Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Hurricane, a Birthday, & a Plethora of Tunes.

Oh, dearest Reader. Quite a bit has transpired since last we spoke.

First & foremost, as you can't not have heard by now, a hurricane recently smashed into the east coast, knocking out power, flooding subways, & generally making a huge & devastating mess from which many have yet to recover. While my part of New York City went relatively unscathed—only a few felled trees & broken windows, green-gray skies & horizontal rain—my heart & supplies & funds go out to those who fared far, far worse. If you're interested in helping out, check here, & if you or someone you know is interested in being helped, don't hesitate to let me know.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting (&, I think, important) article from The Atlantic, titled "The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy"—that inequality being economic. The writer notes that there were large groups of people who were simply, financially unable to "take off work," even in preparation for a natural disaster:
In the Union Square area, New York's privileged - including myself - could have dinner, order a food delivery and pick up supplies an hour or two before Sandy made landfall. The cooks, cashiers and hotel workers who stayed at work instead of rushing home made that possible. They were a diverse group. Some were young people in their twenties. Others were middle-aged Americans who had never landed white-collar jobs. Most were immigrants.
A friend & I spoke about this with the doorman who was still on duty at her building during the worst of the storm (though, to be honest, we spent most of the time talking about old movies & the brilliance of Jimmy Stewart). At least, he told us, the university had arranged to feed & shelter its remaining employees in the event they got stuck on campus—but still, I can't imagine how frightening it must have been to be stuck so far from family amid the doomsday prophecies pouring from every available media source. I can only hope his home was in one of the less-affected neighborhoods.

On a somewhat lighter note, amid the crash & bang of whipping rain—to the strains of Marilyn Monroe's crooning for JFK followed by The Smiths' "Unhappy Birthday," with microwave popcorn made haphazardly on a stovetop & Franzia White Zinfandel in a plastic Lion King cup—I turned 21. So, there's that.

Mostly, though, I've been itching to post about music lately—so much of it tingling in my fingertips for week upon stressful week. So, without much coherency or organization, here's a bunch of excellent songs / artists / noises that fill my head & make me move. Here's hoping you like any of them nearly as much as I do:

I first heard about Diamond Rings when a friend of mine sent me the single "Something Else" a few years ago. I loved it immediately—everything about it just mellow enough, just poppy enough, 80s-ish & quietly danceable & lovely. "You Oughta Know" was a close second—a little darker, slower, thick with echoes of Ian Curtis—deep-voiced & blithely melancholy over electronica in the best & hauntingest of ways.

Now, with the release of his new album Free Dimensional, I can truly call Diamond Rings a favorite (enough to buy a ticket to his concert in NYC on December 4th). There really isn't a true dud in the bunch, but some highlights include: "Runaway Love," above, which is the only song I want to dance to, ever, for the rest of my life; "All the Time," minor-tinged Platonic electropop; "Everything Speaks," ponderous & charged; "Put Me On," insistent & more Curtis-like than ever.

Not About Love—Fiona Apple.

Every Single Night—Fiona Apple.

I'm really glad I didn't get into Fiona Apple when I was younger—before I had even a modicum of my shit sorted out—because if I had, I honestly wonder if I would have done anything but stare at my wall & let her words soak through my skin. For whatever reason, her voice cuts right to the core of things, her lyrics somehow exactly what you always meant to say before you knew you wanted to say anything at all. Aside from the two songs above—whose videos are both deeply excellent, hence their embedded posting (Zack Galafinakis's cameo at once hilarious & poignant; the squid dangling on her sallow head the only way I feel these days)—I've also fallen for "Paper Bag," which is light & tumbling & so sweetly sad, & "Tymps," to which I'm (mentally) working on choreographing a zombie/necrophiliac-themed burlesque routine. (It's totally going to work, you guys.)

Ex-Girlfriend—The Dolls (No Doubt cover/remix).

