I will always remember my last shopping experience inside an HMV store, but not for sentimental reasons. I had gone to do a bit of Christmas shopping with a friend in Wood Green. My friend needed to buy the latest Scissor Sisters album as a secret santa present for someone at work. It wasn’t on the shelves so we asked one of the friendly staff to have a look in the stock room. It wasn’t in stock but we were told we could order it and it would probably take about 16 days to be delivered. So while in the shop, I bought it off Amazon using my phone, and I was emailed shortly after to be told it would be with me the next day, postage free. I had bought something in the shop, but not from it – which felt both wrong and slightly surreal. I half expected to be taken away by metaphysical security guards and thrown down an MC Esher staircase.
Paul Buchanan – Mid Air
Jason Lytle – Dept. of Disappearance
I’m not cool enough to do predictions. I have no idea who the hot acts of 2013 are going to be, and I don’t know if I want to know. Let’s just say if something as earth-shattering as ‘Call Me Maybe’ is released this year, I’d rather have no inkling whatsoever that it is about to happen.
After my last article about combining records with parsnips or whatever, I started to think about why it is that we too often enjoy music in tandem with other activities. For me and most people I know, recorded music generally serves as a soundtrack or background noise for commuting, reading a book or cooking and eating dinner. Even amongst those of us who claim to be real enthusiasts of music, it seems that it is rarely given our undivided attention. I think this is something that differentiates music from how we enjoy other art forms: people do not, generally speaking, go an art gallery and eat soup whilst looking at the exhibits. And unless of course you are me, researching my next hilarious article, it’s a safe assumption to say no one goes the theatre to watch Titus Andronicus with an iPod pumping Kasabians into their left lughole.
Ushered in during the formative years of popular music by early pioneers like The Beatles and The Stones, the album took its place as the modus operandi of the serious musicians of the time. While the single — pressed on 7″ vinyl, three minutes in length, cheap to produce and perfect for radio play — dominated the commercial music world, the album was developing, slowly, into the artistic form of choice. Factors such as the greater length, more freedom to play around, and less pressure to deliver something radio-friendly led to the 12″ long-player format becoming a hotbed of creativity, where artists were given greater licence to stamp their identity and artistic statement onto the piece. The same factors also led to ‘Wild Honey Pie’ and Ronnie Wood’s solo career, but that’s not important right now.
Now this might seem terribly pretentious, but I was considering writing an article on my favourite record (or at least the record that has been a consistent favourite for the best part of a year) and decided that my words could not do it justice. That to try and pin its beauty down with words would risk cheapening it somewhat. I remembered a story I once heard of a Zen Buddhist monk who offered the chance to one of his novice monks to accompany him on his evening walk. The only condition was that the novice remained silent for the duration. One day, a novice volunteered to accompany the old master on a fine, warm evening. The sun was about to set. As the two monks stopped on a hillside to watch the evening sky, the novice remarked “what a beautiful sunset.” After that walk the young novice was never chosen to accompany his master again. When another monk enquired why, as this seemed a little harsh, the old monk replied “because he did not actually see the sunset, he only saw the words.”
Here at Album Corner we were all saddened to hear of the passing of REM on Wednesday. So I’ve cobbled together a few of their finer, perhaps less well-known moments for your perusal, and it’d be lovely if you could submit a few of your favourites too.
Continuing our double album theme, this an article about a double album I really like. Warning: This article is perilously close to being Proper Music Journalism. For this I apologise and I can only work harder in the future on ridding Album Corner of such things.
Yeah, yeah, I know that Exile In Guyville isn’t generally considered a double album. But as recently discussed by my Album Corner colleague Mr Clayton, the boundaries of what constitutes a double record have been blurred ever since the advent of the CD, and are being deconstructed even further by the rise of digital music. I think that since our conceptions about what “an album” is in the first place tend to come from the vinyl age, it’s a reasonable argument to make that anything that can’t fit onto a single 12″ can be classed as a double. Seem fair?
Also, I really wanted to write about Exile In Guyville.
I’m going to get this out of the way, right at the beginning of my Album Corner career. The story that follows is of my most shameless indier-than-thou brag: a three-word comment of such colossal pomposity that I have turned crimson at my desk at the very thought of it being set down here for public consumption. In retrospect, it simultaneously defined and catalysed the decline of my musical preciousness. Most importantly though, it was the moment when I saw that nobody really gives a toss about the records you own. And happily, it also involves all the contributing members of this blog.
Mike Macfarlane makes Spicy Parsnip Soup with Richard and Linda Thompson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
When you are cooking up a nice meal for friends, family or even a candlelit dinner for one, you might have a condiment or two, and if you are into your wine or beer then you may even carefully choose an accompanying beverage. But how much thought goes into our dinnertime music, if we choose to have any at all? At most restaurants the choice is usually generic or worse still, wholly inappropriate: either a play-it-safe cocktail of Zero 7 and Moby on constant loop, or the attendant barman’s iPod on shuffle, segueing Sneaker Pimps seamlessly into The Oasis. This is understandable as restaurants have an awful lot of other shit to worry about come service time, but in your own home with your own choice of table guests, there is really no excuse for you to be so lazy.