Finding the beauty in Mewithoutyou can be difficult. There are no slow builds to a musical apex. Melodies are unfamiliar and the vocals unique. Often it seems players are independent of each other. Dynamics are at a premium, yet everything flows in the same direction. Ten Stories is about just that. A collection of songs joined together by a singular incident, a traveling circus train derailment, this record is as interesting and uncommon as that concept. And with the record, Mewithoutyou continue as the bright and hopeful champion of the unconventional.
Released: 1999, February 23 (reissued 2009, 10 year anniversary reissue)
Like an old friend, one you spent a summer with, observing, learning, becoming who you are. White’s and Orazio’s, 3 am radio station ambushes, backyard bonfires and one-off recording sessions. Arguing the merits of Harry Potter, Vonnegut or the validity of reading print in general. These are the things that make albums autobiographical. The ultimate and end-all. I will always remember who told me to start Clarity with “Goodbye Sky Harbour”;once for me a joy ride, taken for the fun of reckless thrill, is, right now, the saddest song in the world. Thank you for everything, you were a good friend.
That’s the short of it. The long of it is that Adam Yauch had one of those legendary voices that you recognize for being his and only his and the Beastie Boys are one of those transcendent groups. They did for a later generation what The Beatles did before them; bring a genre from fringe to mainstream by creating something that no one had ever done before. Most will say that the Beastie Boys are a genre defining hip hop group, but to me they are one of the most punk rock bands of all time. By creating music that was unique in every way and albums that deliver tracks that you want to play over and over as well as songs that you just don’t get until one day you do, they endure as legends. I have a feeling they would think I am full of shit for writing that.
Personally, I got deep into the Beastie Boys in Jr. High when my favorite bands were NOFX and Rancid but my best friend and future 4 year locker partner, Ryan “the butt” Butler was deep into old school hip hop. The Beasties were our common ground. We played the Beasties loud and obnoxiously enough that our parents would wonder “what the hell is that?” which seemed to us to be exactly the point. In high school “Fight for your right” was our growing groups of friends anthem and mantra while “Sabotage” and “So What’cha Want” was our fuel. And my love affair continued as we all moved on to do our own things. We grew older and embraced the elder-statesmen status they enjoyed. A friend and I often discuss the Beasties, always mentioning how MCA’s voice is the best of the group. Our house parties always feature a heavy dose of selections from Ill Communication, Check Your Head, Hello Nasty, License to Ill and Hot Sauce Committee pt. 2.
The music world will be a strange place for me without knowing that Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys are out there, the elder-statesmen that they are, working on another great record. It’s hard to think of another group that has endured as long as the Beastie Boys and continued to put out great work time after time that I actually anticipate listening to.
Released: 2012, April 21 (RECORD STORE DAY ONLY RELEASE)
With an endless string on similarly touted artists emerging in the last few years, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Krokodil will likely be that record for St. Vincent because of its very limited vinyl-only release. And maybe that is the intent as it stands out of St. Vincent’s catalog like a loud and obtuse being in what has so far seemed a very precise and calculated path. Complexity gives way to simplicity and the beauty that usually finds its way onto St. Vincent tracks is drown by distorted power, begging the question; are these tracks supposed to be buried? Even the non-descript packaging seems to want to be forgotten in the record bins of it’s owner. Is this the product of a darkness cast upon the lush forest that is St. Vincent or is the simply the continuing of a moody C.S. Lewis like body of work? For my money, it is an excellent addition to what is an interesting voyage of St. Vincent, leaving much left to discover.
Spoken word recordings are about as popular as typewriters; they exist, but only a small group of people finds them useful. This Batman record was passed down to me through family, although when I look back at a timeline of when this record came out and who in my family might have been listening to it, the details seem fuzzy. In any case, it’s a nostalgia piece, a relic from a different era; one kids of today would not recognize or believe was so close in time to their own. Two short stories appear per side, narratives that unfold for our capped crusader to wrap up in around 10 minutes. The recordings are as crisp as anything you might find on NPR, but still sound of a completely different time. If there is a University looking for a new class to put in next years course catalog covering the evolution of post World War II American culture through are arts, Batman should appear on that syllabus.