Thursday, November 19, 2009

A listening crisis

I never thought I'd say this, but I think I might have too much music. I currently have three main modes of listening which roughly fall along format lines. There's the Great Listening Project (compact discs), research for my radio show (digital/internet), and what I simply want to listen to for pleasure (vinyl). There's overlap obviously, and primarily in that I'm buying cd's under the pretense of it being for the show, and then listening to them for pleasure.


I feel like I've actually hit a point where I have more music than I have time for. In other words, my addiction to obtaining new music seems to have gotten out of hand, and it's due to the confluence of three forces.

First, my re-discovery of the beauty of vinyl has led to an enormous amount of record shopping. A large part of that is because I work in a well stocked record store, but even beyond that I've picked the thrift store habit back up. And when I see a sign that says "Records: $1 each or 30 for $20" you bet your ass I'm buying 30. The result being that I still have several Randy Newman, Duke Ellington, and Enoch Light records that I haven't even touched yet.

Then there's the radio show, which I feel deserves the majority of my attention. In doing this show and focusing on Classical music of the last 30 years I've put myself in a position of presenting a music that I was not all that familiar with before hand. This means I'm constantly learning new names, listening to works on websites, buying new cd's, rifling though the library at the station, etc.. Just last week, for example, I probably loaded about ten discs from the station library onto my hard drive, set aside a dozen lp's to listen to, received one disc that I bought online, and contacted several composers asking for music for the show. Additionally, I'm planning on ordering two or three more discs this weekend.

Third is the temptation of the internet. It's far too easy to grab a discography of, say Slayer, simply for nostalgia's sake, but how long is that then going to just sit there un-listened to? And this extends to "research" for the show. Sorry, Famous Name Composer™ I need my fifteen bucks more than you do. (If it makes you feel any better, Famous Name Composer™, now that I have 27 of your discs on my hard drive I'm sure to play you on my show with some regularity.) But again, when am I going to get around to listening to it all.

Finally, (yeah, I know I said "three forces") for approximately 40 hours every week I'm forced to listen to pop garbage that I would even know existed otherwise. One of the results of that is I often sit in silence after work, cutting into what would normally be listening time.

And this isn't even taking into account all of the music that I would like to explore simply out of my own insatiable curiosity. The Rough Guide to Africa & Middle East that I have on right now as Official Project Listening is reminding me that I need to explore various World Musics, and every time I go downstairs and my roommate is listening to some wonderful piece of music I'm reminded of how vast the Classical Cannon is.

So there's my crisis. I have no solutions or potential answers, except maybe relinquishing all obligations (other than my show) and just dedicating myself to sitting in front of the stereo for ten/twelve hours a day. Which sounds like heaven to me, but I suppose I still need to eat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the new '92

I'm officially calling it. 2010 will be the new 1992.

'92 was the year that Grunge became the mainstream music, however, it was really just that the mainstream media caught on to what most of us were listening to already. As I commented last year, when Nirvana became big, it was no great revelation. The sounds of Grunge were everywhere, down to the littlest local band.

And I'm getting much the same vibe now with the current Indie scene/sound. It's everywhere, and everyone I know who cares about their music is listening to it. There's also a sort of unification of sound with folk and country influences abounding, while at the same time each individual artist/band has it's own distinct approach. All it takes is a look at the rosters of the last two years of the Newport Folk Festival to get an idea of the bands I'm taking about. Deer Tick, Calexico, She & Him, the Low Anthem, Neko Case, Fleet Foxes, ... the list goes on.

Culturally we are in a similar place too. One of the beautiful things about the Grunge Moment was that it was a major sea change from the highly commercial crap we were being bombarded with. Much like now. Grunge, like today's Indie Rock, was an attempt to get back to something "real." And today's over-produced pop crap bears a striking resemblance to the over-produced pop crap of the late eighties. Even fashions are worth mentioning. Mainstream culture is filled with neon colors and spandex. Meanwhile the hipsters are wearing an awful lot of plaid these days.

