Thursday, May 19, 2022

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

Azuriel mentioned the other day how he's been finding it more difficult to find new music these days. It's a common problem, I think. Partly it's a function of the aging process. It's not not inevitable but it creeps up on you if you don't pay attention.

When I was at school, then college, every day was a swapmeet for new ideas of every kind, with music right at the forefront. As I went through my twenties I was out more than in (Much more.) and the same cultural cross-pollination moved to after-work drinking sessions and endless parties. We all read the music press, swapped fanzines, traded mixtapes and generally competed to find the best new things before anyone else.

As I burned through my thirties I slowed down some. Offline socializing receded to a gentle background hum then all but stopped altogether, when I discovered mmorpgs. I stopped following the trends. Meanwhile, all around me people seemed to be settling into an understanding of the things they liked, willing to settle for what they already knew.

Around the same time, music itself began to fracture. Distribution channels proliferated while radio fragmented. I lost track of the culture for a decade and when I emerged, blinking from my long sleep, nothing looked much like I remembered.

Over the past few years I've put the pieces back together or tried to. I began by rifling the riches of the past, miraculously restored to the present by way of YouTube and its millions of pop culture evangelists. I think the key that opened that lock was probably the first time I found footage of the Monks performing Oh How To Do Now on German TV back in 1966 but I can't remember now how I came to be searching for it.

Since then, it's been a gradual recovery. I started following Pitchfork a few years ago, then Stereogum and more recently I've added my adolescent bible, NME, to my feeds. The three of them have a good deal of redundancy but that's helpful. With the torrent of news some days, I need the reinforcement of multiple mentions to drive the message home.

I also follow a few music bloggers although I've been wary of adding any more than a few. There are only so many hours in the day to read blog posts and I'm sure you've seen my blog roll, which, come to think of it, generally doesn't include music blogs. Maybe it should.

The problem with music bloggers, in my limited experience, is that just as I get comfortable with them, they go silent. I have eight in my feeds right now but only two, Simon Reynolds' blissblog and Spavid's Willfully Obscure post with any regularity. I really need to replace the quiescent ones with people who are still feeling it.

My other main source is YouTube, of course. It's a well as deep as the Mariana Trench. I could find something new there every minute of every day if was crazy enough to try. 

I do a lot of primary research, a fancy name for entering random keywords and following links until I'm dizzy, but I also have a few channels subbed to give me curated suggestions. Elefant Records I've mentioned many times but I also follow the LazyLazyMe, MrSuicideSheep and Jarret Wolfson, who I guess doesn't need a fancy internet nick since he has such a cool name already.

I also sub Mermaid Motel, maker of amazing unauthorised music videos, and triplej, "Australian youth broadcaster and the home of Like A Version" as well as several individual musicians, although not necessarily the ones you might imagine. It's not all that many but I find that subscribing to too many YouTube channels has a tendency to result in diminishing returns. There's not much point subbing them if you never find time to watch them.

At this point I'd like to thank Azuriel for spurring me on to write this post and thereby examine just what my current methods and resources are. It's apparent to me that I could do a lot more and a lot better. I'm going to make more of an effort to find some new voices and sources to add to the ones I've mentioned and to replace the ones I've lost.

It also encourages me to keep doing what I have been doing, namely sharing things I've found that seem worth mentioning here on the blog. Word of mouth is the best recommendation.

Before I get to the videos, I'd like to call attention to a couple of very illuminating interviews I read today. One is with Lana Del Rey, the other with Jack Antonoff. Both reveal some intriguing details about their respective and collective methodologies as well as a good deal of insight into their personalities. The Lana one has some amazing pictures, too. 

I'd recommend both pieces to anyone interested in either of the artists but also to anyone who finds the processes behind the creation of the music we love either curious or obscure or both. I learned something from each of them.

And now... the music!

Lydia Wears A Cross - Julia Jacklin - A new name to me, I came across Julia by way of a brief news item about this, her new single, which I clicked on purely because I liked the title. I'm a bit of an easy mark for song titles with names in them and anyway I do tend to pick things out based on what they're called. It sounds shallow but it's a trick that's served me well, not just with music but books and movies as well.

After hearing this once I played it again right away and then a third time. Writing this post, I've listened to it three times more. She has a great song about Jesus, too (Well, he's in the title..) but I'll save that for Christmas. 

Nikki Go Sudden - Pink Mountaintops - Speaking of titles. with names in them... My eye was drawn to this immediately when I saw it in a news item. Nikki Sudden is one of my longtime favorites, or he was while he was alive. I bought the first Swell Maps E.P., "Read About Seymour" when it came out in 1977 and I own a number of Jacobites albums, mostly on cassette, which means I never get to hear them any more. This is a fine tribute that manages to evoke that instantly recognizeable Sudden delivery without sounding like a tribute act. 

There's a very good live version too. Actually, listening to it again, it might be better than the recording. Let's have that as well.

Once again, I'd never even heard of Pink Mountaintops. I dug back into their extensive catalog as well but most of it seemeed a bit rocky for my tastes. This one was okay, though. It's called Lights of the City. Very '80s.

Claire Danes - Damn The Witch Siren -Double header! No! Double double header! If there's one thing that gets my attention faster than a name in a song title it's the name of someone famous. Bonus points if it's someone I like. I do like Claire Danes but really it's Mrs. Bhagpuss who likes her. We've had a framed still of Danes as Angela from My So Called Life on the hall wall since the '90s. It's one of Mrs. Bhagpuss's all-time favorite tv shows.

I'd have given an ear to any song called "Claire Danes" but one by a band called Damn The Witch Siren? Slam and - if you'll permit it - dunk! That's three acts I never heard of until the last week and two of them are keepers. Here's their latest. It's good.

They have more but I'll save them for later. Pretty sure they'll turn up here again, as will Julia Jacklin. Proof that my methods for surfacing new-to-me acts really work. Of course, keeping up with new work by old favorites is just as important...

Roadkill - Starcrawler - It's been a while. I was wondering what they were up to. If it's got to be rock, this is the way I like it. Sharp, smart, self-aware and with the treble turned all the way up. And a chanted chorus, too. Arrow and Henri are the Mick and Keef of their generation. Unfortunately for them, it's not 1966 any more. Unfortunately for whom? Yeah... leaving that hanging...

Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty) - Horsegirl - Not, I think, the strongest track from the soon-to-be-released debut album, "Versions of Modern Performance" but it's a grower. I haven't pre-ordered. I need to save a few things for the birthday and Christmas lists.

Doritos and Fritos - 100 gecs - Wow! That was almost conventional! Well, by their standards. I notice a lot of YT comments along the lines of "Gecs is a rock band now" - "They always were". Not sure I'd go that far but I do agree they rock.

And that's it for this time. I might try to do this on the regular, post new stuff I've found just for the sake of it. Beats coming up with some thesis every damn time!

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