Current Month

March 31, 2001

3:46 PM
OK, so I am going to cheat a tiny bit. I have to listen to my new Dismemberment Plan CDs, acquired at the show - their first album, !, and the new split EP with Juno. The EP's got, from the Plan: "The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich," and a cover of Jennifer Paige's "Crush". Juno has "Non-Equivalents" and a cover of DJ Shadow's "High Noon." All good stuff. More later on music and the show. And then that classical junk I said I'd listen to.

March 30, 2001

1:51 AM
This week actually began for me earlier this evening, because I listened to classical music all night to see if I really felt like going on for a week. So what did I listen to?

First, Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004, performed by Lara St. John. I actually listened to this quite a bit today, as it was the music I picked to wander around and study to this afternoon, and upon returning home tonight.

Then, Mozart's "Dissonant" string quartet in C major, K 465, performed by the Emerson String Quartet. It dribbled over a bit into Hadyn's "Emperor" quartet (in C major, op. 76 no. 3), but I turned that off because it has this Scottish-sounding part that always seems fakey to me.

Then, Niccolo Paganini's 24 Caprices for violin, op. 1, Ilya Kaler.

Now, Franz Schubert's piano Impromptus op. 90, 142, Sylvia Capova.

Yes, I realize I have said nothing about these, really. There will be more later.

Also: I received some complaints during my Magnetic Fields project, about how the complainants lost interest in josh blog during that time because of their lack of interest in the Magnetic Fields (or, also, lack of knowledge about them). In order to avoid some of that this time, I'm also going to make an effort to be more informative - basic historical and biographical type junk, etc., in addition to what I would normally write. That way there will at least be something to read, if you're not sure why it would make a difference that I'm listening to Schubert rather than Paganini, or a partita rather than a string quartet (I'm not completely sure I'll always know why it would make a difference, anyway - we will see).

1:32 AM
I am going to listen to nothing but classical music for a week.

This isn't all that much of a difficult thing to do; I do like classical music, and some of it is among my favorite music, period. But still I often find my experiences listening to classical music lacking. Often the music just floats by and sounds pretty, but it doesn't feel the same as other music to me; I don't feel affected the way I do when I listen to rock, or jazz, or electronic music. I think the primary factor in this is that I just don't listen to lots of the classical music that I own, enough. It's sophisticated music that takes a while for the pieces to fall into place. But it's not that sophisticated, which is why I think this comes down to a lack of time spent. I think it's interesting that, though I have liked John Coltrane's music for quite a while (after an intial period of confusion where I found Giant Steps a very, very baffling record), I didn't really start feeling like it had come together for me until sometime between a year to two years ago - not coincidentally a time where I had passed, I suppose, some critical mass of listening time, and also where I had listened to enough of Coltrane's work (i.e. in terms of different albums, etc.) that it all made sense much more easily. And that doesn't mean that I'm done - there's still plenty left to appreciate, both in the "easier" stuff and the way-out later-Impulse!-era stuff. Now, by comparison, even though there is some classical that I've listened to a lot - specific recordings - I've never achieved that kind of breadth with a specific composer (not to mention performer or conductor). My new listening project won't really change that a whole lot, though I may try to concentrate a bit more on, say, some Bach or Rachmaninov or whatever that I've not listened to as much as "Musical Offering" or the third piano concerto or second symphony. That kind of breadth is something that, given my ways of appreciating music, I'll eventually come to by buying lots of one composer (at a time).

So. Anyway. There will be more on this matter. And a technical note: this means that all the music I pick, like at home and on my headphones and stuff, will be classical ("western art music," so I think I still get to listen to Steve Reich and Stuart Dempster, but probably not Brian Eno or Pan Sonic, doh). Car rides, my radio show, and most importantly the Dismemberment Plan show I am going to "tonight" are exempt. Despite my undying urge for slammin beatz.

March 27, 2001

7:16 PM
It pleases me to point to another new music site,
Eyes That Can See in the Dark, the doing of Phil S., who I first encountered on the Low mailing list.

4:01 PM
Listening just now, still, to Dylan. Warning: going to use the word 'reify'. Apologies. But not many.

Sometimes the sensation of hearing a song end, then hearing in your head exactly how the next one will start, seems unlike any other. But often it seems to me that I can only carry my mental reconstruction of the next song so far; some kind of continuity conditionon my memories, relative to the last thing I've heard. Which makes me suspect that people who can remember farther ahead are simply those who can more fully reify the thing they're remembering - then, because it seems real, it's more like having the stimulus of the actual song playing, which lets you remember a little bit further ahead, extending the chain.

3:25 PM
"Just Like a Woman"

"tonight as I stand inside the rain"

Never noticed that before - inside the rain.

3:16 PM
"Stuck Outside of Mobile..."

"I knew he'd lawst kahn truhl"

Almost a parody of middle-school iambic pentameter.

