Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can't Stop The Music

Something different today. No Bipolar, no thesis, no seminar paper, no conference, no dickhead postdoctoral fellow mouthing off, no slavish adoration of nice people who pay some attention to me and my work.

It’s all about the music.

I thought I’d talk a little bit about what keeps me going from one day to the next, the songs you want to crawl inside of and inhabit that eventually become part of yourself. It’s not an overstatement to say that music and good television (hell, sometimes even bad television) kept me alive. I spent most of 2008 and 2009 hanging on for the next great album from artists and bands I already loved and some from ones I had never heard of, and seriously – sometimes that was enough to keep me here. Sometimes it was all that was keeping me here, keeping me breathing.

OK, it’s a little bit about Bipolar.

I don’t think I’m alone in often listening obsessively to one particular song or album. These all fall into that category. A lot of these have featured on the Christmas mix CD, or will in the future.

The National – High Violet (album) 2010
I bought this album two and a half years ago and I have listened to it at least once a week since then. It is heartbreakingly beautiful and at the moment I’d have to say this band is the one I want most to see live. For some reason I managed to miss this band right up until this album got some really good press when it came out, and I can also highly recommend the wonderful records Alligator and Boxer. You might have caught a song or two of theirs on various TV shows, mostly ones for which Alex Patsavas is music supervisor (is it just me or does that not sound like the BEST JOB EVAR?). Their lyrics somehow manage to hit the bone and yet be completely unexpected. My choice songs from the album are ‘Runaway’ and ‘Terrible Love’.

Pretenders – Pretenders (album) 1979
This is one of those bands I loved before I knew who they were. They would come on the radio and my mother would always switch the radio station once she realised who was on (I later found out it was because they were the makers of ‘Brass in Pocket’, which my mother objected to because it was so overtly sexual). Chrissie Hynde has one of my all time favourite voices of any genre, and I have never seen her live for fear that gorgeous alto isn’t what it once was. As a teenager I eventually discovered who the band was thanks to a lyrics search in the early days of the internet and this was one of the first records I ever bought. Chrissie’s voice aches and somehow manages to convey humour and misery at the same time. This album’s chockers with hits, the spitting, snarling ‘Precious’, the bouncy ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ (a cover), ‘Kid’, which is just all kinds of awesomeness and one of the greatest songs ever written, I think (although I waited a long time to put it on a mix CD), and the joyous ‘Mystery Achievement’ at the end of the LP. This is an album I especially like to listen to when things are tricky, and it’s been getting lots of airplay of late.

Patti Smith – ‘Free Money’ (song) 1975
Oh, how I adore it. I love how it builds to a climax and Patti just throws it all out there. When I made the first ever mix CD it was a no brainer that this would be on it.

TV On The Radio – ‘Golden Age’ (song) 2008
From their stellar third record, this song just makes you want to dance. Actually, the album is full of songs that make you want to dance and dance you should. This album is my joint favourite of all time with The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead, and this song is my favourite from the LP. It’s amazing live too. Apparently they’re not for everyone, but for my money they’re the most innovative band going. This album really did save my life, both the anticipation and the enjoyment of it. 

The Smiths – ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’ (song) 1987
Speaking of The Smiths, they had to come in on this list, even though the list just could be full of them and them alone. This song was actually written prior to The World Won’t Listen’s release in February 1987, but the album is full of B sides and rejected songs from earlier albums. It’s not my favourite song by this wonderful band (‘Panic’ and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ take the honours there) but I picked this song for this post because it’s the song I’ve thought most about this year as an Honours student. Admittedly it preys upon the complex created by the voices in my head, but as someone who firmly believes in rewarding myself when it’s due, this phrase is one I often think about in trying to get to that point of accomplishment. It’s possible that I just won’t ever earn it yet (baby), but that’s another post, I think. If there’s a thesis theme song, this is it.  


Can – ‘Mother Sky’ (song) 1970
Dance, just dance. This is finally going on the mix CD this year, sorry to ruin the surprise. I’ve listened to this more than a hundred times in the last week alone, it’s just easy to lose yourself in it.

Television – ‘Marquee Moon’ (song) 1977
From the album of the same name, this song is the song above all other songs. I had never heard of this track until early 2003, when my favourite DJ abandoned his Thursday night show on the national youth network (due to a big promotion), called the J Files, which used to focus on a particular artist or band’s work, although occasionally they did something a little different. On this, his last show, he had other people who worked at the station talk about their favourite song, and this was his choice. I went out and bought the record the next day and basically fell in love. The duelling guitars are about as good as it gets, and yes, it’s long – but seriously, just lose yourself in it. I celebrate with this song, I revel in it when miserable, and last week when I could only feel relief coursing through my veins it was what I played over and over again. It is superlative in every way.

What songs or albums do you listen to obsessively?


