Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stop, cogitate and listen

The latest in Stephen Fry's series of excellent, but all-too-irregular podcasts has got me thinking about the content of this website.

He's having a rant about journalism - and makes the very valid point that "the problem with a daily or weekly column is that emotion is so much more easily accessed than reason" when trying to construct a narrative against a deadline.

It's a concern that's been plaguing me for a while. In the rush to publish a story (or, let's be honest, to avoid being caught writing a story at work) it's all too easy to fall into the trap of making a snap judgment about typing it up as SOLID FACT.

I've been guilty of this a couple of times recently - I slagged off Pink's So What weeks before it became lodged in my head and was upgraded from "utter shit" to "basically tolerable". On the opposite end of the scale, I waxed lyrical about Los Campesinos! before it occurred to me that shouting teenagers hitting a glockenspiel with a hammer is actually the noise they play you in hell's waiting room.

I'm not alone, of course. Music blogs are full of posts that basically declare "OMG HERE IZ TEH FIRST SONG I HEARD THIS MORNING AND IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE". How many times have you read someone bang on about a paradigm-shifting Radiohead remix, or the totally amazing new EP by Botson cryo-funk combo TitBishop, and thought to yourself "have they even heard this bilge?"

Because, I admit, there are occasions when I get 30 seconds into a song and think "this is so good, I have to write something about it" - without noticing that the rest of the song is a turgid droning dirge.

Not that an immediate emotional response is a bad thing. Pop music should be in-your-face, upfront, instantaneous, accessible and obvious. But, at the same time, some of my favourite records have revealed themselves over many, many plays. Indeed, The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight - probably one of my top 10 albums of all time - only really displayed its ethereal beauty after two years in my CD collection.

So I have resolved to try to mention more of those slow-burning masterpieces on the website, starting today with Laura Marling - the 18-year-old singer-songwriter who was nominated for a Mercury Prize earlier this year for the dark folk of her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim.

It's usually the sort of music that'd make me run a mile - lilting acoustic ballads with added Irish fiddle - but I was given a copy back in July and it has slowly assimilated itself into my weekly "most listened to" playlist. There is something captivating about Marling's gutsy vocals - so full of youthful tenderness, yet haunted and troubled beyond their years.

Here's her latest video, Night Terror. Give it a couple of goes before you dismiss it. It's what Stephen Fry would have wanted.

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