In an effort to write more about what I'm reading and listening to, I'm going to make the iPod shuffle rundown a semi-regular feature. I was going to do this yesterday but, other than noting the songs as they came up yesterday morning, didn't have time to. So today you get a bonus: I'm going to give you the first 15 songs I heard both yesterday and today. I'm sure you're all very excited.
Yesterday's first 15:
I have more than 10,000 songs on my iPod. With such a number, I always find it interesting where the shuffle appears to fixate on any given day. One day last week, eight of the first 50 songs I heard were by Sonic Youth. Yesterday, it started out heavy on the country.
1. Merle Haggard - "California Blues (Blue Yodel #4)": I have the great Down Every Road 4-cd box, though I find it hard to listen to any given disc straight through. Love it when one of the songs comes up on shuffle though. . .
2. Palace - "Give Me Children": Arise Therefore may be my favorite Will Oldham record, if it's not I See a Darkness.
3. Signal - "Index Area": 14 minutes of electronic music from the lone Mort aux Vaches comp I have. It would probably make for better reading if I could remember a thing about it right now. I'm sure it must have been repetitious.
4. Annie - "Chewing Gum": Appropriately titled sugary pop song; I like "Heartbeat" better.
5. Randy Newman - "Have You Seen My Baby?": I don't have nearly enough Randy Newman. This is a great one from 1970's 12 Songs. I also have the Flamin' Groovies version, which is pretty cool, too.
6. Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson - "Good Hearted Woman"
7. Dolly Parton - "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind":
Two albums that I got to know very well when I was like 13 or 14 were Waylon Jennings' and Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits. My Dad liked country. He had these on tape, and we listened to them constantly when we were with him (as well as, um, the Eagles). I've always liked Waylon Jennings' voice, and his duets with Willie Nelson were great. This one addresses the old problem of the "good hearted woman lovin' a good-timin' man". Of course, all of his songs seemed to be about being, or having been, an outlaw or roughneck or cowboy or some such trouble. Seems pretty silly these days, but, notwithstanding that period of time in which I pretended that I was too cool to admit I liked country music, I've always loved those songs. I liked when we listened to Dolly Parton, too, but it took me longer to come back to an appreciation of her. "Islands in the Stream" is hard to forgive. Aimée is the big Dolly fan in the house; I think the last song played at our wedding reception was, by her request, "9 to 5".
8. Beck - "The New Pollution": Don't really care about Beck anymore, but I still like Odelay.
9. Syd Barrett - "Long Gone": I mentioned liking post-Barrett Pink Floyd better, but I do like the earlier Barrett-led stuff. This is, of course, from the solo album, The Madcap Laughs, which I've had for a while, but haven't spent much time with. People swear by it.
10. The J. Geils Band - "Freeze Frame": Ha! I have this on here because I was making a mix-cd of 80s pop hits; it may be sort of terrible, but fuck it, I've always liked this song. Somehow, I can still remember the first time I ever heard it (I was eleven).
11. Herbert - "Harmonize": A lovely song from one of my favorite albums from last year.
12. Ghostface Killah - "Run": Yes! Evidence that I do indeed listen to rap! This song features Jadakiss, and is from The Pretty Toney Album.
13. Midnight Oil - "Forgotten Years": I don't care much for Midnight Oil. I have the 20,000 Watts R.S.L. greatest hits collection, which is actually more than I need. But it so happens that this is one of my favorite songs of theirs.
14. The Rapture - "Alabama Sunshine": I was looking the other direction when all the indie kids realized it was ok to dance again and went batshit crazy for the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" and Echoes. That said, it's a decent album. This song is from the second DFA compilation, and I like it just fine.
15. The Velvet Underground - "Sunday Morning": The first song on The Velvet Underground & Nico. Given all the noise and dissonance on this record, it's occasionally a surprise to notice the quieter moments of sheer beauty.
Today's first 15:
Contra Dial "M" for Musicology, I have a fair amount of music on my iPod that I can't quite say I like, at least not yet. My first instinct was to load it up with albums that had lain dormant in my collection. Plus, there are all of the cds that come with various issues of The Wire. I loaded them all, and have been grading the tracks and removing the ones that I can't stand. And then there are exploratory downloads. Etc.
1. Dizzee Rascal - "Vexed": I have both Dizzee cds and the first Run the Road comp, but I guess grime is dead, innit? That's ok; if so, it left some cool music behind. This is from Dizzee's Boy In Da Corner. At times Dizzee's distinctive (and attractive) flow is a distraction from the music, which seems to be made up of shards of electronic keyboards (whatever that means--I'd no doubt do better writing these while listening to the songs).
