Monday, November 19, 2007

The Fifty States In Rhyme

I tend to be drawn to things that seem impossibly big or difficult, something about the challenge of an unscaleable mountain. Maybe it is because if you DO manage to finish the task at hand it’s difficulty makes it thousands of time more impressive, but if you don’t then, well, not a big deal because that shit was CRAZY hard, NOBODY thought you were going to actually finish that… it’s cool. Maybe it’s because when you set out on these big legendary tasks you always know where you are headed, and that makes the work a lot easier to keep track of. I’m not really sure, but Sufjan Stevens apparently feels the same way.

In 2003 Sufjan released the record, “Michigan”, which was a concept record about the people, places and history behind the great lake state. He also announced that he was going to make a concept record for each and every of the 50 states of the union. He stayed true to his word with the release of “Illinois” in 2005.

I honestly think that the best word to describe Illinois is a masterpiece. Let me explain my criteria for this revered acknowledgement.

There are two kind of records that I enjoy. The first catches you right away; the instant that it hits your ear you like it you know that you like it. It’s like candy. Unfortunately, once that initial phase passes those songs are just not as sweet, it still has flavor, but nothing like the first few times you heard it. It’s like looking at an amazing painting from far away and then getting up close to realize that it’s really not as intricate as you thought. Or seeing a babe from far away and then getting up close and realizing, oh, wait, that is definitely not a babe. Whatever metaphor suits you, painting or babe, I’m sure you get the point. Regardless, it’s never really that much of a bummer because catching ones ear is hard enough, it was great while it lasted and for the most part everybody goes home happy. Not quite full, but happy.

Anyway, the next kinds of record that I like are the exact opposite. They are intricate, like a huge mansion with all sorts of rooms and hallways to explore. They reveal themselves slowly and over time, and they might not even catch a hold of you the first time you hear it. Maybe not even the second, or the third. But the reason that these records are better (only slightly, there ain’t nothing wrong with candy either) is that eventually they end up meaning so much more than if they would have just come right out and said, “Hey, this is what I’m all about, lets hang!”

I think that the best records, the real masterpieces of recording, are somehow both. They are instantly catchy and seductive and yet at the same time they hold these huge mysteries that you only notice after listening for months. I think that “Illinois” is one of those records.

Here is my favorite track off of that record, I will probably post more Sufjan later as he is probably my favorite artist of the moment. Enjoy.

The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens
(Right click and "Save As")

Buy Illinois by Sufjan Stevens

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Anti-War Detour, The Rest Coming Soon...

Annnnnnnd we’re back.

Sorry about the wait folks. Does it seem odd to you that I could go from posting here almost every day to going an entire month and a half without any sign of returning? It shouldn’t, because, as I am sure most of you are already aware, I am a member of a little band called Idiot Pilot and as such, I need to be on tour, a lot. Touring is not quite as glamorous as some people may be inclined to believe, in fact, it is downright grueling. If you like driving for 12 hours straight in a cramped van, carrying a bunch of shit around, playing your show (more often than not, a good thing), getting assaulted with hours of heavy music that makes your head hurt, and then repeating that for 2 months, you should totally start a band. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of time to explore the finer points of music blogging.

But that is exactly what I intend to do. Something tells me a little writing will break up the monotony, and it’s going to give me a reason to start diving into some of my favorite music, which is always fun.

Based on some of the pervious posting that I have done it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of folk music. These days, in fact, I find myself identifying more with it than, say, good old-fashioned rock and roll. Tonight, I want to shine the spotlight on a subgenre of folk that am particularly enthralled with at the moment, which I am going to be calling Contemporary American Folk, otherwise known as Indie Folk Revival, which is probably equally as fitting. We already talked about Scottish songwriter Donovan, who’s lesser-known, melancholy tracks are some of my favorite songs ever written (but are, none the less, not very Americana in there themes) and of course, composer Aaron Copeland who’s songs are overwhelmingly American but certainly not folk, at least in these terms.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when this particular movement of music took shape, but where the listening public seems to have first taken notice of the folk revival would be Omaha’s Bright Eyes. Now Bright Eyes has been around for a while (I remember listening to his EP’s while I would skateboard around town as a 7th grader), but with the release of 2002’s Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil the larger public took notice. I like Lifted, but it’s definitely not my favorite Bright Eyes record because the songwriting on it is much more in line with Alternative Rock than Folk. If that sounds better to you (which it probably does) then you should check out Lifted.

But I don’t want to talk about Bright Eyes just yet. I mean, come on, everyone knows Bright Eyes right? Right?

Okay, well we can take a SLIGHT detour into Bright Eyes land if we must (not that I mind, this song is amazing). I recommend that you check out this little ditty off of one of my favorite Bright Eyes records, “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.” Also, as a side note, the backup vocals in this song happen to be none other than the legendary Emmylou Harris.

Landlocked Blues by Bright Eyes

Buy I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

I was going to move on to the real point of this article but you know what, now that I think about it, I am going to leave you with this. This song is fucking sweet. Sit on it for a while, enjoy it, cherish it. I have been rambling for to long anyway. Gotta keep these short and sweet. We are going to pick up where we left off in a few days, hopefully just one day, actually, and THEN I will let everyone in on my absolute favorite artist of this little folk-rock revival. Besides, I am in a loud shitty club that’s full of smoke right now, and I need to get the hell out of here. Until next time.