11 January 2009

Last Week #1

One of the organizing principles of this site, to my mind, is that the way music interacts with our lives is important and that we short-change the power of music by always talking about it abstractly, without some reference to the general social context and/or the individual subjective setting. The way we think and feel about music is important. To this end, I'm going to attempt a weekly feature about the music in my life over the past week. Starting now.

Since I've been in the process of packing and thinking about how I should be packing, I haven't been picking up much new music or listening to unfamiliar artists. The one exception: 's "Assassins: Black Meddle, Pt. 1." This is a metal album and is therefore somewhat incongruous with the other music that has appeared on this website, namely old country and blues; partly this is due to my lack of posting (my taste in music tends to run harder than my co-blogger's).

Eventually there will be some posts up here detailing metal more, but for the simple purposes here, I'll limit myself. I like a lot of metal, though I feel like I don't know nearly enough about it. I tend to prefer the doom- or prog- ends of the genre and I don't care very much for black metal. On the latter: this is an admittedly overly simplistic view, but it's because I like things like melody and discernible intelligent lyrics. So, I don't have much black metal in my collection, perhaps the only "true" black metal is a comp by Emperor and a couple Dimmu Borgir albums, which I usually only break out when I am unhappy with the neighbors.

Emperor - An Elegy of Icaros

But on Nachtmystium: I was reading a year-end list of top metal albums on Pitchfork and the author (Brandon Stosuy) listed this album as his favorite of the year. He wrote,
...on Assassins, from the Pink Floyd-nodding opener to the extended three-part "Seasick" finale, Nachtmystium took their post-black metal to someplace more powerfully anthemic, crusty, and straight-up catchy than ever before. The perfectly paced instrumental interludes create a tension before the various explosions (even the saxophone makes sense). Songs like "Your True Enemy" and "Assassins" are unstoppable rock songs with real hooks and atmosphere to spare...

It's the "straight-up catchy" part in there that intrigued me. I read his review then jumped over to my favorite metal blog, Invisible Oranges, to see what they say. The reviewer there really didn't like it, which made me want to get it even more--polarizing music may not always be good, but usually it's interesting.

(typical metal cover art: death, and an unreadable band name)

And it is, kinda. I don't love it and I don't hate it. There are parts that I really like -- most of "Assassins" and the use of the non-metal interludes, for example. There's nothing really egregious about the album, I think, just a general lack of wow. I do disagree with Pitchfork about "Your True Enemy," though: I think it's one of the weaker tracks.

Nachtmystium - Assassins
Nachtmystium - Your True Enemy

This week I signed up for last.fm. I ran their installer which uploaded my listening history. The problem, which I didn't know ahead of time, is that you could only upload once from a music player. For the last four months I've used version of winamp that I have associated with music on an external hard drive, but the client uploaded the history from my previous winamp use. This isn't a big deal, but according to last.fm, my most listened to artist is Roy Orbison. I do love Roy Orbison, but his placement doesn't reflect my actual listening habits. So I've been listening to songs that would make my top-15 artists more indicative of reality. So, I've been going with a lot of Nick Cave and The Hold Steady. For the former, this might be the first time I've listened all the way through "B-Sides and Rarities." Hit and miss like most compilations of this sort, but the highlights are as good as anything on his proper albums.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Running Scared [Roy Orbison cover]
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Helpless [Neil Young cover]
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - There's No Night Out In the Jail

Posted by Lin

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