If you haven’t all by now downloaded Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, I highly recommend you do so. You can find it on Radiohead’s web site and download it for as much or as little money as you think it’s worth. Admittedly I gave all of two British pounds, which comes to about $5. It’s worth far more than that.
Jerod may even be playing with Radiohead by now, so listen for his distinctive wailing synthesizers on continual loop.
I also highly recommend a newish album by a band called Okkerville River. Very good, tuney stuff.
Jen and I went to see Wilco last week here in Minneapolis, and they put on a really great show. As mellow as their latest album is, the live show was completely loud. Jen’s and my first real date was going to Wilco at the Walker Sculpture Garden, so it was nice to go home again. The opening act was an interesting multi-instrumentalist named Andrew Bird who builds songs live on stage by playing various instruments and looping them over each other. He also whistles a lot, and he’s a damn impressive whistler. Very entertaining and interesting show.
The peak of the fall is already past its heights up here. Jen and I will be raking up damp leaves a lot of the weekend, and trying to find whatever glory can be found in that and scooping out raingutters.
We downloaded it the first day but I’ve had little time to listen to it and no way a taking it with my as my iPod was stolen recently. Still sounds good so far. Radiohead always take some digesting. I’ve been revisiting The Bends lately. Also an amazing album.
Liz and I have seen quite a bit of music lately. As you may have gathered from the “Jerod” post we went to Austin City Limits Festival this year but only for one day. Highlights were Bjork, LCD Sound System, MIA, and I have to admit it was pretty cool to see Crowed House. We also Peter Bjorn and John but they were kind of disappointing compared to everyone else we saw. They’re album is much better than their live show. Maybe they were just overheated. They didn’t wear their customary “yackets.”
Then a week or two later we saw Interpol at Stubbs (a locally famous venue that started out and still is a BBQ joint). I have to say the Interpol was amazing. Very tight and very, very cool. Probably the coolest band I’ve ever seen.
J.E.–Sorry to hear about your IPod: that’s terrible news. I hope it somehow turns up.
Radiohead does need some digesting, but In Rainbows is definitely very listenable and pretty immediate, in my opinion. Maybe as much or more so than The Bends. There seems to be a split in terms of immediate listenability, so to speak, that happens with Radiohead at Kid A. You’re either on one side of Kid A or the other.
You and Liz are hipsters. Very cool about all the good acts you’ve seen recently. I’m especially jealous you’ve seen Interpol. And also Bjork–interesting that she came to do the Austin City Limits Festival. Does Interpol have a new album that they are touring for?
J.E., Ned, and I seem to be the only ones out here these days. I can hear the echo as I type this…
Eh, Radiohead. Yeah, they’re good and I’m sure I’ll listen to the new album, but my nonconformity sensor kicks on when every kid in my studio classes is listening to something. It’s hard for me to get excited about something when everyone is so excited about it for you, including high school kids at your church. The whole download for your own price seems a bit gimmicky when they’re already millionaires who make most of their money from live performances. But I guess it still has its virtues, though I understand other lesser known bands have done this before.
Ironically, I have been listening to Andrew Bird and Okkervill River too. Thanks to Toby who posted those artists months ago. He’s way ahead of the curve in that arena. I really like some of the Andrew Bird stuff, lines like, “Do you ever wonder where the soul resides? Is it in the hands or in the side? And who will be the one to finally decide…” and “We’ll fight, we’ll fight for your music halls and dying cities…” Fun stuff.
I’ve had a tough semester so far. Really busy. Good to see some entries though. It’s like a shot of sun under all these clouds.
We are definitely not hipsters but it is fun to hang out with them occasionally. As far as this side or the other of Kid A, I guess I’m in the middle. I’ve listened to Kid A more than any other album. And yes Interpol has a new album and it is excellent. I guess I’d have to thank you for introducing me to Interpol on the mix CD years ago. Before that I just, I though it was one of those bands with undeserved hype. I just happen to think it deserves the hype.
