December 2008

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I have a nostalgic affection for 80s music despite the fact that I almost never listened to 80s music at the time. I have somehow acquired this through osmosis be being part of my age cohort.

I went through a stretch of 80s listening a couple weeks ago that I’ve been meaning to blog. Starting with a couple of songs from this collection.
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Thank you, I’m enjoying writing it (despite the intermittent schedule).

I have a few year end notes: first, I have a couple of posts planned for the next couple of days, and then, if I have time, I want to update the music page which is now a couple of months behind. Second, and on a related note of going through the archives, I wanted to invite you to let me know if there’s anything from the first six months that you’ve particularly appreciated.

Particularly if you’re reading this and you haven’t commented before, I want to invite you to let me know if there’s a song or a post that you’ve enjoyed. I’d be interested in what you enjoyed about it, but if you can’t think of anything just post a song title.

In addition, I’d be interested to know, what, if anything, I’ve posted that you enjoyed and hadn’t heard before. I go back and forth between posting relatively well known material, and some tracks that are more obscure. I want the blog to reflect as wide a range of music as I can, but I also feel like there’s always going to be people that haven’t heard something before no matter how well known it is, and so I don’t want to avoid well known songs.

So, let me know, if there’s something I’ve posted that particularly caught your attention. And if you can’t think of anything, check back in a week or so, and I will hopefully have the music page updated and it may refresh your memory.

I have been neglecting the blog, and I wanted something fun for Christmas, so here is Step Right Up by Tom Waits.

It is a hilarious monologue satirizing the ultimate sales pitch, “the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.” The liner notes for Small Change include the lyrics for all of the other songs on the album but ask that you send away (to a hotel room) for the lyrics of “Step Right Up.” I like to believe that the lyrics weren’t included because they were partially improvised. There’s a structure to the song, but it also feels like he gets a rhythm going and runs with it.
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I’ve noticed something unexpected in my listening habits over the last couple of months.

I have, without making any conscious effort, acquired a rudimentary ability to appreciate hip-hop music. I first thought about this, a couple of months ago, when I read Sherry’s post about how 2008 was going to be “the year of hip-hop.” I nodded at a shared lack of ability but, a couple weeks later, I put on a Talib Kweli album that I’ve had for a while, and didn’t think anything of before, and realized that I liked it and that it was really good.

At some point I had made the transition from hearing most hip-hop as a relatively static facade to being able to have details catch my attention.
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Pulp

I’ve been listening to the Pulp Hits collection, and I realize that there are actually two credits due that are worth talking about.

I assume that more or less everybody has heard of Pulp, but I found out about them from watching the britpop documentary Live Forever that was recommended to me by ben. I think it’s a well done documentary and one that has stuck with me in important ways. One of the major themes in the movie is the politics around britpop — both the ways in which the rise of britpop coincided with the rise of Tony Blair but also the importance of Class in British culture and the ways in which that was reflected in britpop. It talked specifically about how the rivalry between Blur and Oasis was magnified because it was seen as a rivalry between different classes (with Oasis being the “working class” band and Blur being the middle class band).

In that, one of the songs that is given a prominent place in the movie is Common People by Pulp which is presented as, from the movie’s perspective, the iconic britpop single. It’s catchy, smart, sarcastic, and very class conscious. It starts with a jittery beat, and then you hear a breathy Jarvis Cocker describing a a flirtation that feels cold and impersonal (“In thirty seconds time she said / I want to be like common people . . . I want to sleep with common people. / I want to sleep with common people like you.”). It moves from there into a section with the narrator trying to explain the life of “common people” (“I took her to a supermarket. / I don’t know why, but I had to start it somewhere. / So it started there.’). And ends with as strongly political a statement as you’re likely to find in pop music (“You will never understand how it feels to live your life with no meaning or control and with nowhere left to go. . . .”)
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The Modesto Kid sent me a link to a very cool music blog that I hadn’t seen before called The Song In My Head Today. As you would expect from the title, it’s a blog with entries about specific songs that are bouncing around in her head. Reading it, I am struck by how similar her project is to mine, and the fact that she is a much more fluent writer. It’s always both inspiring and slightly dispiriting to find someone else doing the same thing that you are interested in. In this case I find it inspiring, given that I can only see my blog from the inside it’s fun to be reminded how much fun it can be to read somebody riffing on their favorite songs.

From what I’ve read she has a distinct musical preference for various form of British pop music which both gives me an excuse to post a song I’ve been thinking about for a while, the Searchers’ 1965 cover of Love Potiion Number Nine (see her post on the Searchers here). If you don’t enjoy that cover then, as they say, Jack you’re dead, it’s just fun and groovy.
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Apologies about the slow posting schedule, I have a bunch of music that I hope to post soon, but I haven’t had time to blog.

For the moment, I want to want to solicit opinions about someone for whom I have very mixed feelings — Ani Difranco. I want to like her music, I’ve wanted to like her music for a long time. I went through a period of thinking that the fact that I didn’t particularly like her music, despite that desire meant that I disliked it.

At this point I think she is clearly capable of writing genuinely great songs, but I still don’t feel as fond of them as I would expect, and I haven’t quite figured out why not.

As proof of her talent, however, consider two songs taken from her first live album, Every State Line is an explicitly political song, from her third album and Untouchable Face is a relationship song from her seventh album.
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