Thursday, March 02, 2006

Overlooked or Forgotten, Vol. One

Casey Dorrell

Last month Rolling Stone actually published something worth reading. According to a joint poll conducted by the magazine and the Associated Press, not only are a majority of people unsatisfied with the quality of current music (hint: stay away from Rolling Stone to start with), they're also unimpressed with CD pricing, which they feel is too high. Amusingly, the same respondents felt that 99 cents was a fair price for a single song (Multiply that by 14 anyone?).

Equally entertaining was the spike in respondents with age categories above thirty-four who felt music is getting worse . Fifty-eight percent of all respondents shared this lament. Almost half of those polled blamed a combination of prohibitively high pricing and a decline in music quality for the dip in music sales over the last half-decade.

The Older Respondents React to New Music

I know it should really go without saying, but it's a ridiculous assertion to say that there simply isn't enough quality music being made to warrant spending money on it. For this to be plausible, you'd not only have to discredit the vast amount of music being produced right now, you'd also have to argue prior ownership of all quality recordings already in existence. Right.

Close to ten percent of people polled are finding their new music on networks shows like the OC and CSI. What they would find on the latter, isn't really clear. Finally, the poll showed that those who download music (legally or otherwise) are the most likely to frequently buy it on CD.

So, in celebration of our status as hot target market for music purchases, and as an argument against the disturbing amount of people who think there's no good music anymore, here's Mocking Music's first list of the Overlooked and Forgotten. All the songs listed here (according to the largest mp3 agreggator) haven't been on any mp3 blog in the last year, if ever. Almost all of them are not the typical indie fare.

8. Jale - Ali [MP3]
How quickly we forget. The uber-sugary pop duo, The Veronicas, is starting to show up on different mp3 blogs lacking a bit of self-respect, and I can't help but wonder what's going on. The group is disturbingly produced, sickeningly sweet, and, well, not terribly interesting. Jale, on the other hand, was a female fronted band that was just rough enough to be worth listening to. They were a critically acclaimed, but short-lived, band that gained exposure during the mid-90's Halifax pop-explosion. Their stand-out album was their final, 1996's "So Wound", that, depending on your mood, is either a collection of insanely infectious pop-tunes or a body of songs so sachrine sweet that'll you'll pray for some sort of dissonance to offset it.

7. The Gamits - Last of the Mullets [MP3]
On their best songs this band somehow managed to blend the geeky cleverness of Weezer, the vocal style of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, and the sing-alongability of the best oi bands with the commercial success of Richard Thompson (who holds the record for worst selling album ever on Warner). It's sad that a band with this level of talent breaks up when bands like Good Charlotte march proudly forth under the guise of punk, singing glorified N*Sync songs. In a perfect world, The Gamits would be popularly derided for being too poppy, not underheard and relatively underproduced compared to the super sheen of their counterparts.

6. Marcy Playground - Saturday [MP3]
Unlike the other artists in this list, Marcy Playground weren't critically lauded. Their debut met with luke-warm critical response and strong commercial success, while the two albums that followed received neither commercial nor critical love. Be that as it may, I still enjoy their sophomore album quite a bit. With lots of fuzzed-out guitars, quirky effects, and fun lyrics, it's a really likeable, if not groundbreaking, work. C'mon, pretend you aren't a music critic for a second and just listen to this song. It's pretty catchy isn't it? No? What about the Yodeling? Still no? I tried . . .

5. Mad Capsule Markets - Island [MP3]
The Japanese band, Mad Capsule Markets, have been around for twenty years now but have never really broken into the North American market. Their sole exposure came when one of their singles off their 2003 album, "Oscillator in Distortion", was used for the Tony Hawk 3 soundtrack (They've opened for bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and NIN, but not outside Japan). Still, they've attained a comfortable cult hero status in Japan and the UK. Their music, an intensely noisy blend of punk, industrial, and metal, is often compared to Atari Teenage Riot, but unlike that band, they're actually pretty easy to get into. The song I've picked may not be their best but, sandwiched in the middle of "Oscillator in Distortion", it serves as a nice reprieve from some of their heavier numbers.

