What in the World “Combat Salacious Removal” Means, and Why Abstract Lyrics Work

Sometimes I don’t know why I love the things I love. I was sitting in my room and doing homework this weekend while blasting through Interpol’s 2004 album Antics, singing along to the track “Length of Love”. It’s a great track, starting around a sinister guitar part before it shifts into the kind of ersatz-punk-disco that Interpol is known for. Naturally I’m singing along, but when I get to the chorus I stop and ask myself, “What in the world did I just sing?” See, I had to ask this question because the chorus is just a three word motif sung in Paul Banks’ ALL CAPS monotone. The words? (And I’m not making this up) “COMBAT SALACIOUS REMOVAL”.

[Read more...]

Music and Memories

“Taxman” always makes me think of this. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Willis)

I’ve read over and over again that olfaction is the strongest sense at evoking memories. I think it has to do with the amygdala or something — hey, I’m not a neuroscience major. There are certain smells that bring up memories for me, some specific and some general; the smell of pine and sugar cookies makes me think of Christmas; the smell of “Midnight Pomegranate” hand soap, weirdly enough, makes me think of playing Call of Duty 4 back in 8th grade. Growing up in the plains of Northern Indiana, I always looked forward to the first day of summer — not June 21, but rather some Saturday in late April or May when I’d wake up, open the window, and smell the first faint, sweet, loamy scent of soil carried across the fields on the constant breeze. Every once in a while I’ll catch a brief whiff of it in Nashville and it still makes me excited.

Despite all this, one sense evokes more memories than scent for me: hearing. Specifically, hearing music; nothing else so vividly conjures up the events of my life as it does. [Read more...]

Beck – Morning Phase

“Can we start it all over again this morning?” Beck asks early on in the opening track of Morning Phase, his first album since 2008′s Modern Guilt. After a gorgeous 40 second instrumental opening, strings give way into the plaintive guitar strums of “Morning”, and it truly does feel like a something entirely new, a rebirth — which is odd, because Beck has specifically said this album is a spiritual successor to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change.

And sure, the beginning of “Morning” has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Sea Change opener “The Golden Age.” And sure, all of Morning Phase is ostensibly similar to its much-vaunted predecessor. It does feature the same musicians and the same California-folk influence. And yeah, even the cover art (Exhibits 1 and 2) looks strikingly similar, Beck’s steady gaze staring out behind smears of orange and blue.

But hear me out: the truth is that it’s only similar in the sense that all music by an artist sounds similar to previous music produced by that artist. No left turn is truly a total departure: even the cold, Kraftwerk heartbeat of Kid A‘s “Idioteque” had its roots in the laserbeam percussion loop of OK Computer’s “Airbag”.

The point of all this is to get you to look at Morning Phase in the ways it differs, rather than its similarities, because these differences are what make Morning Phase the best Beck album since 1998′s Mutations.

[Read more...]

A Look at Two New Songs from Beck’s Upcoming LP “Morning Phase”

http://www.spin.com/sites/all/files/140117-beck-morning-phase-cover-art.jpg

Beck has been in extended hiatus since 2008′s Modern Guilt. Of course, he hasn’t been entirely dormant; he’s been producing, working on his own label, collaborating with people as diverse as Jack White and Phillip Glass, and releasing new songs in the form of sheet music. Beck is to release his first LP in six years, Morning Phase — a spiritual successor to 2002′s Sea Change recorded with many of the same musicians — this Friday, and has already released two songs from the album: “Blue Moon” and “Waking Light”. Let’s take a look. [Read more...]

A Much Delayed Top 5 Songs of 2013

http://www.billboard.com/files/media/daft-punk-2013-650-430-b.jpg

2014 is over a month old now, the Grammys have finally aired, and it’s high time for me to compose this before the moment passes and 2014′s release schedule starts to heat up as the year pushes into spring. And what better time is there to catch up on music than a rainy Nashville February?

[Read more...]

Reflections on Christmas Music

There’s a golden rule that it’s generally impermissible to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s to contain everyone’s excitement; maybe — as my girlfriend likes to remind me — it’s to preserve the sanctity of Thanksgiving, the best holiday. My mom, in the past a proponent of this rule, announced with guilt that she’s been sneaking Christmas music: “I’m usually able to hold off until Thanksgiving but I was weak this year.”

In the past, I would’ve groaned; I was, like her, a staunch proponent of the Thanksgiving Rule. But this year even I find myself slipping into a Christmas mood earlier than usual. So I broke. I listened to Barry Manilow’s Christmas album, then all of my Christmas favorites. And I feel phenomenal. Christmas is the itch, and its music is the salve.

[Read more...]

8 Songs to Play at a Halloween Party That You Might Not Have Thought Of

My fellow staff writer Lucas Kunsman recently wrote a very good list of songs that are hauntingly beautiful. A few of my favorites — “Oh Comely” and “Kasimir Pulaski Day” — made the list. But it got me curious: what are 8 songs that are actually appropriate for a Halloween party? Now, these aren’t all Halloween songs, I know, and a lot of them aren’t really that dark or scary; I didn’t want to give you a list filled with horror-film scores and industrial metal. I also didn’t want to give you a list of songs like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller”, so I tried to pick songs you haven’t thought of.

So here are a few songs that are vaguely sinister and festive, but still fun enough to justify playing at a party. No one wants to hear the theme from Psycho while they’re sipping a beer and trying to hit on the girl in the inappropriately revealing costume.

[Read more...]

Pluck All Your Silly Strings: Neutral Milk Hotel, in Chattanooga, TN (10/19/13)

Neutral Milk Hotel in 1998. From left to right: Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes.

 

This is covert stuff. I’ve been waiting in line for 45 minutes to attend a show for which their are no real tickets — it’s all electronic, so as to prevent reselling and scalping. Now, the throng of diehards here to see a band that died 15 years ago, is herded into single-file lines. Women’s bags are checked. Men are given full-body pat downs. We’re all warned several times: no cameras, no video recorders, no audio recorders, no cell phone videos or pictures. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to file for Level 3 Security Clearance. People talk in hushed tones. What is inside Track 29, in Chattanooga, isn’t meant to get out. Inside is an experience, ephemeral, to be stored in one’s mind and not one’s computer. It’s like the nineties. Entering this venue is entering a time machine. This is not surprising, considering that the band we’re all here to see famously sang “I wish’d I could save her in some sort of time machine.” Everyone thought Neutral Milk Hotel was dead; perhaps they were saved in that very same time machine.

[Read more...]