Saturday, January 21, 2012

late to the game

I've been listening to Neil Young A LOT lately. I'll admit it, until the past few months or so I had some sort of aversion to the guy. I am more easily sucked in by "pretty, gentle" things while the more "abrasive, raw" sounds usually win out in the end. It's proving to be the same thing with Mr. Young.

CSN has had a stable spot in my musical rotation for years. N stole my heart right away with his British charm and undying love for Joni while C kept me intrigued by his seemingly misguided sense of survival (S was just good at being present). Y always made me a little uneasy. Maybe subconsciously I knew it wasn't time to dive into Y, that somewhere deep down some part of me felt I wasn't ready to fully appreciate his musical perspective.

I equate it to my Carole King / Joni Mitchell experience. Here you have two very different artists commonly described the same way yet worlds apart both musically and lyrically. While I'll always love King's simple straight forward pop songs, Mitchell offers unusual chord progressions and custom tunings accompanied by words with double meanings and a voice that pierces the heart. When I want to escape and feel light and dreamy I listen to Carole. When I'm mulling over how I feel, I listen to Joni (it would surprise you how many times I have been driving in my car listening to Blue and tears start streaming down my face... I know, it sounds super dramatic but what can I say, I'm emotional).

One could make the argument that perhaps Carole's songs are just more uplifting and celebratory of life and that Joni lives in waves of perpetual sadness. But that's not the case at all. In fact, I think of the two Joni is more of a dreamer. She is the one constantly longing to find love and be happy but at the same time she's just not afraid to explore the reasons why it's so hard to do so. And to give her credit, Carole attempts to do the same thing but it's the depth of that exploration that makes the distinction.

Now I don't want you to take this as a rant on how some music is inherently "better" or more "relevant" that others. That topic is too big and complex for me to even attempt to take on today. It's more of an internal struggle of trying to distinguish what it is about music that I find so powerful and why that is.
 Is it more powerful when a song makes you think or are the true signs of intelligent songwriting when your heart digests the song? Or is the true pinnacle of songwriting when you find both?

I'm telling ya, Canadians know something we don't.

Sugar Mountain - Neil Young

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