Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekly Buffet: Slow Down, Wu-Tang Says So

[Spotify - are endless possibilities, swell or destructive?]
One time, about five years ago, I drove past the alleged Wu-Tang Clan compound on Staten Island, and today I finally have a reason to reference that tale.

On that day when I found a Staten Island pop culture topic other than Working Girl references, I never thought The Tang would be called pretentious. Oh, but now that's definitely happening and the reason why is something I find rather terrific.

Music fans know the internal struggle of being continually driven to find the best new music, listening to old favorites, and being generally overwhelmed by how much is out there to discover. "Am I finding everything that's good?" is a panic that can over take anyone.

The enormity is dumbfounding - more often than I like to admit, I catch myself fingers poised, ready to type in an artist on the Spotify homescreen, and I pause, unable to think of something to play. With the thought of anything (almost anything) being a concept, my mind goes blank. Everything and nothing all at the same time.

Wu-Tang are taking this idea of our overwhelmed media consuming society and are making it artsy to prove a point. They have announced a concept album that won't be sold in a store.

How will I get my Tang fix, you ask? One copy of the album will be on tour, traveling to different museums, and only there will you be able to hear the tracks. I was thinking some ass could just record it and put the songs on YouTube, but they have thought of ways to stop that.

Enjoying the art of an album as a whole seems to be lost on most these days. We all create mixes to play in the car or while working out, and some people have always only cared about the popular singles.

All the over consumption, I've noticed,  has made me feel dumber at times. People will ask me who my favorite musicians are. This, a question I love to answer, now takes me longer to give a response because there are too many options! Eventually after a long pause and when the person no longer cares, I sputter and say something like, "Oh shit. I don't know, I can tell you what I've been listening to a lot recently. Does that count?"

Inspired by Wu-Tang, I'm trying to be more mindful of my music listening. Really just spend time enjoying an album without quickly clicking to find some other new artist. We can still consume, but just slow it down.

Over the last month this has been great and I've found a few albums that are worthy of playing over and over again to really soak up all that goodness. Maybe you will take the time to enjoy them as well.

Agnes Obel - Aventine

After a co-worker recommendation I purchased Agnes Obel's 2013 release, and it played on repeat in my car for nearly two weeks. There were breaks of pop radio hits (that new JT single is seriously hitting me oh so right), but then shortly after I'd flip right back to the CD.

The only reason it's not still playing on my way to and from work is because I thought the disc needed a break - it had been doing some serious overtime.

The talented piano player/songstress brings a smidge of haunting Celtic musicality mixed with the female pop singer/songwriter sound we've known and loved by many over the last 10 years. At times her music has the feeling of everything from Enya to Fiona Apple and Feist. Song after song of gorgeous melodies, that even after weeks of listening still feel fresh.

Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park

Either Nashville is rubbing off on me, or, frankly I don't know what, because some modern popular country music is striking my fancy these days.

Kacey Musgraves is definitely more on the Taylor Swift spectrum of country music, so I think I have a far way to go before I'm jamming out to the really twangy stuff. Still, I never expected to find myself obsessed with an album that was blowing up at the CMA awards this year.

Truth be told, she got my attention at a different awards show - the Grammy's. Initially it was the tacky/fabulous dress covered equally in rhinestones and tassels (not to mention the LIGHT up boots and the fact that I want all those neon cacti), then it was her crisp singing voice and lastly, it was the catchy tune.

I didn't know the song, so when "Follow Your Arrow" started I was expecting something hokey with simplistic lyrics. In some ways it is, but the writing is also quite witty and by the end of her performance I was sold. I find the single and entire album utterly charming.

At any age I really appreciate people writing songs about "being you", whatever that may be. Anything where I can imagine Tammy Taylor screaming, "Let's all be less judgmental y'all!" is a win.

The sincere single isn't the only highlight, since every song on the album is packed with beautiful melodies, sharp story telling, and fantastic harmonica solos that will instantly put you in a better mood.

Sometimes the right music just finds you at the right time. I've needed a spirit lifter the last couple months and, boy, did this do that trick.

Tennis - Cape Dory

The reasons I love That Thing You Do, doo-wop girl groups from the 1950s, and She & Him also explain why the husband and wife duo of Tennis have been one of my favorite finds of the last couple years.

I've talked endlessly about their 2012 release Young & Old, so last month after searching for earlier stuff I stumbled upon their debut studio release, Cape Dory. This guy and gal are the essence of that sunny summertime feeling and whenever their tunes are playing I wish I was driving down the 101 heading some place exciting. 

Take off some pressure and spend a little time just enjoying whatever. I will continue to try and take my own advice.

Until next time.

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