Springtime? Nope. Winter is Coming: Game of Thrones is Back, A Song List

TyrionLast year around this time I confessed (ok, reiterated) my own geekiness when I was hyperbolically excited about the fact that Night Riots has a song named “Berelain” after a character from Robert Jordan’s recently (and posthumously) completed Wheel of Time series. I must add, however, that my geek credentials are the real-thing: I get paid to teach about mythology and to write about ancient poetry.

(Well, the credentials are spotty. I mentioned earlier that I actually played a bard to the 21st or 22nd level in a role-playing game. At one point, I actually tried to write music for the fictional character to perform. I am so ever grateful that I don’t remember it and that the internet did really exist to record my follies back then.)

This week? I have been eagerly awaiting the return of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Now, as readers of this blog know, my brother and I occasionally get excited about television, but not too often. We both used to like The Walking Dead. We both really loved Breaking Bad. He gets into things like Doomsday Preppers while I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which he will not watch). But Game of Thrones is something that we share. And there is an important reason.

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New Music: Saintseneca, “Happy Alone”

“He who can talk to himself, will have no need of another’s conversation”
qui secum loqui poterit, sermonem alterius non requiret
Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

A few days ago, my phone pinged, I looked down and I received the following tweet from my old college friend and our sometime contributor, Another J.

 

 

Another J has known me just slightly longer than my wife has and since we were in a band together and have shared music for over a decade, he knows my tastes pretty well.  He nailed it with this one. I hear some Rogue Wave in the vocals, some Typhoon in the song structure, and some wild vowels that remind me of Frightened Rabbit.  There are male and female vocals. They use acoustic guitars in angry ways. There are backing vocals that go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and they use a banjo in a non-abusive way (unlike, say, Mumford and Sons).

 

Here’s the lead single from the album:

 

 

The only problem is that the album comes out April 1st. I want it now! I listened to the whole album through NPR’s First Listen and I don’t think that this is the best track. It is actually a little conventional–in the way the Decemberists are in the song “July, July”, which is a great song, but rather poppy in comparison to the rest of their ouvre.  Here’s another Saintseneca track with an acoustic bass and some strangeness that reminds me again of some odd combination of the Decemberists and the early days of Arcade Fire (if they unplugged).

 

“Uppercutter”

The facial hair kind of kills me. I don’t feel hip enough to pre-order this album, but screw it. I’ll do it anyway.

 

Also coming in April: some new and fresh posts. I promise.

Summertime, Brain Surgery and Mocking Mumford

I was going to write a response to my brother’s summertime post today–I love the way that he combines gratitude for the coming of summer with wistful nostalgia for the summertimes of youth that we can never regain (and that were sweeter than first kisses and first fruits). But, as is our custom now as brothers, I am more over-extended than ever. I have taken an editorial position at an academic journal; we are moving into a new house; oh, I still have two beautiful but insane children.

I used to listen to this album over and over again while mowing the lawn as a sixth grader. Then I would ride my bike around town just in case I might see one of (several girls) I had a crush on. How did I stay so chubby with so much activity?

I wanted to write a short post because I keep thinking about Mumford & Sons. Following my brother, I fear, my appreciation for the band has decreased with each listening of the last album. Yet, I cannot get away from the fact that my 3-year old daughter keeps asking for me to play “I Will Wait”. The song has grown old for me, but she asks for it by name and it breaks my heart to see the bliss in her face when she hears it.

So, I was thinking about Mumford & Sons this morning, then I saw that the bassist needed brain surgery. The evil part of me wanted to make some snide comment about this connected to the band’s music, but I thought the better of it. Life is too short as it is; it would be worse than churlish to delight in someone else’s pain and danger.

But I was also thinking about Mumford & Sons over the weekend after my good friend from college, Another J, let me know about this humorous video mocking the band:

Now, as I actually mentioned on twitter, I felt gratified because this video mentions some of the same themes I mentioned in an earlier post (especially regarding the lack of drummer and the movie O Brother Where Art Thou).  Humor, even though we often take it for granted, can often be so much more insightful and critical than the sharpest critique because it approaches a subject obliquely. This piece is especially good because it also creates a “Mumford Band”.

Now, this might be a little painful or annoying for the band–but one thing is universally true: if people are making fun of you, you’re doing something right.

What do you think, brother?

Game of Thrones is Back: A Song List

TyrionA few weeks back I admitted (ok, reiterated) my own geekiness when I was hyperbolically excited about the fact that Night Riots has a song named “Berelain” after a character from Robert Jordan’s recently (and posthumously) completed Wheel of Time series. I must add, however, that my geek credentials are the real-thing: I get paid to teach about mythology and to write about ancient poetry.

(Well, the credentials are spotty. I mentioned earlier that I actually played a bard to the 21st or 22nd level in a role-playing game. At one point, I actually tried to write music for the fictional character to perform. I am so ever grateful that I don’t remember it and that the internet did really exist to record my follies back then.)

