Bread and circuses
Image: Youngna Park
Serendipity Doodah - William D. Drake
William Middle-Initial-D Drake's pop is grandiose and OTT, bursting with bread and PT Barnum-gaudy circuses -- lions and tigers, gold leaf and scarlet silk flags, mellotrons, harmoniums, trumpets and shakers -- owing as much to the West End as XTC. Drake's lexicon is also ornate and delightfully decorative. I always think "serendipity" is too soft a word to trace the jagged lines where chance and good things collide, but it sounds so pretty scrolling off the tongue. And doodah's a nonsense word that privileges sound over significance, whose meaning depends on context more than usual. (First-known utterance: 1915 in minstrel song "Camptown Races" as a synonym for excitement. Famously revived in 1947 Disney animated pic Song of the South to signal something closer to joy [albeit joy inscribed with and complicated by racism].) In "Doodah" the word is vague -- expressing, perhaps, the inexpressible feelings of finding oneself oddly and comfortably at home on the road. Is this possibly a metatext about the emotions of performing music itself?
Drake's got a fascinating musical history -- almost three decades of playing in pop, folk and country bands and recording his own classical compositions. Check out the bio on his Myspace.
From Briny Hooves (Amazon), Myspace
Awo Dudu: The Skin I'm In - Afrologic
Isn't it just a little inconsistent to bemoan contemporary rock's appropriation of African idioms (BTW, this is not why I shudder at the words Vampire Weekend), but wave through African acts that plunder American jazz, blues and hip-hop? Is it a skin-color thing -- an implicitly racist stance predicated on the idea that it's ok for blacks to steal from blacks (skating over the differences of national origin and culture), but not whites from blacks?
A lot of African pop hosts at least a few strands of American and European DNA, and critics invoke "fusion" as often and imprecisely as they do "freak folk" when talking about eccentric vocals and meandering acoustic guitar lines or, ugh, "balearic" when discussing last year's dance sounds. But Nigeria's Afrologic does fusion by Webster's definition. In fact, this one remixed jam is an anthology-volume's worth of popular Western song forms of the past 100 years -- funk grooves, disco beats, blues chords, jazz riffs -- braided with indigenous folk traditions. A call for black unity, it's utterly joyous without seeming simplistic, suggesting that political unification can leave space for difference.
From Milliki Music: Society Sounds from 60s Lagos (regrooved) (eMusic), Myspace
I agree with Everybody Cares on music blogger's block, esp. the part about some blogs churning out content without heart. Notice I'm not posting so much this dry January...
And oh oh oh: Hype Machine aggregated bloggers' 2007 albums and songs and just posted it (now that it's almost February and post-Pazz n' Jop and all. Just joshing, you guys -- good work!).