The Imitation Game

Sufjan Stevens Tangled Up in BlueTANGLED UP IN BLUE

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

– Charles Caleb Colton

Say what you will about Mr. Colton’s oft-used quote, but he was definitely on to something.

When Bob Dylan was starting out on the Greenwich Village coffee house circuit in the early 60’s, some critics dismissed him as a pale imitation of Woody Guthrie. As Woody was one of his heroes, I’m sure he wasn’t too bothered.

I wasn’t around for those remarks but I clearly remember ones hurled at Quentin Tarantino’s in the early 90’s – “Martin Scorsese clone”, etc.reservoir dogs

Anyone who’s heard Dylan’s pre-electric music or watched an early Tarantino film recognizes some truth in these observations.

They also recognize that both Dylan and Tarantino went on to craft their own distinct styles while building on the work of their heros.

After all, isn’t imitation a form of flattery?

Yes. And more.

I see it as a natural step to finding one’s own voice.

I’d argue that Dylan borrowed from the great Guthrie on his way to becoming even greater (I’ll let the cinephiles out there debate QT vs. Marty).

To become great in any field, i.e. an original thinker with ideas that make a real impact, you too will have to copy what you…[to continue reading, see The Path to Peak Performance]

MY TOP 3 ALBUMS OF 2015

Imitation and/or homage very much alive in the new music I heard last year, here are the 3 standouts:

1. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

You know how I feel about the big white Yeti from Virginia (if not, see “White Is the New Black”).

2. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

To sample the work of the Padre, check out these dance moves pre-Honeybear:

3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Although I’ve casually followed this eccentric Brooklynite for a good 10 years, nothing prepared me for this.

sufjan-stevens-playing-guitar

Returning to ‘Greatness via Imitation’, Sufjan Stevens finds his own voice while somehow channeling the spirits of Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith on his 7th studio album.

Inspired by the death of his schizophrenic mother, Carrie is both eerie and ethereal. His sparse guitar picking is pure Smith (no stranger to sadness) while his nuanced voice evokes Buckley at his most vulnerable and intimate.

Inspired by the death of his schizophrenic mother, ‘Carrie’ is both eerie and ethereal. His sparse guitar picking is pure Smith (no stranger to sadness) while his nuanced voice evokes Buckley at his most vulnerable and intimate.

If you’re a fan of either of these 20th century originals, give this a listen:

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these 21st century anti-rock stars. And what was the best thing you heard last year?

 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The Imitation Game

  1. Dude. You are indeed perceptive with your influences. I’ve been listening to Stevens album for a while now and hadn’t really noticed Elliot Smith similarities or Buckleys falsetto but now you mention it, it seems obvios. Nice one.

    How would you go about Father John Misty’s influences? I wouldn’t know where to start. This guy could be unique.

    G.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greg, thx for your comment. For the Father his own style has really come out on Honeymoon. However, I find Fear Fun, w the exception of Ladies Man, a bit too derivative – The Beach Boys, Brian Jones era Stones/Monkeys and he’s even aped Otis Reddings’ whistling on one track. That said, Son of Preacher, I mean, Ladies Man is a fantastic tune. And his subtle dancing brilliant. Happy further listening!

      Like

  2. Really funny, Tim! I was just listening to Father John Mistys Honeybear the other day, I really like this song. I also like Sufjan Stevens Should have known better, great choice.

    What’s the best thing I’ve heard in 2015? Hard to say, maybe Maschin by the Austrian band Bilderbuch (to make it more exotic for you). Catch and Release by Matt Simons. An Honest Man by Fantastic Negrito. Lazarus by David Bowie. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson…..

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s