This week? I have been eagerly awaiting the return of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Now, as readers of this blog know, my brother and I occasionally get excited about television, but not too often. We both like The Walking Dead. He gets into things like Doomsday Preppers while I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which he will not watch). But Game of Thrones is something that we share. And there is an important reason.

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Written Better Elsewhere: Mumford and Sons vs. Frightened Rabbit

So, my good friend, Another J, just let me know about a piece on the Stereogum.com Deconstructing blog discussing earnestness, indie rock, and the difference between Mumford & Sons and Frightened Rabbit. (“Deconstructing: Frightened Rabbit, Macklemore, and the Perils of Earnestness”).  I like the post, not the least because it taps into the debate my brother and I have been having about Mumford & Sons (he doesn’t like them; I do, a lot, and then less) but also because it compares the band to Frightened Rabbit, a great group I only recently learned about and have been struggling to figure out how to write about.

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East Coast vs. West Coast: Hippie-Folk Smackdown

So, recently, I was telling my brother the following anecdote, and it got me thinking about rivalry, throwdowns, and a less tiresome way to talk about new music than to list it and have me give you my thoughts.

A colleague of mine who is from NYC told me that he met a younger professional who insisted that the difference between Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. was that the former (yes, Pac) was real ‘street’ whereas the latter (Biggee) was faking it. This is why, according to this anecdotal fool, that the music of Tupac was so ‘real’ and the music of Christopher Wallace seemed fake.

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The Felice Brothers: How did the Elder get to this before me?

What a sick song! As I shared last week, I did in fact give up alcohol for lent. I am listening to a lot of drinking songs as of late as a means to cope I think, although it is not really that bad. I actually don’t even drink as I did in my college years and its more of a social thing now, but I couldn’t remember the last time I went more than a few days without a single beer so I thought it was probably the best thing for me to give up for Lent.

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Grammys: Why watch?

My brother wrote the other day about his “issues”  the Grammys and how he doesn’t like award shows yet still pays attention.  I agree with each one of his points. It is all about money and who sells records, but why wouldn’t it be if it was created by record executives?  I don’t say this as a point of contention with my brother, just that it has always seemed to me like it was all about money. Same with his next two points in that its meant to sell more records and it is a rich person party thrown by rich people.

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Grammys and Grammy Watching

450px-GrammySo, the Grammys are coming up soon and they promise to offer the typical menu of pageantry, performers, promotion and implicit prior authorization of music purchases. (Like that? Cynicism and alliteration at once?)

I mentioned not liking awards shows earlier this week, but I didn’t really state my objections rather clearly. For sake of clarity, then, here are my issues (and, yes, my brother, I am saying ‘issues’ the way our father would).

  1. The Grammys are about making money: The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (which gives out the award) was created by Recording executives. The process of nomination and the doling out of awards is really just one orgy of promotion for the recordings peddled by the sponsoring companies.
  2. The awards in every category are really about selling the most or being the best-known: It is obvious that to win an award, people need to know about you, but it isn’t true that just because something is well-known it is necessarily good or that it is better than something that isn’t as well-known. Further, just because a larger number of people buy something doesn’t mean that it is aesthetically superior. If anything, ‘products’ in wide circulation are often rather non-descript and mediocre.
  3. Awards shows are solipsistic and self-congratulatory parties thrown by rich people for other rich people. I think that says enough.
  4. The Grammys are historically bad at gauging important contributions to music: Pearl Jam won a grammy in 1996 for “Hard Rock Performance”, four years after Jeremy. Grammy voters are older and part of the record industry or institutionalized enough that they are universally conservative. Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991; Nirvana) is often cited as one of the most important albums of the 1990s. The year it was eligible for a Grammy The album of the year was Unforgettable …With Love (Natalie Cole). The Alternative album of the year was Out of Time (R.E.M). The next year? Album of the Year was Eric Clapton’s Unplugged. Alternative Album? Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. (Nine Inch Nails and Red Hot Chili Peppers got some love in the Rock Category but SIR MIX -A-LOT won the best Rap Solo Performance Grammy!).

The Academy authorized THIS? Perhaps I should rethink my criticisms….

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New Album Review: Babel

While avoiding the Superbowl on Sunday, I checked out the nominations for the Grammys (wondering how my new favorite Heritage Blues Orchestra stacks up against the competition). Although I really have little respect for award shows and know that the Grammys are really based on sales and not quality, I was interested to see that the most recent release of Mumford & Sons has garnered a half-dozen nominations.

In earlier posts my brother and I debated about Mumford & Sons. I even tried not to like the tracks “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” from their debut Sigh No More. I went as far as to plan to write a review of the Lumineers with the central contrast of a band that knows how to write a song versus one that doesn’t (in this imagined piece, Mumford & Sons did not come out well).

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