Listening versus collecting

peanuts several hearings

[This is something I wrote on my Dreamwidth account this weekend but thought I’d revise it and post it here as well.  I don’t repost all that often, but figured this was something worth talking about here at WiS.]

I was thinking recently about the way I’ve been listening to music over the last few years. No big surprise there.

As far as expensive habits go, at least I’m not collecting cars that I won’t drive, or picking up housewares that I’ll never use. And I’ve always been pretty frugal about it, very rarely spending an absurd amount in one go.  I’ve gotten pretty good at finding sweet deals.  The more tunage I can get for my money, the happier I am.

But at the same time, I know I’ve made some purchases over the years where I’d probably have been better off streaming instead of buying, or maybe purchasing an album track or two.  These are albums that I liked but don’t listen to all that often.  Sometimes it’s the sound of the band that fascinates me, but the song or album as a whole doesn’t make an impression.  In the past, these would have been cds that I most likely would have brought to the record store in exchange for credit, but as I’m mostly a downloader these days, that method is impossible.

I was also thinking about some of the radio stations I’ll listen to online. There are some that have an interesting mix that keeps my interest, and there are others that adhere to a set rotation to the point where I get bored easily.  One particular station I’m thinking of was a favorite of mine, but now I rarely listen to them because they’ve been playing the same songs for the past 2-3 years that I’m not really a fan of.  As a former radio person, I understand the idea of set rotation, but it needs to be recycled after a few months otherwise you’ll lose a portion of your audience who really doesn’t want to hear that same damn Lumineers song for the 374,539,453rd time.

I also feel like I’m not quite immersed in the sounds when my listening habits are stretched too thin. Don’t get me wrong, there are some years where a ton of great albums come out and I love them all, but there’s only so many hours in the day where I can listen to the albums. Not to mention that I’m not listening to current albums all the time…sometimes I want to listen to something from a few decades ago, or a different genre altogether. For instance, I’ve been listening to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM lately because a) c’mon, it’s the Beatles, and b) it was a refreshing change from all the noise I’ve been trying to escape.

Perhaps my collecting habits are getting the best of me. There are moments where I’ll be a little too focused on trying to find a band’s entire discography and not enough on their music. The idea that I’d listen to their full work is there, but it doesn’t always work out…it really does depend on how connected I am to the music. I never really wanted to be a music collector for the sake of owning something — I find that a bit wasteful and pointless. This is precisely why I’ll pass on collectibles if I already own the songs.

Is this partly due to wanting to recapture the excitement of turning to a station and hearing favorite songs? Who knows. It might be part of it. But it’s definitely my collecting habits getting the best of me. I need to rein them in again.  I love buying albums on release days, but I don’t necessarily have to do so.  That’s partly why I signed up for Amazon Prime, so I could stream the albums where I’m on the fence.

This of course doesn’t mean that I’m giving up buying music I love; it’s merely that I need to be smarter about it.

Legacy

I’ve been thinking lately about the legacy of some of my favorite bands.  I’ve recently started following Art of Noise on Instagram, who are currently at the planning and prepping stages of an upcoming tour.  The other week I downloaded the new album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

This year we’ve seen new releases by The Godfathers, Daniel Ash, The Feelies, Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Wire, Clan of Xymox, Robyn Hitchcock, Slowdive, Blondie, Erasure, The Charlatans UK, Alison Moyet, Ride, Cheap Trick, Public Enemy, KMFDM, Sparks, The Waterboys and Living Colour.  And there’s still three-plus months to go in the year, with more new releases by classic bands coming up.

It occurred to me that many of these bands are from the first generation of 70s and 80s rock and its multitudes of subgenres, or their slightly younger siblings.  We still have some musicians from the original rock wave of the 50s and 60s — Ringo Starr has a new album coming soon, and Paul McCartney is still on tour, for instance, and recently-passed Chuck Berry had a new album out as well.  One has to remember that rock music as we know it really is a young genre compared to other popular and fringe music out there.  We’re still seeing it grow and evolve.  We’re also still seeing some of the old vanguard putting out albums.

