The Recession Mix

February 25, 2005

You see signs of the recession everywhere. Stores that have been part of the landscape for years are now closed. Friends and family are moving away as jobs disappear. Credit card interest rates go up just as everyone's ability to pay more goes down. The used CD selection at the local music shop offers more quality and selection than I've ever witnessed before, and for me, that might be the most dramatic evidence that we are all in for a very rough ride.

Recently, I picked up the following albums in one visit to the CD store:

Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
An indie album that's perhaps not quite as deserving of  the rapturous adjectives commonly employed to describe it. Like The Decemberists, but with slightly less lisping. Horns, check. Allusions to blind Christian adoration, check. Old-timey album art, check. 
The National, Boxer
I love this album and would happily employ all sorts of glowing adjectives to try and sell you on it. The strength of Boxer is in the words, or, more specifically, in the smokey and broken delivery of those words. Exceedingly careful production also deserves kudos for restraint when restraint is called for, such as the heart wrenching Racing Like a Pro or wistful Fake Empire.
Peter Bjorn and John, Peter Bjorn and John
The self-titled debut even beats out their fantastic Writer's Block album (which is a tough act to beat, as it contains the perennial ear-worm Young Folks).
Clinic, Walking With Thee
According to Amazon.com this album has been discontinued— so if the strength of my recommendation isn't enough, download a few free tracks from their most recent album Do It and decide for yourself.
M83, Saturdays=Youth
I won't rehash my thoughts about M83's development (you can read that here, if you missed it) but I will say that if you haven't downloaded the remixes from CNET yet you're missing out on the best bouncing-ping-pong-ball loop ever.
Yael Naim & David Donatien, Yael Naim & David Donatien
The only cd I've ever purchased on the recommendation of one of my students. With vocals in Hebrew, English, and French it also boasts the song New Soul, which was apparently featured on an Apple computer commercial. As I don't own a TV I can't attest to that fact, but I feel the song is catchy enough to fool you into spending a thousand dollars.
Esthero, Breath From Another
I haven't listened to this one yet but I suspect it's far more drum and bass then flapper swagger.
In years past the chances of my finding even two albums I fancied would have been astronomical. To walk in and find seven was equal parts exhilarating and sobering. Certainly some of the people who sold these albums must have felt as I do now; that the music collection would be the last thing to go, and then only under fear of utter destitution. Yet here is all this music, and my enjoyment of each album is somewhat colored by the fear that we may all soon face some exceedingly painful choices— choices that make my juvenile preoccupation with music seem as trivial as it happens to be.


Amy Louise Skorheim said...

Brandon and I were just talking about Neutral Milk Hotel yesterday. Both of us agree that In the Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of the best albums ever recorded. On Avery Island, the debut album, is nice but not as fully and phenomenally amazing as their second (and last) album.

Brandon looked for info on NMH, a little "where are they now" research. The frontman has basically disappeared. After recording Aeroplane he dismantled the studio where it was recorded as though it had fulfilled its highest possible purpose. A little while later he disbanded the band.

Raises the question, what do you do after you make your masterpiece?

j_rigged said...

I would add books to the list of cash cows for strapped folks. Powells is up 15% in their buying department. Maybe thats why they turned their noses up to my precious Patricia Cornwell collection.

Jeffrey T. Baker said...

I'm willing to accept that I'm missing something profound when it comes to Neutral Milk Hotel. They wouldn't be the first critically acclaimed indie act that left me a touch disappointed. I must admit that I've only listened to the album two times thus far, and both those instances I was in a Volvo, which, as we all know, has the magic ability to consistently ruin anything (like your day; take yesterday for example, when I had to pay $200 for a new windshield wiper motor).

As for what you make after your masterpiece— whatever you want, because you've made a masterpiece and that's more than most people can say. Hopefully, others have recognized your genius and rewarded you with money, which I suspect also takes the sting out of trying to out-do yourself.

Now, if only Powell's could recognize the genius of Patricia Cornwell. . .

Amy Louise Skorheim said...

But there has to be something paralyzing about having your masterpiece behind you (especially if you've been recognized for said masterpiece). The idea that everything you do will be compared to what you've done, or the fear that you'll never be able to live up to the standard you set for yourself has to make some people unable to continue.

Like Harper Lee. Jonathan Franzen, maybe. I'm sure there are more.

Also. I didn't much care for NMH the first few listens. It's that blood disease music, once it gets in, it has you for the rest of your life.

Or not.