But there are plenty of alt-cool super hyped bands that I have just never been able to appreciate. Wilco comes to mind. I don’t think any less of those who like Wilco (Shotts I know you are a fan). Sometimes I think I just don’t care (or understand) enough about music to appreciate some bands. My taste does tend toward the sound I haven’t heard before. Perhaps Wilco just isn’t artsy or “high concept” or abrasive enough for me.
I, for one, still find Radiohead to be meaningful and interesting, despite the hype. For bands that have been around in a significant way for more than, say, eight years, part of what’s interesting is to see how they still manage to be relevant and interesting. So I continue to find Radiohead fascinating, regardless of how many people are or are not listening to them, downloading the new album, seeing the live show, and so on. I agree with J.E. about Kid A–one of the best albums of the last decade, to be sure, and I like what Radiohead have done on either side of that album, though I would definitely lean to OK Computer over, say, Amnesiac.
J.E., I’m glad to have the word on Interpol and the new album. I will look for that. I think they’re a terrific band, and great to see them excelling at the third-album stage. That bodes well.
And Wilco, they’re one of the best bands you never hear on the radio, and have been for quite a while. i like watching their development, from an alt country outfit to a rock and roll band to an experimental and jazz-inflected, seventies pop band. I think of them as very high concept, actually, particularly since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost Is Born, and now the new album, Sky Blue Sky. That they have become high concept and maintained a distinctly American sound seems important and interesting to me.
It’s funny to talk about Radiohead, Interpol, Wilco, and such bands as being over-hyped. Virtually none of them are on the radio in any real mainstream way–only on college and pretty alternative stations and maybe an occasional NPR kind of feature. But all of these bands are extremely alternative to mainstream pop. Radiohead may be the largest cult band currently, in this regard. But mention them to your average radio listener, and chances are they haven’t heard of them. Definitely true for Interpol or Wilco or Okkerville River. I guess I’m always just excited when such bands get any kind of real attention in our culture, and so I welcome whatever “hype” comes their way–because it’s usually short-lived, and then it’s back to business as usual.
You are absolutely right about the hype being in such a small subset of the culture. I feel the same way — a band has really “made it” when they get a feature on NPR. But there will always be some who can value an artist only when they and a few of their friends know about them. I remember there was a lot of grousing about the last Modest Mouse album and how they had “sold out” which is to say they had become successful and more then just the uber-in-crowd knew about them. Very strange times we live in.
As far as Wilco part of the reason that I may not appreciate them as much as I should is that I hear them all the effing time on the radio. This was especially when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out. I’ve been thinking about this since my last comment and I think that their style of music is just to nice for me. There is just not enough “edge” or perhaps what edge they have is too subtle for me.
Also, I would likewise lean to OK Computer over Amnesiac.
This is all good conversation and I agree that Radiohead and Wilco are good bands. I don’t agree that the “average radio listener” has not heard of Radiohead, as virtually all of the highschool kids I come into contact with and certainly all of the college kids have heard of them. It might be tempting to say that I teach in an art department, but I get plenty of mainstream – Faith Hill listening- kids in my classes. They still have heard of Radionhead. I think commercial radio is much less important than it once was and is, unfortunately, listened to people who can’t afford ipods.
Perhaps to push this conversation one step further, I would ask why all of us, most of the college kids I know, and most of the highschool kids I know listen almost exclusively to what could be referred to as popular music. No world music, no folk music, no classical, no real jazz. Certainly this lacks a certain contextual perspective. Kids seem to get excited when an album they like is “jazzy” or has interesting string arrangements, but ask them to listen to an entire symphony and they check out or an entire John Coltrane arrangement?
This, I think, relates directly to the comment Jeff made about bands that last more than 10 or 20 years. So much music that gets passed around at the U is about “putting on a social unifrom”. A lot of it is real crap as far as I’m concerned. Whether this means associating yourself with certain politics, attitudes, or social circles, it’s still about letting people know “who you are” in a way. That is why so many bands don’t last long and the flash-in-the-pan continues. People who listen to music these days don’t want substance, they want a fix. Perhaps more simply put, they want to be “FIRST”. I am as guilty as anyone on this front relishing that moment when a friend says, “Thanks for that cd. That’s really good stuff.” But chances are, it’s not. I know it has taken me hours and hours of listening to appreciate what some composers have done technically and conceptually. I just don’t think we usually listen to music for all it’s worth.
