Back when I still worked a 9-to-5 in comics retail, I would occasionally offer up a sampling of music that had been playing in the store, under the title “Music to Torment Customers and Co-Workers With”. In fact, the last time I did one was…really, 2005? And I didn’t even technically work in the comic shop anymore in December 2005. Huh.

Anyway, I still have the urge to talk about music occasionally, and while, for the most part, Andrew makes most music discussion on the internet moot, I held off because, honestly, I never thought I’d be able to come up with a hook as easy for me to work with as “Music to Torment Customers and Co-Workers With.”
So I decided to abandon pretence and artifice and just go ahead and talk about the stuff that I keep listening to over and over and over again.

Hide Nothing, Matt Alber
If you’ve been paying attention to the gay culture blogs, odds are you might have already heard of him. He’s a talent that’s just starting to attract wider attention, and it’s well-deserved, but he’s still flying under the radar of the wider populace. It’s exciting, because you hear his music now, and you can so easily picture the huge name he’s going to become once more people hear him and respond the way you do. His voice is achingly beautiful and tender, and as a song-writer he just takes my breath away. His metaphors are so carefully crafted, and what I take away from his love songs in particular is both a sense of longing, an acknowledgement that relationships face challenges, but an optimism that those challenges prove worthwhile in the end. For me personally, it’s also nice that know that he’s openly gay and his music reflects that. While there is an element of universality to his love songs, many of them also reflect a particular mood that feels specifically gay, if nothing else, particularly on Field Trip Buddy and the elegy Beotia.
Here’s a sample of his music, which I strongly urge you to go buy. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
Matt Alber, Monarch

Years Of Refusal, Morrissey
At this point in my life, buying a new Morrissey album is pretty much a nervous reflex. It comes out, I see it, I buy it. I listen to it a few times, a couple of songs end up not sounding like every other song he’s done since the Smiths broke-up, they make it onto my mp3 player or drive-time mix-discs, and I go on my way until the next Morrissey album drops. Except, every three or four albums, he seems to get some of his old mojo back and something really special comes along. This one…well, it’s not quite there, to be honest. But it’s the closest ol’ Moz has gotten to a “no filler” album in quite some time. In fact, if you cut out the the self-pitying to the point of self-parody Imm throwing my arms around Paris and the equally cliche and obligatory “dead girl-friend” song When last I spoke to Carol, you get a really tight, good album.

Lady Antebellum
It’s fairly rare for me to find a contemporary country-album I actually really like. Most of what I hear is utterly drab to my ears, when it’s not reactionary garbage. And, sadly, I’m not quite gay enough to get into the Dixie Chicks. So I was fairly surprised to stumble across this album last year and then found myself liking it a lot. It’s very commercial country on the surface, but something about it gives it an appeal beyond disposable pop. Which the best pop tends to do anyway, but it still feels fairly rare for the country music scene to produce something like that, as most of the acts coming out of Nashville these days feel more studio and marketing contrived than the latest single from an American Idol also-ran, or worse, AI winner. It elude me a little, what exactly I find so appealing about this album, but I look at it this way; it’s nearly a year old, and it’s still getting played, a lot, by me.

3 Balloons, Stephen Lynch
The trick with singing comedy is that you’ve got to be both funny and able to sing. And thick-skinned enough to be looked down on by “real” comedians and “real” musicians. Lynch can sing and he’s funny, and he’s been at this long enough now that he’s clearly been able to hold up against the slings and arrows crowd. But…on the whole, this isn’t quite up to par with his last two albums. Certain songs are funny. But more of them feel…strained. As if we’re expected to just accept that there’s a joke in there somewhere. The one stand-out exception is America, which is a full-on, Phil Ochs style patriotic folk-song of such fury and anger, expressed via irony and sarcasm, with a quiet reminder of what the real America is all about, that it’s almost startling. I honestly didn’t think Lynch had that sort of thing in him, and it’s astoundingly good and promising, if that’s a direction he decides to go in with his music.

Oh, what the heck, have a Matt Alber video:

5 Responses to “In Current Rotation”
  1. Matt Algren says:

    I’m right there with you on Matt Alber. I have to say, I was surprised by my emotional response to Field Trip Buddy. And I LOVE in the video for End of the World where the barber has to turn his head manually.

    He’s got amazing range, too. Here’s a video of him singing an alto solo in Handel’s Messiah in 2007.

    I do expect him to be your Man of the Moment at some point, of course.

  2. Brian Smith says:

    I know it wasn’t your intention, but your mention of the Dixie Chicks got me to look up and watch the video for “I Can Love You Better” for the first time in years. I’d never heard of the group before I saw that in 1998, and it took me two years to get over my immediate crushes on all three of them.

  3. Kerry Hughes says:

    Thank you for this. I am speechless and have been all day since first watching and hearing, “End of the World.”

  4. Anonymous Bosch says:

    OMG, Steve Guttenburg sings?

    RE: Morrissey

    I was shocked at hearing ‘You Are The Quarry’ because he’s still mining the same well-worn veins as his 80’s work, and I realised that I’m not the same person I was then, and have changed greatly in the intervening years. How can he have not grown up or changed his way of thinking in all that time? He’s still moaning about the same old tropes to the point of parody.

    Basically, he’s either existing in a state of Infantile Regression, or Completely Faking It.

  5. Fer says:

    Thanks for the MAlber recommendation, I bought it from emusic right after I listened to the samples they’ve got there.

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