You don't have to go too far back before the concept of "community" morphs into something completely different from current ideas. Much of this can be attributed to the Internet, as both social networking engine and as digital media conduit. It has transformed much of what we used to think of as shopping, marketing, and advertising.
It's not that simple though. There are so many more entertainment options available today (than say, the late 1970s) that music no longer holds the same piece of the pie it did back then. Part of me is saddened by this. Is it just nostalgia that makes me think lovingly of my friends sitting around listening to the latest Bad Company album? No, it's not. Sure, the friendship was nice, but it was more than that — we were bonding not just as friends, but as a group of fans, a community of sorts.
I'm sure that this kind of thing still exists today, but it doesn't feel like it. People are off in their own little worlds, pulling data down from the Web, loading iPods from iTunes, snugging up those ear buds. It feels like musical communities are a thing of the past.
…unless you look at Brooklyn, New York.
The list of artists coming out of Brooklyn over the past handful of years is pretty impressive: Battles, The Dirty Projectors, The Strokes, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, The National. My list of Brooklyn artists deserving of wider exposure includes both The Ramblers (recently reviewed here) and singer/guitarist Shwa Losben.
Good Times, Good Times finds a confident Losben reveling in several sub-genres of pop music that had my ears thinking of artists such as Guster and Ben Folds. Melody is king here, and Losben finds many ways to accentuate it. "Treat The Disease" uses a sparse arrangement in the verses (bass, drums, and piano) to put the melody and Losben's voice in sharp relief. This gives added weight to the chorus, particularly when the electric guitar and trumpet kick in. "Sandy Don't Worry" employs the same sort of arc, and explodes with both guitars and emotion as the sad story unfolds. Contrasts work well here too, as the opening "Trainwreck" uses some bouncy music to color in the details of a not-so-conservative girl's adventures.
But let's not get the wrong idea here, as there are indeed some good times. Lot's of 'em. There's the anthemic "Independence Day," a coming of age celebration, "Penultimate Dance," about the importance of action at last call, and my favorite: "Brooklyn Girls." Heck, I've never been to Brooklyn, but there's something both comforting and hilarious about "Brooklyn girls drink Pabst Blue Ribbon." It's a righteous country-stomp that'll stick right where maybe you don't want it to.
I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to Steve Almond's Rock And Roll Will Save Your Life. His assertion that music has always been America's saving grace supports my thoughts on musical communities: that, social and technological movements aside, people will always want to get together to celebrate these joyously-wiggling air molecules. Good times? Hell yeah.