One good thing about this music revolution is that it allows people like me, who still actually buy albums out of ethical beliefs, to sample something and then either discard it or buy it. I can be a more careful shopper. I’m with J.E. on not being a hipster, but I guess I think sometimes that non-hipsters have quite a lot to say.
Overheard on the radio Saturday:
I say this just to express my attempts â€” after having gone through a period where wide acceptance of an album equalled instant acceptance and then a period where it equalled rejection â€” my attempts to make popularity, marketing, endorsement, etc. of an album a null point in the music that brings joy, wonder, or a new revelation (or an old idea new). The true measuring stick of an album’s success is what it does in my soul.
This, as I said, is an attempt…we don’t live in a vaccuum of culture, but I’m trying to be as honest as I can in what I enjoy nonetheless 🙂
I want to continue this conversation, as it is interesting and as we haven’t had a true back and forth on this site for many moons.
Toby’s larger comments are right: we should discard our armor and let the measuring stick be how a song or album or band or composer moves us (or not). It is good that we have so many choices and so many venues by which to find music–the difficulty sometimes is finding the good stuff, or the stuff that moves us in particular. So, speaking for myself at least, I listen a lot to what friends are suggesting, which means the social sphere almost HAS to be part of the transaction. But I have had plenty of friendly recommendations made where, in the end, I don’t like the music much. It doesn’t move me, in the way Toby is talking about.
I may be wrong here, but it seems to me music used to be less fragmented. I think of the way people listened to classic popular music like The Beatles–practically everyone knew them or at least knew who they were, that music was on the radio, TV, etc. There was a huge public conversation around that music. I admit I admire the situation where it felt like, pro or con or in the middle, there was a large-scale conversation around an important new and inovative sound. With our current fragmentation and increase of choices, that kind of conversation feels hard to come by.
I’m not saying that popularity equals quality, but like Toby, I’ve gone through moments of acceptance of a particular band because of popular appeal. It may just be that I wanted to be part of that conversation. But I make do with more, smaller conversations about Radiohead, Wilco, Modest Mouse, and so on.
Ned brings up the point about lack of diversity of kinds of music. It’s a very good point. I think that has to do with the fact that we’re given so many choices within the fragmentation of the music conversation, that we’re in some ways moved to pick and choose a “kind” and stick with it. Jen and I listen to jazz quite a bit, though it’s more classic twentieth century jazz–Coltrane, Billie Holliday, Mingus, Johnny Hartman, Miles Davis–rather than the latest thing. But we mostly gravitate to alternative rock and pop, because that’s the conversation we mostly find ourselves in with our friends and peers.
I agree that there are those who feel they have to only like the latest, small, insiders-only thing. Frankly, they lose out almost entirely on being part of a conversation. Their goal is to pretend they’ve started the conversation but they leave it once someone else starts talking. Their loss. They only put on the “social uniform” that Ned talks about, except it isn’t ultimately that social at all.
Obviously I don’t know if the average person has heard of Radiohead. I think all of this now is all such a subset of the population, such that I suspect that a lot, even most people don’t know Radiohead. Why should they? They’re rarely played on radio stations, they don’t tour a lot or especially extensively, and their music is frequently dissonant and jagged. The biggest press they’ve received is over the fact that their new album is only available via download–which has nothing to do with the music at all.
As for Wilco, J.E., fair enough. I think if you were to hear them live, they would not feel perhaps so “nice.” At the live show, their edge was apparent: I almost wanted it to be more subtle. They have a dissonance around the edges of songs that outwardly appear to be traditional pop structure–in the way that, say, Beck’s Sea Change does. And I like that Wilco continues a line from Depression-era country to Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan–keeping a political character alive in songful tunes that make it palatable, while letting in influences from jazz, seventies rock, and even techno. I’m always interested in where they’re going next. But I doubt any of this will convince you, J.E. We’re just not in this same conversation, perhaps.
Incidentally–Beck’s Sea Change: perhaps still the best album of the decade. Certainly one of them.
