Friday, December 12, 2008
Or, The Critic has no new book review for you this week. In which I take a trend that swept the blogosphere years ago and is only kept up by one lonely practitioner among bloggers I regularly read, and I take it up suddenly for no good reason.
Today’s trend is Friday Random Ten Shuffle. That is, set your iPod to shuffle and post the titles and artists of the first ten songs that play without omitting the good, bad, or the ugly. It serves no real purpose, is just some placeholder bullshit.
Thus without further ado:
1. I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You) [Take 1] – Thelonious Monk from the collection Monk Alone. If there are better recordings of Thelonious Monk anywhere in the entire world, I have yet to hear them. I always find myself slightly disappointed in his band-oriented material. He gets a little lost, the band doesn’t ever shine nearly as brightly which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t for others and to my ear almost never for Monk. This two disc collection of Monk alone at his piano during his time with the Columbia label is heaven, pure unadulterated heaven. I put this on just about anytime at all. Want a lift? Listen to some Monk. Want to sort of mellow? Listen to some Monk. A must have collection. I like how bright and bouncy a lot of these tracks are and “I’m Confessin’” is no exception.
2. The Trees Were Mistaken – Andrew Bird from the Soldier On EP. I’ve only recently started getting into Andrew Bird, so I’m not good with comparisons or telling you how this new material sucks compared to the old or is fabulously better than his early stuff. He’s someone I can take or leave, unfortunately. Occasionally I’ll hear one of his songs and go, damn, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, then the rest of the album kind of falls flat for me. This song seems different from others of his I’ve heard, though that’s not saying much as Bird appears devoted to evolving his sound and his style. There’s a looped background notes that persist throughout the entirety of the six-minute plus which I find kind of annoying as it’s short enough that its repetition just melts into a kind of noise. Plus, Bird has taken on whistling as one of his rhetorical musical devices. Frankly, I find all whistling on recorded music just inherently corny.
3. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect – Dreams – Colin Meloy from Colin Meloy Sings Live! A short medley wherein The Decemberists’ front man, alone on acoustic guitar, blends a song from the band’s debut album Castaways and Cutouts with an old Fleetwood Mac number. Meloy is charming on stage and no less so here. Occasionally this makes my frequent listening rotation, but mostly I prefer him backed by the solidity of the whole band. Not sure why as solo guitarists rank up there as one of my all-time favorite things.
4. Racing Day – The Backyardigans from the collection Born to Play. Some of The Littlest Critic’s kids’ music. Amazingly not at all annoying, the music from the Nickelodeon cartoon The Backyardigans is mostly written by John Lurie’s brother Evan, a member of the once upon a time “fake jazz” band The Lounge Lizards. He brings solid musical chops, an interest in diverse genres (Ska, Gilbert & Sullivan, Tango, Haitian Kompa, Calypso, Western Swing, Tarantella, Surf, etc.) and manages to turn out catchy kids’ music that is actually a treat to listen to when you’re an adult. When we first got into this cartoon and its accompanying music, TLC and I would listen to it in the car on the way to preschool. After I dropped her off, I’d often forget that I could change the music and would discover I’d made it all the way to the train station still singing along. This Zydeco number is a catchy ditty about, what else, racing, and includes the catchy lines “Racing day, it's racing day, /Racing day, it's racing day!/It's not self-effacing day,/Today's the day we race.” While it’s not often you get expressions like “self-effacing” in children’s music, let me add that The Backyardigans also include this Nietzschean trope in one track: “If you play with the monster, / lady, you'll be through. / 'Cause whoever plays with the monster, / will become a monster, too!”
5. Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ – Ray Charles from the collection Ultimate Hits. What do I have to say about this that would illuminate you? Either you love Ray Charles or you’re a fool. No, I’m not talking late era “Uh Huh” soda shilling Ray (though even that was better than half the advertising dreck that’s out there). A classic song, a classic Ray Charles song from his great years.
6. Half Nelson – The Miles Davis Quintet from the album Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. From my favorite period of all of Miles Davis’ his mid-fifties to mid-sixties period when every recording was perfect end to end. Even features a couple repeating short drum solos about three quarters of the way through that aren’t annoying. (Having once sat through an entire night listening to the best of Gene Krupa collection at a bar.) Smooth before describing jazz as smooth meant jazz that sucked balls.
7. Stardust – Martin Gore from a live bootleg The Piano Sessions, Cologne. Lord, this is what I meant by the ugly. During a period of college-era nostalgia, I tracked down a bunch of music from that time period including Depeche Mode and a couple solo things from their songwriter, Martin Gore. Almost certainly mislabeled from wherever I downloaded this from, this isn’t at all like the other barely audible poor sound quality tracks from the titular live solo concert at some piano bar. Instead, my suspicion is that this is actually from his second solo album Counterfeit2, though it perhaps could be a remixed version of the first single from that album that the downloader slipped in with the bootleg. Who knows? Sometimes I get an urge to listen to Gore and Depeche Mode just out of nostalgia, and then I listen and get an urge not to listen to much more than fifteen or twenty minutes.
8. Seeing Other People – Belle & Sebastian from the album If You’re Feeling Sinister. Talented versions of light rock elevator music for the angsty generation. I’ve never fully understood the appeal of this band. I mean, I get that their music is pleasant on the ear, that they pull off some interesting twists of lyrics, but there doesn’t really seem to be any passion to sink your teeth into here. End of the song is just repetitive for about forty or fifty seconds without any real good reason for being so. Meh.
9. Exactly Like You – Django Rheinhardt from the collection Early Recordings. I shouldn’t have to say anything here either. The god of jazz guitar, Rheinhardt could almost singlehandedly make life worth living.
10. Its Easier to Drink on an Empty Stomach Than Eat on a Broken Heart – Joan of Arc from Live in Chicago 1999. Ominous start of rising and falling drone and almost tabla-esque drumming and submerged whispy vocals, this is one of the band’s more experimental tracks rather than melodic ones. About half of the band’s output (their experimental side) I can take or leave. If I take it, it’s on as background ambiance. Another band I’ve been turned on to by my brother, they will forever in my mind be linked to the phrasing, “I know the Hancock Building/Will eclipse the afternoon moon,” for reasons only five us will understand.
Annnndddd…that’s a wrap. Review next week, folks.
Posted by The Critic at 12/12/2008 02:18:00 PM