April 2009

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I just picked up a copy of The Pixies at The BBC and I’ve really liked it. Most of the reviews talk about whether or not it’s essential for the Pixies fan, but I find myself thinking that it’s a very good introduction to their music.

The Pixies rank high on any list of bands that I like and admire very much, and don’t listen to that often. I think they made great music, but it’s demanding. It’s complex, loud, and slightly abrasive. I really truly think that Doolittle is one of the best produced and best sounding albums that I own but, while it isn’t exactly complicated, it doesn’t simplify easily. You either have to be ready to appreciate everything that’s going on, or it feels like a minimal concept with a bunch of extraneous stuff going on.

You can’t just sit back and find the core of a song, and groove to that because the whole arrangement is what makes the songs what the are.

But, the BBC version do a very good job of finding a core to the song and making everything else friendlier. It isn’t as theatrical and it has less frantic energy than the versions that I’ve heard before. While I think of energy and sense of theater as virtues of the Pixies, it’s kind of nice to have a version that isn’t all dressed up.

Compare the BBC version and the album version of “Monkey Gone To Heaven”. Or the BBC version of Is She Weird, a song that I hadn’t heard before, but which instantly makes sense in that performance.

Rock me Joseph Alberto Santiago

I realize that the last two posts have been earnest even by my standards.

Just in case you don’t feel like thinking that much, here’s a version of Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O by the Howling Diablos that is dumb but fun and which I enjoy without any critical reflection.

There is a bit, near the end, by Kid Rock that lowers the intelligence of the music dramatically, but ignore that.

And if you feel like commenting on either of the previous posts please do, but not everything needs to be serious.

Listening to Red Over Red, and thinking about the dynamic range in a live recording got me to pull out a live album that I got a while a got but which never made much of an impression on me. I remembered it as being kind of flat and monotonous. I found myself wondering if I just hadn’t turned the volume up enough, so I put it on, cranked the volume a little bit and, sure enough, Nanci Griffith’s voice felt lovely rather than thin and weak.

I don’t listen to much country music, it’s outside of my usual habits, but listening this time it related to a conversation that I had with Jeremiah about folk music, after the last post. He said that he doesn’t generally like to describe his music to people as “folk” because for many people the connotations of that are that it will put them to sleep. At the same time, his sense of folk music is very important to his musical aesthetic.

I mentioned my sense of traditional music being a source of great songs — since unmemorable ones don’t last. He said, by contrast that what was important to him was music that was written and performed as part of people’s lives — music that is both handmade, and that has an emotional connection to life. As he said, “folk music is wood, pop music is plastic.”

I countered that what he was talking about reflected a performance style as much as a characteristic of the songs — and that there are many contemporary songs that are more or less within the pop idiom that nerveless feel handmade. We went back and forth a bit, with me offering examples, and him saying that, while that may be true, that they are, explicitly, exceptions to the paradigm of pop music.

I’m not convinced, but what’s interesting is that I never thought about country music at any point during that conversation.
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A little while ago I mentioned that a band containing a pair of High School friends of mine had gone into the studio to record material for an album.

I subsequently commented that I had been enjoying the advance copy that I received, and that there would be more information at a later date.

That time has arrived. I have heard that CDs will be back from the duplicator next week. As soon as I find out information about how to purchase the album, I will give you the hard sell and try to convince as many of you reading this blog as possible to buy a copy. For now, however, it’s time to celebrate a project done well — the upcoming album Red Over Red by Trenchmouth.

Red Over Red cover art

There are two things I want to talk about, first how much I like the album, and secondly a little bit of what I know from sitting in on the recording process.
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A poll

What music formats do listen to regularly?

I’ve been writing a bit lately about my continued commitment to CDs as a medium, but I know I’m in the minority. How many people reading this exclusively listen to music through their computer?

How many people listen to LPs, or cassettes? Or do you not have a single favorite format, but listen to different music on different formats?

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