I wager you’re well familiar with ubiquitous hit, and I bet that sometime after the ten thousandth time you heard it, what it’s about may have finally dawned on you. You may have even felt a tiny little bit bad for whistling along. But then you whistled along anyway. It is, to refresh you, an inescapably catchy ode to that peculiarly modern social evil of our time, the school shooting. Making delightful art out of the shittiest things in life isn’t by any means a new phenomenon; people have been making whistle tunes in the face carnage for as long as people have known how to whistle. It’s an interesting thing to think about. We’re reached a point in our society where we just numbly accept the very real likelihood of getting shot by a disgruntled acquaintance or blown up by a terrorist as just a residual risk of living. While the specifics of the threats we face are uniquely ours, the mindset is nothing new. We wearily accept our timely dangers, just as people before us wearily accepted that most of their children would never live to adulthood or that a certain number of people in their communities would inevitably be eaten by lions. It’s not callous, it’s just how we’ve always survived.
Another song from Here Lies Love, featuring the French vocalist Camille. She is best known for recording with Nouvelle Vague, and is also a solo artist. Apparently she has recorded half a dozen albums, some of which were certified platinum in France. After years of knowing her only for her Here Lies Love contribution and as part of the Nouvelle Vague ensemble, I’m curious to discover Camille as an artist in her own right. More on that at a later date.
It may be under the radar for some of you, but for me and a small group of fans, the music event of the year is Karen Elson’s new album. We have been waiting seven years for this! Numerology may be bunk, but seven is a significant number. It’s long time in the life of an artist, and of course, I’m excited to know where Karen Elson is in hers. I was expecting her to start recording heartbreak songs after her 2013 divorce, as many artists do. But she proved that she’s classier than that. It seems that Elson is not the kind of artist who creates compulsively, but one who does so slowly and deliberately. So, I will shortly be coming back with my impressions of the newly released Double Roses. In the meantime, enjoy a throwback from The Ghost Who Walks.
Welcome to the musical sensation of the year, circa 2010. You can stop and say “wow, it’s been a long time!” LCD Soundsystem made three albums in five years and then did that whole ‘quit while you’re ahead’ thing. I think James Murphy is doing something with microbreweries in Brooklyn now, which is so hipster it’s, like, meta-hipster. Of course, very few people actually do quit while they’re ahead, and they usually get sucked right back into it when they try. So, seven years later, the time is ripe for an LCD comeback. Seven years is an eternity in our sped-up world of instant returns, and seven years of silence is like 40 years in the wilderness. The good news is there’s a new LCD album promised, with all details still TBA. But it’s definitely coming this year, so leave a slot preemptively open on your record of the year list.
Are you sick of hearing about this record yet? I suspect that you are, but I listen to this record a lot, so it comes up a lot. Also, it’s a really long album, it’s 22 songs and maybe it kind of runs together if you’re not following the storyline, and a lot of the singers sound the same. But let me just say that this is one of the standout songs from Here Lies Love, and the only one that was released as a single. The singer is Santigold. The video is an official one and matches the lyrics of the song, featuring footage of protagonist Imelda Marcos mixing it up with various heads of state. Marcos was a glamorous woman with a taste for princess dresses with huge sleeves; it appears that she was charming, popular and well liked on the political circuit. Unfortunately, her husband was a corrupt tyrant who put his poverty-wracked country under martial law and embezzled state funds to support his family’s love of luxury. David Byrne suggests here that Imelda’s aggressively fashionable image was an attempt to put forward a pretty face so world wouldn’t look down on the Philippines as a backwards third world country.
How did Steve Earle get this honor? On David Byrne’s Here Lies Love, Earle is the only male guest vocalist. I can’t argue with the choice; Earle provides exactly the right shot of smarmy masculinity singing the part of the scheming Ferdinand Marcos. I’m just curious about the connection between the eggheads David Byrne and Norman Cook, and Earle, an old-school country singer from Texas. They don’t seem like they would be orbiting in the same circles, so to speak. Granted, Byrne is famous for having esoteric tastes, and an ear for diverse talents, but I don’t recall him ever trying to collaborate with the kind of songwriters who sing about making moonshine. In fact, Byrne’s been known to take a mocking view of the ‘common man’ aesthetic; he once made an entire movie mocking common people. So yeah, I’m curious as to what he and Steve Earle hang out and talk about.
And now, for something lighthearted. Let Tape Five take you back to the days when people appeared to be having a disproportionate amount of fun, despite the fact that alcohol was illegal. (Obviously, people in places beyond America had other problems besides Prohibition, but they weren’t the ones having all that glamorous fun.) Although, to the rational history buff, it’s clear that the era was actually pretty rough for most people who inhabited it, we’re still helplessly compelled by its images. The art deco design, the music, the movies and movie stars, the gangsters; we can’t get enough reliving those high times. Nostalgia is a little bit of a cottage industry and updating the sounds of swing music for modern ears is one little niche of it. It isn’t a huge fad, but it’s definitely a community with a market for it. And, really, you couldn’t ask for anything more fun.