Half-asleep Musical Rambling

Technically, I'm probably due for a nap.

But I've been sitting/laying here, waiting for my campus e-mail account to start working again so I can send a couple of notes off before I go mid-afternoon jammies. But instead of grumbling, I've been surfing the Internet looking at music stuff. This is rarely a good thing, financially, as I have a bit of a problem with compulsively buying music.

And so when Pandora - which I love and must plug again because it is the best way to find cool, new music since that cute, slightly nerdy girl at the record store - showed me that a band (Slow Runner) whose debut album ("No Disassemble") I loved had a new album out ("Mermaids") with a song that I couldn't get enough of on it ("The Stakes Have Been Raised"), I had to go looking. It was, as the quote goes, a moral imperative. As it turns out, they have two new albums, and they may have been bumped from their label, which intrigues me because their album was that good that there's no way they should have been dropped. Still, it wouldn't be the first time the business didn't recognize greatness.

And so, off I went, in part because it's a long way to payday and two albums might be a bad move (since I just got a few including a long sought after copy of Howlin' Wolf's "London Sessions" that is as good as I'd hope). And what did I find was all sorts of news with lots of potential.

First, Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs has some nice recordings in a much more mellow vein up for listening on MySpace under the name "Native Korean Rock." They're different from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs by miles, but worth a listen.

Second, I stumbled on a new album by Paul Westerberg that's available for download for $.49. That's right: 49 cents. Westerberg, considered by some to be one of the greatest living song writers around, made his bones in college/alternative radio underachievers The Replacements. And though I came to 'em late, I love 'em. So when the mastermind behind one of the original lo-fi, garage production rock bands of all time put out an album that cheap, I had to get it. I mean, when is the last time you paid 49 cents for anything? Be warned, the album is a bit of a scratchpad, but it's a good one (and again: 49 cents!).

And so now, not just because I can't get to my e-mail, the dog and I are dozing on the carpet in front of the stereo listening.

And here's part of what I like about it: the album is one track. You've got to listen to it all or fast forward yourself, and I like that album feeling. One of the things I think that's gotten lost in the age of quick downloaded mp3s is the joy of a well put-together album. Maybe that's why I've been listening to so much older stuff lately: because there can be a very different aesthetic to putting together something that long musically. Maybe I'm thinking about this because I'm starting to think beyond the book to upcoming projects, and one of the things I'm thinking about is how we pull action and thought from older historical practices onto modern ones. Or maybe it's because I'm curious at this creation as an example of an alternative to current modes of production?

By setting it up this way and charging what he is, Westerberg is not only going against the stream in the same way I was thinking maybe Slow Runner was (or in a way similar to bands releasing their own digital bootlegs of shows a la Pearl Jam or even Joseph Arthur who, for awhile at least, was recording his shows on the spot and selling them to the audience right there), he's paying a little homage to those earlier forms. There's something pretty amazing, after all, about picking an album that hangs together - let's say "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis - and taking the afternoon off to just listen to the whole thing to see how it flows and carries you with it. Not many artists do that these days, honestly.

And so, sitting here waiting for IT to get it together, even though I'm tired, I'm having a pretty good time.

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Notorious Ph.D. said...

Paul. Westerberg.

Dang, I haven't thought about him in ages. But congrats on the purchases! Pandora is indeed a mixed blessing.

July 27, 2008 at 2:08 PM