by wjw on January 26, 2009

I’m going to be away for a few days, and I don’t know whether I’ll have the chance to Internet while I’m away. (Jeez. I just made “Internet” a verb. Somebody stop me!)

I’ll try not to invent any new verbs for the rest of this post.

Since I won’t be talking to you, why don’t you talk to me? Tell me to what, or to whom, I should be listening.

Music used to be a huge part of my life: I’ve got thousands of LPs, probably another couple thousand CDs. A few years ago most of my CDs got stolen, and I replaced them with even more CDs.

Yet I seem to be spending less time listening to music. Part of it is that I’m just very busy, and rarely seem to sit in the same place long enough to listen to a whole CD, yet partly I don’t listen because when I do, I’m uninspired. When I turn on the radio, I hear a depressing sameness. Or, worse, a depressing familiarity. So much of contemporary music seems to be a pastiche of earlier stuff that was better.

My musical tastes are pretty eclectic. I listen to blues, jazz, soca, rai, and Balkan Beat Box. I listen to classical and opera. Sage Walker turned me on to strange neo-Norse revival stuff, and “kulning” is now a word in my vocabulary. I’ve never really got excited by rap, though I’ve heard some rap from Thailand that was pretty strange and cool.

Assume, for the purposes of this post, that I’ve got classic rock pretty well covered.

To whom should I be listening?

Dan January 26, 2009 at 6:19 am

Buck 65. He does get classified as Rap, but so far (and I mean this as a compliment to the artist), he’s the only Rap artist I am willing to listen to. has a few samples.

Maureen McHugh January 26, 2009 at 6:47 am

Bill Shunn turned me on to TV on the Radio

Anonymous January 26, 2009 at 7:14 am

Try French songs–besides Piaf, I mean.
In her “Mutatis Mutandis” album, the singer/songwriter who goes by the name of “Juliette” wrote a song about fantasy computer games, another alluding to a Dino Buzzati story, and one in Latin (a poem by Charles Baudelaire). With groovy world music, to boot.
Google “juliette noureddine”.

Kelly January 26, 2009 at 7:19 am

10 Years, Tool, Perfect Circle, Disturbed, Priestess, My Morning Jacket. All those are good.

And, of course, this:

Kelly January 26, 2009 at 7:21 am
dubjay January 26, 2009 at 8:13 am

Wow. So many of my friends are awake after midnight!

Listening to music, obviously.

Ian McDowell January 26, 2009 at 10:04 am

Neil Gaiman’s been recommending Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls, and her first solo album WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER.

Right now — well, actually, a few minutes ago — I was listening to my friend Eliana Barnes’ “Ben Franklin Song,” which I like a lot. YMMV — I sent her SoundClick page to my friend Cavin, and he hated her stuff, saying it sounded like filk, whereas my friend Tim was quite taken with it, saying it reminded him of Billy Bragg. While I adore Eliana, I don’t love all her songs, but I think “Ben Franklin Song” is lovely and haunting, transcending its angsty girl-with-a-guitar earnestestness.

After years of searching, I tracked down Christopher Lee’s long out-of-print album CHRISTOPHER LEE SINGS: DEVILS, ROGUES AND WITCHES, FROM BROADWAY TO BAYREUTH, only to find it somewhat disappointing (I like his version of “My Object All Sublime” and his selections for Brecht and Weil, but he doesn’t do well by “Epiphany” from SWEENEY TODD at all). However, I LOVE his big number “Name Your Poison,” the best part of the uneven (but somewhat Alan Moore-ish) Aussie superhero spoof THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE. I regularly sing this in the shower.

Mark January 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

Brave Combo
Moxy Früvous
Carbon Leaf

Brian Borchers January 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Try listening to internet streaming “radio.” I listen to the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show on KCRW (from Santa Monica College) nearly every day.

Anonymous January 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm

(a recommendation on a friend of mines blog)

– marcus prest

Sean Craven January 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Cambodian Rocks. It’s simultaneously mindblowing and insanely depressing — it’s surf/psychedelic rock recorded by Cambodian musicians right before Pol Pot came rolling through.

