Music Punctuation

Look, we all forget. I’m no exception; no doubt, if you poured through this blog long enough you’d find a couple examples of thoroughly un-Strunk&White examples of punctuation.

We should try, though. So, for the record, here is how you punctuate music titles:

An album, EP or similar collection of songs should be titled in italics. A song title should be written in quotations. When it comes to band and artists names, however, we must resign ourselves to whatever form that artist has chosen, bizarre though it may be.

Thus, in my August, 2009 post, I discussed the song “This Blackest Purse” from the album Eskimo Snow by Why?.

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Why? Song – This Blackest Purse

Eskimo Snow

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I heard this song on The Needle Drop this past weekend and liked it enough to do a little research into these guys.  The group is a Cincinatti-based outfit called Why?. The song is called “This Blackest Purse” and it is off their new album Eskimo Snow, which was recorded in February of 2007 but release in 2009 on the Anticon label.

Having only heard this song and one or two others I found online, I was really surprised to read how much these guys are associated with hip-hop.  Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop makes the point that this association is “over-hyped” largely because hip-hop is something of a taboo in the indie-rock scene and thus Why?’s hip-hop influences and occasional references are conspicuous, particularly in one-to-one comparisons with bands in that particular scene.

I think he’s on to something here.  Bands are often critiqued in the context of a relatively small and finite group of related artists and I think this does a disservice to both the group and the listening public.  From what I can tell (and I must admit, I have only heard a fraction of this group’s output) Why? principal writer, Yoni Wolf, listens to a lot of hip-hop and mimics the cadence-based delivery of hip-hop lyricists, yet in doing so arrives, quite accidentally, at a vocal delivery similar to Stephen Stills on “Word Game” circa 1971.

In the context of this type of critiquing, it’s easy to understand why even major, established artists like Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy lash out so viscously every time they catch the scent of an interviewer trying to pigeon-hole them into a particular genre.  They sense the paradox that to be categorized is to be misunderstood.  Fans, meanwhile, have to sift through mounds of critical articles and wonder what the writer’s point of reference is at any given moment.  ”This artist is heavily influenced by hip-hop.”  Oh yeah, compared to who?  Jay Z?  Randy Newman?  NWA? Liberace?

At any rate, “This Blackest Purse” is an intriguing and piqued my curiosity largely because of the unusual writing and vocal delivery.  Wolf’s voice walks a razor thin line between obnoxious whining and rustic folksyism. The more grating edges of his voice are smoothed by some clever and, at times, quite pretty lyrics, “I want to speak at an intimate decibel, with the precision of an infinite decimal.” Listening to this piece, I catch myself leaning forward to absorb the lyrics and their meaning, as apposed to the aesthetic of Wolf’s voice. In fact, the strangeness of his voice seems to stem from its mundaneness. It is immediate, direct, and sounds as if a very ordinary co-rider on the bus simply turned to you and started singing.

This band is a neat find and I’m really psyched to really dig into their catalogue. I’ll be sure to put some more stuff up here once I find it.

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