A musical aside

I want to offer you a gift, readers. In my dreams, I am a music writer, and sometimes that seeps over into other things (classes, gifts, pillow talk, and now, the blog).

Awhile back, it occurred to me that there was a problem with Christmas cards. For one so curmudgeonly, I'm a sentimental sort, and the ways in which I'm willing to give offense are pretty clearly delineated. Throwing out Christmas cards pains me just a little. How long do you keep them? What's the etiquette? Really, what's the point of them anyway?

My solution was simple - at least, part of it - give the Christmas card a reason to stick around. Write something inside it that people would want to keep around. I started making CDs of the more interesting (if not always great) music I'd picked up over the course of the year, and the card got to serve as the jacket and liner notes. Making the CD is fun and tricky - as making any mix is. Unlike making a mix for one person, where the rules are well-established (see "High Fidelity" for more explanation), making a mix for many people is trickier. How do you make one mix disc that will appeal to 15, 20, 30 people? What songs do you put in and why? Who do you give them to? And once you've got it, how do you make it flow?

I usually try to leave out anything that wound up in a commercial. I also try to drop out anything that had a good chance of being heard by a lot of people. And I don't limit myself to things that have come out this year - anything that I've come across this year that I hadn't heard before is fair game. And I try to include things from artists I've seen in concert because as everyone should know, a good live show is always an indicator of a good band. Anyone can sound good in the studio.

But still, how do you narrow it down? This year's disc has been tough. I've got too much material (I've bought at least $450 in used CDs from one spot alone). Do I include the awesome "Little Cream Soda" by the White Stripes even though everyone knows who they are? Does the Foo Fighters "The Pretender" deserve inclusion because of its loving nod to the Sesame Street "Which of these is not like the other?" So far, the answer's no.

This year's disc has been tough. I've got too much material (I've bought at least $450 in used CDs from one spot alone). But worse is that, at the last minute, sometimes you stumble across something that is perfect. For me, right now that disc is Ian Moore's "To Be Loved" which is great for all the right reasons. It's a solid album. It reminds me of all the best bits of "The White Album" and "Pet Sounds" without evoking any of the things I hate about those albums, those artists, that era. It's layered. It's smart (and maybe, though not necessarily, clever). And I love Ian Moore because I saw him when I was in college and he was just making his bones as a singer/guitarist in the Texas blues style which he eventually stepped back from (though his early stuff is still great). And I saw him, by chance in graduate school, at a small hippie place with good microbrews and a hummus plate that even a barbecue raised kid from Texas had to stop and pay attention to. And he was incredible both times, in two very different ways.

So while I can't make CDs for all of you, I can at least suggest you give this one disc a listen as it's probably been one part of why I've been less-curmudgeonly than usual in recent days.

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adjunct whore said...

i haven't heard of moore, but i love pet sounds--thanks for the musical tip.

December 4, 2007 at 4:19 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Hope you like 'em - if you're an iTunes sort of person (or whatever download system), I'd suggest two songs to get a sense of the album: "To Be Loved" or "Walk On By".

December 4, 2007 at 4:23 PM