Monday, July 27, 2015

Four Songs You Need to Hear?

Here's a piece from the Globe and Mail that intrigued me: "Four songs you need to hear: Sean Michaels's playlist of the week." I never quite give up on pop, nor should I. For every over-promoted talentless diva (*cough*Rihanna*cough*) there are several barely-known pretty good musicians. One I discovered a while back is an Australian song-writer who plays the banjo, Packwood by name. So let's have a listen to Sean's playlist. Go read the article, I'll wait for you...

Dum, de dum, de dum. Back already? Did you listen to all the songs? At least part of all the songs? OK, then let's talk. The first one "Stare Down the Barrel of Today" by The Highest Order, written and sung by Simone Schmidt is what I would call gloomy, meandering Canadian whiny Country, which is probably exactly what a lot of folks are looking for. You can tell it's Canadian because it doesn't have a nasty edge and the lyrics are kinda literary.

The next one, "Feel You" by Julia Holter is described as diaphanous chamber pop by Sean Michaels, but I would call it the musical equivalent of one of those blogs where somebody talks a lot about what their dog did today--with harpsichord stylings. Shockingly, Julia is not Canadian. She lives in Los Angeles and studied composition at CalArts. Doesn't seem to have helped a lot. I guess the "diaphanous" part comes from the weak, breathy, unsupported voice.

Next up is "You Satellite" by Wilco. Roger! This is also remarkably dreary in its aimless wandering between two fuzzy chords with washes of confused burblings. You know how contrived those old guitar solos sound nowadays? Well after the lengthy redundant strumming that ends this song I was really longing for a guitar solo.

Finally we have Wizkid feat. Drake & Skepta in a tune called "Ojuelegba". This actually has something to it. The musicians sound like they are involved in what they are doing and the production is fresher and cleaner. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this one is Sean Michaels's commentary:
Toronto should be ashamed of the 50,000 people who signed a petition opposing Kanye West’s appearance at the Pan Am Games’ closing ceremony. Yes, it would have been wiser to choose a Canadian. Yes, West is a jerk. But I can’t imagine an equivalent protest for a performance by equally non-Canadian jerks like Bono or Mick Jagger. White people in particular need to examine the biases that can make black musicians – especially young, outspoken African-American musicians – seem unqualified for certain roles.
What can you call that except a paroxysm of White Guilt? Honestly, if I were into signing petitions I would would be just as likely to sign one opposing Bono as Kanye West. Jerks and crappy musicians, both! But writing stuff like this is even more embarrassing than finding yourself in a Kanye West concert. Now there's a racist for ya. Can we have a petition pleading for Kanye West not to appear anywhere?

So there's your pop criticism of the week. No, don't thank me, it was a pleasure. Hey, just for fun, let's end with some good pop music. My favorite Japanese group is World Order, led by retired martial arts champion Genki Sudo. Here is the title tune from their new album Have a Nice Day:

Well, heck, let's listen to another one. This is "Informal Empire" which is a tribute to London and Great Britain (and to the cover of a certain Beatles' album):


Rickard Dahl said...

Ah, pop music, something you can live without (unless it's forced upon you in a store or whatever). I guess the examples are in the article are more of the "indie pop" variety. However it still sounds as uninteresting as ever. It's like you said about the 2nd song (roughly paraphrasing): The blog variant of pop music. Maybe a good name for it would be blog pop. And yes, the author took made a not so discrete attempt at white guilt. Obviously it must have been racism because Kayne West is black. It can't be because his music is pop trash and is getting way too much attention. Of course Bono etc. are equally bad. However it wasn't as if they were the ones that are going to perform in the first place. Plus it seems that people in general prefer whatever artistic (or other) qualities Bono has over what Kayne West has. This would NOT happen if for instance Michael Jackson was still alive and was going to perform.

Speaking of pop music, I have a confession to make. I don't like The Beatles in general and don't see what people in general (especially people who otherwise dislike pop in general) see in them. The only true Beatles song I enjoy is "Yesterday". I also enjoy the Live and Let Die theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings (not a true Beatles song but still) partially due to it being a Bond theme song and partially because it's actually very nice.

Bryan Townsend said...

Nothing saying you have to like the Beatles, but you might want to look a little closer at what they did. Maybe sit down and listen all the way through Revolver just to get a sense of the range of their creativity.

Marc Puckett said...

I did finally get around to listening to the G&M writer's four songs. Eh. I used to listen to Wilco, a lot, up through Mermaid Avenue, the year 2000 or so. Was one of the last pop bands I gave much time to before reverting to 98% classical, 98% of the time. A grey mass of aimless washes of confused greyness, ha-- but they fit my personal historical moment.

"You can tell it's Canadian because it doesn't have a nasty edge and the lyrics are kinda literary." Ha. I don't listen to enough pop music, but if you add 'TV' after 'Canadian' and substitute 'the dialogue is kinda educated with the English being actually well articulated' for the clause about lyrics, that certainly hits the mark; I do indulge a Netflix etc craving every so often.

I listened to those World Order tracks and don't 'get' your enthusiasm!! but the choreography is amusing, and they do sound like music and not like electronic noise i.e. what I hear on the car radio when I have to reset the tuner after another driver has changed the station away from the UO's KWAX.

Will have to read your Beatles posts eventually. A friend tries relentlessly (or would; we have agreed to disagree...) to get me to admit that they and Bob Dylan are great artists 'in the same league' with Bach and Beethoven etc etc.

Bryan Townsend said...

My liking for Genki Sudo and World Order is probably eccentric--I think I like them because they are nothing like any other pop musicians. Yes, sometimes it is the appropriateness to the personal historic moment that cements some pop music into your brain. There are some Beatles' tunes that function that way for me.

But I don't think I would try and argue that the Beatles and Bob Dylan are in the same league with Bach and Beethoven. They do have a league of their own, though.