Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves

by Harry on September 19, 2013

My daughter’s friend thinks I am incredibly cool. Part of the musical cognoscenti. I have to find a nice way of disabusing her.

The soccer run was a major locus of conflict last year. The drive is far enough and frequent enough that the 12-year old girls want to listen to “their” music, and enough of a bore that I don’t want to be assaulted by rubbish. A modus vivendi was eventually established, in which their ipods were the inputs, but I got to veto anything I couldn’t stand hearing. (As soon as the truce was signed, their taste (magically!) improved, and we started hearing more Buble than Beiber, because basically they are nice kids and, having won their battle, were magnanimous). Taylor Swift is pretty easy on the ear, so I know a lot of the songs (and in fact took the 12 year old to see her for her 12th birthday. In Des Moines!). Sometime in early spring I heard a review of an album called Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves which really appealed to me. Musgraves has a very similar voice to Swift’s, is more country, less pop — and the songs are, really, for grown ups rather than teens (or tweens). Very catchy melodies, they are about stagnation, fear of risk, and the risks of being paralysed by fear of risk. So I started playing it in the car, and, to get my way, just told them it was Taylor Swift’s earliest album, that had not had wide release. They believed me for about 2 weeks — until they decided that, really, this was too good to be Taylor Swift (it is, no disrespect to Taylor Swift, who is multi-talented, but Kacey Musgraves is really something). “The words are too clever for Taylor”. Now they’d much rather listen to Musgraves than Swift.

But the girls have perpetuated the fraud on one of their friends. Today the friend, who loves several of the songs, started looking for them on youtube, and couldn’t find them, nor on itunes. The girls explained — “well, hardly anyone knows about this album, its probably not on youtube; my dad/Harry just really knows about music, and he got hold of it from a friend in the business.

At some point, I think I should probably just give her a copy of the album, poor thing. In the meantime, I recommend Kacey Musgraves to those of you struggling with the same issues: I even recommend trying to take in your own children (I felt bad playing along with the deceit of a kid who is not my own). Here’s the title song:

And here’s the cheery one:



Miles Skorpen 09.19.13 at 4:49 am

I think you misspelled KaCEY’s name in the title.


Zamfir 09.19.13 at 5:09 am

Just give them the mp3s, with tags changed to Taylor Swift. Preferably change the song titles slightly, makes them harder to Google.


David 09.19.13 at 5:19 am

They can either listen to their iPods on headphones in the car or on their own time. You’re the adult. They can listen to what you like. I also recommend sitting them in a corner and making them read Dickens aloud.


Phil 09.19.13 at 8:43 am

I drove my daughter back from school yesterday playing June Tabor’s version of The Border Widow’s Lament. Twice (I’m learning it). No complaints. My car, my soundtrack.

Grump aside, many thanks for the tip. Daughter (13) is or rather was a huge Taylor Swift fan – loved the first couple of albums but is ambivalent at best about the later pop stuff. (Incidentally, what is it with T. S. and celeb culture? Every time I see a reference to her there seems to be a sneery undertone of there goes the uncool kid… Generally there goes the uncool kid to pick up some more awards, admittedly, which must soften the blow.)

Anyway, “like Taylor Swift when she was country” will be a huge recommendation. I’ll pass the name on.

(Erm… don’t suppose she does anything traditional at all? Lot of these country artists… Dolly Parton… Jack of Diamonds… longest train I ever saw… Whatever, never mind.)


Katherine 09.19.13 at 11:04 am

They can either listen to their iPods on headphones in the car or on their own time. You’re the adult.

Yeah, cos that’s going to make a weekly car drive such a pleasant arena for everyone. Also, nothing like a bit of mindless authoritarianism to teach them about the world.


Harry 09.19.13 at 11:12 am

Well, part of the manouevering in the dispute is that I want them to listen to something beyond just the stuff their favourite radio station plays — really listen, open to having their horizons expanded, and, eg, making them listen to their stuff on headphones defeats the point. And, they’re nice kids, and we have fun (eg, the point out drivers who are shouting on their phones, or drinking from plastic cups bigger than their heads, or…). Also, sometimes I can get them in tears of laughter by, eg, playing Tom Waits.

There’s a mystery about Musgraves that I am irritated about. She self released 3 albums before this one, all of which seem now to be unobtainable, but all of which were downloadable from her website back in March when the current “proper” one was released. I wish I’d bought them. Maybe they had some traditional stuff.


Trader Joe 09.19.13 at 11:56 am

Kacey Musgraves is a more than acceptable “kid pick” in my car.

