#3 - Many In High Places Are Not Well - HiM
Believe it or not, I used to hate jazz...and I didn't even know what Afro-beat was. This band taught me to embrace them both. Doug Scharin uses percussion to penetrate every aspect of this group. Whereas most drummers provide the beat and fill in the empty space, he is the foundation upon which everything else is built. He combines these genres to create a perfect balance in a lively yet sensual sound.
The first tracks I heard on this album were samples (which Papa downloaded) of Slow, Slow, Slow (Slow Dub Low version) and The Way Trees Are. I couldn't get enough of either song and eagerly anticipated this album's release. Papa and I picked it up at CD Alley and then went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner. I vividly remember sitting in the parking lot (I think it was before we ate) listening to these songs. Wow. Although they were slightly different from the downloaded versions that whet my appetite, hearing them in their entirety was incredibly satisfying.
It took me a while to warm up to the album as a whole. I think it was because I heard the best songs first. Then I got to a point where I wore it out. Any time I had control of the CD player, this is what I would pop in. Seeing them live with Mice Parade only added to my adoration. They made a dingy, smoke-filled bar feel like heaven on earth.
I don't know how I can put two more albums above this one. It feels more accurate to say that this is 1/3 of #1.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Here's a shameless plug for Elizabethton's own, The Showdown. My brother constantly talks about these guys and how good they are, but naturally because I'm the big brother, and obviously cooler and wiser, I never gave them the time of day until now.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
They also made the cover of HM magazine this month. Their new album released today, and they are going to be at Gatsby's in Johnson City tonight for a release show.
Maybe little brothers get some right from time to time.
Scriven by Unknown at 9:55 AM
Monday, February 19, 2007
#4 The Moon & Antartica, Modest Mouse, Epic Records, 2000
Though I'm guessing that Sean B might regale us with tales of that other Modest Mouse gem, The Moon & Antartica is the true opus for me. I got this record in Bristol right before Sarah and I moved to Durham and I don't think I stopped listening to it my entire first year at Duke. Or since, really. Scoffed by some as frontman Isaac Brock's sell-out album (read: first major label record), nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead of being methodical radio-pap, this record cuts a dark existential swath filled with movements from shoegaze to guitar panic and from punk spazz to acoustic balladry all within an unabashed self-transparency and lyrical truthfulness that opens the mental sinuses like a eucalyptus bath. I mean really, when I finish listening to this record it always feels like my mental state can breath again, freed from past baggage and future dirt (read: the stuff to which your body returns). For both Sarah and I, Brock, who also came from a kooky conservative Christian background, strikes a nerve with his honest, albeit blunt, theological observations. And the dynamic musical atmosphere doesn't hurt our love either. Rather than go on and on about each song, I thought I would post my Top 5 favorite lyrical moments from the record, along with links to the songs, so those who would like a taste can savor the flavor.
"The 3rd planet is sure that they're being watched by an eye in the sky that can't be stopped. When you get to the promised land, you're gonna shake that eye's hand." 3rd Planet
"I just got a message that said, "Yeah, hell has frozen over", got a phone call from the Lord saying "Hey boy, get a sweater. Right now." Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
"It's hard to remember we're alive for the first time. It's hard to remember we're alive for the last time." Lives
"It takes a long time but God dies too, but not before he'll stick it to you." I Came As a Rat
"And the one thing you taught me 'bout human beings was this - they ain't made of nothin' but water and shit." What People Are Made Of
#9 - Vigilantes of Love, Audible Sigh
Those of you who know me have seen this coming for some time. Your only surprise may be that it isn't higher. My fanboy status for VOL may have declined over the past years, but this album abides as one of the true greats of the alt-country genre, and probably a snapshot of the band at its height. More talented as a poet than a musician, lead man Bill Mallonee crafted intense, literary lyrics that on this album finally got their due support from equally talented band members. Barn-burning rockers combine with quiet glimpses of hope and a raw brand of melancholy that few others can match. I still remember when I first heard this album: it was two weeks before I was getting married, I was living by myself in a tiny rented house on a farm in Bristol, Tennessee, and this came in the mail. Only problem: no stereo. I dug through still-unpacked boxes until I found my computer, dug it out, plugged in the crappy standard computer speakers and dropped the album in the CD-Rom slot. It sounded awesome.
Favorite tracks: She Walks on Roses, Extreme North of the Compass, Solar System (click for a listen)
Also available on Emusic: Check it.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
#10, Counting Crows, August and Everything After
I do realize this is a repeat selection and may raise some eyebrows as a top-10 selection, but so be it.... It's one of the most worn CDs in my collection. The Crows are one of the first rock bands that I remember liking. Their debut into the rock music scence was at roughly the same time as mine as our paths crossed somewhere in the early 1990s. This is an album that I enjoy listening to without skipping any songs. My favorite songs on the album are Omaha, Raining in Baltimore and Rain King (especially the extra-raspy "yeaaaaaaaaah").
