NEW LIZ PHAIR ALBUM
So out of this list of recorded songs for the next Liz Phair album, I’m most interested in “Officer, Arrest Me”, “Rejoin the Odyssey”, and “Run, Dolly, Run” off of just titles alone. I also have this ridiculous hope that Blah Blah Blah is a Ke$ha cover, but after Funstyle it’s more fear than hope. I don’t know what Ryan Adams’ involvement is here besides providing a studio, but he’s been on an upswing in quality for the last few years, so that should lead to good things too.
(Don’t get me wrong, Funstyle was amusing and enjoyable for what it was: tossed-off craziness with a few fully-developed ideas, but I’m just hoping Liz will at least get back up to whitechocolatespaceegg levels of quality here.)
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Continuing with the Ryan Adams love, here’s him and Neal Casal discussing Cher’s ass. No, seriously.
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Ryan Adams- Afraid, Not Scared
Ryan Adams told Q in reference to Love Is Hell, “I wanted to make a druggy suicide record; a record that really sounded like cracking up.” and he certainly succeeded. There’s a lonely claustrophobia-inducing atmosphere that blankets the entire record, along with large amounts of paranoia and hopelessness. Even the more uptempo tracks like Love Is Hell and This House Is Not For Sale have depressing and devastating lyrics. I hadn’t listened to this record in a while because I just couldn’t handle that much angst in one sitting, but I revisited it last night and was reminded how great an album it is.
Afraid, Not Scared is one of the album’s best tracks. The reverb on Ryan’s voice gives it a wearier and deeper tone than usual which matches the dark imagery and pain in the lyrics. The quiet desperation in the first half of the song builds up to the hypnotic and climactic repetitions of “I’m getting really cold and I’m looking at you, you’re not moving” where Adams’ voice expresses all the panic and terror that was being hidden under a calm veneer before, while the intrumental outro provides a crushing conclusion.
The album has plenty of other highlights, like Political Scientist, Ryan’s famous cover of Wonderwall, I See Monsters, and Hotel Chelsea Nights, so you should definitely give it a listen if you’re at all interested. At points it’s reminiscent of the Smith’s more somber moments (which makes sense since Ryan enlisted John Porter, one of their producers, to produce this record) or what I think would’ve happened if Jeff Buckley had lived and developed a drug problem. If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what could.
Jesus fuck. “One above and two below.” Good lord.
There’s a lot we could say about this, even without getting into biography. Autobiography, though, is a different story. For instance, I could talk about Matthew’s distinction between 90s indie as emotionally reserved and cerebral and 00s indie as emotionally open and visceral. For me, this sorta explains why I didn’t listen to a lot of indie in the 90s. I was into “alt” acts, sure, but they were all major-label, and the acts I was into most were things like Tori Amos and Blur. Tori, after all, is the woman who once covered “Raining Blood” under the assumption that it was about a vagina raining blood on Afghanistan, so this is not really subtle, emotionally reserved stuff, you know? Whereas Britpop, for me as an American teenager, was appealing because it didn’t need to worry about American authenticity, and so could play with theatricality and archness in a way I found appealing. It was cerebral but not reserved, putting its social commentary out there blatantly and then kind of swanning around it. Tori would have taken the opposite approach, hiding the social commentary with her body as she tried to gnaw it to death. But indie wanted to turn its back on the social commentary and pretend it wasn’t there. That never really interested me, and still doesn’t, I guess, since I’m still not the biggest Pavement fan, either.
But if I learned anything from 00s indie, it’s that I liked when those impulses I was drawn to were leavened by a more cerebral mood in the culture surrounding them. The more sincere style of 00s indie was created in the context of a decade filled with fear and anxiety, and while I understand that, it’s not what I come to music for. When Tori - or Polly Jean Harvey, for that matter - put her emotions on the line, it was as a way of controlling them, and expressing mastery over the situation. 00s indie carried a tone much more of submission, or resignation, and since I come to music for triumph and energy, it never really hit me much. I engaged with indie much more in the 00s, but ultimately, it’s hard to tell if that’s because my tastes changed or because the music biz changed, and a lot of the acts I love might have been major-label alt bands in the 90s. I love the weird Brooklyn moment in the first half of the decade that produced electroclash and garage rock, and a lot of the more interesting bands that came out of it, but the tendencies since then have largely fallen flat for me.