3:13 PM
Lately Blonde on Blonde could start at "I Want You" and that would suit me just fine.

March 26, 2001

8:39 PM
Happy Birthday Freaky Trigger

March 25, 2001

8:16 PM
Been reading through the
archives to Tom's Thousand project because of his mention of how little feedback he gets. I am motivated by guilt, then, but also empathy, because for all the mail that I do get about josh blog, I get not very much related to the smaller day-to-day things, which is basically all there is to Thousand.

At the moment the most profound thing I have realized is that Tom can toss off judgments like a pirate swears (arrrr). This is a very powerful thing for a music writer to be able to do. But it also leaves me flailing to respond much to anything specific, because there are so many judgments and like any longer judgment they can be argued with, or not; defended, or not - often the outcome seems less important.

7:51 PM
Tom on rock bands and remixes:

Yeah, nice one Andy Weatherall, kick off your remix of "Soon" with someone saying "Here we go! Uhhh-huh!" and some bongos! Great idea! Really fits the song! I heart 1990, I really do. The one massive thing that US indie kids have missed out on with the whole electronica thing is that for them a remix of a rock band means some polite tweaking by the likes of To Rococo Rot, whereas for us it means pill-beast dance producers ripping the guts out of songs with the sensitivity of hippos in heat. The results were rarely, it must be admitted, great.

I think the first "rock" band (I know, there is some room for quibbling, but come on, there are reasons that they are the ones that became popular with the kids) remixes I was really aware of were on Nine Inch Nails' Further Down the Spiral release. I would class it in the hippo category.

In fact, when I listened to the Massive Attack singles box, I was put off by how unremixed the early remixes (various subtle tweaks meant to bring out things for the dance floor, mostly) sounded compared to the stuff from Protection onward.

2:19 AM
A Silver Mt. Zion, "lonely as the sound of lying on the ground of an airplane going down: broken chords can sing a little"

From the radio broadcasts woven into the track: sensations of motion, and remoteness, both from memories of driving or riding in a car, far from everything, where the radio begins to have trouble picking up anything at all.

March 24, 2001

9:37 PM
KURE review on the back of new David Sylvian comp: "Apparently people like this guy. He thinks he's David Bowie. It doesn't work."

8:44 AM
Up all night manning phones for KURE's 26-hour trivia marathon. Mad Low knowledge called upon for adjudication purposes. After Mystikal question, requested "Shake Ya Ass" - not played to completion. Will remedy for my show at 9 tonight by playing no less than once every half hour. Must sleep now.

March 23, 2001

4:39 AM
Intentional-fallacy-type problems have been bothering me about
Tom's Pixies review since I first read it. OK, so for the band things like Francis' scream signified nothing deeper. Why are we taking the band's word for it? I submit that they are in fact not such a very "blank" band, because it seems that what people do in fact pick up on with them is the kind of artful weirdness that is (oops!) a deliberate consequence of this "blank" attitude in the first place. Just about everyone I hear talk about the Pixies mentions the weirdness sooner or later, and that is what grounds their artistic choices as meaningful, not some kind of inherent weirdness that the choices are simply outward mirrors of (that is not precluded, but as always, things can be more complicated than that). Compare to the reception enjoyed by countless other kinds of music: we are always willing, to varying degrees, to say that what we get out of the music is due to some kind of artfulness, a part of the performance - the musicians are like actors.

12:28 AM
For the first time since buying it last spring, I am finally enjoying the Dirty Three's most recent album. I'm not sure what's changed in my perception of the music - nothing maybe. It seems to have the same static feel to it I've always heard; a lot less forward motion by way of group interaction and inevitable musical logic, more by the rule of the metronome (maybe in part because both Ellis and Turner seem to be doing texture-type stuff more often, and less riff-like stuff). However, tonight I just don't care about how different this seems from Horse Stories or Ocean Songs, two of my favorite albums, period. It's pretty and it makes me feel comfortable.

On the first track there is a place where Ellis plays with other Ellises (overdubs perhaps, but the band used a digital looper on Ocean Songs so maybe it was done live, which still appeals to me more because it would mean more thinking-on-your-toes and that's an important part of this band's performance dynamic), sort of ascending and descending arpeggios, interlocked so that when the inevitable descent back down the scale comes, it doesn't quite feel like it because the up-direction on the scale is being played again by an Ellis-copy. So the whole section has a feel of perpetual motion in the upwards direction. But also down, because the effect is similar at the other end of the scale. They sort of use this trick at the beginning of the third track, also, but that one feels more static for some reason.

12:16 AM
I listened to Pelleas et Mellisande, my first and only opera, again the other week. I found myself more open to the singing proper, but any time there was sing-speaking, my level of comfort dropped considerably. I think that's related to my distaste for certain kinds of theatricality.