It feels nice to finally be in the single digits......
Friday, February 16, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
#2 - Grace (Jeff Buckley) 1994
I knew full well twenty three picks ago that I'd have to find something graceful to say about my #2, but when it really comes down to it, I can't actually remember where I first heard Buckley or found this album. It certainly wasn't in 1994, but it feels like forever that Buckley has been atop my music collection. It's hard to describe my fascination with Buckley, his tragic death, or this near-perfect collection of seemingly organized (Grace, Last Goodbye, Lover) consciousnesses (Mojo Pin, Eternal Life, Dream Brother), but I realized upon a recent listen that Grace (and my #1) represent something very special: they were the two catalyst albums that first helped me define my own musical taste, my own style, my own expression. While I might consider Starflyer's Silver and The Prayer Chain's Shawl and Mercury to be my first encounters with what was a new, exciting, and wildly addicting new musical style, Grace represents the awakening I had into music of my own, music that wasn't enjoyed solely and secretly on the opening act of rebellion. In fact, the pleasure in listening to Silver and Mercury came in the music but first in the mayhem it reflected back onto what was otherwise a very sheltered youth. Grace is me, and when someone asks, as they often do, what kind of music I like, I never think style, always album, and artist. These top 5 albums are my music. I have no idea what "kind" they are or represent, but I am supremely comfortable in believing they are great without needing to feel like they make me look cool. I enjoy every minute of this album, and still wrestle to call one particular song my favorite among the others. Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should've Come Over (might be the best lyrics of any song I know) certainly stand out, as does Mojo Pin and Dream Brother, both of which seem to experiment with emotional tempo. Grace is possibly the opus and Hallelujah is much better here than it was with Cohen.
Without question, this album is a masterpiece. It's amazing to think what Jeff Buckley would be doing now were he still with us...
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
#4 - Monster - REM
As a long time REM fan, I must admit, this is a bold choice. It even surprised me. I own all of their albums from Murmur through Reveal and this one is my favorite? Yes, it is. I can finally admit it.
I owned Automatic first, but it was this one that made me a follower. I first heard it at a Young Life retreat. I remember the hotel lobby, the group of guys with "skater" cuts kicking around a hacky sack with this playing in the background. I had a huge crush on one of the guys and I bought this album to remind me of him.
I ended up loving it and went to see the infamous aneurysm tour in Hershey,PA. The show gave me mixed feelings. I was a hyper youth group Christian and Michael Stipe's first words on stage were "I am Satan." The video clips that played behind them were eerie. I specifically remember one of a teenage boy (who looked much like my crush) kissing his own hand over and over again. I thought, "Weird. I shouldn't like this." I turned away from Monster and bought all the other albums. These were much safer. I became a fan but this album fell by the wayside.
Years later, I feel I've come full circle. I still adore REM. I love all of their albums. This one is not the most musically impressive. The lyrics are enigmatic and down-right crass. But damn it if every song doesn't make you sing right along. If I'm going to pull one of their albums off the shelf today, chances are, its going to be this one. It opens with pop perfection in "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" and the intensity builds from there. The beautifully odd "Strange Currencies" and "Let Me In" provide points of respite in the midst of all the raunchy distortion. If Automatic for the People is their gem, Monster is their rock.
It still gives me a slightly uneasy feeling, like Michael Stipe is some dirty old man telling me all of his secrets. But I now know his past (and his future), so, when I listen, I understand that this is just a stage he is going through. This stage produced some amazing rock and now that I'm a grown-up, I can take it.
#3 - Ghosts of the Great Highway (Sun Kil Moon) 2003
Of all the albums on my top 25 (including the next two), this is the only disc that still carries upward momentum - which could very easily carry this treasure to #1 in just a few more years. Writing this now, it's hard to believe I love two more albums more than this one. I have to thank Papa for this gift, probably the best piece of music I've ever received. This album has been played more than any other album in the last two years in our household, and with the re-release already on order, there is no doubt it will be playing several hundred times more. This is, without question, one of my favorite albums of all time, and surprising, felt so almost immediately upon first listen. Many of my favorite bands have since disbanded, so here's a prayer than Kozelek and his merry men keep on playing...
Carry Me Ohio is in my top 5 songs of all time. Lily and Parrots is my favorite song right now, and my daughter's, too.
Happy Valentine's Day, Salvador...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Apologies for the extended absence - I think you can tell who on this list is in graduate school. Job interviews, teaching, and dissertation writing (or staring at the computer screen for 5 hours and producing one paragraph) have consumed much of my time, plus the fact that we just reverted to dial-up internet (yes, it still exists) and uploading images becomes painful and slow....
So, in typical Aaron Cowan fashion, it's time to scoot in here at the last minute and catch up. In the words of Homer Simpson, "Put on a pot of coffee. Then drink it, and start making hamburgers! I'm pulling an all-nighter!"