Of course, there is a downside to Indie music becoming popular. It means that by 2011/12 we'll be seeing all sorts of Corporate Indie Rock™ And you know what else is supposed to happen in 2012? That's right, the end of the World. And if Corporate Indie Rock™ isn't a sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's official

I've run out of room on my CD shelves.

Justin H Brierley dislikes this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Alphabetic musing

At work I get to watch people trying to find music. In addition to the sometimes tricky questions of where a certain section is, what section something is filed under, or why does Mickey Hart warrant his own header card and Jerry Garcia doesn't, this also means observing people's interactions with the alphabet. Now personally, it would never even occur to me to look for an artist by their first name, but lots of people do. And what's more, I've noticed that kids in particular will even sneer and laugh that the discs are in "no order at all." I think this is a result of the iTunes Generation, where alphabetization by first name is the norm. It makes me wonder if that system will eventually win out, since all things computer are becoming the way of the world.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yes, Gil, I could

Last night as I walked home from work I was listening to John Coltrane ~ Kulu Se Mama. During the song "Vigil" I was thinking about an article that I scanned earlier in the day about sexism in indie hip-hop which mentioned Sage Francis. This lead me to think about the over-all anger in Sage's music towards, well, anyone who isn't him.

..and then the song "Welcome" came on..

And it was so beautiful that it literally slowed my pace, made me stop thinking about anger, and made me look around in wonder at the beauty of the world around me. I even had a minor hallucination that a box by the side of the road was a diorama with ballet dancers. (& let me point out that I was 100% sober at the time) It was truly transcendent.

Could you call on Lady Day?
Could you call on John Coltrane?
'Cuz they'll, they'll wash your troubles away.

~Gil Scott-Heron~

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lessons from the Project pt. 2

The Collection is History
In a film, a well placed song can help guide us to a desired emotion. The same cinematic moment can also imbue that song with that feeling. This creates an external storage space for that moment, that emotion. When we hear that song again, if the connection is strong enough, the scene floats into one's mind as if the movie were contained in the song rather than the song being part of the film. As someone who has incessantly sound tracked his own life, my music collection serves as a vast reference library to all those moments, all those emotions, that make up a life. As I go through the project, scenes will leap out at me, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes with warning. Other times I'll be reminded of a whole period, place, or person. But regardless of how minute or macro the memory is, it's as if it's 'stored' in the music. All I have to do is think the line "ridin' my bike to the depot" and I see Sophie in the kitchen at Gould St., crank the the Chili Peppers in the car and I'm back in high school, or hear the opening of Princess Superstar Is to evoke Renee the First. And it's not just extra-musical associations. Listening to say, the Primus catalogue in one day (not recommended) can lead to a deeper understanding of where I was at as a listener at the specific time that ___(fill in the blank.. band/artist/album/song)... was important.

The Project becomes History
One of the points of the Project is conscious listening. As such I frequently have a heightened awareness of what else is happening. This means that Official Project Listening takes on the memory of the moment it happens in. For example, in a previous post I mentioned how the Oranj Symphonette version of A Woman & A Man reminded me of a painful time. Now, as I think back on the Project I have the memory of painting the stairs, listening to that song as Official Project Listening and of having that painful memory. In essence what it does is create yet another map or outline by which I can recall events, only in this instance they are the very specific events of a specific time in which I listened to a given album.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Numeric predictions

In the last year or so the Listening Project has been moving rather slowly. During the last six months I have progressed by merely one shelf. At that rate it will take me another three & a half to four years to finish. So I've decided to kick start this thing a bit and will be making the effort to listen to at least one disc per day. I have about 300 discs actually in the collection to go and I'll most likely be adding 100+ titles to the project. Which means I'm currently predicting a much more reasonable year and a half until the project is complete.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

While my synth virtually weeps

Greetings from the other side of February. In short: I did it! I basically stuck to my original plan of one new song a day for the first ten days (with one skipped day for good reason) and then edited for the rest of the month. I even finished a few days early. The first draft was done on the 21st, the first printing was done on the 26th, and the discs got mailed to on the 28th. w00t! Also on the 26th I built The Chicken for the upcoming CockSlap show. Over-all a busy and successful month.

