Tuesday, February 27, 2007

RIB Notes: The Joy - and Pain - of the Vocoder

Between the countless hours sacrificed at the altar of the Wii, or Netflix, or Jen, or podcasts, etc., there's been no blogging here in nearly two weeks. So all the little news items we email to ourselves during the day with the intention of blogging them at night have piled up, plus a rant or two we're now long past being bothered to write. So here's a quick roundup of some of it, which we'll dub the inaugural "RIB Notes":

Iron & Wine. New album "Shepherd's Dog" due this fall. "Our Endless Numbered Days" is burning a hole in our iPod. If AACs could warp from overuse, its days would indeed be numbered. We crack ourselves up. [Pitchfork]

We accidentally discovered that freakin' Hanson still exists. Their new album "The Walk" is out May 22. [Hanson.net]

Surprise! All of Nickelback's songs sound alike. [The Web Shite]

The Innocence Mission is playing Southpaw in Brooklyn. We'll never forget the poor suckers outside Fez with handwritten signs begging for tickets. They might have a small fan base, but IM hardly ever tours. And their definition of a tour? One date in NYC and a show in Philly. Get 'em while they're hot. [Ticket Web]

Still reading Jimmy McDonough's biography of Neil Young, called "Shakey". "Trans", Neil's much-loathed 1982 vocoder album that we had to fly to London to purchase and love pretty much unconditionally, despite its obvious faults, was recorded during the 18 months Neil couldn't leave the house while working on some outrageous physical therapy routine with his young spastically Cerebral Palsied, paraplegic son Ben and had none of his soul left for his music. We like the beats, we like the vocoder, we like the obvious Kraftwerk influence (slash ripoff). But the one element that made it so great has always seemed elusive. Until we read this quote from Neil Young, said on French TV in 1982, and we realized that element was sadness:

I think human emotion - and selling a sad personal story...it's valid, but it's been done so much...who cares? It's like Perry Como...it's like Frank Sinatra, it's way back there now. Now people are living on digital time, they need to hear something perfect all the time or they don't feel reassured everything's okay. Like when you get in an elevator and go up and down and all the numbers go by, everyone knows where they're going...And the drumbeats today, the computerized drumbeats? Everyone is right on the money. Everybody feels good. It's reassuring. I like that.

Electronic music is a lot like folk music to me...it's a new kind of rock and roll - it's so synthetic and antifeeling that it has a lot of feeling...

Like a person who can't cry. You know that they're crying inside and you look at them, and they have a stone face, they're looking at you, they would never cry. You feel more emotion from that person than you do from the person who is talking all the time.

So I think that this new music is emotional - it's very emotional - because it's so cold...I have my synthesizers and my computers and I'm not lonely.
Great book, great quote. Wonder if a teenaged Thom Yorke was watching. [Shakey on Amazon]

Oh, the new Innocence Mission CD came in the mail this week from Badman (they're shipping the vinyl next month). It won't be officially out for a couple weeks. It's very nice, very late-period IM, heavily Karen Peris and so light it sounds like it's about to float away. A good album, but a tad boring. Why can't my favorite bands replace their departed drummers? [We Walked in Song]

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