15 February 2005

Music stuff

Notes on some new(ish) music:

The Fiery Furnaces [Wikipedia] have me completely freaked out listening to their recent album Blueberry Boat [Amazon]. It was referenced in Pitchfork's top 50 albums of 2004 (my source material for new music) as the number four album. Their review gives it a 9.6. An elaborate fan site has complete lyrics. The band is Joycean in their bulk and nonsense, at times descriptive then inexplicably experimental. Take for instance this quote from the song "Chris Michaels":

Remember that girl down the end?
She was my friend.
But just now she’s angry came up
And said You’re so so stup’
It’s all disrup’
You’re blah blah this this that so now sh’up
You messed it up.
Remember that girlfriend of Al’s?
We’ll we were pals.
Today she was angry came up
And said You’re so so stup’
It’s all disrup’
You’re blah blah this this that so now sh’up
You messed me up.

Their songs range from a few three and four minute pieces to several around 10 minutes and are composed of often very contrasting fragments. Blueberry Boat is a rock opera or collection of rock operas depending on where you read about it. The Pitchfork review confirms my suspicion that the group's musical roots come from some of The Who's extended songs (specifically the wonderful and silly "A Quick One, While He's Away"). Very creative.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm reminded of that hack John Mayer as I see he got a Grammy for that awful song "Daughters." Perhaps I shouldn't criticise after the Dadaist freeform of The Fiery Furnaces lyrics, but creativity and range will always trump the trite, spiral-bound notebook, heart-dotted i's poetry the likes of this:

Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart

Boys are strong soldiers and women have good (good) hearts. Gah. Here's a quote from Mayer:

[T]he song runs the risk of being perceived as kind of a sensitive-singer song, but I think there's a lot more involved in the tunes that I write. Sometimes they get [tagged] as 'strummy strum strum strummy strum strum.' But this has a real sense of urgency, and it's really vibrant.

Really. Never trust the artist's explanation of their work--this is a prime example why. Too often they will describe what they hoped to achieve and cannot see what they did achieve.

That being said, context is always important. The Grammys [Wikipedia] are not there to reward innovation. Awards are voted on from a democracy of working artists, so any segment of the recorded musical population is eligible. Seems like a good measurement to me, so how's it end up so conservative?

Finally: I listened to an interview with Charlie Kaufman [IMDB] speaking about the wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [IMDB] on WNYC [RadioWave] (I struggle between it and The Saddest Music in the World [IMDB] for most memorable movie of 2004). Longstoryshort, they played some of the soundtrack during the breaks in the interview, and I heard Beck's track "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes." Nice tune.

Quick question: why are the lyrics in Beck's song acceptable but those in Mayer's not?

[ posted by sstrader on 15 February 2005 at 4:57:03 PM in Music ]