Apr 28, 2006

Listen Up: Weekly Music Update. v1:n1

In the interest of doing something regular on the site, I want to bring it back to the days when I actually listed what I was listening to. But I’ll just make it a weekly installment with some thoughts on the good stuff that I’ve been tripping out on. This isn’t just a navel-gazing exercise to expose the mundane minutiae of my personal taste. After all, who the hell cares? I guess it will serve me as a test of discipline to register things as I listen to them and write at least something on a regular basis, and also as a living documentation of some of the music that was compelling in a particular moment. Also - if y’all want to participate, feel free in the comments, on your own sites, whatever. And of course, dialogue on music is encouraged here. Everyone deserves good music!

So for this friday’s post...

1)Crazy” - Gnarls Barkley. I’m so behind the times on this track, but it’s been haunting me. It shot to number one in the UK as a download only track, and is the first single of a new collaboration between Danger Mouse (of the grey album, danger doom, and gorillaz production fame) and Cee-Lo of Goodie Mob. It may not be the best thing ever, but there’s something about the combination of beats and vocals here that really speaks to me. Shout to Ani for intro’ing me to it.

2) “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” - Bruce Springsteen. This new album, with the joyful Seeger Sessions band of 13 or 14 players, just makes you feel good. It is a masterful blend of nuanced approaches to American standards that blur the lines between some of America’s proudest musical eras, and actually pays homage to the American spirit by remembering and pointing directly to not only the traditional folk songs that have so often been touted as “true” American roots, but also the spirituals, hymnals, and other songs that were at the backbone of the civil rights movement. Springsteen writes, through the release of this record, a revisionist history of what Americana means, and how the rich history of American music is linked across time, communities, and geography. This record could be viewed as his tribute to New Orleans, even, with a prominent brass section that swings into some of the songs and plays it cool behind others while gospel vocals intermingle with a fiddle, a banjo, and the rest of the sessions band. It is truly a revelation that goes beyond the surface of fun-sounding “retro-folk-revivalism.” Springsteen can do anything at this point - and he’s chosen a very interesting path - challenging his fans, remaining true to the mission of keeping the music front and center, but making creative choices that speak volumes about who’s calling the shots and what’s important to him.

This man is a national treasure. I have been a big fan of his “quieter” solo album trilogy, starting with Nebraska, into the stark Ghost of Tom Joad, and last year’s brilliant Devils and Dust, because of the way that he’s taken us into different parts of this American experience, and how he connects the dots without hitting you over the head. A number of his songs deal with migrant workers, with the intermingling of lives that should be viewed within a common context, but so rarely are (like the fishermen of Galvaston Bay, Texas, who include working class white folk and Vietnamese refugees).

He may not be rubbing elbows with the world’s leaders like Bono, but Springsteen is real. It’s just a shame that more folks don’t see how he, as a popular artist, has been able to visit issues and themes that very few others attempt without feeling worried about alienating his base. Who else of his level of mainstream popularity (and support from policemen the nation over) would write and release a song called American Skin (41 Shots) in which he repeats “41 shots” over and over and sings words of warning from Amadou Diallo’s mother to her lost son. “You can get killed just for living, in your American skin.” Chilling.


Chai Anyone? said...

cool blog :)

Rage said...