I’ve had many accusations thrown at me over the years. Far too great and diverse a throng of insults and insinuations to enumerate individually here, however amusing that might be. A few were impressively barbaric. A handful dripped with bile and venom. A smattering had been exhausted to within an inch of their patience. Most contained – somewhere in their angry little hearts – a bitter kernel of truth.
All of us know we’re not really good people. Selflessness is an increasingly rare virtue. You’ve got to take care of yourself right? It’s a dog eat dog world.
It’s just no fun having someone point it out to you.
As such, on rare occasions – seemingly chosen on whim – I decide to do something about myself. Unfortunately, deciding to do something usually seems to be enough to assuage my guilt and so actually doing something often amounts to very little – a bit like this time.
Earlier this year, a friend of a friend of a friend accused me of being a hipster. Fuck off, I said – but a little less politely than that. Unsurprisingly, I was already running a mental checklist: stylishly unkempt facial hair – check; wearing outdated fashion in a non-ironic way – check; seeming urge to only like utterly obscure bands – check. Still, the facial hair hadn’t so much been styled as shaped by idleness. And the fashion was only outdated as I still think I can wear the same clothes as I did when I was 21. I should do something about the music, though, but what?
I could try listening to Radio 1 for a week or borrow my better half’s laptop, perhaps. I could, could, watch the steaming pile of soullessness that is X-Factor. I wasn’t going to though, was I? I wasn’t going to do any of those things. Instead, what I did was investigate some of my favourite artists of yesteryear to find out what they’re up to currently. Artists that, by purely staying together for ages, must have bigger fanbases now, right? You can’t call them obscure anymore, damn you.
I guess that you could argue that some of them became too popular for an ‘indier than thou’ snob to continue liking but, on the whole, I mainly stopped listening to them because they couldn’t replicate a record which I fell in love with. Basically, I asked them to achieve the impossible and they merrily didn’t do it.
Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One; Iron and Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days; Low’s Secret Name; Silver Jews’ American Water; The National’s Boxer; Calexico’s The Black Light; Deerhunter’s Microcastle; and Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar. All of these are records which a younger, prettier me fell in love with. Records that still cause me to suffer nostalgia nausea whenever I happen to cross their musical path. Records to which comparisons cannot be made because they are a part of my emotional history.
So, I present two songs from each of the above – an old favourite and a new joy. Except for The Silver Jews. They broke up in 2009, so I chose a song from 1994 I hadn’t heard before – obviously. And The National, for whom I dipped into Matt Berninger’s (and Brent Knopf of Menomena – who are also wonderful, check out Friend or Foe) excellent side project El Vy . The National are far too popular for me to like anymore.
Half of these really good songs and a bunch of other rather lovely stuff is featured on this month’s Skewed Quiff which comes in two sides. Side A is available here and now. Side B will appear when I’ve got a couple of hours to spare.