Two of the 3 “lost” albums were when Kacey was 14 and 15 years old and they completely lack the maturity and style depth of the current stuff. I haven’t heard the whole albums, but some of the better cuts are available (or so I’m advised) on the various file sharing sites.

If you think KM sounds a bit like TS now, she sounded even more like it then. She toured with Lady A a year or so ago and I’d have thought their sounds and audiences were quite complementary.

When I drive the rule is – my iPod on the trip out (set on shuffle), theirs on the trip back – they can ‘veto’ as many as they like, but I get the same number on the return. I’d concur that as grim as the car pool duty is, there are few better ways to stay close to your kids (and their friends) and it can be good fun.


Harry 09.19.13 at 12:12 pm

TJ – that’s a clever rule. And I’m glad to know I’m not missing anything with the early KM albums.
I have a whole post in my head about children’s friends. I actually find the car trips less satisfactory, than making dinner with them (which I often do with the help of the 16-year-old’s friends, whom I’m closer to than the 12-yr-old’s friends — not with the help of my own children, mark you, who are too busy and/or too lazy to help…)


Harry 09.19.13 at 12:43 pm

Oh, and spelling fixed, thanks Miles — late night posting lends itself to making errors.


MPAVictoria 09.19.13 at 1:09 pm

“Yeah, cos that’s going to make a weekly car drive such a pleasant arena for everyone. Also, nothing like a bit of mindless authoritarianism to teach them about the world.”

Pretty sure David was joking. The Dicken’s reference was the hint.


Anon 09.19.13 at 1:13 pm

Kacey Musgraves is nice, but I’d modify the judgment a little: “the words are too clever,” full stop. She tries too hard to make songs “for grownups.” The word “grownups” is exactly right, since the songs come off as an earnest 16 year old’s idea of what “mature” means. She’s good NPR fodder–interesting enough to not bore smart people, but not *too* interesting–not enough to, say, make you fall off your bike or spill your coffee during the morning commute.

But she’s a great musician and singer so that’s okay. Well worth a listen.


Anon 09.19.13 at 1:16 pm

Oh, and on a related note: there is a recent album that I do think qualifies as really good, “mature” country music. Robbie Fulks’ “Gone Away Backward.” Just learned about it a few weeks ago, and really recommend it.


Harry 09.19.13 at 1:35 pm

Well — there really is something to be said for someone who doesn’t make you fall off your bike! (Last person did that to me was a friend from secondary school who turned up as a continuity announcer on BBC7 before it became Radio 4 Extra — I had taped a show, and hearing her voice made me wobble — fortunately I stopped, desperate to find out if it was her, before I fell off).

Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out.


Phil 09.19.13 at 2:07 pm

all of which seem now to be unobtainable

I’ll say. Amazon hasn’t even heard of one of them. Nothing on eBay, nothing on GEMM, no listing in Discogs – and, needless to say, the CD Baby release isn’t there any more (although they do have 21 releases described as “sounds like Kacey Musgraves”!).

Glad to hear we’re not missing much.


SamChevre 09.19.13 at 2:09 pm

I hadn’t heard/heard of Kacey Musgrave before–so thanks.

I’m reminded of Dolly Parton’s earlier work (by the voice) and Loretta Lynn in the 70’s (by the subject matter).


Kalkaino 09.19.13 at 2:45 pm

Amen to Harry 13 about Robbie Fulks — he’s brilliant, fun, funny and terribly underappreciated. But your daughter and her friend might be more beguiled by Patty Griffin if they aren’t already. Patty is a national treasure, perhaps the best Americam songwriter ever, a brilliant tunesmith with a stellar voice.


Anon 09.19.13 at 2:51 pm

Harry 09.19.13 at 1:35 pm: “Well — there really is something to be said for someone who doesn’t make you fall off your bike!”

To be honest, hasn’t happened to me yet, but it might be worth for music that affecting!

I am reminded of a review I read of Sigur Ros’ Ágætis Byrjun. The reviewer said he was listening while driving and had to pull off to the side of the road–to weep. Probably an exaggeration, but it worked: I immediately hunted down the album.

Note: neither Robbie Fulks nor Sigur Ros will be a hit with the kids in the car.


Phil 09.19.13 at 3:30 pm

I cried the first time I heard “Papa was a rodeo” by the Magnetic Fields. (Which is country, kind of.) Several times since, too, but that first time I was off before they’d even got to the chorus – must be the descending chords.


Phil 09.19.13 at 3:32 pm

Incidentally, although the emotional palette of 69 Love Songs is a bit adult, the kids are very keen on the Gothic Archies.


