Notes, March 2020 Edition

Here’s some music for you! There’s almost a theme today, but I assure you, it’s coincidental. I just want to share stuff you might like.

Wildflowers, by Tom Petty. I’m one of those people that actually thinks Tom Petty did better work as a solo artist. Maybe it’s just an artifact of the time period; I grew up listening to Tom Petty when The Heartbreakers were already in the past, so some of that I’m sure is nostalgia. But nostalgia is a big part of music, so why fight it? Either way, Wildflowers is incredible. Every time I listen to this album, it’s like Tom himself is saying to me, “It’s okay, buddy. This is just part of life. Let’s just rock it away for a while and you’ll feel better.” And I always do.

Bunch One, by Selo i Ludy. This is a Ukranian cover band that does Slavic folk-rock versions of American hits. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for forty years and have never heard any of these original songs, I guarantee you’ll find something on this album to make you smile and want to share with friends. This is the best kind of music; the kind that makes you immediately want to share it with other people just because it’s so wild. Not all music has to be deep or serious or emotional – sometimes music does its best work when it just gets you, smiling, out of your seat.

The Fuses Refuse to Burn, by The Hopefuls. These guys were originally called “The Olympic Hopefuls,” but the actual Olympics sent them a cease-and-desist letter and made them change their name. I first heard them when I received, unsolicited, a compilation album of new/unknown bands that Marlboro cigarettes had put together as some sort of promotion. I have no idea why – I’ve still never touched a Marlboro cigarette, but I did end up really liking this band and have gotten really into this album in particular. Their music is clean and simple and easy to listen to and enjoy while still not feeling stale. The songs have momentum; try turning one off in the middle and you’ll feel a jolt like the sudden stop of a car.

Icky Thump, by The White Stripes. I feel like for six months this album is all anyone talked about and then it disappeared, but Icky Thump is one of the coolest and most original albums to come out of the decade. Jack & Meg throw a lot of the conventional rules of composition out the window in order to create really memorable and good music, but I wouldn’t say this goes all the way into “prog rock,” either. There are weird elements drawn from a wide variety of styles and influences here, but it comes together beautifully. Despite all the elements, the sound doesn’t come across as complicated – if anything, it feels very stripped-down and raw. The lyrics are the cherry on top; one of my favorite lines in any song is on the last track of this album: “I ain’t sayin’ I’m innocent – in fact the reverse. But if you’re headed for the grave you don’t blame the hearse.”

Cassadaga, by Bright Eyes. I love singer/songwriter stuff, because there’s always this interesting challenge of writing something that is simultaneously original and unique to you, but also relevant to a lot of people listening. I like that – the idea that someone’s unique experiences can still connect to a sort of shared emotional pattern we all go through. Songs like “Classic Cars” are clearly about specific relationships and events, but the patterns can be relevant to lots of people living very different lives. Finding a reflection of your own path in the experiences of another is a form of connection that’s hard to find in any other context. There’s a line in a Dave Matthews song that goes “Funny the way it is, not right or wrong. Somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song.” That might be the theme of this whole album, and it’s worth hearing.

As always, may you find joy and comfort in every note, and I always want to hear what you’re listening to!

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