Saturday, October 28, 2006

I discussed this article in a rather drunken fashion with Stuart on Thursday night. Like to hear any more sober thoughts on this issue.,,1931560,00.html

And as a side note re classical music, I was in Atelier this afternoon and for all of October and November they are selling all Hyperion discs (which normally chime in at around $26) for 30% off. Pretty good deal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I bought point of departure in scotland and I love it, thus I will check out your tips....It seems I have a very disproportionalty high number of jazz piano records, and aside from coltrane and davis, much less trumpet or saxophone stars, thus I was hoping to reconcile this imbalance by getting some favrites of of you lot...we should all really finish those jazz lists...I think I need to ad my final 7, so hopefully next week....
A normal morning for me, riding the subway, sardined in with hundreds of others, holding my thankfully small soft-cover book above heads to pick up as much of the yellowed light as possible, and listening to my iPod on shuffle - the usual jarring mix of folk, pop, rock, jazz, and classical....when I hear an understated, groovy, modern-but-not modal drum and bass beginning, followed a couple of bars later by a flute and trumpet harmonizing on a simple line, and thereafter jagged piano comping, and then, a seven or eight piece ensemble. Don't recognize it, and am fascinated with the colour and tonal depth of it - reaching into my briefcase (trying not to grope too many people on the way down) and discover that it's Andrew Hill - "Noon Time" from the Passing Ships record. An album recorded in the late 1960's but never released (why did jazz labels do that so effin' often?) , which I bought with excitement when the tapes were found in 2002 or 3, but clearly never really digested. It's outstanding.

As more recordings emerge, it seems to me that Andrew Hill's stature as a jazz giant is growing - for me his best are Black Fire and now, maybe, Passing Ships, with Point of Departure and Grass Roots an excellent next tier down. Amazingly, he's still going strong - "Dusk" from 1999, is one of my favourite contemporary jazz recordings - I'll bring it to a CD club in the future.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thanks Marc (belatedly).

I should mention that all four of my picks are available on e-music (, to which at least Kyle, Derek, and I subscribe - not sure whether anyone else is in the team. Comes highly recommended by me - they offer monthly subscription packages ranging from (I think) $10 - to $25 (or $30?), and for that you can download between 40 and 100 songs. I'm on the $15 / 65 song program and always seem to devour my 65 songs within about two days of my monthly renewal.

The site has a diverse and interesting if far-from-complete catalogue, focused more on releases from 6 months ago and previous, but will surprise every now and then - Yo La Tengo's latest, Thom Yorke's solo record were both there early on - and has some nice search engines to help you find music that you would otherwise never have heard of, and that fits into your musical wheelhouse. Can't beat it for the money.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alice Russel – My Favourite Letters
J Dilla – The Shining
Gerardo Frisina – Hi Note
Ghana Sounz – Sound Way

M Ward – Post Ward
Serena Manieesh – Self Titled
TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
Emily Haines – Knives Don’t Have Your Back

Lullaby Baxter – Garden Cities of To-Morrow
Vangelis L’Apocolypse des Animaux
Jose Gonzalez - Veneer

The Henreys – Desert Cure
The Henreys- Peurto Angels

Movietones – The Blossom Filled Streets
Last Days of April – If You Loose It
Magali Souriau Orchestra – Birdland Sessions
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Sergio Mendes - Timeless
Ray Lamontagne – Till The Sun Turns Black
Soldad Brothers – The Hardest Walk

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stuart, I like your point about guitar vs. piano, which is something I hadn't considered. Agree that it is harder to express an emotion with piano music without coming off as maudlin; there's something just more dramatic about the sound of a piano which easily lends itself to this evocation. The mass popularity of rock/pop music can likely be attributed to the fact that guitar-based songs are more accessible to people because they don't sound like the musicians are putting on airs. Also, guitars can be a lot more visceral, and therefore more immediately satisfying for the listener. When a piano tries to be visceral, it just sounds over-dramatic, and there we come back to the 'putting on airs' critique.

Which brings us to Brian's point, about liking female singer-songwriters who are more 'male', which I take to mean more aggressive in terms of lyrics or arrangements. Was thinking of my favourite female singer-songwriters and they aren't necessarily the ones that sound 'more male' but those that are 'edgy' in a different way. Those female singer songwriters that do it for me tend to be those who are more 'feminine' in a lot of ways, but produce either a lusher sound or are quirky-edgy instead of agressive edgy (ie. Bjork or Cibelle versus Emm Gryner). I realize that Emily Haines may fall into the latter category, at least with respect to her Metric work, but what I like most about this solo disc is the lusher, more feminine feel to it.

