Tuesday, January 04, 2005

It's the same old song...

There were a pair of interesting music-related items on All Things Considered tonight. First, a story on a former fan who noticed striking similarities between two allegedly different Nickelback songs and then juxtaposed them to prove how close they really were. From there, a third Nickelback song and an Avril Lavigne (I think) tune got the same treatment. Interesting observations from various perspectives on the notion of difference in music (turns out Handel ripped himself off, even more blatantly), but to me the story was a beautiful illustration of exactly what I find so insanely uninteresting about so much pop/rock music since at least the heyday of postpunk, if not long before: same combination of guitar sounds and vocal mannerisms, over and over and over again.

The other item of interest was a rambling but fun commentary by the wife of a record store owner covering, among other things, the lazy writing of lots of music reviewers. While I don't agree with her when she seems to suggest that all she wants to know is what earlier artists a new, unknown one sounds like, I do share her frustration with the lazy, vague terminology writers trot out to describe music. (How useful is it to hear that a song is "luminous" or "incandescent"?) As a guy who earns a meager income from trying to find words for sounds (both as a critic and a record-company hack), it drives me nuts to see the same lazy, vague words hauled out over and over again. But I also know how hard it is to translate what's so wonderful--or awful--about a song into language.

Ah, Nickelback: luminous, incandescent Nickelback. Play it again, boys! Just give it a new name and hope nobody notices...

My Vinyl Weighs a Ton

As further proof that this blog is (theoretically) less about any particular kind of music and more about the very act of obsessing over songs/albums/artists/etc, allow me to draw your attention to a nice little bit on the NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge yesterday about record collectors. The opening segment was an interview with Brett Milano, author of Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting, a book I haven't read yet (but will have to add to my, uh, book collection).

The same episode (the overall theme of which is "Collecting") contains segments on Maurice Sendak, another book I haven't read called To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting, and Elvis Costello's longtime, ultraswell keyboard player, Steve Nieve (who collects sounds for use in his solo projects).

Oh, speaking of collections, earlier tonight I discovered a very lovely series of blog entries in memory of Susan Sontag at In Sequence, including this one about her book The Volcano Lover, which contains these lines about collecting, and the next best thing: "The list is itself a collection, a sublimated collection. One does not actually have to own the things. To know is to have (luckily for those without great means). It is already a claim, a species of possession, to think about them in this form, the form of a list: which is to value them, to rank them, to say they are worth remembering or desiring."
In this blog, I list things to remind myself to study them in greater detail, and never really get around to that.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Quick note: Here's an interesting 2000 interview with cellist/conductor/arranger Jaques Morelenbaum from BRAZZIL magazine . I first saw his name in the album credits for several Caetano albums, then realized he was pretty much everywhere in the Brazilian music scene of the last three decades. We're talking 400+ album credits here. (Most recently, I saw him all over the cool 3-disc Man from Ipanema compilation of Tom Jobim songs my friend Elizabeth gave me for Christmas.)

In a used record store last summer I picked up one album he created in collaboration with his wife Paula and Ryuichi Sakamoto called Casa; it's a collection of Jobim covers, some well-known, others more obscure (at least to me). Pretty straightforward, actually; not the kind of avant-garde wackiness you might expect from such a crew, but also not conventional-sounding bossa nova, either. When I'm in the right mood, it's really nice listening: sparse, lovely, romantic. (In other moods, it just seems kind of staid, if not sterile.)