Clef Notes: The Super Depressing Edition
Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.
RIP: In some of my morbid moments I have wondered what song will be playing at my funeral and, while I have yet to decide on the track, I am sure it will be something poignant. Carole King’s So Far Away played at Amy Winehouse’s funeral -it was her favorite song- and I am sure that it was devastating for those who were in attendance. The world lost a truly great singer, and troubled soul, on July 23rd as Amy Winehouse passed away in her apartment in Camdem, England. Winehouse was just 27 years old and leaves behind a legacy that, sadly, will be comprised of equal parts turmoil and triumph. There has already been an extensive amount of coverage regarding the death of Amy Winehouse; due to scheduling circumstances I have yet to publish my thoughts on her passing, but I suppose there is no time like the present.
Amy Winehouse was born in Southgate, England, to a Jewish family with a love of jazz. As a young girl in primary school Winehouse was often reprimanded by her instructors for singing in class, a side effect of endless hours spent learning Frank Sinatra songs from her father. At age ten she formed the short-lived rap group Sweet and Sour (Winehouse herself described it as the little Jewish Salt N’ Peppa). By age 14 Winehouse was expelled for the first time for “not applying herself” and piercing her nose. As a teen Winehouse received her first guitar and started writing her own songs. By the the time she was 20, she released her first major label debut, a critically acclaimed but low selling jazz/neo-soul record titled Frank.
It wasn’t until the release of 2006’s Back To Black that Amy Winehouse became a household name. With its classically slick, Mark Ronson-crafted, Phil Spector-esque production style, undeniably catchy songs, and Winehouse’s unique deep contralto, Back To Black was a massive success in all definable aspects. Within months of the record’s release, Back To Black was number one on both the UK and American charts, Winehouse was on the cover of every magazine that mattered, wanted for nothing in life, and had no idea that she was living through her peak.
Though I have never been a rich and successful musician in my waking hours, I have read enough artist biographies and have seen enough rock n’ roll biopics to know how these things tend to play out. Many a paragon of noble virtue has been tempted and inevitably undone by the various vices, degeneracies, and corruptions that are often the trappings of fame. In Winehouse’s case we have an individual who was obviously already predisposed to self-destruction, and her newfound wealth and stardom became agents of enablement and exacerbation. In short, Amy Winehouse the star killed Amy Winehouse the person.
One of the speculated causes of Winehouse’s death are complications due to alcohol withdrawal. Some sources (who are reportedly close to the Winehouse family) claim that doctors warned the songstress that she would have to wean herself off alcohol gradually, to which Winehouse supposedly replied that it was all or nothing, and gave it up completely. These same sources claim that Winehouse had not touched a drink for close to three weeks before the date of her passing. It should be noted that there are numerous other cause of death theories, and various stories recounting Winehouse's final 72 hours, so exactly what happened will not be known until the toxicology reports come back in the coming weeks.
In the end, the saddest thing that can be said about the death of Amy Winehouse is that not a single one of us was surprised when we heard of her passing. The modern TMZ and YouTube world had exhaustively chronicled the downfall of this woman of inestimable talent and unbeatable demons; it was something akin to watching a building collapse in slow motion, or a dream decay in the blink of an eye.
How can we take our eyes off it?: Watch The Throne will finally drop on Monday and I couldn’t possibly be happier about it. Mind you, my joy doesn’t stem from some sort of eager anticipation to hear this record. I will be happy just to have the hype finally die down, so I can go back to worrying about records that aren’t such obvious exercises in narcissism. As we've repeatedly been told during the weeks leading up to its release, Watch The Throne is the collaborative Jay-Z and Kanye West album that is going to save hip-hop, fix this whole debt-ceiling mess (I know, how topical), and cure cancer. Just about every detail of this record has been dissected and analyzed; from its gold leafed album art designed by Riccardo Tisci, to the laborious and unconventional recording circumstances involved in the album’s creation, to the rumored disputes that West and Jay have had about the music’s sonic directions and arrangements.
Even the choices that the duo have made as far as distribution is concerned have caused some controversy. Over a hundred of the nation's independent record stores drafted a letter to both the artists and their management voicing their disappointment that Best Buy has a one month distribution exclusive on the physical retail version of Watch The Throne. Jay Z himself was on Hot 97 this week, and had this to say about the letter: “I feel a little bad about it, but at the same time, it’s like, we made this album, we took eight months. We should be able to release it the way we would like.” What that quote is basically saying is "Fuck you dudes, I want to get paid!"