My fascination here isn’t just that many of these bands were my favorites when I was in high school thirty years ago, and that I’m just reliving my youth in my own pathetic way.  I’m also fascinated that these bands are still going strong, still providing their signature sounds, still touring, still releasing.  Some of them may have taken an extended hiatus for various reasons (Ride’s last album was in 1996, for example, and they split almost at the same time it came out), but upon their return, fans both old and new rejoiced.

I’m fascinated by the legacies of these bands, because I’m living during their tenure.  I’m watching and listening to their history as it happens.  It’s that ‘I was there’ moment — it’s my own Woodstock remembrance, in a way — and I love that I’m a part of it in my own way, as a listener and as an owner of their recordings.

Meanwhile, 40 years ago…

Yesterday afternoon, A and I headed to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the 40th Anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I barely remember going to see it the first time out, considering I was six years old (I either saw it at the drive-in or in Gardner, the same place I saw Star Wars), though I do remember bits of it when watching it on TV in later years.

Of course, this made me think of all the music that I’d heard about that time, mostly on the little crackly radio that was in the kitchen for years. I remember the above ‘disco version’ of the Close Encounters theme, as we owned the album and the single.

So let’s see…what other songs do I remember from that era? [This obviously doesn’t include the classic punk from that era, which was way off my radar for quite a few more years.] A lot of these were singles my sisters bought, or tunes that we’d hear on the radio. This of course was back when AM was still the preferred listening band, so most of these I associate with either listening on my cheapo record player or on the car radio whenever we went for a ride. [Or in some cases, the jukebox at Bellinger’s!]

…hey, what can I say? I was six years old. I loved this stuff. :p

Recent Purchases, August Edition

The further we go along in 2017, the more this year seems to be that everyone is putting out an album!  Not that I’m complaining. There’s not just favorite bands releasing new stuff, I’m also finding new bands to obsess over. Here’s some of my favorites for August:

Life On Venus, Encounters, released 4 August. Dreamy, reverby shoegaze from Moscow? Sure, why not? Very Slowdive-y, in a really good way.

Black Grape, Pop Voodoo, released 4 August. Shaun Ryder once again proving he can’t hit a note to save his life, his poppier, dancier group returning after far too long with a new album.

Dan Wilson, Re-Covered, released 4 August. Known more for his songwriting and production now than his tenure in Semisonic, Wilson records some of his most well-known tracks that were recorded by other artists.

Frankie Rose, Cage Tropical, released 11 August. AllMusic described this album as sounding remarkably like a pop album from 1985, and they weren’t wrong. I most likely would have bought this at Strawberries back then.

Emily Saliers, Murmuration Nation, released 11 August. The other half of Indigo Girls finally releases her own solo album, and it’s a fun, poppy, maybe even a little electronic record worth checking out.

The Districts, Popular Manipulations, 11 August. A band that’s new to me, but won me over on the first track above. They kind of remind me of the Killers vocally but Beach Slang musically.

Paul Draper, Spooky Action, released 11 August. Draper has lost none of his quirky songwriting chops since leaving Mansun oh so many years ago. Definitely a welcome return!

Gold Class, Drum, released 18 August. It took me a few listens to realize they remind me a lot of The Cult, but without the overwhelming pomp and less Ian Astbury wail. I’m quite liking this one.

KMFDM, HELL YEAH, released 18 August. I really need to get back into Belgian industrial. I loved it way back in the day but could never find any of it (and when I did, I was usually too broke to buy it). Great to hear this band is still going strong.

Rainer Maria, S/T, released 18 August. I have been playing the hell out of this album. Over a decade since their last album, this is one hell of an excellent return. One of my favorites of the year.

UNKLE, The Road, Part I, released 18 August. Another band on the “I will buy anything they put out” list. They’ve come a long way from their more electronic sound, but James Lavelle still knows how to create a creepy ambience with his music.

