Sunday, November 15, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – Get Your Money’s Worth

jukebox Real-world jukeboxes still hold an immense amount of novelty to me.  Nine times out of ten, the job of choosing music for a large group of people falls to an actual paid DJ or That Guy At The Party Who Won’t Put Down Your iPod.  But when I’m at a bar with a jukebox, a mere fifty cents means I can dictate the next three-to-five minutes of the patrons’ musical lives.  I could choose Daft Punk (as long as it’s not a crappy remix), or I could choose Journey (as long as I’m comfortable being that guy).  And if I’m lucky, they’ll have “Freebird” and I’ll really get my money’s worth.

Speaking of getting one’s money’s worth, Chris has been borrowing albums from the library, which is a great way to save cash while still hearing new stuff.  Boivin’s getting the most out of his Weezer fandom – including goofy merchandise.  And Jordasch is doing his best to stay hip, consuming as much jazz and indie rock as his ears can handle (hopefully not at the same time).

Get the most bang for your buck after the jump.

BoivinA Life Told In Wuggies

I think my life can best be described in phases relating to Weezer albums. My high school years were full of quirk and earnestness, poppy yet esoteric like the Blue Album. The ensuing years have been about growing up, having one's heart broken, disillusionment, and longing- kind of like Pinkerton. With the onset of my bachelor years, I feel a transition out of the mopey emo days of adolescence and into an optimistic, upbeat Green period of young adulthood. I suspect the rest of my life will become something akin to the latter days of Weezer's career, I'll put out about half an album's worth of good songs every other year or so and settle into a lucrative period of producing mostly mediocre power pop until the day I die, metaphorically of course.

If there was any justice in the world, I'd be listening to Weezer's latest album Raditude (big fan of "I Want You To", btw) as I type this, but unfortunately I ordered it off their official online store in an effort to secure a limited edition Weezer Snuggie (because I'm a whore for ludicrous pop culture artifacts and Weezer in general) only to find that demand was so high that they're having trouble keeping up  with orders. Now I can expect my album and accompanying "Wuggie" anytime between now and Christmas. Great. They gave me a free download of a bootlegged show of their most recent tour in Kansas City. It's approximately half new stuff (but mostly the good-ish new stuff, mainly the first singles from their more recent albums) and half old favorites, which is nice. There's also a "War Pigs" cover.

In the meantime, I'll have to occupy myself with listening to Brand New's newest album Daisy because the cover art reminds me of Antichrist.

Jordasch – Becoming an Elitist Douchebag and Other Stuff White People Like

Contrary to what Stuff White People Like says I'm like, I actually do like this jazz stuff.  What's wrong with enjoying the fact that some music makes you feel smart and sophisticated?  That I listen to "bad" country and "stupid" rap music should confirm that I don't need to feel/appear smart all the time.

My buddy gave me a fat stack of great jazz (Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Parker, and more Miles Davis than I could ever possibly listen to).  Coltrane's still my favorite (I just can't get past this A Love Supreme record; I'm scared other stuff will just disappoint me, although Blue Train is wonderful and easier).  I just bought the latter on Amazon 'cause it was cheap, along with Art Blakey's Moanin'.  Sarah Vaughan's Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown wasn't any cheaper, but it's sorta the crown jewel of vocal jazz records.  I'm a man who sings, but I can learn from a woman who sings.  I never drift far from Kurt Elling's Nightmoves, though.  Watch this live version of "The Waking" if you like stuff that's good.

Non-jazz?  Some of that indie crap.  It's the end of the year, and I want to feel hip.  So I've caught up on the most recent Grizzly Bear (which I slept on when it came out except for that version of "While You Wait for the Others" with Michael McDonald, which is the weirdest/best thing of the year).  And I've nearly burned myself out on the xx's first record, which I listen to way too much.  The sorta-angular post-punk thing led me back to The Strokes and Is This It, a record that played a huge part of me becoming an elitist douchebag.  That plus the Magnetic Fields and Van Halen, which I listen to in the shower.

Chris – Kraftwerkin’ for the Boss

I checked out two CDs this week from the wonderful riches of my public library. I've only been listening to the Ting Tings' We Started Nothing while driving in my car. It's pretty stupid music, not helped by the fact that the lead singer has quite the irritating voice. Still, there's something undeniably catchy about the rhythm and drive of some of the songs, especially "That's Not My Name". File this one under "guilty pleasures".

The other CD I checked out was Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. My only experience with the Boss previously had been his earlier stuff, where he plays with the E Street Band and 18 backing electric guitars and a glockenspiel and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. If the 1970s version of Bruce was singing wall-of-sound rock ballads about escaping New Jersey on a motorcycle, then Nebraska is the more mature 1980s sequel to that singer. The E Street Band is gone, and all the songs are simply Bruce and an acoustic guitar, which somehow makes the tracks that much more powerful. It's more haunting, more somber, with none of the promises of redemption that marked his earlier work, and the perfect album for a gray November day.

The remastered Kraftwerk boxset I ordered from is somewhere between the nation of Germany and my apartment. In preparation for its arrival, I've been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk. Their live album Minimum-Maximum is surprisingly energetic for a band that basically pretends to be robots. And I've been listening to bootleg editions of their first three albums that have never seen an actual CD release. There's not a synthesizer in sight, and it's interesting to listen to the band experiment with atonal sounds and strange percussion instruments before they turned to straight electronica.

Finally, the music that has really captivated me recently is something slightly outside the scope of the blog, but I can't help but bring it up. In 1948, the aging composer Richard Strauss wrote four songs for soprano and orchestra, now known as the Four Last Songs. Strauss was 84 years old. By that age he had been written off, considered irrelevant.  He was an old man forced to watch his country slip into violence, warfare, totalitarianism and destruction. The songs reflect this sadness. Melodically captivating, they are filled with mixed emotions of hope and loss that give the piece an almost contradictory aura. Strauss' time had long past, and he knew it, and the songs give a perfect picture of an old man in a new era that no longer has a place for him or his old-fashioned Romanticism. They are at once both a harbinger of modernity and a lament to what has been left behind.