Sorry this has been so long coming; job applications, taxes, and making sure all the prisoners I work with don’t get transferred 8 hours away to the UP (Michigan’s governor took the big step recently of initiation a whole series of programs to drastically reduce the state’s prison population. So thanks a lot, Granholm, I know you mean well, but I certainly hope you don’t jump this haphazardly into most of the legislation you sign) have all, quite sadly, put music on the back burner. No longer!
So I was/am/have an English major, and so I get to be picky about the language I spent nearly four years studying. I bet if you were to ask most english majors, they could, without hesitation, list at least 5 or 6 phrases that they just wish could just vanish from spoken/written English. One which is near the top of my list (though not so much for the language itself, and instead because of the implications) is “everything except rap and country.”
I mean, sure, listing 50 bands on a myspace/facebook page is nothing but a way of presenting an image of yourself, but the exclusion implied in “except rap and country” makes me sick. Because whether you mean to or not, when you use those words, you’re showing your hand, and its a hand probably filled with a lot of discomfort. The audience (at least, the perceived audience) for rap is mostly black, and the audience for country is mostly southern. So by saying you will listen to any music (really? You’d rather listen to Bloody Panda over UGK?) except those genres whose audience are black and southern, you’re defining yourself, loosely, as a white northerner. In the grand scheme of things, this is pinprick level, but it gets to me.
To take it one level further before I give y’all some songs. At least with country, there seems to be a further distinction between “real” country music and modern country music. Modern country music is according to this distinction, vapid, number’s obsessed, and dumb. “Real” country music, in comparison, is about the depression, and either was recorded in a barn/Memphis recording studio some 60 years ago, or sounds like it was recorded in a barn/Memphis recording studio some 60 years ago. For a recent example of what i’m talking about, see NPR’s review of the new Bonnie Prince Billy Album. Now I’ll admit that I like a lot of critically acclaimed country (Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Old 97’s, etc.), and I’ll also admit that for years the phrase pop country wasn’t exactly the most palatable thing to me. But, c’mon, look at the name of the genre! If country music is supposed to be the music of our country, then look at the overwhelming popularity of Sugarland, Kenny Chesney, and Taylor Swift, even in spite of our music industry’s ongoing toilet flush. This is music that people like, and probably can paint a much true picture of our country than all the neo-clasical albums that the Avett Brothers will ever release. But I don’t want to be an asshole about it: of course, a lot of it is really good music, and that, THAT is the reason the whole situation is so sad.
(and now watch me totally sideswipe my own argument by posting some indie song.)
The thing about David Bazan is he’s pitch perfect at the downfall. His love songs (“Rapture” for one) always seem to be wishing they were falling apart. And his best songs are just decimated (“The Poison.”) He’s got a new album, hopefully, coming out this year, and Please Baby Please feels sweaty and undernourished, it’s got alcoholics and cheaters and kids who cheat and drink and drive and kill, and, somewhere in those two chords, there are people trying to feel for redemption among the bright-blistering lights. It’s not country music, but at this moment in our country, it is country music.
“Please Baby Please” is a David Bazan song which will appear on a new album he will hopefully release this year on Barsuk Records. I’m fairly certain I stole this live version of the song from either It’s Hard to Have a Friend or Bradley’s Almanac.
PS: Anyone heard the new Bishop Allen album who wants to tell me whether it’s as bad as pitchfork probably overreacted and claimed it was? And also, PJ Harvey and John Parish are reuniting for an album. that’ll be epic, no doubt.