4. Atmosphere - Trying to Find a Balance [MP3]
It's strange that rapper Slug (Atmosphere) hasn't seen more blog exposure. His lyricism and pop-friendly hooks have the same sort of indie cross-over appeal as the Streets, Sage Francis, or Buck 65. The problem is probably that Atmosphere, which is actually a trio but more a project of Slug, doesn't venture far from the conventional hip hop format. The beats are solid and often pretty heavy, belying Atmosphere's main talent, lyricism. His lyrics had him embarrassingly labeled as emo-rap, along with Buck 65 and Sage Francis, last year when Spin Magazine tried to sabotage the groups by creating the horrific genre. 'Trying to Find a Balance' is actually one of Atmosphere's least interesting songs lyrically, but it is insufferably catchy.

3. Lee Feldman - Always Till Always [MP3]
I'm pretty sure Feldman is a pop genius. I'm not alone in this assertion, Rolling Stone as well as several publications, mostly of his native New York, have praised him. The easiest comparison for those, like myself, that aren't very familiar with piano-man types is Ben Folds. Unlike Folds, Feldman doesn't stray far from the piano and uses other instruments sparingly, if at all. This may or may not be seen as a good thing, but the other key difference can only be a good thing. Feldman, while clearly having a sense of humour, doesn't feel compelled to repeatedly make fun of himself; Folds' "look at me, I'm rocking out ... on a piano!" schtick gets tired. All of Feldman's songs are incredibly simple and equally good. 'Always till Always' was pretty much a random selection from a bunch of great songs.

2. Alexisonfire - No Transitory [MP3]
I think the fact that a band like Alexisonfire has been almost completely neglected across the music blogs shows that, despite our collective claims of musical diversity, there's still a huge niche to be filled by any new bloggers who plan to post music that isn't just the indie norm. Alexisonfire began as a straight-out hardcore band, but on their 2004 sophomore release band-member Dallas Green takes up secondary vocals, providing a much needed counter-weight to the screaming. This is, of course, is the format followed by so many of the screamo bands that have dominated the pseudo-punk scene of the last few years, but Alexisonfire are so skilled at the formula that they can be forgiven for not being entirely original. 'No Transitory' features a particularly compelling back-and-forth harmony, if shoddy lyrics.

1. Neva Dinova w. Bright Eyes - Spring Cleaning [MP3]
Ignore the god-awful label of emo-folk for the moment (Critics sure do love attaching emo to genres, as if to assert that introspection and self-absorption are themes new to music). Neva Dinova have been around informally since 1993 as a live band, but didn't release their first album until 2002. Their songs are quiet and contemplative based somewhere between folk and slowcore. This song is actually off neither of their full-length releases, but instead off a 2004 split with label-mate, Bright Eyes, where the two artists play backup on each other's songs. It's probably their best song to date; disturbing lyrics mixed with an apt blend of simple instrumentation and electronic interplay that's fraught with visual imagery.

Jale - Ali
The Gamits - Last of the Mullets
Marcy Playground - Saturday
Mad Capsule Market - Island
Atmosphere - Trying to Find a Balance
Lee Feldman - Always Till Always
Alexisonfire - No Transitory
Neva Dinova - Spring Cleaning

Lee Feldman - Living it All Wrong
Alexisonfire - Watch Out!
Neva Dinova and Bright Eyes - One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels

Comments on "Overlooked or Forgotten, Vol. One"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2/3/06 9:04 am) : 

Speaking as an "over 32 year-old", (45 next week), you have to realize that most people of any age tend to think that the type of music they listened to when in the teens and twenties is the only quality music ever made. Forgive me for sounding like an abtique, but I cut my musical teeth on 8-tracks of "Gary Puckett and the Union Gaps" and "Blood, Sweat and Taers". However, by reading blogs and internet radio, while avoiding at all costs commercial broadcast radio (I am a former DJ in the old school way). I now have a wide range of musical tastes. From African drum to Arctic Monkeys to Neko Case to Chinese traditional, I will listen to anything. The important thing to remember is to listen to music everyday and as a member of the group it was intended for. Only using such an open minded appraoch, and avoiding pigeon-holing terms like "screamo bands" and "softcore", can we truly enjoy tunes at their own level. Oh, and stop reading mass-market publications.
*jumping of my soapbox now*

Mr. Njorl


Anonymous Gouda said ... (2/3/06 1:23 pm) : 

"you have to realize that most people of any age tend to think that the type of music they listened to when in the teens and twenties is the only quality music ever made."

