Pretty & Nice

Pretty & Nice

I want to talk to you about value.

(No, this is not a first time home buyers’ seminar, and I’m sorry to say that there’s no free timeshare waiting for you at the end of this post.)

I want to talk to you about value because Golden Rules for Golden People, the fantastic new album from Boston-based mad pop scientists Pretty & Nice, strikes me as one of the most valuable albums I’ve ever heard.

So what makes a band’s work valuable? It is, of course, an intentionally broad question, and you could answer it in a zillion different ways. A song that reminds you of the day your son or daughter was born would have emotional value. (I’m told Aaron Copland’s Billy The Kid was playing on the radio when I popped out, which is a tad bit creepy when you consider that my father’s name was Bill.) That first pressing of Meet The Beatles your parents never let you touch has some serious historical/monetary value, while the EDM you blast to keep yourself awake while driving long stretches at night has a very specific, practical value. We could keep going, but you get the point. Circumstances, time, our needs… all these things turn a piece of music into something more than just notes and words.

That said, Golden Rules has me thinking about a totally different kind of value. Something more objective and less ascribed. Something inherent in the recording itself.

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I’ve said it before, but it’s been a while, so I’ll say it again… I love listening instructions. Having someone tell you what music to try is great, but even better is being told the how, where and when, as well. That’s just what Villagers frontman Conor O’Brien has done with his latest album, {Awayland}. On the Villagers website, he lists the following instructions…

Maybe try it on headphones first, without interruption. I hope you enjoy.

Truth be told, by the time I saw his note, I was already 3/4 of the way through the album, and I was indeed listening through headphones. This barely qualifies as coincidental, given that new music is almost always debuted this way, for me and, I’d guess, for a lot of other people. But the second part — the “without interruption” corollary — that’s a bit more interesting, because I’d had the very same thought mere moments after I clicked play on NPR’s First Listen of the album. Almost immediately, I felt the need to hunker down for the full-album experience, despite being 30 or so minutes away from reading O’Brien’s instructions. Now that’s a coincidence worth digging our teeth into.

So why’d that happen? Why did I instinctively know that {Awayland} would be a great cover-to-cover read?

[cue Carrie Bradshaw voiceover]

Why would one album be better suited for uninterrupted listening than another?

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Alma Deutscher

[UPDATE: Video embed and links fixed]

Can you remember what you were up to when you were 6 years old? I can’t, but I imagine it involved fair amounts of introversion and nose-picking, with dashes of tee ball sprinkled in here and there.

But thanks to YouTube, we know exactly what Alma Deutscher was up to when she was 6. She was composing a sonata. A sonata in E-flat, to put a finer point on it. A sonata that, to these admittedly classical noob-escent ears, is pretty damn amazing.

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The Eastern Sea


So it’s Monday, which is, of course, extraordinarily lame. But I have something I think will help.

I’m sorry to say it’s not a time machine, nor is it a magic wand that can eliminate Mondays altogether, like the 13th floor of buildings in superstitious countries. (Quick side note: Did you know that some architects originally warned against letting skyscrapers grow above 13 floors, thinking it would result in daunting shadows, traffic congestion and lower property values? That has to be one of the wrongest things ever said, right? On par with “No online database will replace your daily newspaper” and “My cat probably won’t mind being given a bath“?)

It’s a song, one I came across last week on one of my favorite music blogs, 70 Day Weekend, and it’s here to make your Monday suck less.

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