One of the random pieces of trivia that transferred itself from the behind-the-scene featurette on the Almost Famous DVD to my memory is that Cameron Crowe has been making monthly mix tapes for himself since he was a child. He says the tapes are his version of a written diary, and that they work just as well; he can play any one of the tapes and remember exactly what was going on in his life at the time.
For a while in college I kept a little red notebook in which I made silly little notes every time I listened to a new album because I agree with Mr. Crowe that music is just as good, if not better than, the written word as a mnemonic. This didn’t last very long because it was kind of pointless to take written notes about the thing that is supposed to make remembering easier than writing, but I still make playlists of new music that are labelled by month. When I listen to old playlists, the specificity of the memories is physically painful, even if the memories themselves are happy ones. In any case, here are some selections from my September 2013 playlist.
Julianna Barwick‘s Nepenthe has been on heavy rotation this month. She makes gorgeous, looped ambient music in which you can hear the traces of her youth in a rural, Southern church choir. It’s hard to pick a favorite track since the album is strongest as a whole, but “The Harbinger” is a good place to start. I listen to this when I’m writing.
Volcano Choir is a collaboration between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Collections of Colonies of Bees. I suppose this qualifies as generic indie; as I’ve mentioned, I’m terrible with music genres. It’s definitely more lighthearted than Bon Iver’s music (not a difficult task) and includes hazy, barely-enunciated vocals (I hear the lyrics are inscrutable anyway) and the occasional auto-tune. The single “Gun” is a good, high-energy example.
Probably the most “fun” selection from this month is CHVRCHES‘s new album The Bones of What You Believe. The Scottish synth-pop band makes energetic, catchy songs with female vocals. I usually listen to this album when I’m out and about in New York and I feel like I’m in an episode of Girls (that might or might not be an endorsement, depending on your thoughts about Girls).
Finally, Tunng‘s Turbines has been a frequent selection on my iPod as well. According to Wikipedia, they are a “folktronica” band from London. They make for easy listening, and I’d start with “The Village” or “Bloodlines” (You see how trying to write about music exhausts me? I want to say more about Tunng but I’ve run out of intelligent ways of talking about sounds).
Hope you all have a good weekend, and I’ll be back on Sunday for a special Chicago edition of Place Settings. What have you been listening to this month?