Monday, 28 October 2013

Alternative Music: Appreciations, Critique, Reviews, and Miscellaneous Comments

This is where I will be putting brief comments and reviews of music and music videos from the alternative music genres that I listen to. I will update this section of my blog henceforth.

Sharon Van Etten
I hadn't heard any of her music before 2013. Sharon Van Etten writes consistently strong songs, both musically and lyrically. She has an unusually broad vocal range and a distinctive and engaging vocal style. Cat Power is one obvious influence. All of which sounds dry, boring, and not very informative. For what it is worth I think she is one of the very best female singer song writers in the world today. 

Lou Reed
So many great songs and lyrics from the recently departed and sadly missed Lou Reed, but one of my favourite lines, that I repeatedly quote to my students, essentially says that "you'll never create anything if you're frightened of being called a fool" (from Reed and Cale, Songs for Drella).

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper
An album I've been listening to a lot lately is by Lady Lamb The Beekeeper and is called 'Ripely Pine'. Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro) doesn't have a unique and instantly recognisable vocal style like Bjork, Cat Power, Sharon Van Etten, or PJ Harvey, although she sings with passion and power. Her real strength is the quality of her song writing which is, for one so young, amazing. Most songs on the album range from 5 to 7 minutes in length and each takes you on an interesting and thought provoking lyrical and musical journey that is full of surprising twists, turns and apparent dead ends that suddenly open up into clearings with lush melodies. Five stars.

One of the joys of life is discovering new musical artists that you haven't heard before. Given how male dominated the corporate music industry is, and how entrenched gender inequality is within advanced capitalist societies, it's wonderful that there are so many great emerging female singer song writers doing amazing things.

Post script. I really love her song 'Bird Ballons'. It is more like an extended composition, a song cycle than a single song, in which she expresses anger and tenderness at different points. It has made me aware of how transgressive it is for a female song writer to express anger musically, whereas we take it forgranted that this is acceptable and normal for male musical artists, including when they express anger towards women. There is plenty of scope for feminist critique of popular musical culture in this regard (suggestions for references welcome).

Okkervil River- No Key, No Plan
This song is from an outfit from Austin, Texas. I've really liked everyone I've meet from that particular city, so apart from it's being the alleged 'live music capital of the US', it's a city I'm looking forward to visiting some day. By the way, one of my all time favourite socialist tee-shirts reads: 'Texas Socialist'. V. cool.

Pavement, 'Here'. Opening lyrics read: 'I was dressed for success, and success it never comes. And I'm the only one who laughs at your jokes when they are so bad, and your jokes are always bad. But they are not as bad as this.' 

Fly My Pretties
One of the things that I love most about living on these storm swept islands surrounded by lots of water, is the quality of the alternative music that is created and performed here. 

The Brunettes
This is a NZ band that I've been kinda prejudiced against on the grounds that their music is just way too contrived and consciously clever, but when I listened to this song and watched the quirky video that goes with it, I realised I needed to be a bit more open-minded.  

For other New Zealand alternative music videos go to:

For alternative music videos from the rest of the world go to: 208-democracy-video-screenings.html

And for some slightly older stuff that I liked a lot in 2011: