Monday, February 29, 2016

Currently Listening 2.29.16

My roommate Courtney recently pointed out to me that the question of "What music do you like?" is truly terrible for small talk because people always answer so vaguely: "Oh, ya know, a little of this a little of that" or "I listen to everything...except, like, Country." I think she's most definitely right, and I think it's because people get very protective over their music taste (especially highschool and college-age individuals). I definitely fall into that category. I, like most people, have a pretty wide taste range from vareity of spectrums, and I often worry that if I share the wrong chunk of my taste in the wrong crowd I'll be judged or thought of as Other: what's too mainstream for one crowd is too weird and alternative for another. It's a silly anxiety, I know, but at the crux there's definitely an exposing quality about revealing one's favorite music.

With that, I bring you one of my favorite musicians, Emperor X.
Did you guys know that people are bringing cassette tapes back? Why?
Emperor X is the stage name of Chad Matheny. He's pretty far towards the weird side in a lot of ways--Wikipedia describes his music as Noise Pop-Folk--but he's also very good at writing very catchy songs. Matheny began releasing music as Emperor X in 1998 and has since released seven albums, a handful of EPs and singles, and several live recordings. Recently, a live version of Emperor X's "Wasted on the Senate Floor" appeared on Rock 4 Bernie, a fundrasing compilation album for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

My favorite of his releases is Western Teleport. It's more digestible (i.e. less electronic/ noise-rock-y) than some of his newer releases, and it's fantastic for train rides or long drives.

The first track, Erica Western Teleport, is the most popular among fans, which is interesting because it's mostly nonsense lyrics. It's very pretty though, and it evokes a sort of universal nostalgia.

Emperor X's recorded music is wonderful, but I think he truly shines at live performances. That's definitely a cliche, but Matheny is truly a performer. His shows are innovative, interactive and unpredicatable. He's a one-man act, utilizing a tiny hand held keyboard, a twelve-string guitair, and a varitey of borrowed equipment and backing talent. 
Taken 2/19/16 by Carly Hoskins

I've seen Emperor X twice now and in both instances, Matheny jumped into the audience, even sitting in the center of the floor and creating a kumbaya circle at one event. At a Brooklyn show last Friday, he had Twitter-buddy Kyle act as human teleprompter.  Apparently the song "Schoepenhauer in Berlin" had been completed forty five minutes prior to the event and Mantheny did not yet know the lyrics.

"We tweet about Wittgenstein."

Interestingly, Matheny attended Brooklyn College's grad program in music composition. While he did not graduate, he did record a good amount of music on campus (including a song that appeared on the Veronica Mars movie soundtrack). Matheny currently lives in Germany and tours internationally. The little interaction I have had with Matheny at shows has included discussions of Slavoj Žižek and his experiences of touring on public transit. He's a strange man of diverse interests, and I think that comes across in the music he makes. 

Finally, I leave you with a video of Emperor X performing Canada Day on an electric twelve-string guitar on the side of a highway. Enjoy!


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