For the past couple days, all I can hear in my internal soundtrack is Kacey Musgraves’s “Slow Burn,” from Golden Hour.
It’s a terrific album, on many Best of 2018 lists, and for good reason. There isn’t a bad song on it. But this one in particular feels very close to me. Late bloomers and older artists can tend to get caught up in negative spirals of feeling like we aren’t getting anywhere, that our time has passed. But it’s always possible your time hasn’t yet come, at least where recognition or attention of some kind that will expose you to a new audience or group.
It’s a precious message: it’s okay to do you own thing and let whatever’s going to happen, well, happen in its own time.
The thing to concern yourself with in the moment is that you’re doing your best work and it’s filling some need within you. You need to be okay with slowly burning while you wait for the fire to spread.
I’ve always liked Yes, from my discovery of prog in high school, through the spiritual strangeness of New Age fads in the 80s, and out the other side to a deeper appreciation of their musicianship. But Steven Wilson, an amazing musician himself, has done a bunch of remixes for some early Yes albums, and they’re beautiful.
Wilson brings presence and dynamics back to the music, contrary to the smashed loudness of many contemporary remasters (and production in general, let’s be honest). Highly recommended if you want to hear every instrument clearly and feel as if you’re listening to them play in the room with you.
Ever since I mentioned wanting to listen to the new Steve Perry album on the podcast this week (advance spoiler: it’s okay), I’ve been thinking about how I’ve liked the band since 1981, when Escape came out, which was one of the first rock albums I bought for myself. I know, I had a somewhat sheltered musical upbringing.
I’ve had a lot of friends over the years raise an eyebrow or two when they find out, and say something like, “Dude, you like Journey? But you’re into metal and prog and ambient…” True, but one likes what one likes, and I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.
So. Rather than some windy exposition detailing them, here’s this obsessive trifle:
5. The beginning of “Anytime” 4. The end of the first verse of “Good Morning Girl: “I see your eyes shining through/Those gentle eyes silver blue/Good morning girl” 3. Near the end of “Escape,” a series of C to ringing Gadd9 chords on the extended vocal of “stay” 2. In “Faithfully,” the syncopation of “Two strangers learn to fall in love again” 1. The last 10 a cappella seconds of “Girl Can’t Help It”
Bonus: “Only Solutions,” which can’t go on that list—the whole song is my favorite one.
That’s what I was listening to earlier this evening, after sampling tracks across the massive Merzbow catalog. I’m not very familiar with the noise music genre, but it’s pretty antagonistic. Not really what I would call music, really, but something like difficult listening? Or kind of terrifying listening. It’s what evil alien robots would put on for entertainment. There are ghosts of melody, and of rhythm, but the tracks keep frustrating attempts to pick stable patterns out. It’s overwhelming, but after a while, I got into it.
The other parts aren’t so confrontational, they seem more akin to the work of a musician I really like: Mick Harris, particularly his Lull moniker. Well, I like Lull and some other isolationist stuff a lot. But that moves glacially and is minimalist. This, especially the first track of Achromatic, is like chaos itself through a few distortion pedals.
But, again, I got into it. It’s a little like reverse meditation. Your discomfort becomes focus, because it pushes everything else out of its path.
If this were your “thing,” if this was what you purport to listen to casually and regularly, I’d raise an eyebrow. I’d miss too much of what I enjoy music for—melody, rhythm, repetition.
Defying your expectations and assumption is a way to break out of stagnation of any kind. Exploring insanely different things than you know is good, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Everything worth experiencing has a non-zero amount of effort to acquire it.
It seems like we get put down for carrying on a brief obsession with something, but it can be a reason to get familiar with something new or to experience something familiar with new eyes and ears.
My current is above, of course. The bass sound is gorgeously full, the slapback echo on the vocal is almost haunting, but still charming, and the melody and lyrics themselves are fun and earwormy. I hear something new almost ever re-listen, which is amazing. Now. How to apply this obsession to something I’m doing.
Dolby received the Roland Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s NAMM. Below, be explains a bit about his signature song and casually knocks out this version. Inspiring and amusing, it’s basically a one-man-band play.
So, belated apologies for missing one of these daily posts completely—and they’re unwarranted, I know, but after some pretty consistent, um, consistency in posting, it still feels appropriate.
I’m in the final throes of moving to another city, and not just that, another state. I haven’t done that since 1992. California has been home for a very long time, indeed.
But I’m tired of the Southwest, and it’s long past time to experience everything new. Or anew. I’m really too tired to figure it out.
I’ve been putting everything I own into boxes to move, bags to throw out, and piles to donate. There’s now a lot less that I own. Something else: I keep noticing a soundtrack running in my head as I do all this, and it’s annoyingly full of—what used to be, to me—”Classic” rock. The brain is a marvelous phenomenon, but it’s also full of trivia. Today’s tracks were the above Phil, and this Bad Company song, which I haven’t heard for years.
Alex Lifeson from Rush, of course, which is really what I should call him up front. Titles are hard, sometimes. Rush isn’t really my favorite band any more, but I still have lots of time for them when the occasion arises.
He’s a largely self-taught musician, but managed to innovate in several ways, notably—to me, at least—his preference for creating color and texture in the spaces between his virtuosic, more showy bandmates.
Like Ringo Starr, another sometimes unsung hero of rock music, he always strives to serve the songs first and foremost. I think this is an admirable approach for any artist, striving to do what you think is best for the piece, not trying to show any particular skill.
Moving brings out all the emotions. For me, it’s not all stress, all the time. I’ve always brought a sense of melancholy as well, sorting old letters, books, photos, notes, objects long hidden in a box that never got unpacked from the last move.
I want it to be Vanpire Weekend’s “Cousins,” but of course it feels like (brilliant) Ethan Gruska’s remote-gas-station-lit “Teenage Drug.”
This is a useful, and I think harmless, if not even helpful, kind of nostalgia. Feeling the past while you actively head toward the future.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.