MUSIC : Five thoughts on Sepultura, U2, James, Kings of Leon, Avett Brothers.
I firmly believe that the very best music, like a lot of great art, often takes time to absorb and appreciate. It may not immediately impress itself upon you. Many of my favourite artists have a mix of accessible and challenging compositions that have sometimes taken years for me to fall head over heels for. Radiohead. Grandaddy. Charlie Parker.
Regarding Van Morrison : the Irish Van Morrison that consistently lands a handful of albums on critics' 'all-time best albums' lists: I don't get. I want to like him. I want to love him.
But I don't. If I want mournful, stripped down melody, I'll go with quiet Neil Young, or Sea of Bees, or Joni Mitchell, or...any number of others. I'll take Van Morrison over James Taylor. But not by much.
I'm trying to get through Veedon Fleece again while I'm working. It's not that I hate it. It's that it's so...blasé.
I'm not giving up on him. But close.
above : 1986 flexible me at age 10
I am very picky about the metal I listen to. I much prefer Brazilian Max Cavalera's later bands, Soulfly and Killer Be Killed, to the 90s outfit that made him a legend: Sepultura.
But I still enjoy pulling them out occasionally, and The Hunt, from 1993's Chaos A.D. is a worthy chug-chug with his inimitable growly growl. And if you want a bit of that tribal rhythm he loves playing around with, give the title track, Chaos A.D., a spin.
above : feb 2003
U2's Songs of Innocence has left me unimpressed. Haven't listened for a few years. Love them, although they're not up there with the majestic sometimes-similar sounding James. Speaking of whom: I absolutely love love love track seven off 2016's The Girl at the End of the World.
The song is Surfer's Song and I watched the stars sparkling recently while listening to it on repeat and it is magical. Vintage James: soaring vocals, heartfelt lyrics, insistent rhythm section to keep you tapping, intimate verses with big choruses...
Know that your love's right
Whatever your incline
Be the bright light
In these dark times
Clearing the high bar
Hearing the crowd roar
Here comes, here comes, here comes
above : aug 1990 / shingletown, california
The swell, swell, swell
above : june 2018 / cape kiwanda, pacific city, oregon
Cascading over me
Their gorgeous La Petite Mort from 2014 is still a very special album to me, and possibly - possibly - my favourite. I can play Walk Like You, Frozen Britain, All I'm Saying, and Moving On over and over and over...
Over. Track 5 off Kings of Leon's WALLS. Rugged, modern mashup of rootsy Americana and designer jean rock n' roll.
Current Top 5 KoL tracks:
A. Sex on Fire (2008)
B. Over (2016)
C. True Love Way (2007)
D. Eyes On You (2016)
E. Tonight (2013)
I read an article about them a decade ago and the only thing I remember is one of their girlfriends talking about how they all wore jeans that were so skinny and tight they had to shimmy into them in contortions that even she couldn't manage. No idea why that stuck with me. Totally irrelevant. Except there's a strange humor in realizing some great arena-ready rock and roll country is being made by guys who need help squeezing into their pants. Maybe not that unusual now that I think about it. It's hard to imagine Willie Nelson doing that though.
One of my faves, Rachel, was telling me about how much she's been enjoying Avett Brothers, which is what made me dig up my old Kings and Avett albums. I'm hoping to have the same slow re-discovery experience with Avett that I did with Leon: slow burn fall in love. She says Emotionalism is awesome. She may be right, she often is. She is my only friend I know who actively loves James so much, as much as I do, and I love that.
My friend Jon is my only friend I know who actively read and loved The Great Brain book series as a kid. I love that too. Totally different.
above : photo of me by jon / june 2016
Those bonds you build over shared literary and music affections can be so beautiful and important.
Circles. You give help, you get help. You give advice, you accept advice. You make recommendations, you listen to others' recommendations.
Relationships are about circles.
Closing circles, or trying to create some sort of closure with Cubist oval-shaped connecting lines that entangle and cross over and around each other and eventually meet up and close the gap.
these ones have
permanent residencies (see: below)
I love music, and have loved learning about and absorbing music since I was around 12 years old (Ghostbusters II and Batman soundtracks on cassette, thank you). I've listened and thought about a lot of music, and I've given a lot of recommendations about what I like. When I give one, I try to think about the specific person and how they might appreciate it. Sometimes I try and keep my mouth shut. Still haven't found any of my friends or family who dig Deafheaven like I do.
But give and take. I know the joy that can come from introducing someone to something they fall in love with, and it's best when it's a two-headed arrow. If I'm asking you to take a listen to something, it's fair that I take a listen to something important to you.
Which is also why I don't go just making recommendations to anybody. I'm not interested in making time to listen to some people's junky taste in music. Yes, I just said that. But just like I can't be friends with everyone, I can't listen to the music everyone around me likes. I have a small and expanding group of people I trust to recommend well.
And sometimes I listen to a recommendation to give a second chance to something I passed on once. The Avett Brothers. I listened to them a while back and liked their idea more than their songs. Fun and folksy instrumentation, but nothing struck me as super special. But recently, someone said:
I am loving the Avett Brothers.
And that's all I needed. Because I trust her. We are not in total sync; she gave Deafheaven one sad listen on the way to snowboard at Mt. Hood (poor timing on my part). She dig Phish and the Grateful Dead and I'm still waiting for her to provide reasons why I should like either band. Or at least some opening tracks to make the introduction to their bottomless catalogs less daunting.
But I know she has reasons for loving what she loves, and even if we disagree, there will be potential for good banter, argument, and discussion. And I love it when people are excited about something. She's excited about the A. Bros. So I gave - am giving - them a second chance.
She said their 2007 album Emotionalism is great. I happen to have it, and I happen to have listened to it two times a decade ago and made up my mind. So I took a re-listen with fresh ears.
There are three songs touching my heart quickly on this third go-round.
2. I Would Be Sad
3. Will You Return?
The little flourishes I'm picking up on, especially when the piano bubbles in. And some of the couplets feel handpicked from my brain.
I wish you'd see yourself as beautiful as I see you
Why can't you see yourself as beautiful as I see you?
How do you ever know what others think of you, or how they see you?
And that's okay. I don't care what most people think of me. I am me. The bulk of me tries to be kind, respectful, and interesting to everyone I interact with. And the bulk of me is ambivalent about whether most people think of me, my style, my work, my thoughts and philosophies and preferences. They can like who I am and all the traits and preferences and eccentricities and foibles I bring. Or not...
above : 1998
...but there is a core part, a small and integral part, that cares very much what some people, what certain and select ones, think of me. It's a deeply vulnerable thing to admit that you care what someone thinks. I think in this respect, I may possibly be normal-ish, aside from the fact that I acknowledge and own it, though I have no plans to provide a full list. :)
I want the people closest to me to know what I think of them. I have no plans to die today, or tomorrow, or next week. I hope I don't.
But I don't know. I simply have no idea how many days I have on this earth.
And the people I love...why not effing say it?
"I care what you think."
"Your opinion matters a lot to me."
"You're beautiful. Try seeing yourself as I see you."
Such a beautiful line to build an entire cornerstone of a life philosophy around. I choose to do so. Avett Brothers nailed it.
Here's to third chances. Thanks, Rach. And maybe don't give up on Deafheaven.