Near the end of this particular narrative arc, I find myself well aware that most everything in life is the same as it was when the arc began. The illusion of progress, I’m reminded, appears just as potent as the real thing until posterity grants you a glimpse past the veil.
The problem with deciding to make a recording is that, in the process, you invariably get better. You become better at singing, at guitar, at mixing, and your ear improves. The process becomes one not necessarily of perseverance, but of acceptance of the flaws you couldn’t hear yesterday.
Via Sarah P. As she said, for future reference. Should, you know, that sorta thing happen. And, well, for life reference, really. It doesn’t apply just to kids.
Improvements. Still a lot of open space in here, but it’s definitely better.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I am a WAY better guitarist than I was a year ago at this time. And I have the recordings to prove it. Another successful day at Studio 52.
It’s strange, I spend a lot of time wandering through my playlist trying to find something that feels appropriate for my state of mind, sometimes with only middling success. In the process, I’ve noticed that there are generally two kinds of music that I tend to want to listen to at any given time, and that I find a way to fit whatever I’m hearing into one of those buckets.
In recent years, I’ve realized that when I have “middling success” finding something I want to listen to, that I should probably man up and try to make music that fulfills that need. Now that I’ve clued myself into the fact that this is happening, I’ve started to notice it even more. Like, a lot. It’s frustrating.
Half the time, it seems like I want to hear quiet, reflective, crystalline, poignant sweeping, delicate, breathy, gentle, cautious, moody, bassy, empty, echoing songs. More often than not, I’m good on finding something to fit into this mood, as there’s no shortage of smart, considerate artists out there.
A few cases in point (out of many possible):
- Beck - All of “Sea Change”
- Bill Fay - The Healing Day
- Broken Social Scene - Cranley’s Gonna Make It
- The Decemberists - California One/Youth And Beauty Brigade
- Andrew Bird or Dosh - Simple Exercises
- Joanna Newsom - Baby Birch or Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie
- U2 - The First Time, MLK
- Radiohead - Nude, I Will
- My Morning Jacket - The Way That He Sings and Death Is The Easy Way
- The New Pornographers - We End Up Together
- The Milk Carton Kids - Permanent
- Kishi Bashi - Manchester
Clearly the list could go on. You get it, I’m sure.
The other half of the time is… kinda different. Perhaps it’s some function of repressed life-choice regret. Maybe I just know what I like. It’s possible, I suppose, that I use it as a way of meditating, which is perhaps really weird, given the circumstances. In any case, I’m talking about loud, staticky, fuzzy, looping, feedback-swamped, reverberating, stinging, screaming, crying, manic, pounding, gravel-covered, dirty, overdriven music.
Point as cases:
- Wilco - At Least That’s What You Said or Dreamer In My Dreams
- Melt-Banana - First Contact With Planet Q and Warp, Back Spin
- Radiohead - Bodysnatchers or Myxomatosis
- Tom Waits - Top Of The Hill or Shake It
- The Kills - All of “Keep On Your Mean Side”
- The Dead Weather - Jawbreaker or New Pony
- The Decemberists - The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing
- Bright Eyes and Spoon - You Get Yours
- Animal Collective - For Reverend Green and Fireworks
- Arcade Fire - The Well And The Lighthouse and (Antichrist Television Blues)
- Modest Mouse - Dance Hall or Invisible
- Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945
- Kishi Bashi - Chester’s Burst Over The Hamptons
- Smashing Pumpkins - Tales Of A Scorched Earth or Geek USA
- Spoon - Primary or Claws Tracking
See where I’m going here?
This is where most of the frustration comes in. Sometimes none of it is quite what I want. Sometimes I want to take all of this stuff, feed the mp3s into some sort of chopping, dicing, slicing, mish-mashing, aural blender, intersperse some of the stuff from the first group in between it, and listen to the absolute mess that comes out on the other end. That’d get close to what I want to hear.
I want to make quiet, beautiful, crystalline music about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I want to make the noisy, frenetic mess that pours out of that blender.
That’s what my brain sounds like. It’s hard to sit here in an office typing.
I’m not even going to bother saying anything about the album. I’m just going to list the musicians on it:
Dirty Projectors and David Byrne, The Books, Fiest and Ben Gibbard, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, The National, Yeasayer, My Brightest Diamond, Kronos Quartet, Antony and Bryce Dessner, Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner, The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, Grizzly Bear and Feist, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, My Morning Jacket, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Dave Sitek, Buck 65, The New Pornographers, Yo La Tengo, Stuart Murdoch, Riceboy Sleeps, Cat Power, Andrew Bird, Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch, Beach House, Blonde Redhead & Devastations, Kevin Drew
That’s really all you need to know. Thirty-two tracks, kids.
Edit: Okay, so that’s not really all you need to know. Proceeds also benefit Red Hot.
Something pretty for your Friday; one of my favorite voices.
I think we need some afternoon siestas in this country. Who’s with me!?
It’s Odelay Day - one of many lovely moments peppered throughout Beck Week.
This post originally said “Beck Month” - clearly I’m not capable of sticking with one artist that long, as it’s now clearly Wilco Week instead.