Friday, November 21, 2008

Paul Simon and Integration Vs. Visitation

I've been having a hard time writing about Paul Simon's self-titled record. It's something that just snuck up on me. But not in a fast sneak, in a very slow and deliberate sneak. Where it had been nuzzled up in my lap for months and months, and I never noticed. It has slowly become one of my favorite albums. Which is an odd thing, because I'm not the hugest Paul Simon fan. I think he lost the wheel after a few albums into his solo career. I don't like Graceland, I'm willing to give it another couple of chances, I just think his songs are best when they have some space for them to move their elbows around. Graceland is just too busy and cluttered. I don't know, maybe not, I'm working on it. 

Paul Simon is a horse of a different color, though. It's relaxed, confident vibe make it perfect for just about any time. Perfect for Sunday morning's breakfast, late late late Friday night's "just this one last record", weekday afternoon's laying around. The songs are well built, the melodies inbed themselves deep in your humming veins and your whistling capillaries. There something about a song like "Peace Like A River" that is just so open to interpretation. In Simon's hands it's the sound of being content, maybe. He's still gonna be up for a while. Is that an invitation, or a threat? Spoon have recently tackled this song and made the "I'm gonna be up for a while" line sound more threatening, especially when they start pounding away at their instruments after each little part. 

As I've had some time to think about it, taking a little lunch break in the middle of writing this, my problem with Graceland might be the impression I've always had about it being a particularly egregious example of the 1980's musical colonialism. Some bands, well, one band, the Talking Heads, managed to pull this off integrating the music of other cultures into their music while maintaining their prevailing artistic themes. On Graceland Paul Simon sounds more like a musical tourist. Paul Simon songs with South African music attached.  (Some bands since have been more adept at achieving a positive balance of integration versus visitation, Sea And Cake and Vampire Weekend being two of the best examples.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things I'm Enjoying Now

So, it's been quite some time since I last wrote a blog post, since June, in fact. I'm sure there are reasons I could give, outside of being terribly busy getting married, working, enjoying married life etc. But the fact of the matter is that my profession allows me a good bit of free time that I've just kind of wasted. After getting married, I invested all of my alone free time into being obsessed with the election. Which was awesome. Getting married and getting Barack Obama into the White House have been two high points of my life, two of the happiest days in my life yet. All in the same year, no less. 

Somehow, I've got to get back into blogging, with the election over, there's only so much information I can get about politics now. Unlike during those feverish months before, where I would visit Talking Points Memo four or five times a day. So here is my attempt to dry out from a bad case of Election Fever. A return to blogging, or more appropriately a dip of my toe in to the blogging waters.

So to steal the entire premise of Nick Hornby's "Things I'm Reading Now", here are some things I'm enjoying now...

1. Orion (The Constellation)
Orion hangs over my house in the fall and winter. Whenever I walk my dog, Bean at night, I see a few stars that break through the light pollution that comes with living smack dab in the middle of a mid sized city. But on my way back to my house, I see Orion hanging over the house, on his side. Something is so entirely beautiful about this constellation and it's reliability, hanging over the house I've shared with my wife for almost four years (we've lived together for much longer than we've been married two months in four days). It's been the longest sustained period of happiness in my life. Which brings me to my next thing I enjoy, which should have been number one, that is, if this list was in any particular order.

2. My Wife (Amanda Given)
Being married is awesome. If only for the fact that I now get to call Amanda "my wife". And "the missus" and all other fun permutations thereafter. I can't say that things are so different from the almost four years previous. I've felt the same way about this woman since day one. My friend, Melissa recently asked me how long Amanda and I had been living together, and when I told her how Amanda and I got together in the end of February 2005, and moved in to this same house that Orion hangs over that April. She slanted her mouth and said "geez, that was a little risky," and I guess when you think about it, objectively, from the viewpoint of a passive narrator, that story sounds a little crazy. But I hadn't been so sure of anything in my life. I knew I'd spend the rest of my life with Amanda from that very moment we kissed in the empty bus station at 5 in the morning. "I had never been so sure about anything in my life," is what I told Melissa. And I meant it, and I mean it. I love my wife.

3. Popless on The Onion AV Club and by extension minor league music, and it's ability to make an imprint on your life.

At the same time I hatched the itty bitty egg that couldn't, The Red Skull, Noel Murray started Popless, an excellent column on the always excellent AV Club with a very similar, though much more devoted premise. The Red Skull was made shortly before, when I really look at it, was the catalyst for the waning of my interest in blogging, Amanda getting hit by a drunk driver. I guess maybe certain things seemed a lot less important. Also, there was the Hatchet folding as an unintended side effect of that man's drunken, reckless, harmful behavior. So, I lost some of the motivation for my writing. Anyway, entirely too personal aside over, The Red Skull was my attempt to get some of the bloggers and other writers I knew to write about the old music they enjoyed, whatever it was, as long as it wasn't new. I only got the very game, and very great Marco to join me on my mission, and he did a much better job than I, in my opinion. The superior Popless and Murray have kept up with it's premise, exposing me to some things I'd slept on or reminding me how great some things were (The Who and Pete Townsend). My favorite part of each column, though are The Stray Tracks, where he picks out songs from his ipod that he wouldn't want to comment on the artist's entire output, but just on this one, great song. Ranging from bands like Thunderclap Newman, whose "Something In The Air" has been abused in snippet form in sixties/seventies movie montages for years. Hearing the full song for the first time was a revelation! What a wonderful song, what a great band! Then there were little bits by nineties indie-rock also-rans, like Unrest and Versus. Oh, how wonderful Versus were. Little indie songs with a guitar god busting out in the middle of these little songs to lay some knowledge on the cross-armed crowds. I've threatened it before, but a nineties version of Nuggets should be compiled, and it should be called "Lint". Almost all of those garage bands on Nuggets were on independent labels, which subsided until the mid eighties, and really flowered in the nineties. It should be done!

4. "How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?" by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The perfect Sharon Jones song. Back on Nov. 4 when the networks called it for Barack, the bar we were at went crazy, it turned into a dance party, and the song that kicked it off was this absolutely funky and absolutely appropriate number. This song will be played at every party I throw from here to eternity.

5. My nephew William Sergio Becom.
Sergio has just recently joined the family, shortly after I did in an official capacity. Sergio is just about the most awesome baby in the universe. And man, do I want one for our little family over here on Gordon St. He's such a well behaved baby, though. He went with the family down to SC for a wedding a few weeks ago, and was a quiet little guy almost the entire time. He was calm as could be while a band played, uncles, cousins, mothers, fathers, etc. chattered on. I'm looking forward to playing with Sergio and all the other things that come with being an uncle, like staying up till the sun rises getting drunk with him many years from now on a beach week.