So it's just ticked past midnight; it still feels like Thursday night to me but I guess technically it is Friday morning. Which means that right now it's my birthday. Honestly I wasn't expecting to feel any monumental change, but now I can officially confirm - 24 does not feel any different than 23. 21 was certainly an exciting year - I could finally legally drink and gamble and took full advantage of both in a boozy Vegas weekend vacation. And 25 seems like an important age. I think that's the age by which I'm supposed to have made some kinds of accomplishments in life. But 22, 23, 24, these don't feel like significant ages. I mean, I guess there are things to be depressed about if you look for them - Bob Dylan wrote "Like A Rolling Stone" when he was 24; when Kobe Bryant was my age he had just captured his third NBA Championship.
But really things like that don't bother me much. There's always going to be somebody accomplishing more than you and doing it better and doing it at a younger age (and I long ago made peace with the fact that I am not going to write like Bob Dylan or play basketball like Kobe Bryant). A different (saner?) person might look at my life at 24 and be pretty disappointed. But there are certain small pleasures in life that keep me from dwelling on the negatives for any extended period of time. Things like the new Decemberists' new album.
I brought up this album, The Crane Wife, last night in a discussion with a friend who said she wouldn't want to bring a child into this world. Things are fucked up, sure: the Bush presidency, global warming, poverty, disease, racism and all that. But seriously - can a world where this album exists be all that bad? Like that scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen rattles off into a tape recorder all the things that makes life worth living, if I made a similar list it would mostly consist of music.
I don't know if "Potato Head Blues" would be enough to get me out of bed in the morning but there's plenty of music that seems to do the trick. In this year alone The Decemberists, The Thermals, TV On the Radio, Lupe Fiasco, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bob Dylan, Lily Allen, Rah Bras, Aloe Blacc, Figurines, NOMO, Outkast, Love Is All, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and just the slightest rumor of a Jay-Z comeback album (oh my god. You know how they say men think about sex like every six seconds? That's about how often I think about the new Jay-Z album); all these artists have been enough to make my world a little brighter.
Just listen to "The Crane Wife 3", the first song off The Crane Wife, and be depressed. Just try. See, it's impossible. This is as close to perfect as pop music gets. It's ironic of course considering how utterly depressing the story of the Crane Wife is, but this song is so beautiful it's subject hardly matters. I think people focus too much on the "hyperliteracy" of Colin Meloy's lyrics. What makes the Decemberists great is not the lyrics. Who would read a novel that repeated the words "I will hang my head, hang my head low" over and over? But in a song, atop the Decemberists' sublime instrumentation and sold by Meloy's delicate but impassioned delivery, these words soar. Read off a page it may fall flat, but sung I could listen to this refrain forever.
But still, I see how people get fixated on the words. It's not often you come across snowy shrouds and boughs unbound in a catchy little folksy pop song. OK shit, it's not ever. And the fact that this is on a major label just makes it so much weirder. Two songs over 10 minutes long, obscure Japanese fables, northern Irish terrorists, watery graves, civil war soldiers? Is this stuff gonna fly on TRL? Probably not. But hopefully with a major label's backing these sermons will reach some people outside the choir. And luckily, for the uninitiated, they'll get to start a love affair with the Decemberists at their most bizarre, most ambitious and most astonishing album yet.
And speaking of boundary-pushing bands that are inexplicably on major labels, have you heard any of the new Blood Brothers yet? Here's the video of the "single"(?), courtesy of YouTube:
Um, yeah. Brilliant. How many albums do the Blood Brothers get to sneak out of V2 before somebody realizes that these guys are probably not gonna break into the mainstream? But thank god somebody is paying them to do this. Could you imagine if Johnny Whitney had to have a day job? Anybody who's heard him sing would probably tell him not to quit it. And yet he makes a living off that insane nails on a blackboard screech. Sometimes life works out strangely wonderful like that.
The first two leaked tracks I've heard off of the Blood Brothers upcoming album Young Machetes (thank you Idolator), sound a lot more like Whitney's side project Neon Blonde than the more hardcore inclined Blood Brothers albums. Which, at least for me, can only be a good thing;Chandeliers in the Savannah was one of my favorite records of last year. And, coincidentally, I got that album last year as a birthday present.
So, not much has changed since then. I live in the same place, in the same dead end boring county, with a different but similarily uninteresting and unimportant job. I still don't have a girlfriend (another Woody Allen moment comes to mind, a joke from the end of Crimes and Misdemeanors, but unfortunately I've never been to the Statue of Liberty), I still wouldn't be making anybody jealous at a high school reunion. But goddamn is my iTunes Music folder impressive.