Monday, September 27, 2010

Do We Know How To Listen Anymore?

It sure as hell doesn't seem like it.  If you want to delve into why the music industry is failing, do not disregard what modern technology has done with our lives.  I was in the store the other day and a lady about my age (ancient) was standing in line texting while waiting.  She didn't take her eyes off her phone (or whatever gadget that was) until she hit the register.  And she wasn't the only one.  I go to a park, people are talking or texting.  I go to the movies, people are talking or texting.  Many times I have turned to speak to someone who has seemingly just spoken to me only to find that they are speaking on the phone.  Books are being written about what such things have done to us as human beings.  And books are being written about what they are doing to our listening habits.  One Jay Frank, in the first chapter of FUTUREHIT.DNA, even went so far as to set a time limit to gain one's attention--- seven seconds.  Seven seconds?!!! I can't recognize songs I know in seven seconds!  How the hell am I supposed to make a judgment call in that short a time?  Thing is, it wasn't a guess.  It was research.  Research that, if correct, is telling us that the music industry as we know it no longer exists.

Like that's news.  In a world of Lady Ga Ga's and Katy Perry's and Taylor Swift's, music has become a distant second cousin to outlandish buffoonery and skin and whatever sound- and/or video-byte can catch the public attention.  A once emotional and many times personally fulfilling art form is being morphed into the background for circus performances--- into background music for TV commercials--- into background music for everything.  Music is evidently not enough anymore.  The new world demands more.  The angst has built until if we are not multitasking, we are not living.  Even most who listen to music seriously now demand visual accompaniment. 

Every day I hear and read statements to the effect that there is no good or new music anymore.  When I am forced to respond, it takes every bit of strength I can muster not to scream "Kill me now!".  It makes me want to stomp every iPhone I see into atoms!  Why, there is more music than ever and it is just as good as it has ever been!  People would know that if they took a little time to listen.  And read.  And learn.  Quick show of hands.  How many out there even know about cdBaby outside of its mere existence?  Maaah!!!  Those who raised their hands because they have heard of it can put them down.  I said outside of its mere existence!  Do you know, for instance, that the artist gets the majority of money applied for the purchase of their music--- physical product, anyway?  Do you care?

It absolutely breaks my heart to see musicians loaded with talent and producing outstanding music kicked to the curb because of what we neither know nor care about.  No good music?  Seven seconds?  Tell me that's what you really think and then duck.  What am I saying?  If you really think that way, you won't hear my fist coming.  You, my friend, have simply forgotten how to listen.

And on that note, let's take a little walk through today's discovery garden.....


Ever hear of Winterpills?  If you have, you were one up on me until this past Friday.  A copy of their impressive Tuxedo of Ashes CD appeared just before a drive to the Coast and pushed four other albums I need to hear out of the way--- for the present.  It is as good and as stylish a folk/psych/pop album as I have heard in some time.  Downright beautiful in places and a production gem.  Read my review here.  Better yet, head over to their MySpace page and listen.  They don't have tracks off of Tuxedo of Ashes on their player there yet, but they should soon.  And what is there is plenty good, believe me.....

Two-thirds of one of the best and most creative bands I've ever heard recently released an album worth checking out.  I have every album (to my knowledge, at least) that Philadelphia's Maggi Pierce & EJ have ever recorded--- commercially--- and I paid for most of them.  In recent years, MPE has had to share time with Maggi & Pierce's duo Hymn For Her and they just released an astonishingly good album titled Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream which they recorded in their 16-foot American Stream trailer.  The music is as cool as their trailer, having that manic trailer trash edge amidst their normally smooth and folky offerings.  Their MySpace page at present displays one track from the new album (Slips) and four from their first album, Year of the Golden Pig.  Might I suggest Drive and The Mountain to hear that manic edge in action.  After hearing that, you might want to check out MPE, as well.  Oh, and you might want to check out their Youtube videos too.  Good stuff.  Start with this one.

Incandescent Sky is one of those groups reminiscent of a handful of jazz fusion and progressive groups of the seventies and eighties, only better.  Adventurous, innovative and inspired, they have a drive you cannot help but feel.  I will write a review, but wanted to put in a good word now.  Sometimes reviews are like songs.  You have to wait for the right words.  In the meantime, follow the link and check them out.  The production alone is worth it.  And the drummer, John Orsi, has another project worth hearing:  Knitting By TwilightBe prepared.  It's out there.