#13 - Ben Folds, Rockin' The Suburbs
I probably don't really like this album more than Who's Next, The Joshua Tree or any number of others already on this list, but I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, below the top 5 or so, this list is pretty arbitrary and random. The first track, "Annie Waits" lets you know what this album is all about right off the bat - great piano pop and handclaps. Of course, now that I'm a dad I get all weepy over "Still Fighting It." This album also wins the "Most Proper Names Used in Song Titles" award for its fun twisted biographical vignettes...plus, the title track mocks corporate white rap-metal, which, despite its now-dated references, is still funny. Good times.
Favorite tracks: Annie Waits, Still Fighting It, Not the Same
#12 - Beatles, White Album
God this album is so good. What else to say? Besides the aptly-described "art wank" of Revolution 9, I defy you to find one track on here you wouldn't want to hear at any given moment of any given day. The definitive proof that art and listenability are not mutually exclusive.
Favorite Tracks: See above
#11 - Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle
Thanks to my parents for raising me to love the music that would produce this music. And thanks to Forbes for telling me about it.
Favorite Tracks: Lion's Mane, Beard Stealing Bread, Upward Over the Mountain
#10 - Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline
One of the aforementioned albums my parents raised me to love. There aren't many artists that can release an album in a entirely new fake voice and pull it off, but Dylan inhabits the metaphysical stratosphere upon which other musicians fear to tread. The giant finger to all who still held on to the belief that Dylan was the spokesman for his generation, as he revealed himself to be the "song and dance man" he'd always insisted he was. Throw this on some night this spring when you're having dinner and see if it doesn't convince you, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, that life is good.
Favorite tracks: Girl from the North Country (with Johnny Cash), Peggy Day, Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
More later - horrible, horrible essays on WEB DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk await the wrath of my pen. The red ink will flow like rivers.....
#5 One Beat, Sleater-Kinney, Kill Rock Stars, 2002
We were at an "Obama in '08" rally on Sunday in Chicago that featured a surprising turn. Halfway through Obama's speech a group of about 30 protestors stood up and started loudly chanting that American troops should get out of Iraq. While Obama, to his credit, attempted to engage them, security removed them reasonably quickly. But the tone of the rally changed - real flesh and blood people had called attention to something that upset them and shattered the univocal "pep rally" atmosphere. Obama pushed on and smoothed it over as best he could, but the reality stood - protest as a counter to politics as usual, as a stab at the status quo, had left its mark.
Such is the sound of Sleater-Kinney's amazing and profoundly moving One Beat. Written and recorded during the hey-day of post-9/11 American nationalistic furor, it galvanized and focused my attempt to deal with the dark political turn following the attack on the World Trade Center. The record became, for me, the sound of dissent. Opener "One Beat" is in my Top 100 songs of all time, using powerful drums and angular guitars to anthmically challenge consensus in the name of reason and progressive thinking. When Corin Tucker asks "If you think like Thomas Edison, could you invent a world for me?" and answers "Now all that's on the surface are bloody arms and oil fields" it's more than a political statement about current events - it's a call to think and create a new mode of engaging old problems, to take the Man head on and "shake you and your fossils out." The sentiment is genius and the music is rocking: a perfect combination. "Far Away" moves from the ideological to the personal, as Tucker relates what it was like nursing a newborn baby on the morning of September 11 and getting that phone call we all got: "Turn on the T.V." As she "watches the world explode in flames" and prays for her family's safety, a bigger question is on her mind: "Why can't I get along with you?" It's a simple query that doesn't hide behind a blind xenophobia or a fervent anit-nationalism, but that strikes at the heart of human realtions - why does difference often lead to violence? "Combat Rock" utilizes military drum work from the exquisite Janet Weiss to drive home a homily on protest everyone from Thomas Paine to MLK, Jr would agree with: "Since when is skepticism un-American? Dissent's not treason but they talk like it's the same." Powerfully prophetic words when you think about their context in 2002, a time when the machinations of the Iraq War were only nascent to the public but, as we now know, very prominent in the Bush administration's agenda.
Despite my opening diatribe, however, much of the album isn't focused on political issues. Love song "Oh!" brings emphatic tones to Carrie Brownstein 's empassioned "Nobody figures like you figured me out," and the horn driven feminist anthem "Step Aside," which has a band member name-dropping call and response section that demands a "knife through the heart of our exploitation" and commands to "disassemble your discrimination." Narrative "Prisstina" tells the tongue-in-cheek story of a young college girl tempted by "your dirty rock n'roll" but who ends up leaving her boy toys behind for a bright future. Portland gets a shout out on "Light-Rail Coyote," which focuses on the economic geography of the city, and "Funeral Song" recalls Hot Rock-era SK in the verse and then explodes into the chorus of "Turn out the light" with theramin and a pounding Janet. As Sarah referenced in her post on this record, closer "Sympathy" is perhaps the most moving song on the record. It is, more or less, Corin's prayer over her sick infant who almost died after birth and contains some of the most earnest and haunting phrases in my Top 25: "There is no righteousness in your darkest moment, we're all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of." In powerful seasoned punk style, One Beat utilizes this sentiment to prove that prayer and dissent are really just two sides of the same thing: hope.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Cat Power The Covers Record - Flakey like pie crust when interviewed or on stage, Cat Power's strength lies in her smokey vocals that come close to M. Ward in their deliciousness.
The National Alligator - Something about the direct, self-assured delivery of these Brooklynites compels and embarrasses me at the same time, but 'Daughters of the Soho Riots' is so beautiful it makes up for all of their swagger
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Starflyer 59 (tooth&nail, 1995)
Well J. Martin wrote about 'feeling the mess' and being miserable in a most naked way. Supposedly he spent a month pretty much alone in the studio making this and at one point didn't see the sun for a week. Much like Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt, rock genius seeps out in times of turmoil (and heavy drug use). 11 songs of feeling down because old friends have gone, times have changed, and no one seems to care. But he did put out the invite for those feeling miserable to take a walk his way (2 of my grandparents died in '95). Alright then... right there was my home, in amongst the sweetest overdrive, feedback, tremelo, solos, and dead drums I have ever heard.
I've never heard a more menacing song than 'Dual Overhead Cam' with its dynamics and bass and soloing and ear-splitting feedback. As with most of my favorite albums, there is mystery aplenty within the lyrics and even in the tones of the solos as well. No song is bombastic in that he tries to outdo himself; no, the freakouts are lazy and thick. And when he again hits the stompbox, the melodies are gorgeous. What else? This track order is my bench mark for how to make an album seamless, and I haven't listened to much noise/rock since then because of it. I had the original cd and always thought there was a perfect 1st half (1st 5 songs) and even better 2nd half (last 6). Then he released it on record with the division b/w those songs and I knew I had a treasure.
It was the first record that I bought as I didn't even know that bands still made records. My dad soon after gave me his record collection and Gold is the only record of mine that holds a place in his record box. Family members then starting asking me and C.Ultra in a 'you know they make cds now' tone; ''who still makes records?' Thats where that love began. It's odd that as much as I can't stand 1 word song titles, 'Indiana' with its "baskin in the blue skies of your eyes" takes the cake. At this point I can't really say anything. Do I need to mention how the last song 'One Shot Jaunita' is the best closing track ever and how strange it is and how at the 3:10 mark the 3 soloing guitars....This was my favorite for a decade, and if you ask me on the right day, I'd have to say it still is.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
#5 Degung - Bulan Dagoan - Gendtra Pasundan Degung Group
About four years ago, I decided to become more familiar with world music. I was teaching preschool music at the time and was supposed to do a "music around the world" summer program. Although I checked out several books of multicultural kids songs, I wanted samples for the children to hear. This is when I discovered the Putumayo label.
Out of necessity, I began with World Playground. Over the next few years, I picked up a few Putumayo CD's for grownups as well. One of them was Music from the Tea Lands. The last track on this CD, Kang Mandor, was unlike anything I'd ever heard. The artist, Ujang Suryana, is a blind bamboo flute player from Indonesia. He is accompanied by a traditional gamelan group. This song helped me relax during pregnancy. I put it on repeat to fall asleep by almost every night.
Papa, of course, noticed my infatuation with the song. He, being a music sleuth, found this Degung Group album featuring Suryana and gifted it to me. Now, instead of one song, I have an entire album to put on repeat. It is only fitting that it was playing in the hospital room at the exact moment Efrim was born.
many of you know that big cougar, papa and mama, lucky, and myself compiled our top 15 favorite records of 2001. fortunately for me, papa shoegaze still had many of our lists in tact, and was kind enough to email me my top fifteen albums so that, for sentimental and comparative reasons, i could look over it.
its amazing to look back, glancing over all of the records i held so dear. every story is still attached to each number, each record, each cd, and though the stories are still so meaningful, sometimes, sadly, the records arent anymore. the way we grow and change as people as represented by two lists of our favorite records. how many remain? how many change?
making a phone call to papa shoegaze, we couldnt specifically remember any rules, spoken or unspoken, about compiling our list 6 years ago. but for some reason, i felt that there was a "this album must be able to purchased somewhere" ideal. for obvious reasons, this is why we all felt cheated with trey's inclusion of a homemade pearl jam mix tape. thats right.
not to say that we were angry, but keep in mind that one cannot purchase treys "eddie gonna rock ya" mix at your local record shop or from amazon. not that you would want to; the songs and track order, chosen by a third party meant something to trey, and the logic behind it would never have the same effect on anothers ears. i, too, was pseudo guilty of bending this rule; my number 15 was a record by a friends band, glamour house, called "the mechanics." true, one couldnt stroll into sam goody and snag a copy, but--my logic warranted--if one looked hard enough you could contact colen and buy a copy.