12:00 AM
My recent Def Leppard encounter has elicited mail from Potter -

Def Leppard is evil. They embody all that is obnoxious about 80s spandex-rock. I swear the title phrase is repeated seven thousand times in "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and that the song is fifteen minutes long. It makes me violent.

Me too, Potter. Me too.

March 22, 2001

3:06 AM
Listened to the Mekons' Edge of the World a few times today. Still trying to determine how much is working-class English accent and how much is drunkenness.

March 21, 2001

2:35 AM
Holding their ears. Holding their fucking ears. Sometimes I think I will never, ever understand other people's musical tastes.

(Some would argue that some people's aren't worth understanding, except maybe in the way that we're also interested in understanding psychopaths and the mentally disabled, for theraputic purposes.)

2:01 AM
Often when people write me and say, oh, I don't see how you could do this kind of writing for so long, I say, oh, you get into the habit, and it gets easier. The flip side of that is that once you start doubting yourself, and the worth of what you're writing, it gets harder and harder to keep it up. Lately I'm finding that I start more entries here than I finish (I delete them before saving the changes). This isn't completely a commentary on their quality; a lot of them seem like things I would have gladly put up a year ago. That also isn't a comment on the quality of the older entries. Rather, it says something about the blocks that can form, that I have formed. I think, in principle, that a lot of the things I keep starting to take note of are as important as anything else I could put up. But I'm constantly at odds with my impulses to put up only things that I think are very deep. The only reason I've been writing anything at all lately is that the former principles are winning out, not that I think I'm writing anything very deep.

Three things I have taken especially notice of recently:

For the first time, the Pixies' Bossanova sounded really good to me. The feeling died off toward the end of the album, which I think is reasonable since the end of the album really does seem to get slightly tedious (I still haven't listened enough to feel confident saying that, though, but at least Tom agrees with me, which makes me feel better, he being an large enough Pixies fan) near the end. Some factors which may have helped: all afternoon I listened to Sonic Youth's Dirty, and thus was more attentive to the various sounds that can come from guitars; it was the first time I had ever played this CD in this apartment; one of my speakers had sputtered out as happens lately, since I have recently fidgeted with it somehow so that it gives a fuller sound than normal, but said fidgeting sometimes comes loose or something, and so when I smacked it around a bit and the bigger sound came back I was more aware of the largeness of sound on the recording itself; I had it up really loud anyway, and Mrs. John Murphy's bass actually satisfied me (it never sounds loud enough on the first two albums).

I would like to say that it's the arbitrary insanity that does it in the places where the album succeeds, but it's not even that; on the first track, I actually am just finally getting into the surf guitar junk (little craziness to appreciate, aside from maybe the oohs in the vocals, which are sort of ancient-alien-civilization-in-a-movie), and later on, it's sometimes a playful attitude that's not otherwise insane-sounding. Where I think the album doesn't succeed, though, it mostly just sounds like modern rock that could've just as well been made by any other modern rock band of the same time period. (There I go again, demanding distinctiveness from my music - and just when I am thinking about a short piece on not doing that.)

OK, that was all one thing. Thing two: the sax voicing on the track from the middle of Mingus' Blues and Roots. I usually focus on the trombone line in that song, because it's a lot more prominent, but for some reason tonight the saxes caught my ear and what I heard sounded very Ellingtonian, as is appropriate since Mingus worshipped Ellington so much and worked so much at giving the illusion of large, lush orchestrations in his small-to-mid-sized groups. While I know this in principle, I don't always hear it so much; tonight, though, it really did seem suddenly as if I were listening to Ellington rather than Mingus, except that the particular qualities that make Mingus music Mingus music were still present, too.

Third thing: Sonic Youth's Dirty, track 5 in particular I think. I don't think Sonic Youth lyrics generally sound any dumber than any other popular music, so why do they get picked on? Maybe for claims, explicit or not, to legitimacy through association with the Beats. But Beat poetry can sound pretty dumb sometimes, too. That doesn't set it apart from most other poetry, in my opinion.

There's some junk in the reissue of Daydream Nation about Sonic Youth's and the album's fundamental dialectic between being an experimental band and a popular band, and while that idea probably bears more careful consideration, I'd like to just take it for granted here. In Dirty it seems to me that the "popular" side dominates, by far, but not in any kind of way that most people might think. It's not simply that the music is more "approachable" or "commercial". The logic, the structure of the music, is just a lot more apparent, like it's drawn in with thick black marker. The motions, the directions it's going to go, they all feel more inevitable (yes, I realize that sounds a little funny) - more gravity, more weight, more inertia. The remarkable thing is that, right alongside that are the streams and bursts of guitar noise, at times so incomprehensibly noisy that I don't know how I ever passed this album off as having "boring" guitar parts. They don't feel like mere ornamentation, rococo frills, though - they are about as constitutively important as the "intertial" parts above.

