I try not to play fast and loose with the word I’m about to use, but I feel it’s warranted here… the sound of Michael Kiwanuka’s guitar in the video above is perfect.
His voice is silky and wonderful, his dynamics are divine, but the way his acoustic guitar sounds may as well be a template for luthiers, sound engineers and guitarists the world over. It’s the unbroken shell you pocket to memorialize a day at the beach. It’s the drive to work that doesn’t involve a single yellow or red light. It’s Goldilocks‘ third bowl of porridge.
I can’t decide whether it’s fitting or disrespectfully ironic that I’m making this claim about a cover of a song by Jimi Hendrix. On one hand, it makes total sense that the greatest guitar player of all time — the deity that lesser guitar deities worship themselves — would write music that brings out the best in his instrument. But Hendrix is where he is in the holy order because of his electric guitar work. Aside from footage in his eponymous documentary and the beautiful cover art that graces its soundtrack, I never really think about Hendrix holding an acoustic guitar.
With all due respect, I think much of the credit for the perfection seen and heard above should be divvied up between three parties:
Isn’t the success that’s couched in abject failure the sweetest? Allow me to provide an illustration.
A week ago, I headed to Strange Matter for the sold out Real Estate show. Moments after I walked in the door, I caught a glimpse of a magic marker-scrawled schedule that was sitting on the desk of the ticket-taking station. The whole shindig was exactly 1 hour behind the advertised start. The Diamond Center at 9. Twerps at 10. Real Estate at 11. Normally, I don’t put too much stock in concerts starting on time, but I had to be up at an ungodly hour Friday morning and was beset by an uncharacteristic and unwelcome wave of prudence. Gross. But the Diamond Center put on such a fantastic display in the first opening slot that I completely forgot about my accursed curfew for a while, and I left Strange Matter with the unmistakable feeling that I’d gotten my money’s worth — and then some — even though I didn’t experience a single note of the headlining set.
Wandered into Venue 222 while in Austin for SXSW Interactive. They had free beer. They had aerial acrobatics. And then I saw a poster saying The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were playing. I’d heard their name, but hadn’t heard their music. Now I have, and I suggest you grab their new album Belong right now.