Every now and then I go on a new-things binge, and because I can indulge this, I do. Nothing so space-consuming as shoes or even clothes, but small treats like bars of soap or perfume samples. It took me awhile to recognize this as a pattern, but at some point it occurred to me that my heavily scented benders were happening with some regularity — maybe once every year or two years, for the perfumes at least — and I started to notice I do it with a number of different types of acquisitions.
Probably the most reliable of my binges is on new music. I’m always on the lookout for more, but there are times when it becomes something closer to an obsession, and I’ll stream dozens of albums on Spotify, test-driving all the tracks, eventually purchasing the ones I like best.
Lately my favorites tend to be instrumental or electronic (and sometimes that line blurs), since I don’t write well if I’m getting someone else’s words in my ear. It turns out I write fiction much more easily with earbuds in, for some reason — yet another motivation for hunting out all this music: because it helps me write.
Andy Akiho, “to wALk Or ruN in wEst harlem”
I learned of percussionist/steel pannist Andy Akiho from my brilliant friend, the pianist Adam Marks, when he performed one of Akiho’s compositions at a recital. This is my favorite piece off his album. You can’t hear the whole thing online, but if you like the sample, you know what to do.
Caleb Burhans, Evensong (album)
I got the name of this composer and album off an NPR “best of 2013” list, if I remember right, but by the time I got around to listening to it, I’d completely forgotten what it was supposed to be. From previous discussions on this blog I know many of you share my connection to choral music; Burhans combines choir with a more contemporary sensibility, and I’m really enjoying it. My favorite songs on the album aren’t available on YouTube, but here’s one that is:
Vân-ánh Vanessa Võ (and Diana Rowan, on this video): “3 Gnossiennes”
Erik Satie is one of my favorite composers, not just because he wrote wonderful music but because of his delicious sense of humor, which is evident in his tempo markings (e.g., “Very shiny”) and his titles (e.g., “Dessicated Embryos“, and the naming of pieces “in the form of a pear” after someone criticized his music for “lack of form”). I’ve played his pieces myself, seen them danced to by the Mark Morris group, and now I’ve discovered Vân-ánh Vanessa Võ’s interpretation using a Vietnamese instrument, the đàn bầu. It adds a whole new dimension. (For comparison, here’s the original.)
Valerie June, “The Hour”
June is from Tennessee and is about my age. I love her soulful, retro sound, and the chorus of this song makes me want to sway and sing along. I haven’t yet had the chance to listen to much of her music, but I’m looking forward to exploring.
East India Youth, “Glitter Recession” and “Looking for Someone”
East India Youth is actually one young Englishman the same age as my youngest sister, and this album only came out in January of this year.
My Morning Jacket: “Victory Dance”
I first played this song at my other sister’s house, and after a minute or two she asked, “What is this? I like it.” I said, “I like it too.”