Suddenly I feel like I should be reading some German philosophy.

March 19, 2001

9:57 PM
I tried my
experiment for the first time today, albeit on someone I know. The trade was my Wu-Tang for her... Def Leppard. Hmmm. Remember, I said there would be problems with this.

2:23 PM
The music to "Tombstone Blues" (and indeed others on Highway 61 Revisited) is all groove and rhythm. Think: Bob Dylan, early house musician.

And the sublimely noisy guitar solos...

March 18, 2001

11:49 PM
Hmm, I always thought
"Djed" was a made-up word.

10:42 PM
Listening to Highway 61 Revisited a lot today. Suddenly, Dylan sounds so young on "Like a Rolling Stone," enough that I am surprised - I always think of him as "old", despite loving this and Blonde on Blonde, but now hearing him sing it sounds like someone my age. And of course, it is - the album came out when Dylan was about 24, and I'll be 23 in April.

It's something to do with the energy - here half the time it sounds like he's just yelling into the microphone. There's a reason "brash" is often used to describe the actions of youth, I think. It's like he can't contain himself.

Hearing lots of invidual parts and things all of the sudden, which I'd not much noticed before.

5:30 PM
Aside from some music playing in the places I was in, I didn't listen to any music this weekend until the plane home was taxiing onto the runway - Stankonia. Even though it was only something over two days, I was so busy during that time, talking to people and seeing things, that the chance to finally listen to something of my own choosing again felt much more welcome than normal. It made the music sound better, too, even if all of the low end was obliterated by the plane noises.

A few moments before takeoff, listening to "So Fresh, So Clean," I realized that it was the perfect moment to listen to "B.O.B.," so I switched. The feeling of the acceleration and the sight of the land starting to move by faster and faster, and then away faster and faster, made the beginning of the track feel something like it did the first times I heard it just after buying the album. Up in the air, the combination of sound (mostly the high parts) and the sight of the ground slowly sliding by made everything sound much more static, and the choir came into much greater focus.

This all sounds terrible, but I'm having trouble finding ways to relate my experience now. I could've written at that time but I chose not to. This was probably one of the best experiences listening to music I'd had in quite some time.

March 15, 2001

4:34 PM
I am going on a campus visit to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Hence no updates until Sunday, probably. Yes, I can still hear you laughing. "No updates, he sez. What an unheard of turn of events !" Ha. Ha. Ha.

3:59 PM
At the moment I am trying to figure out if it's just me or if Highway 61 Revisited really does get a hell of a lot more exciting when the title track starts.

2:00 PM
Eww. But still I want it.

March 14, 2001

5:59 PM
What have I been listening to lately?

Goldfrapp. Lots of Goldfrapp. And a little Erik Satie, Dave Douglas, Boards of Canada, and Yo La Tengo. And Le Tigre once.

I would like to hear some classical music that uses the style of production Goldfrapp does, which they of course just borrowed from 60s pop - very spacious arrangements, a definite sense of there being a large space in which sounds are made, yet not too airplane-hangary.

Also I need some more music with horns. You would think that, me being a jazz listener, I would have plenty of music that I think qualifies under this heading, but - no.

March 13, 2001

10:09 AM
Stolen from a usenet post (boy I really gotta pick up that Slonimsky book from the library after spring break):

This roughly corresponds to a note sent from composer Max Reger to Munich critic Rudolf Louis (as recounted in Slonimsky's awesome "Lexicon of Musical Invective"):

"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me."

3:07 AM
And some nice
biographical information on old Crazy Bob.

2:53 AM
Read about Schumann's diatribes.

2:29 AM
Listening to one of Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio records, Songs for Wandering Souls, which I was led to purchase after being wowed by A Thousand Evenings (one of his "Charms of the Night Sky" groups - damn, man's got a lotta groups) and wanting something a little less reserved. Slight problem, though: the parts I like best are the more reserved, quieter parts, and the more uptempo numbers don't completely please me. Douglas has a masterful touch not just with "ballads," but with peaceful, contemplative, and quiet moments of all sorts - in fact, "contemplative" might be one of the best adjectives to describe his music in those moments. On the faster (slash louder slash whatever - a number of things, because this faster-louder slower-quieter dichotomy is false, I think) songs I'm not held back by anything about Douglas's playing itself, or (I think) the music "itself" (whatever that means when the music is so highly improvised, meaning that each player's part is that much more important), but rather at least two very specific things: I don't like Brad Shepik's guitar tone, and I don't like Jim Black's drum sound. I'm not sure what to say about Shepik; I haven't really heard much "proper" (is this "proper"?) jazz guitar to which to compare it, but it seems to me that even without turning toward McLaughlinian distortion (and he got it from Hendrix anyway, I bet), there are plenty of other distinctive tones to be achieved. The default for jazz guitar, even electrified, appears to be "whatever it sounds like after you tune it and plug it in and don't turn on any distortion whatsoever," which means we're talking more plain than even some indie rock, here. As for Black: maybe he just likes his kit to sound completely different from the kinds I like, or maybe he just hits completely different drums from the ones that would make me happy - I'm not sure. I suspect it's a combination of the two. If he had played the entire album with brushes, I would have nothing to complain about.

