Camera Obscura: More lush, orchestral melancholia …

… and it adds up to the sweetest thing.

Not to mention the fact that this video is absolutely wonderful. Attending  a costume do at a country house as Simon & Garfunkel, and meeting friends there dressed as the cover art from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors?!  Someone please invite me to these parties!


Annie – Pure pop for now people

Norwegian DJ/singer Annie Berge Strand has finally officially released Don’t Stop, her second album, after five years of record company drama and dithering. It’s great.

Anniemal was a ridiculously great collection of pure pop confections, including the unforgettably hooky Chewing Gum. Annie’s personal tragedy, losing her boyfriend/collaborator to a freak illness at the age of 23, gave her first album an undertone of melancholy that carries over to Don’t Stop, and elevates her musical/lyrical wit and cleverness to something above and beyond pop music.

But it is terrific pop music, about as good as it gets…. Annie calls it “pop music with strange edges.” There are reviews out there by people who know the electro/dance/pop genre far better than I, including this one from Pitchfork.  I’ve read her genre described as unpopular pop music, but I hope that will change. Actually, I’m pretty sure it will.

The dust that Pancho bit

Just stumbled across this footage of  Townes Van Zandt And Guy Clark, when they were just kids. Described as “1970’s film clips which were part of a motion picture homage to West Texas troubadours titled ‘Heartworn Highways.'”

Loved the old guy’s tears during ‘Waitin’ around to die.’

Also available on the Internets from the same film, Van Zandt performing his scary great Pancho and Lefty and a sloppy session with Rodney Crowell and a skinny Steve Earle from Christmas Eve, 1975.

Rolling Stones – “Sweet Virginia”

I love Tiny Revolution as a political site. Here Bernard Chazelle switches to another passion of his, and  serves up some musicological theorizing about a song my old caddymaster hailed as the greatest hangover song of all time.

In the process he makes some broad comments about the Stones, and the old Beatles-v.-Stones flame war which, surprisingly, doesn’t devolve into absurdity in the comments section. Some bright people posting. Here’s his bottom line on the Stones:

They’re no songcrafting geniuses, their melodies are often banal, their harmonies simplistic, their lyrics silly or offensive, and they’re passable instrumentalists. Naturally, the Stones are the greatest rock band ever.

What gives? The thing is, in rock ‘n’ roll none of these things matter all that much. No rock tunesmith holds a candle to Gershwin or Cole Porter, anyway. Craftsmanship is not the point.

What’s the point then? To convert high energy into art. Rock is about emotion, not style; feeling, not beauty; desire, not sensuousness. Rock is not about courtship, it’s about sex.

That no other sub-genre of western music shares rock’s “kinetic primality” (I just made up the phrase, no doubt the high point of this post) has a two-word explanation: the blues. Yes, you can always rely on white rock musicians to misappropriate the blues as a vehicle for affected maturity, self-importance, and pretentiousness — Muddy Waters Meets Nietzsche kind of thing. But the Stones, bless their souls, have always remained loyal to the spirit of the idiom, which is to channel misery into joy, not to channel misery into more misery. If rock is a rhythm, a riff, and an attitude, then no one beats the Rolling Stones.

As regards the specific song, Chazelle says, “‘Sweet Virginia’ is a 16-bar country blues. (An anti-drug song, I guess?) Like Dylan’s “Idiot Wind,” it begins on the subdominant of the key (a classical device going back to the fugal tradition of Baroque music) and on to the cadence II-I.” I can’t really see Keef thinking like that (and I don’t think that’s what Chazelle is saying. Only that there is some sort of intuitive/instinctive genius at play in the process of writing pop songs.)

And thinking about the song got me thinking about my old caddymaster, an early hero to the thirteen-year-old me.  The power of the Google was impressive. I found him. Insurance company exec; donated well over $10 grand to Republican candidates in ’08. Another hero bites the dust. But he was right about “Sweet Virginia.”

Early Shakira, when she was even more awesome

Just watched the Shewolf video from the new, bodacious, blond Shakira. Two comments: 1. I could use a shower, and 2. it’s fascinating how much she’s changed. For the better or not, who knows? But I prefer this video and this song, from her days as a strange little would-be hippie girl with too much dark eyeliner. So much going on here, so many musical styles. And I love when she becomes a robotic wig mannequin.

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