Sunday, October 28, 2012

You May Never Fall In Love With Me But It Don't Matter: "Midnight Flower"

I usually steer clear of posting songs or theme-ing posts to holidays just because I feel that's establishing what could only be called a dangerous precedent,

but this song struck me as something good for Halloween and I'm trying to put my finger on why.

The song: The Four Tops, "Midnight Flower"; 1974

First of all, it's funky. Halloween says party to me, and nothing says party like a funky medium-tempo jam, so there's that.

And secondly, and possibly more importantly, there's an aspect of play-acting to this song. Let's pretend you're not who you are and I'm not who I am, just for a while. 

That's what's sexy and fun about Halloween -- you get to wear someone else's perfume for a night. So to speak.

Party on, midnight flowers.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

And I Understand Your Feelings Girl I Really Do: "Get Out Now"

There's two kinds of hobbies in this life: the ones that exist outside your head, and the ones that don't.

One of my personal favorites of the latter genre is "pretending my life is a movie and I am the music director".

Usually this movie is a Wes Anderson movie because, seriously, who would NOT want to live in a Wes Anderson movie?? The colors would be so warm and saturated and everywhere you looked there would be a background full of interesting and unusual things.

(and yeah your family/personal life would be a bit of a wreck but everything would resolve to some sort of basic happiness at the end, and there'd probably also be some kind of great theatrical thing with everyone you've ever loved and also, Owen Wilson.)

So, previously, there was The Beatles with "Anna". And now another artist who is fantastic at depicting actual emotions you can recognize but in a way that is just a little bit more warm and saturated and interesting and unusual and theatrical than what exists outside your head.


The song: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Get Out Now"; 1968

I haven't quite decided what scene this song would go to but it would definitely involve running, and a girl in a really stylish coat, and the color teal.

"You're like one of those clipper ship captains, you're married to the sea." "Yes, that's true, but I've been out to sea for a long time."


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Longing To Sail On: "All Through The Years"

This is a really great song and I recommend that you listen to it ASAP.

The song: Erasure, "All Through The Years"; 1994
The moment: 1:25


Monday, October 8, 2012

Let's Make The Most Of the Night Like We're Gonna: Fight or Flight

If you've turned on a TV or the radio in the past three months, you've heard these songs.

My argument is essentially, not to put too fine a point on it, that these two songs represent Everything That Is Wrong With Everything in the Year 2012.

(in a metaphysical sense.)

Here we go.


The song: The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"; 2012

This one I'll attribute to "high pop culture", as in pop culture that wants to pretend its not, because it's the one you're far more likely to hear on any given Adult Contemporary radio station and because it's a song they use in commercials for things like Bing which advertisers want to sell to people who think they are smart and original and important.

Alas there is nothing smart, original, or important about this song or its video, which to my mind represents the worst of what I have previously called "this retrograde morass we call 'Pinterest'".

The twinkling lights. The hobo-chic theme. The sweet, light lyrics that crumble under the slightest examination. The girl who appears to be there to do nothing but wear a dress from ModCloth and look cute in a non-threatening way.

The way everyone just looks so happy to be there, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, and how they are probably going to go drink some craft cocktails and eat some farm-to-table BLTs after this random neo-bluegrass concert that they happened to stumble across.


A few months ago a friend of mine said something which has stuck with me ever since: "that's the thing with cliche people, is that they have no idea how fucking cliche they are."

I think about that a lot when I sit around and wonder if I'm the crazy one for wanting more than simple pleasures, for wanting to wear tacky jewelry and put things in my house that are not "classy" and "so retro", for not really caring about microbreweries. For not wanting my life to shrink down to Mason jars and vintage wedding dresses.

I want to be afraid. I don't want to run from it into the arms of a skinny man who is actually wearing suspenders and a stupid hat.


The song: Ke$ha, "Die Young"; 2012

And then there's impulse, which I have written about before: the let's-laugh-in-the-face-of-death-and-have-another-two-dollar-Long-Island thing, which is more typical of "low pop culture" and is also in my opinion a lot more fun.

But, at the end of the day, it's still an impulse based on fear. It's the other side of the way people face fear, by putting up their dukes instead of putting up shots of their food on Instagram.

