Music (long form discussion thread)

There are a bunch of threads for sharing music depending upon the genre and the time of day that you're listening to it, though I wanted a thread more akin to “The thread in which we talk about the videogames we are currently playing,” where music is discussed in words rather than just shared. Of course, music being one of the more abstract art forms, it can be harder to talk about it, so this thread might not be the most active. In many ways simply sharing songs is the best way to engage in music with others, since music has a much lower up-front investment than games – though I am still often compelled to try to spout off words, no matter how nonsensical, about the music I listen to.

This morning I listened to the Plastic Ono Band album for the first time in forever. I forgot how much I like John Lennon -- and in fact a lot of what I like about music might have secretly come from listening to John Lennon's solo albums as a teenager. A lot of sounds that I think of as "[Japanese](" very clearly came from close listenings to John Lennon (and the other 60s mega-musicians, like Brian Wilson). Of course I've always known this intellectually (e.g. the name "Sadistic Mika Band" is a play on "Plastic Ono Band"), and I've been reminded of it before countless times -- it's just each time that I am reminded of it, it's such a jarring feeling. For later Japanese music, elements of the John Lennon sound were clearly reintroduced via the influence of Mike Alway/Él Records and other 80s British independent label stuff. I just realized that Bad Dream Fancy Dress's song The Supremes is basically a cover/reinterpretation of "Remember".

Part of me feels it's a little embarrassing to talk at length about how moved I am by John Lennon lyrics, but "God" in particular is a song that is astounding in the contrast between how trite it seems when I think about it in isolation from actually listening to it, and the actual effect it has when I hear it. I also have a thing for songs that just go from point A to point B without having some repeating motif or a chorus to go back to. Part of me feels that's how all music should be. If I want to hear a particular part again, well I can just replay the song -- I don't need the musician to do it for me. Though this is perhaps one of those opinions I have as a person who never listens to music live and only experiences it alone in the dark through headphones.

In other news, I've been trying to listen to more stuff that is both modern and popular. In pursuit of that goal, I downloaded Tricot's whole discography and have been putting it on while I study. I am not sure if I actually like them as music to listen to, though as an exercise I've been learning to the play the guitar parts of their more interesting songs. I've always thought of myself as a kind of fake guitarist -- I've been playing it for more than half my life, but a lot of that has just been banging out power chords or whatever. I don't feel like I've ever gotten any good at it. Earlier this year I started listening to Jazz more and have learned a lot about harmony, chord extensions and all the other Jazz stuff. Tricot's songs on the other hand do some complicated stuff with rhythm without actually being all that hard, so spending some time with them feels like a good exercise in actually learning how to play the guitar like a real guitarist.

While on the subject of English language music, I was for some reason reminded of the only Aerosmith song that I like, “Dude (Looks like a Lady)” – which is probably homophobic and would be considered to be Not Good were it released today – though after reading the lyrics over a few times, I don‘t think he’s necessarily disappointed by the titular dude who looks like a lady? This song in particular (and more generally my observations of 70s/80s glam rock from the distant vantage point I was constrained to as a 12 year old in the 2000s) was probably the first step in me acquiring whatever male beauty standards it is that I now possess. (Gackt was an important second step, while reading Hong Lou Meng (and more specifically the imaginations it produced in me, which were only very distantly related to the actual content of the book, and if extracted into some visual form would probably look much more like an early 2000s Squaresoft game) was the definitive point where everything changed.)

what’s your go to karaoke song saddleblasters?

uhhhh i have only done karaoke with other people like three times in my life

i felt the song i was most successful at and would try again if the opportunity arises was Bela Lugosi's Dead

i memorized the lyrics to a bunch of New Pants songs for language practice purposes, so i guess if i ever end up doing karaoke in China with, like, my advisor, i'll do one of theirs (brain not fast enough to smoothly sing chinese characters in real time). if i had to pick one, then probably 我们可以在一起, a song that (very subtly) discusses love as though it is inherently a sick inhuman perversion, which is relatable to me.

That I don't have a go-to karaoke song is something I worry about sometimes


I’ve always thought of myself as a kind of fake guitarist – I’ve been playing it for more than half my life, but a lot of that has just been banging out power chords or whatever. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten any good at it.

Fake pianist checking in—trying to get better currently. Unlucky for me that Tricot doesn't have a keyboardist—those kind of syncopated rhythms would make playing along on any instrument fun—but thankfully I've got a load of various sheet music to go through in the meantime

@“saddleblasters”#p92537 The fake guitarist bit hit home for me. I own two acoustic guitars, one electric guitar, and an acoustic bass. It took me a long time to realize I just like guitars as objects rather than as instruments. I still bang out the intro to Led Zeppelin ‘s “Over The Hills and Far Away” from time to time but the desire to learn to play either left me a long time ago or was never actually there to begin with. I’ve been considering dabbling in building a guitar for years as that seems more appealing than actually playing one at this point in my life.

Good on you though for learning stuff. Music theory makes my brain turn into soup.

I feel like I finally understand Happy End, or at least appreciate them.

