Sunday, April 30, 2006

Songs To Grade Papers By

The lifestyle of a humanities academic is generally pretty good. You get a flexible schedule, and lots of time "off" (i.e., to read, do research, and worry constantly about the progress of your career!). And needless to say, you definitely don't have to spend all your days "in a little cubicle" (caution: music).

But one of the hardest parts is grading at the end of the year. The weather is nice, lots of things are happening, and motivation is hard to come by. My fascination with electronic music seems to have blown over, and these days I tend to turn to pop music, especially vanilla-flavored indie rock and upbeat pop anthems. Here are some of the highlights on my playlist lately:

1. Seu Jorge, "Rebel Rebel." The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was a surealist metafilm rather than a movie. Its most arresting image (after Waris Singh Ahluwalia swimming underwater with a camera, of course) was Seu Jorge doing covers of David Bowie with an acoustic guitar at more or less completely random moments. The Bowie covers are so good, they've released a CD of just those songs, The Life Aquatic Sessions. "A must for all people who like acoustic Afro-Brazilian covers of British classic rock in Portuguese." Three of these songs can be listened to here.

2. Belle and Sebastian, "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying." A classic, whose relevance at this time of the year speaks for itself.

3. Aqualung, "Brighter Than Sunshine." I'm not quite sure about Aqualung as a whole, but this song has that nice emo, pop-anthemic sound. (Might be a little too syrupy for some people.) You can listen to it here.

4. Rufus Wainwright, "Instant Pleasure." From the lyrics:

You in the traffic for all eternity
How could that speed be where you want to be?
Said don't you really want instant pleasure
Instant pleasure, instant pleasure

Ouch, that hits a little close to home. Still, an immensely entertaining song. (Not that I'm endorsing everything he says here!)

If you're looking for an instant Rufus Wainwright fix, try "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" at his Myspace page.

5. Snow Patrol, "Open Your Eyes." More anthemic pop. Some songs at Myspace (not this one, unfortunately). They are on the same British label that Belle and Sebastian are on.

6. The Decemberists, "The Legionnaire's Lament." This is the greatest Paris song in the English language, bar none. (And yes, I'm including "April in Paris," which has to consider itself to have been bumped.) This song makes me nostalgic for a century I didn't live in (the 19th), and for a series of bloody continental wars I never fought in. You can hear some of The Decemberists here.

7. The Spinto Band, "Oh Mandy." You can listen to this triumphant, euphoric bit of power pop here.

8. Michael Stipe and Chris Martin, "In the Sun." This is a song Stipe wrote in response to Hurricane Katrina. It's brilliant -- as good as the best downtempo songs REM ever recorded. Proceeds from the sales on Itunes go to the relief effort, so it's well worth your $.99. Start here.

9. Allen Toussaint, "Yes We Can Can." Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, I gather this funky rhythm and blues song (think 1960s rhythm and blues, not contemporary R&B) has become a bit of a New Orleans anthem. I think it's a good anthem for lots of things, actually. Incidentally, I first heard about Toussaint on NPR.

* * *
What's the best song on your playlist this week?


brimful said...

Coincidentally, We Both Go Down Together by The Decembrists has been getting worn down on my playlist. Also, I may have played Fidelity by Regina Spektor an obscene number of times last week when I was studying intently.

Some people find classical music or instrumental music useful for studying/grading, but I've always actually found that even more distracting than some mindless pop.

12:39 AM  
Amardeep said...

"Meet me on my vast verandah/ my sweet untouched Miranda." Has anyone else ever rhymed verandah with Miranda in a pop song? (And note: "verandah" comes from Hindi, so perhaps there's a secret desi reference point there)

But yes, that's a great song too. I love The Decemberists: every song is like a fragment from a tragic historical novel.

I don't know Regina Spektor, but I'll go look her up. Thanks!

9:17 AM  
Samantha said...

great choices! congratulations!!

4:11 PM  
flygirl said...

amardeep, try powderfinger for some light pop strewed with some anthemesque numbers. augie march are also good: music is a mix of literary-lyrics in folksy/alt-rock/pop/country/uncategorisable...sounds great, really :-)

12:48 AM  
Amardeep said...

Regina Spektor (the song Brimful mentioned should start playing -- it is really nice)

Powderfinger (from Queensland! wow, the first band I've ever heard of from that country)

Augie March

Thanks, people.

10:58 AM  
Shama said...

Hmm, Queensland is a state.....and not all that Hicksville either - David Malouf is from there.

Powderfinger are quite well known in the antipodes (as are Augie March). And Bernard Fanning of Powderfinger has a new album called Tea & Sympathy - quite nice.

3:03 AM  
Amardeep said...

Oops, I was confusing Queensland and Greenland, if you can believe it.

The Australians reading this must be a bit annoyed.

8:31 AM  

Someone linked to this blog, very enjoyable and interesting. But I had to comment on the one post I saw with all these musicians I love in it :]

11:19 PM  
flygirl said...

and i thought you were joking about queensland! Heheh.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous said...

"The lifestyle of a humanities academic is generally pretty good. You get a flexible schedule, and lots of time "off" (i.e., to read, do research, and worry constantly about the progress of your career!)."

It depends very much on where you teach. I do not get much time off to do research unless you count the time that other people are sleeping as 'time off.' I work more than 40 hours a week on teaching and service and then have to do research by staying up all night or taking a (much) lower salary and having fewer courses, etc. I do have the summers. Many people say I look different in the summer because I sleep 8 hours a night.

All my friends are much more successful and I see the difference in the time they have for research vs. the time I have for research. I had a roomate with a 1/2 teaching load and she said if she had to work like I work she would not be an academic.

Academia is like the saying--the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone has already pointed this out, but -- "In the Sun" was written by singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, and pre-dates Katrina. It's off his album "Come to Where I'm From."

7:15 PM  
Archana said...

Back to the original question - I've been obsessed with Johnny Cash since watching Walk the Line, so Folsom Prison and Jackson (by the real Johnny Cash, not Joaquin Phoenix) are the best songs on my playlist this week...

6:53 PM  
ElectricToombi said...

Here is one album that should not be missed. "Song in the Air" by "ELLIOT". Although, i am pro-piracy:-p, i actually went and bought this CD.

8:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home