Monday, February 15, 2010

Writer’s Jukebox – SnowTubing on the Commons

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE The Winter Olympics have started, and you know what that means! 

Nothing.  Except, I guess, tragedy.  And triumph.  But that’s neither here nor there.  It’s time for some music.

Since I filled in for Gene last week, he takes on a tour of his music video-watching habits this time around.  Andrew, seemingly taking offense that I asked him to contribute to a blog he helps run, took a nosedive into the Creative Commons library.  Rob spent the last week covered in three feet of snow.  How he found music, I don’t know. 

GeneA Stranglehold on YouTube

I've been keeping myself distracted with the abundance of music videos and performances from The Stranglers on YouTube.  The Stranglers were a British band that emerged from the punk scene in the late 70s and defied the odds by staying active until the present day.  They've always been pretty popular in the UK, but their legacy in the US is restricted to a couple spots on movie soundtracks, most notably "Golden Brown" in Snatch and "Peaches" in Sexy Beast.  It's kind of a shame too, considering how prolific they were as musicians.  Perhaps their being labeled misogynists didn't help, and "Peaches" would be exhibit A in the case against them.  Their crassness encompassed more than just misogyny, though: they operated with the same irreverence that was Spizz's signature.  The Stranglers drifted between pub rock, like the 101ers, bizarre psychedelia and glam rock, often finding a compelling mixture of a lot of different influences.  Their music videos are rather consistently entertaining as well.

"Get a Grip on Yourself"
"Duchess"
"No More Heroes"
"Peaches"
"Rok-It to the Moon"
"Nice 'N' Sleazy"

AndrewCreatively Plumbing the Creative Commons

So Craig tells me it's my turn to write one of these again - I'm not counting, so he could be right, but he could also just be pushing me to change what I listen to more often than I would otherwise care to. I'M ON TO YOU.

This week I'm actually going to talk about some stuff that you could go out and download legally if you wanted to, though it's not without its problems - I'm talking, of course, about Creative Commons music.

The first artist, Slim, has this album called Interstate Medicine that's not a bad listen, especially if you're into bands with a borderline obsession with Spain and Spain's conquests. The opening track, "Cortez & Pizarro", is by far the best, with its solid guitar riff and its silly lyrics about conquistadors. The best of the rest is above-average alternative-style rock, as is the case with "Heathrow" and "Curandera", but the other songs are little better than blandly entertaining, the lead singer's at times tuneless melodies sitting flatly on top of uninteresting chord progressions and arrangements.

The second artist is Julandrew, a portmanteau of the names Julie and Andrew. Clever, guys. Most of it is lo-fi acoustic stuff, often utilizing just an acoustic guitar and a drums and some vocals. It's got a fun, poppy vibe, vaguely reminiscent of old Liz Phair stuff. It's also sort of like that bullshit from the Juno soundtrack except it's marginally less cloying. Highlights are "Crazy As", "World Keeps Turning", and "Oh Wo Wo".

The problem with finding these rare gems among the Creative Commons catalog is that so much of the music is dogged by a persistent underlying mediocrity, stuff recorded by scrappy local bands that aren't bad if you have them playing in the background at your favorite drinking establishment, but doesn't quite hold up if you're listening to music for the sake of the music. Other stuff is recorded by college kids with a synthesizer and too much time on their hands. I'm happy to find good music no matter where I find it, but Creative Commons is sometimes a lot of time for not much reward.

Rob – Embedded with a Fleet of Foxes

Last week, the East Coast got slammed with a record amount of snowfall - two blizzards in one week. In the mid-Atlantic states, unprepared departments of transportation work with limited resources against the constant din of citizens shouting "Plow my back road! I'm a taxpayer, goddamnit!" Driving becomes a bumpy and nerve-wracking affair. What one listens to is simply whatever was last in the CD player.

I got lucky: I spent last week listening to the Fleet Foxes' eponymous debut album, about as perfect as they come. The album cover is a detail from a Breugel painting - perfect for the warm, earth-hewn tunes. Singer Robin Pecknold's voice is wonderfully elastic, never seeming to strain, and wise beyond its years; more than one song, including standouts "He Doesn't Know Why" and "Blue Ridge Mountains" address a wayward friend, tired and weary-souled. The Foxes' humane but intricate guitar arrangements were a welcome mind-balm to the jarring, swerving and generally fatalistic ordeal of driving on barely-plowed roads. Soundtrack for a snow-in.