Scotland As an Xbox Game by Andrew C. Ferguson

I meant to post this on The Morning After but got waylaid by my workweek, and then everything seemed saturated with the rawness of reaction so I put it off. Is it safe now? I hope so. Or maybe I don’t …

This is Andrew C. Ferguson reading his poem “Scotland As an Xbox Game” with a teeny contribution from me. Tell us what you think in the comments.

Pop music.

Warning: this video is not safe for … anything, really. I don’t know. It makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

So yesterday I listened to the entire actual song of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and blood did not seep out of my eyes. It’s not a horrible song, just a mediocre pop-ballad thing. I think the video is idiotic, but when parodies like this exist, I can’t complain too loudly.

Sharks recently mentioned Pop Danthology 2013, and while I am glad I watched it, I’ve never been so glad to see Justin Timberlake in all my life. His latest album isn’t doing much for me, but I’d rather listen to JT than the rest of the current pop stars.

Except for Lorde. If you want a fantastic pop record of 2013, Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” is it.

Writing from: bed. Listening to: both cats snoring, and they’re just out of sync. How do I sync them up? Please send me your tips.

Sleeping is a gateway drug to being awake.

(Ed. Note: I forgot to hit “post” on yesterday’s draft before I went out for the evening, so you get two Two TWO entries today.)

Okay, maybe I listen to things that aren’t They Might Be Giants. Sometimes. (Often.) So I’ll add a credit line to the end of each post.

Mako wrote this excellent post about film soundtracks two days ago. As much as I love listening to catchy songs with clever lyrics, I get distracted by them while I’m trying to work, so film soundtracks are solid listening choices for me. Today I enjoyed that Rdio station immensely as I cranked through some database stuff.

Because I am a little pathetic, I listened to Austra’s “Feel It Break” while eating dinner because that album reminds me of FunkyPlaid.

And this evening I spent some time talking to another musically-inclined friend, who recommended Bill Frisell’s “Nashville” album to me. I loved it, so I looked Mr. Frisell up on the intertubes and found this video of a duet he did this year with Chick Corea. I know next to nothing about jazz — so those among you who have opinions about this sort of thing are expected to share them and enlighten me — but I enjoyed this interplay between two different styles very much. Maybe you will too.

Writing from: a less cluttered table, lusting after a standing desk. Listening to: “Family” by Bill Frisell. Post title from: TMBG’s “Wearing a Raincoat”.

Writers’ Bloc at the Book Festival

Writers’ Bloc at the Book Festival

Writers’ Bloc returns to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a special event with John Lemke and Poppy Ackroyd. The show starts at 9pm, Wednesday 14th August in the Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square.

[more info]

Research help: find the women in these ’80s music videos.

The Girl in the Video: original interviews with icons of 1980s MTV

Recently I posted a link to Marc T. Nobleman’s “The Girl in the Video” series in which he interviews women who starred in ’80s music videos. I neglected to note that he is still searching for three of them. Since I know many folks who are either excellent researchers or ’80s music lovers (or both), I thought I’d help out.

These requests are taken directly from Marc’s site, and are of tweetable length so you can copy and paste them:

  • Real research question: if you know the Annie Hubbard who was in 1984 Night Ranger video “Sister Christian,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
  • Real research question: if you know the woman—even just her name—in 1986 Cinderella video “Shake Me,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman
  • Real research question: if you know woman—even just her name—in ‘87 Richard Marx video “Should’ve Known Better,” pls contact @MarcTNobleman

My favourite from his series is the essay from Wendy Frazier who starred in ZZ Top’s “Legs” video. That video is seared into my brain. If I could draw, I could storyboard the whole thing from memory.

Indie music, marketing, and Lana Del Rey.

Yesterday, Ryan of Stripmall Architecture asked:

I replied with a link to this tongue-in-cheek tweet I liked from a few weeks ago:

Because Ryan is a measured and reasonable individual (who actually wanted opinions from his followers and wasn’t being tongue-in-cheek himself, something I mistook) he responded to that:

So I replied (in tweets, consolidated here into a paragraph):

Fair enough. My opinion as a person who loves a wide variety of music is that I don’t enjoy her music or even get her “brand”. Moreover, I am turned off by what seems to me to be an incessant discussion of whether or not her brand is her real persona. I mean, of *course* it’s not her “real” persona (in the way I understand reality) because she’s marketing herself. Musicians do this all the time, yet there is an obsessive, obstinate fascination with the legitimacy of her brand *specifically*. This I do not understand, despite trying to, because @FunkyPlaid likes her music, and I want to understand why. So far, the meta-discussion of her is the meat of her existence, to me. I find her music bland and her lyrics disposable. There is the totality of my opinion on LDR. As always, I am open to learning more and changing my opinion as a result.

