Pioneer to the Falls

A particular favorite from one of my favorite relatively new discoveries. I’ve been told that Interpol is great live, and that’s evident from this clip. It’s a performance both dramatic and intimate. It even evokes some of the great goth depressingtons of yore that the band has been (often cheaply) compared to. This could well have been a Joy Division song, and I wouldn’t lightly accuse anyone of channeling Ian Curtis. (People who purposely channel Ian Curtis are lazy schmucks.) It’s gnomic and grand, even if falls apart on paper. The meaning is in the delivery. It’s in the image. It’s in the tension that builds from that first arpeggio.

People In Love

“People in love lie around and get fat, I didn’t want us to end up like that.”

Well, that’s just about the driest possible way to sum it up, isn’t it. Art Brut’s Eddie Argos singlehandedly took Britpop’s drollness to the next level, while sometimes making a muss of the fine line between clever and irritating. You could say that it’s a bit of a gimmick, shouting sarcastically about one’s insecurities over light-VU feedback. But enough of it is redeemingly, genuinely clever that you roll with the gimmick. And who doesn’t relate or wish that they did to the persona of the common bloke who can’t sing and doesn’t look like much but has his wit always at the ready? I must admit that Art Brut has found quite a bit of space on my iPod, and their interludes are refreshing amid the general doom and gloom there.

People As Places As People

Typical depressing Modest Mouse. This is, like every Modest Mouse song, about alienation and the search for connection. Or, you could look at is as the opposite. You can see it as kind of uplifting. As in, the only place worth being is where the people we care about are. Also, try to unpack the video while you’re at it. Modest Mouse have a great track record for surreal video that are equal parts comical and disturbing. This one seems to have a lot to say about love, prejudice and ecology. In fact, those are pretty heavy handed themes. But it’s also a little funny in its weirdness. It’s on point with the theme of finding someplace or someone to belong to, and how hard that is, and how weird.

Parting of the Sensory

Another lovely song about death. Is every Modest Mouse song about metaphysical angst? Sure seems like it. It’s hard to think of a songwriter less interested in the usual about-a-girl stuff than Isaac Brock. Relationships are almost everybody’s biggest theme, even the most misanthropic people haters’. But almost every Modest Mouse song is about something existential. If it’s not about straight-up dying, it’s about how much life sucks, or how much Isaac Brock hates people, or how much Isaac Brock hates himself. I get the feeling he’s probably not the most fun guy spend a lot of time with; one of those people whose head you really wouldn’t want to get inside. On the other hand, it makes Modest Mouse one of the most uniquely rewarding bands of our time. You can explore their records again and again, for years and years. You can always enjoy the friction of uptempo and gloom.

New York is a Woman

I love a good New York metaphor; if any place can support an extravagant extended poetic comparison, it’s the Big Apple. Using the ineffable feminine mystique as a broad metaphor, on the other hand, is a tricky business. Not many poets have the deft touch to pull it off, but luckily Suzanne Vega is both a lifelong observer of New York’s ebbs and flows, and an empathetic ladyperson not likely to fall into any of the more obvious entendres. If some dude with a ginger ponytail and an acoustic guitar wanted to put forth all the ways that New York is womanlike, it would not go over well. But Suzanne Vega can play with it and she plays it well. These are cliches, rescued from the bins of hard boiled noir and emo fuckboy sentimentality. New York is a temptress. She’s glamorous and indifferent. She’s an old school femme fatale. She lives up to her legends. Lines to be expected from the mouths of men who’ve neither been to New York or with a woman.┬áSo┬áSuzanne Vega, a New York City woman, smartly dismisses them and the entire industry of romantic tropes that smogs up the city.