Here’s the other bit of that giant thing I wrote assessing the assets of 2013… and probably the last, so don’t panic. Or maybe panic. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.
The Year in Music
Typically I would start something like this off with a list of some of 2013s standout LPs. And I intend to, eventually. But this year I was given a randomly large amount of musical instruments.
First, completely out of left field, I was provided with Wilson, my cherry red SG. Then, the same saintly folk who gave me Wilson found me a hilarious First Act amp, with which to build a Tower of Power. Then, after BB stole Wilson, they brought me a black Fender Squire kit with a tremolo and its’ own little Fender amp. (BB is on the fence about stealing that.) They even brought me a small, parlour-sized acoustic guitar. (BB keeps trying to steal it, but he can’t play it, so then he gives up. BB can be a real prick.)
Another of Mum’s coworkers presented me with this mandolin, circa 1910-1920. It was sporting its’ original strings and case. It was discovered in a barn along with the Ansco, and despite, remains beautifully in tact (as does the Ansco). I’ve been keeping the mandolin in my room, under guard. BB already has a mandolin, (as well as around eight other guitars of his own), but that won’t stop him from trying to claim this beauty. And I’m not having it. I want to play along to Chris Thile, Glob it, and I want to do it on this.
In my grandmother’s basement they found a disarticulated Gretsch acoustic/electric. I plan on articulating it this year. So technically I have a Gretsch. I like to imagine that it’s very pretty.
The year ended in this strange direction, when having asked Santa for a ukulele ($25 on sale at Guitar Center, even), I received, well, this:
This is Jolene my frelling fabulous banjo. I asked for a ukulele and got a banjo. That’s awesome on the level of asking for a Civic and getting a Maserati. Seriously. f(ukulele)=banjo. If I can figure out this equation I’ll have this gift receiving thing in the bag.
Sufficed to say, I’ve got my work cut out for me in 2014, as I’ve now got to learn the mandolin and the banjo. My cousin is an accomplished player of both, and he gave me some tools and advice to get me started. So far I’m just trying to get the hang of picking and of using finger picks. You come at the banjo in a completely different fashion than you do the guitar, and I’m not used to picks at all as I play five finger arpeggio style. It’s a grab-and-pluck sort of method, where your hand kind of hovers above the strings. With the banjo you get really close to the strings and the drum, closer than you’d think what with the picks, and you only use three fingers. Plus it’s a five-string banjo, which means every time I play I keep forgetting that I can’t come at it with all five fingers, and I have to override my brain every time I look at the top frets and see four strings, but my hand is trying to maneuver over five. Plus add to that the fact that it’s tuned to G (as opposed to the guitar’s E tuning). It’s maddening.
When it comes to the music I listened to in 2013, I didn’t listen to that much new stuff. How could I after this happened:
So here is a quick run through of some of the new albums I tried my best to get my head around this year. I’ve linked to the band information and online album streams wherever possible.
The Julie Ruin Run Fast. Oh this record. It makes me nostalgic, but in a sad way (entirely my problem). This is all you need to know about what women making music should be like. Forget Lorde. Forget Haim. This is it. Real music, represent.
Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin. Thee Oh Sees make me happy. They make me want to turn this shiz up and jump up in down in a very undignified manner. Thee Oh Sees make me undignified. Glob bless them (even when John Dwyer sounds too much like Luxe Interiors for his own good).
Haim Days Are Gone One of the bands Thunderball would call ‘fucking hipsters stuck in the ‘80s’. And she is completely right. Sort of Au Revoir Simone just more into the 1980’s nostalgia aspect of it: indie electronic/rock with pouty Casio keyboard effects for punctuation. All in all it just falls flat.
Polica Shulamith. This band. I loved their first album Give You The Ghost so much it took me forever to get into Shulamith. I mean, after my first attempt to listen I just chalked it up to sophomore effort syndrome and left it at that. But I kept listening, and listening. And then I hit a song called ‘Very Cruel’. This one song is, if not the best song on this record, their best song to date – period. And after ‘Amongster’ and ‘I See My Mother’ that’s really saying something. So after about a month of listening to nothing but ‘Very Cruel’ non stop, I gave the rest of the album another go. Turns out it’s awesome, after all. Look out for a melody very similar to that in Portishead’s ‘The Rip’ on the song ‘Trippin’’, and for the guest vocals of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on ‘Tiff’.
Okkervil River put out a new album.