Then FunkyPlaid responded to both Ryan and me (also consolidated):

I could give two shits about her “brand”. It’s no less relevant nor important than David Bowie, Manson, Morrissey, etc. For me, she’s nailed the feel of what she’s trying to convey, be it genuine or manufactured. It’s art, and it’s a show. I see the real problem is that she’s gotten too buzzy too quickly, before her new album has even been released.

In response to this portion of the conversation, I replied:

Ed. note: I love OK Go videos yet cannot stand their music.

Then FunkyPlaid walked into my study and the “indie” aspect of all of this was brought up, which I neglected to address in my initial tweets. So here is my response to that portion (again consolidated) …

Sorry, I just realize I did not address the “indie music” aspect of your tweet. And @FunkyPlaid and I just talked about it RL … I just said to him, “I don’t see her as indie music.” And it’s true. Her marketing has exceeded an arbitrary level in my mind. I don’t know why that happened because I hadn’t thought about it before, but I see her as pop music even though I know she isn’t. So I think it is interesting to examine why that is, and the short-form is frustrating me enough that I’ll write a blog post.

And here we are.

To start, I am a casual yet enthusiastic listener of music. This means that I follow and support musicians I already know and enjoy, and I find new music from random stations, friends’ recommendations, or The A.V. Club’s tweets. I do not actively read any music periodicals or blogs. I do not identify with a particular genre of music. I would classify my tastes as “eclectic” and I will listen to anything once.

I first heard about Lana Del Rey through FunkyPlaid. He enjoyed her music and so I looked up a few of her songs (I think via Hype Machine) and listened to them. I found the music dull and repetitive, and the lyrics disposable, as I said earlier. In short, the music did nothing for me, and so I stopped thinking about her.

Yet just a few days later, the media blitz was unavoidable. It seemed like every day someone I followed on Twitter was posting a link to an article about her brand, her persona, her rumoured plastic surgery, her impact on indie culture, etc. My friend Maura wrote one of these articles called “Lana Del Rey Takes Her Place on the Internet’s Sacrificial Altar with ‘Born to Die'”, and I generally like and respect what Maura writes, so I clicked through and read it. The video was embedded in the article, so I watched it. It bored and annoyed me, and at no time struck me as the work of an “indie” artist.

About the “indie” issue, I have the distinct pleasure of knowing a few indie musicians. These people are hard-working, talented people who spend much of their time creating and performing. In my mind, an indie musician, an indie act, an indie band, whatever, has a clear association with hard work, talent, integrity, and lack of bullshit.

This is, of course, a description that is entirely subjective. And this is the crux of my problem with writing about music: there are as many ways to use words that classify music as there are listeners. I know that when Ryan reads this, who has decades of experience not only as a musician but as a critical consumer of music, will come to it with completely different definitions of “indie” and “pop”.

On the marketing topic, I remain confused by Lana Del Rey’s brand. If it is a commentary on the America we have lost, it is a muddled and obsequious commentary — which, perhaps, is the meta-commentary that this dumbed-down commentary is the only one we are able to digest. If it is a critique of the objectification of women, it is cloaked in helpless melancholy over its own objectification, a pre-NOW pathos that caters to the male gaze instead of defying it. Emily Dunn wrote an incredibly intricate review of the “Video Games” video in response to Maura’s article above that addresses some of this. I appreciate the level of work that went into Emily’s review, yet wonder how much of this was intended by Lana Del Rey and how much is an intriguing interpretation of whitespace.

I don’t know. If I can’t determine the exact purpose of Lana Del Rey’s brand, how do I ascertain its impact on the rest of the musical landscape? If her music spoke more to (or for) me, I would spend more time attempting to answer that question. Her album has topped the charts here, so something she is doing is working for her. It isn’t working for me.

History of lyrics that aren’t lyrics.

This is a clever medley! History Of Lyrics That Aren’t Lyrics – YouTube (via ze frank).

Year in review mixtape: swan fillet.

For this year in review, I want to do something different. I enjoy reading others’ questionnaires but didn’t enjoy filling my own out, and my “post the first line from the first post of each month” meme results bored me. This year just seems too big to summarize as I’ve done in the past.

Once upon a time, I used to make mixtapes. I won’t pretend that they were any good, but I miss paying that level of attention to the music that moved me. So here is my year in review in mixtape form. No droll footnotes or quoted lyrics … just songs that brought pieces of me from there to here and reassembled them almost in order.

I call it “swan fillet”.

Best. Drum solo. Ever.

We all love a good air-drum to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”, but the cumulative joy from that tiny riff can’t compare to Fred Astaire’s brilliance. (via MetaFilter)

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

This is the perfect antidote to the day I’ve had.

They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba, via Matt, et al.