On Repeat – Mountain Goats and Bleachers

14 Apr

One of the ineluctable truths of having a music blog for so long is that you end up writing multiple posts about the same artist/band. This is not a negative, as this inevitability depicts the blogger’s music taste. So, it should come to no surprise to avid readers of The Music Court that the two artists whose new tracks are euphoniously blaring on repeat from my small, but surprisingly loud, portable speaker are The Mountain Goats and Bleachers. Both of these bands have found laudatory homes on this blog before, and this post will be no exception to that status.

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The Mountain Goats own Indie Rock. For more than two decades and now 16 studio albums, John Darnielle, the lyrical demigod and two-time author, and his band continue to shape and define quality Indie music, doing it better than any other artist over a longer period of time. It is their success that somewhat shapes their new release, Goths, which will be released on Merge records in May. The album, which features no guitars, pays tribute to bands who did not persist, whose tunes faded away. To promote and preview the album, the band released a track, “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds,” and since its release in late February, I have listened to it more than a few times.

Above is a recent performance by John Darnielle of the track – with guitar although it is not used on the album. Andrew Eldritch is known by some as the Godfather of Goth; he is frontman for Gothic Rock band The Sisters of Mercy. Eldritch himself is a skilled lyricist, often making lyrical references in his pieces. Darnielle plays upon the melancholic (somewhat gothic) reality of time. The song begins set in a venue where we can suppose Eldritch is playing and the goers experience the “faint gust of hope” as they “meet up against” to “remember how it was” back in the day. The song continues with the motif of Eldritch moving back home without “parade” and “no big changes in the roadways.” It is a Darnielle special, a lugubriously realistic portrayal of how little changes, a keen, singular depiction of time transforming little but memories and age, all set to the tune of Darnielle’s creative rhythm.

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Jack Antonoff is quickly cementing himself as the pop/rock king of modern music. The multi-instrumentalist creator of Bleachers, Antonoff cut his teeth with Steel Train and Fun. His second LP, Gone Now, will be released on June 2, coming off the heels of his first LP Strange Desire, which featured the huge hits “I Wanna Get Better” and “Rollercoaster.” His first single off of the new album, “Don’t Take the Money” (which features Lorde) is a quintessential example of Antonoff’s pop talent. The song is an earworm to the extreme, and it should come with a disclaimer: if you press play below you will listen to this song again and again and again.

So, what makes the song and Antonoff so good. It is the perfect, multifaceted blend of 80s music influences and the modern blend of wall-of-sound pop. The song features an immediate hook fit with reverbed synth and drums. It transitions into an echoed pre-chorus that drops to Antonoff’s far-off voice immediately falling into a pounding, blindingly catchy chorus that is almost unfair in its skill. It’s the time of chorus that makes the listener just go “yes, that is exactly what I have been waiting for.” I have blasted this song in my car on multiple occasions because of that chorus. Antonoff is utilizing so many musical influences to transform pop/rock. I, for one, am extremely pleased. The genre is in good hands.

Shawna Virago Delivers Strong Messages With Punk Twists In Heaven Sent Delinquent

13 Apr

Shawna Virago dazzles the music scene with her newest album Heaven Sent Delinquent. Combining visual storytelling with singing about emotions, Virago does an amazing job of painting pictures within the tracks on this album. Drawing inspiration from typical folk sound, Virago spins it into a world of her own. Also, deep within her music lies the themes of punk rebels, stories of the queer and transgender community, and pioneers of society. Overall the album takes the listener through a ride of journey as they listen to stories of love, adventure, and reflections. In conclusion, Virago crafts a sound that’s a perfect blend of new age Americana, folk, and punk into one album.

