Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music blogs we’re thankful for

In the interest of demonstrating thankfulness (and being meta) it seemed appropriate to make our next blog post be about blogs.  Specifically, two of the best music-focused blogs around, extremely well-written and engaging, albeit in very different ways.

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (better known among regulars as Fuel/Friends) has been masterminded since 2005 by the phenomenally talented Heather Powell Browne.  It’s rare to see someone write about music with this much unrestrained passion and joy, and the experience is made all the more memorable by Heather’s tremendously evocative descriptions.  A master at conveying the emotional texture of the music listening experience, she is also a terrific photographer and raconteur on any number of topics related to music and creativity (e.g. her recent post on Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia).  Heather is the real deal, both a gifted artist herself and a true believer in the artists she cultivates and amplifies through her work. 

Riff Raf, a more recent acquaintance, shares the essential ethos and personality of the Vault itself – musically all-encompassing, intensely curious and frequently quirky.  In the last ten days alone, maestro Richard Fulco has published features on the new Rolling Stones reissue, the 112th birthday of the jukebox, an indie band called The War on Drugs, and Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem (complete with individual member profiles). The entertainment value of Riff Raf is so high that you might not notice there’s a lot to be learned here about music history as well.

Enjoy, and give thanks for these two talented writers sharing their unique voices with the world.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.E.M.: going out on top

It's never easy to say goodbye. It's nice, though -- in part because it's so rare -- when a band goes out on top of its game. R.E.M.'s 2011 release Collapse Into Now was among the finest albums of their 30-year career, and now they are closing things out with a trio of new recordings on their forthcoming career retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011.

Not content to go quietly, though, they've released a pair of videos for their final single "We All Go Back To Where We Belong" that amount to performance art as only R.E.M. could imagine it. The one below features 3:39 of a single camera shot trained on Kirsten Dunst as she listens to the song. Her momentary flashes of self-consciousness only make the whole experience more engaging; the steady close-up allows you to literally track the subtle changes of emotion as she listens, is affected by, and reacts to the music. It's one of the simplest music videos I've ever seen, and also one of the most profound and spectacular. Here is the entire purpose of music itself -- to elicit an emotional response in the listener -- distilled into its purest form.