TheSophist 09.19.13 at 3:39 pm

If we are to take seriously the Socratic task of “corrupting the morals of the young” what should be played in the car? Leaving out the obvious (death metal and such) I’d nominate Warren Zevon and Leonard Cohen.


Harry 09.19.13 at 3:49 pm

I cried (and had to stop driving) when I first heard Kate Rusby’s cover of “Withered and Died”, a song I’d known for 25-30 years. Hearing “When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease” at the wrong time does the same.


Anon 09.19.13 at 5:07 pm

“Grand Canyon” by Magnetic Fields still makes me cry.

I wonder if music is generally very effective at subversion? Not that it isn’t sometimes, it’s just hard to strategically use it that way. It all ends up on a Hot Topic t-shirt or an iphone commercial eventually. I still can’t believe Carnival sold cruises with Iggy’s “Lust for Life.”

Arcade Fire tries to be subversive (e.g., “Rebellion/Lies”), though I don’t know how effectively. Their newest video tries to sneak an anti-social media message into social-media with catchy disco and an interactive, high tech video: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/09/the-sneaky-subversive-anti-internet-moral-of-arcade-fires-reflektor-video/279517/

The most subversive music and video I’ve seen in a while is MGMT’s “Your life is a lie”:


TheSophist 09.19.13 at 5:34 pm

It always seemed (at least to me) that the tear-inducing songs would be those from that perfect sweet spot of adolescent angst, hence that mine would be from some time at the cusp of the 70s and 80s. Yet the one song that never fails to bring a tear to my eye is much more recent – Mark Knopfler’s “Piper to the End”.


Trader Joe 09.19.13 at 5:40 pm

Isn’t it really genres rather than individual songs that have the chance for being subversive up to the moment in time when they become mainstreamed?

Blues, Rock, Punk, Metal, Rap all had their moments where they were at least perceived as subversive whether they actually accomplished that or not. Sub-genres within these sometimes also emerged as “counter-reformations” (death metal, NWA rap, surf punk, grunge etc.) that tried to bring back some subversion, with even narrower effect usually.

I agree your point though, its a brief window in time where a genere or sub genre can actually incite a bit of energy. If its good, it mainstreams – if it isn’t its hard to draw moths to the flame.


NickS 09.19.13 at 5:49 pm

As far as younger female singer/songwriters go, I’d put in a word for Sarah Jarosz (Examples: one and two). You couldn’t pass her off as pop, so I have no idea if she would be acceptable to your daughters, but somebody worth being aware of.


Harry 09.19.13 at 6:14 pm

I think I can get Sarah Jarosz in under the wire. Wow. Thanks. And, TheSophist has given me the one last push I needed to start listening to Knopfler (he won’t get in under the wire though).


rmgosselin 09.19.13 at 6:32 pm

I’m always trying to quietly introduce some good rap & hip hop during car rides. Talib Kweli is one of my favorite artists, and I know my son would like “(Strangers) Paranoid” and “Finally Free,” but I have to keep a hand on the volume knob to turn down some of the language. It’s a bit annoying, but far better than listening to my son and his friends singing along to “Climax,” by Usher, which can be downright creepy.


Substance McGravitas 09.19.13 at 6:40 pm

Anything Jenny Lewis-related is worth a listen. Elvis Costello guests here. The Jenny and Johnny album is excellent.


Phil 09.19.13 at 6:42 pm

“Grand Canyon” by Magnetic Fields still makes me cry.

…”So you know how to love me that way.” Devastating. The song doesn’t really work for me, that said, because the reference points don’t transfer to this side of the Atlantic.

It’s an extraordinary album, with quite a few songs that stop you in your tracks (I don’t often listen to it in the car). I sing “My sentimental melody” (when nobody’s listening) and I still struggle to get through the second verse without breaking up.


NickS 09.19.13 at 6:49 pm

“I think I can get Sarah Jarosz in under the wire. Wow. Thanks.”

Thank you. It’s always nice to hit on a good recommendation (and not easy to do).

Also, looking her up I discovered that she has a new album coming out soon, which I’ll have to get.


Alan Bostick 09.19.13 at 7:35 pm

Lying to your children. Tsk, tsk.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And Same Trailer Different Park really is Taylor Swift’s first album.”


Eszter Hargittai 09.19.13 at 7:40 pm

Thanks for these recommendations!

