I always have to stop myself when I say I like “all kinds of music”. Because, honestly, that just isn’t true, there is really only one kind of music I like. No, not [just] Black Metal, I’m talking about music in a minor key. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy, but there is something about sad, sad songs that just does it for me. I don’t dislike Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Fall”, but I far prefer “Summer” and “Winter” (guess which seasons he writes in a minor key). “Satisfaction” is a fine song, but I’d rather listen to “Paint it Black” any day…you get the idea. Basically, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting [of soul crushing sorrow and sadness]
This month on Minor Key Monday I talk one of those rare banjo-centered songs that I actually quite like:
I’ve really never been able to listen to much bluegrass–I don’t hate it, it’s just usually not the most epic and sorrowful style of music. Folk, however, is right down my alley (as long as it is, of course, in a minor key and/or made by gay fascists). Thus, despite their subtle stench of bluegrass, I’ve had a grudging respect for Mumford & Sons ever since I was first exposed to their music with that silly video where Jason Batemen and company play banjos and cry and stuff. While I liked that song (“Hopeless Wanderer”), I was recently introduced to today’s song, “I Gave You All,” and finally decided Mumford & Sons were ready to join the “big leagues” of Minor Key Monday (you know, alongside such musical luminaries as Ace of Base).
Based on my brief exposure to their music, Mumford & Sons seem to love big epic Godspeed You Black Emperor style buildups. And, like Godspeed You Black Emperor, too often the epic buildups are just a bit too post-rock/hipster/hopeful sounding for my tastes. Today’s song, however, largely stays on the right side of that line. There’s not much hope to be found in the straightforward sorrowful sequence of chords that slowly build to a fairly epic, banjo-driven climax. Even the lyrics, despite sounding slightly too thesaurus-indulgent for my tastes, are pretty good (though I’m still trying to figure out that “If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won” line).
I’ve tried listening to some more of their catalog, and while I’ve found other songs I appreciated as well, I have a feeling this one is probably destined to be my favorite. It’s not as testicle-grindingly soul crushing as my normal jams, but I’d still happily listen to something like “I Gave You All” any day.
Finally, a quick word on banjos. Sure, thanks to Deliverance they have a pretty redneck reputation, and sure, they are a staple of bluegrass, but I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been a secret banjo fan all along. Because, I have to admit, when the banjo comes in on today’s song it really sounds pretty great. And the best song on Madonna’s last album also prominently featured a banjo. At the very least, I suppose I am probably banjo-curious. I’ll have to see if there is any banjo black metal out there that isn’t also post-rock/hipster/hopeful sounding bullshit. Yes, I’m looking at you Panopticon.
Solo banjo 78s are clearly the kvltest of all early american music. Step you game up.