This one made me a little nervous.
In interviews, School of Seven Bells’ Benjamin Curtis is a sharp critic of music critics. Ever since Curtis (formerly of Tripping Daisy and the Secret Machines) teamed up with Alejandra Deheza (formerly of On!Air!Library) in 2007, the two have been critically acclaimed, often in the form of inaccurate comparisons (Pitchfork called their latest, Disconnect From Desire,a combination of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Madonna’s Ray of Light, an analogy that’s simultaneously meaningless and dead-on) and sexist descriptors. (Why do female vocalists always either sound “angelic” or “wail like a banshee”?) But not by me, mostly because I haven’t written about them yet, thank Ganesh. So what’s left to say?
“I would say that it’s music that’s very easy to appreciate on the surface,” says Curtis, probably better than I would have. “It’s a pop-song format for better or worse, but it’s also something that you can spend a lot of time with because there are a lot of layers in there and I think you can go as deep as you like with it. … On top of that, musically I think we tend to make a certain sound when we get together. … But when you start talking about that it starts to get hard to articulate, I suppose.”
Great. What am I supposed to write then, other than it’s the sort of sound you might reasonably quit a pretty kick-ass, on-the-rise band like Secret Machines for? I’ve gotta get to 600 words here, man.
“I feel like, in this day and age, it gets to a point where, any adjective you apply to any kind of music becomes almost a genre, and then you have people that say ‘Well, I don’t like that genre of music,” and you end up turning people off as much as you turn them on,” says Curtis.
“Helpful” is not an adjective I would use here. “I would prefer to hear how our music makes people feel. What does it make you think about when you listen to it? What are your thoughts? Does it make you feel inspired to do something? Does it make you want to go to sleep?
Does it make you want to call your friends? Does it make you never want to talk to your friends again? Those are the things that I think are more interesting to talk about. … Music is something we live with. … It’s the backdrop of everything we do.”
Fair enough. Let’s try it: Disconnect From Desire is an album that’s hard to write about because I can’t think of clever things to say about it because (like Ray of Light or Loveless or any number of albums that wouldn’t be useful to mention here) my brain refuses to engage with it on an intellectual level. It’s like crawling into a womb you could have a dance party inside of.