Ella still prefers the old ways.
While it's true the internet is killing the art of composition--or maybe just redefining it, for guys like me that's kind of a blessing. Short bursts have always tended to complement my imagination better than long-form statements. I get bored trying to reconcile my way of analysis with the conventions of journalism--mainly music writing. And yet, this lazy innovation doesn't feel quite right to me. Maybe its a marginal awkwardness, and the art of brevity will mature. Remains to be seen.
So what's it all about? I been listening to Todd Rundgren records lately. I heard "Hello, It's Me" in a Tums ad on tv and that started the ball rolling. But even before that I've had Philadelphia on the brain, listening to Billy Paul and The O'Jays, as well as Mazarin and some of the terrific demos Alec Ounsworth made when I still lived there.
I don't want to turn my malaise into an apocalyptic thesis, but once again--and with increasing frequency, I am feeling that decline of modern music depression. It owes, in part, to the fantastic Five Live Yardbirds record, as well as Michael Hurley's spooky good Armchair Boogie. The two have little in common beyond only the most generic affinity for blues and folk music, and yet, given the seven short years that separated them--the former was released in 1964, the latter in 1971, there is a world of evolving sensibilities so rich and mind-blowing that a civilization could hardly be expected to duplicate it within a generation. Most often when I discuss music with folks nowadays it is all about re-issues, crate-digging and artifacts. It is about the past. I don't mind that, but a little today would be nice.
I am pretty psyched about the Condo Fucks (a.k.a. Yo La Tengo) record--though it could be argued that it too is a progeny of backwards-looking...and is a re-issue to boot. The covers--a sequence in the spirit of the band's excellent 1990 lp, Fakebook, offer a kind of turpentine-stink garage alter ego to the indie rock pastoralism of the former. Them folks in Yo La Tengo have great taste so it never feels like they're working toward an idea of cool. Needless to say Fuckbook rocks.
Also, the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers-style push for the latest Neko Case has finally caught up with me. I always felt she showed a fantastic set of musical assets--hard work, good voice, reasonably arch imagination, and yes, easiness on the eyes, but that she lacked some central fiber. With these songs she comes out with a catchy and compelling vehicle for her Hollywood appeal--in a way that, say, Jennie Lewis or Zooey Dechanel has yet to do. The neo-Laurel Canyon aesthetic is taking its time in seducing me. I'm still not entirely sold on the first wave--though a little Graham Nash is always welcome music as the Earth thaws. Still, it's promising. I like to think Neko Case has been making these records all along hoping to get one that's right just for me. Not me personally, but the me that has grown jaded, and has for quite some time needed something that can be loved without the resignation of looking back and wishing it was now.