Monday, October 19, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – Inaugural Edition

So. Old. School. Welcome to the Charge Shot!!! Writer’s Jukebox.  Each week (hopefully!), a few members of our staff will weigh in on what they’ve been listening to lately.  It should be an opportunity for you, the reader, to discuss with us, the writers, about what music is or isn’t worth your time.  It’s kind of like a “What’s on your iPod?” feature – just without the corporate endorsement.

I’ve asked Andrew and Rob to accompany me on our first foray into group feature territory.  Despite our seeming solidarity, even I’m surprised by the variety on display.  A little bit of The Beatles, a little bit of indie music, and perhaps a splash of prog rock.  It’s like a cornucopia of young white male sensibilities. 

Andrew – “…forty years of more dissonant and more emotional and more scream-y music have rendered it downright accessible...”

I'm just coming off of a heavy Beatles kick, but since I can't quit "Cold Turkey" (so to speak) I am letting myself down easy with some music from its members' early solo careers. John Lennon's 1970 Plastic Ono Band is a particularly rewarding listen, though Beatles fans probably found it small comfort in the wake of the band's dissolution. While forty years of more dissonant and more emotional and more scream-y music have rendered it downright accessible to modern ears, at the time its stripped-down production and primal scream therapy-induced lyrics were hard pills to swallow. "Mother," "Working Class Hero," "Love," and "God" are all standouts.

Fast forward to the present, and I'm listening to Air's latest album Love 2. Air has always specialized in mood music with poppy leanings, and while not every track is a winner Love 2 has its share of good stuff. "Love" entertains with its brisk beat and its excellent bassline, while "Be a Bee" is predictably buzzy and ridiculous. This is good music to have on while you're writing. And yes, I know I recommended two songs called "Love" from two different artists. What are you going to do about it.

Rob - “If this doesn’t shake your bones, shame on you.”

I recently stumbled upon a great recording of a Bon Iver concert at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Fronted by Justin Vernon, a wooly, heartbroken troubadour chronically dressed in flannel, the group played most of the songs from debut LP For Emma, Forever Ago, a few from the EP Blood Bank, and even a sleepy, sentimental cover of Outfield’s “Your Love.”

Emma covers the folksier side of love and regret – softly swooning, sweetly remorseful. But one track cuts to the bone: “The Wolves (Act I and II).” Forget the dramatic pretense – “Wolves” is striking at first for its negative space, empty like a dark woods, which gradually fills in with a repeated chorus of “What might have been lost / don’t bother me.” The solitude of grief builds towards catharsis with almost primal abandon. I’m trying not to hyperbolize, but it’s hard.

“You need to send this one out,” Vernon tells the crowd, asking them to sing along. “This one has its own entity, and you need to send this one out with some force.”

It kicks off at 52:50. If this doesn’t shake your bones, shame on you.

Craig -It wasn’t until I clicked Buy in the iTunes store that I realized I actually liked it.” 

In our current age of irony, I don’t why I’m surprised that the first song that came to mind was “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.  This is a song I originally blared on the radio simply for pleasure of cynically shouting along with its heart-on-its-sleeve-earnest chorus.  It wasn’t until I clicked Buy in the iTunes store that I realized I actually liked it.  Maybe it’s the straining vocals, maybe it’s the feeling of restlessness in the rhythm.  Maybe I just enjoy their arena-rock take on the mushiest of emotions.

I’m also digging on the new single from the British alt-rock trio Muse.  “Uprising” has a high-pitched guitar riff that reminds me of the hook from that Blondie song “Call Me,” which is what initially caught my ear.  What keeps bringing me back is the chorus.  Matthew Bellamy’s voice is by no means pristine, but his clever use of vibrato and of his upper register helps it cut through the dense guitar.  And I’m impressed by how he makes words like “degrading” and “victorious” lyrical and singable.  The whole enterprise is heavy, as far as rock goes, but its groove and melody appeals to the part of me that isn’t interested in headbanging my way into a neck brace.

I’m also impressed that I first heard both of these songs on the radio.  You know, that box in your car that gets music for free from the sky.  Someone should patent that thing.

Be sure to tune in next week.  There’s a chance we’ll talk about Kanye!