but how could one chart an album that doesnt exist?
the simple answer: in good faith, you cannot.
when i was in high-school, i remember watching VH1 a lot. too much. in a Behind The Music, a small clip featured one of my favorite artists sitting at a piano and singing a song that i couldnt wrap my hear around. the clip featured the album name at the bottom of the screen. i had to have that record. this was the time in my life where i started playing music, and i know that this record was going to be important to me. i had my dad take me to the mall right then. but the record wasnt there. i tried again a few weeks later. still, it wasnt on the shelf.
college is a time of discovery, and of the things i learned, about the world and about myself, the three things topping the list in my freshman year at JMU were as follows:
-html is easy to learn if you dont have any friends,
-your dorm-mates will hate you if you set your alarm to go off at a time when you are not IN your room to turn it off
-bootlegs are awesome.
the thing about live bootlegs is there is a defined track order; this goes before that because its how the band played it live on this date in this year. studio bootlegs are different because there isnt a set-list to follow. hell, i cant even really think of any other studio bootlegs to begin with. googling the record, which was originally to be title "dumb angel," one can find a host of theories as to which songs and pieces went in which order. but there was no REAL way to know, and the creator wasnt talking.
i looked over all of the 'evidence' and decided for myself which goes where. i even made a cover--front and back--as well as a disc label. i listened to that bootleg for months. every time my parents came to pick me up from JMU, i knew i could listen to that record exactly three times through. so i did. the music was sweeping. the album itself had more ups and downs than roller coaster. it was simultaneously beautiful, fun, scary, haunting, prophetic, silly, complex and simple. it was everything one could ask for in a record. except, i had to remind myself, it wasnt a record.
in the fall of 2003, my then-girlfriend and i were going to see a movie. her friend henri called her, and among other things told her to notify me that a certain musical genius was about to not only COMPLETE this work but also to play it live. irritated as she was, i turned the car around and drove back to her house. i had to read it for myself. right then and there.
i know it's not the SAME record, i know it's a re-recording. but i dont feel slighted. for whatever reason, 1966 wasnt the time for this work to released. fate decided to let it come to me at the same age that it's writer was when he started. to sum up, the album that was never to be finished was finished, and the record that was never meant to make my list has.
brian wilson's 'teenage symphony to god' is now on it's way into the heavens.
RELEASE DATE: september 28, 2004
Friday, February 9, 2007
and they taught me right and wrong, black and white....
Was digging through some stuff in the basement and came upon these gems that I thought some on here would appreciate. I'll never forget the night I first saw "The King's X" or those who taught me "the fine art of friendship (meaning of love)...."
Scriven by ATrain at 11:05 AM
Thursday, February 8, 2007
So before I dive into my serious Top 5 Albums, here are my current Top 5 "guilty pleasure" songs that, you know, help me get through the dirty dishes every morning. I think my secret pleasures are emo and rap and, well, a mixture of the two. Terribl...y delicious?!?!
MC Lars - Ahab
Stanford grad samples Supergrass to illustrate Moby Dick. Kids these days.
Brand New - Sowing Season
Emo to screamo and back again. God I miss Mineral.
Mastodon - The Wolf Is Loose
Metal for people who forgot they liked metal. Strike that, LOVE metal.
TI - What You Know
ATL represent. This one gets stuck in your head.
Fall Out Boy - This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arm Race
This sounds like the Backstreet Boys. And then it becomes the Backstreet Boys, only with fast guitars and drums.
Now, with this out of my system I can move on to more important things . . . like the laundry.
(PS - For the uninitiated, to listen to the files or download them follow the link and then scroll to the middle of the page and click "Download for free with FileFactory Basic" then scroll again to enter in the code it gives you. After that, it will give you a link to the file to either listen or download. Yeah, it's annoying. But it's also free.)
Scriven by Big Cougar at 5:14 PM
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
:: 07 ::
Rage Against the Machine
The perfect band to listen to when you're either (A) Mad at The Man, (B) Working late because someone else dropped the ball, and/or (C) Just plain mad.
Tracks of Note:
Bulls on Parade, People of the Sun, Year of the Boomerang
:: 08 ::
Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar
My Dad used to sing and play all the classic Johnny Cash songs, especially Folsom Prison Blues, when I was a kid. I guess that's why I'm such a big fan now. Everytime I'm coming back home from a business trip or vacation, Hey Porter always pops into my head. It's just an upbeat, simple song about a simple southern boy coming home.
Hey porter! Hey porter!
Would you tell me the time?
How much longer will it be till we cross
that Mason Dixon Line?
At daylight would ya tell that engineer
to slow it down?
Or better still, just stop the train,
Cause I wanna look around.
Hey porter! Hey porter!
What time did ya say?
