Archive for ‘Deep Cuts’

February 4, 2011

Formative Fridays: Keeping It Real w/Paul Weller

Every Friday I’d like to highlight an (older) artist that had an incredibly powerful, formative way with my listening habits and general music sensibilities. We’re talking Ultimate Emotional Impact. I’m not going to start this week with the first time I ever remember falling in love with music (for the curious, that was in 2001, while taking in Eric Clapton on his Derek and the Dominos sidetrack “Layla” with my new headphones & Sony Discman) or even my favorite band (that would be Blur and there’s much that’s going to be said about them elsewhere) but rather, focus on another influence that looms large over me even now.

It’s not much of a secret to the people that know me, this unpopular opinion: the Style Council is my favorite of Paul Weller’s musical efforts. That’s far more than British national treasure The Jam (they’re too… incoherent for me personally, I don’t know) and even his solo efforts, though I do find Wild Wood unbearably lovely because it throws into highlight my favorite thing about Weller- his voice. He can snarl like you’d expect Weller of The Jam to snarl, but he can also be impeccably tender on his own. The Style Council is like a weird experiment that falls in between the two poles of pub rocker and father of … mod pastoral soul, whatever it is they like to refer to Wild Wood as.

The Style Council’s overall output is an ultimately messy compilation of Paul’s influences- interests and whims- the band borrowed freely from soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, incorporating different styles and flavors before eventually taking a heavier synth-bent (it was Britain, and the 80s, that’s to be expected). Someone once said to me, “when the Style Council were bad they were very bad, but when they were good they were brilliant”, and I think it’s a pretty apt summary. I tend to overlook the embarrassing alleyways of their legacy because my favorite tracks are so affecting. Paul Weller himself believed in them- “I had a total belief in The Style Council. I was obsessed in the early years. I lived and breathed it all. I meant every word, and felt every action.”

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January 24, 2011

The Radio Dept.: A Tribute (Singles 2002-2010)

It wasn’t through record shops that I discovered great, unheard of, or on-the-cusp bands. I hear older adults talk about them with a lot of nostalgia. Listening to new records in the record booth around the corner, right? That was all a bit before my time. Just when I was becoming aware of music, I can remember the album stores were starting to close down. In my early teens Sam Goody went, and some other places of which I can no longer recall the names. Even other electronic stores with record departments like Circuit City started to drop off. I know that there are a handful of stubborn, small independent shops hanging on, if you dig around. There was even one by my old university, and I did frequent. Not as much as I should have, though, because I started to face the facts early by virtue of my youth. Shopping for physical CDs usually meant the limited selections Wal-Mart or Best Buy (the major electronic store holdout) or even Target had to offer. That was was I was used to, not record shops. I quickly began to think I was better off online, and with the MP3 format. MP3s by exciting, smaller-name, new artists were there to sample all across the blogosphere. I had just moved on from both a major teenybopper pop phase and a prolonged “classic rock only!” phase, I was sixteen, and I wanted new and different and challenging things. I could hear some great songs on the radio sometimes, but I wanted more.

A lot of other people were realizing the potential of the Internet, too. Let’s be honest, there was an idea that you could score some of the music for free, and that helped attract people my age. I was never a member of Napster, but when iPods rolled out, I had an early version: the iPod mini, and I used iTunes to fill it up. I also started frequenting an increasing number of music blogs. I got my first taste of independent artists. I started to realize the kinds of sounds and voices that moved me, I began to think about lyrics more than ever before and relate them to my life, my relationships. There was Air, Metric, Tegan and Sara, Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, Azure Ray, Belle & Sebastian, Beck, Stars, Cat Power, The Decemberists, Eisley, Rilo Kiley, Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, Kings of Convenience, The Lucksmiths, Mirah, The Shins, Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, Ryan Adams, Spoon, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and then Andrew Bird and Damien Rice and Interpol and José González and Sufjan Stevens. They became a huge deal. I carried them on my iPod wherever I went.

And you know, there was The Radio Dept. I am pretty sure they were my first, or at least one of the first I downloaded on a whim. After that, there was no going back.

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