A well-known quote, typically misattributed to Albert Einstein (but likely originating with Rita Mae Brown), says that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. I’m pretty sure I’m not insane – who can really tell these days? – so, in the words of Castor Troy pretending to be Sean Archer, “When all else fails – fresh tactics!” (Side note: What’s not to love about a movie where John Travolta out-overacts Nicolas Cage?)
How this blog came to exist is set out here. Since writing those words, I’ve learned a few things. The most important of those is who I am as a music writer. I knew I wasn’t a critic – my pretensions have their limits, plus you have to be a pretty enormous asshole to have no musical ability yet still think you can tell people with such ability how to do their jobs. (Of course, such people do exist, I’m just not one of them. It’s a small victory.) But what was I? As it turns out, I’m a memoirist telling my story through the music I love (and sometimes don’t). (Rob Sheffield is possibly the master of this form.) Those are the pieces I most enjoy writing, and the ones that people engage with (which my recent George Jones/Wilfred Poirier post really brought home to me). So, let’s steer into that skid.
This started as a place to write about older albums I’d never listened to before. It was fun in the beginning, but it soon became clear that, no matter how many classic records came from people like Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan and Bob Marley, I didn’t have much to say about them after the first or second go-around. On the other hand, I have lots to say about singles from the 1970s and 1980s, and weird cover versions, and why Olivia Rodrigo is sort of awesome. Every Pazz and Jop/Not the Pazz and Jop post is one less chance to write about my irrational love for “Thunder Island” by Jay Ferguson (as well as to share some awesome Jay Fergusion trivia that I just learned).
So, that’s what this blog will now be – whatever I feel like writing about on a given day. There will be more Classic Songs of My Youth Revisited and more Cover Version Showdowns. There will be stories about songs that connect me to my daughters, and about the songs that got me through my divorce, and about songs that I love without a grand thematic connection to anything else. And, yes, I’m still going to work through the Pazz and Jop, but I’ll probably skip or bunch together the records I have less personal feelings about (save for one more Stevie Wonder post, since I already wrote that.) It will be personal and sometimes messy, like the best music often is. I am, at all times, a work in progress, and this space reflects that. I’ll try not to make it too awkward for anyone, but make no promises (my ex-wife probably shouldn’t stop by here), and you can always skip along without reading further if I go too far for your tastes. I failed (in part – there’s probably a talent issue in play here, too) at writing fiction because I wasn’t honest on the page. I’m too old now to give a fuck, and a blog is hardly the place to start censoring yourself.
I hope you’ll stick around.
Now, to my favourite music of last month. I was in a bit of a rut in September, revisiting music I already love more than fresh listens. Yet, in my creative morass, I still found some gems. Edgar Winter gets this month’s photo for catching me completely by surprise and putting Dan Hartman back on my radar.
- Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968)
- The Edgar Winter Group – They Only Come Out at Night (1972) (My favourite Spotify suggestion of the month. It’s only one record, but they definitely feel under-appreciated.)
- Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! (1979) (A bit of a cheat, since I probably already knew three-quarters of the songs, but too good to leave off.)
- The Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It (1980) (A non-stop party, and another band that deserves a revisit. Also, R.I.P. Ranking Roger.)
- J.J. Cale – Shades (1981)
- Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (1987)
- Julian Cope – Saint Julian (1987) (I had completely forgotten Cope even existed, but tracks from this record deservedly received heavy play on CFNY when this came out.)
- New Order – Republic (1993)
- Alex Chilton – Set (1999) (Released everywhere but the U.S. as the much cooler named “Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy”. American Puritanism triumphs again.)
- Phoenix – Alphabetical (2004)
- Lo-Fang – Blue Film (2014) (I had been wondering why he only released one album, only to discover this morning that a new record just dropped after 8 years. Very excited to check it out.)
- Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar (2018)
- Slow Pulp – Moveys (2020)
- Stella Donnelly – Flood (2022)
- Tim Hicks – Talk to Time (2022) (No idea why Spotify suggested this, but I’m glad they did. Solid Canadian country music, with a real sense of place. “Whiskey Does” knocked me out.)
- Martin Courtney – Magic Sign (2022)
- Kiwi jr. – Chopper (2022)
- Santigold – Spirituals (2022)
- The Wonder Years – The Hum Goes on Forever (2022)
- Mura Masa – demon time (2022) (Includes possibly my favourite song of the year, “prada (i like it)”.)