How much longer will it be till I can
see the light of day?
When we hit Dixie will you tell that engineer
to ring his bell?
And ask everybody that ain't asleep
to stand right up and yell.
Hey porter! Hey porter!
It's getting light outside.
This old train is puffin' smoke,
and I have to strain my eyes.
But ask that engineer if he will
blow his whistle please.
Cause I smell frost on cotton leaves
and I feel that Southern breeze.
Hey porter! Hey porter!
Please get my bags for me.
I need nobody to tell me now
that we're in Tennessee.
Go tell that engineer to make that
lonesome whistle scream,
We're not so far from home
so take it easy on the steam.
Hey porter! Hey porter!
Please open up the door.
When they stop the train I'm gonna get off first
Cause I can't wait no more.
Tell that engineer I said thanks alot,
and I didn't mind the fare.
I'm gonna set my feet on Southern soil
and breathe that Southern air.
Tracks of Note:
Folsom Prison Blues, Hey Porter, Get Rhythm, Cry Cry Cry, I Walk the Line, Hey Porter, Get Rhythm
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
:: 09 ::
I'm not very good at describing music, (See numbers posts 10-25) so I'll keep this one short and get out of the way. Here goes. Yeah, it's old news to say that you love "The Distance," but it'd probably make my top 5 favorite songs of all time. I love the "quirkiness" and soul of Cake. 1 part white funk, 2 parts Vegas crooner, mixed with a liberal dollop of spoken word poetry night. Bake at 350 degrees. Serve warm.
Tracks of Note:
The Distance, Frank Sinatra, Italian Leather Sofa, Race Car Ya Yas
:: 10 ::
Would we even know Dave Grohl's name had Kurt not taken his own life? Or Sean "Puffy" Combs' name had Biggie Smalls not died? ... to be honest, I guess I don't know what his name is now... is it still P. Diddy? All I can be sure of is I'm glad these guys are out on the street 24 hours a day fighting foo so that we can enjoy our liberty.
Tracks of Note:
I'll Stick Around, Floaty, This Is a Call, Big Me
Monday, February 5, 2007
i am picky. very picky. and i am very rarely neutral. i usually love something or i hate it, and sentiments of 'okay' are few and far between.
looking over my list, and knowing what i know about myself, my tastes, and my general dissapproval of everything melodic, i find myself amazed at how many albums were contenders to take seat on my top twenty five.
i thought long and hard. there certainly had to be guidelines. so what, i asked myself, makes a favorite record? and as best as i can relay, here are the neccessary steps to a record being a cornerstone of my listening personality.
PHASE 1: shock and awe. this is amazing. i cannot stop listening to it. at any point of the day i catch myself whistling the melodies and harmonies of some or all of the tracks on the record, when i'm not catching myself singing along.
PHASE 2: anger. why didnt i think of that hook? why couldnt i capture that drum sound? why is that vocal so fucking perfectly nestled in the mix between those sweeping synths and that rockin kick? i feel the need to study. to dissect. to decide if this is the real deal or if my ears are messing with me.
PHASE 3: bliss. i know every word. i know every note in the solo. i know the way the feedback sounds. my foot knows when the kick drum does that "up-one-two" that one time in the bridge. i anticipate the harmony on the last chorus. i know on which channel the shaker resides, and to which side the claps are panned. and i can perfectly emulate exactly where the drums kick in on my steering wheel. for every song.
i never question the track order, because i know without track two coming before track four, the album wouldnt have that bump in the arc. there is no such thing as shuffle, no skipping tracks, and no repeat track one on a favorite record, because there are no stand out tracks. each is as important and perfectly placed as the letters in the alphabet. sure, there are exceptions to some of this, but if i only like a record for the first four tracks, doesnt that mean it's a cd which contains some of my favorite songs rather than a favorite album? a cohesive album is a conceptual artform that is quickly diminishing with iTunes and iPod shuffles. consumers no longer think about the care taken to put a record together, so artists stop putting in the work. maybe this is why only a handful of albums on my list were completed in the last 5 years.
fuck you apple. fuck you steve jobs.
it was called the Concert For The Masses. an additional date added to this bands 1988 international tour coming to climax in pasadena, ca. and seeing it, hearing it, for the first time--albeit on dvd--was an amazing experience.
there are few bands with the staying power as the artists behind my number 5 pick. and of those artists, even fewer consistently put out critically and commercially successful records in a genre that swims against the currents of mainstream tastes.
the year was 1987. according to my birth certificate i was 6 years old. according to billboard, the highest selling album of the year was george harrsions's "cloud nine." i am not completely certain as to what i was listening to in late 1986/early 1987, but i have an inkling that it was either my "cabbage patch kids christmas" audio cassette or something by the King.
whatever the case may be, i am so glad my six year old ears hadn't heard this band yet, for surely i wouldnt have understood. or maybe it would have made me the coolest, saddest, six year old on the block. there's no way to know.