Steven Wilson, To the Bone, released 18 August. It is kind of weird to see the Porcupine Tree front man playing alternapop here (and smiling in the video!), but it’s a great new record, apparently inspired by his favorite UK pop bands from the 80s.

PVRIS, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, released 25 August. Bonus points for one of my favorite album titles of the year! A group that was getting a lot of publicity that I just had to check out, and I wasn’t let down. And they’re from MA! Yay!

Cymbals, Light in Your Mind, released 25 August. Another record suggested by a music blog I read that I warmed right up to. Laid back but not blissed out, I find them quite pleasing to play during my writing sessions.

More to come…our September shopping list is going to be quite epic!

For What It’s Worth

It’s been a busy weekend here in the Bay Area.

We weren’t part of the marches or the protests here, though. Had the one in Crissy Field not been cancelled by the Patriot Prayer group on Saturday, we most likely would have made our way through the Presidio to head down there. So instead we drove down to Half Moon Bay, stopped at the Main Street Grill for brunch, did a bit of shopping at the deli there, and then headed back. We spent the afternoon watching various episodes of Time Team and other things. As it happens, the PP guys’ plans fizzled spectacularly, ending up with an online chat and a pathetic appearance at Crissy Field after all (with the reporters and cameras outnumbering them). The rest of the city, on the other hand, turned it into a party and a love fest.

As for Sunday, we knew better than to head over to the East Bay. They’re a bit more hardcore when it comes to protests, and there’s always that small group of outsiders who stop by just to stir shit up and make the more peaceful protesters look bad. The mood is usually much more tense when there are protests there.

Meanwhile, we kept our eyes out for our friends down in Texas. One of A’s friends was actually not in Houston but elsewhere at a wedding, leaving her husband to hold the fort. They’re both doing okay last I heard. They’re on the outskirts of the city on higher ground. The city itself turned into its own Vienna with streets turning into creeks and rivers. Downtown Houston is quite nice, from what I remember of it, having visited there a few years ago when Worldcon was in San Antonio. It was hot as hell, but I really liked the city.

And during all that, The Fuckwit tweeted about Missouri, a book he really liked, that goddamn wall he’s so obsessed about, and hating NAFTA because Canada and Mexico are being mean to him. He may have tweeted about Houston at some point, but as far as I could tell, it was little more than ‘wow that doesn’t look good’ and went on to the next shiny object.

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

Retro: 1981

A while back I was visiting a music blog I enjoy but haven’t checked out in some time called Musicophilia.  Sometime in April they had an entry regarding an incredibly huge mix they’d built sometime last decade (and recently updated to twice its original size!), the entire collection containing post-punk songs from 1981.

That’s one hell of a fantastic mix, even by my standards.  I’ve been listening to it off and on, and the first thing that hits me is how similar a lot of this stuff is to the indie music out there now.  It’s pure college rock in a sense — the non-commercial stuff you’d hear on your favorite college radio station back in the day, even further afield than the Big Names we all know and remember now.  You may think of Depeche Mode and the Cure and The Replacements and so on, and those bands definitely have their own spot in this mix, but you’ll also see tracks from Crispy Ambulance, The Swimming Pool Qs, Pere Ubu, Flux of Pink Indians, and so on.  Bands you know of and most likely don’t have in your collection, but you remember that station playing those tracks late at night while doing your homework.

To be honest, it kind of makes me think that I’m not even close to doing justice to my own retrospective mixes or delving deep enough into the sounds of the past.  Who knows, maybe I’ll do one of my own versions of this megamix one of these days.

[I’m not sure if the mix is still available, but go ahead and follow Musicophilia anyway, they do post some great streaming mixes as well that’ll really open your ears to some deep cuts and forgotten gems.  [And I do mean forgotten — not the ‘oh yeah, that Cure single I used to hear all the time in 1992 and they’re now playing again for a brief time’.  I’m talking tunes I haven’t heard since maybe 1987 or so.]