2. Voxtrot - "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives": Downloaded this song from some blog at the end of last year, I think. Not sure about it. Generic indie rock.
3. Scarface - "In Between Us": Scarface's The Fix is a monster of a rap album, one of my favorites ever, I think. Like much of the album, this song has a bluesy menace to it. I will not dig myself a hole with an attempt to define it any further. Nas guests.
4. David Thomas & the Pedestrians - "Semaphore": A delightfully odd song from the second David Thomas "solo" album, Variations on a Theme (featuring, among others, Richard Thompson, Lindsay Cooper, and Chris Cutler).
5. Billy Bragg - "Upfield": Blah. I love Bragg's collaborations with Wilco, the Mermaid Avenue albums of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics, but I'd never listened to Bragg's solo stuff. Last year I borrowed his 2-cd Must I Paint You a Picture compilation from a friend. I didn't listen to it straight through, instead just dumping the whole lot onto the iPod, letting them come up randomly. I haven't been impressed. I'm usually annoyed when his songs come up. This one is no different.
6. The Constantines - "Goodbye Baby & Amen": This band got tagged with the odd "Fugazi meets Springsteen" label. Ignore that. They're just a damn solid rock band. This song is one of the quieter ones from the excellent Shine a Light.
7. Maria Castro - "Postglacial Rebound": Some of my favorite Wire-sampler cds are in the Exploratory Music from Portugal series. This particular track was on the 2004 sampler. All electronic blips and static, and somehow soothing.
8. BR5-49 - "Even if it's Wrong": Entertaining trad country; here and there sounding a little like Waylon Jennings, then a little like Hank Williams.
9. Bob Dylan - "Seven Curses": If you're a Dylan fan at all, the 3-cd first Bootleg Series release is absolutely essential. This is one of my favorite songs from the set; it tells the same basic story as Zep's "Gallows Pole". In this version, a woman comes to town to pay off the hanging judge in order to save her father; neither gold nor silver will do, and he demands her as payment; she pays the price, but he hangs her father anyway. Curses ensue.
10. US Maple - "Babe": Guttural, indecipherable vocals; two guitarists who sound like they've walked into different songs; the drummer laying down an off-kilter groove. . . U.S. Maple has a wonderful lurching quality that I find tremendously appealing. Their deconstruction of rock is different than, say, Deerhoof's. Deerhoof seem to play the basic hooks in their songs from every possible angle until they're done. U.S. Maple plays rock music like it's falling apart and they can't be bothered to make it right. If any of this sounds interesting, I recommend experiencing them live. "Babe" is from what I think is their best album, Acre Thrills.
11. Ghostface Killah - "Big Girl": From last year's excellent Fishscale. I don't know that I have anything intelligent to say about Ghostface, or rap in general. I don't listen to enough of it to know what I'm talking about. I'm not good at differentiating voices (Ghostface's is one of the few I think I could recognize right off). But I like plenty of it. And I like Ghostface. Most of what I've heard of his is musically based on old soul samples, and he seems to just barrel ahead, rapping at full-speed, in his own world, at times seeming oblivious to the music behind him.
12. Mission of Burma - "Man In Decline": Huge, punishing, awesome. Forever an argument in favor of rock-band reunions, in the face of the many more arguments against. Obliterati rocks.
13. Spontaneous Music Ensemble - "Karyobin, Pt. 1": I bought Karyobin at a Derek Bailey show (w/American Milo Fine) at Stoke Newington in 2003. Recordings of free improv seem counter-intuitive in some respects. I often have a hard time with them, because I can't help but to reflexively want them to resolve into jazz or some other kind of structure. I do much better when I allow the music to just happen. This stuff often sounds to me like it's music falling down a hill.
14. Low + the Dirty Three - "Cody": A lovely instrumental track from Low's collaboration with the Dirty Three, as part of the In the Fishtank series. The record also has a gorgeous cover of Neil Young's "Down By the River".
15. Fleetwood Mac - "Monday Morning": I love this song. My mom had very few albums that I had much interest in, but Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, the first Fleetwood Mac albums with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, were two that I gave her credit for. Commercially huge, of course, and also critically praised at the time, they still seem sort of out of step with the whole punk-taking-over narrative. I'd rather listen to Rumours than Never Mind the Bollocks.