The latest bit of news to dog this release is that the upcoming tour originally scheduled to support the record has already been pushed back, reportedly because the two emcees cannot agree on what the staging and production should be. In other words, these two rich megalomaniacal individuals refuse to agree on anything... I really hope this erupts to some kind of epic argument, or (fingers crossed) violence on stage! I promise you I would write about that for, like, two months!
Morrissey should follow the advice of Thumper's mother: So Morrissey has said some really unforgivably foolish things since the last Clef Notes. While on stage in Warsaw, Poland, the famously vegetarian (and bigoted) singer decided he should share his views on the then-recent Norwegian massacre, which took place in late July. The Mancunian curmudgeon outraged most sane people on the planet when he said that the actions of mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 76 people, were nothing compared to the evils carried out by McDonald’s and KFC every day. “We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown with 97 dead,” he said (when the death toll was thought to be higher).”Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Shit every day.” I shit you not, that little rant served as the intro for one of the most famous Smith tunes, Meat Is Murder. As you would imagine, many of those who were at the concert were shocked by the singer's imbecilic outburst, and the Internet was instantly ablaze with innumerable opinions condemning the 52 year old singer's insensitivity, as well as his apparent attempt to give the vegetarians of the world an even worse reputation. Morrissey himself has been stereotypically obstinate about the whole affair, refusing to comment any further and stating that his statement spoke for itself. He’s right, it did, it reassured us that Morrissey is a fucking asshole.
Yours Truly by Sublime With Rome: Yours Truly sounds like a Sublime record because it essentially is one. This album is 15 tracks of So-Cal ska-punk, which may have been a hit back when the Warped Tour was something other than shameful, but today just sounds stale... [Full Review]
BlackenedWhite by MellowHype: This is a record about smoking weed, getting girls, and bragging about it, and is thus a more straightforward hip hop record than Goblin. These differences in theme make BlackenedWhite far more accessible than the previous Odd Future works... but that doesn’t necessarily make it “good”... [Full Review]
Odd Future has announced a North American tour. I am sure you’ll be there. The thing is, I probably will be too... Death Cab For Cutie have also announced tour dates. You can pretend not to care, but I know you do... Nick Zinner has written a classical piece titled 41 Strings. I am happy for him, I just miss Yeah Yeah Yeahs... This Flaming Lips & Weezer thing is really happening, and the people seem to love it. I would expect nothing less from you all... Kings Of Leon have cancelled their US tour due to the “vocal issues and exhaustion” of lead singer Caleb Followill. Don’t worry guys, I am sure that Band Of Horses or some other band that sounds just like KOL will be playing your town soon... Feist is saturating the marketplace with album details, tour dates, and all kinds of other promotional gobbledygook. I bet this time Starbucks will name a drink after her... Jane’s Addiction have dropped a new single. In other news, OJ Simpson is currently involved in a car chase, and Melrose Place just premiered... The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released a new single. Feel free to read my last joke... The Shins are on Columbia now, and they are releasing a new record. No thank you... Gauntlet Hair has announced a release date for their upcoming self-titled release. This is almost certainly a make or break record for these kids, and I hope they do well...
Top Ten List:
Elliot Smith would have been 42 years old today. Born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised primarily in Texas, Smith would become a venerated singer/songwriter in the mid to late 90s. Known for his unique, whisper-thin delivery, and anomalous acoustic guitar playing, Smith was truly a gifted musician who is missed by his multitude of fans and those who loved him. Here is my list of the top ten Elliot Smith songs.
10) Angel In The Snow
8) A Disturbed Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free
7) Between The Bars
4) Say Yes
3) Needle In The Hay
2) King’s Crossing
1) Waltz #2
Track Of The Week:
Winter Beats - I Break Horses: Winter Beats is dream pop by way of Swedish song writer Maria Linden and it’s the kind of obscured beauty that slays me every time. This song is the first track off of I Break Horses’ upcoming record, Hearts, and it’s a tantalizing and mesmerizing preview of what delights may hide on the rest of the album.