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