Music Diary 2012 – Sunday

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Today’s head music: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ because my friend Nick told me he’s learning it on the ukelele so he can perform at a wedding, and ‘Private Life’ by Grace Jones because… i’ve no idea.

Another relatively music-free day. After a bike ride this morning I had to run a few errands. Over the last week or so i’ve resumed by CD ripping marathon as my collection makes its way inexorably and simultaneously into the loft and onto a networked hard drive. I’ve been spotting old favourites, forgotten curios and overlooked oddities as i’ve gone and I grabbed some of these on the way out the door.

As I drove I reacquainted myself with Jacob’s Mouse, first with their four track debut ‘No Fish Shop Parking’ and then with the first half of their last record ‘Rubber Ring’. Both bracing and fine. I found myself hearing them in counterpoint to the Field Music album and trying to draw comparisons. I think that those records which have dared to approach the mannered complexity of prog over the last few years have, in part, relied on advances in technology to make their records. To be fair, I know nothing of the way records are made, so perhaps this is balderdash, but they certainly sound more technological in their construction. Jacob’s Mouse, and a host of other bands, were trying to create complex, expressive music in the mid-Nineties, but with more traditional guitars, drums and voice. The results were often shot through with untrammelled creative energy and I think I like that better.

Nothing after that until about 30 minutes ago when I played the first three or four songs from ‘The Marble Downs’ by Trembling Bells & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. I like the album more and more. It really ought to be an overwrought mess, but somehow, perhaps because they choose to rock it up as much as they can, it’s undeniable fun.

And that’s it. On the downside, I didn’t listen to much music at all this week. I’ve explained a couple of the reasons for that. In general I think i’m listening to at least as much as this time last year, so perhaps this was just a slow week. On the upside, I never got around to pontificating on Sonos, streaming, ripping and how that’s affected the way I eat music. Think yourselves lucky.

Same time next year?

#musicdiary2012

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Music Diary 2012 – Thursday

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No music at all until 6.30pm. Then I listened to the Moonface album ‘Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped’. It’s terrific, idiotic, smartass keyboard tweaking. I think i’m a little bit in love with Spencer Krug. He’s worryingly prolific and a reasonable proportion of his output is ridiculous in some way or other, but it’s all great. Whenever I listen to him I think he’s my favourite musician of the last 5 years. Oh, and the track ‘Shit-Hawk In the Snow’ is probably exactly what i’d make if I knew how to use music-making equipment. One chord played enthusiastically and percussively. Plus, this album has the best title ever.

And that’s it. No more music for me today.

One of the changes in my listening habits over the last few months has been the incursion of audiobooks. I have somewhere around 2-3 hours to myself each day, either in the car or walking the dog, and during this time I can listen to whatever I want. Last year, largely due to Devon Record Club, I partly replaced listening to Radio 4 in the car with catching up on albums, and my dog walks were never without headphones.

But music, unless I give it my full attention, leaves too much room for wandering contemplation, both internal and external. For reasons both labyrinthine and tedious, this is something I’ve been keen to avoid for the last few months. I’ve found that audiobooks help to to achieve this. Specifically, i’ve been listening to Stephen King books loaded up on my old iPod. They’re perfect. Enough going on to keep your attention (whatever the aural equivalent of a page-turner is) whilst not being stylistically so complex that it’s impossible to concentrate on them without driving off the road or walking into a hedge.

[I loved King as a teenager and now, coming back to some of his most recent books, it’s weirdly gratifying to see that he’s finally getting his due as the pre-eminent storyteller of his generation. So far removed from the schlockmeisters he used to be lumped in with. Plus, I’m a sucker for homey US of A yarns.]

So, in the car to and from work and a little around the house this evening, I listened to the last 2.5 hours of ‘Under The Dome’. It’s great.

Maybe music will come back into these spaces at some stage. I sort of hope so. But for now, someone else’s words are doing just the job I need.

#musicdiary2012

Music Diary 2012 – Wednesday

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Not a huge amount of music today. Nothing at all passed my ears until around 6.30pm. If I have time at the weekend i’ll write a little something about how audiobooks have, perhaps temporarily, displaced music in the car and on my daily dog walks. I’m sure you’ll all look forward to that.

Got home from work and started cooking. Whilst doing so I played the first half of the Horseback compilation ‘The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn/Forbidden Planet’, four big slices of what would, in olden times, have been called shoegaze. Although Horseback are bracketed with avant Black Metal outfits, and their earlier work fits this bill a little more comfortably, if you were to release these four gauzy, ambient guitar pieces as a long lost Slowdive EP then the only people who would call you out on that claim would be, well, Slowdive and Horseback. Possibly even Slowdive might believe it was them.

Next up, also on the Sonos, via Spotify, the new Death Grips album, ‘The Money Store’. Last year’s ‘Ex-Military’ mixtape was jolting but a little too blunt for my liking. On first listen this album proper is genuinely thrilling in parts. They may not know what they’re up to, but to me it sounds like they’re just banging musical rocks together to see what sparks fly, and fly they do. I’ll definitely go back.

Then whilst eating my tea, I watched ‘Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Stop’ the BBC Four documentary, on iPlayer. I have no affection for the band but the film was entertaining and, against all the odds, and the evidence here which points out explicitly how spiky they could all be, they seemed like nice people.

Finally I played ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’ by Lotus Plaza, again Spotify on Sonos. I phone my mum during the first song and finished talking to her during the last. What I heard in between wasn’t much, but it sounded okay. I guess I’d have to confess that the phrase ‘Pitchfork bait’ went through my head as the album kicked in, by which I meant woozy guitar shamble pop of possibly limited longevity but which sounds intriguingly opaque for now. Impossible to tell which of these records hide the hidden depths.

And that’s that. No head music of any insistence.

#musicdiary2012