Friday, October 2, 2009

a casual return

I started this blog with high hopes which soon fell flat. I think my problem was that I turned every potential post into a big deal mentally. My new resolve is just to write whatever because no one reads it anyway. So here’s what’s been going on in my musical world lately.


“Hospice” by the Antlers

This borderline ambient album took a lot of work, but it was well worth it. It’s a concept album about a man who works at a hospital, falls in love with a bone cancer patient, marries her, and then watches her die. The brilliantly tragic lyrics make the album. Instead of the narrator looking back on his wife with fondness, love, and happy memories, he refrains from retrospective romanticizing and realistically remembers her angry abuse. He recounts her screaming, cursing, telephone-throwing, and daily threats to leave him. Her disease makes her so angry and desperate she even attempts a Sylvia Plath suicide. The thing I love the most about the album is its complete lack of redemption. (Since I believe there’s no meaningful redemption outside of Christ, I was so happy this cancer story didn’t come with some pithy moral like “carpe diem because life is short.”) The story is so compelling that I’ve sat and silently read the liner notes, which have all the lyrics and minimal explanation, two or three times. It’s definitely an album to listen to from start to finish, but if you only have the time or emotional appetite for a song or two, choose “Bear” or “Two.” I was pleased to be able to add “Epilogue” to my mental catalogue of songs about fever dreams since about every six weeks I get the itch to listen to one. (If anyone knows of other fever dream songs please let me know because the only other song in my “catalogue” is Aimee Mann’s “Nightmare Girl…”)


“11th Dimension” by Julian Casablancas

Despite its noticeable lack of banjo, I dig it. The opening sound is endearingly hokey, like a much-improved version of a demo track on my first miniature electronic keyboard. It reminds me of high school when I first heard Phoenix (and, of course, the Strokes). I’m looking forward to the album.

“Lost Coastlines” by Okkervil River

“Unless it’s Kicks” by Okkervil River

After listening to these two tracks intermittently for several months, I have finally jumped on the Okkervil River train, albeit late. At first I couldn’t get past the similarities between the “Lost Coastlines” bass line and the main theme in the Decemberist’s “the Sporting Life,” but the former track has finally carved out its very own mental space in my head. These two Okkervil River tracks (along with “the Sporting Life” and pretty much the entire Belle and Sebastian oeuvre) motivate me to keep running, literally.

“Complicated” by Keegan DeWitt

I fell in love with DeWitt’s music after hearing his Daytrotter session a couple of weeks ago. “Complicated” is lyrically a simple love song, but musically it has underpinnings of regret and sadness, even nostalgia. This song took me to an emotional space I last visited around age ten when I sat on the floor of my family’s living room listening to Sting’s “Fields of Gold” on repeat. It’s rare to catch such power in a three-minute ditty.

Unrelated…I just caught the newer, hipper Snuggie commercial complete with slap-bass and lame out-of-touch middle-aged parents “dancing.” Snuggies now come in animal print.

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