A haiku of music

"The Seer" by The Swans

“The Seer” by The Swans

I did have a slightly linked post almost ready, but in a slight departure from the last post, and as I always like a music post from time to time, I am going to combine an update on the “latest” music I’m currently listening to, with some Haiku. Well three Haiku, somewhat linked to each other and the rest of the post. Some readers might want to skim through the music part. Or the Haiku part. Or maybe the whole thing and just enter what you are listening to in the comment box at the end.

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Am I too addicted to buying new music?

Some recent buys and yes, I’m boring enough to burn downloaded music to CD so I can also play it via my stereo.

No results to “the experiment” parts 1 or 2 this week, I haven’t got round to writing it yet. My mind is on other projects, so I had to add a bit of finish to this half written post, instead.

I love music. Regular readers of this blog will know and understand this. An early post of mine discussed how music influences me, or more specifically, what music and writing have in common, to me anyway. I’ve blogged on music lots of times, although not too much recently. I’m always hearing new things I like on radio Sirius XMU, or reading about music that sounds interesting in Mojo magazine or on Pitchfork. So I like getting hold of it. I’m mostly talking about albums here. The snob in me looks down on just buying individual tracks. I’m an old timer in that sense. You can tell I’m a music fan when I love the album over downloading seemingly random tracks.

My current dilemma involves buying new music. Although I prefer CDs (for the quality of the format), I’m quite willing to try new music as downloads, especially when the price is good, that always seems to serve as a good introduction. But naughty Amazon.com keeps putting albums on a $5 or sometimes even less, price. So what is a music fan to do I ask you? Ok I shall give you the answer. Buy some music. Bring it on…

So I both do, and did. And you know what, it’s great. Problem is, when you get a new album, especially a half decent, or good, or great one, they take four or five listens to really open up and to begin to get to know the songs a bit. Your mind needs time to decode the layers. Usually a song that sounds great straight away, rarely lasts that long, before fading into the sometimes played. So time is needed to play new music, to fall for the lyrics, the melodies, the beat, the timbre, or whatever facet grabs you most. And I’m now getting a bit of a backlog of albums I’m trying to familiarise myself with. Here is a list of recent buys, loosely grouped into genres although admittedly some could cross into several groups:

Pop / Folk

  • The idler wheel is wiser than the driver of the screw and whipping cords will serve you more than ropes will ever do – Fiona apple
  • What we saw from the cheap seats – Regina Spector
  • Thats’s why God made the radio – The Beach Boys
  • Yours trully cellophane nose – Beth jeans houghton
  • Home again – Michael Kiwanuku
  • Tramp Sharon Van etten
  • Valtari – Sigur Ros
  • Bloom – Beach house
  • Master of my make-believe – Santigold
  • Dr dee – Damon albarn
  • Huh? – Spiritualized

Rock / Alternative

  • Maraqopa – Damien jurado
  • Oceania – The Smashing pumpkins
  • Neck of the woods – Silversun pickups
  • Open Your Heart – The Men
  • Celebration rock – Japandroids
  • Ghostory – School of seven bells
  • Funeral Blues – Mark Lanegan
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White

Dance / Soul

  • Hurry up, we’re dreaming – M83
  • Wonky – Orbital
  • The bravest man in the universe – Bobby Womack
And this is not everything either, there is probably some I’ve missed. Some of the above I am more familiar with than others. Thus far I would recommend checking out tracks from the Bobby Womack album, Fiona Apple, Jack White, Damien Jurado, Spiritualized, and if you like a good rock / slightly punk album, Japandroids. Though that said, none of the above strike me as bad thus far. For example if you’ve liked Orbital in the past, you’ll probably like that one. Oh and I’ve also bought the Sugar “expanded” reissues (when I was in the UK where they came out earlier and had dvd discs). I loved that band, they are one of my all time favourites. I’m obviously familiar with those though.
To help with this fun problem I recently received (a few weeks ago) an expensive but completely fabulous gift from my lovely wife and son. It was a pair of these superb Grado Labs SR225i headphones. You can keep your Dr Dre, or Bose headphones, I’m not criticising them, and I do own a few pairs of Sennheisers which are decent, but I prefer Grado Labs.

quiet now.. come to daddy..

This particular pair are open headphones which means if you are sitting nearby you will also be able to hear what is being played. But as anyone familiar with how headphones work can tell you, you can get a much better sound out of open headphones than you can closed ones. It is to do with the airflow. These headphones really are fabulous, they do a great job of opening up the sound, great clarity on instruments, great separation, they introduce things you have not noticed before. As a downside, they also show up when MP3 quality can be bad (the detail isn’t in the file to play), or when something has a dense mix and the separation is not there. These headphones are great, noticeably different from e.g. a $50 pair. An upgrade from my older pair Grado Labs Sr60i (also very good). And more encouragement to buy more music. Oh well, I love music, what can I do.

