A Post iPod Playlist
A couple of weeks ago, within days of each other, two of my iPods breathed their last. The 160 GB Classic (circa 2009) gave up the ghost first. It simply lost all of the 120 GB or so of music that it had on it. And then, my all-time favourite, the eight-year-old 40 GB went kaput. On both of these I’d stashed away loads of songs, many of which were un-backed up; there were carefully (at least that’s what I think!) curated playlists: clustered according to genres, live recordings, year of recording, favourites, and so on. And then poof! All gone.
The pain of losing all of those categorised digital files has many aspects and this is something I’m still dealing with, but the worst thing about the demise of those two iPods is how cumbersome accessing music on the go has become. My phone and a late-model Nano offer some solutions to the portability problem but it’s not the same as having things organised for easy access. I’ve put off getting myself another iPod and I’m trying to make do in a couple of other ways.
One such is to raid other people’s playlists. Last week, I snagged the new album from the exclamation mark-loving Canadian band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – from my daughter’s playlist. I’d heard this so-called post-rock band’s first album, F#A# , and another, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, but nothing much else. Godspeed You! make largely instrumental music and are often characterised as a chamber pop band. That, I think, is an unfair categorisation. Their music is almost always elaborate with their typically long tracks (it’s not uncommon for a track to be 15 minutes or longer) beginning deceptively softly and then building up into a crescendo.
GY!BE are more of a collective than a band and date back to 1994, the same year that the person I snagged their new album from dates back to. The exclamation mark in the band’s name has changed position over the years (it was at the end of their name and now it’s in the middle) but their music hasn’t, even after a sort of break-up for a number of years. Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! comes a decade after their previous album, Yanqui U.X.O., came out, and it has the same ambient, spaced-out sound. It’s a very versatile album as I found – you can play it softly in the background at work and yet not affect whatever else you might be working on; you can blast it on the headphones and trip on it very satisfactorily; and it also works as an accompaniment on a commute if you’re in the car.
GY!BE don’t get talked about much as they don’t do too much self-publicity but that doesn’t stop their albums from getting rave reviews in some quarters. Their new album has been rated at 9.3 (out of 10) by Pitchfork, which has also affixed a ‘Best New Music’ tag to the review.
The other band that found itself on my playlist last week was Turbo Fruits, a southern band from the US, which is nice and muscular and classically punk. Their songs, unlike GY!BE, can’t be played as ambient music. You can’t really be doing something such as work while listening to Turbo Fruits. They have lyrics, they have swagger and they have a generous addition of southern spice to their garage-y punk music. I got pointed to Turbo Fruits by a podcast review of this year’s CMJ Music Festival, a marathon music fest where tons of bands descend on New York City annually to play massive numbers of shows. Turbo Fruits was one of them and the podcast played a track off their latest album, Butter. I couldn’t get Butter, so I went and got another of their albums, 2009’s Echo Kid. Punchy and unpretentious, their music is a very contemporary take on southern rock. My recco: play them very loud.
The third album on my post-iPod playlist last week was a relatively ancient one and the source for this was my long-neglected CD shelves. Faced with the unpleasant task of scouring the backup hard drives looking for what else I could play, I opted instead for doing a random pick out of my stash of CDs from years past. I got moe., a jam band from New York state’s Buffalo area. It was the first volume of the band’s Warts and All series, which is made up of all live recordings. It’s a three-CD album that is nearly a dozen years old and has some of the band’s earliest songs. moe., like most other jam bands, are best heard live and Warts And All: Volume 1 is a very lively but long listen, replete with the band’s trademark improvisation. If you’re not into jam bands, you may not be over fond of the moe. sound or the long noodling and meandering nature of their songs, but there’s a version of a Ramones’ song that they do on the album (I Wanna Be Sedated) that you may like even if you’re not a moe.-head. In reality, die-hard fans of moe. don’t call themselves that. They like to call themselves moe.rons. More reason for some people to be put off by the band.
People Get Ready is a Brooklyn based band that combines music and performance – indierock and dance. They’re a dancetroupe-cum-band that is very unconventional and their live shows are supposed to be spectacular. Moreover, they got funding through Kickstarter, the funding platform for creative ventures. On the musician-friendly Bandcamp website, you can buy their eponymous album for a price you can name. Worth checking them out.