On Sundays I usually head over to James’ place to play boardgames with him, Al, Quinn, Sean, and whoever else wanders into the place. It’s always a good time. There’s games, there’s beer, there’s food, and there’s tunes.
For the most part I like my music pretty straightforward. I’m a sucker for a catchy tune, and I’m bowled over by pure power pop — three minute songs about cars, being in a band, and the girl you could make happy if only she knew you existed. James’ tastes run more avant-garde than my own, and I’ve been hearing a lot of things there that I wouldn’t normally have heard.
I met James through BoardGameGeek, where his avatar is the album cover for the band Can’s 1971 album, Tago Mago. He’s a huge fan and really talked it up, so I decided to check it out. The first track I heard was this one:
and when I heard it I thought, “I’ve heard this before.” Sure enough, it was covered by the Jesus and Mary Chain on their album Barbed Wire Kisses.
I’m not very good at describing any music, much less this stuff. It’s not so much about melody and harmony as it is about soundscapes, emotions, and tension. None of it is at all straightforward, and often things get very chaotic, but there’s usually still a sense of control discernable in it all; it’s not just random noise.
You may disagree. I admit, not all of the stuff James has introduced me to has been my cup of tea, but even if it’s something that doesn’t really grab me, at least I can say it’s interesting and, like I said, not something I would have ever heard anywhere else.
The next band, The Books, came to Northampton recently and James invited us to go see them. We were unable to at the time, but they’re coming back to the area in May and I might try then. The band consists of two musicians with acoustic instruments accompanying spliced, recorded vocal snippets. The result is a strange, hollow, lost sound. It’s kind of like wandering through an antique store filled with items you can’t identify but seem familiar. I know that sounds weird, but as I said, I have a hard time describing it. This is from their album Thought for Food.
We were in the middle of a game of Ra, I believe, when this next track came on. I didn’t really notice it at first and then I couldn’t ignore it. The driving percussion and chanted lyrics caught my ear and I had to ask who it was. It’s The Liars, and it’s from their album Drum’s Not Dead. The whole album is very rhythm-heavy, but you’re not going to hear it in a dance club.
James will often just send me a random mp3 or link to a band during the middle of the day. This next one just showed up in my inbox, out of the blue. I don’t know anything about the band or the record, and when I first heard the track I was not too keen on it. But then I listened again, and again. It’s not something I’d put on a mix tape, or particularly want to hear a whole album worth of, but there’s something to it that I find intriguing. The band’s called Metalux and if you click on the link and read what’s there you’ll know everything I know about them.
(I should point out that not everything James has turned me onto has been as “weird” as all this. He also steered me towards The Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and other stuff that sounds positively tame by comparison.)
If you’re one of the half-dozen or so people who actually download these mp3s I post, let me know what you think (about these or any others.) I’ve been letting my interest in music, shallow as it is, atrophy in recent years, and with good sources like KEXP, mp3 blogs, James, and others I’ve been rediscovering a wealth of new and new-to-me-music.