Apr. 3rd, 2009

juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Having just discovered a new artist, I've lately been thinking on my listening habits—how and why I listen to music.

Said artist is [livejournal.com profile] s00j/S.J. Tucker. You can listen to and download her albums here, and to say it outright: I recommend her music. I discovered Tucker through [livejournal.com profile] saveours00j, a coalition of fundraising efforts that sprung up after she was hospitalized (as a traveling performer, she has no health insurance). I'd heard of her before, of course, through various journals that I read, but only recent began to listen to her music.

I never like music when I first hear it. At first listen—starting with Quartered: The Songs of Palimpsest because I had just finished the novel—honestly, I was not impressed. Tucker's voice was raw, the lyrics were too obviously based on the book, and there was just nothing there to grab me. But I've listened to Maynard James Keenan sing and not liked it, just because the song was new to me—and if you know my deep and abiding love for Keenan (and it was a Puscifer song no less, which is my favorite of his projects), then you can imagine how impressive that is.

Almost every time, I need to be familiar with a song before I grow fond of it. That doesn't mean I need to know it by heart; indeed, I usually spend my first listen or three with the song running in the background, ignoring it and growing unconsciously accustomed. Once the song is familiar, I can return to it—actively or just again as background music—and if the song is good, easily come to love it. This, I think, is even truer for a new artist which bringing with her a whole new sound, rather than the near-familiar sound of a new song from an artist which I already enjoy.

I don't know why that is. Perhaps because I prefer that music which I know and won't distract me unless I want it to, since I often keep music on in the background while I read or write. Perhaps I'm so distracted by the unfamiliarity of a new song that I can't appreciate what I'm hearing.

I do now—appreciate it, I mean, as Tucker is concerned. In fact, I can't stop listening to her. Her voice is richer by far than I thought. Many of her songs are based on myth, experience, or novels—and where in the latter case I suspect they do not quite stand on their own, but that doesn't decrease their value. (Some of my favorites have such inspirations.) But what keeps me coming back is so hard to name: her music is often simple, her own raw voice and a guitar, but Tucker imbues it with a spark, the very definition of "greater than the sum of its parts". Energy spills through her voice: the human which is the divine. It's difficult to explain without verging on purple prose, but—but hers is the sort of music which makes my heart and throat feel warm.

Finding music like this is why I push through my immediate apathy or dislike for everything when it's new. I listen to shite, too, and unremarkable music, and songs which I like well enough but which don't inspire long posts. All of that music is enjoyable in its own way, but finding new music which catches me afire with joy and inspiration, well—like the best books, the best films, it crosses that line between entertainment and art and makes me feel blessed for my exposure to it.

If you're interested in giving Tucker a try, my favorites (entirely biased no doubt, but there you go) and some of the I think more accessible (e.g. they stand independent of their inspiration or you're likely to be familiar with that inspiration already) are:

We Are Shangri-La
Firebird's Child
The Drowning
Wendy on Board
Red-Handed Jill
Green-Eyed Sue
as the Wendy Trilogy, along with Alligator in the House

Tucker still has medical bills to pay, an her fundraisers are ongoing—so of course it would also be wonderful to buy her music and contribute to the cause. I actually love listening to her albums on her website, but it's gotten to the silly point where I don't listen to much more. I expect we'll buy them tonight, that I can add them to playlists instead of listening to them on repeat.

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