This is white girl blues at its best, and I admit that I’m feeling it pretty hard. A white girl may not have a real good reason for having the blues, and her depth of experience may be as thin as her ankles, but goddamn it, she’s got the blues anyway. And if she’s Duffy, she going to sing her heart out about it. What is white girl blues, anyway? Does your man make you feel mildly insecure? Do you suspect that the role you’re playing in his life might be a little bit problematic? Are you second-guessing yourself about why, deep down inside, you’ve allowed yourself to be placed in such a problematic position in the first place? If you answered yes, you got the white girl blues. White girl blues is when you don’t actually have any real problems, and you know that you don’t really have any real problems, but you feel like shit anyway. You feel like garbage and you hate your life; and you feel like you’re somehow broken inside in ways you can’t quite articulate; and you feel lonely and unloved like some kind of a goddamned torch singer from the fifties; and you would like to fall in love and be swept away but you’re not about to compromise your principles in order to make that possible, so thank you very much.
Even after a lifetime of listening to Roxy Music, I still haven’t caught all of Bryan Ferry’s wordplay. I just had to look up what clair de lune was. It’s French for moonlight. Somehow I always just accepted that there would be random French phrases in these songs and I would never know what they meant. Well, now we have Google Translate, sapping the mystery and romance out of life. It’ll take you more than a translating dictionary bot to wring some sense out of these lyrics, though. It’s about love and uncertainty and gazing wistfully up at your loved one’s gently glowing windows (which is nowadays called ‘stalking’.)
More of an interlude. An interlude and an outro. In St. Vincent’s world nothing is ever just filler or a toss-off. If it’s on there, it’s been thought about deeply and should be parsed deeply. You can’t say that the album Actor has a grand concept, but it was loosely inspired by Annie Clark’s idea of writing her own music for her favorite movies. So the loose idea is something about identity and the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives. Ironically, this was a few years before Clark’s own identity came to include being a tabloid celebrity, so she was writing from the point of view of a normal person. She needs to now make a concept album about how we act out our lives and write out our stories in an age where our inner lives have become our public lives. In the meantime, an interlude.
Ok, wow, I haven’t listened to St. Lucia in years. Every time this song pops up on my iPod, I mistake it for some obscure one-hit-wonder from the 80’s. Which, for an electrosynth artist, is paying them the highest of compliments. Reliving what James Murphy called “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties” is what the electro-scene is all about. What exactly these young artists want to sweep us back to I’m not sure. The wonder and magic of John Hughes movies? The delicious frisson of Cold War terror juxtaposed with candy-colored Wham! videos? I don’t remember much about the Eighties either, but I’m still along for this musical ride.
Portugal. The Man is great at mining the 1960’s, as evidenced by their breakout success of last year. Of course it’s funny that they’ve finally made it to breakout status after making records for more than ten years. Maybe they haven’t hit mainstream as soon as they could have, but sometimes it’s good to take the time to perfect your craft and whatnot. And as you can hear here, they were crafting hit-worthy time-traveling earworms in 2011. I admit I haven’t gone as far back as their 2006 stuff yet, but I’m going to soon and I’m optimistic that it will be more of the same fun spirit.
Bryan Ferry really knows where his bread is buttered, so to speak. He perfected his formula in the early 80’s and doesn’t stray from it very often. I for one, can’t complain. No one else does anything like what Ferry does, so as long as he can go on doing it, all’s the better. Sophisticated and versatile mood music is a necessity, and I always turn to Ferry for all of my mood-setting needs. My mood rut lately has been “drinking champagne alone,” for which Bryan Ferry’s brand of romantic moodiness is ideal, but it’s also ideal for hot dates or parties. There’s really no better way to signal that you have eccentric good taste than by putting on a mid-80’s Bryan Ferry album.
“I was born before my father and my children before me”
Paul Simon is feeling very philosophical about life. He sees good news coming out of the jungle. He sees human generations moving forward in warm waves. These are, still, the days of miracle and wonder. And I admire anyone who can still take that view, having lived for some seventy-odd years. I find it difficult to take any comfort in the ongoing pageant of life as it unfolds around me. I see intergenerational trauma spreading itself in epigenetic waves, I see every child doomed to grow up repeating his father’s worst mistakes. I see vast jungles and all of the life and culture within them bulldozed in pursuit of one tiny frog. But I don’t have the perspective of all that many years, and if old people can look at the big picture and find it comforting, well, I suppose they know something young people don’t.