Thursday, April 26, 2012

April Roundup: This Thing Called Life

In recent months, I have intended to come up with some sort of meaningful summation of what has been going on in these roundup posts.  Sometimes it's easy.  Something's going on, and it just comes out.  Other times, a voice, which sounds suspiciously like that guy Jeff from Coupling, repeats "come on, write something sensible!" over and over.  This shuts down everything.

But, things have happened.  The elephant in the room, of course, is that my longtime feline buddy Mork passed on last week, and I'm still having a hard time.  I've talked about it here and there, although I think that publicly, I played down the gravity of his condition.  Maybe I was reluctant to accept it myself.  Regardless, I don't want this to become a blog about me grieving for a pet.  I will say, though, that he and I were strangely and uniquely bonded.  Thinking back on it, I think that he is the only being that was still around from the the life I led in the late 90s.  He was, in Lost terminology, my constant. Now that he is gone, I acutely feel has absence in the house. 

In other news, I had over 100 students compete in solo and ensemble contest last weekend, and came away with 60 first divisions and 25 second divisions.  Considering when I came to the program, there were only 75 students total, this is pretty phenomenal.  What's even more phenomenal is watching students hear their musical voice blossom due to the work that they have invested in themselves, some for the first time.

Its human nature to compartmentalize.  I did not feel the sorrow of Mork's passing when that astonished 6th grader proudly announced to me that they had gotten a 1.  Nor did I feel any gratification when I came home expecting to be greeted by a longtime companion whose lights were quickly dimming only to find that the house is empty.  The piece to work on in all of this is, I think, to realize that these feelings and sensations are not separate at all, but are part of a unified experience that we call, in the words of Prince, "This thing called Life." 

Meaningful?  I don't know - that's your experience.  I just like music.  A lot happened this month on this front, too....

Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery: Beal's field recordings from a lonely apartment in somewhere, Chicago brims with vision and potential. I'm really looking forward to his upcoming "junkyard techno" project.

"The Year in Rush" Sub-Roundup
Rush - Hemispheres: Rush invested a  lot into Hemispheres, and the result is nothing short of staggering. It is probably, in the classic sense, their progressive rock masterpiece.

Rush - Permanent Waves: I really, really enjoyed going back to this one. Like 2112, I kind of did not want to let it go.

Rush - Moving Pictures: Its pretty amazing that I can still get so much joy out of listening to this album. Although I will admit the first few tracks might be little threadbare for me, once Limelight kicks in, I'm totally hooked.

Rush - Signals: Rush is able to change their style dramatically from one album to the next, yet still sound identifiably like themselves. Signals is just the right mixture of sameness and difference to follow-up Moving Pictures.

Field Music - Plumb: This brilliantly complex, adventurous, sincere, and accessible album is presently contender for album of the year. After almost three months in rotation, I purposefully took it out so that I can enjoy coming back to it later.

The Grays - Ro Sham Bo: An absolute power pop classic. Worth every penny you will spend tracking it down and buying it, which is much easier to do today than it was in 1996.

The Soul of Mbira - This great collection of Shona Mbira music reminds me how much I miss my ethnomusicological studies. There is a depth to this music that just can't be gleaned out of context.

Men at Work - Business as Usual: If you have an ear for the 80s album, Business as Usual holds up pretty well. Perhaps it didn't change the world, but it did define a time.

Spock's Beard - Beware of Darkness: Spock's Beard was still finding their way on their sophomore release, but it sows all the seeds that would soon sprout into their idiosyncratic brand of progressive rock. The Doorway is a particularly fine moment.

Miike Snow - Happy to You: Their sophomore release is more quirky and symphonic in scope, but I'm not sure that the songwriting, which is what I liked so much about their debut, is quite as solid. That album took quite bit of simmering to reveal itself, though, so I should probably give this one a chance.

Grimes - Visions: Considering how early it is in Boucher's career, Visions is a solid collection of synth-pop.  On its own, I'm not totally convinced that it lives up to all the hype, but I have high expectations of her future work.

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine: Reznor was doing some pretty innovative and interesting things in 1990 to bridge the gap between techno, industrial and punk. I just don't think that I have enough angst anymore to keep up with Reznor's self-flagellating melodrama from this period, though (if I ever did).

Junius - Reports from the Threshold of Death: Junius crosses boundaries in a way that has piqued the interest of fan bases that are usually quite insular. Metal, prog, shoegaze, synth-rock, and a myriad of other styles merge seamlessly under the vaguely Simon Lebon-esque vocals of Joseph Martinez.

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet: I've been on board with The Mars Volta since their debut, but have had reservations about nearly every album since. Noctourniquet is the first in a very long time that has really stuck with me.

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