Music and setting have always been very closely linked. For example, it’s common knowledge that Bon Iver wrote For Emma, Forever Ago in a cabin in Wisconsin. That isolated, icy sound translated into the music and now, who can listen to those songs and not be transported to a snowy forest?
Certain concerts are made that much more memorable or magical by the location too – TV On The Radio at the Hollywood Bowl, Milo Greene in a living room.
The combination of location and timing plays a role in the affect music has on us as well. I will never forget seeing Local Natives for free at Spaceland (now the Satellite) during their residency. I had barely heard of them and was totally blown away. Considering the venues they went on to play the following year (including Walt Disney Concert Hall) it’s an incredible memory to have seen them on the tiny, sparkling Silverlake stage.
I was in the right place at the right time.
It was a serendipitous combination of location and timing that led me to The Barr Brothers as well – not only my personal discovery of the band, but it’s very formation. And the music itself even evokes a specific sense of place.
Most of us have holiday traditions that we have adhered to since childhood. Watching a particular movie (Albert Finney’s 1970 version of Scrooge). Attending the same neighborhood Christmas Eve fete. My brother and I knew that no matter how early we woke up we would have to say a prayer before our antique nativity scene before we could even see our haul from Santa. When everything else had been torn open, we would always find a Clementine at the bottom of our stockings.
It is impossible to imagine Christmas without these rituals. The first time it was suggested that we maybe open presents on Christmas Eve (rather than Christmas morning), the idea was treated as blasphemy and shot down almost immediately.
Holiday music retains an equally precious place in our hearts. From hymns and carols (“O Come All Ye Faithful”) to modern classics (“All I Want For Christmas Is You”) creating new versions of these old favorites is a delicate proposition. Done incorrectly and the listener feels violated; that scene in The Santa Clause where Scott Calvin is utterly horrified to see Santa Claus ditching his sleigh for a panzer.
‘Tis that time of year again. When it begins to snow on the east coast, turns to sweater weather on the west coast and music lovers far and wide begin posting their lists of the best 50 or 100 songs of 2011. First of all, I only got to 45 this year and second of all I don’t feel comfortable claiming these songs to be the “best.” “Best” is a strong word. In no particular order, below you will find just some of the songs that moved me personally this year. Moved me to dance, sing, cry, stomp, flail, fist pump, clap, smile, jump, shout, hum, or sometimes all of the above. I can only hope you love them half as much as I do; maybe even get turned on to an artist you’ve never considered before. Enjoy!