Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Without music, life would be a mistake

I'm still reading Klosterman, after a slight hiatus trying to catch up with Empire and Wired. A quote caught my eye today:

Do you know people who insist they like “all kinds of music”? That actually means they like no kinds of music.

This is, in fact, truth. At least from my point of view. Since my discovery of music that seemed to speak to me, on a very primal level, I have had a very emotional relationship with music, and I can't really understand people that don't approach it in the same way. I know this is elitist of me, but I don't care. Passion about music, is in some ways the yardstick by which I measure people. That and if they like TOOL or not.

The mighty TOOL, live. The closest to a religious experience I've ever had.

Music matters. It's that simple. And I'm going to say that again: Music matters. Not bands, not artists. Music. I don't put bands up on pedestals because of image or adherence to a particular genre of music. If they have captivating tunes, that's enough. But I still put them on pedestals, and I consider myself passionate about music.

I get goose bumps from some songs. I feel like I'm about to rise into the sky on the voices of some singers. There are some songs I can't listen to on bad days, since they would make me cry, some of them because there are specific events tied to them and some simply because they are powerful. There are songs that make me want to scream, songs that make me want to laugh, songs that make me want to curl up under a blanket and just stare vacantly at the ceiling.

Personally, I believe I have a fairly broad taste in music, in some ways, but that's probably not true. Most of the stuff I listen to is connected to the other stuff I listen to, but more on an emotional level then on a “this sounds just like all the other bands you listen to”. There is a core of American bands with big guitars and big melodies in my CD collection, but lots of other things as well.

Now, two lists. This is a challenge to y'all. Meet it by commenting, or face my wrath.

Top three CDs (I realize many see this as an impossibility to list, but at least you have three favorites right now):
- TOOL, “Aenima”. Always number one. Scarily powerful, scarily good. I can't fathom how anything can ever top this.
- The Tea Party, “Transmission”. Led Zeppelin meets Nine Inch Nails, with sitars. Exceptional.
- The Dillinger Escape Plan, “Ire Works”. This is a “right now”, but their fascination with Faith No More-ish melodies, electronics and musical insanity in general creates a combination unlike anything else I've heard.

Three most unexpected CDs in collection (and these must be CDs you listen to, not stuff that sloshes about at the bottom of some crate in your storage room, and they can't be more than one from the same artist):
- Wannadies, “Skellefteå”. Swedish guitar pop sensation of the 90's.
- Photek, “Modus Operandi”. Drum'n'bass.

And the fact I could only come up with two, proves how homogeneous my taste in music must be. I'm soo alternative...


Ellie said...

Jag håller med om det där med typer som hävdar att de gillar alla typer av musik - med undantaget för finnen. Han har det bredaste musiksmaken av alla (typ :-) ) och han gillar verkligen på riktigt alla typer av musik... Ovanligt :-)

När det gäller albumen får jag be att återkomma. Det kräver allvarlig eftertanke... :-)

EGE said...

Oh, man, am I going to go on forever here...

Okay, I read that Klosterman book -- and I love him -- but that very sentence pissed me off. Because saying "I like all KINDS of music" is not the same as saying "I like all MUSIC." There is literally not a genre in which I do not have a favorite album, artist, or, at the very least, a favorite song.

The best conversation I ever had about this was with my friend Steph. I forget which show we were at, but it was at SxSW, and it was LOUD. Steph is a Nine Inch Nails fan, it was not them but it was that kind of thing. I was shouting in her ear about how I just didn't get it, about how this was the one kind of music that I just didn't like (and I know, Beardo, that this will hurt your heart to hear, but I didn't, not yet, not then).

I was shouting to her how I liked a lot of music, but my absolute to-my-heart favorite kind was soul music. American, 60s or 70s, black, Phillie or Memphis or Chicago soul, and she said "But this IS soul music!"

I was like: "What? You are obviously very drunk and we need to get you back to the hotel." But she explained that what she meant was that they HAD soul. That they SPOKE to her soul. And after I (at first) politely nodded and dismissed the very thought, I turned my ears back to the stage and listened differently, and I realized she was right.

That's when I realized that the music that I like -- ALL the kinds of music that I like -- is ALL soul music. Beethoven, Hank Williams, Prince, Leo Kottke, The Chieftains, Parliament, the Beastie Boys, John Martyn, Geoff Buckley, blah blah blah a million more (even the goddamn Partridge Family), and yes, now, sometimes, NIN.

I like all kinds of music. And (in this one instance) Chuck Klosterman can kiss my music-loving ass.

After all, he has publicly professed his love for Billy Joel.

beardonaut said...

ellie: Han är ett gränsfall, kan jag gå med på. Men han gillar väl inte dansband, t.ex.? I så fall måste jag nog sätta upp honom på Listan...

ege: About that sentence, and the fact that you have a favae song in every genre. This might be true, but the point then becomes that you probably don't say you like "all kinds of music". Or maybe you do. I don't know. Still, I haven't met ANYONE that can say that they like all kinds of music.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you probably haven't heard all kinds of music. It becomes a matter of genre, which I don't really like getting into, but goes. Grindcore, like Nasum. Or noise, like Merzbow. Neither genre appeals to me, though I do have some stuff in my collection that incorporates elements of grindcore.

