Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. Starting this week and lasting through the end of 2010, he’ll be highlighting music exclusively from 2010. This week it’s Ceremony’s Rohnert Park LP and The Babies’ two 7-inch releases along with the beginning of a long list of digital-only tracks. Read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
A year or so ago, my roommate and I breathlessly watched the entire first season of HBO’s In Treatment. “Dude, is Gabriel Byrne gonna fuck Laura?” “Why do you really think Mia tried to kill herself?” “How is Diane Wiest always right about everything?” So a month ago when season two came out on DVD, I bumped that shit right quick to the top of my Netflix queue and got down to business. Maybe it’s because I live alone now and I was watching it on my computer in bed, but boy is this show depressing. Gabriel Byrne’s getting sued for malpractice, he’s divorced, his old client blames him for her childlessness, the dad from Frasier is some shortsighted CEO dickhead, the helpful lesbian from Milk won’t get help for her cancer. Is everyone in the entire world terrible? Gabriel Byrne still goes to therapy every week and on the first or second episode, he has a freak out and says he doesn’t want to be in treatment, that skimming through all the muck for anti-gold isn’t really so fun. And I realized, it really isn’t. I made it an episode or two through the pretty sad third week and returned the DVD, googled spoilers for the rest of the season, and un-queued.
All of this is a long way of saying, well, at some point you just don’t really want to think about what shit means all the time and get your brain mired in a bog knee-deep. I mean, sometimes you do. But sometimes you don’t! Right now, not really. The last few years at the end of the year, I’ve written an end of the year column and looked at the previous 12 months, combed through them pretty base. Two years ago I ended hopeful, with a list of questions about the year to come, one of them being, Will my grandparents live another year? In their mid-nineties, they were generally healthy but that’s obviously an advanced age. They did both live through that year though, but my grandfather passed away this summer. But I already told you about that. I was reminded of that question and that column, though, over Thanksgiving when my grandmother, who has some level of Alzheimer’s, looked at a picture of her late husband and asked if that was her father. A minute or two later, she looked at it again and asked if it was her father. Bummer. But what does it mean? I don’t know. I spent the rest of the holiday listening to Joanna Newsom and chilling with four dogs. What are you gonna do, you know?
So anyway, yeah this year was a year. A lot of stuff happened to me but a lot of stuff happened to a lot of people, too. What also happened was a ton of great music, a lot of which falls under the umbrella of being “Slept On.” I mean, I love “Runaway” as much as the next person, but Kanye’s been and will be celebrated. For the next however many weeks of the year there are until I take a sweet two week vacation for winter gift day and the New Year, I’m gonna devote Slept On to the top Slept On jams of 2010. And seeing as though we live in the future, a bunch of these don’t exist physically, so I’ll make mention of a handful of MP3s and YouTubes each column, too. Hope you find something you like.
Ceremony, Rohnert Park
I was introduced to Ceremony a year or two ago as being one of the only hardcore bands around now who were really able to sound as powerful and aggressive as the bands in the California power violence scene I (and a lot of people) really cut our teeth on. In the typical growing older way, horizons expand and expectations differ and a need for new hardcore in my life became less and less. It’s a pretty typical story that played out on a lot of Chain of Strength songs. For better or for worse, at some point your bildungsroman is over. Like when you get the point when you talk about your own personal bildungsroman. Anyway, I kept professional tabs on Ceremony and when I heard they had a new album coming I wrote to their label who sent me a stream. I was, honestly, pretty shocked. Gone were the short, pummeling tracks of all their prior records, the outright total rage replaced with guitar solos and acidic bass, some semi-spoken word tracks and a general tone of nihilistic malaise. In its own way, Rohnert Park (named for the northern California suburb where Ceremony is from), is its own post-adolescence journey story, mediated through the lyrics of singer Ross Farrar. He has such a heavy mutual wonder and bewilderment with the world it’s hard to separate his happiness from his frustrations. There’s a glee in his tumbling through life, the accumulation of wisdom, even when through pain. Back in ’84 I nearly choked on the u-cord until my dad came and cut me loose/ He said, “The pain you felt today it will never go away” and “The best way out is always through/ He said, “Watch out for the world trying to shape you, living here you got to know the truth”/ Twenty-five years later everything is the same/ A civilization gone deaf-mute. They played in New York but I missed them because I went home to see my grandfather before he passed away. We talked about girls, Storm King. They next time Ceremony played in New York, I was at Lollapalooza. A few weeks later, when I interviewed Ross, I talked to him about my sister. I’m susceptible to emotions of all kinds, but the mapping of his onto mine, the transliteration of one person’s very specific thoughts and feelings into not just a universal truth but a very personal one, is the marker of a successful piece of art. I remember seeing a portrait at a museum many years ago of a general. Except there was no person, just military ephemera, the collected objects of a life in place of cheeks, nose, eyes. Because what is more personal than one’s things? If you can have your essential truths be so easily identifiable, like Rohnert Park does, you’ve probably done something worthwhile along the way.
The Babies, “Meet Me in the City”/”Somebody Else” and “All Things Come to Pass”/”Caroline” 7-inches
Did everyone get into music through their parents? Sometimes I talk to people and they say, “Yeah, my dad was a house DJ and he brought me to see Moodymann for my 11th birthday,” or “Yeah, my parents loved the Grateful Dead, so I learned to play bass along to all of Blues for Allah by the time I was in 7th grade. I did it at the talent show,” or “Joe Budden is my uncle” or whatever. If someone asked me if my parents were into music, I would just say, My dad likes classical? Not that my folks were musically averse, but it was not a huge part of my upbringing before I got super interested in it myself. And then I remember the oldies station. If there was not football or baseball on the radio, we listened to oldies. As a genre name, “oldies” is somewhat deficient, soul, doowop, rock, folk, pop and everything else from like 1950 to ten or so years before now (which was about 1990 then) into the pot for a sloppy soup. But it does belie an overall aesthetic of listenability. Like, have you ever heard “Rhiannon” or The Shangri-Las or “My Girl”? Wow, those are great songs, written, it feels, less for the outward expulsion of the inward and more for an intake of goodness. Catharsis be damned, we’re trying to jam! And so, despite existing currently, The Babies are an oldies band. “Caroline,” my favorite song of theirs only has two lyrics to memorize and one of them is already the name of the song. The other one is Hey. It’s got a tambourine and the same note played on bass over and over. It’s got a sweet guitar, a pinch of dry snare and a mellow workup to a climax. Heeeey, Caroline. Who’s Caroline? Me, you, whoever. Probably someone specific, maybe no one. But she’s named and it’s hers. And once it’s someone’s, it’s everyone’s. Never underestimate likability.
ASSORTED YOUTUBE AND MP3 ONLY JAMS
Young Dro, “Freeze Me”
Incredible beat that’s somewhere between carnival chatter and church organ, Young Dro in extended slur form, totally excellent.
DJ Elmoe, “Skatez D Dark One Track”
Theoretically this is a juke/footwork track but it’s crazily industrial, the bass basically sounding like a frozen science fiction alarm and someone saying in in in in infectious. It’s two minutes long and there is one broken piano key ding for extra creep.
Light Asylum, “A Certain Person”
This one specifically, but really all their songs. Truly a simple duo of vocals and old technology. They have their dark moments of brittle drum machines and cold synthesizers, but “A Certain Person” is more John Hughes melancholy self-exploration with a horse braying.
I heard this dude got signed to Stones Throw? Danimals is a kid from Australia who won a contest sponsored by a beer company to record with Mark Ronson. “Fox” was the resulting track, slightly British, wholly curious, fully tailored for a Wes Anderson movie.