Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Emerging From A Barren Spell

This charming bunch are Seattle band, Grand Hallway. I talk a bit about them in this post. Hence the picture. Duh.

Music's not a lifelong obsession for me.

Ah, shit, I've started with a grandiose statement that's not strictly true again. What I'm getting at I – and I imagine most music fans – go through stages where music's barely incidental to their lives, where they listen to about 3 albums a week, and they're old favourites that are more a comfort blanket than a, uh, multi-sensory experience (in a way that, say, I imagine listening to Ladies and Gentleman we are Floating in Space while on DMT/Acid/Other drug I've also heard of but never come remotely near trying, is). I was going through one of these a couple of months ago, and yeah, this is the bit where I pass off the gap in blog-writing as caused by that, as opposed to the more honest answer of a combination of laziness and ennui.

Obviously the gap's done nothing for my tendency to write long, rambling, multi-clause sentences that make about as much sense as any kind of logic trying to explain how that Simon Amstell sitcom got a) commissioned and b) broadcast.

I picked up just one album in that time, by a little-known Seattle-based band called Grand Hallway. Crap name, great band. The album's called "Promenade", which is better. They're very much of the current Pacific Northwest in tone, performing florid, textured indie-pop songs, making use of beautiful melody and an occasional jawdropping grasp of dynamics (just go on Spotify and listen to “Raindrops (Matsuri)”, please!), and creating a wonderful album with the spirit of Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, and anyone else who can use a multi-instrumental backing band/tons of instruments, parts, textures, counter-melodies blah blah blah. I realise this is a bad time to say this post isn't about them, but it isn't; it's just a personal thing about what's going through my head while listening, and other magubbins relating to them. But it's not about them.

(Though before I go any further, I should say that one of my favourite things about Grand Hallway is that when you mention them – recommending them to a friend, say – on Twitter, they always retweet your tweet. And as I'm a creature of shallow, easily-placated ego, that appeals to me. Hell, even though most of my tweets are complaining the album's not available in the UK – I don't know who I'm complaining to – they still retweet. There's going to come a point where I'm like “hey, why don't you follow me”, and then the circle will be complete, and my life will have officially become classified as 'pathetic'.)

First things first, it's the first album I've ever bought on import. As I said (if you read things in brackets – and if you don't, you'll miss this clause so I don't know why I'm typing it...verbal diarrhoea I guess), it's not available in the UK. And yeah, I was never one of those music fans who Have To Hear Everything First; I remember downloading the first Bloc Party album before it was released, like, and felt so bad about it, I went out and bought the album when it came out. I'm not even sure why. 2005 was a weird year. Anyway, I'm not even sure how I heard of them – in fact, if anyone had heard of them before 27th April this year, tell me, because you probably recommended them and I need to thank you.

I'm emerging from the end of a phase of playing far too many computer games. This isn't unusual for me, but that's something that saps your will to listen to music. It's hard to explain why, but I think there's a couple of reasons for this, so here goes:

  • First one's pretty obvious, that you're listening to the in-game music to add to the atmosphere; it's part of the all-important immersion. Any activity, from TV to art galleries to music or computer games, requires you to buy into the vision it's trying to create in your head in order for you to get the most out of it. Appreciating this, I always listen to the music.

  • But beyond that, computer games are a pretty overwhelming activity, insofar as you're giving them 100% concentration; all of your mental energy and it's kind of draining. So when you're not playing, you're sort of unwittingly doing whatever you do in relative silence, because it doesn't occur to you to listen to music.

That's really bad, in a way, isn't it? Makes it seem like I don't really like music. But I do, I swear! Sometimes, and yeah, the lives we live, the changes to our daily routine; to work, the people we meet, the activites we partake in socially and professionally, they all affect what we're looking for, and while I'm sat here listening to music and doing no'ver'much this evening, and it's something I love doing, it's not something I've had much compulsion to do. I mentioned Grand Hallway because theirs was the only new album I acquired – yes, bought via Import – during this time, and I'm kinda grateful that I still had some anchor in music. Now I'm buying stuff, going to gigs and proms and having conversations again, and it feels a bit I'm used to.

But yeah, thanks Grand Hallway.

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