I was never really an R.E.M. fan. More specifically, I suppose, I’m a casual fan who’s always managed to find himself surrounded by R.E.M. fanatics (students at liberal arts colleges, fellow employees of ad agencies, readers of The New Yorker, etc.).
I appreciate the vividly odd stories found in their songs, and there’s no denying the influence they’ve had on the trajectory of pop music. But even if we set aside the societal affront of “Shiny Happy People,”and concede that Michael Stipe is paid to be a singer (not a dancer), they never quite worked their way into my heart.
And then they go and release this as their last single ever.
It is, quite simply, beautiful. A straightforward reminder that music doesn’t have to be achingly clever or stridently angry or painfully try-hard to be interesting. Sometimes songs can just be pretty. And, these days, that sometimes isn’t nearly often enough.
Farewell, R.E.M. You’ll be missed. By me, even.
To accompany this last song, the band has released the following two videos that film two famous folks listening to the song for the first time. Continue reading →
I find few musical experiences more compelling than someone performing alone with only a mic and an instrument at their disposal. No studio, no svengali, no auto tune. I suppose it’s the musical equivalent of an omelet or spaghetti marinara: with nowhere to hide, you get to see someone’s true mettle.
Yesterday morning, as I was waking up from a crazy work week (that was largely post-less, sorry), I saw this clip that reminded me how much I liked this Bright Eyes album from some years back. The most remarkable thing about the record is how much he accomplishes with such a few number of *ingredients*. A story told with very few words, emotion stirred with very few notes. And, though there are many freshman year discussion group sand traps that surround songs like this, Bright Eyes manages to navigate through and create something that is heartfelt but not cloying. Okay, well maybe a little cloying– but as you find yourself singing along, I guess you don’t mind.
Lua, Bright Eyes (the studio version of the song above)
We’re nearing the end of the 30 days of music, but worry not– there’s a follow-up concept waiting in the wings. I’ll explain more later, but take a read of this post to get a sense of what to expect (and prepare to participate!).
I have an uncanny, nearly-unmatched, ability to forget names. Although I’m moderately capable on most other aspects of everyday life, I’m that guy who– upon meeting you for the fifth time– might introduce myself as it were the first.
I’ve developed all sorts of crafty adaptations to compensate. My use of pronouns can be quite impressive (“hey you” is just the beginning, believe me). I’ve also taken to certain non-committal phrases like “nice to see you” that deftly side-step the whole “have I met you before” issue. And I’ve also developed plausible-if-not-certifiably-truthful reasons for my inability to remember your name (yes, your name– nobody ever experiences it as an inability to remember names in general: only an inability to remember your name).
My number one excuse proffered for forgetting your name is that the part of my brain intended to hold peoples’ names was annexed years ago by the part of my brain that retains song lyrics. Continue reading →
Since I can remember (and, from what my parents have told me, before I can remember as well), I’ve lived my life to a soundtrack. I’m always listening to music, and I have the tendency to somewhat fanatically want to match different moments and emotions to particular bits of music. If you’re wondering if someone can fritter away time carefully considering how a party playlist should be different in the first hour than the second hour, the answer is absolutely. The answer to your second question is yes, that someone is me. And the answer to your third question is yes, I do so pretty much for every party we throw.
But here’s the interesting thing that writing this made me realize: there are virtually no songs that make me sad. This isn’t because I’m some perpetually-peppy happy guy (pause for reader laughter), but rather because music is one of the most powerful emotional salves that I’ve ever encountered. Continue reading →