Tuesday, February 17, 2009

firm but fair

so today i took a carriage ride down indie lane. i mean, i spend a good chunk of time slagging indie, but i haven't listened to much per se. i'm going on my preternatural ability to know what something is about and formulate a startlingly accurate appraisal without checking it out. it's a gift that i have (a gift that tends to drive people who are proponents of whatever i happen to be slagging INSANE.) anyway, i started on this mission by checking out she & him. i'm a bit of a zooey fan (faithful readers will remember that a couple of years ago, i took her on as a style icon) although i find of late that she's just been too twee for me to not find her saccharine girlishness and wide-eyed stare a little off-putting. it's obviously a calculated effort to appear adorably precious and while sometime it does work, there's something disturbing about a grown woman being precocious. it's the same reason why i can't deal with miranda july, even though i quite enjoyed her movie, "you me and everyone we know" and found her book "no one belongs here more than you" equal parts astute observation, mystery, and confounding attempt to be provocative in a contemporary art kind of way.

anyway, i listened to some she & him. her voice, reminiscent of rosemary clooney, has a gimlet clarity and sweetness befitting the 40s and 50s stripped down, MGM tar factory crooning the pair blatantly reference in their material. i give her points for not over singing - overall her vocal delivery is restrained and winning. the actual songs though, aside from their blatant references to a bygone era, are rather unmemorable. my favorite numbers were the covers (i do my research on youtube.) her version of "dream a little dream of me" is a perfect match of material to the voice, but it's not enough of a individualized take to warrant seeking she & him out (the uncanny old fashioned quality of her voice means that she could just be any other piano bar crooner taking a stab at a winsome little ditty.) she also does a version of "you really got a hold on me" and well, we all know how i feel about that song. truth be told, i much prefer smokey's version.

from there i decided that it was about time i listened to death cab for cutie. and then i made a brief stopover in the postal service territory and finally ended up at bloc party. this stuff is THE BORINGEST. basically the anti-thesis of memorable. completely forgettable regurgitations of indeterminate, noodley pop music with some weird, throwaway synth bits. SNOOZEFEST! i gave it a fair shake! you can't say i didn't try. after i finished my experiment (i conducted it at work) i called dr. rei to catch up. after the preliminaries i said, "i've been listening to death cab for cutie and the postal service"
dr. rei (obviously taken aback): "...?"
me: "it's because i wanted to finally know what it was all about"
dr. rei *deafening silence*: "and?"
me: "i hated it"
dr. rei: "phew. for a second there, i thought i might have to reassess everything i know to be true." lol!

last night on our way home, we were listening to this awesome rochester radio station that played all kinds of rock. we finished "interstate love song" by the stone temple pilots and then heard a nirvana tune and then an alice in chains number. when you compare that stuff against the kind of rock music that exists now and what existed just before it - grunge was actually an ORIGINAL musical movement - a repudiation against glossy, overproduced (but still awesome) hair rock and metal. deliberately sludgy, fuzzy, stripped down...it's cool to have experienced that first hand. i can't think what kind of original musical moments exist now and it makes me sad. when you think about the early 90s and all the stuff that was going on musically - the rise of gangster rap, the whole funk and roots flavoured tribe called quest sound, the pop, industrial, electronic music, grunge - it really was an apotheosis of creativity, and arguably the last kind of truly innovative and inspired cultural moment that we've had in a generation.

from there we naturally segued into the "is it just because we're old?" analysis. i can truly say that i don't think that's the case. music for the last little while has been a recapitulation of what has come before (for the most part.) we're in a period of revival, of revisiting material and mashing it all together, but nothing that signals a radical departure. it's kind of sad. i feel sorry for people who love death cab for cutie. i feel like they kind of live a half life of unmemorable material. maybe that's what a culture of entitlement deserves? maybe that's what we get when we make a concerted effort to celebrate mediocrity? lol! i know i kind of sound like a jerk, but seriously, those tunes are the epitome of generic (obviously this is all bracketed by a big, fat, IMO)

look at me - yammering on and i haven't even gone over the weekend yet. i'll post a full review tomorrow. for now, i'm going to treat myself to a hot shower to work out the muscles and some reading and knitting (i think i've gotten my knitting zeal back.)

tonight for dinner i made a chickpea, sweet potato, kale and kolbassa soup. we had it with fred's bread's green olive chipotle bread and butter. i felt a little guilty buying olive bread when i've been doing such a good job of keeping us in artisanal sourdough, but i was away all weekend and didn't have a chance to bang out a loaf. it's not bad, but you can't taste the chipotle at all.

finally, in the last week or two (before the whole chris brown fiasco), miley cyrus got into hot water (again) for taking a picture with her friends that was construed (rightly) to be trading on the slanty-eyed asian racist discourse. notwithstanding that miley cyrus ends up in photo-related drama on a seemingly quarterly schedule, and notwithstanding that from her self-presentation and media depictions she appears to be a spoiled, stupid, mean-girl kind of a slag - is it wrong that i actually kind of find this photo a little funny? the expression on the asian dude's face is kind of classic. the problem is that it's miley doing it and she hasn't really done enough to convince the world at large that she's NOT racist. if it was margaret cho or dave chapelle, or heck, even andy samberg or the cast of 30 rock, i'm sure it would have barely registered on the interw3b radar. unfortunately for miley, between her and her dum-dum papa billy ray, and their hollow-sounding christianity, and her petty feuds with other disney factory moppets, she couldn't pull it off.


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