Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here, have some music

Source: Cassia Beck // Society 6
I really love music. This is a given, and you know this already, right? As a passionate music photographer, I have a lot of opportunities to discover new music, and to hear about new music from other industry/blog-related friends all over the world. I am never without a lot of new music to listen to, and I have a list of bands a mile long that I "keep meaning to get around to listening to."

The internet has been a massive help for this, because I don't listen to the radio, ever, and I haven't listened to the radio (NPR excepted) in more than a decade (really, its true), unless I'm in a rental car (rarely). I try my hardest to avoid popular music/pop music for a lot of different reasons that probably make me a music snob. Among them: I've never liked pop music, even when I was a young teenager, when everybody seemed to like pop music. I listened to the radio a lot when I was in high school in Oregon because I had a fantastic alternative rock station to listen to, and when I moved to Los Angeles ... well, that radio wasn't bad, actually, though it began to get worse over time.

It all boils down to this: I have been very disappointed with radio since the massive Clear Channel takeover really gained steam in the late 90s and particularly after 2000, and I swear, this is't just a "I'm getting old, kids today, get off my lawn" kind of deal, and I hope you can believe me. FM radio was ruined by the relaxation of regulatory rules in 1996, and this is not opinion, its fact. Thanks again, Congress.

Last Sunday, Scott & I had an episode that we now refer to as "The 'Call Me Maybe' Incident." Basically, I had made a great effort not to ever hear that song after I learned of its existence. Kind of like all Katy Perry songs and that awful "Moves like Jagger." I don't need crappy earworms! But on Sunday? My luck ran out. A quick trip to get a Coke at the Nestle Toll House store on Cannery Row destroyed my efforts, blaring "Call Me Maybe" at full volume. I of course began flailing & even cursing in front of children. I don't know if this is just me, but listening to pop music like that feels like being force-fed candy that has been pumped full of extra sugar & dubiously legal stimulants. Its a more intense version of the feeling I get when I imagine myself wearing ruffly pink dresses. Seriously. You probably think I'm insane, and oh, I am! -- but this is the best way I can explain sugary pop music's impact on me. You can just tell that it's produced to meet an algorithm that is most likely to infect your brain and get the song stuck in your head after just one listen. And? Sadly, that was true. Darn it! :P

Anyway. The internets have helped me love better music than you, so I digress. Back to the point. Here is some good music that I've been listening to this week. If you have Spotify, you can listen to all of this easily, and some of it, though popular, is stuff you might not think to listen to, so just ... try it out. Really! I wouldn't lead you astray! I wouldn't Rick Roll you, either. Pinky swear. 


I just discovered this band yesterday, thanks to a review on a music blog. They are amazing and I am already really in love with them after just 36 hours. The first sentence of the review mentioned the following five bands: Joy Division, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and The Mission. This was enough for me to check them out, and I wasn't disappointed. Listen to this one for sure!


My friend Abby was going bonkers about this Pacific Northwest band pretty consistently on Twitter over the last few months, and I wasn't honestly sure what to expect when I gave their album a listen a couple of weeks ago. Whoa! I was floored. The entire album is not what you'd expect: instead of generic indie rock with an overload of remedial synth work, this is an intelligent, genre-bending album that soaks you in beautiful, surprisingly danceable music & lyrics tinged with eastern spirituality. It can be tough in the indie/hipster vortex to find bands that truly are doing something innovative, and its a breath of fresh air to have discovered Ramona Falls. Listen to this & prepare to be impressed.


I know what you're thinking. Its probably one of three things: 1) "What? The Smashing Pumpkins haven't been relevant since the 90s and Billy Corgan is a crazy egomaniacal old man who keeps beating this band like a dead horse, so this album almost certainly sucks!"; 2) "Wow, I am really starting to doubt Amber's taste in music now, maybe I shouldn't trust her after all"; or 3) "Well, Amber did just turn 30, and she's been reliving her adolescence through music, and she's totally obsessed with 90s music and 90s artists, so maybe that explains this lapse in sanity..."  WELL. Let me tell you: this album is actually really good! It shows evolution of the band's sound, and of Billy's special brand of crazy. I was really skeptical of this album before Scott listened to it & gave it a glowing review, and after I listened myself, I had to admit: it's not embarrassing or weird, it's good. I love this song.


OK, so. I debated even posting this but I'm going to do it even though my opinion is fluid. I have always, always loved Fiona Apple, ever since Tidal came out and spoke to my wounded, mentally unstable teenage heart in 1996. She is one of the great poets of my generation, and unlike Ani DiFranco (another incredible poet), Fiona has the incredible voice & musical talent to match. Her first two albums remain near the top of my list of favorite albums of all time. That said, I listened to her new album and I just wasn't that impressed with it (much to my dismay!). I can't tell if its her, or me. That is, I can't tell if the album is just so-so, or if I've just moved on from Fiona's type of music. Either way it saddens me. I can tell you this though: for me, the disappointment is in the music, not the lyrics. Her lyrics are as brilliant & effed up as ever. I chose the song above because it only takes her four lines to get to talking about self-injury, but overall the imagery & symbolism, lyrically, are freaking brilliant. Read here.


Finally, Hot Chip is about to release a new album (its on Spotify already), and wow, I am really impressed with it! This was a bit surprising because I'm used to major let down with electronically inclined indie bands (ahem, Cut Copy, looking at you). I shouldn't have worried. This is probably the slowest song on the entire album, but it's gorgeous, and you should listen to it.

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