I once had a discussion with someone, and I honestly can't remember if it was in real life or on the internet somewhere, but any way this guy was arguing that you couldn't call yourself a real David Bowie fan unless you liked everything the guy had done. Even the weird industrial-esque Berlin albums. At the time I disagreed strongly, but I've been reconsidering my position of late. I think it's not that you have to like everything by an artist to be a real fan, but rather you have to have given everything a real chance. I consider myself a "real" John Lennon fan, hell I even have a tattoo of the guy, but I know that some (a lot, even) of his solo stuff is a little less than awesome.
I've been applying this opinion to music in general. See, I've always discounted entire genres because I didn't like them. Hip hop and jazz being the main ones here. And that's fine, there's no law that says one has to like every style of music, but he thing is I'd never really tried to like them. And how can I call myself a lover of music when there are whole genres out there I'd never even tried?
So, I turned my attention to hip hop first. I started out with Aesop Rock, because he did that one track with JD of the Mountain Goats. Wasn't really my thing. I could appriciate what the guy was doing and the sheer skill it took to do it, but it didn't work for me. I like clear, structured and literate lyrics, and it seemed that so much of hip hop is more concerned with the sound of the words as opposed to the words themselves. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's just not my thing). I tried Buried, an artist who gets a lot of exposure over at emusic (bah, emusic. I'm still bitter) but while the actual music of his songs was pleasing, again the lyrics left me wanting.
I was just about to give up. To say, well, I tried, and now I can say without guilt that I do not like hip hop. And then. Tucked away in a dusty corner of some obscure Live Journal music community, I found this:
This is everything I wanted from hip hop, that I didn't even know I wanted. The music is interestingly arranged. The hip hoppy beat is there, but it weaves in and out and around pianos and strngs and hell is that a glockenspiel I hear? Some of the songs are gritty like Buriel, but then some of them rival Sufjan Stevens for sheer prettiness.
But if you know me at all you know there's really only one thing needed to win me over; the lyrics. Does this album deliver? Yes, holy fuck yes, yes, once again yes, it most definitely does! Not since I heard Going to Georgia for the first time (and dear god Jess, do you realise it's been almost four years since you hooked me up with that song) and heard John Darnielle sing "the most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway is that it's you, and that your standing in the doorway" has my mind been so immediately taken with a singer's words. And they are whole, complete words. Making up whole complete sentences. And not one ounce of rhythm or cadence is lost.
Religion and death seem to be to be main themes here, although it will take a few more listens on my part before I'll be ready to discuss that with any real confidence. Jonathon "yoni" Wolf skips easily from darker stuf, like the line "In Berlin I saw two men fuck in the dark corner of a basketball court / Just a slight jangle of pocket change pulsing" from 'The Hollows' to more precious indie one liners, like in 'FatalistPalmistry' where he sings, "I sleep on my back because it's good for the spine / and coffin rehearsal." But perhaps my favourite line (at the moment) comes from 'These Few Presidents;' "yours is the funeral I'd fly to from anywhere." I mean, come on people. Have you ever seen indie hipster love summed so well as that?
Having been so rewarded for my forays into hip hop I'm actually looking forward to what I'm going discover when I turn my sights on Jazz, or ambient, or techno. (And you know you guys are going to be hearing all about it).
Song of the Sad Assasin
"i'll suck the marrow out / and rape your hollow bones yoni"
These Few Presidents
"i thought, there is no paved street / worthy of your perfect scandanavian feet"
A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under
"and look at the sidewalk in front of me / and my tennis shoes go in and out of the frame"