I was first introduced to them by well meaning guys in their 30s on the internet who described them as the Beatles of Japan (because that's how one is obligated to describe any non-English language influential band). I found them a lot more boring than the Beatles, so despite listening to Kazemachi Roman a few times, they never made much of an impression on me.

Later on I started listening to YMO and became obsessed with Haruomi Hosono. I was especially fascinated by his origins as a folk-rock singer before transforming into a pioneer of every genre imaginable. Though this was mostly just an intellectual fascination: I didn't particularly like his first album Hosono House or any of Happy End's stuff. Part of the issue might have been my having inherited the very common American tendency to hate all things Americana and Country, so I instinctually hated the two or three country-esque songs on Kazemachi Roman (which now are probably my favorites on the album).

I'm not sure what exactly changed. Last week I suddenly woke up with an urge to listen to Haikara Hakuchi, which resulted in me listening to the rest of Kazemachi Roman a few times, and now I've found myself listening to their three albums over and over. Maybe they were both short lived enough and sufficiently mature as musicians that what music they did make all seems to present a consistent world to me with its own logic and sensations that feels distinct from whatever world it is I'm inhabiting right now, yet still familiar and comforting. I suppose that as winter in the big city descends upon me, there's something about listening to a monotonic voice slowly contemplate the meaning of summer in the village in a song like Natsu Nan Desu.

Part of me feels that whatever Happy End is, it's a sort of musical default -- that this is what music is before you add anything else to it. There are all these other genres that I have sojourned through and loved, but when I close my eyes and fall asleep at night, the feelings that fill my body, were they to be given musical form, they'd sound a lot like Kazemachi Roman. This of course is all an illusion, and I'm sure a lot of this has to do with the kind of Western folk rock I was subconsciously exposed to as a kid from my parents, much of which Happy End was clearly in dialogue with.

oh hey. i will post in this thread. like this but relevant. not now but later.

Similarly, I'll post here with Actual Stuff not now but later.

But for now, I'm not a karaoke person (I think I've only done it once?) but my go-to song if they had it would probably be Rocket Man. If they didn't have that I'd fumble my way through Money For Nothing, or Walk Of Life.

If they didn't have those I'd just go sit at the bar.

@“saddleblasters”#p92550 When you‘re only two posts in and the thread-creator has already connected Aerosmith to The Dream of the Red Chamber, you know you’re in a good place.

I recently wrote an essay about Neil Young's song, “Cortez the Killer,” which is the latest attempt in my long-running quest to write about music in a way that makes any sense at all. I remembered this thread and realized that I never actually posted in it, even though I definitely wanted to! So here I am.

Last week, my friend described my relatively recent (albeit years-long) obsession with Neil Young as "completely inexplicable," and I think the reason for this is manifold. The first reason is that Neil Young is one of those artists that I think has a few very different reputations, depending on your age and just how interested you are in rock music. For many people, he's just some old rocker with a few hit songs, who it's reasonable to want to listen to sometimes, but not considered worthy of a particularly "deep dive" or obsession.

Similarly, I remember one friend seeing that I had eight Modest Mouse albums on my iPod, and being absolutely flabbergasted that they had eight albums, because he considered them a one-or-two-hit wonder radio band from only knowing "Float On" and "Dashboard." But as a big fan of Modest Mouse, I know that these two tracks represent a major shift in their style, and I think of them as a fiercely independent band singing depressing songs that seem like they sound good by accident.

Anyway, everyone I know is surprised when I tell them that Neil Young just never stopped releasing albums (he released one last month), and not just albums but interesting albums, at least to me, all the way up to at least the mid-2000s, after which maybe they are interesting only for the fact that he still has a surprising amount of energy and his voice has shifted into total old-man mode, which I find cool. "Welcome Back" from his 2021 album Barn is one of my favourite of his songs! Isn't that something!

(I was talking to my mom about Neil Young once, and she was immensely confused until she realized that she had been thinking instead of [Neil Diamond](! What the heck! She must have thought I was nuts! Neil Diamond as a role model!)

Over the last few years, I have every few months or so (on average) added a new Neil Young album to my music library, mostly in chronological order, and have almost listened to every one of them now. Which I think makes me something of an expert, because there are over 40 of them. During this time, Neil Young has become a hero of mine, because it definitely feels to me that he never at any point lost that rock 'n' roll spirit, kept releasing albums in genres that no one thought he should have any business playing, kept singing about Incas and Mayans and what-not, and just never seemed bothered about whether an album did well or not. There's not a single song that I listen to and think, "This was just written to play on the radio." I know that's a very subjective impression but hey, that's just how it is.

It is fascinating to me that he followed up the mega-super-hit Harvest with his three most personal and sad albums, and then in the 80s started experimenting with synthesizers and vocoders in a weird and maybe off-putting way, not chasing the trend as much as embracing new technology to make sounds that are now recognizably Neil Young-esque but at the time were such a departure that his label sued him for it.

(I have an essay about Neil Young's 80s music that has been percolating for a few years now, that is tentatively titled "Revolutionary Man Neil" and consists right now of two sentences. But one day! I will present it to the world!)