What struck me when I first heard this song was that, on paper, it's a theoretical: "Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young".  As if we are going to die young.

When you finish listening to the song, however, and take away from it whatever you are going to, it's likely to be simply, "we're gonna die young." Not a whole lot of if in it.

At the back of our minds, I think many of us believe this.


Cliche people have no idea how fucking cliche they are. But that's okay, because that would be an impossible paradox, similar to how it's nearly impossible to actually figure out what is going on in a culture without the benefit of at least some years distance. I'm only an amateur student of history, but what seems clear enough to me is that every Culture has itself convinced that IT is the most technologically advanced, the most aesthetically sophisticated, simply the best as compared to those stupid people in the past -- with the one major blind spot always being that every Culture ALWAYS winds up being "those stupid people in the past" to some other Culture.

We can't see how stupid we are going to look in the future, for one thing it would be like seeing the back of your head or going back in time and marrying your own grandmother, and for another nobody would be able to get out of bed in the morning.

And! We can never go back, we can only go forward. I certainly don't know what 2013 will look like. But I wish, my one fervent wish, that we could somehow return to the exploratory spirit of the 1990s.

I wish we could all, collectively, turn outward again.

I wish our heroes could be Jean-Luc Picard and Fox Mulder, people who confront the unknown and the scary with questions and with a tinge of excitement.

(Instead of our hero being, apparently, Donald Draper who, HELLO, I love that show as much as the next person but seriously Donald Draper represents everything that is wrong and bad with American culture, he is an ANTIhero.)

In conclusion, Jean-Luc Picard and Fox Mulder don't give a shit about your local craft-brewed moonshine OR your two dollar Long Island, because they are not afraid.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Always Running Behind The Times: "Just Like This Train"

I really love October (who doesn't) but I find that it can sometimes really exacerbate what I'll call my Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome.

Like most chronic things, it's low level most of the time and then occasionally flares up, usually in the form of thoughts like so:

"Wow this is really a beautiful autumn evening, there's that comforting damp chill in the air and I can't wait to get home and make a cup of tea but OH WAIT this beauty is so fleeting and we will all die."


"Wow this is a really beautiful autumn afternoon, I just love the scent of woodsmoke and everyone hurrying by in attractive sweaters, the sky is the prettiest shade of blue, but none of this can last and we will all die."


"Wow this is a really beautiful autumn morning, the sunlight through those red leaves is quite spectacular but soon those leaves will turn brown and crumble up and we will all die."

You get the picture. October is a month of many pangs.

I was trying to figure out what songs I could use to describe the feeling of October, but there's nothing that quite captures it because nothing really can. So I hit on these two, which I find simply comforting and beautiful, and which remind me that for the moment, we are alive.

Because that's really what it is, this Chronic Existential Pain Syndrome. It's not so much a morbid obsession with death as it is the incredibly keen feeling that life is much too big and beautiful to ever be fully lived or even understood. But the existential pain is what compels us to try.

As I continue on with In Bed With Amy Wilson, I continue to search for the similarities in the songs and artists I love. I think one major one is that many of them are fellow CEPS patients. Even though their experiences (as reflected in their songs) often differ from mine, I sense the underlying theme and I understand the essence, even if not the particulars.

There's this movie called Joe Versus the Volcano that should be required viewing for anyone with a heart and the senses of humor, absurdity, and perspective. It's the first pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as well as the directorial debut of John Patrick Shanley (the excellent writer behind Moonstruck and Doubt), and it addresses this very issue much better than I ever could hope to. (As well as being extremely hilarious; the line "Very exciting. . .as a LUGGAGE PROBLEM," has been known to cause me to undergo actual paroxysms.)

In any case, the reason why I bring it up is because there's this line that I always come back to, where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are drifting under the stars on Meg Ryan's character's boat, and she says,

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.

It seems true to me. And constant total amazement can really hurt, actually.

But doesn't it seem better than the alternative?

Enjoy these songs, please. Happy October.


The song: Joni Mitchell, "Just Like This Train"; 1974

The song: Neko Case, "Magpie to the Morning"; 2009

Come on sorrow, take your own advice: hide under the bed, turn out the light.