Sunday, March 2, 2014

What I’m Listening To (3/2/14)

    Though I still find myself listening to M.I.A. while riding the bus, I’ve been listening to a bunch of other stuff while at home.  Due in part to starting up a Call of Cthulhu game, and because I like it, I’ve been cycling through a lot of 20s music, from some Jelly Roll Morton to Eddie Cantor to Josephine Baker.  I knew I had a good deal of music from the time, but I was surprised how easy it was to assemble a 4 hour playlist, especially considering many of the songs are rather short.  Along with the 20s music (some of it 30s), I raided my soundtrack collection, pulling tunes from Cloud Atlas, The Cell, and even Once Upon a Time in the West.  And I’ve been on YouTube listening to some weird electronica in the vein of the sadly unavailable Beyond the Black Rainbow soundtrack.  Black Mountain and Sinoia Caves both share musicians in some complicated Canadian way I don’t understand.  But there are traces of the Black Rainbow sound in there.  More investigation is needed.

    So, here are some of the things I’m listening to this week.

Artist: Die Antwoord
Album: $O$
    Somehow, I stumbled across this group in my net crawling, and found something about them challenging and appealing.  Their Zef style is so off-putting, yet taps into that 80s Cyberpunk spirit I love so much.  "The Street finds its own uses for things."  And the dirty, in your face, middle finger waving music kept me listening.  Are they good?  I don’t think so.  But darn it if some of their tunes aren’t aggressively catchy.  In Your Face, Enter the Ninja, Rich Bitch, and Doos Dronk are all infectious.  And the others keep you going from track to track.  Ninja is actually a pretty good rapper, and Yo-Landi’s weirdass singing works well with the whole package.  This isn’t going to be for everyone.  Even for fans of rap (I’m generally not among them), this stuff is pretty crazy.  This is music I could imagine being performed in a Bartertown bar, with Master-Blaster rocking out in the corner.

Artist: St. Vincent
Album: St. Vincent
    I first found St. Vincent a few years back as a blind buy, and I really enjoyed the album I picked up (Actor).  It reminded me a bit of Laurie Anderson, but there was certainly a unique quality.  Over the last couple years, I’ve picked up more albums (Marry Me, Strange Mercy, and the David Byrne collaboration Love the Giant).  As I listened to more and more of her music, I began to put her in with Devo and well, David Byrne and Talking Heads.  Her music is more experimental and challenging than a simple singer/songwriter.  This is Nerd Rock.  So last week, she put out a new album, the self titled St. Vincent.  Listening to it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the recent Devo album Something for Everybody.  She even deals with the kinds of emotional dissonance of the digital age Devo touches on.  I’ve listened to the album a couple times through so far, and I’m certainly liking it.  As with the best Nerd Rock, I doubt I ‘get’ half of it.  The music feels smarter than me, if you catch my drift.  It’s not like hearing Celine Dion, where you can guess all the lyrics of the song from the first few lines, or Fergie, where you feel yourself getting dumber while you listen.  I’m going to need more time with it to feel my way through each track.  But my overall feeling is that this is a another winner from a very interesting contemporary musician.

Artist: H.P. Lovecraft
Album: H.P. Lovecraft I
    I always had a taste for the psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s, and the wild imagery they conjure when you let yourself drift off with headphones on.  I’m two steps from Straight Edge and I’ve never dabbled in recreational drugs, but this music still hits a chord with me.  And in the case of the semi-obscure band H.P. Lovecraft, there’s also the added bonus of their tenuous connection to the works of…well, H.P. Lovecraft.  They draw on Lovecraft’s work in much the same way, and with a similar frequency, as Led Zeppelin with J.R.R. Tolkien.  I love the dreamy organ playing, the duel vocals, and the messy guitars.  Wayfaring Stranger and The White Ship are my two favorite tracks.  The White Ship is their epic masterpiece.  It’s a dreamy trip through astral space.  Really listening to it is like meditation, and by the time it ends, I feel more mentally clear than when I started.

    So, that’s some of what’s on my rotation right now.  St. Vincent’s new album has got me in the mood for something a bit different than the harsh, messy rap-beat stuff I’ve been consuming a lot since the beginning of the year.  Maybe, with Spring allegedly on its way, I’ll slide over into the more nostalgic, mellow music I have a tendency to play around this time of year.  I think pulling up H.P. Lovecraft might have been the beginning of that.  Until next time…


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