Music. It’s my addiction. Am I addicted to buying new music? Well of course, and old music as well. I love it. It is entertaining and inspiring in so many ways. If only I had time to do it justice. This addiction I’m ok with. Oh by the way, suggestions for other new good music are welcome below.

Lexicon word of the day: pudendum.

What use is twitter?

Yesterday, I  added a Twitter account to accompany the blog. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was to round out the blog a little more, perhaps it was to try pull in a few more readers, perhaps I just fancied using it for a while. This is the blog for the 15 minute writer exercise, so what part of that is Twitter? Well the answer I think, is to add a little more rounding to the content of the exercise, rather than to the exercise itself per se. The blog is starting to find its personality, and I’m convincing myself that the twitter account is just a part of that. Hmm, perhaps I should examine this a little more.

Oddly, when signing up, the focus is less on what to say and more on who to follow. So who to follow? Twitter is much like the blogsphere in that regard. You can follow whomever and whatever you want. There is pretty much everything out there. It mainly just comes down to interests or people you want to follow. Perhaps some of the blogs you like have twitter accounts, so maybe follow them. You like music news, follow something like pitchfork. You have a favourite football team (by which I mean Soccer team for the American readers), they’re probably on there as well. Actually I do have a team (you can check my twitter account to see who) and some of the writers who write about this team are on there, so they can also be followed. What is the point of this? I’m not entirely sure. It’s like those awful 4G adds we keep seeing on American TV, “that was so 38 seconds ago”. Do we really need to move that fast? More on that a bit later.

The opposite end of who you should follow, is obviously, who should follow you? Or more to the point, how do you get someone to follow you? Without an audience, you’re pretty much banging on about any old rhubarb to yourself. It’s like being trapped in your own head a second time. And who wants that? I want to let a bit of me out from time to time. That’s why I have a blog, that’s why I have a twitter, that’s why I er, well er, something. I suppose I could just communicate with some people. Oh I am, I’m just doing it in a different way. Take a high pitched accent here “like, what-ever”.

Literally about five minutes from signing up this account, I got spammed. I got a new follower who kindly had a website, you know, a sex one. The twitterings on said account were just to waffle, but clearly were not reflecting the person this was supposed to be. In return for being my first friend on twitter, I reported her as spam. It was not a great way to treat my first “friend” but some lessons in life are harsh, and she could learn one of them. I was spam followed again about an hour later from someone else. This was a good start. Thankfully, shortly afterwards I got a real follower. Oh well. if you want an audience, follow some people and they may follow you in return. Adding it to the blog might also pick up a few. Over time I suppose I may pick up a little audience, a bit like the Pied Piper playing a tune but only some of the rats thinking it was worth a second listen. The rest of them will just sit there thinking they’ve probably heard that tune before somewhere.

So is Twitter for idiots? Well it only has a small box to type in doesn’t it? What can you say in there? The answer of course is not a lot, but also everything. You can post links, make small commentary, post a bit of info, a quick opinion. Something or other along those lines. Really it is kind of headline or prompt service. It gives you chance to post something that people can react to or ignore. It is not for in depth articles, those you can only point to. But that is not to say it is not useful. For example a writer who writes about a certain football team, posts the team line-up for each game prior to the start. He also has some comments about the play as the game progresses. If you want to you can participate, or you can just read, or even ignore. It is there if you want it and that is part of the point.

Twitter is of course just another, and as a sign of our times, way to communicate. It is short and fast. Do we need to move this fast, does it indicate what short attention spans we supposedly have these days? Well you are not forced to use it. I don’t think it reflects a short attention span unless it is the only thing you read. As I pointed out above it is more like prompts or headers. Twitter is a little bit like the dots joining other things together. You can follow the dots if you wish, to comments, debates, articles and wherever it may lead. It is communication on a basic way, but in the right context, a powerful way, it just depends where the dots lead. It is instant, so it means it is right there for someone to react to straight away. Considering it could be anyone in almost any place in the world, well that is communicating power.

Welcome to twitter where me communicate with you. I might not explain a lot but it might explain a little, and it might lead somewhere good. I suppose that is the point right?

Lexicon word of the day: perspicacious.

