Friday, December 12, 2008

Old Fad

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.


A + D said...

1.) Tom Petty – Strangered in the Night from the self titled album ‘Tom Petty’
..about a minute and forty seconds into this tune, you’ll hear some vocal effects similar to that of Robert Smith of ‘the Cure’. Layered reverb and delay doesn’t make an impact with Tom’s style of music. This is definitely a forgettable song, not just for those throw-away fillers within Petty albums, but for music in general.

2.) The Flaming Lips – Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (You’re Invisible Now) from the album Zaireeka
A bunch of weird noises happened, and all I could think about this song was that it would’ve been so much better in headphones after a few bong rips, and some time by myself to stare off into nothing. I was really into the Flaming Lips for this very reason four or five years ago.

3.) Bob Dylan – The Weight from the album ‘Before the Flood’
This album is one of the hundreds of Bob Dylan albums I will never get around to. This is the case for a majority of the albums on my iPod. It seems my only opportunity to come across something I have never heard before is to go into shuffle mode. I download a lot with good intentions, only to metaphorically duct tape it into a box, and stuff it in a closet I never use. This album in particular, I actually owned a few years ago on CD. I gave it away to my dad, or brother, I don’t remember, but never listened to it. It is a shared set with ‘The Band’. The Weight is one of ‘The Bands’ songs. I have no opinion of other than it is a classic more common on FM classic rock radio stations.

4.) The Russian Red Army Choir – Katusha from ‘The Best of The Russian Red Army Choir’
I am speechless. I don’t know why this came up.

5.) Tom Waits – Dead and Lovely from the album ‘Real Gone’
I’ve acquired a ton of Tom Waits from either my bro-in-law or a wicked huge discography torrent (kidding..maybe). This is a regularly played album on my iPod. This album is one of my favorite Waits albums alongside ‘Bone Machine’, and ‘Blood Money’. The iPod probably picked this because I listen to this album a lot. I am convinced that Tom Waits is a vampire. True story.

6.) Ween – The Blarney Stone from the album ‘The Mollusk’
Andrea hates Ween. I love Ween. However, this song makes me see her irritation with the band and their music. Ween is fun, but when you’re not ready for it, it’s just annoying. This drunken sea shanty, piratesque tune is obnoxious, vulgar, and about as funny as a middle school fart jokes. There are plenty of better Ween songs, and some of the best are from this same album. You really have to be in the manic state of your bipolar disorder to withstand Ween’s brutally irritating music.

7.) Swervedriver – Behind the Scenes from the album 99th Dream
I was introduced to Swervedriver in 2001 while attending school out of state by my buddy Pat Burke. When I first heard this album (and couple of the others) the band had already split up two years prior. After a quick Wikipedia search I’ve learned they’ve reunited this year. Adam Franklins voice isn’t for everyone. He has a typical alternative brit-rock vocal approach with the drawn out slurred wording thing. The atmospheric and spacey sound is awesome though. There are quite a bit of breaks in the singing for long and dynamically dramatized instrumental parts. This is a soft spot in the Dave Keirn musical likings.

8.) Okkervil River – Love to a Monster from the album ‘Overboard and Down’
I have a tendency to like an artist who writes meaningful, thought-out lyrics to go with their music over their actual ability to play an instrument or sing. I guess I enjoy folk music for reasons pertaining to storytelling rather than its difficulty of musical composition. In all realization, I listen to a lot of instrumental indie bands with no vocals whatsoever or terrible singers with brilliant lyrics. There is no real middle ground except for maybe a couple bands. Fortunately, Will Sheff is talented within all I consider to be skillful in my spectrum of singing, playing, and song writing ability.

9.) The Good Life – A Golden Exit from the album ‘Novena on a Nocturne’
The Good Life is where one turns when they’ve played their Cursive albums into the ground. This is what happened to me at least when I began listening to them a few years ago. Tim Kasher has a vocal styling similar to that of Will Sheff from Okkervil River. Kasher does a decent job of describing his disgust for record labels, relationships, and the catholic church. These are all things that can be easily understood and require very little explanation to relate to.

10.) The Mountain Goats – Wrong! from the album Ghana
I’m almost positive this gem popped up due to it’s overwhelming majority share of iPod hard drive space next to Bob Dylan. Thanks , once again, to my bro-in-law, I have almost every Goats album made. I also have a ton of live content as well. John Darnielle is an acquired taste for those who have never heard him. He has some of the best story-telling lyrics you will ever hear. Most folks become used to his percussive use of acoustic guitar to accompany his singing. This particular song is a whole different game. Darnielle has apparently replaced his guitar with a K-Mart Casio keyboard. The album must have been created on a reel-to-reel four track recorder as well.

The Critic said...

Of all his catalog, those Casio keyboard ones are the only songs i will instantly hit "Next" when they come up. I just can't take it.

Chris said...

1. Viva Las Vegas - Elvis Presley
2. Doctor Robert - The Beatles, Revolver
3. Four (Live in New York, Miles Davis & John Coltrane)
4. I Only Have Eyes For You - Sinatra
5. I Just Don't Care - Lightnin' Hopkins
6. Travelling Riverside Blues - Led Zepplin
7. Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 Rachmaninoff played by Horowitz
8. Woman, John Lennon
9. Positively 4th Street - Bob Dylan
10. Caravan - Martin Denny

That's out of a total of 2081 songs not including podcasts, videos and movies. Surprisingly, this is a pretty good sample of what kind of music I have on my iPod. Lots of Jazz, classical, old rock and then the exotica like Martin Denny (and plenty of Les Baxter)

flaky genius said...

How come boys never seem to have Shania Twain or some sort of other embarrassingly mainstream artist on their iPods?

Or for that matter, where are all the women period?

Damn sexist music lovers.

flaky genius said...

1. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) - Johnny Cash

2. Malted Milk Blues - Lucinda Williams (Women score 1)

3. Down By the River - Indigo Girls (and two)

4. Revelling - Ani DiFranco (and three)

5. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly - Susy Wills (Someone hasn't removed the Christmas music and uhm, that's four)

6. Meanwhile, Rick James ... - Cake

7. 99 Luftballoons - Nena (purchased for Laura's birthday mix just last week--score another one for the girls)

8. Leavin' On Your Mind - Patsy Cline (could that be six?)

9. Call Your Boys - Iron & Wine

10. Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney - Ella Fitzgerald (and seven)

Even without the Christmas music, my iPod rocks with women.

Which one of you sensitive males wants to feel a little chagrinned?

The Critic said...

Why should we feel chagrined that you, a woman, have more female artists on your iPod than we males who have more males on our iPods?

I'd wager many black people have more black music on their ipods than many white people, many southerners have more country music on their ipods than many northerners, and many fratboys have more jockjams than many people with brains.

It's just how it goes for 90 percent* of the population.

*(Figure pulled entirely out of ass.)

flaky genius said...

Interesting that you mention race, as most of you managed to pull out someone who wasn't white, but none of you were able to pull out someone who was female. Though the majority of my iPod is probably still male, I manage to have enough women that at least one turns up randomly, just as I managed to have enough minority representation that not all of my artists are white. My issue is not that men don't listen to women--of that, I am all TOO familiar; it's that purported sensitive, liberal, and egalitarian men don't have enough female artists on their iPods to allow at least one random song selection.

flaky genius said...

among the THREE of them. i think you'd be hard-pressed to find a situation where three women's iPods don't turn up at least ONE male.

flaky genius said...

Your argument that the saintly Madonna or vengeful whore aren’t stereotypical portrayals of women throughout literature is absurd.

The Critic said...

Glad that last comment is totally on-topic.