Category Archives: music

Procrastination Nation

I’m a procrastinator. A big one. And I don’t know if this is true about others who are prone to procrastination, but I am more likely to put off doing something if the task involves subject matter that I’m really interested in. Take the Sunday New York Times, for instance. I often read the sections I’m least interested in first, and “save” the sections I’m most looking forward to reading. This means that I am about 12 weeks behind in reading the Sunday Times Magazine and have fallen into the borderline (?) obsessive-compulsive habit of saving the Book Review and Formerly-Named-Week-in-Review sections for the following Sunday, at which point I read both right before I take a look at that day’s paper. (Yes, it can be exhausting being me. I’m sure it’s even more tiring living with me, but you’d have to ask my wife.)

Now, I’m sure you’re asking (that is, if you are still on this page): What does this have to do with music, specifically as it relates to this particular blog that Tim and I are starting? Well, for nearly two weeks I’ve been intending to write about REM, specifically the band’s decision to call it quits after 30-odd years of playing music together. I’ve put off this effort for a number of reasons—none of which have to do with the hubristic notion that I’ll be writing anything profound or different. Rather, I’ve put off this idea because I’ve been looking forward to it and because, well, I do have some things to say. I’m just not ready to say them yet. Because it’s something that interests me. (Again, exhausting.)

But, I don’t want you, dear reader, to go away empty handed. That is to say, I want you to come away from this post with something more than a handle on my neuroses, so I thought that since it’s the beginning of fall, now would be a good time to offer up a few recommendations for new music that has caught my attention. (And lest you worry that I’m not interested in this post, understand that I intended to do this last week.)

Matt’s picks

  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Hysterical
    These guys made a big splash in 2005 with their self-produced, self-released eponymous album (that was really quite, quite good), followed that with a mediocre second album a few years later, and have now atoned for their sophomore slump with this infectious, shimmery release.
  • Beruit, The Rip Tide
    Yes, this album sounds like just about everything else these guys have done, but that’s not necessarily bad, is it? Melodic, eclectic poppy fun.
  • Marsalis & Clapton, Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues
    I mean, why not? Two of the masters jamming together…what’s not to like?
  • Tony Bennett, Duets II
    Ok, I need to explain this one. I don’t really care for Tony Bennett (I’m a Sinatra guy) and I’m usually suspicious of these duet efforts (unless it’s, like, Armstrong and Fitzgerald), but after reading Gay Talese’s profile of Bennett in the New Yorker, I was intrigued enough to sample a track on iTunes, and damn if I wasn’t impressed with Bennett and Lady GaGa’s version of “The Lady Is A Tramp.” Out of pure snobbery, I had never listened to Lady GaGa before, but she can sing, really sing, and you can tell that she and Bennett hit it off. (And this was the subject of Talese’s piece.) Now, I’m not sure the entire album, is worth a buy recommendation, but this track certainly is.

Pure Pop for Now (or is it, Then?) People

Last week Nick Lowe came out with a new album called That Old Magic, and it’s really good. I’ve been a fan of Lowe since his first solo album, which was released in Britain as Jesus of Cool but was retitled for the American market as Pure Pop for Now People. This was 1978, and as a college student who aspired to be cool, I found Lowe’s music just the ticket. It was melodic, clever, ironic, and poppy.  One song on Pure Pop is called “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” while another is about a woman eaten by her dachshund.  Lowe also wrote “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” and produced several Elvis Costello albums. As an iconoclast, Nick Lowe knew how to have fun.

In more recent years, beginning with his 1994 album, The Impossible Bird, Lowe has been writing and singing songs that evoke Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, and his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash.  This is Lowe in a more reflective, wistful, even soulful mode.  More lounge crooner than New Wave rocker—and a good deal older (he is now 62)—this Nick Lowe is still completely immersed in pop music.  It’s just that the vantage point and emotional perspective have shifted. Like his previous four albums, That Old Magic is filled with longing and tinged with the blues, including an awareness of what it means to grow old as a pop singer.

You can read about That Old Magic and Lowe’s career in this New York Times piece, or listen to Terry Gross’ interview of him, which aired this past week on NPR and features an in-studio performance with Lowe covering several songs.

And on the subject of old pop music cycling into the new, you don’t want to miss Gay Talese writing in The New Yorker on Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Pure pop traveling across the generations, sped by desire.  (Unfortunately, if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you won’t have full access to Talese’s article.)

 

Tweeting 88 Keys

Ross Common Heads Pavlos Sfyroeras and Maria Hatjigeorgiou, Professor Bettina Matthias and MCFA Events/Administrative Coordinator Shannon Bohler-Small organized a small post-concert reception following the Paul Lewis piano recital. This reception was exclusively for the students in Matthias’ first year seminar class “The Cultural History of the Piano.”

We tweeted a small amount of the conversation (below) that transpired between pianist Lewis and the students. What would YOU have liked to ask Paul Lewis?

Paul Lewis and Live Program Notes

Our colleagues at MusicaViva (Australia) presented Paul Lewis this summer, and produced a series of “live program notes” to accompany his recital. They offer great insight into the works he will be performing tonight.

Introducing Paul Lewis and his program

Mozart: Adagio in B minor K. 540

Schumann: Fantasie in C major op 17

Liszt: Vallée d\’Obermann

Piano Sonata no 21 in C major: op 53 \’Waldstein\’

And don’t forget to visit our event page for Paul’s bio and other concert information. See you tonight at 7:30!