we live in a world of brand recognition. consumers are so quick to spend a buck, but need the comfort of that familiar logo on the box. fortune 500 companies spend more money on making sure you recognize THEIR logo than the competitions than they do on the actual merchandise they are cramming down your throat. in this regard, major record labels make it very hard for up and coming bands to surface in a mainstream market. everyone loves music. music gets us through tough times in life. it gets us sanely into work. it gets us from fredericksburg to chicago, on no sleep, safely. but people are so hesitant to discover new music because they dont know it exists. the wont go check out their potential favorite new band playing down the street, because they have never heard their name. because of this, agents and publicists, smaller record labels and even young bands themselves are so quick to associate their name with a larger one; 'we sound like ________ and ____________' or 'recommended if you like ____________' are common phrases and comparisons you will find on websites, cd cases, and newspaper articles. hell, for myspace music profiles, they even have a special section devoted to this. you fill it out when you sign up for your account.
i was in a small band that had local press, a publicist, a website and a myspace page. needless to say, whether we wanted them or not, comparisons were inevitable. maybe it was my deep voice, or maybe it was the electronic over- and under-tones, but of all of the comparisons we received, one would not stop popping up. and the reality of it was...i had never heard of them.
finally, one day, i decided i was going to listen to the band we were constantly being told we were 'paying modern day homage' to. looking over their immense back catalog, i wasnt quite sure where to start. so i started at the beginning.
i wont lie, i recognized songs. but i was hesitant to like them. why should i? i didnt recognize the name. but, one week apart, for 5 weeks i digested their work. one by one, snatching up work after work until i got to week six/album six. i rested there. it was a new plateau. one could easily see how tailored the members roles had become, and how well they wore those hats. the arranger and engineer, obviously influenced by the like of phillip glass, made the works build and destruct, rise and fall; he made the songs breathe. the one using that breath was the handsome singer, somehow putting voice to the words of these songs. and he hadnt written note one. the songwriters shoes were occupied by yet another member. i was amazed that a group could work in this way for so long. i was amazed at what i was hearing. after proceeding through all of the necessary phases of acceptance, i realized i had clearly found their peak; i had found their "mercury."
and i think back to how worried my parents would have been had i, as a six year old, realized the profound meaning i have come to know in the words and music of this record. the places it takes me ("i'm taking a ride with my best friend / i hope he never lets me down again").
i'd have been the coolest, saddest, six year old on the block.
DEPECHE MODE-music for the masses
RELEASE DATE: January 1, 1987
LABEL: mute /reprise / wea
music for the masses, remastered and in 5.1 surround
:: 11 ::
I wasn't a fan of The Beatles until I bought the Beatles One album, then realized I knew almost every Beatles song. What power! for a band to have most every song engraved into the dna of several generations. There's not much else one can say, other than it's a burning dream of mine to recreate the Abbey Road photo... how original.
Tracks of Note:
Come Together, I Want You, Polythene Pam, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
:: 12 ::
Chin up, Chicago... you still have OK Go. Thanks to the band's guerrilla marketing genius on YouTube with the treadmill video, I started liking the radio hits from their second album. So I took a listen to their first album and loved every song. They have a way of writing the catchiest tunes that just stick into your brain. This is a band that I didn't want to like, it's poppy and happy - but when I searched my feelings, I knew it to be true... they're just good. I defy you to listen and not be immediately put into a better mood. In fact, any Bears fan with murderous feelings toward Grossman should first take a deep breath, count to ten, and put on some OK Go.
Tracks of Note:
What To Do, Get Over It, Hello My Treacherous Friends, CCCinnamon Lips
Sunday, February 4, 2007
:: 14 ::
To me, Beck embodies the "Alternative" label more than any other artist. I love the different sounds from low tech sampling to old school folk-hip hop... fusion, thing. Plus any artist that is non-compromising and constantly pushing music to new, original heights should be applauded. (The Information has the coolest album art concept of all time.) This album just works, and Where It's At is on the soundtrack of my life.
Tracks of Note:
Where It's At, New Pollution, Devils Haircut, High 5
i would like to start our by apologizing for my absence.
this almost killed me. there was barely time to sleep, much less focus my attention and write something meaningful. prior to our winter break, i had written a post about my next record. i wanted to just pull it up and post it during my frantic editing, but i think i accidentally lost that flash drive somewhere. it breaks my heart, because i felt like it was worded just so. but regardless, maybe some time has offered greater insight to my next pick...or maybe it wont do the record justice and just suck horribly.
i am a baritone. i'll admit that. but in the summer of 1996, i was a crooner. my soaring falsetto rose above the buzz and hum and grumble and feedback, and note for note i sung along. it feels like that time of my life was filled with the excitement of new music. every album in my cd collection was a gem, this perfect piece of wonderment. maybe its because that time of your life is where youre most impressionable, and where you form your music taste...or maybe its because they just dont make them like they used to.