The group covers two things here; well, covers one and "interprets" another, because one doesn't cover classical music: Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Breath-A-Thon" and Robert Schumann's "Nicht so schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen". In the liner notes Douglas points this out, praises his favorite recordings of these pieces, and urges the listener to seek them out. I like that. I'd like to see more of it. Applied broadly this principle would probably mostly result in a flood of recommendations for Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's, but that's to be expected. If part of what we value about musicians is their ability to do something distinctive with sound, then it seems we should be just as interested in sounds they find distinctive from elsewhere (and in a very real sense, we already are, with our vocabulary of "influence" and "being influenced by" - we often do the uncovering for popular artists, though, who either don't know directly who they're being influenced by, or don't want to admit it openly, because that kind of talk leads to assessments of unoriginality).

Now I'm thinking in particular of Miles Davis' comments in his autobiography, about what he wanted to achieve on various recordings. He was very disappointed that he wasn't able to capture some sort of African thumb-piano effect on Kind of Blue, which most people took no notice of at all. And on Bitches Brew and then some of the 80s recordings he was very much emulating an approach to arrangement and voicing that he picked up from Gil Evans, on their ca. late 50s collaborations like Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess. Knowing stuff like this is helpful, I think, because of the new ways it gives us to focus our attention on music, on different aspects of it. Intentional fallacy be damned here.

1:21 AM
So I had one of my infrequent encounters with chart pop tonight while dining, and I heard a song that lifted basically all of its backing melody from a piece of classical music. Which, I wasn't sure. Whenever I reconstructed it in my head, up to the point where I can't remember the melody any more in the symphony, it was a very heavy-sounding piece of music. So I thought I'd check Beethoven's 7th when I got home, because I figured if it wasn't the 5th, but I still recognized it this much, it must be the 7th (a performance of which immediately follows my Carlos Kleiber 5th, which means it's by default the Beethoven symphony I hear second-most often). But when I got home and finally remembered to check my CDs (which is good, because right at that moment I started forgetting the melody I had been remembering all night), I went for Mendelssohn's "Scottish" symphony first, on the hunch that maybe the melody was a lot lighter than I was making it out to be in my head. I scanned through the parts that have the appropriate tempos (at least, according to the section titles), with no luck, but hearing the Mendelssohn made me realize that the music I was looking for was Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550. And sure enough, that's what it was. I bet Mr. Cranky Pants is feeling pretty goddamned smug right about now.

I still don't know what the pop song was, though.

March 11, 2001

11:52 PM
And now it's over. I'm not sure how pleased I am with the results of this last run here. The idea was to get a better impression of the way that the transitions and pace of the album play an important role in how I hear it. But I've attempted things like this writing-while-listening bit before, and I don't think this came out any differently, which leads to the question: is there really anything different about the pacing etc. of 69 Love Songs, compared to any other album? Certainly the pace helps it survive a large number of tracks that many listeners might not welcome for too long.

11:49 PM

The sense of time I get from this makes me realize that though on some of the album, Merritt's approaches at the topic of love seem perfectly contemporary, a lot of them, because they're rooted in particular pop styles or forms, particularly pre-rock ones, seem inadequate to me for describing love for me, today.

11:47 PM
"Xylophone Track"

I believe I've commented sometime in the past about how tied the blues are to black English. Merritt sounds just slightly too careful here, but sung by someone else this could be really really good

11:45 PM
"Strange Eyes"

Claudia Gonson becomes a cyber-diva?!?

(Or is it Shirley Simms? Can't tell.)

Can't tell what the lyrical premise is supposed to be, except that the eyes are strange and oh god she is still in love with you.

11:44 PM
"For We Are The King of the Boudoir"

LD's voice actually sounds appropriate to me here, which speaks volumes as to why I don't like his voice, because I don't like this style in particular.

Mercifully short.

11:41 PM
"The Night You Can't Remember"

What's this I hear? The beginnings of a narrative?

Narrator singing to a service member (lives in garrison); they flew to Paris in an army jet and got married. Merritt voices the part of a Rockette. Officer can't remember the wedding, though. Rockette is pregnant.

Well, that was not the amount of resolution I was expecting.

11:38 PM
"How To Say Goodbye"

"you can't open your mouth without telling a lie" reminds me of Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, which coincidentally I reread tonight.

The tom parts seem a little backward from my expectations, because often when drums sounds like that it's in a more transitional places in a song, whereas here that's the primary rhythm, which gives way to a different one in some transitional spots.