For more listening:

Roger Jaeger Carries Themes of Dreams In Newest Album Start Over

12 Apr

Roger Jaeger definitely characterizes the sweet blend of pop rock and easy listening through his latest track off his third album called Start Over. Despite being from Oklahoma, listeners can definitely hear a combination of worldly influences from abroad and also sounds from nearby Nashville. Further exploring the abroad sound, one can hear the progressive rock mixed with the sound of the sitar. The music video Elevator specifically illustrates the path of a personal journey and its twists and turns into necessary adventure. Overall, the art direction and cinematography of the video as well further supports Jaeger’s artistic and creative endeavors. Furthermore, with lyrics such as “I wish our life would center around a dream” supports just how reflective Jaeger is and how inspiring the theme of dreaming, adventure, and self-discovery blends its way into his overall sound.

Every Breath You Take Moby Dick

9 Apr

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I have found a new niche with literary music posts. After my last post concerning the relationship between “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” and The Great Gatsby, I received a challenge in a comment to try linking the American class Moby Dick to a song. Challenge accepted and hopefully met. Let’s delve into the pertinaciousness of Captain Ahab.

I use the word pertinacious for good reason. I am convinced Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was obsessed with this word. Pertinacious is a relentless tenaciousness towards a particular action. This word does fit like a new pair of sweatpants, as Captain Ahab was the model of pertinacity. If you have not had a chance to explore Moby Dick, the expansive novel tells the story of an obsessive quest to hunt the whale Moby Dick. And, yes, while this premise might not sound overwhelmingly fascinating, there are many literary reasons why the book is considered the greatest American novel. So, I do suggest you pick it up and delve into Melville’s eloquent depiction of whaling and obsession. It is that obsession or pertinacity that guides this post; because, when I think of obsession in music, one song immediately comes to mind.

Ranked 84 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs of all time, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is NOT a love song. Sting, the uber-talented leader of The Police, acknowledges that the song sounds like a love song but is a song about obsession, and considering Moby Dick is perhaps the greatest novel written about relentless pertinacity I might as well link it with perhaps the greatest song written about the same topic. Sting wrote this song in between relationships, a bit of a creative response to the bad press he had been receiving. So, the oft-misinterpreted song about frightening possession was born.

One particular lyric that serves the comparison well is Sting’s proclamation “Oh can’t you see, You belong to me?” In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab cries “I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.” In this, Ahab is conveying that he will chase Moby Dick to hell before he gives him up. There is certainly a sense of ownership Ahab feels towards Moby Dick, as possession – or the illusion of possession – is often the basis of obstinate obsession.

Captain Ahab and Sting. One obsessed with a whale and the other with a love interest. What do you think? Is it too much of a stretch? Let me know with a comment below.

Sittin’ On The Dock of Gats”Bay”

30 Mar

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Hey Music Court readers. Sorry I have been a bit terse (more like complete radio silence) over the past several weeks. It often does seem that I lose big chunks of time when I’m busy. That said, I am back with another literary/music mix because as an English teacher I cannot contain myself.

There are some songs that contain an untenable eeriness to them, and Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” is one of them. Otis Redding, whose promising career was tragically cut short because of a plane crash, recorded the song days before the crash. The melancholic but peaceful whistle at the song’s fade was, as the story goes, supposed to be an ad-lib spoken word by Redding, but he forgot it and instead whistled – which perhaps is the most known part of the song now. He never had a chance to correct this extemporaneous ending.

I want to focus, though, on the lyric (of course). In the song, Redding paints an image of littoral beauty, a depiction of matutinal beauty from his houseboat. The song, which features the existential reflection of Redding sitting and watching the sea, makes me think of Jay Gatsby, another character – albeit fictional – who spends time staring at the water with a sense of longing. In a sense, Gatsby is revealed through Redding’s lyric, “Looks like nothing’s gonna change; Everything still remains the same.” Redding clearly does not want his perfect visage to end, and Gatsby, similarly, does not want his perfect image of Daisy Buchanan, his first and only love, to change. That said, life does get in the way, and Redding and Gatsby both meet unfortunate ends because, let’s face it, everything changes. In our memory, though, we will always have the bay.

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