Thursday, July 2, 2009

A to Z

Still digging out from a hard drive crash that took 40% of my working music library with it. So you gotta sit still for the predictable preaching: music liberated from hard media can be ephemeral. Defrag. Back up. Backup your backup. That is all. See you next week.

Eh? More? Really? Sheesh, what does it take to earn that six-pack of Yoo-Hoo around here? Okay, but my head is spinning like a cat in a tumble dryer.

A recent post by Mr. Figurehead (with whom I hope to someday have a close enough working relationship to refer to by his first name) brought a smile of deep satisfaction. The subject was the demise of 'genre' and the resultant liberating effect. And yes, Waterloo in Austin was ahead of the curve. I never talked to the shop's owner about that philosophy, but it always seemed like a practical matter: fewer time-wasting backroom arguments about where to file an artist.

Dance music, for instance, was always susceptible to micro-categorizing, which seemed to be done more with the record store section owner in mind than the non-DJ customer. Here's a bit of a hoot: have a look at this All Music page that lists known Electronica sub-categories.

This reporter once spent a bit of time on an Americana advisory board that convened in Nashville. The board's charter was to heighten awareness of this 'genre.' The whole time, it was never clear what 'Americana' actually was. In general, it seemed to comprise roots music with twang but without Billy Sherill strings. Or something like that. Best I could figure, the prevailing attitude was that Americana is to country what alternative is to rock.

Still, even as 'genre' fades, more are invented. Their propagation seems mostly intended as placeholders for reviewers who can't bear to write one more 'if you like Explosions in the Sky, you should try If These Trees Could Talk.'

'Post rock.' Still don't have that one figured out. Oh, the sound falls within the grouping, generally, but the origins and meaning of the term are a mystery. 'Post-punk.' Eh? I'm still grappling with 'emo,' although it does come in handy as a way of avoiding over-wrought vocalists.

And yet...and yet...I do seek out certain placeholders myself. Two, in particular, that never fail to grab my attention are the related 'shoegaze' and 'dream pop.' The former had its heyday in the first half of the 90s. The latter seems an acceptable way of referencing its louder predecessor. (Oh, yes. Loud. Saw Curve at the I-Beam in SF in '92 and am still awaiting the resultant tinnitus).

'Dream pop' seems to have these characteristics in common: a simple melody with a reliable hook, gauzy vocals (often with a Brian Wilson influence), and a widescreen arrangement. And it is likely that every dream popper listened carefully to My Bloody Valentine.

My favorite practitioner is a Rhode Island band called The Brother Kite. Coming up we have a song from their 2006 release, 'Waiting For the Time To Be Right.' Next is Engineers out of London, who have a new album releasing next month. The track below, 'Come in Out of the Rain,' is from their eponymous 2005 release. And finally, Maps, a 'band' comprising of an English gentleman named James Chapman. His sound falls more on the electropop end of the dream pop spectrum...and I'm going to stop here before I do even more to prove Mr. Figurehead's point.

Fave recent Onion headline: Sixty-Year-Old Hippie Pitied by Forty-Year-Old Punk.' Cheers.

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