What’s interesting about Hole is that they cycle between those two modes I liked in the 90s, going viceral for Live Through This but arch for Celebrity Skin. Courtney even embodies both impulses in this one performance, insistently screaming her anguish for “Violet” - whereas 00s indie’s tendency would be to mutter it, I feel like - and then turning arch with “He Hit Me.” It’s the kind of performance that leaves an audience speechless, and though that was a regular occurrence at Tori concerts, I don’t see a lot of that being pursued now. Which is fine! I’m always a bit out of step, and there’s more than enough stuff indie-wise around to keep me happy.
Anyway, all that said: please watch this video.
This is fantastic! This is what I’d have to show to anyone who says that anything on Live Through This doesn’t hold up. (I have that fight every now and then.)
With Matthew’s post in mind (which I enjoyed and tend to agree with), I do want to add something that I was thinking about as someone who was more into the 00s kind of indie during my emotional development. We’re talking about the emo movement of the early 00s here, obviously, and I want to focus on two bands: Bright Eyes and Dashboard Confessional. Conor Oberst, for me, represents the high-brow end of that genre, where Chris Carraba is most certainly the low-brow. I was a big fan of both of those bands at one point - first it was Dashboard Confessional and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, then I moved on to Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.
Both of those records seem kind of lame now - particularly Dashboard’s (and I know a lot of people thought they were lame then). And while I’d completely write off Dashboard Confessional now as whiny pseudo-punk music with an acoustic guitar, it’s hard for me to dismiss Bright Eyes. That record blew me away when I first heard it; I hadn’t heard anything as epic and big and with the emotional outburst that Oberst put forth in his lyrics and vocals. And while there are a lot of other dudes who have written music about their feelings before him (see: Elliott Smith, Big Star, Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr., etc.), his music was the first I approached and, honestly, showed me that it was OK to be a guy and have feelings.
That’s really it, isn’t it? Isn’t it more about this idea that dudes can’t cry? They have to rock and be loud and be sexy and arrogant. It’s OK for chicks (and look! Courtney Love is trying to be a dude up there!) to be emotional and poetic, but it’s too faggy for a guy to do it. That’s really the undertone I get from every argument dismissing any emotional (/emo) music written by a man that is more vocal-based and contains a bigger, fuller sound (rather than Elliott Smith’s sparse acoustic sound; his is almost a little different because his shit was about being on drugs, really).
Also: at the end of the day, all of this is just opinion and people need to chill the fuck out, because it all comes across as a silly us vs. them argument that will obviously never end because it’s based on personal taste. Look, I like Bright Eyes and I like Pavement, and I like them pretty equally and don’t think I’d think it’s appropriate to put them head-to-head. If I’m in a shitty mood, I’m more likely to listen to “Road to Joy.” If I’m in better spirits, as I was when I was driving around the Outer Banks with the windows down and the volume way up, I’ll listen to “Gold Soundz” (and, yeah, I can sing along to “Gold Soundz”). If my mood is somewhere in the middle, I’ll listen to “Violet.”
I think the whole “boys don’t cry” thing is absolutely a huge reason why so much of early 00’s indie and emo was dismissed by people, but I also think a big part of it was a perceived immaturity, both of performer and audience, by critics and non-fans. Now there’s certainly something to be said for immature being a codeword for “unmanly” and “get over it and stop whining”, but even as a fan of both the Bright Eyes and Dashboard records you named, I have to admit that it is music made for the young, about things that happen to you when you’re young (even if it’s amazingly written, as is the case with Lifted). I feel like Ryan Adams is a male singer/songwriter who was writing music that was just as emotionally intense and filled with FEELINGS as Oberst but got a lot more initial critical respect (that he then pissed away, but still). Part of that could be because he followed the typical male rockstar actions in the press, and because he was coming from that alt-country genre, but I think some of it was due to him making music 35 year old rock critics and the NPR crowd could relate to. And when Oberst put out “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” and matured in subject matter (without losing the emotional component), he got much more mainstream acceptance.