It’s got that edge music quality, like bluegrass or two-tone ska, where one musical culture becomes fixated on another and creates something really nifty in the process.

And then you think of how all those musicians were murdered.

Skamikazi! is something similar. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Japanese klezmer ska.

I need to swap out the tunes on my iPod. Seems like it doesn’t want to play anything but Nick Lowe and Billy Joe Shaver.

voidampersand January 26, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Pollo Del Mar is an instrumental surf band from the SF Bay Area. Their latest album, The Golden State, has been out for a while, but it’s worth listening to. Great catchy songwriting and precision playing by musicians who are into Phil Dick, Frank Zappa, and spaghetti westerns.

Ralf the Dog January 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm

We don’t mind you verbolating new words. Do it all you want.

Zora January 26, 2009 at 9:04 pm

If you like Balkan, try Fanfare Ciocarlia’s CD, Queens and Kings. Great Fanfare Ciocarlia video on YouTube, Manea Cu Voca .

Bombay Jayashri. Perhaps you’ll have better luck finding a CD. Listen to her on YouTube: Pacchai Ma Malai.

Dave Bishop January 26, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I wonder if you’ve ever heard of the British folk singer, Ewan MacColl? He was the greatest interpreter of the old folk ballads that I ever heard – he was also a superb songwriter. In my youth I used to make special ‘pilgrimages’ to the London club that he and his wife, Peggy Seeger used to run, just to hear Ewan sing ballads. He died nearly 20 years ago now but some of his recordings are still available on CD e.g. ‘The Real MacColl’, Topic TSCD463, 1993.

Ian McDowell January 27, 2009 at 4:02 am

I second My Morning Jacket and Bombay Jayashri.

Dogstar January 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, Tool, Stan Rogers (not new but still great), Pink Martini, Cake

enudelman January 27, 2009 at 7:56 pm

listen to Floyd no matter how old you find yourself, and a little cranberries never hurts the soul

IanT January 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Try the band Espers, if you need a fix of medieval pschedelia. Especially their album “II”. (And
their cover of “Flaming Telepaths”
can’t be beat.)

I also recommend Abney Park, if you’re yearning for some steampunk goth. Or maybe airship noir.

Ralf the Dog January 27, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Tracy Bonham

Shash January 28, 2009 at 3:23 am

Try streaming “The Current” online or “Radio Heartland”. Both are produced by Minnesota Public Radio and both allow the deejays to select the tunes. No corporate considerations allowed. You might hear Johnny Cash next to The Bobs or Alison Krauss and John Lee Hooker. You never know.

MPR has introduced me to lots of great music and artists this way.

Shash January 28, 2009 at 3:24 am

Ooh, Moxie Fruvious. Mark, you have great taste. I wish they were still together.

Pat Mathews January 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Okay – it’s a book suggestion – about music, and may have some artists you have not heard yet –

Ted Gioia, Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music.

john_appel January 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm

The “sameness” you cite is why my car’s satellite radio tends to be set on the more eclectic channels – Spectrum, The Loft and Radio Margaritaville (which despite playing a lot of Buffet features a refreshingly diverse playlist – Lord Kitchener followed by Mark Knopfler, for example.)

In a more specific vein I recommend Josh Ritter, perhaps Robert Earl Keen for a bit of alt-country seasoning, and the French group The Gypsy Kings.

john_appel January 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Oh, and no MP3 player?

Dru January 30, 2009 at 12:57 am

RL Burnside
IAM (French hip-hop from Marseilles)
Gnarls Barkley
The Herbaliser (especially the latest album)

Sarah Goldfart February 6, 2009 at 3:45 am

Venetian Snares – Rossz Csillag Alatt Született (Planet-Mu Records)

kinda hardcore electronic wizardry + classical string music melange.

dubjay February 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Thank you for all your splendid suggestions!

My listening pleasure is assured.

(Oh— and there’s a band called Praxis? Are they named after my work, the way the Red Elvises seem to be?)

Dru February 10, 2009 at 5:31 am

It’s a Bill Laswell/Buckethead project with much instrumental wiredness.

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