… But seriously, it’s called The Silver Gymnasium, and it was good. In the way that Okkervil River is good, but with a little sort of classic Bruce Springsteen flair in the songwriting this time around.
Au Revoir Simone Move in Spectrums. This damn thing is frustratingly catchy: sometimes in a bright poppy way, sometimes in a poignant lullaby way. It’s a girlie, indie synth-folk pop record you can get through your day to: not over the top, not lo-fi but just right. Goldilocks would love this shiz. And while it isn’t the most profound, it is still very good, and does so much of what Haim is trying to do – but better.
And speaking of frustratingly catchy…
CHVRCHES The Bones of What You Believe. A few years ago a really dear and amazing friend of mine sent me some of the early bits of what would later become this album. So after that initial taste I was sort of – embarrassingly excited for it when it was finally released. I was not disappointed. This record is I guess what the kids call ‘indie synth pop’, but I don’t care what it is just that it doesn’t stop doing whatever it is doing to the pleasure centre of my brain every time I turn it on. Sweet Jeebus.
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City. I think that there is a preconception of what a Vampire Weekend album should be, what a Vampire Weekend song should sound like. This record just defies all of that, and displays that this band is something more, that they have so much to offer. It’s not all affected college music. It can be really fucking beautiful.
Throwing Muses Purgatory/Paradise. I love Kristin Hersh. So much so that it may be considered a problem. If you are unfamiliar with her work, she’s been a professional musician since she was 14. Quite prolific, she has released music as Throwing Muses, as a solo performer, and as 50Ft Wave. And every time there is something about what she creates that makes you curious for more. Purgatory/Paradise is the first Throwing Muses album in ten years, and it’s wonderful. If you are an old school aficionado, don’t expect the frenetic cowboy punk of earlier material; this album rings more like a raw Sky Motel. And if you are on the fence due some of her more recent output (Speedbath) listen anyway you will not be disappointed. If anything Hersh’s music is brutally honest and original.
Hersh releases her music under a Creative Commons license, releasing it to the public as she creates it – from demos to stems – and she encourages her fans to share it , remix it, repost it and love it.
Chris Thile Bach: Sonatas and Partitas Vol.1. Chris Thile is better than you. IN EVERY WAY.
Wait. Now that I look at it, and think about it, I listened to a LOT of new music in 2014. Huh. So that being that I’m going to stop there. Maybe if you’re reading this, and are curious about an album or something that came out last year or well – ever – then ask me about it in the comments and I’ll give you the what’s what.
I think it should be noted that Benjamin Curtis died in 2013, thus ending the School of Seven Bells. The School of Seven Bells (SVIIB) was an excellent independent band from NYC. If you’ve never heard of them, I suggest you get to youtube and begin yo’ education: they were pretty fucking awesome. They were only together a few years, and they released three albums and a few EP/singles. Their sound was sort of electronic, sort of rock, very indie. In an NPR interview they said they wrote their lyrics first and then formed the music around it, which isn’t something you hear often from songwriters (and coincidentally how I write a lot of my stuff too). Sometimes they reminded me of the Cocteau Twins, sometimes My Bloody Valentine. In any case, you should really find their music and listen to it. Spread it around. Show the world how good they were and how gifted Benjamin Curtis was.
There are mixed opinions about people who get into music they’ve never heard of just because the artist has died. And I agree: there is something really douche-y about jumping on the bandwagon after the fact. I remember that after Kurt Cobain died, suddenly everyone in my school was a fan and was showing public displays of grief. And let me just say that, beforehand, Nirvana wasn’t that big a thing in that school. They were all into Metallica or they were hip-hop wannabes. But the notoriety, and the huge media attention was apparently too tantalizing, and next thing I knew… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. So in my opinion, getting in on the action (so to speak) for the sake of getting in on the action isn’t that great a thing.
However, I think it’s perfectly fine to discover an artist after hearing about them because they have died (or the band broke up, or what not). In fact, I think any interest that causes the music of that artist to be heard by new ears is a good thing. I am in no way saying that dead musicians are good things. Of course not. I’m saying that even delayed (or posthumous) interest is worthy interest, because it helps to spread someone’s life’s work to a larger audience. And in doing that that artist lives on.
So do I think you’re a complete tool for running out and buying a “Best of” collection just because everyone made such a big deal when Lou Reed died? Yes. But do I hope you really like it, continue to listen to his music and spread it along? I really, really do.
And on that note I think I’ll be off. (Door slams)