Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 31 - Joanna Newsom and Beach House - Homework from Michael

My friend Michael is 23 years old, can drive past me in a blur on the hoop court and is an absolute obsessive music sponge (just a few of the many reasons he is great and I am not). He swears that Animal Collective is the best thing since The Beatles (we can't even begin to bridge that critical gap), and in a recent facebook posting following some heated back and forth on the basketball court, tasked me with some fact-finding homework (he's a grammar school teacher, of course) - to check out specific songs by heavily hyped hipster hotshots Joanna Newsom and Beach House. I put on my thinking cap and got to work.

First up - Joanna Newsom. To say I find her voice grating is like saying BP has a spill in aisle 5 to clean up. And in a recent interview with The Guardian, she had this to say about Lady Gaga: " She just happens to wear slightly weirder outfits than Britney Spears." And this: " And, meanwhile, she seems to take herself so oddly seriously, the way she talks about her music in the third person, like she's Brecht or something." Hey Joanna, you dress like a Middle Earth fairie and you play a harp while singing in a range somewhat higher than a dog whistle. You're basically the female Sting. Ms. Kettle, meet Mrs. Pot.

So my homework was to listen to her "Good Intentions Paving Company". And I found her voice not nearly as shrill as I remembered but she still sounds like a frightened Tori Amos (not a good sign) and I had difficulty making much sense of her abundant, rambling lyrics. And the song is seven minutes long. And feels like seventy. Grade: F+

Next up was "Zebra" by Beach House. The breathless hype and words like "ethereal" and "woozy synths" had initially scared me off these guys. But I've played "Zebra" about a dozen times now and I gotta say Michael was right on with this one. It's a total vibe song, with impenetrable lyrics, but the song positively glistens with ghostly Beach Boys background vocals, gently plucked guitar and Mazzy Star gauzy beauty. Grade: A-
"Teenage Kicks received a request to remove the mp3s from this post 6/17/10"

Next assignment?


Natsu said...

I feel that Joanna's voice is equal to screeching brakes also. Beach House were one of my earlier Music Club reviews this year. I think that they would be better live after a few spliffs to be honest because although I liked the album at the time, it's not something I have revisited since February - maybe a bit too dreamy, which was what I was celebrating at the time but now I think it's missing some gusto and honesty.

Ms Suki said...

Isn't your next assignment The Walkmen?