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.

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