Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What it takes

I'm pretty picky when it comes to music, but for weird reasons. I adore hard rock (some would say metal) bands, alternative, pop, and world music bands alike as long as they meet the following rules:

  1. Audible and intelligible lyrics (I get quite annoyed by songs that aren't articulate enough for me to hear the lyrics, forcing me to go look lyrics up online)
  2. Lyrics that I relate to and/or are fantastic pieces of poetry that truly capture what they're trying to get across (examples: Once soundtrack, Aqualung's first CD, Relient K's MmHmm, Simon and Garfunkel)
  3. No long solos. OAR and jam bands are not my style.
  4. Sometimes catchiness and beat, but not necessarily. This is lower on the priority list than lyrics, but if a song has can't get it out of your head catchiness or an awesome beat I sometimes make an exception from the lyrics rules.
  5. If I already love a band, and a song on their new CD has unintelligible lyrics, I will be disappointed, but still love the band. If, however, their once-poetic lyrics are now all cliches, I show no mercy. (i.e. the new Aqualung CD... a couple good songs but mostly eww)
  6. Very little swearing. It's not that it offends me, it's just that it makes the song seem less like a work of art and more vulgar and ugly.
What makes music "good" for you?
Mychal will now respond with a six-page essay, and that will just be the abstract for his thesis someday.


  1. Oh music, what makes me love you? As you know, I love good lyrics, but that doesn't mean everything, really, because I also enjoy instrumental and semi-instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, and The Album Leaf. The quietLOUDquiet dynamics are really something I am privy to in the whole post-rock scene.

    Lately, I've been all up ons Yo La Tengo and Wilco. Mostly Yo La Tengo. I love the genre hopping the band does. I'm stopping to gravitate more and more to genre melds of all sorts... In Yo La Tengo's latest album (one of my favorite titles ever, "I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Kick Your Ass), they cover pretty much every genre I'm interested in: hard rock, swing, chamber pop, ambient pop, NOISE ROCK, and more...

    Oh how I love noise rock, the swelling layers of fuzzy guitars swirling everywhere and it is so good. You can just get lost in it. For this, I recommend My Bloody Valentine's album Loveless. So good. But you won't like it because the lyrics are purposely unintelligible, the band wanted the vocal track to be just another instrument in its wall of sound.

    What else? Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of my favorite lyrical albums of all time. It's everything Bright Eyes tries and usually fails (fails admirably, but still fails) to be. It's cathartic, poetic, beautiful (sometimes even grotesque), and musically, it's stunning, traversing from just him and his guitar to a full band using things like a musical saw and a bass guitar played with a bow. PURE AWESOME. His (Jeff Mangum's) stream of consciousness songwriting is so dense and amazing, everyone can get something different from it.

    What else, what else? Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Fantastic album bound together by a unique a wonderful concept of radio communication and the breakdown thereof. That's something I've been getting into as of late, the album as a cohesive whole. Weezer's album Pinkerton fits into here, plus the fact that it's just plain awesome to listen to.

    I do like artists and bands who show some sort of technical proficiency at what they do. Not just being able to play to play their instruments well, but being able to compose properly. Sufjan Stevens is probably the best example of this. I guess you can add The Polyphonic Spree, because having 20+ members in the band just requires some amazing compositional skills. Little known band Bedroom Walls also fits in here. Also The Arcade Fire. And Broken Social Scene.

    I also enjoy the occassional singer-songwriter. Rosie Thomas is amazing. And stripped down Sufjan Stevens a la Seven Swans (YOU MUST GET THIS ALBUM. GET SEVEN SWANS IMMEDIATELY). Elliott Smith.

    And I enjoy fun music... Ben Kweller, Ben Folds, Tenacious D, etc.

    And I never forget the roots, The Beatles will always be my favorite band. Floyd. The Stones. Led Zeppelin. The Allman Brothers Band.

    I guess that's why when I look for new music, I look for something that is different, experimental, and genre-bending (And this is not just limited to the rock scene, for hip-hop there's J Dilla's album Donuts, which is pretty much the pinnacle of experimental hip-hop and then there's Daft Punk for techno...there are parts of me that maintain that Daft Punk is the only band we need in this world, and people will laugh but I'll throw Hellogoodbye in here too, because they awesomely mix together electronica with power pop. It's an amazing combo). Because if you are going to stick to formula (ahem, Nickelback, one of my least favorite bands ever), there are bands that did it before and better.

    I think I covered everything. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

  2. What you should have gleaned from that comments is that you should immediately acquire through any means necessary Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans
    and Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I think these are both albums you will not regret having.