Welcome to the music playing inside my head. It won’t necessarily play to everyone’s taste, and that’s as it should be. It’s my damned blog, and I’ll do with it as I please.
In 2018, I’ve resolved to offer a musical recap every two months. For those just tuning in, note that I no longer can carry a tune across the street without breaking both legs, but music’s still playing in my head every waking moment.
I’m completely convinced that when the music stops playing, death will be near.
In addition, I’m the old fogey’s stogie when it comes to music; no iTunes or playlists for me. Perversely, no vinyl, either; my albums are stacked over at the Public House, and I don’t own a turntable.
As with books, each year I research and buy those CDs that seem best suited to my tastes. They’re usually augmented with impulse buys and random excursions, and of course I listen to snippets of radio, YouTube and the like.
Before proceeding, here is a vicious and deadly accurate assessment of my deteriorating condition. Still talkin’ ’bout my generation? That’s nice, but my generation is utterly irrelevant.
Bland on Blonde: why the old rock music canon is finished, by Michael Hann (The Guardian)
… Music has changed irrevocably. You can see that by looking at festival bills, where hip-hop and R&B artists sit alongside rock bands, the never-the-twain tribal divisions of the past dissolved. You can see it in the fact that online distribution of music has created a generation gap in music again, by creating an audience of teenagers who consume everything online, who listen to music that has bypassed the traditional gatekeepers of press, radio and labels. And you can see it in the fact that music journalists – the people who traditionally define the canon – are no longer overwhelmingly men. That more women and people of colour are now creating the narrative around pop is surely a good thing, even if it sometimes feels uncomfortable for those of us brought up on the certainties of Led Zeppelin and a narrative that begins with Robert Johnson and traces a line through the Beatles and the Smiths.
I suspect we may be at the end of the age of the canon, for now at least.
Hann’s right, and I support his conclusion: “It won’t be a list that reflects my tastes, and I’m fine with that. My canon is dead. Long live the new canon, whatever it might be.”
Obviously, I remain a pop-rocker. For me, classical music is WUOL-FM and my CD collection, and the latter suffices for jazz listening and world music (internet radio helps). I’ve nothing bad to say about hip hop or country; they’re just not my taste.
In 2018, live music has been restricted to the Louisville Orchestra at the Ogle Center (see list below). I’d like to be more supportive of local music, and concede that this is the 800-lb chink in my armor. It’s a constant struggle, but the fact is that I don’t indulge in nightlife any longer, and when dining and drinking out, our preferences run to conversation, which tends to be precluded by loud music. So it goes. It’s all about me, and what I like.
Following are CD purchases from July and August, 2018, randomly listed. I’ve spent my money wisely these past two months.
Houndmouth … Golden Age
Houndmouth’s stylistic reboot has been a summer’s highlight. There’ll be dissenters, but I love the new sound. Our local favorites have spent the past few years re-contextualizing themselves in the aftermath of Katie Toupin’s departure; they couldn’t have possibly remained the same, and have evolved accordingly by reaching inside. These are my favorite sort of life lessons from music, and let’s hope the progression continues.
James … Living in Extraordinary Times
I was barely aware of James’ existence prior to the band’s 2014 release, La Petite Mort. This is the band’s second album since then, and serves as an overt and often angry riposte to Brexit, Trump and the numbing stupidity of our contemporary world. This fact duly noted, it’s the music and not the lyrics commanding my attention. Repeated listens are highly rewarding. You’ll hear new, good things each time.
Gaz Coombes … World’s Strongest Man
Gareth Michael Coombes was the genius behind Supergrass, for my money the most criminally overlooked of late 90s-era British bands. His newest solo release begins eccentrically with self-directed cynicism and a dramatic falsetto, then gradually yields to a pleasing blend of old traits and new flourishes, as with this song’s piano intro. It might be refashioned from “Imagine” by John Lennon, or closer still, The Who’s “Gettin’ in Tune,” and overall, it’s very solid pop from a gifted performer.
Florence and the Machine … High as Hope
On her latest, Florence Welch sings autobiographically, and the lyrics appropriately fascinate, alternately visceral and nostalgic. Arrangements are nuanced; the music creeps through more so than bursts out. There have been no ear worms for me, just a greater appreciation for her craft after multiple immersions.
Peace … Kindness Is the New Rock and Roll
It transpired by sheer coincidence that the very period of this album’s heaviest rotation in my cranium coincided with Matt Brewer’s tragic death.
Overnight, the tone of a largely upbeat, sassy pop-rock album became elegiac. Phenomenons like this probably can’t be helped. Your brain experiences a dialectic, as opposing emotions clash — in this instance, sadness and exhilaration — and must somehow be resolved.
Listen to this song, and then I’ll continue.
For anyone who knew Matt, the ultimate resolution is obvious. Matt’s whole life was about kindness and the sheer exhilaration of living, and while his premature departure from this planet is sad and tragic, we’re left with a legacy of joy and love.
Simply stated, I’ll never be able to listen to this album without thinking about Matt, and so to close this musical rumination, here’s a song dedicated both to Matt and his wife Brook.
Following are links to music-related articles from the past two months.
Rhiannon Giddens: “The musician reveals all about her mission to put the black back into bluegrass – and Shakespeare.”
4 shows for only 65 bucks: The Louisville Orchestra’s 2018-2019 Neighborhood Series at the Ogle Center.