It always feels to me like Friday Cheers goes by in a flash, but not because it’s uneventful (after tonight, I will have made it to four of the season’s shows — Todd Herrington, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, Funky Meters and Neko Case). It’s just one of those things — once you get a taste, you want it to be there all the time, even though you knew from the outset that it was only temporary. Like good peaches. Or fresh corn. Or happiness with your decision to eat Taco Bell.
If you’re like me, and I really hope you’re not, you spent Sunday evening and all of Monday in a five-alarm, rueful rage over the final moments of that almost-amazing U.S./Portugal World Cup match. Maybe you said some unkind things about Cristiano Ronaldo, his stupid hair and/or whether or not he’s a good person. Maybe you even swore off Panda Bear’s music (at least for a little while) because he lives in Lisbon.
Again, hopefully not. I’m sure your maturity kept you soaring miles above such lowly reactions. BUT JUST IN CASE, I thought I’d share a song that’s helping me feel better: “Light Hearted” by Little Black Cloud Records artist Stephen Brodsky.
Gerry Goffin died yesterday, and while I don’t usually join the obit wave that follows musicians’ deaths (it seems like this is becoming a cottage click-generation industry, which seems more than a little problematic from an ethical standpoint), Goffin’s passing has been affecting in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated.
I’m keeping a list of all the new (released in 2014) albums I listen to this year. I started keeping track to make the process of picking my year-end top 10 easier, but it’s turned into this great motivator — how many can I get to by December 31? It’s shallow to view someone else’s art as an opportunity to drive up a personal statistic, but I’d guess (this is the first time I’ve kept track like this, so I can’t be sure) that I’ve already surpassed the number of new albums I listened to last year, so this whole list-keeping thing can’t be all bad.
My biggest ally in this effort has been NPR’s First Listen series. A fresh handful of albums becomes available for streaming each Sunday night/Monday morning, which tends to make the transition out of the weekend a little more pleasant. And NPR’s been on a roll — First Aid Kit, Hamilton Leithauser, Conor Oberst, Sylvan Esso, Sturgill Simpson… it’s been a gold mine lately. It’s grown into a vital wellspring, and the fact that I’ve never made it all the way through a week’s offerings gives it a bottomless feel (as does the stylistic diversity).
I’ve tried to stay clear of the Del Ray fray. There’s a saturation point, I think, where so much is written about an artist or album that you stop getting closer to some core truth and start drifting further away. I can’t claim to have been totally plugged in when the critical storm hit in 2012 — in fact, I don’t think I’ve listened to either of her previous albums all the way through — but it doesn’t feel to me like Lana Del Ray has gotten a totally fair shake from the music writing world, and for whatever reason, I’m compelled to give her upcoming Ultraviolence album the benefit of an open (and more attentive) mind.
I’ve been spending an inordinate amount with Willie Nelson lately, mostly because of basketball.
I enlisted Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger album when Duke lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament and I threw myself a tournament disappointment pity party back in March. Next, after scoring a pair of his records — Stardust and Willie Nelson and Family Live — at Goodwill a month or two ago, I started watching San Antonio Spurs playoff games on mute with his music as accompaniment, hoping that Nelson’s Texanity would help Tim Duncan and company keep up their winning ways. (It’s been going pretty well — the Spurs are tied 1-1 with the Heat in the Finals.) Then NPR had to go and post a First Listen of Nelson’s first album of new material in almost two decades, Band of Brothers.
Does Willie Nelson even like basketball? I have no idea. What I do know is that all this time with my redheaded brother from another mother has left me with a few, mostly unrelated impressions that I’d like to share in bulleted form:
The whole thing is remarkably well executed, and it’s done me a huge service in waking me up to how terribly shallow my appreciation of these two artists has been. I have tremendous respect for both Marvin Gaye and Yasiin Bey, yet significant chunks of the Yasiin Gaye project are entirely unfamiliar, which tells me that there’s plenty of source material that I need to catch up on. The good news? Not only can I look forward to those study sessions, I can look forward to returning to Yasiin Gaye with the kind of perspective that will let me unpack the choices creator Amerigo Gazaway made when putting it together. For an intertextuality junkie like me, it’s hog heaven.
Click here to listen to/download the whole thing for free.
Two Fridays ago, I wrote a quick blurb about how excited I was to be seeing Grandma Sparrow in action later that evening. It was even more colorful and wacky than I could have imagined, and it helped to answer some — thankfully not all — of the questions I had after listening to the song cycle a few times through. Why “thankfully not all”? Click here to check out the guest post I wrote for RVA Playlist, which touches on the value of wonderment and how healthy it is to practice holding two contradictory ideas in your head at once.