Friday, November 11, 2005

Pop Music 301

Sometimes I'll hear an album that just slides off of me, leaving little or no impression. I have the faintest glimmer that it's important somehow, but I can't hear it. Two (or ten) years later I'll hear it again and be crushed by the weight of it, and when that happens I can usually trace back through the albums I'd absorbed in the intervening years that prepared me to hear what I'd been unworthy of before.

Here are two such albums. They may just test your worthiness.

The first is the 1991 My Bloody Valentine album Loveless. This is the album that ended Kevin Shields pursuit of the perfect guitar noise (and ended My Bloody Valentine along with it). It is hard to describe how perfect a sound this pink mohair sofa of an album really is. When I heard it in high school I stared at the speakers like they were counting down from a billion in French. I made the face my mother would make if I played Metal Machine Music for her. But now...imagine Sonic Youth doing an album of Cocteau Twins covers. It's a noise you can sink down into and sleep in. It's accessible, sweet, and honest. The vocals float in and out of the sound keeping the guitars aloft and supporting the whole whirling structure. It's a masterpiece, and when you're ready it will reward you.

The second album is Yo La Tengo's stunning 2000 release And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. 2000 was a pretty good year, relatively speaking. Radiohead hit a new high with Kid A, and Lou Reed released his wonderful album Ecstacy, to name only two, but, Yo La Tengo had the best album of the new century with 'Nothing'. I sat in my chair between my speakers and listened to this disc night after night. The music is very still and quite challenging. I'll admit readily that my first listen was one of those experiences. I knew it was something, but I wasn't sure if I was willing to dive in and find it, it seemed so vast and quiet, I was afraid of suffocating. I did eventually return to the disc and what I discovered was the last thing I expected--charm. Listening to this album is like eavesdropping on a conversation between two people who have loved each other for a long time as they retrace the steps of their lives together. It is so intimate and honest, so private. It remains one of my all time favorite records to really listen to.

Neither of these albums sit in small collections. They are not one of the twelve albums that anyone owns, there is simply no way to understand them without an education. And like any real education, it is worth the price.

1 comment:

M & H said...

Every time I listen to 'Nothing' I am moved in startling ways. I become painfully aware that, for me, experiencing good music isn't only enjoyable and cathartic, but is also edifying and reassuring. When I listen to this album, I feel as though someone were holding a tuning fork to my soul and slowly guiding me to a better place.
In short, Word.