As for yuppie romantic drivel, much of the work of Sarah McLaughlin, along with that of Norah Jones, Chantal Krevetsiak, Michelle Branch, et al falls into a genre that can best be described as "Starbucks", as this is what you usually hear whenever you're ordering that skinny double venti latte no foam no whip.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

thought i'd waid in since no one likes wussy music like me...
seems like there are 3 points here for me;
1) "buying into the emotion" a topic much discussed by us , but I think it is the core of the issue wether male or female singers. dont know what makes it work for some and not others ( I actually like some of Sarah Mclauglins music and Brian has hated her for years)..
2) I never thought of the guitar vs piano aspect, but I do believe it is harder to come off "real" when playing piano as some you point out...hardly seems fair given it is just the instrument, but I guess like black tower wine...once a bad taste gets lots of airplay (think -you light up my life for instance -debbie boone or any bad 70's piano ballads)its hard for serious drinkers to get back in tha game - hense the good prise of alsatian reislings these days...
3) I think its imprtant to seperate band songwritters ( Bjork, Pat Benetar, Kate Bush)vs singer songwritters because I see the complexities of Bjorks music for instance putting her in a completely different catagory .... as far as true singer songwritters ( early joni mitchell, sandy denny, june tabor, or current Chan marshall,Julie Doiron (i bought her last album last winter -love it- ) or say Aimee mann or Natalie Merchant...all of this some of my most favorite music -piano based -
and totally honest no ironic stance at all....just goes to show ya ...whatever the hell my point was?????

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tough call. I think the expression of emotion is at the core of good art (Coltrane, punk, Pollock, Beethoven, you name it), so what we're really disliking - and I agree wholeheartedly about the singers you mentioned - is the particular idiom. I was saying just the other day that I have a limited appetite for the singer/songwriter genre, and I think that's what it boils down to. And yes, for me, moreso female singer/songwriters. There's nothing as nauseating as hearing Sarah Mclaughlin lauded for writing material ostensibly so "close to the bone", when to me it sounds like yuppy romantic drivel. Thank GOD she seems to have stopped producing hits.

I think the reason we bristle is what we're hearing, or not hearing more accurately, is true and real expression, so we're not buying it. Doesn't necessarily apply to all females s/s's - I connect better with PJ Harvey, though I don't always love her music - but there are few exceptions. And the ones that we like tend to be tougher, and more male in their expression.

As an aside, the same can't be said for jazz singers, interestingly, where the melancholy milieu works brilliantly for me.

I do keep dabbling in female s/s's, with only modest success - downloaded some Laura Veirs tunes in the early new year after she was well reviewed, which are squarely in the "not bad" category, and have recently discovered and quite enjoy Julie Doiron's music (she of Eric's Trip), which has been around for years. Any exceptions for the rest of you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Listening to the latest edition of NPR's All Songs Considered the other day a similar point was raised when they got around to playing a snippet from the new Joanna Newsom CD. There were 4 or 5 people in the discussion as they were previewing the best of the new fall releases and the divide between them on Newsom and others of her ilk was quite stark. They either loved or loathed her.

As much as I enjoyed Newsom's debut CD on the first 3 or 4 spins I really haven't touched it since. Same thing happened with Tori Amos' "Under the Pink" CD of about 10 years back and with Fiona Apple's debut "Tidal". A few spins then filed away to gather dust. The panel on the show also threw Kate Bush into the mix but I'd say she's had a much more varied output than the 3 women above.

Does the impatience with this sort of music have anything to do with the fact that Apple and Amos play the piano and Newsom the harp? We're much less inclined to vent when someone like Elliott Smith or Sufjan Steven get all maudlin on our ass.

I'm not sure it's really a female-male issue (as Haines seems to state) though as I'm just as impatient with songsmiths like Damien Rice, Ryan Adams or even Conner Oberst at times because like you said Kyle "yes, we get that you're in pain" now shut the fuck up.

I think for me as well it also comes down to the simple fact that over a 4 or 5 record span (as much as most performers will ever release) a group of talented musicians will almost always win out over a solo perfomer in complexity, variety and freshness of sound.
Apropos of nothing (and aren't you ready to just frickin hate anything that comes next when I start a post this way)....I'm really digging the new Emily Haines disc and may burn a copy for others to play at next week's CD club, which I will not be able to attend.

I especially like this quote from Pitchfork (which references another article):

"I really don't relate to the female singer-songwriter," Haines said in a recent Under the Radar interview. "You're all precious and everyone has to hush while you go over the shadows of your emotions. I've always hated that."

Amen. While there's something to be said for beautiful songwriting, and the often beautiful songwriters who appear front and centre, in billowing white dresses with whispy, wind-blown hair, on the covers of all the cds they put out, I've always found artists like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple a tad off-putting by their, for lack of a better word, histrionics. Yes, it's admirable when artists are willing to put their emotions out there but I think this sometimes is considered an achievement in itself, without a consideration as to whether or not the resulting music is any good. ie. I get that you're in pain but I'm not feeling the vibe.

Am I way off the mark? Please feel free to either put me in my place or stroke my ego.