A quick reread of the post (notably the 2nd and 3rd graphs) makes pretty clear that the deep insight quoted above has indeed been realized.

"The important thing to remember is to listen to music everyday and as a member of the group it was intended for."

Um, what? Should I be calling the musicians to ask if they intended for me to listen to their music? Should I be calling the marketers and advertisers instead to find out whether I'm in their target demographic? Oh, and to whom do I present my doctor's note excusing me for failing to complete my music-listening duties for yesterday?


Anonymous Mr, N said ... (2/3/06 1:48 pm) : 

I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out the target audience of most music. What is being said is that to dismiss a genre of music simply because one doesn't like it, will eventually cause a downward spiral and put you in a box of arrogance and ignorance. It will also cause you to take everything literally instead of metaphorically as intended.


Anonymous Casey Dorrell said ... (2/3/06 2:19 pm) : 

First, as always, I love to hear commentary, especially thought-out commentary. Though I'm not sure anon is fully that, unless length denotes quality of thought.

Ingoring the rest of it, at what point did you get the impression that I read Rolling Stone? Was it when I said "Rolling Stone actually published something worth reading"? Perhaps it was when I commented "Stay away from Rolling Stone".

Also, why are we prohibited from denoting bands as belonging to a genre? ("Screamo", "Softcore"). I can promise I won't call any music "softcore", though I imagine you meant "slowcore". Genres help describe music. It's the same as distinguishing drama from comedy in movies, comedy-noir from teen-comedy. It doesn't devalue the medium.

"I'll stay on my soapbox, I like it up here"


Blogger Hanson said ... (3/3/06 2:54 am) : 

wow, jale.... nice. now that brings me back. *scrambles to find my copy of so wound*


Anonymous joshua said ... (8/3/06 3:16 pm) : 

Casey -
third time i've found myself on your site downloading something i wanted this week.
very impressive.


Anonymous Bryk said ... (16/3/06 11:37 pm) : 

Lee Feldman is indeed a complete fucking genius. If he wasn't so self-deprecating and completely oblivious to what's popular and hip more people might have noticed by now, but of course that's probably much of what makes him so special. And of course that's what makes his fans feel that he is an American Treasure. He's made two more records since Living It All Wrong, you'll have to search for them but they're all a little different (and the newest one is even better than the first!) I am completely fucking biased, of course.


Blogger H-Bomb said ... (6/4/07 11:36 am) : 

Hello, my name is Harry, I run and I have a favor to ask. I saw a show last night with Say Hi To Your Mom and Eric Metronome here in Columbus, OH and Eric actually closed his show out with a cover of this Nena Dinova/Bright Eyes Track, "Spring Cleaning". I was wondering if you could send it to me for my review of the show that I'm putting together for tonight? My email is thabombshelter AT gmail dot com.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (24/3/09 5:48 am) : 

sometimes you can go to earn the mabinogi gold for your own life and you can also get a lot of happiness in the game if you play the game well. you can brush the cheap mabinogi to upgrade and then you are very strong. You think that you want to play the game well and then you can get the mabinogi money for your own. you can go to buy mabinogi gold alone and you can give some for your friends; it can make you very happy I think. As long as you play the game you can get the mabinogi online gold as the rewards in this game.


Blogger qinbincai123 said ... (22/4/12 9:49 pm) : 

My anchor off the cloddish shore,exultantly wxinzd81 your realm surveying,
and by your drifting ridges laying.
Wholesale New Era Hats
Cheap 59fifty Hats
Cheap New Era Hats
YMCMB Snapback Hats
Cheap Last Kings Snapback


post a comment