Last Month in Four Stumbling Blocks

There’s a narrative out there right now about race, music, art, and the Venn diagram between the three, and so writing about music in any other way seems trite, especially after reading through that wonderful Ta-Nehisi Coates article on Kanye. There’s the “This Is America” video. There’s the whole Kanye-thinks-slavery-was-a-choice thing. And then there’s, I dunno. My inconsequential thoughts about Los Lobos?

May 2018: Last Month in Four Stumbling Blocks

  • “Leila Came Around And We Watched A Video” — Four Set
  • “Electric Wire Hustle Flower” — Common (f/ Sunny)
  • “Can’t Stop the Rain” — Los Lobos
  • “Indians Never Die” — Black Belt Eagle Scout
  • “The Opener” — Camp Cope
  • “Treat Me Right” — Norma Tanega
  • “Cloudbusting” — Kate Bush
  • “The Sword in the Stone” — Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • “9-5ers Anthem” — Aesop Rock
  • “Balance” — Dessa
  • “Where Do We Go” — Solange
  • “White Tornado” — R.E.M.
  • “Make It Right” — The Coathangers
  • “Tonight’s the Night — Part II (live)” — Neil Young
  • “Dark Globe” — Syd Barrett
  • “Spoiled” — Sebadoh
  • “Cloud Cuckooland and Ben the Spaceman” — Mark Mothersbaugh
  • “i” — Kendrick Lamar

That might explain being one week and two days late to this party. I tried, I guess, but I’m not sure I am the right writer or the right audience: as I discussed the passive sexism of the music lists I saw in my Facebook feed, I didn’t see much response or change, and that’s probably to be expected — change doesn’t happen on Facebook overnight (if at all) and I was certainly naive to think otherwise.

From the ashes of that article came a few great suggestions, though: Max Johns brought me Camp Cope, an Australian band I’d never heard of and now see everywhere. It pushed me into finally listening to that Solange record all the way through and really really enjoying it.

(OF NOTE: my introduction to new to pop music has been confined the light and non-destructive kind on Sioux Falls’ 101.9 KELO-FM; I might use this album to force a bit of edge and convince my kids (who rule my van radio, these days) to go in a more modern direction, like to Sioux Falls’ Hot 104.7.)

Making a quick landing in Nashville didn’t help, either; wallowing in the camp and spectacle of country music’s first real capital — at least, before it was forced to abdicate the throne to let Nashville become the “Bachelorette Party Capital” — was an troubling mashup of Confederate history and a genre of music that hasn’t always been the most racially friendly. I did get to go to Third Man Records, though, so I guess it’s all cool?

And then, there was Record Store Day, which is a day that I both love and hate; an overwritten love letter to buying music that ends up highlighting the best (great community, fantastic people like Dan and Liz) and exposing the worst (collectors in black hoodies grabbing everything, a weird non-punk dip into unnecessary commercialism). Love it AND hate it, I’m always there, wondering where the last Courtney Barnett record ended up and purchasing yet another live set I probably don’t need.

I guess what I’m saying is this: even in a month when music seems to be infiltrating everything I do, writing about music will still forever be impossible. It is assigned too much weight or not enough. It is designed to shape movements and it’s designed to be thrown away as the summer ends. It’s power and beauty and it exposes something within us we can never put into words, and so we try and we fail and we just go back to listening to something easier.

Anyway, here’s some stuff I like.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 9th, 2018