I also think the fanbase ANY act with a lot of emotional content attracts acts as cause for dismissal by a lot of people. I don’t just mean emo kids here, I’ve heard Tori Amos dismissed as “music for fat chicks and the raped” and Hole dismissed as “music for angry white girls desperate to have issues”. There’s a mainstream bias against anything with a primarily young and/or female audience (and don’t even get me started on the bias against anything with a largely gay audience) that keeps people from taking certain acts seriously and actually LISTENING to them under the auspices of “Those people don’t know what they’re talking about, they wouldn’t know good music if it smacked them in the face” that definitely impacted all the artists mentioned above unfortunately.
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auditorylove asked: Here's a loaded question: what would you pick for your ten "desert island discs?"
Hmm, this is hard but actually not as hard as I thought it would be. They’re not in order because trying to figure that one out would probably give me a brain aneurysm.
Runners-up include: Patti Smith, Horses; Alanis Morissette, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (which used to be my 3rd favorite album ever, but which has tumbled in rankings as I’ve gotten older even though I still love it); PJ Harvey- Is This Desire?; Radiohead- The Bends; Emmylou Harris- Wrecking Ball
It’s kinda weird that 7 of these albums are from the 90’s and the most recent album came out in 2000, since I do listen to a lot that isn’t from that relatively small time period. The most recent album to even come close to making it was Ys by Joanna Newsom, and only Joni Michell’s Blue and Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks were even close to getting on the list as far as pre-1980’s albums go.
Ryan Adams - Dear Chicago
Nothing breathes here in the cold.
Nothing moves or even smiles.
I’ve been thinking some of suicide,
But there’s bars out here for miles.
Sorry about the every kiss.
Every kiss you wasted bad.
I think the thing you said was true,
I’m gonna die alone and sad.
Here’s a nice gut-punch of a song for your Monday afternoon. What’s most interesting to me about this song is how it doesn’t feel overdramatic at all (even with those lyrics), just heartbroken and honest. I know Ryan Adams doesn’t want to be “the bummer king” any more, but he’s better at it than any other current male songwriter. (Yes, including Bon Iver and Conor Oberst. Don’t start.) He never sounds whiny like all the emo boys, keeping his vocals strong and calm enough that self-pity doesn’t overtake the song. The guitar provides varying enough instrumentation that the song doesn’t feel bare, but it’s subtle, allowing the vocals and lyrics to take center stage, and the little imperfections in the song like how you can hear Ryan’s hand moving up and down the guitar neck create a greater sense of intimacy than there would be with more studio polish.
And just think, this song didn’t even make it onto a real album, just a demo collection. There’s a treasure trove of unreleased material hiding in Ryan’s vaults, and I hope he gets moving on releasing some of it soon.
“Gold 2010- sum tired and sad shit there”
You know, if this represented the vibe of his new record, I’d be pretty happy with it. I love Ryan Adams in pretty much all his various forms, but downer Ryan makes some of the best ballads ever.
”” “Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, “III/IV” Double LP, ( unreleased and in the vault since 2006 ) fresh from the mastering plant! Also day one of demo’s went great! Have A GREAT WEEKEND yall and that’s an order. XX DRA “”
”” oh yeah, p.s. the “Blackhole” LP ( recorded over Christmas in 2005 ) is also back from the mastering plant. I f’n love this thing. It took 4 years to make it and to me it is basically Love is Hell Part 3… lots of shimmery guitar love on this. Exciting times!!! “”
— Ryan Adams, facebook 11 June 2010
more about BLACKHOLE here
I’m going to have to get a record player just for my Ryan Adams albums. First Orion, and now Blackhole and III/IV, there’s just too much awesomeness only on vinyl. (I’m sure these will come with download cards just like Orion did, but where’s the joy in that?)
Album art like this is one major reason why vinyl will always be cooler than CDs. Also a reason why Ryan Adams is awesome.
Call me on your way back home- Ryan Adams
I didn’t think this song could get any sadder, but the slightly changed lyrics here (from “I just wanna die without you” to “I’m just gonna die without you) make it even more depressing. And thus better.