The Gemini and I were going to do our Top Ten Songs of the Year, but what’s really happened is she’s going to be doing a Top Ten Songs in a two part installment of Ten Songs Each, which Equals Twenty, But Whatever.
And to be difficult, I’m going to do my Top Music of the Year, which really is vague and trying and will probably be limited to Five Events. So, if you average out our Top Ten, it will become apparent that we went to a liberal arts college where we weren’t exactly required to take math, so long as we passed out of the basic math exam. By “pass out” I do not mean the Edie Sedgwick kind of passing out, but I mean qualifying to not take a class.
#5 begins with a little trip I took to the Newport Folk Festival in August of this year. Turns out, becoming friends with famous people will get you into a pretty expensive folk festival for free. Sadly, this means wrangling people into going with you who have cars, and these people tend to make dramatic declarations like, “Oh, God, you’re just using me for my car! Jesus Christ, why couldn’t we go to Newport on Saturday? Andrew Bird was playing then.”
“Yeah, but [name sanitized] is playing today, and he’s the one who got us comp tickets,” you may reply, slowly losing your patience, wishing you hadn’t weaned yourself off Ativan the week before. “And anyway, the LEVON HELM BAND is playing.”
Take a load off, Annie.
And I have to say, there is nothing more magical than the sun setting over a beautiful state park, seaside, as a legendary dude (Levon Helm) plus company all sing “We Shall Be Released.” Plus, this provides ample opportunity for Handsome Beard Sighting, which leads me to…
#4 …Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I have this friend (Olivia, I’m looking at you) who gets really mad every time indie couples put the lyrics to “Home” up on their facebook statuses. She seems really intent on disbelieving that people can, in fact, love each other in a “chocolate candy, Jesus Christ” way. She doesn’t want to believe that whenever 20 year olds fall in love that the concept of home suddenly becomes a place where one is with the one that one loves. And nevermind that this song is written about a couple who are now broken up (Alex and Jade of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, to be exact).
But damn it, I like it. When I saw Alex (lead singer) walking around at the Newport Folk Festival, I was stunned by his beauty. He had that sort of bearded, open shirt quality I seem to like, which is upsetting to like and see everywhere, like being in a candy store but with no money, and so you have to steal the candy, but then you get caught and go to court where your parents are SHAMED by your candy stealing. Yeah, anyway, the point is, the criticism against the happy-go-lucky tunes of former drug addicts who find Socialist Jesus with a guitar pick and a flower– you know, that kind of band– all of this may be valid. But damn, doesn’t it feel good, like drinking the Kool Aid. Or making love to the Kool Aid Man.
#3 And in that same vein are Diamond Doves. The band was founded by the “Dearland” part of Elvis Perkins in Dearland. The core consists of a Scorpio, a Libra, and a Gemini (plus some others, including an adorable LADY VIOLINIST). I’m convinced that really great bands tend to have air and water signs together, and if you think that’s bullshit, you can continue to think so and likely be right. But for those of you who still believe in the Beatles, my theory is supported by their existence. And Sleater-Kinney. And Elvis Perkins in Dearland, for that matter.
Anyway, here’s my real point about Diamond Doves. I just plain like them. I traveled two hours to go to a Dearland concert in Woodstock just because I wanted to see Diamond Doves as the opening band. I stood up and stared at them and just thought, “Yeah, they’re going to be big.” Besides the astrological underpinnings here, we’ve got a perfect mix of beards and flannel, and for some reason, this has lately proven to be successful. I think it’s because sometimes we just want to imagine that after playing the harmonium or whatever bands like these do, we’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, someone in the band will go cut wood for us and start a fire.
I’d like to think Diamond Doves would do that.
#2 Janelle Monae makes me really happy. Sadly, though, she’s making a lot of white girls happy because finally a lot of white girls have a token black female musician to listen to. It makes white girls feel not racist. This is sad. They say things to other white girls, like, “Oh my God, have you gotten the new Janelle Monae album? She makes me wanna dance!”
And then, the white girls go into corners that are full of sawdust and greed or whatever it is White America looks like, and they dance by themselves and start to wear cooler clothes and do their hair better, maybe. And that’s what they do. They say, “I just wanna dance!” And maybe they keep their hips very still and bob their chins instead. And they feel proud of themselves. And they blog about it.
Janelle Monae does not make me want to dance. I dance to everything, including Janelle Monae. But she does make me want to put her on EVERY MIX CD EVER. That’s the thing about a good musician. If you want to stay alive, you need someone who will get your blood pumping. Maybe for aversively racist white girls in New England, who I encounter all the time, maybe that means “dancing” for them. But really, they should just be listening to Janelle Monae because her voice cuts through the ice, and she’s full of feeling, and FEELINGS MATTER.
#1 is for my heart, which is Kristin Hersh. She has a pretty cool deal. Since she’s been playing music with a band since she was fourteen, she knows the ins and outs of how much the music business sucks. So, she gives away a lot of music and demos and works-in-progress via CASH Music. Then she does things like writes books, which have codes in them to download even more music.
When people talk about Kristin Hersh, they always say she’s a mother of four, like that’s somehow supposed to stop the music she hears (literally, she hears the music, and then she learns to play it– some people think it’s schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but I think it’s a gift). Anyway, this MOTHER OF FOUR writes lots of music, and she also recently released a memoir called Rat Girl about her time being a young musician and then pregnant really young and having a manic depressive episode or a dozen, and it’s really nice. I read it all in one day.
Kristin reading from her book (a section about music journalists!) and then singing “Your Ghost”:
It’s nice to love musicians who write well. It’s also nice to love musicians who just want to be DOPER people and who aren’t concerned about selling beautifully constructed memoirs. But the poetics of Rat Girl really almost made me cry, and I don’t cry for just anything.
So, there you go! My Top Five of this Year. Sorry for not mentioning Kanye, but it’s just– I know what The Gemini has planned. I’d better let her explain for herself.