I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was growing up, and gradually discovering music of all kinds to wiggle around to, one of the few bands that got the full fledged seal of approval from both my parents and us kiddos alike was the sunny, surf-pop rock sounds of The Beach Boys. They were catchy, and fun, and even popped up on Full House with Uncle-fucking-Jesse on the drums. Good, old-fashioned, wholesome rock and roll. Or maybe not.
So we’ve reached the end of another year, and we’re all a little older, a little wiser, and starting to go a little gray…at least I am. Looking back, it seems like a whole lot of terrible shit went down this year, and it most certainly did. Ebola is wreaking havoc in Africa and rearing its ugly mug stateside, we keep losing airplanes, there are naked pictures of everyone everywhere, the Cold War is beginning anew, and race relations seem to be in the same state that they were 50 years ago. It’s all a mess. And it’s enough to make you want to turn in and just escape the world. And to a degree, that’s what we do, and that’s what we’re all about. So, horrible introductions aside, I still consumed a lot of pop culture this year, and as to whether it served as some sort of escape or not doesn’t really matter. I still listened to it. I still watched it. I still read it. These are the things I liked the most…
A swirl of plunked synthesizer keys and distorted computer noises ooze and crash like cold, slowly moving tectonic plates, glaciers pushing against each other until the ice begins to crack, immovable giants locked in eternal conflict. Cold electronics. Icy beats. And a low and warm voice comes into play, slightly askew, slightly warbled, a protoplasmic element to warm this cold and frost laden mix. “Volcanoes (Slow Fade)” opens up the Eugene EP, the latest record from Brooklyn composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and electronic artist goste, and it sets the tone for what’s to come, a blending of the synthetic and the organic, a subtle and flowing mix of hot and cold sounds…digital folk…computerized Americana.
Covers are fun. There is something almost magical about listening to someone reinterpret another artist’s blood, sweat, and tears. What did that person get from the song that I didn’t? How will that person tweak and change things to make it his or her own? Will they be reverential of the source material, or breakdown and reassemble the work to make something entirely new? Will I like the covered version better than the original? Or will I feel that some songs are sacred and not to be trifled with? It doesn’t really matter. A good cover can be a fascinating artifact of pop culture, either as a reflection of the times or as something deeply personal to the cover artist. It’s also a wonderful signifier of how transcendent music can be, and how it touches our lives. In a way, it’s just passing down art, and stories, and dreams to the coming generations, a way to live forever. All music and art eventually become part of the cultural zeitgeist, part of the collective ether. It’s a way to communicate with our long lost elders, a bridge to the past, a tie to everything that came before.
Think of all the kids you grew up with. The ones taking music lessons after school. The kids tinkering away on the piano, practicing their recitals. The kids spending their afternoons learning the cello, or the violin, or the trumpet. The band dorks. The punk brats making a ruckus in their parents’ garages, banging and strumming away on their beginner’s drum kits and electric guitars. The younger brothers and sisters rifling through their older siblings’ record collections and singing along in their bedrooms. Think of those kids gathering together to create music, a circus folk rock troupe with flashes of Americana, post-punk, classic rock, new wave, and the Avant Garde all playing harmoniously like a choir of art school misfits. A saxophone here. A viola there. A grand aural collage of different sounds, textures, instruments, and influences. How glorious it must be. And so we have the self-titled debut album from Philadelphia’s i am Love, a collection of pop songs created by a vast array of instrumentation and open, bleeding hearts.