There are so many weird aspects to his process, like only recording under a full moon, or releasing the very first take of "Like a Hurricane" because he liked the energy, even though he flubs like half the notes. It never feels like he's being experimental for the sake of it, but that there's some sort of guiding spirit that influences all the notes he plays, even when he's just banging on the same note for minutes on end.

I just think he has this feeling for the music that is unique, and he carries this sound and feeling through everything that he does, over 40+ albums and 50+ years! Crazy! And there are even amazing albums that he made decades ago and then didn't release, such as Homegrown, which have been coming out recently and it's like, wow! 70s Neil Young was so powerful that he shelved _this_!

My impression from posting about him on here is that what most people know about him are his ridiculous stunts, like pulling his music off Spotify, attempting to make his own music player device, and his electric car. I would just say that besides all that his music is really worth listening to, and he's a massively inspiring figure to me. There's so much emotion in these songs! Like when his voice cracks in "Mellow My Mind" or "White Line" (the Homegrown version.) It's just so beautiful to me.

Someone describing Modest Mouse as a one hit wonder is giving me a heartache.

I haven't listened to nearly as much Neil Young as you (who has!?), but I've always liked him. What I think is interesting about people like him, who live well beyond their fame, is how many of their fans probably haven't listened to one of their albums in decades. Like, who buys a new Paul McCartney record? How many people can name a Bob Dylan song written in the last 40 years?

I do appreciate that Neil Young, unlike many aging wealthy people, has retained the politics of his youth.

As for me, I recently saw Modest Mouse on their Lonesome Crowded West anniversary tour and while I'm sure it would have been more awesome to see this in 1997 (I was 10, though), it was pretty fucking awesome to finally see my favorite Modest Mouse songs live. Also fascinating to be ay a concert where almost everyone is over 30. It was pretty nice!

@“edward”#p99749 I saw Modest Mouse just a few months ago! I didn‘t quite know what to expect, since the last album of theirs I really loved came out in 2004, but they were quite good, and even songs I had never liked that much before sounded much better when they did it live. I guess that’s an obvious sort of thought but it was my first time going to a concert for a band I like. The only people younger than me (27) were teens there with their parents, lol. Good show!


@“edward”#p99749 I do appreciate that Neil Young, unlike many aging wealthy people, has retained the politics of his youth.

Yeah, one thing I was trying to get at in my rambling is that while many rock-and-rollers settle into an overall conservatism, not just politically but musically as well, Neil Young seems to be less interested in reminiscing about an old form of the world (what conservatism often boils down to) or the music he used to play, but actively pushing himself forward. He doesn't just do what worked before, or play the hits people want to hear, but instead keeps making new stuff. I appreciate that a lot!

Speaking of Bob Dylan, I really like that first born-again-Christian album, "Slow Train Coming." The guy is super hit-and-miss for me, where I generally like half an album and think the other half totally sucks, but I like that one. And as someone not raised religious or exposed to religious music, I find something novel in a guy just singing about Jesus. Although I bet it's just kinda annoying for people who have heard it all a million times.

I talked about Happy End last time, and now I‘ve listened to the Happy End tribute album a handful of times, which I think I like more than the Haruomi Hosono tribute album I mentioned elsewhere. Part of that is simply that folk rock lends itself better to being covered by a bunch of random musicians 30 years later. I like the mix of straight covers, weird hip-hop reinterpretations and covers like the Spitz one that manage to completely naturally make it sound like any other Spitz song. (Have I talked about Spitz (スピッツ) on this forum yet? At some point about a year ago (edit: two years ago! I forgot it’s already 2023) I unintentionally transformed into a massive Spitz fan for some reason. Maybe I should do a Spitz writeup someday.)

One neat aspect of these tribute albums is you get a strong "State of Japanese Music in the Year 200X" feel from them. The Happy End one was released in 2002 and the Hosono ones were released in 2007 and 2008. I guess somewhere in between these two albums stuff like Pro Tools/Logic Pro/whatever exploded in ubiquity, so many of the covers on the Hosono one have a much stronger "made by a person sitting in front of a laptop" feel to them.

@"wickedcestus"#p99753 What is the least Neil Young sounding Neil Young album(s) you can think of if I want to get into weird Neil Young while putting in as little work as possible?

@“saddleblasters”#p100395 Easy. Listen to Trans.

@“wickedcestus”#p99744 Built to Spill has a great live cover of Cortez the Killer that clocks in at 20+ minutes. It‘s full of great solos and Doug Martsch’s voice isn‘t too far off from Young’s.


This reminds me how much I used to love Built to Spill

@“edward”#p100428 They have a few classic albums that I still listen to but I just checked out their latest and was underwhelmed on first listen. I was reading an interview and Doug Martsch was saying how uninspired he was making the record. It comes through in the music. Kinda bummed about that.


That is a bummer. Yeah, I don‘t think I’ve listened to them since 2009? Which I wouldn't have said was that long ago but, man, time sure does keep happening.

is that j balvin’s real middle name? Not a long form post sorry but wondering if anyone knows thanks