transplanting life is never that simple. you can try to sever everything, blindfold it all up and drive it in circles ’till it loses directions, but somehow things manage to leave a breadcrumb trail. I said goodbye to jersey on saturday morning and fall asleep to Jay Z oscillating in different tones from cars speeding up and passing by my window at 1 am. But some things, like I said, stay the same. Right now there’s too much change for new music.
Monday, The first day I walked from the subway to my job, I put on a Mountain Goats song. It’s one of the few times I’ve done so since the absolutely painful Mountain Goats concert at my alma matter this past spring, where John Darnielle spent most of the show chastising the audience and trying to turn us against each other. I loved and deeply respected The Mountain Goats prior to the show, and was in the truest sense of the word, giddy with excitement about the concert. It was a letdown by the person you least suspect, and it hurt, and so I swore off the Mountain Goats for a while. But I was walking to work, and for some reason, I thought to myself, this is a Mountain Goats moment. And so I put on “Ethiopians.” The song is pretty typical for the ‘Goats, incisive, detailed verses, and a big, chant along chorus. only the chorus to this song is THE GOOD THINGS NEVER LAST. THE BAD THINGS NEVER DIE. It’s not that those are an especially weird Mountain Goats lyric or sentiment, but that the last thing I did before I started a new job, one where I’m going to be trying to turn around the lives of youth who for one reason or another, fell into a pretty nasty trap they’re now stuck it, was put on about the most pessimistic, hopeless song I could have.
“Ethiopians” is a Mountain Goats B-Side, available free on their Daytrotter sessions page.
Tuesday, the second time I walked from the subway to my job, I played Mice Parade, whose self titled album I’ve written about pretty extensively in the past on this site. It’s one of the albums I listen to most often, as I think it is one of the most beautiful albums I own, like putting together puzzle pieces which fit, but whose images don’t seem to line up with one another. The songs themselves and the album as a whole may or may not function as a coherent unit (more on that in a sec.) but the individual elements are beautiful enough that they cary everything. The songs that are most accessible are, obviously, the poppier, more upbeat ones, the one’s with bandleader Adam Peirce’s comforting monotone vocals, but I’ve been stopping myself from just skipping over to them, and instead listening to the album as a whole. And, for an album which in the past I’ve loved principally for musical reasons, I discovered some pretty interesting lyrical themes running through.
The album itself is concerned with storytelling and memory. You can see it in “Satchelaise,” which begins a simple fairytale that, but ultimately spirals out of it’s tightly wound as the details of the story change. It’s there in the evocatively titled “Tales of Las Negras” where two minutes of wintry, steam pipe atmosphere and dueling vocals from Peirce and Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab lead to pierce forlorn questioning; “And if the myths have gone away, will the stories ever stay?” It’s a line that might at first seem obvious, but I think it’s getting at an important distinction and a sad truth about both individual and collective memory. When something loses it’s mythlike status, the first mixtape from your second girlfriend discovered in a dresser drawer 5 years after the fact, will it even stay with you that much longer or will it simply fade. It’s there in the most immediate song on the album, “The Last Ten Homes” which has a unique plot of its own (I won’t give it away, just listen and see), but struggles when it’s actor “looks around, hoping to tell/his whole story beginning to end,” and finds that noone wants to hear. I would assume if I could understand what the lead singer of Mum was saying on “Double Dolphins on the Nickel,” that that would be about storytelling as well The ideas of these songs; of lost stories, or stories that have lost their luster, or stories we think we know, but we know them wrong, are just as compelling to me at this point as the beautiful music. You get two “difficult tracks” and one of the accessible ones. Listen to all three then go buy the album.
The band’s myspace say’s they’ve got a new album in the works which should be out early next year. That’s something to look forward to.
And hey Weakerthans fans (weakerfans?), here’s something to help stoke the anticipation for John’s soon to be released series of solo EPs; a really, really early version of Fallow’s “Letter of Resignation” complete with a poem crammed right in near the end.