On Tuesday, October 16th, I went alone to a MIKA concert. (No shame: MIKA is like a shot of pure sugar to your brainstem, effortlessly happiness-inducing but never insipid—which is an incredibly difficult balance to strike, & I think he does it brilliantly. I stand by my man.) Opening for him was a band I'd never heard of before: The Dolls, who the Internet told me consisted of DJ Mia Moretti & classically trained violinist Caitlin Moe. No albums, only one single, few available live recordings—my hopes weren't necessarily high. But, lo & behold, I found them kind of excellent.

There's something about the sound of string instruments in particular that's just irreplaceable—incredibly beautiful, pulling at you in a way other noise simply can't. It's why I get lost in violin covers of pop songs, why I tend to flock toward bands from What Time Is It Mr. Fox to The Adicts—& why, I think, what The Dolls do works so well. Hearing Moe's violin wheedling along to Moretti's remixed tracks—sometimes playing along to the melody, say, of Fiona Apple's "Criminal," sometimes adding dissonant tones & trills on top of Garbage's "Bad Boyfriend"—her playing became more than mere accompaniment or kitsch, a fusion of electronica & classical noise that just plain fit.

What really got to me, too, was the energy of Moe's performance—her wild swaying, knees knocked, pacing frenzied, sometimes falling to the floor then clambering up again, bow arm slicing all the while. It's the highest compliment you can pay a musician, I think: that sound really moves them on an involuntary, bodily level. 

Though I'm usually staunchly against the practice of taking concert videos (because seriously, you paid for a live experience, so put down your fucking phone & experience it), I couldn't help but record these guys for a bit—especially as I recalled the dearth of their music currently available online. In case you're interested, here's a playlist of the videos I took; more than a little clunky & distant & not the best quality—an improvised breaking of a DJ set's blend & flow into individual tracks—but you should be able to get the idea.

Fatty Boom Boom—Die Antwoord.

Yep, they're at it again. I fucking adore Die Antwoord. Sure, their blatant lampooning of Lady Gaga in this video is a little awkward at times in its length, its pettiness—but, you know, I happen to agree with their implicit message: compared to their out-&-out fantastically grotesque bizarreitude, Gaga's "weirdness" is painfully vanilla. Also, there's plenty of other anti-authoritarian symbolism throughout—referencing their less-than-amicable departure from Gaga's label, Interscope (referred to as "Inter-coke Records" in the equally ideal "Hey Sexy"), not so subtly flipping off the preciousness / Othering / general stale crapfest that is Music Gone Mainstream (see: the mural behind Yo-landi, which features a hydra of Gaga, Kanye, Nicki, & other label signees shitting out the Black Eyed Peas). But honestly, all of that interests me far less than simply watching the excellent combination of words & sounds & images their beautifully twisted brains have chosen to put together. I mean, come on—that body paint is just too much, in the most delightful way.

An oldie but very, very goodie. It was playing in the bar on my First Night of Legal Drinking in Public, & is playing again in my headphones now. It's one of those songs that seems to have special access to the back of your neck, twitching it into an involuntary headbang at the cut-out-two-strum chorus.

There is no one better than Jacques Brel when it feels like the world might be ending. His stumbling cadence, his barely composed face—every twitch of his lips breaks my heart.

I've posted about this song here before, as part of my motivational playlist from around this time last year. At the time, I was studying it as part of a class on the Masterpieces of Western Music, but then this particular piece got so far under my skin that I sandwiched it between the likes of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs & Azealia Banks & listened to it multiple times a day—sometimes solo, on repeat-repeat-repeat, so many times I can now hum along to all 8 minutes. 

To friends who've asked, I explain that I think it sounds how a panic attack feels—hot & frantic, twitching, bombastic, endorphins & fear exploding across your synapses, radiating out to your limbs, making you shake. I've said before, too, that I think violins sound like longing—& in this case it feels like longing for freedom: from the time signature, from the merry-go-round of its jagged theme, from major chords & orchestral coherence. The lead-in to the last minute—the screech of bow across strings as everything starts to fall apart, overflowing, tumbling avalanche-like toward a haphazard conclusion— I am, quite simply, in love.

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