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Tag Archives: music

The Politics of Listening

I purchased Andrew Bird’s “Noble Beast” on Amazon MP3 a couple of days ago.  It is one of the most expertly crafted rock albums that I have heard.

Today I am listening to a live recording of a Spoon show.  Spoon is not a brilliant band by any means, but their second record, “Kill the Moonlight”, is also in my top 10 best albums from cover-to-cover that I have ever heard.  Seriously, it is great.  Listening to “Kill the Moonlight” gives me goosebumps.  There are so many moments of innovative brilliance on the record.  It is a shame that they have so far been unable to recapture that magic on subsequent albums.

I think many bands, relationships, painters, writers, etc. experience similar moments of temporary brilliance.  That is why all of Kurt Vonnegut’s books are not as good as Bluebeard.  His brilliance is not omnipresent in his art, but make no mistake about it – Vonnegut was brilliant.  He has a library of material that greatly exceeds the art of N’Sync.  He was a pro.  A lifelong devotee to his art.

The Rolling Stones have made a career out of playing “Satisfaction” and “Sympathy for the Devil” – both brilliant songs.  But the majority of their work doesn’t deserve a second look.  Same with U2, Radiohead, and Bruce Springsteen.  Their longevity is based more on moments of long-lost brilliance than it is on any sort of art.  If anything, these bands do a disservice to their art by not mixing it up more.

So where does that leave me?  I don’t know.  I don’t have a hit, so it’s hard to say.  Put my best song on the radio with a promotional machine behind it, and we’ll see where we stand.  Brilliant songs don’t need airplay to be brilliant, but without airplay, nobody will know they are brilliant.  And airplay is more politics than it is music.  It is marketing and hand-shaking.

I wish we lived in a truly capitalistic world where the best music, hair gel, and cell phones would be the ones with the biggest reach.  But we don’t.

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Guitar Lesson for "Boulder"

At the behest of my friend, producer, MBA-level-advisor, and guitar aficionado, Ryan, I am posting this guitar lesson for “Boulder”, a song off my band’s last record.  The song highlights the struggles of maintaining a long-distance relationship with a girl in Boulder, CO when I was living on the East Coast.  Those were good times, though.  Good times for America, I tell ya!  haha!  Listen to the original version here. And then learn the song on guitar:

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Yesterday, I jammed with Dave in his pal’s basement. We burned through about 6 tunes in 3 hours – mostly songs that have never been played outside of my bedroom and have been sitting on the backburner for years. It was great to give them a workout.

Dave is kicking out the beats behind the drum set, and is an idea machine. I don’t know if we will start a new band or whatever, but for now we are just enjoying each other’s art and making some good music.

This music thing is nonstop action. It’s an art, and like any good art, it never ends. It keeps growing and changing and driving me mad and making me happy and turning small moments into brilliant, life-changing memories. It’s nonstop, and I love it.

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What do you think of "Colleen"?

We have been diligently working on the new record with Noah (my brother and superb music producer) and I think we are at a point where I can start sharing some stuff.  This recording is still a rough mix and hasn’t been mastered yet, but it’s pretty cool, nonetheless.  What do you think?

Colleen Album Mix 2-8-09

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I Want to Be an Astronaut.

I used to want to be an astronaut, and I knew everything about astronauts and space. I knew all the planets, all the astronaut’s names, and the details of all of the famous space voyages. Then I wanted to be a scientist, a paleontologist, specifically, and I took it upon myself to learn everything I could about all of the dinosaurs, names, places, favorite foods, the size of their teeth, etc.

Somewhere around the time I went to college, I decided I wanted to be a politician. It’s not that there was any big issue like health care or immigration that I wanted to address; it was that the job of a politician is so damn fun! Basically, they are paid to be the rock stars of their field. The demands are manageable, and people listen to you when you talk. I really like it when people listen to me talk.

Now I want to be a touring musician who makes a living building websites. I want to play music by night and work in my pajamas by day. Making that work has been a balancing act since I left my cushy job at the U two years ago.

On the one hand, I need to make money. The problem with making money is that it generally is made on other people’s timetables and schedules. So, if a client needs a website built in 7 days, basically that means that I can’t play music for 7 days.

On the other hand, there are times when nobody is hiring me to do work, and I have all the time in the world to record and make music. But then there is a pressure burning in my stomach to make enough money to pay the rent.

The best of both worlds would be to make websites on a flexible schedule (i.e. give me a month to pull it off), while recording and playing music across the fine state of Minnesota and beyond.

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