To what do we owe this emo resurgence. Plus between this album, which rules a lot, and that American Football reissue, I have experienced a serious nostalgia for Champaign-Urbana, where I lived from 2003-2008, one year in a house which, I only learned last night, was directly across the street from the house on the cover of the American Football album.
Is the story I personally relate to the most. Like “it speaks to me” even though it’s about how communication always fails. In that way, since it’s also a story about paradoxes, it achieves form/content unity on a level that’s actually kind of spooky.
That Tracy Austin essay by David Foster Wallace says some great stuff about why professional athletes so often end up saying nothing at all when they’re asked to talk about sports, but I wish he were around to write about that phenomenon’s opposite, our current bounty of overwrought, melodramatic sports writing, of which Simmons’s piece on LeBron going to Cleveland is a shining example. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy reading it, because I love it, even if Simmons is simultaneously a Very Good Writer and bumbling maroon under the glare of the TNT studio lights. But there’s something interesting about these two extreme ways of (not) talking about sports, like you can only either rhapsodize about them, if you’re a commentator, or fail to even signify them, if you’re an athlete.
Today, during my first 14 mile run of the year, I made a point to look at the skyline over the river and try to remember how good I felt and how beautiful everything looked for in case I get to live a long, slow life, to remember when I’m old. That’s a trick I got from an old friend, to try and consciously store stuff in your memory like that.
Then, around mile 13, I thought: “I wish I was dead.”
"Good Intentions Paving Company" (Live on Austin City Limits)
I don’t have a particularly didactic or even communication-based reason for sharing this song. I’ve been typing into twitter and deleting for the past few hours a thought about loving Joanna Newsom’s last album a lot, but I wasn’t really sure what my intention was. (“What is the natural expression of an intention? — Look at a cat when it stalks a bird; or a beast when it wants to escape” - Wittgenstein.) It wasn’t to broadcast my taste because I don’t give a shit about that. It wasn’t to find likeminded JoNew fans or incite her detractors. I just really love Joanna Newsom’s music, so I guess the closest thing to my intention would be to convince other people this is worthwhile.
OK, somehow the only two musicwriters I read anymore are MR’s reviews of marquee re-releases and weird electronic stuff on Pitchfork and CO’s askfm. This is a strange critical polarity to operate within. (Operate = think, here.) I recall CO talking some shit about JoNew and how she was (in Carles’ words) just a stupid alt baguette getting more pageviews based on looks than talent. I mean, that’s immensely wrong, but at the time he wrote it I believe she had just released or not quite yet released her second album, so it was somewhat understandable if still risible to think that.
I was listening to HOOM (Have One On Me, her “last album”, thusfar), and at one point there was this weird ‘thrummm’ sound that I thought was maybe one of those gigantic saxophones or perhaps a bassoon or a cello. There was no melody to it, and if I hadn’t been listening with really expensive headphones I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. (I never had before.) The music is not only beautiful, but it’s meticulous and detailed to a fault. There’s some Yay Go America!, Charles Ives, Beach Boys stuff going on here, and it’s a sort of music that one doesn’t hear often. Not for the other obvious musical thing, the harp and weird voice stuff, but because a lot of music ignores the American intellectual tradition of Bernstein, Ives, and even Kottke. It’s funny that I got onto today’s JoNew jag because of a CO askfm question about Kottke and Fahey. To me, there’s a tradition of nebbish whiteness intellectualizing a less well formed (read: savage?) landscape and exercising a poetic/romantic/religious vision in order to create a more orderly and perfect heaven or community that Newsom’s vision continues. It’s a really lavish and generous idea that’s often blotted out in nihilism, which is a a natural reaction to generosity if you think about it.
The idea of a self-fashioned utopian society is such an enduring one that it’s even still and just now an au courant millennial thing. I find it odd that JoNew’s music isn’t more popular except that it’s not exactly pandering or feel-good enough (except for the above, a song literally called “Good Intentions Paving Company” come on think about it). You hear only some of the signifiers (a rusticated footstomp melody and weird instrumentation straying into such far territory as a the middlebrow Paramore song of the summer) without the seeming Idea underlying. You get the same romantic, we’re young and we’re doomed so let’s live life to the fullest type of thing without the intellection of eternity. That’s the real lesson of nature and season: recurrence lasting longer than humanity. I guess the setting: we’ll never live to enjoy the benefits of Social Security, the National Climate Assessment says we’re fucked, etc. But this isn’t new! Traditionally, transcendent thought would increase in times like this, but where is it? Has it been syphoned off into the techno-futuristic point of view? Or an all consuming apathy. I cannot be the only person who desires to stare wideeyed into the abyss.
A Short Vision is a British animated film written and directed by Peter Foldes and his wife, Joan. It is narrated by James McKechnie. Created after the United States first detonated a hydrogen bomb in 1952, the film depicts the complete annihilation of the Earth and all life on it. The film gained the attention of the mass-media in 1956 after it was aired on The Ed Sullivan Show.