as already mentioned by papa shoegaze and lucky strikes, the prayer chain's "mercury" is quite an achievement of modern christian rock. i'll admit that too. but something odd happens when you dont grow with a band, when you are introduced to them in the peak of their existence; anything following will never live up, and none of their prior work ever quite has that same magic. when you arent there to connect the dots with them, you can never fully appreciate the leaps they took to get there. you only hear it for what it is. if you dont grow with a band, they dont grow with you. and it's in this way that it's so easy to take an album for granted.
i took "mercury" for granted.
soon after, the prayer chain disbanded and, sadly, i didnt feel much. where papa and lucky might have felt sorrow for their break-up, their absence never did strike the same droning, reverbed, indian-influenced chord with me. curiously, out of huntington beach, came a blazing record by a california-cool duo with some familiar faces. this band is everything i loved. it's like the two members put "shutdown, vol. 2" in a blender with "nowhere" and "pychocandy" and pureed to perfection. reverb and falsetto. shakers and feedback. layers of guitars and noise and dirt and rattle. the grooviest beats and the most laid back lyrics about serfs and queens. i was not going to make the same mistake with this as i had with "mercury." i would not take this record for granted. this album WAS and IS a gem.
or maybe they just dont make 'em like they used to.
"thank you! the lassie foundation"
THE LASSIE FOUNDATION-california
RELEASE DATE: ??/??/96
LABEL: velvet blue music
*NOTE: usually i link to the amazon page where one might purchase the record in discussion. but this record is out of print. thusly, i have included a link to a lassie foundation retrospective collection which contains, among other things, the "california" record in it's entirety.
i had just moved out of the dorms. this was an exciting time in my life. the year i moved into my first apartment, the year i first had a thanksgiving party and attended my first wine and cheese snob-fest, i purchased more records than any other point in my existence. i am, to this day, still finding records--good or bad--acquired during this time, shoved anywhere one can cram cd's; lunchboxes, giant rubbermaid bins, old book bags. hell, if i hadnt wrecked my first explorer, i'd still be pulling jewel cases out of the seats.
when someone you care about introduces you to a new artist or record, you cannot listen to a lyric or hear that bassline without being warmed by the memory of them. the melody summons some ghost from the past, and you thank it, and kindly ask it to not disturb your listen with the rattle of it's chains.
but what do you do when an artist you love was introduced to you by someone you hate?
ponder that for a moment.
for the same reasons that ran through your head, i did not want to like this artist. 'she sounds too portishead' i would say. or thoughts like 'why cant they decide which they want to rip off; 60s pop, haunting folk, sultry cabaret, or electronic-tinged orchestral dance?' then i realized i loved this band for all of these reasons.
to understand a band, one must look no further than the people who make up its pulse. its soul. the voice of this duo is a classically trained siren, who lent her vocal talents to tricky, orbital and add n to x before meeting with her partner in crime to develop this group (which borrows her last name). her cohort is a classic synth-nerd, with too much time on his hands and too many synths to fill them.
if there is one thing that fascinates me more than duo's, it's a group that hasnt played their first live show before their record has elevated them to international celebrities. their live debut was at the Somerset House; a swanky, high-brow opera house in which audiences were treated to the eclectic stylings of this twosome and their backing band; a 20-piece orchestra made up of 3 percussionists, 4 synth players, a bassist, and a string section. the visual makes the aural make sense, and only adds to my whims that this is classical music for kraftwerk or depeche mode.
try as i might, i wanted to hate them. but i couldnt. the drums were blippy. pads and orchestral strings shared sonic space with a bass that sounds as if it were being thumped by carol kaye. at any given point, you cant tell if you're listening to a symphony in a great church or two people locked in a closet whispering to not wake the neighbors.
but, oddly enough. this post isnt about this bands first record. it's about their follow-up.
if their freshman effort was the groups red-carpet, smile-at-the-camera-and-wave, media-friendly interview, then their sophomore release was their grainy, nightvision-colored sex tape.
a dirty, sweaty, heavy-breathing-in-the-corner-of-some-dive sex tape.
and they made no appearance on oprah to apologize. turns out, thats who they are; thumping basses. fuzzy, squealing synth-leads. whispered vocals that turn into operatic orgasms in crecsendo. the soundtrack to your wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-sweating dreams. it's amazing when you find yourself blushing, time and again, after you finally realize what you've been singing along to driving down the highway in the middle of the night.
"before you go and leave this town / i want to see you one more time / put your dirty angel face / between my legs and knicker lace"
still present are the harpsichords and pads. the soft-spoken honesty and the over-the-top, other-worldly trance it draws you into. but gone is "utopia." unless, of course, your idea of utopia is a dominatrix in a top hat. if nina persson is an angel, allison goldfrapp isnt afraid to use her pitchfork.
RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2003