Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Feel Remiss...

I took the same math class, like, three times in a row back in high school. I think it was precalculus, that weird area in the math education where you've proven a proficiency at algebra but can't go on to other things quite yet. It was massively embarassing to me to have to do it, too, as I was an honors student in everything else. So I took the honors math class my sophmore year, failed, and got booted down to the regular class with sophmores my next year, which was basically the tale end of what I'd done my freshman year and the beginning of what I'd done my sophmore year. I still struggled with the same things I hadn't been able to handle the previous year until one day it clicked. While I was in physics class. We'd just started a new unit on trajectories or something. My teacher drew a picture on the board and started writing out the equations to figure out how to solve for distance or something. I suddenly realized that what he was doing was the exact same thing I just wasn't able to get in math class. I knew exactly what to do in physics, though. From that point on, I had very few problems in my math classes (but it was still too late, as I ended up taking the same class again my senior year, then tested in to the highest or second highest possible math class for an incoming student at juco. You guessed it. It was the same class I'd taken for three years). I'm reminded of that feeling every once in a while. Most recently it was with the music of Over the Rhine. I decided to check them out based on a throw-away sentence I read (to be fair, it was from the same place I learned of the existence of The Waterboys, so I figured I was safe to at least give them a listen). I listened to Drunkard's Prayer, Songs for the Radio, and their new one, The Trumpet Child. From the beginning I knew they were great and some of their stuff was just beautiful. By the time my 2007 Top 10 rolled around, though, I had kind of forgotten about them. So The Trumpet Child didn't make it to the list or even the honorable mentions alongside Kate Rusby and The View. It's because I just hadn't "gotten" them yet. I have this general thinking about music that it really doesn't matter how technically excellent the song is, it doesn't matter how critically acclaimed the artist is, if I don't want to listen to it, I won't. Since things like personal Top 10 lists about entertainment are completely subjective, that particular issue carries a lot of weight. Anyway, within the past week or so I suddenly "got" Over the Rhine. I've now spent a lot of time listening to Drunkard's Prayer and The Trumpet Child. It's, uh, it's amazing stuff. So consider this a belated recommendation. I really couldn't begin to tell you what niche to put them in to, as every CD of theirs I've heard is different. Reviewers of The Trumpet Child keep throwing the word "cabaret" around and I suppose that's apt. I keep wanting to call it jazz, and there's plenty of jazz-like stuff contained within, but Karin Berquist tends more towards whiskey-voiced vocals than, say, a Diana Krall or a Jane Monheit and a lot of the instrumentation moves more towards big band or even vaudeville. Still, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be out of place at a jazz club somewhere. Either way, I've added them to the list of acts I would see live no matter the venue. Check them out. Then buy their stuff. (Over the Rhine is, like much of the music I've come to appreciate these days, not exactly a major act. I'm reasonably certain their one of those independent acts with their own label who are making music because they like doing it and they're damn good at it. I tend to like to support that sort of thing. In fact, I'm going to order a copy of Ohio later today and I'm thinking of getting the vinyl pressing of The Trumpet Child. Vinyl is cool.)

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