Songs of Love

I’m especially fond of The Curse of Blondie because it was one of the first records that I was excited to go out and buy with my own money. I thought it to be an excellent purchase. As it happens, Curse is probably Blondie’s most experimental album, often straying very far from their usual post-punk pop formula. That didn’t exactly connect with the critics or the public, who only want upbeat dance tunes from Blondie. It really depends on how big of a fan you are, if you want to hear slow ballads with saxophone, among other weird things.

Song for Myla Goldberg

If you’ve read Myla Goldberg’s acclaimed novel Bee Season, you’ll be able to grasp the allusions here. I have not, myself, nor have I seen the movie. So the allusions, for now, escape me. It makes great sense, though, that Colin Meloy, a musician who dabbles in literature, and Goldberg, a novelist who dabbles in music, have a mutual-admiration friendship thing going on. It’s honestly heartwarming. Like a power summit of the most outstanding young-ish intellectuals.

Somebody Else’s Business

Yes, more Pet Shop Boys! Because I really want to listen to a lot of sad gay music. I want to capture that feeling when you’re dancing on the outside but melancholy on the inside. Part of the hands-in-the-air scene but aloof from it. If you’re the sort who goes out dancing a lot, you know that there’s an underlying sadness that’s just part of the scene. Happily settled people don’t go out to clubs. Clubs are full of lonely people hoping to banish their loneliness through the euphoria of spasmodic movement. It’s inherently sad because the feeling is transient, the sloppy attempts to connect with strangers usually fall flat, and you wake up the next day with a hangover. The music written for clubs isn’t generally allowed to acknowledge that, because nobody wants to bring the dancefloor screeching to a halt. Pet Shop Boys are one of the few who allow you to dance it out to your melancholy. Throw you hands up in the air as you contemplate the saddening complexity of life.

Sleeping In

Well, here’s song after my own heart. Don’t wake me from my dreams of a world where everything is exactly how it seems. Don’t wake me from my optimism and visions of a world that rewards goodness. Mostly just don’t wake me. If you’re like me – a realist – you’ve woken long ago from most of your delusions about the world. We’re all on a trajectory towards the same inevitable disaster. The only delusion I still hold on to, which you can pry from my lifeless fingers, is the belief that art is the only escape and the only thing in this world that transcends the day to day smog of living. This is why I think things like reading and listening to music are productive hobbies. Heck, for some people those are straight-up career options, but let’s not get carried away. We’re talking a lot, right now, as a culture, about the danger of putting people on pedestals and keeping them there against all odds, merely because they produce enjoyable sounds and visions. And that’s a great and important conversation, which we can’t shy away from no matter how much we might like to. In the end, it’s your call, as a consumer, to draw the line on how much value you place on any individual and their art. For some people, it’s very little. Some people don’t care much for art or music or creative endeavors in general. Those people don’t have souls, but they’re still entitled to their opinions. I still say, that anything that allows the mind to escape the real and lets some degree of wonder and beauty seep in, deserves all of the accolades and pedestals.

Slap That Bass

The songs in the Great American Standards songbook all have lives of their own by now – and why not, most of them are older than your grandmother. Even fairly obscure songs that your grandmother probably doesn’t remember listening to as a child have entire biographies. Grandma may not remember the 1937 Fred Astaire film Shall We Dance, or the sequence therein where Fred cuts a rug in a gleaming futuristic ‘factory’ with a bunch of black factory workers. But the song has gone on, in the hands of Ella Fitzgerald 20-some years later, and then in the next millennium as a remix.

Slang of Ages

Steely Dan is well and truly over now, what with that thing where Walter Becker died. It was, of course, very sad. But most people had accepted that Steely Dan was over and mourned their demise in the 20 years between Gaucho and Two Against Nature. It was very much an unexpected resurrection when the Dan got back together, with an equally unexpected amount of fanfare and acclaim. This wasn’t just another case of old geezers making a cynical cash-grubbing comeback to fund their boutique vineyards. Steely Dan still had a lot to say, and it was still the same sardonic misanthropy that made them the thinking man’s jazz-fusion combo back in the day. I have to say that what turned out to be their final album, Everything Must Go, is one of my favorite records, and I’ll be dashed if it isn’t an appropriately curmudgeonly high note to slide out on.