I find myself longing for disc 2.

11:37 PM
"Two Kinds of People"

One thing this faster movement through the songs should indicate is that I really need more time to focus on lyrics. In that respect this replicates my usual listening experience much more, aside from what comes with repeated listening.

Shit, this is short. Stop the boat!

11:34 PM
"I Can't Touch You Anymore"

I couldn't tell you the last time I heard a Pet Shop Boys song but I wonder if this doesn't resemble one, just on the basis of what people say about them.

Kind of an ominous "In My Car" thing going on. Also more spaces for instrumental interludes a la Holiday also more importantly a la pop songwriting which followed the rock tradition, which separates it from many songs on this album.

11:31 PM
"Blue You"

Indie-pop simulacrum of what seems like it could easily be one of those grand, sweeping-strings, muted-trumpets Barry-esque 60s pop numbers, which reminds me that my Goldfrapp album should be in this week. And there's even whistling here, ha. But this never really swells up in just that way, disappointingly.

11:29 PM
"Queen of the Savages"

Tom likes this song, I think. I do too. It's quaint. For all the talk of "Boudoir" being a Gilbert and Sullivan ripoff, I don't think this would be entirely out of place in something of that era, what with its caricatures of the "savages" etc.

Kind of meanders on at the end, there. Perhaps uncharacteristically so for this album.

11:27 PM
"Love is Like a Bottle of Gin"

Probably this is subject to the same questions as the similes in "Love is Like Jazz", but I don't have anything, really, invested in my idea of bottles of gin, so I find it difficult to care, ultimately, whether or not he's being truthful here.

Bold claim that being like something is not a symmetric relation.

11:25 PM

People often complain about the overintellectualization of music the perceive critics or writers about music as engaging in. "How can you spend all that time thinking," they say, "when you're supposed to be listening to the music?" Well, for one thing, you do a lot of the thinking when you're not listening. Otherwise you really have trouble paying attention, like I am now.

11:25 PM
"Experimental Music Love"

Trite, but still more true to its genre experiment than most of the other ones (i.e. "Punk Love").

"Yeah! Oh, yeah!"

Oh please help me stop thinking of the Kool-Aid Man.

Parallels to Spiritualized's "I Think I'm In Love" in the call-and-response.

One thing Holiday has made me notice, besides the greater number of hallway-production songs (yes, that's right, I just can't get over them), the songwriting itself seems to have undergone a major change. Oops next song.

11:20 PM
"Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget"

Seems as if this would sound more rollicking if done more authentically (i.e. for one, no hallway-values production, and for two, less mannered singing). And I am left wondering about "heck".

11:17 PM
"Bitter Tears"

It seems that half the time my dislike of LD's voice is exacerbated by the production, which deliberately forces it into more and more unpleasant (to me) places. For some reason he reminds me of people I used to sit by in church, as a kid, who weren't really super great singers but would try to sound more deliberately "pretty" when singing hymns, a thing which was not truly within their grasp.

Having recently picked up Holiday to do a little bit of comparison, I can definitely say that I prefer Merritt's synth-laden arrangements to the ukelele-etc-recorded-in-a-hallway arrangements.

Shit even the ones I don't like go by fast.

11:12 PM
"Love in the Shadows"

Prompted by a statement Glenn made to me about the relentless pace of the album seeming integral to his experience, I have decided to force the issue and do the remainder of my entires for the third disc Sterling-Clover stream-of-consciousness style.

So, here we go.

Sounds like some lo-fi Tortoise knockoffs that I endured in a coffeeshop tonight. And then when the lyrics come in it sounds like Tom Waits leavings, at least initially.

Possible interpretation: "love in the shadows is the only kind" could be asserted more broadly to be true if you take it to discount the kinds of displays of love we might usually take to be public, as not actually being love.

Either way, has interesting consequences for the problem of being gay and trying to be an otherwise normal member of society (dating, going places with mates in public, etc.).

March 07, 2001

1:27 AM
"The Death of
Ferdinand De Saussure"

At times I'm a little annoyed at Merritt's Compulsive Rhyming Disorder, but here it seems to work to his benefit - the whole verse that starts (ha ha) "I'm just a great composer" is really impressive, maybe because the rhymes seem more drawn-out (partly because of the interlocking lines, partly because of the slower tempo).

I am kind of interested in whether he actually says "anamnesis," but I don't have my lyrics sheet with me right now. Oh well.

This may be interesting, but it looks awful complicated at the moment considering the pile of things I have to do.

1:05 AM
"Acoustic Guitar"

We have already established that I love anything Claudia Gonson sings on. So, with that out of the way.

12:55 AM
"I'm Sorry I Love You"

At first it just sounds sort of country slash westernish to me, but on closer inspection the drums take on some kind of tribal thing partway in, and the "rhythm" guitar parts sound like maybe some discarded Sonic Youth solos.

