When I’m not complaining about Michael Bay and TMNT, playing ancient computer games, building speakers, running a record store, interviewing musicians, or taking concert photos, I work for a small web design firm.
During the day, I have extended periods of silence (well, really, the sound of clicking keys and mouse buttons, squeaky chairs, and the occasional frustrated sighs of my coworkers isn’t silence, but it’s close enough for practical purposes) or worse, talk radio. As a result, I keep a pair of headphones at my desk, and I spend a lot of time hopping between youtube playlists, tumblr audio streams, Concert Vault, and various other sources of digital music.
It is, honestly, the only thing that gets me through my day.
I’ve decided to keep track of the music that I listen to today, and jot down a few notes about it. Think of it as a kind of music journal (and ponder, does knowing that I’ll be writing about the music that I’m listening to lead me to choose different music? Who knows.)
My morning commute is about 10 minutes. (I know, right?) That’s just about enough time to listen to two or three songs. I started today off with tracks 04 and 05 from Jesca Hoop’s Undress. These are my favorite tracks on the CD.
Jake Hodges wrote about this album at great length right after it was released, so I’ll let his Undress Review say what needs to be said there.
When I got in to the office this morning, I was the first. I find the absolute silence a little unnerving, so I quickly went for this 1970 Miles Davis set from Concert Vault. I’ve listened to it four or five times in the last several weeks, but I keep coming back to it.
1 Honky Tonk 12:49
2 What I Say (Incomplete) 09:47
3 Sanctuary 03:21
4 Yesternow 14:12
5 Bitches Brew 08:47
6 Funky Tonk / The Theme 12:56
7 Outro 00:37
The liner notes on Concert Vault are a little grandiose. I’ll try to sum up.
This set comes in about a year after the ground-breaking Bitches Brew, and around 5 months after the recording of Jack Johnson. This is one of the few live renditions of the Jack Johnson track Yesternow that I’ve been able to find.
If you’re not familiar with this era of Davis’ work, my recommendation (blasphemy!) is to skip “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew” and go straight for “Jack Johnson” before returning to the other two. Yesternow is an astounding track, one of the best Davis ever recorded.
The set clocks in around an hour. 11 minutes of that hour is devoted to music from “Bitches Brew” the rest of it is new, and is wonderful.
Miles Davis – trumpet
Gary Bartz – soprano and alto saxophone
Keith Jarrett – electric piano, organ
Michael Henderson – bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums
Airto Moreira – percussion
Jumma Santos (aka Jim Riley) – percussion
This is Davis and crew playing at the fillmore west, less than 9 months before it shut it’s doors for good. He’s playing to a huge audience, he’s electric and electrified.
This isn’t really “Jazz” music, certainly not traditional jazz. And it’s a far cry from “Free Jazz” too. It’s something altogether different, having more in common with the work of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground than it does with the music traditionally associated with Davis.
And that’s awesome.
I followed that up with Bill Callahan’s 2013 release, Dream River, on youtube.
It’s a fun, mellow, melancholy, contemplative album, far removed from Bill’s earlier work as smog.
I left the office for lunch when I finished Dream River. When I got to my car, I swapped CDs, and listened to the Screaming Females’ masterful tiny desk concert.
It’s really an astounding set, and it’s a fun video to watch.
If you’re not familiar with the band, they’re indie rock bordering on punk, but with tight and talented musicianship and, of course, a screaming female front person.
“It All Means Nothing”
“I Don’t Mind It”
That CD has two other Tiny Desk concerts on it, I listened to the first several minutes of Le Butcherettes, before heading back in to the office.
Le Butcherettes are another indie rock/punk band, although they tend to lean a little more towards the punk side of things.
Normally, their music is loud and sloppy and heavy and screaming and overamplified and drum-y.
Here, the lead singer is solo, acoustic, and still screaming her guts out.
“I’m Getting Sick Of You”
“Henry Don’t Got Love”
Pokey and his band play American Roots music. Acoustic folk and blues, mostly. His stuff is good for a pick-me-up, but it was a little too sacharine for today.
“La La Blues”
“Pack It Up”
“Head To Toe”
When I got back from lunch, I decided I needed something kind of subversive, so I turned to Boom by Ito Clash. This is an acoustic, angry, angsty pop-punk album from Analog Revolution’s own Ito Clash.
Ito is great. His music is aggressive, but it’s still fairly palatable. His voice is a little rough around the edges, but the confessional nature of the tracks and the pop-punk delivery give it a magical edge that is reminecent of the Violent Femmes.
With lyrics like “Sometimes I get erections in the middle of a hug/ it doesn’t mean I like you, I just really like to hug” and “My life is so much better since I fucked it up” it’s the perfect kind of middle finger to my work day.
The second half of the album is made up of remixes of the tracks from the first half of the album. They’re tolerable, and sometimes even enjoyable, but too much for my work day, so I moved on.
At this point, including the several interruptions during which I actually have to converse with my co-workers, I entered the day’s home stretch. There was still plenty to be done (more than I could possibly finish) and, frankly, I was losing steam.
My ability to focus on the music at hand was also dwindling. I needed background noise, rather than something that would command my attention. I needed music I knew so well that I wouldn’t even hear it any more. Soft, sweet and acoustic, perhaps. Wordless music, or at least music in another language, so I couldn’t easily sing along, and get distracted.
In short, I needed The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions.
This is a companion album to the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (directed by Wes Anderson and Staring Bill Murray.)
The music is performed by Brazilian musician Sue Jorge and consists almost entirely of acoustic Brazilian covers of David Bowie tracks.
If you’re not sold, based on that description alone, then we clearly have very different tastes.
This album is a really familiar one for me. It’s one I reach for when I need to feel comfortable or safe (odd, that, isn’t it?)
At any rate, it carried me through the rest of my work day, and in to the car ride home and, probably, kept me from having a complete stress meltdown in the proccess.
(The car ride home featured two tracks from Casket Girls’ “True Love Kills the Fairy Tale”, which I will write about at length eventually.)
I’m sitting at home now, I’ve just put St. Vincent’s “Actor” on my turntable, poured myself a cup of coffee, and am settling down to work on Analog Revolution.
I imagine that my evening will be a little more musically diverse (I’ve got a Flat Duo Jets album queued up next, I think), and it will certainly be a lot louder. (The Elaborate Headgear Listeners are nice, and all, but they really pale in comparison to my Vanguards.)
I’m actually a bit surprised at how little music I listened to throughout the day. I feel like this was a fairly typical work day for me, in terms of work load and conversation levels, and I listened to 36 tracks from the time I left for the office until I returned home.
That’s, probably, more than most people (I mean, I’m lucky enough to be able to choose my own music in the office) but it’s still less than I expected. I was also a bit surprised to see how uniform my choices were today (five acoustic sets, three female vocalists, more new music than old.)
It’s kind of amazing, and fantastic, the way that these songs made my day a little less shitty. It’s kind of wonderful the way this music can keep me going, transport me from the mundane and drab daily grind and move me into another place entirely.
But, really, that’s why we started Analog Revolution