Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blame Canada

The odd thing about writing for Arts and Culture is that people expect you to be on the edge of all the latest trends. As if I should be listening to demos of underground bands and seeing movies long before the buzz on them has begun. Perhaps that's true, but I find the hype that surrounds various releases to be quite overwhelming. My favorite thing is to disregard a band, film, or television show because of the immediate frenzy that follows it, and later find it on my own. Some of my favorite things have been discovered this way. While it may sound much more hip to say that I liked "The Office" back when everyone was bashing it because it didn't compare to the UK version, the truth is that I began watching it in the middle of the third season and was instantly hooked. I never said I was a trendsetter.

The latest case to support this theory is my obsession with Feist, a songbird hailing from the great white north. I had previously heard her band Broken Social Scene and never really got into them. This summer she released an infectious little ditty (complete with a uniquely chirpy and rainbow themed video) called "1, 2, 3, 4." Upon my first listen, I immediately dismissed Feist as poppy hipster music, and I was wrong. Later, I heard the song on a commercial and couldn't get the jumpy melody out of my head. I still chose to think of the song only as a guilty pleasure, reserved for sunny days and happy dances (much like "Walking on Sunshine," by Katrina and the Waves).

The right occassion came, and I was having a good day, so right before I left my house I busted out "1,2,3,4." I couldn't stop thinking about it. A rerun of Feist's appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" showed me the light. She a rare and talented singer with a distinct voice and style. I figured this out yesterday. I have been playing "1,2,3,4" on a loop and I'm sure that my roommates want to strangle me.

The point is sometimes it takes reflection, after the onslaught of praise that seems to follow any indie artist's latest record, to show the truth about anything. I choose to believe that the points where critics tag the toe of most artists' careers tend to be some of those artists' best or most interesting work. That's the beauty of revision. How many albums have received awful reviews and poor sales only to go on and be called classics in five or ten years? How many overhyped bands and Best New Artist Grammy winners have gone on to do absolutely nothing? Critical opinions aren't flawless and they (or we, I guess) do the best that we can. I just realized that it's acceptable to be behind the times, and for that I can blame Canada (or Feist, at least).


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