jason christoper hartley

April 24, 2006

Cursive; Tilly and the Wall

Filed under: Music — Jason Christopher Hartley @ 3:54 am

I have to admit something. I occasionally love the upbeat, the semi-saccharine, and other generally happy stuff I often pretend disgusts me. Like many things, I blame this on my parents. I think it’s because I was raised watching 1950’s musicals. It’s the weirdest fucking thing, but synchronized singing and dancing gives me inexplicable joy. Anyway, my dirty secret is that I sometimes love art with a positive message. The irony is that I have the utter inability to create anything so positive, but that’s another story.

I know I’ve pretty much always been a closet part-time appreciator of happy things, but it wasn’t until I returned from combat that I decided I would indulge in this feeling more often. Mostly, it comes in the form of music. I suspect that when you are a young, white suburban male, you cultivate your angst simply to have something to do. You listen to Nine Inch Nails religiously because it’s like pretending you have a wound just so you can lick it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably never fully remove the smell of “stale incense and old sweat” from my life or abandon my angst-ridden roots. I just sometimes remember that my real roots are with Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Julie Andrews.

On this note I would like to share some of my recent musical discoveries. Since I spend an inordinate amount of time on my computer, I am constantly looking for new music. Music has played a huge part in my writing, mostly in the form of indirect inspiration. And also background noise to help my wandering mind concentrate. Most of the early writing I did for Just Another Soldier was done while I listened to “De-Loused in the Comatorium” by The Mars Volta (the only CD I took with me), then later “Give Up” by The Post Service, and “Absolution” by Muse. When I returned and had a deadline to finish the manuscript, The Arcade Fire fueled my frantic days and helped keep at bay a lot of the sometimes- overwhelming anxiety I felt.

There are a lot of mp3s I plan on sharing with you, but for now I will start with something fairly appropriate. Cursive is a four-piece from Omaha, Nebraska and “The Ugly Organ” is there fifth full-length album, released in 2003. Their earlier work is a little too screamo for my tastes, but Organ has a maturity and complexity that satisfies my need for angst, grown up. “Art Is Hard” is lyrically a self-effacing take on the creative process through its absurdity and misery. Musically it feels to me like that last concerto played onboard a sinking ship you can’t help but dance along to in ecstatic commiseration.

Omaha must have the most incredible music scene. Or maybe it’s just Connor Oberst’s inexhaustible optimism flooding over the young musicians in the area. Like Cursive, Tilly and the Wall is another band born from kids in Omaha with boundless energy and delightful talent. Often eschewing drums for tap dancing as percussion, the 2003 album “Wild Like Children” gives me that feeling I usually only get when I see unlikely groups of characters burst into song and dance in film. Young hipster girls I wish I knew singing in chorus with young hipster boys I wish I could be as creative as—I swoon. I’ve always preferred rudimentary drumming over epic rock opera fifty-five piece ten-minute drums solos. The simplicity of the beats and sparse melodies put the focus where it should be—on the vocals. I know I shouldn’t have had to return from combat to know that it’s okay that it feels good to feel good, but damn, Tilly and the Wall makes me feel good.

Take a listen:
Cursive – Art is Hard (mp3)
Tilly and the Wall – Fell Down the Stairs (mp3)
Tilly and the Wall – Nights of the Living Dead (mp3)

The stuff I’m talking about:

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