I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I’ve never (knowingly) heard a song by Kanye West. Or by Taylor Swift. Or Bon Iver. Or Ke$ha. Or Neon Indian. Or … the list goes on. I’ve tried. Pandora has introduced me to some new stuff, but most of that stuff is by artists and bands as obscure as Burning Hotels, Tame … Tame & Quiet, Stella Rose, Calhoun, The Hanna Barbarians, and all of my other local favorites. Am I missing out?
I’m inclined to think not, because while I evidently don’t listen to a lot of quote-new-unquote music, I read a lot, and everything I read indicates that all of this quote-new-unquote music sounds like stuff I’ve heard before. In fact, as most of you probably know, the pop and indie sonic palettes today –– here in Fort Worth and abroad –– can be boiled down to the sounds of about a dozen albums, including but not limited to Harvest, Fun House, The Sun Sessions, Thriller, and Ten. As an obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, proselytizing, half-drunk cheerleader for local music –– whatever “local” means to you; to me, it means, “From the 817” –– I’d like to think that I’m doing the music-loving populace a favor by not lending my ears to Kanye, Taylor, Bon, and company. I mean, one little listen probably isn’t going to extend their careers, but if I listen to a little every day, maybe all of those little listens will add up to, I dunno, an extra dollar in sponsorship monies for artists who really don’t need any more cash (or free shit) and, based on what I’ve read, who aren’t really adding to the pop-music canon. I’m not saying that every album has to be a masterpiece, but in these apocalyptic times, why not swing for the fences? I’m reminded of an incident at The Wreck Room nearly a decade ago. Alt-country Fort Worthian singer-songwriter Collin Herring and his crack band were onstage, blazing through their set. At one point between songs, Herring, tuning his guitar, looked up, leaned into the mic, and said, “This next song’s off my new album –– it has more than four songs on it.” Everyone chuckled. Herring’s point was that life is too short for EPs (and, no, he’s never done one). Sure, EPs serve a purpose, and not everyone can afford to spend the countless hours required to write, perform, record, and polish an album’s worth of material. But the point is: Swing for the fences, especially if you know you’re capable of smashing them. (If you’re still figuring shit out or you’re broke, well, then maybe an EP is a good, respectable step forward. Baby steps aren’t always emblematic of levels of skill.) If your name is Kanye or Taylor or Bon, well, then maybe an EP is good for you too. If you haven’t contributed to history by now, you’re probably never going to. Are our locals going to go down next to the greats? A couple may. Most will not. As big a fan as I am of anything from our backyards, I’m not Pollyanna-ish enough to think that our little corner of the universe is in some way more artistically fertile than the rest of the planet. However, I’ve heard great –– if not downright legendary –– music from this land west of Dallas. No need to name names here, but if the keepers of the canon –– Rolling Stone editors and Clear Channel execs, maybe –– have the time, there are a few songs I’d like to shove down their throats. For a change.
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