The lyrics would definitely fit different melodies and vocal styles easily (i.e. less honk, or tonk, whichever of the two predominates).

It occurred to me listening to this a few times, wondering what I would say about it (I really just wanted to get back to songs I liked, though now that I've discovered the above this song is much more interesting to me), that maybe listening to this album is kind of like listening to my radio show. A while back Tom and I were listening to Maura do a show on WPRB, whose music programming philosophy contains some BS about how the reason they play mostly indie rock is that it's more aesthetically pleasing than those crazy college stations that jump from Cat Power to Beltram to Cannibal Corpse to 2 Live Crew because such a format is just too damn jumpy and garbled and confusing. I am decidedly against such thinking, but listening to 69 Love Songs I think I am perhaps getting a bit of the same sensation. And there isn't even a "Rap Love" on here (thank god).

That doesn't make me waver in my preference for genre promiscuity (among DJs, at least - like heroin it's something that few musicians should become involved with), though.

March 06, 2001

5:07 PM
"Busby Berkeley Dreams"

I must admit I was disappointed to learn that Busby Berkeley is a person and not a place (say, a neighborhood in Berkeley). It just seems more appropriate to me that a love song be tied to memories of a specific place, especially one now gone.

This of course does not mean it's not a pretty song.

The "good/could/wood" rhyme gets a little too much. Probably because the usual materials one can be made of, linguistically, are stone and ice. Rather than saying one is "made of wood," one usually says that one is "wooden," so this sounds a little awakward. Kind of like when one uses 'one' a lot.

4:41 PM
"It's a Crime"

Interesting how some words, like "jellyfish," make it very obvious that a couplet of some sort is coming up. But then it's slant rhymed with "this," which subverts expectations just slightly.

Often the western art song tradition (like, German leider and stuff) makes a big deal about having music and lyrics that are perfectly matched for one another. The music is supposed to follow the nuances of meaning in the lyrics, and the lyrics are supposed to be, well, good. Music like that is supposed to be somehow more inseparable from the lyrics. Sometimes I wonder about how that kind of thinking applies to Merritt's songs. With this one I'm torn - at times it really sounds like the bouncy rhythm (sort of doubled - a slower bounce and a faster bounce, up down up down) belongs with the lyrics and the melody, but at times it sounds as if these lyrics could go with any number of other arrangements and melodies.

4:21 PM

This one has clear similarities with "Fido, Your Leash is Too Long," as I noted in the entry for that song. But I think that more importantly it shares something with "A Pretty Girl is Like..." - check the line "if there's anything better in this world/who cares". The last bit is spoken with the intontation of a question, but a hypothetical question, so that Merritt is really saying, "no one." So it's the attitudes that are related. The pretty girl, the person in their underwear - they become all that is important. Nothing else matters. Who cares? Why would they?

The tone on the guitar adds a little raunch.

Incidentally, thanks to my upstairs neighbors my apartment has suffered some water damage and my phone does not work. I would say that this will mean a decrease in the frequency of Josh Blog updates, but then you would just laugh at me.

March 03, 2001

5:00 AM
"I Shatter"

Now, I like this, too, some, but once again because of his production values Merritt misses a major chance to bring some boom to indie pop. Have you ever been listening to a rock station on the radio, or something, maybe with the bass way up, then flipped it over to some kind of talk show? It lends impressive bass to the talkers' voices. Imagine Merritt's voice here, in that fashion. As is? Well, it's neat, but.

4:46 AM
"Abigail, Belle of Kilronan"

Oh look, one I like again. Primarily because of the woom-woom noise (Merritt's good at that), not the lyrics, aside from the fact that they repeat "Abigail" a lot, which makes for a pleasantly vague lyric to focus on (the junk about the war I could care less about). This is one true secret of writing successful love songs, I think. Just say a girl's name a lot. (Or guy if you are a girl. Or gay. Or girl if you are a lesbian. Etc. It's all good.) Saying "girl" a lot is also acceptable.

Does this whole thing seem a bit grim at times? It should. One aspect of this project that became very clear to me early on is the way in which the songs are forced on me. When I am normally listening, I can listen more or less, or even go to the bathroom or make some dinner or skip the song. Set with the task of writing an entry for each song, I am not allowed (cuz I said so) to avoid songs that I would normally let slip by.

I think there's some of this in much of what professional music reviewers do, especially the kind that don't simply get to contract out reviews of things they like to disparate publications. House (not the dance music) reviewers, I'm thinking. When writing about some music becomes unavoidable, the options seem to be: 1) get by on "craft" or apply some "standards" that you have, whether or not you should actually be applying them, or are applying them accurately, 2) trash it, 3) mediocrity. I guess what I am saying is, bring the love, yo. Which is why I don't think you should take my thoughts on some of the songs below very seriously, as I am very much of the opinion that until I've connected with something, until I really like it at least a bit, I don't assess it at all properly (fairly? uh... terminology bad).

