Our second “theme month” finds Strange Currencies turning nearly 180 degrees. After spending May discussing the finer points of the nearly-universally beloved catalog of The Beatles, June sees the Strange Currencies crew traveling back to Mid-Century America for the purpose of investigating records, artists, and genres of a decidedly more mixed critical reputation. From our perches in the Pacific Northwest and the Desert Southwest, our team of writers will be exploring the musical stylings of places near to home, and those of far away lands – albeit, largely through the lens of a decidedly white, middle-class perspective.
Yes, this month, Strange Currencies will be tackling the “kitschiest” of all musical genres: Easy Listening, Lounge, Exotica, Space Age Pop, and Western/Cowboy music. Despite being undeniably gimmicky and often woefully ignorant of the cultures from which it liberally “borrowed,” there is an endearing charm to the best of this music – one that frequently makes for fun listening, but that also raises a number of worthwhile debates. Along the way, we’ll work to define what exactly “kitsch” is, explain how these genres reflect both the affluence and complexities of post-war American life, and tackle the thorny subjects of cultural appropriation, casual racism, and artistic “authenticity.”
Through a series of articles, carefully-curated playlists, features, and album reviews, join Strange Currencies throughout the entire month of June, as we attempt to separate the lost gems from the dollar bin detritus of your local record store. Crank up the hi-fi, fix yourself a rum cocktail, and ease into an Eames chair as we explore the far-off realms of Mid-Century Kitsch Month.