If you live in Davenport, IA then you recently got a new place to go to listen to chill bands and drink. The Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, that’s all one place, apparently, opened on March 30. In an interview with one of the owners, Sean Moeller, who also owns the music studio Daytrotter, he explained his desire to open up a (presumably) hip, new (yet familiar and lacking pretension) venue was because his home was in Davenport and he’d like to attract some shows. Sounds good to me! I’m tired of the big cities always getting all the acts. It’s even worse when some bands are convinced that anything other than the coasts is purely “flyover country.” Sadly, he didn’t explain the name of the place. I was hoping for some interesting anecdote. Still, I’d be compelled to go to a place named “Raccoon Motel,” although I’d be a little disappointed if there weren’t a bunch of raccoons lounging about on vacation. I’d need a shot of whiskey to recover.
At the Juke Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, you’ll find live music, bar food, some recognition of blue music, and raccoons. A gaze of raccoons living in the woods behind the bar are known to venture onto the patio (but never indoors) to mingle with the patrons, who enjoy feeding the critters. I’ll bet they love some crawfish, it’s probably be really cute to see a raccoon tearing into one of those things. These visitors have become such a fixation that employees have begun redecorating the inside with more of a raccoon theme, and have even unofficially changed the bar’s mascot to a raccoon! I may need to swing by this place sometime.
I don’t like to talk about music with people. This is due to several traumatic experiences which showed me that people are incredibly judgmental about others’ taste in music and that, for the most part, you shouldn’t discuss music unless you are very actively maintaining the right balance of liking what’s popular and what’s obscure (but still popular.)
I’m not popular or cutting edge. I’m definitely not deep.
Here’s what I liked this year. And remember, it’s not necessarily what came out this year, just music that I discovered for myself or, in some cases, found a new appreciation for.
Did you see It Follows? It’s a pretty pretty great indie horror movie featuring a neat synth soundtrack by Disasterpiece. Then there was The Guest, a really awesome slasher flick that came out last year that had some very 80’s tracks in it. I grew up playing video games (in the 80’s), so synth music is a part of my existence. On the good side, those retro sounds are seeing something of a comeback these days, both in movies (did you get a load of Kung Fury or the infinitely superior Turbo Kid?) so there’s a bit to choose from. Here’s my first batch of picks:
Of course, I also like to keep up with artists I’ve previously enjoyed. Sadly, I don’t do a very good job of that. I turns out a few released albums recently-ish and nobody told me. It amazes me that iTunes doesn’t have a built-in feature to e-mail me when an artist who I’ve bought two or more albums from releases a new one.
And then there are the random things I come across. I like the Sound Opinions program on NPR, one of the few NPR productions I can tolerate, actually. And they occasionally bring up songs that strike my fancy, even if they’re not my usual taste. Some of this harks back to one of the best selling albums of 2014, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.
Every now and then I decide to delve into my meager music collection (a mere 64GB) and rediscover music I’ve previously listened to. This year, the Heathers album Kingdom caught my attention. This one is a little personal. The band was recommended to me by a former friend who was kind of a music snob. He much preferred their first album, Here, Not There, which was much less produced and hence more “real.”I’m sure I heard both of the albums back then, filed them away, and then never gave them another thought until this year. Having re-listened, I can see where that friend was coming from. The first album can very bluntly be described as “two girls and a guitar.” Their singing on that one can be … discordant. But on Kingdom? I don’t care if it’s not “real.” I’d rather listen to these tracks any day.
Based on my listening to Heathers, Apple music (I took advantage of the trial period and concluded that it sucks) suggested another band, and I actually can’t disagree with the choice! I’d never heard of HamsandwicH, but they have some really great songs, some with a slightly 60’s vibe to them. Unfortunately, they maintain my awful tradition of listening to European music. I’m an American, dammit!
I need to bring things back to video games, though. They’ve evolved considerably from the beeps and boops of yesteryear. And they have an amazing ability to elevate the gaming experience with their orchestration.
“Apotheosis” by Austin Wintory for Journey (I talk shit about this game all the time, but this really is a transcendent moment in gaming)
There’s a band called It Looks Sad out of Charlotte, North Carolina who recently released a single titled “Raccoon.” I listened to the song, I liked the music (especially its opening) but didn’t care much for the vocals, which sounded like someone who can’t talk without screwing up the inflection of every sentence. Also, I didn’t hear the word “raccoon” once in the lyrics.
Earlier this year I was forced to endure the lobby music of a bank for hours on end. The radio station they had it tuned to had a nasty habit of playing an insurance commercial which featured a seconds-long snippet of the Phillip Phillips song “Gone, Gone, Gone.” I recently saw the newest trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, which included a snippet of the 30 Seconds to Mars song “Kings & Queens.” That song being used in combination with visuals of flying? How original, just like it was when it was used in the trailer for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole! Although, in both of those cases the music was used to emphasize the awe of adventure and flying, as opposed to the 2010 movie Skyline where it was used in a hilariously misplaced attempt to make driving through Los Angeles seem epic. I’m curious if it’s just cheaper to license a little bit (sometimes very little) music rather than having something original composed. Clearly, nobody who licenses music is worried about whatever message they convey being muddled by overuse from other people attempting to convey the same message, such as Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” which was the go-to song for trying to tell audiences “this is a big and important thing.” Clearly, nobody was concerned that, through overuse, audiences might simply roll their eyes with a dismissive “you too?”
And what do the artists behind these songs feel about this? Sure, cynically, they don’t care about the use (and abuse) of their work so long as the licensing checks roll in, but do any of them get at least a little annoyed and say “you know, there was a whole song there that I worked on.” But then maybe they’re all like Smash Mouth, whose “All Star” was made specifically to be sold out.