Jonc’s Britpop Meme

Okay, this is something I’ve posted on Twitter and elsewhere, but thought I’d collect some of my favorites here. These are pictures from our trips to London over the past couple of years…it’s kind of amusing, because A goes for the worldly historical sites and museums, and I’m all about visiting a city that’s ridiculously rich in rock music history. Whenever I could, I took a few snaps of places and images that reference some of my favorite songs out of the UK.

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The man who drives many cabs down in Old Compton…
[from Belle & Sebastian’s “The Boy with the Arab Strap”]
We walked down Old Compton Street on our way to a lovely little tea shop on a side street.  It’s a hip and divey little street full of bars and questionable people, right off Cambridge Circus.

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It depends how you’re wired when the night’s on fire, under the westway…
[from Blur’s “Under the Westway”]

This was the Westway bridge near the north end of Portobello Road.  Portobello is a wonderfully wacky street that’s got really nice row houses of bright pastel colors on one end (think the London version of SF’s Painted Ladies) and a lot of antique stores down the other end.  It’s hipster, it’s grungy, and it’s always a lot of fun.

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She said ‘eh, I know you and you cannot sing’, I said ‘That’s nothing, you should hear me play pianer’
[from The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead”]
A rare Jonc sighting on his own blog!  Whodathunkit?  Heh.  Me standing in front of Buckingham Palace.  The Queen was elsewhere that week, so unfortunately the above conversation did not actually take place.

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Oh, hairdresser on fire, all around Sloane Square…
[from Morrissey’s “Hairdresser On Fire”]

Really, Moz and the Smiths do namedrop a lot of London locations.  Sloane Square is on the far west side of Chelsea at the end of King’s Road and the area is Quite Posh.  Lots of high end boutique stores and bakeries.  And hairdressers.

 

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I told you about the swans that they live in the park…
[from Cream’s “Badge”]

There are indeed a lot of swans (and geese, and ducks, and pigeons…) that live in Kensington Gardens and hang out at Round Pond, just outside Kensington Palace.  They’re fearless and will either ignore you if you’re just taking pictures, follow you around if you’re feeding them bread, or honk at you if you get too close.

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Dance on moonbeams, slide on rainbows, in furs or blue jeans, you know what I mean, Do the Strand…
[from Roxy Music’s “Do the Strand”]

The Strand is an upscale street just off Trafalgar Square where a lot of the big name hotels and theatres are.  It’s an incredibly busy street for both traffic and pedestrian, so yeah, you could say it’s a place to see and be seen…

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I got married to the widow next door, she’s been married seven times before…
[from Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry the 8th I Am”]

Did this song pop into my head when we visited Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry VIII’s favorite digs?  Of course it did.  Because I’m a goober like that.  Seriously, though, it’s a lovely place to visit.  Amazing gardens as well.

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Give me one last kiss, before I walk out of this…
[from The La’s “Way Out”]

The Underground has some really great signage.  The older stops, like the above (I think this was from the Piccadilly Line at Earl’s Court station, if I’m not mistaken) have their signs inlaid or painted onto the tile.  They use “way out” instead of “exit” on their transportation signage so that La’s track would pop into my head every single time.

IMG_20170804_195241So why do you smile when you think about Earl’s Court?
[from Morrissey’s “Piccadilly Palare”]

You could consider this our home base during our trip.  This is the entrance to the Earl’s Court Underground station, servicing the Piccadilly and District Lines.  [It’s also a straight shot to Heathrow, which means no train changes at all when heading in and out.]  The places we’ve stayed are up one of the side streets, so it’s super easy for us to jump on the Tube when we want to head anywhere.  Earl’s Court Road is a busy one-way street (I think a lot of people use it to head from Cromwell Road down to King’s Road) that’s filled with pubs, restaurants and convenience stores, not to mention a launderette, which came in handy!  Oh — it also has its own TARDIS!  It’s mostly obscured in this picture, but it’s next to that news kiosk, with the top of it peeking out over that red car to the left.

I have a few more from a few years back that I’ll post a little later, but for now, here you go!  Thanks for waiting!