It seems like a good idea to very briefly explain why I’m writing this blog so that in years to come when my older self is tracing her wasted youth through google searches then she will have some explanations.
I went to see The Mountain Goats play with the Anonymous 4 at the Barbican a couple of weeks ago. It was a really great show and The Barbican provided a really great printed handout with a set list on and some writing about the collaborations. The novelty of knowing what song was coming next was really amazing. And there were some really interesting quotes from John Darnielle.
“I think popular music has reached a kind of saturation point where people are wanting the deeper, more complex strains that have been available in classical music…the stuff that gives people something to chew on.”
To me this seems not only true but also encouraging and exciting. I listen to music all day. It holds my thoughts in a good and interesting place. I had never really thought about it before reading this quote but I do look for depth and complexity in my songs (although this depth and complexity comes in all shapes and sizes). And I really like the idea that there is a general shift among the listening public towards more complex songs.
In a recent job I held for far too many months I had to listen to Radio 1 all the time. It was horrible. For a lot of reasons it was horrible but partly it was horrible because the music was so repetitive – they play the same songs over and over and a lot of them sound quite similar anyway. There’s no challenge in listening to it but its not easy either, its too fast and harsh to be easy. And what made me sad was the idea that this is what people wanted to listen to all day. But I think John Darnielle is right that people want more than that. They want interesting, challenging exciting songs. They also just want something to fill awkward workplace silences to I shouldn’t judge people too harshly.
In my own songwriting I feel like I always want to get better and to me this probably means writing songs that are more complex, more true and an ever more accurate reflection of what I’m feeling. I feel pretty worried about my songs being boring or samey. And I think that’s how it should be. If I don’t worry about that then they will just slip into tedious wailing (assuming they didn’t start as that).
So in this blog I suppose I want to explore all of the issues surrounding the business of listening to and writing songs, complex and interesting songs. Because I think songs are incredibly important in my life and incredibly important in many peoples’ and that seems like a good reason to understand them better. They are what get me through the day so I should get to know how they work.