Category Archives: Music to Write To

Game On

For a lot of colleges and universities, the fall semester is coming to a close.  Student term papers are almost due, and for their professors, the real work of winter writing projects begins on the other side of just one more grading marathon.

You’ve done the research and collected the data.  The terms are defined, and the points are in order.  The office is uncluttered, the desktop cleared, and the coffee’s brewed and poured.  Now close the door and don the headphones because at last it’s just you, the blinking cursor, and some sweet music to write to.

Daft Punk, “End of Line” [Buy the soundtrack to Tron Legacy]

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Generating Excitement

It’s a writing day, and what better than a N.E.R.D. leak from their upcoming album Nothing (available Nov. 2) to put me in the writing mood. Here’s “Nothing on You.”

And as for music I’ve been listening to while writing, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Library Tapes, a Swedish post-rock/ambient outfit whose music is frustratingly not all easily available through Amazon. Fittingly, I learned of Library Tapes through a friend whom I was interviewing for my dissertation, which involves the writing process. Mog.com does have a few albums available for streaming, and the band seems to have a new release slated for 2010. Hopefully, they’re not writing at the same pace I am. And since I couldn’t post the song I wanted to post, I’ve linked to a vid below, for “Skiss Av Trad.”

N.E.R.D.: “Nothing on You”

Library Tapes: “Cold Leaves For The Violent Ground”

You can pre-order N.E.R.D.’s album Nothing here.

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a little bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone

My friend Andy recently introduced me to Twin Shadow’s debut release, Forget. Twin Shadow is the brainchild of Brooklynite George Lewis, Jr., a man who was recently hailed “one of the most stylish New Yorkers” by Time Out magazine.

The record, Forget, has a little bit of that 80s nostalgic sound that always turns my head, and this album’s quite possibly catapulting itself into my top ten of 2009. Since it’s a great listen just about the whole way through, it’s worth heading over to Hype Machine and checking out a few of the tracks, but below is one for you, “I Can’t Wait.”

I’m confused about the official release date, because the album’s been up on Rdio for weeks, though it’s release date was listed as yesterday on many sites. You can head over to 4AD or buy the album on Amazon.

Twin Shadow: “I Can’t Wait”

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New Stuff

My favorite album from last week, good experimental electronica to write to from Gold Panda’s mixmaster Derwin:

Gold Panda

Gold Panda: “You” [Buy]

The experimental:

New York outfit Mice Parade plays around with various genres on their well-titled album What It Means to Be Left-Handed, an interesting, although perhaps not start-to-finish compelling, release. The first track plays with African instrumentation and somewhere near the middle, they cover the Lemonheads’ Mallo Cup, what ends up being the most accessible song on the album, although a disappointingly straightforward cover.

Mice Parade: “In-Between Times” [Buy]

The hyped:

Kings of Leon: “Radioactive” from their upcoming (October) full release

The jury’s out on:

There’s nothing offensive or particularly intriguing about Junip’s release release Fields. Junip is Jose Gonzalez, whose music I like very much, plus two others whose contributions to the album are kind of hard to note, and that’s why my early reaction to the album is not terribly positive. Junip is basically Gonzalez with a little pip. What I love about an artist such as Erlend Oye is that in each of his side projects (such as Kings of Convenience), I recognize his voice, but the different sound compels me to ask, “is this Erlend Oye?” Not the case here. Although this track probably has the most aural interest:

Junip: “Sweet & Bitter” [Buy]

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Engraved

I’m not sure why I generally pass over new releases by the Cowboy Junkies, since their classic Black-Eyed Man is one of my all-time favorites, the one that I always bring with me on cross-country drives. When all else fails, I can rely on Margo Timmins’ dreamy, sultry vocals to get me through a particularly land-locked, flat-terrained southern or eastern stretch. As someone on Rdiorecently expressed, “Whenever I hear Margo Timmins’ voice, I wonder why I ever listen to anything else.”

The first time I heard the band’s newest release, Renmin Park, I passed it over much more quickly than usual. The album skips bizarrely from what I can only call East Asian-inspired ambient psych-rock (shoot me now) to the southern bluesy alt-country (since I’m obviously not dead yet, you can try again) many of us associate with the Junkies. And there are other genres mixed in. The album is apparently a tribute to the three months Michael Timmins & family spent in China a couple of years ago.

Yet as with their other albums, this one’s a slow burn. And it is now etched into both my Itunes library and Seagate drive’s memories. The album is, quite simply, amazing. If you passed over it the first time, as I did, I recommend a second and third go-round.

I downloaded the album so that I could post my favorite song here (other bloggers seem to be sticking to the two catchiest tunes, “Cicadas” and “Stranger Here,” good tunes, as well). I’m also posting a live version of “Murder in the Trailer Park,” my heavy-hearted favorite from Black-Eyed Man. I think this album (along with Chris Cooper in Lone Star, which I have posted about before) single-handedly readied me for my hopefully-not-quite-yet mid-life excursion into the realm of classic country.

Cowboy Junkies, “My Fall”
Cowboy Junkies, “Murder Tonight in the Trailer Park” (live)

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Dancing with Robyn

June 14 will bring a legal dose of new Robyn tunes. That’s good, because I spent about two hours yesterday reliving the various versions and remixes of “With Every Heartbeat” on Hype Machine. Already enjoying its Internet life is the Fred Falke remix of “Dancing on My Own,” which is something I do a lot in my living room, a lot more happily than Robyn appears to if her lyrics are truthful representations of her feelings. I’m not posting it here because the file is too big and I haven’t had the time necessary to figure out how to FTP. So instead here’s her. I’m not sure I want to know what a Fembot is to Robyn, but it appears to make me feel like dancin’.

Robyn, “Fembot”

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Music to Write To

Before working on a dissertation and at a full-time job, I might not have distinguished quite so readily between work/writing music and other music, though I’ve always had albums I loved to work or fall asleep to, such as Colleen’s Golden Morning Breaks and Brian Eno’s Apollo Soundtrack, respectively.

While I cannot say that working and writing have changed the kind of music I like, these realities have changed the way I listen and the time I can spend letting an album unfold its mysteries over time. Working 40-hour work weeks gives me patience, you might say. While I’m driving, walking, exercising, or just hanging around, I’m unlikely to pop on a sleepy album, which meant in the past that I got to listen to more subdued albums less frequently. I’m usually on the hunt for albums with a ton of energy.

But at work, my constant task-shifting and the need to think while reading admission applications or writing text for a publication has compelled me to spend more time with more ambient, quiet, contemplative albums than I have in a while. Or perhaps it simply is that being pinned to my desk as I am for so much time, I need musical accompaniment. Thanks to Lala.com, I’ve been able to listen to dozens of albums a day and get connected to many other listeners who work full-time jobs and need constant aural companionship.

So I attribute my being drawn to Keiran Hebden of Four Tet’s recent release, There Is Love in You, to the power of the office. I almost dismissed it out-of-hand after the first track, one of the least compelling on the album. But then I found my way to “Love Cry” and “This Unfolds,” the latter an apt title for a song that begins slowly and adds more layers, depth, and complexity as it builds, or unfolds, if you will.

And with that, back to working on my dissertation.

Four Tet, “Love Cry”
Four Tet, “This Unfolds”

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