On the other hand, now that I’ve written the above–while I extoll some of the virtues of a large-scale popular conversation around a particular music, I too recognize ways that popularity “kills” certain musical acts. One that comes to mind is Coldplay. I really love their first two albums, in particular, and got A Rush of Blood to the Head in its first couple of weeks of release, saw them on tour in a smaller venue–but once that album was played incessantly on both alternative and mainstream radio, they started doing stadium tours, and it seemed everyone had heard them, I started losing some interest. I bought their next album, and like it, but nowhere close to where I was with them before they got huge, before Chris Martin was dating and having a child with Gwyneth Paltrow, etc.
So while I strive for some larger conversations about art and music and books, I admit that that larger conversation can sometimes feel dumbed down by the wide scale.
No, I don’t think we are in the same conversation. I laughed out loud when you mentioned Beck. He is a close second to Wilco on my list of critically acclaimed music that I just don’t care for. Could it be that we have slightly different taste in music?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this post over the last few days. I’ll have more to say when I’m not at work….
Glad to be having this discussion with all of you, it’s quite engaging. I found an article that I was going to post on its own, but think it butts up against the culture/marketing/popularity question Ned brought up and Jeff engages in his comment from this morning. Also, it references books and literature (which is constantly on Shotts’ mind, and maybe not-so-constantly on a lot of minds of the rest of the HM) and brings up some interesting challenges to idea that capitalism solves all problems.
It’s probably not an opinion carried around by most on the blog, but as a man raised in Regan-era capitalistic thrust against soulless Commies, the remnants of distrusting anything non-capitalistic cling to me. Anyway, the article presents some interesting ideas about how economic policy favors art (books, music, literature, etc.).
I’m hoping that posting this is like throwing dry kindling on the fire of this conversation 🙂 Here’s the link: http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/10/books_on_the_bo.html
As a man raised in the Regan-era capitialistic thrust against soulless Commies, I am now extremely suspicious of anything that is first and foremost Capitalistic, but especially when it comes under the guise of democracy. What we have in this country now is growing closer and closer to a feudal system, but instead of battering each other with catapults and crossbows, we wage our wars on the global market with another kind of ammunition that has been stored like too much grain in barns.
I, too, agree with Toby in that the movement of the soul should be the primary determining factor in our decisions regarding music. But I also know, that at least with myself, what I “expect” to move my soul rarely does as effectively as something I never saw coming or maybe even never wanted to try.
Ned–I’m not sure the comparison to the feudal system is exact, but I understand and agree with, to whatever extent, your suspicions. I’m curious, of course, what you would describe as an alternative.
Toby–Thanks for this article about German bookselling. Very interesting, and an interesting model–one that the U.S. is doubtful to adopt, unfortunately, because the superstores and online stores thrive on beating their competition by giving very deep discounts, gambling that they will make it up with sheer volume. Obviously, that gamble seems to pay off, but it’s at the cost of independent, bricks and mortar bookstores. But I think what the Germans are doing, at least from this article, seems really interesting.
And J.E.–Yes, it appears we have different tastes in music. I guess we’re partly in different conversations, at least as it pertains to Beck and Wilco. To quote a band that I do know we both like a lot, The Flaming Lips: “I don’t know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins, it’s all a mystery.”
Peters–Surely you have something to tell us.
Your challenge, Jeff, to suggest an alternative is a tall order, and I’m not going to compose a twenty page (50 page?) thesis and post it here, especially since I am not a economic expert, though I am willing to stick my nose in anything.
I think many of the problems I see have to do with free trade vs. fair trade, living more modestly, and being conscious of the fact that, though it probably provides countries with the most economic freedom, Capitalism encourages, by its very nature, accumulation or hording of wealth or even greed.
I would absolutely love more than any other discussion to get into this with all of you, because I think it is one of the most important issues that most of the people in this country are asleep on. It hasn’t even touched on their radar yet. When Republicans refer to “free trade”; what they really mean is “unfair trade”. But there are so many aspects to this that I can’t even begin to cover it all in a blog. Where will we find a politician who will tell the American people they need to consume less and live more modestly? I would like to get into this sometime when we are gathered together.