There will be more to come, barring an act of God or Congress, so stay tuned.  If anyone has any suggestions about music I should hear, feel free.  The first person to sat The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, however, will win my Fist In the Face award and be ridiculed in this column forever.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CARGOE, 40 Years Later... And more!

Talk about timing!  Just as I set off on this little blogging adventure, one of my favorite bands (Cargoe) is releasing a new album.  Three of the four legs are there--- Bill Phillips, Max Wisley and Tim Benton--- Steve Thornbrugh making up the fourth and evidently producing as well.  No, I haven't heard it yet (samples are available on Cargoe's Facebook page--- click on 'Cargoe' above), but you can bet I will.  I have been a fan since I found them in the early seventies and wrote this little piece about them, should you desire to know more.  Colleagues of Big Star and other Memphis bands during the Ardent years.  House band at The Machine in Tulsa in the late sixties, along with Steamer's Trunk.  Ready to break big when the music industry and life kicked them in the nuts.  Luckily, it didn't break them completely.  They're back, much older and wiser, and ready to give it another go.  Watch for updates.


You can place this under the heading of 'What?  Not again!',  because people who have visited my website or has slogged through my Facebook postings have probably heard it enough, but I won't be satisfied until every manjack who has ever made a comment about music not being what it used to be hears this.  Every time I pull this CD from the stacks, to quote Yogi Berra, "it is deja vu all over again."  It makes me laugh and gives me faith in mankind once again, and I lose it all too often.  It is unique.  It is, in its way, magnificent.  I found the album while scrounging through cdBaby's 'new arrivals' and followed it up.  From Norway, with roots in England, Australia and Italy as well.  I won't go into details here, but feel free to read my review here.


I listen to music... all the time.  I have since I was a kid.  To me, it is an adventure every bit as important and exciting as cinema is to a movie buff and baseball and football and basketball are to the American sports nut.  I turn over rocks to find things which have that something special which separates the chaff from the wheat.  I love it when people turn me on to music I might have missed or respond to something I pass along to them.  I call this blog Indie Musicology because it is a learning experience and an archeological dig as well as a musical anthropological study.  I hope it is not about ego, but music.  I know that in my past, I introduced some music as "look what I found."  If I do this right, it will be more "listen to this."  And one way to do it right is to list the albums I am reviewing and/or looking forward to.  Here is this week's list:

HEARTSFIELD/Here I am...  Heartsfield is one of those bands I discovered early and never let go.  Out of the Chicago area.  They blew me away with their self-titled first album in 1973, with their slight twang on a rock theme.  They were colleagues of my favorite country rock bands of the day (Cowboy, Pure Prairie League, et. al.), could bring the house down with smokin' rock and could charm a cat out of a tree with their harmonies (I saw them at The Troubadour in '75 and was enthralled when they finished a set with a six-part a capella version of 21st Century Schizoid Man...  I'm kidding!  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!).  Actually, I don't remember the song, but it was beautiful and masterfully performed. 

So Dick Reck, executive producer, sent me the new CD along with notification that Perry Jordan, who has been carrying the Heartsfield flag for decades, had medical problems.  His heart evidently had beat in an odd time signature and Perry has hung up the guitar for a short time.  I wish him the best of recoveries and am sure he will be back.  In the meantime, I am listening to Here I Am and digging it.  When the right words come, a review will follow.


I spent a good portion of last year's Christmas season listening to Georgian Company's Side A EP.  There was a lot to like.  There will be even more when they release Side B later this year.  They're out of Austin, have the slightest of country bent and are deceptively good.  It's the little things.  Like the background vocals on From Day To Day (After a Storm).  But that's getting ahead of myself.  You can check them out by clicking on this.


They will not all be specific--- at least as regards music.  I have been in the music business for years and have watched the Major Labels place themselves in a totally untenable position.  I have watched musicians work their asses off with varying degrees of success.  And I am currently watching people argue about the way things were or should be instead of accepting what is.  I will make comment now and again, and maybe give insight.  Mostly, though, I will concentrate on the music.  I will try, as I always have, to find what is worthy and the artists who deserve.  I've always said that it's about the music.  If I should stray from that, let me know, because music is a wondrous thing and ego has little if no place.  Except maybe for the artist.