Copper Blue 20 years old this summer

This past monday I was going to write some words on what Copper Blue by Bob Mould’s then band “Sugar” means to me, but I got distracted by the Grammys. It did have some relevance in the end, but it wasn’t what I was going to write about then. – Back in 1992 when I was finding out that I loved music, but was still finding out the beginnings of my taste, I would buy a variety of music magazines / music weeklies, often with a free cassette, so I could check out some tracks, and no doubt then, considered my music collection increased. These days I still buy Mojo magazine, but that point is distraction here. One such cassette from a magazine in those earlier times contained a track called “Changes” by a band I’d never heard of called Sugar. Back then there were lots of bands (especially Indie), that I had never heard of so it was nothing new in that regard. However “Changes” was one of those tracks that was different. It’s opening melody just stood out. It was guitar music but not like the hair metal or fret w*nking, of similar ilk to most eighties rock bands, nor was it the melodies of pop bands like the Smiths. This was a little more dirty sounding, a little more raw and basic (plus at this time I was still yet to hear Nirvana, which followed shortly after). But it felt real in a doable sense, and it rocked. So naturally I wanted to give the album a try.

At this time I owned little music, the indie scene was considered a little bit cool, and (this sounds completely daft now), you didn’t want to make any embarrassing mistakes buying the wrong album. Describing what music you were into was a bit like describing your personality then, although now I come to think of it I can usually tell what someone is into now and vice versa after spending a bit of time with them. Also I find it hard to buy an album after it has done big sales in the charts. It feels like everybody’s then, and not as personal, and that I’m buying it on everyone else’s recommendation and not my own. I want to eliminate most of the snobbishness in writing, but in some ways, I will always be a bit of a music snob. Ho hum.

So to cut a slight tangent off and get back to the point, I bought Copper blue. It was a good choice, didn’t hurt my “music coolness factor”, well actually it probably improved it (not that I was ever cool but you might see what I mean). I listened to it a lot. It was a bit punk, a bit melodic. The singer seemed to be putting a lot into it. It was part of the soundtrack to my college years. This music was real. I still don’t know what I mean exactly, by that. Tracks like “The act we act”, “Good Idea”, “If I can’t change your mind” all seemed to mean something to me, although perhaps as I would come to find out, a little different to what they meant to Bob. But this is how a good album works. It might not sound good at first, but it grows on you, then grows into you, so that it becomes a part of you. The songs become a part of your life, they soundtrack certain things, and remind you of certain things, both of which might be the same. This is what Copper Blue did to me. I still love playing it now of course, otherwise this post might be taking on a different meaning. It went on to become the NME’s best album in the year end poll for 1992, so it validated my pick, but also validated some of my choices in where my music tastes were going. I thought this was important at the time. Is it still now?

It occurs to me that I often find new music by reading the music press (or these days sites like Pitchfork). I’ve read so much of it over the years that I can usually tell by how an album is favoured across a few different publications whether it will be something I would like. This is aside from listening to it on the radio or online. In comparison the itunes / Amazon previews online rarely give me an indicator of this, perhaps because there is only song fragments and I need to listen a number of times. It may have been experiences such as the one with Copper Blue that provided the grounding for doing this, after all I don’t use it as the proverbial bible, but just a starting point. I’m beginning to think Copper Blue has more to answer for than I first thought.

I subsequently learned more Sugar, and about Bob mould (Sugar was essentially a Bob Mould band under a moniker). Bob had been a big influence in the punk scene as part of the band Husker Du, which was a lot rawer, and less melodic than Sugar, or even Bob’s solo material. Later in the nineties, Bob was outed as a gay man so there was the potential issue of the love / relationship songs being sung about another man rather than a woman. Was I bothered about this? Well no actually, and why should I be? I kind of figure that when a song is out there it can be about whoever. Plus relationships have the same underlying emotions regardless of whoever is involved, I’m secure enough in myself that I don’t have to have concerns it they happened to have been written about two men. The music was far too good for that anyway, and I’m also not a homophobic idiot.

Not too many months after Copper Blue came out, a six track mini-album called “Beaster” was released. This was much more raw, and a lot more emotional and cathartic for Bob, you could pretty much tell this from the vocals. These tracks it turned out, were also recorded at the Copper Blue sessions but deemed to intense for that album, so were released separately. I loved this even more. At a push I might even name it as my favourite album, even now. It was just brilliant, – noisy and intense, and at odds from a lot of other music I had been buying (I was likely getting into The Smiths at this point as well). It served as part Yin to the rest of it as Yang, if you want to view it like that, and to which I guess is partially true. It is also played less than Copper Blue. Beaster is a more intense experience and preserved as so by not playing it too often. Copper Blue, brilliant, a little more towards Pop, less intense, arguably Bob’s best album (and my second favourite of his). Incredibly, almost twenty years old (and I suppose with it, Beaster). It still sounds as fresh now, a brings back lots of memories of times long gone. Well that and some new ones. Still good see! – Bob will be playing the album in full, in San Francisco, on February 24th 2012, followed by some European dates.

Lexicon Word of the Day: Lollygag.