  1. Don't ever stop the music! Love Patti Smith! Do not love The Smiths! (sorry, was into em in my teens, now Morrissey makes me want to pour wet cement into my ears).

    The last few bands/artists I've been listening to are The Clash, Rowland S. Howard, The Wipers, and Greg Sage (solo, from the Wipers!). The Wipers are the band I listen to obsessively though.

    Thanks for the music, you've inspired DJ Skully to make a comeback.

    1. You definitely either love or hate The Smiths and Morrissey. I get why some people can't stand them/him.

      I spent most of yesterday listening to The Clash, they very nearly made the list. I need to check out the others, clearly.

    2. I liked the Smiths when I was 13/14 (fuck, that's like 20 years ago!) then the whole alt music scene exploded and my tastes changed. You must check out Rowland S. Howard! His solo records are amazing.

  2. You're killing me with this.

    1) I am surprised there's as much of a 70s bent to this list! No, I don't know why. In retrospect it makes sense.

    2) The first time I put on High Violet I got through song #1 and #2 and I just... started them over again. And again. To this day I still haven't gotten all the way through the album. How crazy is that? Sometimes albums unfold very slowly for me.

    3) I like the Pretenders, but whenever I see Chrissie's name written I think of that line from a Peaches song: "Check out my Chrissie Behynde it's fine all of the time."

    4) I was just listening to the Smiths yesterday and thought of you.

    5) I'm not sure I've ever heard that Can song but I like it!

    SINCE YOU ASKED, I went back and plowed through my collection to revisit my favorites. Needless to say things have changed since my late teens/early 20s. When I was an undergrad I'd have to say my most-listened albums were Ani DiFranco's "Living in Clip," Sleater-Kinney's "All Hands on the Bad One," Offspring's "Smash," Rancid's "And Out Come the Wolves," Operation Ivy's self-titled, The Ramones' "Mania." Over the past decade my tastes have moved more electro/lofi. Most recently I have been driven absolutely mad by Future Islands' "In Evening Air" and Youth Lagoon's "The Year of Hibernation."

    Songs are a wholly different matter than albums, of course. I couldn't begin to count the individual songs I have been obsessed with over time. I will say, though, that my #1 top listened-to song in my player is Modest Mouse's "Broke," which has a full 160 plays more than #2: The Black Lips' "Not a Problem."

    But I could talk about music all mothereffing day, so I'll shut up now while this comment is a reasonable length.

    1. 1) Yeah, heavily weighted in favour of the late 70s. I was talking about music with the mentor and given he was in his late teens and early twenties when a lot of my favourite music was written I know I sound a bit weird. But a lot of my favourite music is contemporary - TV On The Radio, The National, Dirty Projectors, Gotye (who's been cool here for years, and I refuse to stop listening to him just because he's suddenly popular, it's well deserved), Sarah Blasko, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Something for Kate, Laura Marling....

      2)I really do urge you to finish that album. I adore it.

      3) OH MY GOD I LOVE THAT LINE TOO! It's like you and when someone says 'WORD' you automatically go to the Jump Around lyrics....

      4)That is a massive compliment. I know Britt from BowieBride and Britttheshit is a fan too, she listens to them every day. It bears saying anything: FUCK YEAH I AM SEEING MORRISSEY AT CHRISTMAS!!!

      5)I like it too! You have to dance, even if it's just in your chair.

      I also loved Living in Clip, and Offspring? They were one of THE bands to listen to in the mid to late 90s. A friend in high school taped Smash for me, so it was one of my first tapes. And yeah - I think your tastes have changed a bit :)

      I also adore that Modest Mouse song. It's nice to have someone nominate a different song by them as a favourite, Float On is the obvious choice.

  3. David Bowieeee!!!!! I love him, who doesn't? And I love The Smiths!! And what about Joy Division!!!

    I have periods of singers or groups, for example, I listen to Regina Spektor, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and Vetusta Morla (Spanish group) for 2 months obsessively and then I jump to another few groups or singers and don't listen to the previous ones for a long time.

    My taste in music is very wide, I love quirky music as well, one of my favorite songs of all times is this http://youtu.be/9MSav8_POlo Makes me feel happy (and by the way I love her dress) and another quirky (love this word) one http://youtu.be/P88tYfDcHtw this guy loves himself soooo much!!!!

    And songs I've been obsessed about:
    - Love will come through - Travis
    - Blower's daughter - Damien Rice (love this guy)
    - Viva la vida - Coldplay
    - Perlas ensangrentadas - Alaska y Dinarama
    - Groenlandia - Zombies
    - No me beses en los labios - Aereolineas federales
    - Under pressure - Queen and David Bowie
    - Live and learn - The Cardigans
    Ok, enough!!! Lately, Dancing on my own - Robyn and Girl gone wild - Madonna


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