I’ll take this opportunity to remind people of Kasey Chambers from Australia. I wrote about her on CT nine years ago (yikes, that was long ago). For reasons not completely clear to me, she never made it big in the US (although certainly has somewhat of a following).


dairy queen 09.19.13 at 7:50 pm

Agree that the carpool can be a wonderful way to connect with teens. High point points in our car include Peter Fox’s Stadtaffe (“Wow, this is cool, what language is this???”) and The She’s (http://theshes.bandcamp.com/album/then-it-starts-to-feel-like-summer, I’m especially partial to Hey Boy, PLUS they are from our town, go SF!). Low points for the teenagers include Stimmhorn (the 14 year old looked like he wanted to *die* at the prospect of rolling up to school gates with Zender yodeling away) and for me just a week or so ago when I asked what two 12 year old boys meant when saying that certain girls talked too much about “it”. Turns out they meant, you know, “IT”. Oh! Silly me! Carry on, dudes!


SusanC 09.19.13 at 8:26 pm

It must be really hard for teenagers to shock their parents with their choice of music these days. When I was a teen, we could listen to punk rock or goth. But now, punk is the kind of music your mom listens too. Or possibly, even worse, your granny used to be in a punk band.


Substance McGravitas 09.19.13 at 8:31 pm

The Lovely Daughter gets annoyed at the stuff that requires close listening and prefers things like this and this.


ezra abrams 09.19.13 at 9:54 pm

I imagine that most of the authors and commentators on this blog consider themselves pro-environment.
I also imagine that most don’t think it odd to get in a car and drive for an hour for a tween soccer game.

If you (or I) were really pro environment, we would be willing to constrain our activities.
Or, at a bare minimum, we would think it wierd that long car rides for trivial reasons are ok


Harry 09.19.13 at 11:33 pm

ezra. Yes. I made them take the bus, until the other parents declared they would drive anyway (at which point sharing the drive made no difference). We do pool numerous kids (6). But I keep quiet about the environment in the same way that someone who caves into their spouse insisting their kids should go to private schools should keep quiet about elite schooling. Anyway, if someone else can think of a good response to your comment I’d like to see it. I can’t.


dairy queen 09.20.13 at 12:31 am

I took the OP to be about the interesting dynamics that can develop between parents and the friends of teens during carpooling, so sharing of rides is already baked into this premise. And it can take a very few shared rides to spark these sometimes hilarious interactions.

Harry’s reply to ezra makes an interesting point, though. Our family uses transit primarily to get around both as individuals and as a family, and our child has traveled around the City solo via transit for a few years now. Parental accompaniment is not generally welcome by the kid, independence is definitely preferred. The kid’s peers though virtually never use transit, there is only one exception I can think of. Even if the kids would like to join ours on transit, when it comes down to it the parents always seem to come up with some reason they *have* to drive, or they just “happen to be going that way for [other reason that doesn’t usually sounds so plausible], so might as well drive them.” I find this depressing for several reasons, among them the environmental one pointed out by ezra.


Harry 09.20.13 at 2:51 am

People don’t use public transit; so public transit isn’t so good; so people don’t use it. The trip they were doing involved crossing a large street (from the bus stop to the field) and the children, who are unused to public transit, were indeed uncomfortable on it. But — they want to play soccer!

The worst story. A friend is involved in the local soccer club. There’s a regular (boys) trip to play in Kansas. One year the club decided to rent a bus, to take the boys (how far is Kansas? Many hundreds of miles). The parents refused to pay for the bus — they were all driving to Kansas anyway, so didn’t want to pay extra to send their kids on the bus. Wrecking the environment is their hobby! In one way, though, it makes me feel better — I can send my kids with other people, and not feel that I am free riding.


TheSophist 09.20.13 at 4:54 am

To Harry @26: There has never been an artist who has grown on me the way that Mark Knopfler has. He’s the very rare artist whose solo stuff is much better than the material of the band he became famous with. May I politely recommend Sailing to Philadelphia (“What It Is” being the best track on that album) and Get Lucky (“Border Reiver”, “So far from the Clyde”, and the afore-mentioned “Piper to the end”.) Enjoy!


mud man 09.20.13 at 9:36 pm

I (secretly) threw away the Beastie Boy CD once, but somebody got a new one.


Katherine 09.21.13 at 9:39 am

MPAVictoria – guilty of snark meter failure m’lud. Too close to what some a*seholes would actually say I guess.


Katherine 09.21.13 at 9:52 am

I’d always prided myself on being open to good music in all genres, with one exception – country. No doubt an enormous helping of prejudice there, but not a prejudice that bothered me overmuch, compared to others.

And then I found myself mesmerised by some of the songs in Nashville (the TV show). So, recommendations for good examples of the genre in the comments above are gratefully received here too. Thanks.

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