1. Ghost - "God Took a Picture of His Illness on This Ground": I have two cds from the Japanese band Ghost. This is a gorgeous song from the excellent Hypnotic Underworld. Thirteen minutes of abstractness, with a lonely bass plucked throughout, a lovely, plaintive reed of some kind (recorder?) cutting through the din, occasional crashing of cymbals, somewhat tribal-sounding percussion off in the distance…
2. Kool & the Gang - "Jungle Jazz": And a nice transition into this enjoyable funk, from Kool & the Gang, before they went supernova with songs like the cheesy wedding staple "Celebration". I have this on the Funky Stuff various artists collection. I like the flute solo in the last minute.
3. Smog - "Russian Winter" - Bill Callahan/Smog is one of my favorite musicians. "Russian Winter" is from his first album, 1990's Sewn to the Sky, which I haven't spent much time with as compared to his other music. It's much noisier than later Smog albums, with less emphasis on Callahan's distinctive songwriting, more on tape manipulations and guitar experiments. This particular track is an instrumental: guitar accompanied by a fluttery machine chug; yet not as abrasive as much of the rest of the cd.
4. Tommy Boy Megamix "Tommy Boy Megamix": Eh. I didn't hear much rap for several years, then I started to listen to more of it in the last two, realized I'd missed a lot of interesting music, decided I wanted to go back and check out a lot of it and do the historical survey thing. I'd read an interesting review of the label sampler, The Tommy Boy Story Vol. 1. Then I saw it used, listened to a couple of tracks, and bought it. I'm sort of wishing now that I hadn't. It's not terrible, but it wasn't quite what I'd had in mind. It has a couple of nice rap songs from the label's early days, but it's largely filled with dated, quaint dj mixes like this, not entirely without charm or interest, but not what I was hoping for.
5. Three 6 Mafia - "Got it 4 Sale": I enjoy Three 6 Mafia, even if most of their songs sound alike to me. This is from Most Known Unknown.
6. Bedhead - "To the Ground": Bedhead was already defunct by the time I'd ever heard of them. All three Bedhead albums are equally good; this song comes from their first one, WhatFunLifeWas. They seemed to take the Velvet Underground's third album as their basic template, which is fine by me. (What I said here about American Analog Set applies to Bedhead, too, except that Bedhead was much better, and I think they also potentially could have pointed me out of that particular dilemma, had it happened.)
7. Muhal Richard Abrams - "Duet for One World" - I'd never heard any Abrams before I downloaded this track from Destination: OUT! Pretty good! (This is the permalink, but the mp3s have been taken down.)
8. Modest Mouse - "A Different City": Modest Mouse is a great rock band. I've been able to catch them live on three occasions. The first was a few months before The Moon & Antarctica (from which comes this song) came out, at The Black Cat in DC. It was a solid show, not overwhelming; by the end my legs were killing me (I was already too old for this kind of thing), and possibly a bit cranky as a result, so perhaps more critical than I otherwise might have been. The second time was at an old fire hall in Dundalk, MD, and they were phenomenal. One song ("Tundra/Desert", I think) was so transcendently awesome that I'd swear that I nearly levitated. Third was at DAR Constitution Hall in DC, which I can tell you is a terrible place to see a rock show. I saw the Pixies there, too, and both shows should have been incredible--it was clear that both bands were on--but it was hard to get involved; they seemed so far away.
9. Nick Drake - "Harvest Breed": Short (1:40) track from Pink Moon, which I guess is pretty much all short tracks, isn't it? Anyway, it went by pretty quickly, and I don't have much to say about it or Nick Drake (who I like well enough, though not quite as much as I thought I did when I first got into him, by coincidence just around the same time "Pink Moon" was in that VW ad).
10. Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls": This really is a great pop song. I'm always sort of astonished by how good it is. I don't like anything else by the Pet Shop Boys (who keep showing up on these rundowns, I can't help but notice) nearly as much.
11. Aretha Franklin - "The House That Jack Built": For years the only Aretha Franklin songs I knew were "Respect", "Think" (largely thanks to The Blues Brothers; is that wrong? I suspect that it is); and "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman". A few years ago I finally did the right thing and bought The Very Best. Of course, it's pretty much all great (though I could do without her cover of "Eleanor Rigby").
12. Volcano the Bear - "Dawn and My Hips are Fuel": Wow. How can I describe Volcano the Bear? Improv rock, maybe? Except it doesn't really rock. If you like Henry Cow you might like them? Gastr del Sol? This track is from the wonderful album, The Idea of Wood. It's music like this that makes it worth scouring the bins and magazines for new music.
13. John Duncan - "Helix": This comes from another Wire-sampler, Atlantic Waves 2006 in this case. Three minutes of a barely changing wall of noise. Not sure I care, but I'll give it another shot.
14. Silver Jews - "Room Games & Diamond Rain": I always put off buying another Silver Jews album. The music is always fairly mellow, deceptively simple country-ish rock. And then there are poet David Berman's laconic vocals and interesting lyrics. This comes from Bright Flight.
15. Joanna Newsom - "Cosmia": I'm still absorbing Ys, but I do enjoy it so far. If occasionally Van Dyke Parks's strings threaten to overwhelm the songs, I still find much local pleasure in Newsom's harp playing and wordplay.
If you guessed from this list that I have a lot of music released by the Drag City label, you guessed right.