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Sharing [F/FB]
Mar 9th, 2010 by Dan

In a sense, doing this blog is a really strange thing for me. I’m more than happy to share my opinion with anyone about the music, movies, or games that I love, but I get nearly crippling anxiety when it comes to actually compelling them to sit down and experience the media I’m trying to recommend. It makes no sense, of course. Why would it matter if they like it or not, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s life or death or that they’ll stop being my friend, but I still get nervous.

The weird thing is that I don’t ever quite reach the point of comfort with even my closest friends. Recommending stuff to my brothers is usually pretty simple since I know them so well. It’s an uphill battle most of the time to even convince them that what I’m offering is worth spending time experiencing, but once they do, I’m right maybe 90% of the time about whether or not they’ll like it. There’s almost no stress involved unless you take away that family element…

If it was because of a specific, tragic event, I must have repressed it enough that I don’t even remember it, but I can honestly say that there are few things worse than that feeling you start to get in your gut when you can visibly see that they’re just really not feeling it. It was just a few weeks ago that I was in Chicago hanging out with a friend of mine who attends Northwestern.

“Duffy, you’ve got to hear these guys. This is the perfect music for warming you up in winter. They’re brilliant.”

The disc in question was Vampire Weekend’s latest, Contra. It’s this crazy indie rock album with these great worldbeat sounds. I don’t really understand why they call worldbeat worldbeat when they mean Afro-Caribbean, but that’s just me, I guess.

“Yeah, sure. Pop it in.”

It all goes south from there. Knowing myself, I know not to look directly at someone who is listening to something I’m making them listen to. It’s agonizing. The silence from her side of the car is deafening. I start counting the number of times that “Horchata” calls out that Koenig is drinking horchata in December. Her hands lower the volume knob twice during the first song. I try to shake it off.

“Eh…well I love it. It’s got a different sound to it and that’s really what attracts me to it, but I can see where you might not.”

She hadn’t even said a word, but I was defeated. The rest of the trip I let her control the radio as we alternated between country music, Lady Gaga, and Ke$ha (and the musical part of my soul died just a little bit).

I loved Sambomaster before I knew I loved Sambomaster, but when I read “changing the world in japanese“, a fantastic article about the band by tim rogers, I finally learned the band’s name and heard their best song. It’s hard to justify how much I love the band since I can’t understand a single lyric that Takashi Yamaguchi is saying, but the band’s music does mean a lot to me and I did my best to evangelize “Sono Nukumori ni Yō ga Aru” as best I could to my friends and family. Dave took to it instantly and even the difficult-to-please Duffy thought that the music was “alright”, but I was stonewalled when I sent it along to my good friend Min.

“Yeah, I just don’t like music in a language I can’t understand.”

I’m sure that part of the whole anxiety thing comes from your run-of-the-mill fear of rejection, but I think that it might also stem from the perhaps too extreme emotional connection that I make with my media. Many of my strongest memories are tied to the media I consume and I sometimes make these connections almost instantaneously.

One week before I went to Chicago, I was driving up to Ithaca with Min to meet up with some old friends. We were listening to podcasts and All Music Considered, one of NPR’s finest podcasts, came up with their Valentine’s Day episode featuring breakup songs. Each of the staff members presented a breakup song that had particular influence on their lives and one chose the Stars song “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”.

“Wow. That was amazing,” I told Min.

“Yeah. A friend of mine sent that to me in high school.”

I didn’t tell Min that the song touched me in a profound way, but I think he could tell from my reaction. If Min hadn’t been there in the car, I might have found myself crying. It just brought back so many memories about my long and damaging relationship with Ashley that it was overwhelming.

I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save

It could be that my reluctance to share is preventing someone from learning about media that they’d never heard of before, (I think back to all the times I’ve successfully shared Arrested Development with friends), but then there are times when my nature is proven correct. I correctly balked at exposing my father to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but he watched it anyway at the insistence of my brothers. He just didn’t get it.

There’s nothing like feeling that connection with someone over a shared experience. Having these interests in common gives us something to talk about and keeps conversation interesting. Maybe one day I’ll get over this fear of sharing. God knows I’m trying by writing this blog most days, even if I try to keep it a secret from most of the people I know.

Of The Blue Colour of the Sky and Contra [Feedback]
Jan 19th, 2010 by Dan

Should be a musical week here at IBNttT and I think I’m gonna start it off with my impressions on OK Go and Vampire Weekend’s new offerings, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky and Contra, respectively.

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.

It’s been ~5 years since OK Go released one of my favorite albums, Oh No, and started to find some mainstream success thanks to the music video for “Here It Goes Again”. A lot can change in five years for a band so I was curious as to how it would turn out (and sound), especially since I’d heard it was a result of them touring for so long they hardly felt like themselves. Sonic shifts can be completely disastrous or they can turn out like OtBCotS and turn out pretty well.

The sound shift comes in the form of an almost 80s funk-synth sound a la Prince, complete with Prince-like yelps and screams. If you’re like me, your first worry should be, “Can Damian Kulash actually hit those notes and sound appropriate for this style?” I’d say that the experiment was mostly a success, with his wailing only taking center stage during the song “Skyscrapers” where it’s used to both great effect and only one mildly annoying overdone part. Beyond that, the synth-y sound is actually pretty great and I’m positive that OK Go will only grow from this experimentation.

My main gripe with the album comes with the back third, which seems like a lot (and it is!). I understand why artists like to slow down the beat and bring us down slowly for the tail end of the album, but, of the last four songs, only the final song, “In the Glass” does anything for me while the other three just don’t fit in thematically. That said, the first two thirds of the album is absolutely fantastic. I’d say my favorite tracks are the first six, so just about half. Not perfect, but not bad either. The bass and drum work are especially worth noting, specifically in “Skyscrapers” and “White Knuckles”, but they’re great throughout the entire album.

If you’re a real fan of the sound OK Go had for their first two albums, I’d give the album a listen before you buy to make sure you’re not getting any unwelcome surprises. For everyone else, if you like your music with a little funk sometimes, it’s worth picking up.

Contra

I’m a little late to the Vampire Weekend party since I’d only heard of them a few days before both of the album came out. When I did some background checking to see what their first album sounded like, I was shocked, since Contra sounds almost nothing like their prior work. That’s not a bad thing, especially since I’m fond of just about every track on the disc, but I have to wonder what old fans might think of the shift to a more tropical, almost reggae-ish sound. Wikipedia calls it “worldbeat”, if that helps any. Anyway, the album definitely sounds Caribbean and tropical, which is definitely welcome during these cold winter months.

Ezra Koenig’s voice does a great job covering this varied sound and much acclaim needs to go to the rest of his band, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio, for coming up with a wholly natural-sounding, almost ethnic album created by a bunch of kids from Brooklyn. I’d be hard pressed to select a single track as the standout so I’ll just say that my favorites are “Run”, “Diplomat’s Son”, “California English”, and “Horchata”. The entire album is available to be listened to on their website, so check them out. Given how different this album is from their first and how good it is, I’m really excited to see what Vampire Weekend does next. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.

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