Who could ask for anything more?

Contrary to what I’ve said about being in a curmudgeony, "turn that crap down and get off my lawn" rut, I’m feeling very new-musicy lately. I'm even thinking of getting one of those new-fangled iPod dealies.

Royal with no cheese.
A coworker friend of mine recently came back from a week-long lox-and-kimchi bacchanal in Nova Scotia. Along with a pleasing redolence of back bacon, she brought with her a CD called “Good Enough Day” by a guy named Royal Wood. Wayne and Garth-esque snickers aside, this guy is teh awesome, eh.

As with most new music discoveries, I’m trying to resist being overly analytical and just enjoy the visceral pleasures. Even though I’ve acknowledged that pop music is a palimpsest, I try to avoid The Player-like comparisons (“It’s ________ meets ________ with a dash of __________.”) when describing a new artist’s style. Still, the gear-head/gourmand in me (who once rhapsodized about the buttery cinnamon toast of Nora Jones’ voice) can’t help himself:

Royal Wood’s music is like a Ferrari V-12, forged of applewood smoked bacon and fine-wale corduroy, loping along at about 6,000 RPMs on a brisk but sunny October day.

For those who insist on citations of influences and comparisons, I can hear bits of early Billy Joel infused with latter-day Finn Brothers harmonies—particularly in the way he layers his voice against dense, resonant piano chords. Some artists just manage to be appealing on a level I can’t quite define; that’s certainly the case here. Whatever it comes from, I’m pretty hopped up on it lately. Especially Juliet. Not least because his lyrical chops are just as impressive—in virtuosity and variety—as his musicianship. Check out his myspace page for yourself and see if you don’t agree.

“Oh, irony! We haven’t that here since about ’83…”
In other new-music news… you might recall that I participated in Stennie’s CD Mix Challenge. One of the categories was “kick-ass cover,” for which I offered up Prince’s “Kiss” by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise.

After listening to the eleven other mixes, I noticed that covers seem to fall into three categories. There’s the basic credible cover: Tina Turner’s version of “The Bitch is Back” or Joe Cocker covering “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.” Then there’s the really cool/interesting/off-kilter readings of an already great song: Guster doing Talking Heads’ “(Nothing But) Flowers,” the Bad Livers drenching Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in a deliriously viscous twang and Nouveau Vague’s fun, supper-club send-up of “Dancing with Myself.” Then, just around the corner, lurking in doorway waiting to bonk you on the head and steal your dignity, there’s the third, more subversive category—the ultra-ironic cover.

At face value, these seem innocent enough:
Oh, Robbie Fulks, you clever bastard, you. The way you do Cher’s “Believe,” that’s just too funny. And you, Tobias Froberg, of the dry Scandinavian wit, making Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around” uniquely your own. You guys are a riot. Well, I’m here to tell you that a riot can sometimes be, as Inspector Kemp would say, an ugly sink. Because, no matter how much hipster cred you imbue it with, when people hear me humming or whistling or, god forbid, singing one of these shiny-cheesy earworms, they don’t know that I’ve got your version in my head. All they see/hear is me diddy-bopping past their cube going “Do you be-LEEEEVE in life after lo-uve?” When they whip around, eyes wide with horror and disgust, it’s pretty hard to say “No, no, I was doing the Robbie Fulks version. See, uh, it’s ironic…” Still, I don’t mean to complain. A little discreet tongue biting is a small price to pay for such musical nutty goodness.

“Well, then, I guess I am tellin’ you what you want to hear.”
Finally, a quick plug for the third prong on the new-to-me musical trident: Pandora internet radio. Even though it’s essentially the blank-meets-blank approach, it works well. You type in an artist or a song you like, it breaks it down to determine a profile, then generates a playlist of music with elements in common. Unlike the “you might also like” feature on iTunes or Amazon, you get to hear the entire song. Which is nice. And you can tweak the “stations” you create by giving a thumbs-up or -down to each song, which the program uses to recalibrate it’s offerings. It’s pretty neat.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

...for which I offered up Prince’s “Kiss” by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise.

Oh... that cover proves that Tom still had what it took and what originally made my little 7 yr-old heart flutter... even though I wasn't sure why it was fluttering. I'd still be willing to send him my Easy Bake Oven to prove my undying luv.