Kidder’s book would be a terrific entry into this discussion, as would Wright’s; even though I disagree with a few of Wright’s assumptions, I believe he is right in his fundamental assumption that we will not be a moral society until we are very aware of our inclinations and tendencies, including where they come from.
“… a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature but by our institutions, great is our sin.”
– Charles Darwin
On another note, I heard Kenneth Miller speak at UWEC, author of Finding Darwin’s God and the scientist best know for dispelling the Intelligent Design theory in the PA courtroom. He was interesting and quite entertaining.
Like Ned I have some quick thoughts on this but am unwilling to dedicate the time to writing a 50 page essay. Please pardon the vomit of unsupported ideas.
Part of the problem with globalization, is that there are no valid comparisons with previous moments in history. The Information Revolution which is driving globalization is new. We are in the midst of a revolution on the scale of the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. However, with each technological revolution the transition takes less time. You could say that the Agricultural Revolution took 3000, the Industrial Revolution 300 and the Information will take 30 years.
I think you could also argue that in each revolution the value of human life has increased. I think there is greater potential for a moral society now than any other time in history. Though I doubt I will live to see it. The leaders of our nation have squandered opportunities every step of the way and we have gone backwards in the last 8 years.
Globalization is happening and nothing can will stop it. I think Bill Clinton recognized this and worked very hard to steer our country though painful changes as justly as possible where as Bush’s primary concern is use change to maximize profit and power.
To quote Muse, one of my favorite rock bands, “Our freedom is consuming itself.”
Brilliant conversation, gentlemen. I appreciate all sides here, but something Tob said is really what resonates with me. I think I agree with his notion of how something resonates with the soul, how it bounces off the templates forged in remote neuronal networks in the brain and stirs old emotions or cues sentiments not frequently or regularly accessible, whether that is a quick fix that fades, or something that needs be studied, enjoyed, disected and reconstructed to find that connection or meaningfulness to me. This is what makes a u2 album an exception to me-there are many things that hit me off the bat and many more that are uncovered with multiple listenings. Coldplay usually hits me quickly, but does not seem to have the layers that continue to resonate or haunt me the way that certain U2 templates do. I am not sure why they cue the responses they do, but I know that they do, and would assume they do for others in much the same way. I think different tasts are largely due to the different associations made in our minds while our brains were developing, the similarities we share are there too. We have all attuned to each other based on this to some degree.
The idea of trade, quid pro quo, may be one of the problems with humanity in general, with man as a social animal. The expectation of something back. What if the world was all about giving? just a thought.
I may not have a lot of responses in the next 2 weeks, by the way, as I may be busy preparing to testify in court on a couple of my cases. I would encourage people to see the film, “Dan in real life”, it is one of those rare finds. Soundtrack is pretty good also. Or maybe it resonated with me in a state-dependent way.
I forgot to wish you a happy birthday, Pete. The 17th, right? My year has been very busy too, but hopefully some of my hard work will pay off in one way or another.
It is true. Thanks, Ned. b-day came and went without bang or whimper. just a nice passing of the day marking another revolution around the sun.
Happy birthday, belated, Petes. You have officially survived your Jesus Year. I hope it was a good year. Good luck with the court cases and all else. i imagine it’s nicely into fall in Lindsborg about now.
I agree with, well, with what everyone has written here in the last several comments. I guess what I took issue with was Ned’s comparison to the feudal system, but I’m glad the response has been wider and more interesting than that.
And I agree with Peters about the layering of U2 or other such quality bands and arts. Perhaps we need the pop that hits us and fades, and we certainly need the longevity of certain works. It’s inevitable that we will have both in our lives. The more layers to the conversation, the more interesting it is. I also think Peters is right in his description of Coldplay vs. U2–though I appreciate Coldplay, it’s more immediate than it is profound.
As for the economic question, both Ned and JE are interesting here. I think the saddest question is wondering where the politician is who will lead us to live more frugally, within our means, and with kindness to environment and community. That SHOULD have been the response after 9-11, for instance. So, we have to do it ourselves, and maybe that’s how it has always been.
Great to have some conversation! I hope everyone had a good Halloween. Happy All Souls’ Day.