So, the new album.
It can be heard here at,
and there's a Facebook music page here.
Physical copies will be limited and, for now at least, only available in person.

Hopefully you can take the time to give it a few spins and don't forget to leave me a comment letting me know what you think.

Until next time, sleep tight and don't piss on the electric blanket,
<3 Uncle Jubb

Friday, January 30, 2009


Well my dears, it's been awhile since I've talked about my music here, and oh so much has happened that I need to step into the way back machine to recap. Last July I ended Banter/3.1 as I reported here. Soon after I began working on a new live show entitled Horses Changed My Life which was to be part music, part storytelling, with some sort of film in the background. Then, as many of you know, in November my Mac crashed, leaving me with access to none of the work I had done for that show. As of this writing the data issue is still unresolved (anyone got a spare two grand for recovery?) Then along came xxxmas, and despite always striving to be naughty, santa brought me the new version of Pro Tools that I asked for. However. It requires 1gb of memory and my old pc only had 512mb. At that point I had a bit of extra scratch from working my ass off over the hollandaise, so I bought a barebones kit and built a new computer. And just in time, because February is going to be a busy month.

First, I am taking the Recording Project Month Challenge. The idea is to write and record an entire album in the month of February. I ain't scared. After all, I did record Beyond Beautiful Mountain in only three weeks. My plan is to write a new song every day for the first ten days, and then edit the shit out of them for the remaining 18 days. A tease of the new sound can be heard here. It's the last song in the player, appropriately called A taste of what's to come. The resulting work will be the first album by Something Like Banter & the Cybernetic Inevitable All-Stars.

In CockSlap news, we have a show coming up at AS220 on March 4th. Be there. Trust me. We are currently building The Chicken which is an interactive beast controlled by you the audience! You won't want to miss this exciting opportunity to be a part of the CockSlap experience.

"Well, what about the horses?" you may ask. Horses Changed My Life is now going to become a feature length silent film with an all original soundtrack. In many ways it is going to be the sequel to Sweeping up the Popcorn only this time set in a record store. Pre-production will begin in March after I get past the enourmous amount of work I mentioned above.

So, as you can see, I've got quite a bit of work ahead of me. But, that's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear Mr. President

In honor of our new leader I was able to get away with an all black playlist at work today. This was actually more difficult than it would seem, but keep in mind I have a very limited palette to work with, and loose guidelines about current popular music being played at certain times of day. Again, seems easy right? However, we basically do not play rap at all, so as popular as say T-Pain may be, it would never get played in the store. (Not that I'd want to, it's just an example.) The mornings are a little easier, and to my liking, because we can play a bit of Jazz and Blues. So here, with commentary, is the list:

Herbie Hancock ~ The Joni Letters It's Herbie, what more need I say?
Buddy Guy ~ Skin Deep An excellent disc, and the message of the title track made all the more poignant by the significance of today.
Tracy Chapman ~ Our Bright Future I haven't had much chance to absorb this album yet, but what I've heard has been decent.
Al Green ~ Lay It Down My biggest coup of the day, the Reverend was playing as Obama was being sworn in.
Keyshia Cole ~ A Different Me This is where things start to get crappy.
John Legend ~ Evolver Although, for some inexplicable reason, I really like this album. I think it might be because it doesn't have the standard lame guest rapper thing. (correction: Andre 3000 is on Green Light, but I'm ok with that)
Beyonce ~ I Am... Sasha Fierce Dear Mrs. Z, please go away.
Seal ~ Soul The man can sing, and is surprisingly well suited to this type of material, but the song choices are mostly horrible.
Jennifer Hudson The fact that I'm qualified to say that this is one of the worst Idol related discs out there scares me. "Ima hit you with my pocketbook"!!?? Seriously? Are you secretly 85?
Alicia Keys ~ As I Am Gotta say, I don't mind this one. I'd never go out of my way to listen to it outside of work, but she's ok. On a liner notes aside; pictures of a pretty lady in a tight Miles Davis t-shirt surrounded by top-notch keyboards are ok by me.

If I had more control over the music I could have put together a bangin' list, but I worked with what I had.

p.s. Mr. President, I hope you do an excellent job. I wish you the best.