It is that time of year, that stretch between Halloween and Thanksgiving before the holiday blitz fades into the winter blues. Here is one I really enjoyed writing that brings me back to where I was a year ago, Enjoy!
It’s the best time of year in the Northern Woods. It’s time to gather up all the late season produce, put the garden to sleep and make sure you know how you are going to heat your home for the winter.
I included my favorite song with the word “harvest” in it to open this post for obvious reasons which is dissimilar to the rest of my choices because they have nothing to do with harvesting anything except for maybe good tunes and mechanical skills. Anyway, I firmly believe that the warm days/cool nights of fall in the Northeast is the best weather in the world and I think you earn it by dealing with the harshness of the previous winter followed by the erratic conditions of spring and summer.
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.
So, 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).
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.
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.
Awards shows are solipsistic and self-congratulatory parties thrown by rich people for other rich people. I think that says enough.
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….
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).
So, we’re just about at the point where this blog has existed for a year. While there is something essentially arbitrary about this 365 day boundary—I mean, it isn’t like we really govern our years by the seasons any more…or something like that—but any boundary is at some point artificial (with the exception of death, I guess; there really isn’t denying that one).
There is definitely something to be said, however, for pausing a moment and reconsidering the way one has spent his or her time. As I have mentioned before, the younger Seneca, better known now for his tragedies and letters than his philosophical treatises, once remarked in De Brevitate Vitae that, contrary to popular opinion, life isn’t too short, most people just waste the time they have on this earth as to make it seem that way.
(My brother and I without really planning it authored three year-in-review posts. We apologize for piling on with the rest of the (un)-civilized world.)
I have mentioned earlier my distrust for lists and the way that they distort issues of judgment (something that on its own has issues). See, for instance, the recent “50 Best Rap Songs” offered up by Rolling Stone. (It unfairly emphasizes older and ‘original’ rappers—for the most part not on aesthetic grounds I suspect, but rather because the polled ‘experts’ both suffer from age-laden nostalgia and from the critic-typical desire to seem authoritative by tracing things back to their origins.)
The act of publishing such nonsense is of course intentionally provocative: it invites dispute, debate and engagement with the topic. And, even such a purposeful misrepresentation of the ‘quality’ relations among various artists or examples of the artists can have the salutary effect of forcing critics and their audiences to develop ad hoc if not more evolved standards for making such decisions.
At the end, however, listing is arbitrary at some fundamental level. But, of course, arbitrariness can be quite fulfilling on its own. So, I am ending the year with a list that is doubly arbitrary. Here is a list, from worst to best, of the albums I bought in 2012. The album did not have to be issued in 2012. Nope, this is purely about whatever I acquired and how I feel about it.
It has been a very weird year, both globally and personally. We are several days past the supposed Mayan apocalypse and everything appears to be normal. Christmas parties and the accompanying songs are done and we have the one big blast of New Year’s Eve before we settle into the doldrums of winter, depending on where you live.
It has been ups and downs all around from my love life to the price of fuel. I started a band, I planted a garden, I hung out with some different girls, I did a bunch of fishing, I experienced my first earthquake and I finally got my own iPod. I was sort of apathetic towards everything after the holidays and the Elder J kept giving me shit about not posting anything so the obvious choice was a year in review. I always miss things when I try to be retrospective but such is life. Here it comes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation with my brother that I had about two separate musical things that are somehow related. The first had to do with the fact that he didn’t like prog rock because there was too much going on and the second with how you didn’t have to be a gifted musician to be an good artist. For the former, we talked about Yes and how they played too many notes so he couldn’t hear the melody. I’ve really been digging this song.
I know nothing about the band except that they are from Colorado. It’s very simple, very few notes, and concise in what it’s trying to do. I love the basic ” ho hey” refrain throughout the song. I imagine this song being sung around a campfire and everyone smiling. It’s the best time of year in the Northeast with the onset of Indian Summer. Hot days, warm nights and the greatest weather in the world in my opinion. So, all of these things propel me to love this jam. This song is one I listen to a shitty alternative station for two hours to hear. For two minutes and forty two seconds of music, one may wonder whether the juice is worth the squeeze. I would say it certainly is. This is a band I will be checking out and hoping they release more stuff.
On a final note on this, it is the Elder J’s birthday today. The thirties are taking over and 40 is rapidly approaching. I hope we can actually be with on another on one of these birthdays so we can have a few beers and argue about stuff. I miss not having you close by brother and I look forward to the day we are not so far away. Rather than play a unique version of “Happy Birthday”, which I took considerable time to research on, I will just include as a musical conclusion what I think is close to your favorite song. Happy Birthday Elder J!