A Return to Cold War Chic?

September 13, 2008

With a resurgent Russia now standing up the USA, is it time to dust off the Cold War Memorabilia? Listen to this Cold War classic while you ponder that question :)

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Beck – “Coolest Scientologist in Music”

September 7, 2008


Riding on the wave of the apathy, angst, and disenchantment of the early 1990s music scene, Beck’s Loser struck a familiar note with the youth of that time. Pessimistic, detached, and self-deprecating, his songs reflected the mood of the time in a place where corporate culture was (like it is today) ubiquitous and inescapable. Suggested by many that he’d be a “one-hit wonder”, Beck managed to pump out album after album of genre-bending music ranging from country to hip-hop and all points in between.

Tom Slater of Spiked Online reviews Beck’s latest release, Modern Guilt, in: Modern Guilt: Beck to the Future.

Have a listen to “Gamma Ray” from his new album:

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From the Office of the Obvious: Musical Tastes Do Reflect Personality

September 4, 2008

rock music fans
The survey shows that heavy metal fans are also very creative and at ease with themselves, but not are not very outgoing or hard-working

Growing up in the early 80s out in suburbia, the musical divide was a simple one: you either listened to hard rock/heavy metal of the Led Zeppelin/Rolling Stones/Def Leppard/Judas Priest variety, or you listened to New Wave coming out of the UK best represented by bands such as Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Alongside the debates that raged about the musical qualities of each came subtle (or blunt) jabs at what each others’ tastes meant about the person themselves.

For instance, the prevalence of black leather and lumberjack coat attire plus feathered hair gave fans of heavy metal a “dirty” appearance. The trite lyricism of hard rock allowed its fans to be mocked for their intelligence or lack thereof. The glam look of New Wave acts naturally led to those in the opposing camps to question the sexuality of their fans.

Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh conducted an extensive study of 36,000 music fans to research what their musical tastes say about their personalities. Here are some of the thumbnail results:

Indie: Devotees have low self-esteem and are not very hard-working, kind or generous. However, they are creative.

Rock ‘n’ Roll: Fans have high self-esteem and are very creative, hard-working and at ease with themselves, but not very kind or generous.

Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease with themselves.

Classical: Classical music lovers have high self-esteem, are creative and at ease with themselves, but not outgoing.

Heavy metal: Very creative and at ease with themselves, but not very outgoing or hard-working.

Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, kind, generous and at ease with themselves, but not very hard-working.

Country & Western: Very hard-working and outgoing.

Dance: Creative and outgoing but not kind or generous.

Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing.

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The Soundtrack of our Lives

September 2, 2008

The songs we heard growing up shape our memories

Sights and smells will trigger memories in an individual but the sense of sound seems to trigger them best and especially when they are in musical form. Often enough, hearing an old song will automatically take us back to a place that no longer exist anywhere but in our memories, whether good or bad.

Dave Munger presents us with some research on why this is the case in Music and Memory: How the Songs We Heard Growing Up Shape the Story of Our Lives. Here’s an excerpt:

Matching our intuitions about music, researchers have found that music is an important influence on our memories. We associate songs with emotions, people, and places we’ve experienced in the past. This isn’t to say that music is the only influence on memory: the photos I took, the sights I saw, and the words I wrote about my hike will also help to preserve it in my mind for many years to come.

But it’s not easy to parse out exactly how music evokes memories. If I listened to “Rock Lobster” on the drive down from Hart’s Pass where we finished our hike, will “Rock Lobster” be associated with that memory, or with my birthday party in college where I danced wildly to the same song? Does music have a more powerful effect on memory than other influences, like images, words, or smells? We don’t know, but a group led by Petr Janata has taken an important first step in understanding how music can affect memory.

On that note, I’d like to present to you the soundtrack of my youth. Feel free to share yours with us.

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Small Pleasures #1 – Chico Marx playing piano

August 14, 2008

The wonderful Chico Marx playing “All I Do is Dream of You” in the 1935 Marx Brothers movie “A Night at the Opera”.

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Radiohead’s “pay what you want” gamble pays off

August 12, 2008

Radiohead's In Rainbows

People downloaded “In Rainbows” for free, but many also chose to pay

Radiohead’s risky gamble of asking people to pay what they felt was a fair price for their latest album, In Rainbows, seems to have paid off and has now put the music industry on notice. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Bands That Matter

August 11, 2008

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady – Where the E Street Band meets Elvis Costello

There was a time when finding an alternative to the barrage of mainstream pop music coming out of the USA meant simply glancing over the ocean to see what was going on in the UK. Times seem to have changed as the British rockers more and more appear as one similar mass with little differentiation from band to band. Lyrics revolving around the usual lads’ banter have dulled the tastes and have left discerning audiences wanting more.

Ally Carnwath of The Guardian is telling us to look to the USA to find intelligent yet approachable pop music and has listed five bands that we should be listening to right now. Read his views in Meet the bands with poetry on the brain.

Here’s an excerpt:

Vampire Weekend’s performance might have felt then like a happy anomaly, a fleeting moment of midsummer madness before festival orthodoxy, in the form of hundreds of mediocre indie bands, reasserted itself. But scenes like this are becoming increasingly familiar. In a fortnight’s time, the Hold Steady, a five-piece also based in Brooklyn who deal in complex tales of teenage excess and Catholic guilt, will play at the notoriously unimaginative V Festival. Vampire Weekend will reprise their smarty-pants pop at the end of August at Reading and Leeds, festivals where the hint of an allusive lyric would traditionally see bottles of yellow liquid arcing towards the stage.

With acclaimed records from Fleet Foxes, and lesser-known but equally brilliant albums from alt-rock veterans the Mountain Goats, whose songwriter John Darnielle published a novel inspired by Black Sabbath earlier this year, and Silver Jews, a band based around poet David Berman, 2008 has seen a slew of witty, hyper-literate American groups who provide a much-needed corrective to Britain’s indie malaise.

In the meantime, enjoy Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk”.

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