I do agree that we can find elements we like in MOST music, but not ALL. And I stand by that. I would love for you to prove me wrong.

And yes, it's all about music that touches the soul. Soulless music vs soulful music. Exactly right. And if that soul is found in the tone of the vocalist's voice or in a repetitive riff or in the general feeling of a song really doesn't matter.

beardonaut said...

Oh. And your link to Steph's blog is messed up. But I found it anyway!

Martin. said...

Totally. I've always frowned at people who express their taste in music as "anything" or "everything" since that is obviously not true, for anyone. And because it seems to dilute their appreciation for the stuff they really like.
Now me, I do actually like a fuckload of different bands, but then I would rather describe it as such. Or better still, just give examples of bands.
Right, onwards to lists.
My top three ever/right now:

1. Oceansize - Music For Nurses EP. Might as well be either of their first two albums.
2. TOOL - Lateralus. Still finds way to surprise and entice me after about 7000 listenings.
3. Cult of Luna - The Beyond. That, or Salvation. Or fifty other records that are just as good. Fuck it.

As far as unexpected go, I'd say...

Pig Destroyer - Phantom Limb.
Jens Lekman - Night Falls over Kortedala.

Also, I'm up and running now, sort of.

EGE said...

Beardo -- I concede. Of course the chances are that I haven't heard every single genre of music in the world, although I did used to write about music for an eclectic company (with, speaking of grindcore, Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt), so I'd bet that I've got a more varied life list than most.

I can't though, concede on the grindcore thing. I don't agree with dividing everything up into such nitpicky subgenres. I decided this back when I worked at that company, when we had to actually slot people into categories. Sure, as a concept I can hear a difference (sometimes) between, say, noisecore and grindcore (okay, not really), but when you get an inclusive list of acts and try to decide who belongs where, it falls apart. Because musicians don't think in such narrow boundaries when they create -- or, if they do, they generally suck.

So (to move over into an area where I'm a little more well-versed) is Lyle Lovett country? Well, he sure doesn't sound anything like Hank Williams, or Garth Brooks, but if I create a genre called "Big Band Texas Swing Country with Smart Lyrics," who else am I going to put in there? And what am I going to do with his earlier albums? So I just call 'em all country and spend my extra energy hating on Garth Brooks.

Sorry for my long-windedness. I knew I shouldn't have gotten started!

beardonaut said...

martin: I'd go for "a fuckload" over "all kinds of music" any day. And I actually don't find Pig Destroyer that weird, coming from you.

You are now linked.

ege: Anal Cunt might actually be the silliest band name ever.

And like I said, I don't like getting into genre. I've interviewed bands and reviewed CDs for ten plus years now, and I try to avoid genre as much as I can. So I agree with you. It becomes nitpicky. But I do see the point of genre, in some ways, because some people need it to be able to understand how bands sound.

And I know zip about country. Is Johnny Cash country? In some ways, perhaps. It's anyway the closest to that I have in my collection, with the possible exception of some 16 Horsepower songs. Which you should check out by the way, if you haven't. And Woven Hand, which is the same guy.

EGE said...

I didn't know you were a music writer, too. Boy, am I a jackass!

Okay, so now I'll answer your original challenge:

You're right. Top three CDs are impossible to list, so the three on top right now are:

1. Leo Kottke, My Father's Face -- mostly solo acoustic guitar, a few songs with actual lyrics about things like getting old. It sounds like fall to me, and I get mad into it at this time every year.

2. Various Artists, Rhythm, Country & Blues -- an album worth of duets, all with one country and one r&b singer (Lyle Lovett and Al Green, Tanya Tucker and Little Richard, Chet Atkins and Allen Toussaint). Fucking fabulous.

3. Various Artists, Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys -- Everyone from Nick Cave to Richard Thompson to Loudon Wainwright III to brian Ferry to Robin Holcomb to Lou Reed to Ralph Steadman (!) singing centuries-old sea songs, many with truly obscene lyrics.

And three most surprising? Hard to choose, honestly, but I'll go look and name the first three weird ones I see...

1. Soundtrack: The Bodyguard -- I have a friend (will it surprise you to hear that he is gay?) who is MAD into Whitney Houston. He spoke so eloquently of her when this album came out, he managed to convince me that I wanted it. I only ever play the one song -- you know the one -- but I do play it, so it counts.

2. Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic -- got high with my brother one night and decided it was the best album EVER. I still decide that occasionally. Need I say more?

3. Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives -- very bizarre spoken word/minimalist modern classical. Interviewed Spalding Gray, who said he used to listen to it when he got depressed. Guess it didn't help.

(Oh, and PS -- yes, Johnny Cash is country. And if you're going to have just one, that's the one to have! I know a little of 16 Horsepower but -- oh, you should check out Horslips! Not country, not at all, just the name reminded me...)

beardonaut said...

Yeah, well, it's not like I advertised it here either.

And yes, that is the one to have. Especially since he's done such glorious cover songs.