Weekend Listens

What are you listening to this weekend? What have you been listening to all week? What’s been stuck in your head?

Diana: The opening track of Sharon van Etten’s first EP Because I Was in Love is the type of moment that makes you shifty-eyed. You’re afraid to speak, because you want to preserve the sound waves exactly as they should be, but you’re trying desperately to catch someone else’s eye, to convey, Are you hearing this??

I’ve been listening to van Etten’s new album Tramp since it came out a few weeks ago, and desperately trying to find another moment that even comes close to that magical feeling of her EP. While critics have hailed Tramp for its maturation of style, I can’t help but think that it’s become something I don’t like listening to anymore. All of the instrumentation and pseudo-rock tracks detract from what she does best – sing longingly with her acoustic guitar. It’s a shame because she has a beautiful voice that manages to be sparse and beautifully full at the same time. Tramp is worth listening through, but I’m sticking to her older tracks like “Love More.” (Bonus: Bon Iver’s incredible cover of “Love More.”)

Matt M.: Since I’m on the mend from the “Yapese molasses nose,” I’ll be listening to Beethoven’s “Heileger Dankesang.” Beethoven wrote the thing back in the day to thank God after he recovered from whatever now eradicated disease that afflicted brilliant but ill-tempered German composers he was suffering from. It’s unlike any music you’ll ever hear, and its impossibly slow tempo and unprecedented use of the eerie-but-optimistic lydian mode make it particularly powerful if you’re in a penitent and/or feverish state.

Jonathan H.: Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls was a favorite album of mine from last year, although I’ve been unable to convert most of my friends. 2012 has found me trying to piece together the shards of my life in the aftermath of a breakup, and while Christopher Owens’s music has provided something of a solace, I’m not certain whether listening to songs about heartbreak has been healthy. Probably not. Standout tracks are “Vomit” and “Jamie Marie,” but the whole album is pretty great. Owens’s cover of Skeeter Davis’s “End of the World” is also devastating. I may or may not have learned the tablatures to these songs on the guitar.

On timeshareking‘s advice, I’ve been trying to listen to hip hop, because all other music is sad and depressing. Lil Wayne’s No Ceilings mixtape, an oldie but a goodie, has been spinning in the iPod. The jury is still out on whether misogyny is balm for a broken heart.

Anthony K.: Being asked to write about what I’m listening to has made me acutely aware that I don’t go out of my way to listen to music much anymore. Lately when I do listen to the music stored on my phone, it’s primarily to drown out annoying subway conversations so I can focus on reading. That and I do sometimes listen to Spotify when writing and researching at work. In both settings, the music I opt for is almost entirely instrumental.

So what have I listened to lately? I never get tired of John Ogdon performing Liszt. (Ogdon had a famous mental breakdown and his life became the subject of a weird BBC film I saw in college called Virtuoso.) His ability to find new rhythms in songs I’ve heard dozens of times reveals a talent and an insight that people no longer demand from performers. And his range, from the most delicate caressing of the piano to almost spasmodic credenzas, displays as much emotional range on the piano as any performer I’ve heard. I spent much of this morning listening to Ravi Shankar ragas, after seeing some confusion on Twitter that he might have passed away. (He didn’t.) This raga he performed with his daughter Anoushka Shankar is transcendent.

Anthony Tshering: I’ve been relistening to John Coltrane’s “Blue Train.” I love the high energy, hard bop style on the title track, and Coltrane’s rendition of the jazz standard “I’m Old Fashioned” in a beautiful, sentimental way.

Mike: I’ll be listening to Sam Cooke’s 1963 album Night Beat. It’s a quieter album from Cooke, featuring him and a small jazz combo. It’s good cocktail-drinking music, which is probably how I’ll be taking it in. “Lost And Lookin'” is a particularly strong track.

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One Comment on “Weekend Listens”

  1. Jonathan H. says:

    Ugh, I Wish I Knew by Sharon van Etten is ruining my life.


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