Note how I didn't specify if I was talking about the album or the blog entries.

4:44 AM
"The Way You Say Good-Night"

I don't like the way LD holds his notes. They all sound too careful.

4:39 AM
"The Sun Goes Down and the Moon Goes Dancing"

Listening to this in quick succession with the previous songs I realize that maybe one thing that makes the end of this disc annoying for me is that a bunch of the songs sound alike, in terms of arrangements. These last three have a very typical tinny-ukelele MF sound, and Merritt is singing higher and higher, too. I like my indie production OK, depending, but like Tigra and Bunny I like the boom, too, and let me tell you, there is no boom to be found here.

"I can't imagine why but I feel like dancing." Probably not because you're listening to this.

4:35 AM
"Asleep and Dreaming"

If only this sounded like "The Cars That Go Boom". I have never even heard "The Cars That Go Boom", but I am sure I would like it better than this, reportedly inspired by "The Cars That Go Boom". Yawn, Stephin Merritt. Yawn. Stay closer to your sources of inspiration.

3:44 AM
"Epitaph for My Heart"

So. We reach the dark innards of the album. Dark innards because this run of songs here very much does not interest me in any major way. It's been interesting, in the course of this project, to see what people who link to josh blog during it say about the project. There's been some talk of the value of this kind of song-by-song approach - it's seen as either a waste of time, or perhaps simply unwarranted because not all of the songs are good enough to deserve separate treatment. And obviously, I agree - the next few songs are, for me, boring and mostly undistinguished. I've already mentioned my dislike for some of the songs, and I've written a lot or a little on songs for different reasons (sometimes, just because it was enough; sometimes, because I couldn't think of anything else). But this wouldn't be Josh Blog if it didn't get a little meta. I never undertook this sequence of entries simply to write a "review" of each track, which is the kind of language that many people pointing to the blog lately have been using. That would be something more appropriate for an extremely devoted fan (which I am not), or an academic performing an extensive critical study (which I am also not, currently).

What's the deal, then? Doing one entry for each song is a formal device which forces my attention onto the experience of listening to this album as a sprawling, stylistically diverse collection of music. Though it comes on three discs, and need not be listened to all in sequence (which I am not doing - I've been listening to a lot more lately than just this, otherwise I would go insane and hunt down Stephin Merritt and give him a prefrontal lobotomy with a Casio keyboard. And I would rhyme while I did it too.), the sheer volume of songs, which is made explicit in the title, should reasonably result in a different sort of reaction from many listeners than would be expected from some other multiple-albums. Something like The Beatles, or Double Nickels on the Dime, or I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, the scope here foregrounds negative critical reactions. I think the effect is even more pronounced here, though, because it was more intentionally made to be pronounced. Often critics of the album say something like "there are only a few good songs on each disc, anyway, only enough for one album". Though I'm sure there's some agreement on which songs those are supposed to be (as Tom said to me, the ones "with a proper songish structure that last a healthy three minutes"), I bet there's also quite a bit of divergence. I've received mail from readers who have liked quite different songs from me, and who interpret many of them differently than I do. To me, this makes it even easier to see the album as a whole as a kind of palimpsest. Look, I used the word "palimpsest" in a sentence. If I can get me a rhyme going I'll be Stephin Fucking Merritt in no time.

Anyway. The song. Remember? "Epitaph for My Heart"? Yeah, that one. I noted with interest a brief mention in Tom's Dan Rhodes interview recently, because Rhodes referred to Merritt's attitude toward his songs. I think this idea about the songs having "a right to be" is very helpful, because it makes more understandable why the album might have, for example, a song like "Roses". I've had this experience myself, mostly doing the kind of writing that other people never see. They don't see it because it's the sort where I get down a phrase or a paragraph, and then nothing more - I can't get it to work any more. Those words stick around, though, and I always go back to them and try to use them somewhere, even if they end up fitting in all by themselves (which is not really fitting in, exactly).

Such is the attitude with which I regard the beginning "madrigal" section of this song, which, as Merritt says in the notes, he had lying around for 10 years, having found himself unable to turn it into anything more. So he wrote another songlet and tacked it on to the older one. The latter part has a vaguely Johnny Cash-esque swagger to it, but we're talking vaguely vaguely. As is to be expected, the parts don't really fit together, except that the first part is an epitaph and the second part talks about "this" (the first part) being the epitaph for our lonely narrator's heart.

to February 2001
josh blog

old blog
jazz review project
old notes

mail josh

feed me



bleeding ears
catherine's pita
dancing architecture
dj martian
eyes see dark
freaky trigger
free jazz
i hate music
in review
loafer's discourse
pearls his eyes
pop shots
vain, selfish, lazy


classical net
european free improv
klezmer shack