ever listened to all the way through, and though I’d heard about all of the great writers and producers who contributed, I still wasn’t sure what to expect going in.  I’ve never really been able to listen to an album that came from Idol – whatever magic it was that made the contestant stand out during the show is usually scrubbed clean in the production process, and we wind up with a bunch of generic-sounding pop songs that could have been sung by anyone.

(It’s worth noting that Clay Aiken’s album “Measure of a Man” might be the ultra-creepy, bizarre exception.  I never really listened to it, but this years-old TWoP “recap” of the album is so flipping awesome that I can’t not link to it.  It takes a couple pages to get to the album – seriously, read it, and be very afraid.)

Justin'll probably loan this outfit to Adam at some point.

For about the first twenty seconds of FYE‘s opening track, a Justin Hawkins-penned stomper called “Music Again,” I kinda thought the same thing would be true of Lambert’s record.  And then, suddenly, in true Darkness-style, Adam’s voice jumped an octave and a half and the chorus kicked in, and I was like, hmm, okay, damn. I can get with this.

“You make me want to listen to music again” is a kick-ass sentiment, and the tune also contains hilariously Hawkins-y lyrical turns of phrase like, “I want your body, mind, soul, etc.” and a stretch of “Raison D’etre,” into an entire lyrical event.  Keeping in mind that this is a song by the guy who wrote “Friday Night,” aka “The song where they sing about badminton,” one realizes that “Music Again” sounds like a Darkness B-side, complete with a signature Justin Hawkins guitar solo halfway through.  I loved the Darkness, so that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

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16 Frames From Hanne Hukkelberg

1 Sep




Hanne4 Continue reading

Giving New Music A Rest

3 Aug

57348bI’ve made an interesting discovery over the past few weeks. In what is most certainly a sign of my advancing age and maturity (HA), I’ve found that at the moment, I can’t really deal with listening to new music. Whenever I put on a record by some indie band or NY bassist, I find myself listening very carefully, pondering the creative choices made by the band, wondering what their tour schedule looks like, trying to figure out the new instruments, or the new sounds, or the production techniques, or… it’s just so exhausting. I hadn’t really realized what was happening until, on a whim, I started listening to some old Cure albums, and they just did it for me. Like, so hard.

It was “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me,” perhaps not the most celebrated of the Cure ouvre, but still a great record, and when the kind of lackadaisical drum mix, the wash-y guitar, the build to Robert Smith’s howlerific vocal entrance… it slowly dawned on me, listening to this felt so, so great. You know when, in the mid-morning, you pull your arms back and take a stretch, and out of nowhere it turns into this epic, full-body experience and all of your muscles are singing and it’s so awesome that you almost pass out? It was like that.

I found myself looking forward to the next time I could sit with my iPod and listen – no current bands up in my face (or, the ears on my face) trying to show me why they’re great, or why they’re so authentic, or trying to wow me with their backstory, or make me dance. No more singer/songwriters no one has ever heard of with amazing voices singing songs with great/terrible/cliched/creative lyrics. No more irony, no more tortured album concepts. Just music, music that already exists, is no longer current; music that has retired, or better, maybe …gone pro.

I am, of course, aware that I’m projecting – this has nothing to do with the music itself and everything to do with where my head is at. All the same, the effect that it has, that calming, stretching effect, is so great, I can’t deny it.

muswell-hillbilliesThough I’ve never really been able to articulate it, it’s a feeling that listening to old jazz has always given me, and the minute I started looking, I realized I was finding it all over the place. After “Kiss Me,” I moved on to “Paris” and through “Disintegration” (naturally), but then on to other artists… suddenly, I have found myself obsessed with The Kinks. “Muswell Hillbillies,” “Aurthur,” “Village Green,” the sounds on these records, the intimacy with which they were recorded, the relaxed flow… *stretches* aaaah!

And it’s not even as though these records were created in some halcyon time when music was music and labels respected that (and men men and children above average, etc.). It turns out that “Muswell Hillbillies” was the first record that The Kinks did for RCA, so there was all this pressure on them to do a big single – they had just had “Lola” become a huge hit, and rather than deliver a safe pop album that would be a trans-Atlantic reinvention for them, they put together “Hillbillies,” a collection of working-class tunes steeped in American blues and country music, sung with warped British/American southern accents, winking lyrics played with appalling earnestness. It was a bit of a gamble, and for whatever reason, it worked.

So, it’s not so much that the albums, in their own respective times, were any more relaxed, or had any less of the “Check Our Shit Out” vibe that I’ve been finding so exhausting while listening to current music. It’s more that those qualities have been washed away by time, and when I listen to them now, I don’t need to think about the band, the group, in any context beyond the historical.

Though I know my glasses are more than a bit rose-tinted, there’s something about the way I imagine these musicians, in their shag-covered studios with their “vintage” gear, smoking lucky strikes and talking on the telephone… almost more like they’re literary characters than musicians. It’s a phenomenon peculiar to our view of historical figures, a sort of depersonalization that happens when lore replaces experience and stories replace memories… I would think it is one of the greatest challenges a history teacher ever faces, making historical figures seem real, bringing their humanity, the actualness of their past realities home to students. It’s why we visit that prairie town in grade school, where the people dress up and act like settlers, and we chop wood and sit in the one-room schoolhouse. It’s why John Adams, it’s why historical fiction.

Dexter Gordon - ou Man In ParisJust as I know that Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz were real people who made their albums in an effort to express themselves creatively, part of me can’t “see” their realities, decades-removed as they are from my own existence. And as it turns out, the same holds true with older rock bands – even when some of the members are still alive, the music takes on a different quality, more like a scrapbook, heightening some aspects of the music beyond its original qualities. I actually think that this phenomenon is a big part of why, as we re-listen to Michael Jackson’s albums in the wake of his death, the songs sound different – clearer, truer – than they have in years. The change is neither good nor bad, it just is – the time is past, the distance has been inserted, and the music is now a part of history, fundamentally untouchable.

Admittedly, this is a pretty half-baked articulation of my thinking – I’m sort of working it out as I go along. Hazards of blogging, I guess. All I know is that, for the time being, I’m going to be digging deeper and deeper into my music library and seeking out older records, albums that comfortably exist in their place in history, requiring nothing more of me than my time and my attention. Letting me stretch out and relax.

The Kinks - Aurthur Record

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