Monday, October 26, 2009

Music To My Ears

My brother,  Sean, always told me that music was most influential in his life during his college years. He specifically mentioned the Smashing Pumpkin's album Siamese Dream, which he happened to give me right before I myself flew the nest. (Sorry if that reference dates you, Bro.)

I've always loved music, and there were definitely moments in high school where I would listen to Sigur Ros alone in a car in the rain and begin to ask myself questions like "What does it all mean?!" So whether or not I was affected by music was never a question, but how I came across music, well that's different.

As of yet, my musical education has been predominately been courtesy of Sean. (Although Christine and Ryan have made their substantial contributions as well. Ry got me into Pandora and Chris introduced me to the band Keane, to name a few.)

But Sean has done a lot that has drastically shaped my musical inclinations. Before I started my freshman year in High School he made me a mix (one of many to come.) It had The Thrills, Bill Withers, Gomez, Modest Mouse, The White Stripes and the Pixies on it. I distinctly remember sitting in the passenger seat of his old explorer when he said "The Pixies are old school. If you walk in there on your first day knowing the Pixies, you'll impress some people." (The notion of pop-culture knowledge being of any importance is very big in my family and subsequently the friends I now surround myself with, and it might have something to do with the fact that I much prefer the pink triangles in Trivial Pursuit to the green ones, and that I write a pop-culture-obsessed blog.) When I got my first iPod he made a 7-disc mix for me. It had a little bit of everything. A musical starter kit, if you will. Through out the next four years I started developing my own tastes and continued taking recommendations from Sean, and later my best friend Lauren. The two of them encouraged me to play the guitar and explore singing, which added a whole new connection to music for me.

My junior and senior year of high school I looked forward to finding music that would impress my brother as much as it impressed me. His birthday gifts from me for the last few years have been mixes, that I can safely say have improved with each year as my ear for music has matured. Actually, if we're being honest, I wanted him to like the mixes, but also to stump him on the artists and/or find obscure tracks. I haven't been entirely successful there, but I get closer and closer every year, and his birthday is coming up so we'll see what happens in November!

Now that I'm on my own, I continue to take recommendation from friends, but I am a lot more proactive on the music front. I guess the internet as a whole plays an enormous part in that. Between Twitter's #musicmonday, Myspace Music, Imeem, Lastfm, Hype Machine, Pandora, and postings on other blogs and facebook, I feel like I have all the music I could ever want at my fingertips.

It's only now dawning on me that perhaps my time for influential music has come, considering the majority of my blog posts have been music related. And the fact that I am just about always listening to music when I'm at home.

So after reading all of that I suppose you might deserve a little multi-media goodness, no?

My newest music/blog obsession would have to be the take away shows from La Blogotheque. French filmmaker Vincent Moon started filming the take away shows back in 2006 and now has over 90 of them. They're single take guerrilla-filmmaking style live shows with indie artists. They're usually shot in public (on a train, in a cafe, in a park, etc) and have an element of improvisation to them.

I like this premise for so many reasons. I love live recordings and the authentic, gritty sound of these acoustic shows. You also get to see these artists form a different perspective. Not as the the super-produced, glorified rock stars, but as street musicians- traveling troubadours connecting with the people as they take their music up and down the street, in and out of cafes and corner markets, and finally to some scenic spot on a bench in a park.

I also really like watching the reactions of the onlookers. You'd think they'd be more confused or perhaps off-put by this artistic intrusion into their daily routine, but overwhelmingly these people are  pleased to partake in the shows. And more often than not, these people are not the artist's typical fan demographic, but it doesn't seem to matter. People can't help but be affected by music. I only wish I could have seen one of these live shows!

Here are a few of my favorites, but there are many more on the site including Beirut, R.E.M, The Spinto Band, Lykke Li, Bon Iver, The Department of Eagles, Sufjan Stevens, Cold War Kids and Fleet Foxes among others.

Grizzly Bear "The Knife"

This a capella version is so fun to watch. It's drastically different to the recorded version and you get a real sense that the grizz guys, apart from being tremendously talented, are cool dudes. And they are walking through the streets of Paris, beers in hand, harmonizing. How could you not like them?

Delta Spirit "Trashcan" and "People C'mon"

Delta Spirit - Trashcan from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.
I love this because it is shot on the Powell-Market Cable Car here in SF! There is so much emotion in this guys voice. What I would have done to be on this trolley ride.

Bowerbirds "Bur Oak"

Sean introduced me to this band recently, and I was delighted to see that they had a take away show!! I love the interaction with the on-lookers at the end.

The Shins "Gone for Good" and "Turn on Me"

I love, love LOVE this one. These guys are amazing.

This was kind of an intense post, but I hope you made it out alright. Thanks for all the continued support. Now go do yourself a favor and listen to some of the amazing music this world has to offer!

Cait